Tuesday, June 5, 2018

House-hunting, painting, hiking kind of week

So it's about right now -- a little over a month since we made the move -- that I finally feel like I'm getting my bearings here. My days consist of mainly painting, but when I'm not up on a ladder with a brush and roller, I'm driving around, learning the routes to new places I need to become familiar with, like shopping centers.

We are actively looking for a house, against the advice of one good friend, who said we needed to wait at least a year before deciding on a place to live. As as abstract rule, I understand how that could be a good thing. You get to see each area in four different seasons and you can really learn the ins and outs of individual neighborhoods. The cons to that are that 1) you'll never really learn the ins and outs of the neighborhoods until you actually live in one, and 2) for us, it would mean staying in a less-than desirable rental until that time.

The shortcomings of the rental are numerous. The house itself is a neglected manufactured house which was actually left open to the elements, with a sizable hole in the roof, for over a year. Even if that were not the case, it is now 15 years old, and most manufactured homes begin to decline after about 20 years, usually becoming worth far less than the land they are on. This house will be no different. It's sad because it has several really nice features I like -- soaking tub, plenty of room, double oven and huge walk-in pantry -- but we suspect the mold has set in due to its time when the roof was open, and therefore it's not a good long-term option for us.

But while we're here, we're committed to making it as livable as possible. When Big Ag said he found the riotous paint colors depressing, I set about painting in some soothing neutrals to make it less soul-suckingly ugly, especially since the company that owns the house agreed to pay for paint and any other repairs we wanted to make. So here are some before and after photos, along with a few shots I took on a day hike along the Lukiamute River natural preserve last weekend.

I liked the gray, but the paint had a lot of dents and scuffs where white showed through, with no way to match the color to repair. (And Big Ag hated it.) 

This probably made the biggest difference. That kitchen was just SO dark.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Spring in the forest

Last weekend Big Ag and I went to the Peavy Arboretum in Corvallis, which is not so much a flower arboretum as a forest arboretum for students majoring in Forestry Studies at OSU. But as with most forests, there is much plant and insect life under the pine canopy, and plenty of beautiful mini-meadows in the spaces between. One thing I love about Oregon is the abundant hiking trails, and this place was no different. We could have wandered for days through this preserve. Where we lived before you had to travel a good 40 minutes to get to the good hiking trails near the beach, here there is great hiking 10 minutes down the road. Hopefully this will be an incentive to stay in shape! 

Telephone pole pastoral.

The garter snakes in Oregon are orange and black. My Giants fan husband was thrilled.

Experimental forest

Sunbreak in the meadow

A land slug the size of my hand!

Friday, May 25, 2018

There...and here.



Moving to another state is a huge change, even if that state is right next to the one you were living in. I think each of our 50 states has a distinct culture and personality. You would definitely feel a different vibe living in, say, Nevada versus Utah (as an example) even though they are close, geographically. And Oregon is very different from California in a lot of ways. Big Ag remarked the other day that he felt like he'd moved to another country sometimes, and he's not too far off in that assessment. 

So right now, after we've been here all of three weeks, it still feels like we're on kind of a strange, long vacation, albeit one with all our material possessions coming along with us on the ride. While things are vaguely familiar (plenty of wineries, the beach nearby, etc.) not one of them is truly familiar to us -- yet. And with being in a rental place, there's a tendency to not settle in anyway, because we know we'll be moving again in a few months (God willing) to a permanent home, once we find it. 

But this is a great time to look back and examine why we left. You can't really embrace the present until you reconcile the past. I've met a lot of former Californians in the last three weeks -- you actually would not believe how many Oregonians come from my old home state -- and hearing them talk about the "old country" made me see we are not alone in our reasons for fleeing our former home.

First and foremost, we left because all the "livable" parts of the state (relatively temperate, lower crime, etc) had become too expensive for us, especially as we contemplate retirement. Sure, you can cut back on your expenses, but when you live in a "lifestyle destination" like the one Paso Robles became, you're then going to feel the pinch no matter how much you cut back. To drive this home, I got a hair cut last week. The same $60 cut-and-blow dry I used to get in Paso Robles, California set me back all of $39 here in Corvallis, Oregon. A $2,000 air conditioning system overhaul cost $900 here. And just for fun, we attended the "Cinco De Micro" microbrewery festival in Salem, the first weekend we arrived here. A VIP ticket cost us $25 each. In Paso, attending a similar event (The Firestone Walker "beerfest") would have set us back $200 for a VIP ticket, and $85 for a regular, no perks ticket. So whether you're grabbing breakfast, getting a quote on fixing something on your house, or attending a special event, if you decide to live in Paso Robles, you'd better be prepared to bring a fat wallet.

