Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Snow Day

For my entire life, I've lived in places that have seen snow....once or twice....always in historic data. 1959, 1926...you get it. Even places like Los Angeles have seen snow in times past, but it is always a once-in-a-lifetime thing when it happens. Being the eternal optimist that I am, I always held out hope that I'd be around for the next historic snowfall but it never happened -- ever -- in any place we lived in CA. It got tantalizingly close a few times in Paso Robles, but no real snow, ever, on our property. 

So you can imagine my Christmas morning-level glee when we woke up this morning to this. It looked like a Breughel painting across the countryside. 

I put on my snow shoes, walked around outside and snapped a few pics, just to be out in it. Snow is not at all unusual here, but since it doesn't usually stick around long and doesn't fall more than a few inches at a time, people mostly love it. Big Ag scraped his windows off and went to work, since he has 4WD and a short commute.

What surprised me was how bright everything was. Here in Oregon, we have a fair amount of gray skies and green trees, grass, etc. With the snow, it was like someone turned up the brightness level on the computer by a level of about 100. The ground was bright. The sky was bright. Everything from horizon to horizon reflected the daylight. I had no idea.

One of the things I vowed to myself is that sometime during my lifetime, I'd live in a place with 1) four full seasons, and 2)where I would wake up to snow on the ground. I can cross those item off my bucket list. But even though the box has been checked on snow, I still hope we see some more of the white stuff before the season is over, usually at the end of February.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Packing up (again) is hard to do. Not.

Hello, new farm!

Farewell, Mouse Turd Manor.

If I wasn't so happy to have found a home, I might be bummed that we have to pack up and move again so soon -- for the second time in one year, for those keeping track. But I'm quite grateful to be doing so. In many ways it will be great to get out of this rental -- a run-down, manufactured home I aptly named "Mouse Turd Manor," when we moved in (although we've since eliminated the rodent issue, at least inside the house). But the property is way too close to a dairy and the accompanying stinky dairy lagoon, and too far away from other neighbors to have made any connections there.  It's not exactly close to town, either. Great views though. I'll miss those.

The views from the front door of Mouse Turd Manor are mystical and magical. The dairy smell, not so much.

And since this time it's 1) a cross-town move, and 2) a move that will be done over about a month's time, it will be a lot less painful than moving to a new state, like last time. In the 20+ moves I've made as an adult, a local move, done over two or three weeks, is the least painful and most easily-organized way to move, by far. Take a carload or two a day over to the new place, UNPACK IT, empty the boxes, return and refill the boxes for the next run. Have the furniture movers show up on the last day and move everything you can't lift and load yourself.

Not having a ton of boxes to unpack reduces the number of items you'll have to go box-diving for in your first few weeks at your new place significantly. In other words, you'll know where your spatulas are when you need them. I always try and put unpacked items in the same places they are now, at least for the first few months I'm there. This means, if your picnic basket and carpet cleaner reside in the closet of the bedroom where the blue quilt is on the bed, they should go into that exact place in your new home, if possible. You'll feel a lot less cognitive dissonance that way and you can always move them later on to different places, once you're more settled in.

But the things I'm looking forward to the most are the things that were just too inconvenient or impossible to do here. Stuff like growing significant amounts of food, canning, preserving, hanging wash out to dry, using the solar oven, having a dedicated space for my chickens, and having garbage and recycling pick-up. Those are all things I'm looking forward to having available again. Move to a new place and you'll find out quickly the things your soul needs, and mine needs that stuff. I've felt like a boat without an anchor without being tied to the seasons and the land in those very meaningful ways. And I really miss homegrown food. 

I'm even looking forward to having some farm neighbors again.  Boy, I never thought I'd feel this way, especially after we lived next to that one guy next door who blasted "Radar Love" by Golden Earring on his patio every single Saturday morning when he was out working on his property. While I love the quiet, neighbors (patio speakers notwithstanding) can really help you feel part of a community. Even if you don't like their music, at least you know they are over there. 

And so March will be Moving Month. We'll also be putting in a new well pump, doing some minor septic repairs, painting, cleaning, and refinishing some hardwood floors. It will be great to post pics and write about what's going on, because it's going to be a lot!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Boldly Forward

"The Old Farmhouse" by Reb Frost

I am happy to announce that...tentatively....we've found our house!

