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Hippies in Northern California: Living Off the Grid

Though professing to be radicals, many hippie women proudly recalled their lives as similar to the experiences of the paragon of American conservative virtue: the pioneer woman. Ayala Talpai, who lived off the land with her husband and five children, remembered that when it was “time for supper, I’d pick up a basket and go out to the garden, that’s how it started… . I just milked twice a day. So I was making cheese and butter and cottage cheese and yogurt and buttermilk and whipped cream and ice cream and everything… . But that was a major dent in my time, you know. I was cooking on a wood stove. So I was doing everything on this wood stove, and I was knitting my husband’s socks out of yarn that I’d spun and dyed myself, and he’d go off to work with his sandwiches of homemade bread and mayonnaise and homegrown lettuce and homemade cheese and a hand-knitted hat on his head and homemade shirts, and oh my God.” Nonie Gienger also lived “naturally” with her husband and children and gathered “seaweed and nettles, plantain and dandelion, berries and wild apples, too… . But we were even grinding our own flour to make bread. I was a pioneer housewife, and we were living off very little money. But it felt good because I knew where everything came from.”

Thaddeus Russell, A Renegade History of the United States