We also left because all those expenses mean only those with a certain level of income are moving into the area, and they are mostly Bay Area and Los Angeles refugees who bring their cities with them -- rude and aggressive driving being first and foremost on that list. As a former LA driver, I know it when I see it, believe me. When scenic Hwy 101 (built at a time when cars went an average of 50 miles per hour) becomes populated by crazy drivers who take it at 75 - 85 mph, weaving in and out of lanes and cutting people off, it's time to go. With age comes slower reflexes, and so it makes sense that defensive driving becomes more difficult with age. And don't even get me started on the fact that many of those "mad" drivers are my age or older, on who knows how many medications (or wine). Slower reflexes/crazy driving is not a good equation, in any case.

And there's also the ugly specter of climate change on the horizon. With longer droughts becoming more the norm, that brings challenges to the water table, along with increased fire risk. How much risk? How much challenge?  I have no idea. But we lived in an area surrounded by dry brush and dying oak trees, where the wineries are using more and more water every year. So we erred on the conservative side and decided to move our biggest nest egg -- our nest! -- someplace greener and with abundant water. Since geologic changes tend to take place over many lifetimes, the area may be fine for the foreseeable future. But we didn't wait around to gamble on that. 

So now there's nothing left to do but look back with some affection, some regrets, and move on into the future. Life is a lot like playing "21," with the trick being to add one more card, getting as close to perfection as you can, without going over the magic number. While I can't tell you for sure yet, right now it seems like we've managed to get really close to perfect here. A full year will tell us more, but we're hopeful we can finally "hold" and be happy with our hand. Having abundant water and greenery and economic health helps a whole lot, I can tell you that already.

Another California transplant -- this Giant Sequoia seems happy here at the Peavy Arboretum in Corvallis. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Here for now

Allow me to introduce you to our temporary digs, Mouse Turd Manor. The garden and brick walkway actually look scarier than the house in this pic, but I've worked on it since then. 

The last two weeks have passed in a kind of haze. Isn't that always the way it is with huge life events? We may hang onto a moment or two from high-stress times, but a lot of it passes in a blur.

Every week here seems to feature a new form of help for the house, which is good because it needs it. I feel bad for this house. Someone obviously loved it a long time ago, but being a manufactured/modular home which stood vacant for almost two years caused it to fall into disrepair. If it was a person, it would currently be in the Emergency Room with a saline IV drip line, antibiotics, and full x-rays and a blood panel being done. It might even be feeling a little better at this point. At least the many fixes are happening, and at no cost to us.

But we are making sure we get out and have at least one day a week of fun, and one weeknight in town. Last week we went into Independence for dinner, and its simple beauty and friendliness made me feel like I was walking through a Hallmark movie.

Hanging flower baskets on the streetlights -- so pretty.

That sweet, small town feeling!

The Willamette

And last weekend we went to the famous Pelican Brewery in Pacific Beach for lunch and beach walking. Sometimes you need the familiar in your life, and the beach and ocean are that for me. It's still the Pacific, after all. 

A day at the beach!

Say yes to stress eating lol.

But this place is beginning to feel more like home as well. Next week I begin painting over these miserable colors and half-painted walls in a more neutral palate. This house is proof that some people watch way too much HGTV, and/or believe you can successfully replicate what the professionals do there in regards to paint. A 2,000 square foot home painted in 12 different colors is a little like a gypsy wedding (sorry, gypsies): Something old, something new, something red, something blue, something yellow, something gray, something turquoise, something orange, something black, something green, etc.....Yes, friends, it IS possible to love color too much. It works for The Property Brothers, most of the time. But don't try it at home, no matter what the Valspar commercial tells you.

Can you count the colors? Dark grey, gatorade yellow, and turquoise. Ick.

I've also decided the vegetable garden is beyond saving, but the flower garden in front is not. So I'm weeding the flower beds but won't be planting any vegetables this summer. I'm not really sad about it, except when I need some onions or parsley for a recipe and realize I have none outside.

And so it goes...a little at a time, in the garden and inside. Making sure I stop and take in the greenery on a regular basis. Because while you can have too much color, too much greenery is something I just can't get enough of right now.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

One Week In

On the road, near Mt. Shasta

It's been a week since we moved to Oregon and it was a crazy week filled with plenty of upheaval.

Let's start with packing out. As kind of a present to ourselves, we hired a local company to do our packing for us. The packers showed up for their six hour stint, and worked vveerrry slowwly. Packing. Each. Item. Extremely. Perhaps. Overly. Carefully. And occasionally checking their phones. One had two inch long fingernails, which made it impossible for her to work efficiently. So a big thumbs down on hiring packers. I could have done it myself, for much less time and a LOT less money. Which we did anyway, since we ended up having to pack about 50 boxes ourselves at the last minute, because they didn't get done what their estimator thought they would.

