I just finished reading T.C. Boyle’s San Miguel, a brilliant work of historical fiction that chronicles the lives of two sheep ranching families who resided on this remote island off the coast of Santa Barbara during the late nineteenth century and the 1930’s. Mirantha Waters, the story’s first female protagonist, loathed the isolation and merciless weather on San Miguel island and was often at odds with her husband. In contrast, Elizabeth Lester, the island’s subsequent female homesteader, delighted in the seclusion and scenic splendor it had to offer.

I couldn’t help but draw parallels to my own love-hate relationship with another amazing place—fifteen nearly-pristine acres nestled at 3,100 feet above sea level in a little-known corner of Mariposa County. On this remote property at the bottom of a dirt-and-gravel road half a mile long sits the rustic, run-down old cabin we use as a monthly getaway. Like Mirantha Waters, I sometimes find myself feeling taxed and demoralized by its harsh conditions. But far more often, I’m Elizabeth Lester, basking in the restorative glow of untouched natural beauty. Unlike the Waters or the Lesters, we have electricity and indoor plumbing (at least when the power isn’t knocked out and the well pump doesn’t malfunction). What we lack is central heat, relying instead on one ancient woodstove for warmth in the dead of winter.

A few months ago, our bathroom flooded from a leaky pipe. And so began my husband's ill fated, never-ending renovation project. Now, don't get me wrong, I am extremely grateful the man knows how to fix things, because when you’re in an out-of-the-way location an hour's drive from the nearest small city, you need to be self-sufficient. But it has been cold—too cold, according to him, for the new floor tiles to set properly, or for the outdoor task of cutting the plywood that will eventually replace our water-damaged walls. So for the time being, a new bathroom sink and cabinet occupy a nonfunctional place of honor in the center of our kitchen, while the living room remains cluttered with plumbing materials and old, water-damaged drawers filled with our bathroom toiletries and supplies. Nonetheless, despite the inconvenience of a torn-up bathroom, I looked forward to the peace and tranquility of ringing in the New Year at the cabin.

When we first arrived, I discovered little green poison pellets tucked inside my pillowcases, suggesting that lizards or mice (I could not tell which) had slept in my bed since my last visit a month earlier. They also left a trail of droppings on the kitchen counter and knocked over some empty water bottles—more mocking proof of the party they’d had in our absence. To add insult to injury, that night I caught sight of an eerie swooping motion through the corner of my eye while I stood brushing my teeth at the kitchen sink. We’ve been visited by bats before (including the time one such vampiric critter maniacally plunged itself into my deep dish pizza and sent me shrieking for cover in the bedroom). But this visit, my husband couldn’t be bothered coaxing the frenzied creature outside into the cold, so we kept the kitchen door closed and confined our new “pet” to the enclosed front porch. My daughter even named him “Norman.” Over the next four days I found myself, like Mirantha Waters, growing increasingly cross at my husband for accomplishing nothing in the house while leaving me terrorized by the prospect of scurrying and flying critters attacking me in my sleep.

It’s tough coping in the middle of nowhere, with no place to go and nothing to do besides relish the togetherness wrought by endless chores that never seem to get done. Perhaps I should take a tip from Boyle and write a story about a mountain woman coping with a hardscrabble mountain life in the Sierra Foothills. God willing, that will be me in another ten years, retired from civilization and cranking out novels amid natural beauty, expansive terrain, and a view of perpetually snow-capped mountains. That is, when not hauling wood, battling bats, or praying for the end of winter.