Monday, October 1, 2018

Just some pics

Nothing new, but just posting a few shots from around the property. 
Pinot Noir grapes really do turn black before harvest!

Who is looking at whom?

The windbreak of trees to the south of us is in full, fiery color. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The colors and changes of autumn

Autumn is in beautiful, colorful full swing here in the PNW, and as a lifelong Fall fan, I'm finally celebrating my favorite season in an area which actually experiences it. It's heaven.

There's a crisp bite to the morning air, warm afternoons which cool off quickly in the evening, and things are hopping down in the vineyard, where harvest is progressing nicely. Apples are literally everywhere -- on volunteer trees by the roadside, in the parks, and around on this property, to a point where it's a bit like summer zucchini -- you can't give them away. There are just too many. And we've had over an inch of rain this month. A full inch -- just in September! So along with fall oranges and golds, there is also a lot of green popping up again in the fields.

There is also a ripe pumpkin field about a mile down the road which stretches as far as the eye can see, so much that these orange orbs should have their own zip code.

Our property search progresses, but we've re-tooled and will now add bare land to our focus, with an eye towards building on a couple of acres. The homes we've seen here have been disappointing, I'll be honest. Oregon's property tax laws are very odd, but one rule we now understand is that any significant remodeling triggers a reassessment, which could significantly raise your taxes from that point on. The point is, it discourages people from improving their property, other than required maintenance. (Which explains all the 1970's kitchens and bathrooms.) We have seen a lot of people remodeling right before they sell, so that the buyer and not them will face the new, steeper tax bill.  (which explains all the bad house flips.) So it might just be easier to build new and face the music, being given a tax amount based on comparable properties with no improvements needed, keeping our tax bill relatively stable.

And we've also figured out that rather than go south to towns like Albany or Corvallis, we really love the area we're in. Independence has all the small-town ambiance of a Hallmark movie, with friendly people, great little shops, and a really positive community vibe. So while we won't rule anything out, we'd like to stay close to where we are now. It turns out God may have known exactly what he was doing in finding us digs 20 miles from our intended destination. And isn't that always the way?

So if we do build, it looks like we may well spend a full year in this vineyard. Being plopped down here was actually key to us realizing we did not want to live in town if at all possible. But those realizations take time. I can't imagine what we'd have done if we would have had to choose a place up here based on just one or two weekends of traveling here from California and looking. 

So my advice to anyone thinking of relocating is to take your time. Your opinions, ideas and visions of what a place holds for you will change over the months you live there. So before making a permanent investment that could be wrong for you, take the time to rent somewhere before deciding. Big changes demand good data, and some revelations only come to you once you're in-country and living in the general area you are desiring to settle down in.

There seem to be a few people reading this who are themselves relocating or thinking about it, and so I will say that despite the time it's taking to find a place, this is still one of the best decisions we've ever made, hands down. It's been an education, an adventure and most of all, a huge improvement in both our lives.

Monday, September 10, 2018



  1. the action of surrendering or ceasing to resist an opponent or demand.

As in, we have capitulated. We have realized that, with autumn coming on, we may not find our forever home before winter, when the real estate market drops off a cliff and no one really wants to move anyway because of all the rain. And so we have capitulated to fate, sighed a big sigh, and slowed down (but not stopped) our real estate search while settling in here for the winter, most likely.

Autumn is upon us!

Our capitulation began with little things. When we moved in, I vowed I was going to unpack no more than was absolutely necessary. The problem is, the longer you are in one place, the more things you evenually need. Things like your favorite summer tablecloth. Or your poultry baster. The stepladder. Those spare toothbrushes you know you packed.

And that's how it goes. Very gradually, you unpack more and more, and slowly begin thinking of your temporary digs as a kind of "home" rather that just the place you're resting your head for a few weeks. You fix things up and get to a mindset where that temporary place is someplace you actually don't mind coming home to....a place to which all other places are relative....a place otherwise known as Home. 

We've had a few glorious sunsets.

The real estate market was insane this summer, with premium prices being demanded of sub-par housing, almost nationwide. Now that we're into autumn, that has thankfully scaled back a bit and the market is correcting. The people who asked too much for their homes are seeing them linger on the market, and things are looking a bit more reasonable again for those wanting to buy.

And so to the end of being wise financially, we are sitting back and not rushing. Besides, we've really loved taking long walks in the vineyard in the evenings, and wherever we do end up, we'll be hard pressed to find views like these again. So we may as well enjoy them while we have them.

The Pinot Noir crop is looking amazing.

Next week the chimney sweep is coming to clean the fireplace and get it ready for winter. The chickens are settled in within the shelter of the carport, and so they'll still be able to enjoy scratching around when it's wet outside. And at 2,500 square feet, this house will have no problems housing our tribe over the holidays, should we still be here then.

We even bought a new sofa, after swearing we'd wait until we were in our permanent home before doing so. Turns out, you can only put up with a lumpy, springs-broken sofa for so long, even on a temporary basis.