There were about 10 boxes labeled like this. Not helpful. Mixing bowls? Serving platters? Plates? Who knows.

But moving day was a breeze. The way I figured it, I was in labor with my son for 26 hours and the drive was 14 hours, so if I could do the first I was obviously capable of doing the second. Even with five chickens, two doves, one pigeon, one sedated cat and a dog it was a pleasant, easy drive. I highly recommend it over labor. Less mess and you can stop if you need to.

The arrival, however, was anything but pleasant. The house was supposed to be made ready for us since it is a place belonging to Big Ag's employer, however, it was not. When we arrived at 11 pm after our long drive, we found the windowsills covered with dead insects, rodent droppings everywhere, and the whole place was filthy. Honestly, the first few days after that I don't even want to remember how awful it was. But once Merry Maids and the exterminators started to do their work, improvements started to happen quickly and continue to happen. We may even have a working garbage disposal and range by the end of the day!

So all that has made things better. And you know what made it even better still? Oregon itself. It's really hard to be depressed amidst this kind of incredible beauty and abundant water and life. And people have been so welcoming and friendly, it's been a pleasure anytime we've gone into town on business or had people here to the house.

The view from the front yard.

"You're in Oregon now," they say to us. It's part comforting, and part reminder (to me, anyway) that it's our job to fit in -- to become Oregonians and not bring California with us as we come into a new place and learn to be a part of it. 

We're in Oregon now. And that makes all the difference in the world.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

A moving moment!

Well, this post will probably be the last before we officially become Oregonians. The house is packed up and while we have about 100 things to do before we leave in a day or two, we feel like we have things in hand.  Accounts are closed, new ones are being opened up, and we're readying ourselves for a 14 hour drive with our five chickens, two doves, one pigeon, one cat and one dog. 

The house looks a little forlorn right now, as most homes do when they're getting ready to be unoccupied. No worries though, if all goes well and escrow closes as it should, there should be new people here to love it soon.

For us, it will be nice to arrive, and even nicer when our furniture arrives a day after that. And of course there's internet to be installed and satellite TV to go up, because it's the last season of "The Americans," and I can't miss a single episode. Priorities.

People have asked if I'm sad to be leaving either the area or our house, but I am not one of those people who minds moving, as long as I have plenty of notice and help and I'm going somewhere I want to go. So while it's a little bittersweet, the sweet is the prevailing flavor -- right now, anyway. 

We did have a serious hiccup yesterday though. Our packers arrived and proceeded to work much slower than our moving coordinator had estimated, leaving us holding the bag with about 50 boxes to pack ourselves, after he mistakenly told us the ladies could have us packed up in about six hours. Nope. But we're not afraid of hard work. 50 boxes later, mission accomplished. 

Nice to know I can out-pack a trio of 20-something girls though, even at my age. If homesteading gives you nothing else, it will absolutely give you endurance (and very strong arms). 

I'll post as soon as I'm able from the great Pacific Northwest! If you are the praying sort, say a prayer as we travel, and if you're a "sending positive vibes" kind of person, those would be welcome, too! 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The virtual home

View from the driveway

One of the hardest parts about this move is that, while I've visited Oregon and feel pretty confident and happy about the state we are moving to, I have never once been in the home we'll be living in. Usually when you move, part of moving out of your current place is feeling the excitement and anticipation of where you are moving into. But if you've never seen it, it's basically a big, yawning chasm looming ahead of you with a sign hanging over it which says, "I'm sure it will be just fine. Really. I hope." 

Luckily, Big Ag is in Oregon this week for some meetings, and so he went over to the house yesterday afternoon and we Skyped together, him on his phone and me here on my desktop. Together we "walked" through the entire house, looking in cupboards, seeing the view through the windows, and discussing furniture placement. It was gorgeous day with a partly cloudy sky and the sun just setting, and so of course the whole property was bathed in beautiful light and looked warm and welcoming. The inside of the house itself looked friendly and inviting, with just enough projects to keep us busy without major projects that would be a headache.

Doing this virtual walk-through lowered my anxiety levels by about 80 percent. Many of us complain about the hassle our virtually-connected world brings us, but with it come incredible advantages, like being able to tour your new home, real time, from the comfort of the one you're selling.

The home we're moving into has been empty for a couple of years, and definitely looks it. I just finished a novel where one of the characters says, "a home needs to have people living in it to be happy." Looking around at this vacant house, I can see that's true. Something goes out of a place when people no longer occupy it. It can be clean, it can be structurally sound, but it just feels lonely. 

So maybe in making a happy home, we'll also be making a home happy. That's what I'm hoping, anyway.

Big Ag met these "neighbors" walking in the road yesterday.