Thursday, December 6, 2018

Learning Curve

I think one of the most rewarding and fun things about relocating to a new state is learning a whole spate of new things -- about your new climate, about yourself, and about how to live your life, day to day, in the area you call your new home.

 Growing up in California meant that I never really experienced winter. In the places I spent most of my life we had seven months of summer weather followed by five months or so of slightly cooler, more unpredictable weather. You couldn't really even call it winter compared to this. It could be 85 degrees during those months, or 65 degrees. But it mostly tended to the warmer end of the spectrum, and it was almost always sunny.

Here it is chilly, windy, gets dark early, and gets a ton of rainfall, although the rumor that it rains all the time is completely false; we get a fair mix of partly cloudy and sunny periods in any given week and, for the last week, we've had nothing but glorious -- but cold -- sunshine.

But I am learning how to take wet and/or cold weather seriously. I have two pairs of dress boots, for instance -- nice leather ones -- which had always been my go-to shoes in the rain, back in California. But when it's 38 degrees and really cold and wet -- those boots have NOT kept my feet warm enough. And so the other day I headed off to the thrift store to try and find some unworn, better boots and hit the jackpot, finding three pairs. (side note: You'd be amazed how many items of clothing I've found there that have never been worn. Most of the time the price tag is still attached, too.) Anyway, the fleece-lined waterproof boots I found make a HUGE difference in how warm my feet are, which in turn makes me feel a lot more comfortable. I also now wear fleece leggings under my jeans, plus gloves and earmuffs if I'm going to be outside more than a few minutes. But the boots and thermal underwear are worn all the time now. 

I've also had to re-learn what it means when the weathercaster calls for a "20 percent chance of rain." In California, a 20 percent chance of rain meant it was almost certainly NOT going to rain, much to everyone's disappointment. But in Oregon, a 20 percent chance of rain means you'd better pack your raincoat in the car and expect to use it. I'm glad I bought a new raincoat just before I moved. I wear it -- or at least bring it along -- all the time now.

But I think the hardest thing to get used to is the sunny, clear days. In my 57 years, those weather conditions always, and I mean always, meant you could shuck off your jacket,  because the temperature generally rose into the 60s at least. Not so outside California. Some of the coldest days I've seen here have been the sunny ones, especially when the wind is blowing. The fact is that Oregon has four seasons, and you're not going to get summer just because the sun comes out. Fine by me.

And so, as this holiday season approaches, I find myself thankful for the changes that have happened in my life, as I settle into them and the new things become more routine. A good friend of mine gave me a nugget of wisdom before I moved here. She said, "there is no such thing as cold weather...only inappropriate clothing choices." I'd say she was right. With fleece-lined, warm and dry feet, all things seem possible, no matter how hard it's raining. 

I guess when tackling a steep learning curve, it pays to start from the ground this case, with your footwear. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

where you are

So we're onto looking at what must be our 20th prospective house (which feels more like the 500th), and just cancelled our second escrow in six months, this time because we put in an offer on a fixer-upper only to discover that the house was on septic, not sewer (as advertised by the seller's realtor) and that the aforementioned septic system had a tank exactly where we wanted to put an addition on the house. Meaning no more addition...meaning no house. (The first house we cancelled an escrow on went away when we discovered that in flood years the basement had two feet of water in it and, in fact, lay in a flood zone. Not something we wanted to deal with).

It would be funny if it wasn't so maddening. Our poor realtor, so patient and understanding, has been wonderful through all this, but she must figure we were born under a bad star or something the way our luck has gone.

This entire exercise, in moving to Oregon, renting our little vineyard house and then beginning to look at houses, has been a learning experience, as well as an exercise in keeping up what the Bible calls "good courage," which basically means a positive attitude.

Or perhaps it's an exercise in learning to be happy where we are. Not permanently, but until such time as the right house, or right piece of land for building on materializes. We've been enjoying our vineyard walks through fall and now winter. We've been chopping wood and raking the leaves from the 200 year-old Oregon White Oak trees in the back of the property, and enjoying fires in the fireplace and all the typical activities that fall has to offer here in the Pacific Northwest. That part of our journey has been wonderful, as has been the fact that Big Ag loves his job.

And now we're on the doorstep of the holidays, still here and apparently not going anywhere soon. So I'm determined to figure out how to just be where we are, until that changes.

To further that feeling of belonging, I've joined a local Newcomers Club as well as a women's group from our community. It's so important to set down some roots even before you have the place to rum them down deep, and meeting new friends is a great way to do that.

So while we wait, we settle in to winter in the vineyard and enjoy what the season has to offer. While I may regret the two offers on homes that eventually fell through, we have no regrets about the decision to move here. It's thrilled us, challenged us, and taught us things about ourselves, our marriage and the world we live in.

So we're settling into the season here on a little vineyard in the Willamette Valley. Hope that wherever you are, you are settled in, too.

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.