And so we capitulate to wait on fate and enjoy what's around us now. Which, all things considered, is not a bad place to be at all.

Looks like home...for now, anyway.

Friday, August 24, 2018

The Recycling Conundrum

So I'm not sure how it is in the rest of the country, but here in Oregon there has been a monumental ground shift in how recycling is done, and it's changing the way we do things around the house here.

For a couple of months when we were just getting adjusted to living here, we did absolutely no recycling here, and felt awful about it. Milk jugs, peanut butter jars, cardboard boxes...all went into the dumpster on the "farm" end of the property. As the area we live in is not considered a residential area, there simply was no recycling pick-up, just industrial trash, which we were allowed to put our trash bags in.

But about that time, Oregon trash pick-up companies also started notifying their customers that recycling rules were changing, due to the fact that China was no longer accepting mixed recycling. This was a shock for many, including ourselves, as we had no idea all that recycling waste we all created was being put on massive container ships and sent overseas. Talk about having a huge carbon footprint! And for garbage, to boot. 

So the new rules here are that you can ONLY recycle plastic containers marked #1 or #2 (milk or large water bottles), and only if they are 12 or more ounces, and only if they are washed thoroughly and dried before being put into the bin. Clean paper and cardboard is OK. Shredded paper, egg cartons, styrofoam, dirty pizza boxes, and clam shell packaging are not recyclable at all. Cans and bottles are. 

The biggest thing for us is that all those "other" plastic containers, either with other numbers or that are small, will no longer be acceptable. Everything from the orange extract bottle you have in your cupboard to your yogurt carton, your "cardboard" milk carton, to the big plastic container of pretzels you got at Costco last month. Into the dumpster they go, for all eternity or however many thousands of years it takes them to break down.

Were we foolish to imagine there was someone at the recycling center sorting our #1 gallon water jugs from our #5 single serve yogurt cartons? I guess it's financially unrealistic to think of someone either here or in China doing so. 

Anyway, on a brighter note, we've managed to find a waste transfer station close by that accepts recycling, and we've started up again with what we can recycle, separating everything, washing it, and then running it down to the center to be put into separate bins. But while I feel better about the things we are once again recycling, I feel pretty disappointed about all the things we can't recycle, especially since most have the circle with the number at the bottom, meaning it is, in fact, possible to recycle it in some theoretical universe.

So how are things in the blue can in your town? Have the rules changed, or is it business as usual? One of the basic tenants of homesteading is to reduce one's carbon footprint, but I feel with these new rules our footprint just got a lot bigger, and I'm not sure what we can do about it. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

That escalated quickly

So I'm the direct opposite of a fighting kind of person, but when I do go to the mat, it's usually when someone is trying to spread lies or take advantage of people. I just read a facebook post from a winery trying to sell its wine by scaring people away from other wines. They claimed their wines have no sugar and therefore no hangover (most wines do not have sugar, the sugar converts to alcohol in the fermentation process and THAT'S what gives you the hangover). They claimed most other wineries are actually, secretly owned by three large corporations (again, not true) and finally, claimed other wineries regularly add things like fish bladders, corn syrup and purple dye to their wines (nope).

Anyway, I fired off a snappy retort and then wondered if I should have gotten so riled up. Injustice is a big deal to me, and either presenting yourself as something you're not or presenting someone else as something they are not will usually get my blood boiling.

So to calm down, I'm going to come here and post some lovely pics of the late Oregon summer. We've been walking in the evenings, and a good walk in the vineyard, a park, or by the ocean will soothe even the strongest urge to sort someone out online.

I should probably go for walks more often -- for many reasons -- soothing the savage beast of injustice being just one of them.

Golden fields of harvested grasses.

These Pinot grapes are coming along nicely!

A little early fall color.

Sunset in the vineyard.

The Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad in Tillamook.


Tillamook Bay.

Rockaway Beach, Oregon.

Watch the skies, people.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A Word About "New School" Veterinarians

It was my birthday this last week, which meant I received a years' worth of texts, phone calls and messages from friends and family. In a way, it puts me to shame, because I'm the worst person for remembering others' birthdays, but my tribe is a forgiving sort, and so year after year they continue to remember me and my day anyway. 

But with one of my friends, our birthday conversation turned to our animals and the veterinary care they receive. I stated that after our current dog and cat pass away, we're going to take a break from domestic pets for awhile, in no small part due to troubles we've had with veterinarians "over-serving" us. It's a "New School" approach to treatment.

She concurred, and told me she and her husband have decided the same thing. They recently took their terminally ill dog into the emergency vet's office on a Sunday afternoon to get the dog some pain killers, since he had awoken that morning in great discomfort. Instead of just dispensing the meds, the emergency vet basically ran every test the original vet had to confirm the diagnosis (at a cost of nearly $1,000) before agreeing to dispense the pain meds. Yes, even though the tests had already been run and a diagnosis of a terminal liver tumor had been confirmed, the emergency vet insisted he had to run all his own tests before agreeing to provide pain medication to the dog, who was clearly old and suffering.