We made an offer on a newer farmhouse about 30 minutes north of here last week and found out over the weekend that our offer was accepted! We'd been watching this house for several months, waiting to see if the price would drop, and once it did, we moved in with an offer.

So now there will be the usual round of inspections, which is why we're still tentative at this point. (We may discover that a swarm of Asian stink bugs, or Amelia Earhart and DB Cooper have been inhabiting the attic for years. I doubt it, but one never knows.) But we're extremely optimistic that this is The One.

It's been a long road to get here, and as much as finding the right place took a long time, what also took a long time was finding out how we wanted to be in this "new world" we moved to 10 months ago. Did we want to be suburb-ians with chickens or true country bumpkins? Flatlanders or mountain folk? What cities did we want close proximity to?

There was also an insane sellers' market this last summer, and we decided early on that we were not going to lose our heads in bidding wars or in having to make immediate offers on places we weren't sure about. I am glad we didn't succumb to any of that madness, even if it did make our wait longer.

But I think the biggest mistake we made (in looking at the 20+ houses we saw...20+!) was in thinking we should adapt -- either to a house that wasn't really "us" and needed extensive remodeling,or to an area that made sense geographically but didn't necessarily feel like home. You figure if you move 800 miles, you are going to have to adjust to almost everything, including your home preferences. But if you do go in that direction, you will feel a keen sense of loss over what part of your personal dream (the things you already believe about what "home" should be) you are giving up. It might be enough closet space, that extra half-bathroom, or the view out your window. 

But if I could give any advice, I'd say honor those things, however irrational they seem to others. Or you will not be happy.

What we ended up with was something astonishingly familiar to both of us. It is a 1990's build (we have never owned a home older than that) that has a lot of flat, usable land, about 2 acres, with plenty of room for chickens, clotheslines, livestock, fruit trees and vegetable growing. It has a shop for Big Ag. It has air conditioning. But it's also reasonably close to city amenities. 

Oh sure, we spent time dreaming and trying on the idea of living in Victorian fixer-uppers, mid-century ranchers, and quirky old farmhouses with various additions tacked on over the years. But it turned out, what we really needed was a relatively plain-vanilla, modern home with no quirks and no surprises. Sure, we don't get any hidden closets, old wood-burning fireplaces, solid wood interior doors or built-in bookcases. But we did get something that felt like home. To us, anyway.

In short, our mistake was in trying to be too flexible, and force the square pegs that we are into round holes. Do that and it will never fit. All you'll end up with is bruised edges and disappointment. Especially at our age, when we've had a lifetime of living in, frankly, a certain kind of home. It's adjustment enough to move to a new state and settle in. Unless you're young enough to experiment with living in different kinds of houses, you might want to stay with something that feels familiar.

And so it's with a huge amount of excitement that we (hopefully) move on to this next phase of the journey, which is getting ready to move again, but to a place we can't wait to get to. 

One thing that occurred to me is that it will be great to get back to blogging about all things homesteading, that's for sure, as well as writing from a place that feels like home. And home is clearly where we want to be. 

Plus, plenty of time to plant some vegetables in spring! Hallelujah to that!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Darkness upon us

The real test over how well you weather the winter season is not November - December, when there are lots of holiday lights, parties, gatherings and shopping to keep you busy, happy and over-scheduled. No, it's what happens after that, in the dark and cold of mid-winter, with its short days, long nights and lack of holiday songs and lights,  that separates the hardy from the tender. It's been known to drive some folks mad...but for those willing to lean into those days -- to clarity.

I've noticed most people here in the PNW still have all their Christmas lights up. Maybe they'll take them down this weekend, or later this month, meaning we're truly heading into the darkest time of the year, both mentally and in the light our physical eyes perceive (because although we are actually adding roughly an extra 30 seconds of light each day now that we're past solstice, it doesn't add up to much just yet).  

I have never minded this kind of darkness. When I lived in the San Joaquin Valley, one of my favorite times of year was when the Tule fog rolled in thick and stuck around. Many days it never even cleared -- it was pea soup in the morning, more the thickness of a clear broth at lunch time, and then back to pea soup by about 4 pm again. It was a great time to stay indoors, light a fire, crochet, and listen to music or read. 

