After traveling out from Oakland to visit among the churches in northern California through the early winter months, Ellen decided that she would make Healdsburg her California headquarters. She and James had built a home on a little farm on West Dry Creek Road, about three miles (five kilometers) from the village, and she still owned it. On February 7, 1882, she wrote to Willie, who was managing the Pacific Press in Oakland, "Now I am decided to go to my Healdsburg place."
On Thursday, February 23, her personal belongings and some furniture arrived from Oakland and were moved into the little home on the farm.
She drew in her family of literary and home helpers, hoping soon to settle down to a serious program of writing. But this she found hard to do. She took pleasure in scouting around the country, buying grain and hay, chickens, a cow with its calf, and horses for transportation and to work the place. Here she spent four months happily working in her garden and building up her health. She wrote in a letter to her children:
My health is good. I have some trouble in sleeping all I want to. I exercise considerably, picking up wood, and if it were not for weak ankles, would exercise more. I put rubber bandages on my ankles and this helps them. I feel then I can walk anywhere (Letter 4, 1882).
In a letter written April 16, in which she mentioned some of the afflictions of those about her, she said, "I find, after all, your mother can endure about as much as the younger people" (Letter 9, 1882). Up to this point she had to force herself to spend time writing.