Here's an example another friend of mine recently experienced: She has a cat that appeared to have a bladder infection -- urinating constantly, seemingly in discomfort. I happen to know her Old School vet personally, and worked for him for a time. I know for a fact he would have seen the cat, done a general physical exam and then sent Kitty home with some antibiotics, telling  my friend that if the cat was not improved in three days to return for more testing. And with 98 percent cats, the antibiotics would do the trick.

Unfortunately, my friend saw a New School Vet. New School Vet saw Kitty and ordered up a complete blood panel, a urinalysis, a kidney ultrasound and an overnight at the animal hospital before diagnosing a bladder infection and, you guessed it, sending Kitty home with  the same antibiotics Old School Vet would have given her. 

Old School Vet's treatment plan would have cost about $65. New School Vet's protocol cost about $1,000. My friend is a senior citizen on a fixed income, and this devastated her financially for the month. Yet both scenarios ($65 versus $1,000) end with the same result -- Kitty going home with antibiotics and getting better.

The problem is that New School Vets take advantage of us by 1) blocking the way to treatment by demanding extensive testing, and 2) preying on the responsibility we feel towards our household pets. And honestly, it's gotten to a point where I no longer feel comfortable having a pet in a vulnerable state where both of us can be taken advantage of. 

So while we'll continue to keep chickens and other small livestock, we'll probably be taking a pass on any animal that may someday require a trip to the small-animal vet. Because you just never know anymore if you're going to get Old School or New School, and while I appreciate that both probably think they are doing the best for their four-footed patients, New School Vets leave me feeling victimized at a time when both me and my best animal friend are in distress -- a time when our only option is to trust the doctor we see. And with Old School Vets hitting their senior years themselves and retiring, we're going to see more and more New School Vets on the scene. 

Not a good scenario for either ourselves or the house pets we love.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

If it's been flipped you must (not) acquit

So here we are in the middle of an Oregon summer, on a seemingly endless house hunt. As of this writing, we are still in our rental, which has become very comfortable, homey and livable...especially considering we do not pay any utilities, and have been watering the grass furiously (no shortage of water here) and setting the thermostat at 75 degrees through some warm (90 degree) days.

But we'd like to find a real home; a place we can list as our permanent address, where we expect to be for years to come. But despite looking at quite a few houses, it just hasn't happened yet.

Part of the problem is that we're still learning our way around the region. Every time we go to an Open House or to see a house with our realtor, we discover a new neighborhood. Doing this has allowed us to narrow down our search, which has been great. But it's also been a little like going on 20 first dates. It's enlightening finding the neighborhoods, but sometimes a little depressing when it comes to the homes themselves.

Yes, the homes. Let me tell you.

One place we toured, built in the 1940s, was glorious...original plaster walls, huge garden, but updated with central air conditioning, heating AND solar. The fly in the ointment was the teeny-tiny one car garage, which MIGHT hold a mini-cooper if you had nothing else in there. Big Ag's comment: "Cars were big in the 1940's. I don't get it." While I've read KonMari's Tidying Up book just like everyone else, I still refuse to get rid of my Christmas decorations and patio decor, so garage space is mandatory, especially when you figure most of the patio furniture will get stored once the rains come. (Actually KonMari lost me when she wrote how she'd gotten rid of her tools and now used a frying pan to hammer nails into the wall, instead of just keeping her hammer. We clearly live in different universes.)

Hello, Garage. Might there be a house hiding somewhere behind you?
 Another place we saw was a home on a nice piece of land at the right price point, but was the victim of a terrible remodel, where the garage was extended forward and forward until it completely eclipsed the front of the house. And the new kitchen was placed so that as you walked through the front entry, you basically walked into the enter of it all. Considering the state of my kitchen most days, that's not the way I want to greet guests.

And then there are the many, many bad flips we've seen, all done in the Chip-and-Joanna style of Everything Gray, white subway tile in the kitchen/gray quartz counters, and taking out the shower and soaking tub in the master to put in one GIANT open shower. Oh, and the vinyl wood-look flooring, which is not too bad except when it's gray, like the walls, counters and tile often are. Truly, we've seen about 10 homes like this and want to shake the flippers and take away their HGTV-watching privileges. Don't they realize that buyers know these things are a trend, same as "open concept" once was, and that like most trends, not everyone is interested in them, long-term?

A flipping awful kitchen, with repainted old cabinets, subway tile and gray granite. Because Chip and JoAnna said so.

No tub for you. Gray shower for you.

And so there you have it...our new hobby, house-hunting. If we don't find anything in the next six weeks or so, we may be in this house until spring, when the market picks back up. Of course I can find lots and lots of houses I'd love about 200K above our price point, but isn't that always the way? Maybe I'd better start playing the Mega Millions lotto.