Listen to the Guardian:
Deer peep through the foliage at the visitor on the three-mile unpaved road to Snyder's ranch. On a walk in the surrounding pine and black-oak forest, he points out claw marks on a tree-trunk made by a bear - the same bear, perhaps, that features in a recent poem eating all the pears from a fenced-off tree by the house. A wildcat dispatched his chickens. Until recently, the family had only an outside lavatory some 50 yards away, which, he says wryly, "could be dangerous in the mornings" - pumas also lurk among the pines, though seldom seen - but the Snyders now have the luxury of an inside bathroom with a polished wooden tub. He called the place Kitkitdizze, a local Wintun Indian word for the surrounding low ground-cover bush, also known as mountain misery. "We had our hands full the first 10 years getting up walls and roofs, bathhouse, barn, the woodshed. I set up my library and wrote poems and essays by lantern light." Kai, Snyder's eldest son, was a child when work on the house began in 1969. He has memories "of heat and dust and a lot of people working, and me getting underfoot". In the beginning, says Kai, now in his late 30s, "all our water had to be pumped by hand, which my dad did every day for about 40 minutes. It was good exercise, I guess. All the cooking was done on a wood stove, and our heating was produced by the same method. It was like a 19th-century lifestyle in lots of ways."