It was also a great time of year when I worked at the winery. We'd get stormy days, early on, when we'd have maybe two or four customers visit us over the entire 6 hour period we were open. I loved those slow, catch-up days because they could mean doing tasks I'd never have time for on busier days, or better yet, spending time getting to really know my coworkers as we chatted to pass the time. 

The slow, dark days of mid-winter are a time of hibernation, of incubation, when dreams began to take shape and you feel the new year beginning to take form in terms of goals, ideas and dreams. It is a time for patience and a time for thought and prayer. But without it, you risk just sort of launching into spring without any idea of what needs to stay in your life and what needs to go. It's no coincidence winter is a time when many of us clean out our closets. We're sorting through what works and what doesn't work anymore, both in what we've accumulated in terms of material goods as well as, on the emotional side, what we've accumulated in the form of relationships, habits, ideologies and desires. 

I like to think that when spring finally bursts forth into flower and sun, that I'll have a pretty good idea of what I want out of 2019, what I expect of myself, and what I'm ready to let go of. But without pausing to reflect on those things by using the dark days of mid-winter to sift, reassess and plan, it's all one long, endless road with no turn-outs or rest stops.

Not my kind of journey at all. I think the seasonal darkness has it's own set of special set of gifts it offers, if we're willing to accept them on their own terms. The greatest of which is that when darkness is prevalent, we have the ability to see our own light within much better.

Monday, December 17, 2018

The shoes that tried to kill me

I recently got invited to a very swanky country club luncheon, which doesn't happen every day when you live in the middle on a 500-acre vineyard in Oregon with no close neighbors except wild turkeys and deer. Making friends has taken some time. So on this important occasion, I got all dressed up in my city clothes, including a darling pair of suede ankle boots I've had for several years (and haven't worn nearly enough to justify what I paid for them).

What I didn't anticipate was the effect of walking on the cobblestones in our carport in those lovely ankle boots. Did I mention the boots have an almost-stiletto heel on them -- not so much in terms of height but diameter of the heel point?

Before I could even get my car door open I found myself thrown to the ground as one of those tiny heel points was placed in between the uneven stones and turned my ankle sideways. And make no mistake about it, ankle boots are completely unforgiving in an incident like this. They do not allow your foot to come loose from the shoe as you twist, so you wrench your ankle the complete 45 degrees before you hit the ground.

I laid there for a minute, kind of stunned, and then did what any self-respecting luncheon lover would do....I got in my car and continued on to the country club. Which I realized was a mistake once my ankle started really swelling and pounding about halfway into the appetizers.

But I soldiered on, in the name of all things Country Club. Priorities! And then hit the Urgent Care Center on the way home (by that time I was in agony). They had to bring me in and out of the facility in a wheelchair, and after an exam, x-rays and ultrasound, they discovered that I'd completely torn a ligament on the top of my foot and it wasn't working anymore.

I came home and had Big Ag put the suede ankle boots into the Goodwill box.

To be honest, this is not the first time these shoes have tried to kill me. I attending a wedding a couple of years ago, with the reception held around a magnificent old oak tree at a winery. Somewhere into the reception, I tried to get back to my table from the dance floor, across a few of the massive roots that protruded around the oak, and twisted the same ankle and fell to the ground. Some old man at another table leaned over to his wife and said, "well, that one's been drinking." But I hadn't. I had tripped on an oak root, but it was the ankle boots that caused me to fall completely flat on the ground.

And so now I'm in an air cast and wrapped up like a mummy when I'm not wearing that, due for physical therapy next week. The pain is better and the bruising is subsiding. The good news is, as long as it's not hurting, I have permission to drive, walk, and do anything else I need to. And even better, it's not hurting all that much right now, so all my holiday preps are coming along just fine.

But the sad thing is that I've almost considered digging the ankle boots out of the Goodwill bag, because they are just so darn cute and look so good on. But I've realized it's a toxic relationship and that it's counterproductive to love something that's trying to kill you. And so it is in life as well.

And so I bid farewell to yet another fashion trend I've had to give up due to age. If anyone needs me, I'll be out in the vineyard, hangin' with the wild turkeys and deer. For many reasons, that is probably where I most belong. But occasionally I reserve the right to visit The Other Side -- the one with appetizers, gorgeous couture and bright conversation. You'll know you see me there when you see a slightly-out-of-place looking woman.... with an array of appetizers in her hand, wearing very sensible flats.

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 up...in 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.