Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Now we're moving

Or so it seems right now.  We put an offer on the house below, it's been accepted, and so we're knee-deep in the escrow process now as appraisals, home inspections, and well tests are completed.  It's the same thing as we just went through on that other house -- one that fell out of escrow when it appraised at $45K below sale price -- but so far this one has gone much more smoothly (appraisal and all!) and I have a good feeling about it.  I actually feel even better about this house, because it has a lot more room and is all in all a more practical (and scenic) choice for us.  Cheaper, too.

And so the packing begins.  I pack up boxes, I pack up memories, and I pack up feelings.  The boxes are a practical matter, and since I moved 20 times in my younger years, I consider myself something of an expert in packing.  The memories are a little bit harder to sort through.  This town has been my home for the last 21 years, and I will miss all that it was.  That's right, was.  I will talk about that sometime in a future post, but I don't want to spoil the hopeful mood I'm in with the very real grief I feel over what my current town has become.     As for my feelings?  I am hopeful.  Hopeful that we've found a good piece of land to work, that the next chapter of our lives is going to be a good one, and that I've given my kids what they need to go off and fly into the world, which is the only thing we are really supposed to give them, in the end.  If they're loved enough, secure enough, and have enough confidence, they will go out and become the adults God meant for them to be.  That was our only job when it came to our children, and I hope we did it according to plan. 

     For us now though, there's the enticing possibility of a house on a hill, surrounded by oaks and green spring grasses, with fresh air and country quiet.  

On the homestead front, wine to be racked, carrots to be preserved, a summer garden to put in for the new owners of the house, and, of course packing and more packing.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Increasing the Strategic Jam Reserve

Last year, I did most of my preserving in the spring, putting up what I thought would be a sufficient amount of preserved foods to keep us going through the next 12 months or so.  This is always a guessing game, as my family tends to go on food jags -- where they'll want a particular item every day for a couple of months, for example -- but it will be followed by a period when no one touches the stuff for a year or more.  Totally unpredictable, and often frustrating.  

Sometime around last Christmas, for instance, we ran out of strawberry preserves (due to a teenager-induced drain on our Strategic Strawberry Jam Reserves) and I decided not to buy more at the store, waiting instead for spring, when strawberries would be back in season and I could make some more jam at home.  It's been a long wait, and I don't think anyone has missed strawberry jam more than me.  I have plenty of marmalade (and ironically, I was stocked up on it because this was the item I ran out of in early 2011), but it doesn't take the place of strawberry jam.  I love my marmalade, but frankly am a little burned out on it at this point.
So you can imagine how thankful I've been to finally see the farmers' strawberry stands opening up once again, with their red, ripe strawberries available locally, and in abundance.  This morning I put up about seven jars of strawberry preserves, and plan on doing at least another seven jars -- maybe more.  I'm happy I was able to wait for this fruit to come into season, because store-bought jam pales in comparison to homemade.  And waiting for it seems to reinforce the idea that to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven -- including the time to preserve, and eat, delicious strawberry jam.  Turn, turn, turn.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Homesteading Kitchen vs. the Model Kitchen

As I write this, the breadmaker sits on the floor to my right, underneath what could be a breakfast bar if we'd ever bothered to buy some bar stools.   There's a vase filled with kitchen utensils next to the stove, and a little later today there will be a huge fermenting bucket of carrot mash (which will eventually become wine)  sitting in the kitchen on the floor.

A couple of months ago, before we sold this house, our realtor wisely advised we put away everything that could clutter the place, including all the aforementioned items.  It's easy to see why: Selling a home is more about selling an idea than an actual dwelling.  When we tour a home and see a spotless, uncluttered kitchen, something in our brains makes this weird connection, almost saying, "if I lived here, my kitchen would look like this."  In reality, we know this isn't true, yet when we put ourselves into the model kitchen, we somehow believe it.

But if you are a homesteader, you should doubly know this will never be the case.  Homesteaders live in their kitchens.  It's where we wash and clean our harvested fruits and vegetables, it's where all the serious homestead alchemy we do is accomplished (including home butchering for some, canning and preserving food, making soap, detergent, and lotions from scratch, etc.) and there is a lot of stuff that comes with those activities.

And so the breadmaker is left out where we can conveniently grab it, our pantry is filled with both full and empty mason jars,  and there's winemaking equipment around.  Our counters are dirty because we just bought in an armload of carrots to clean.  There's pruning shears laying around, re-usable kitchen rags on the counter, a composting pail next to the sink and plastic bags drying so they can be re-used. 

We recently made the mistake of making an offer on a house that never would have worked for us.  The reason?  It was beautiful, but did not have enough room.  Thankfully things fell through, but I will never again fall for the myth of the spotless kitchen, because, as the kids say, "that's just not how I roll."

So give me the house where I can leave the breadmaker on the floor and accidentally spill lye on the counters and it won't ruin anything:  the spotless life is beautiful, but not for me.  I am a homesteader.

Friday, April 6, 2012

For your health

I was reading the San Luis Obispo paper the other day (online, in preparation for when we'll be living there) and found a link to this site.  It details the health grades of each one of California's counties.  Kings County, where I currently live, ranks close to the bottom in all areas.  The survey measures health-related issues, like access to recreational facilities, ratio of doctors to residents, obesity, mortality rates, and air quality.  San Luis Obispo County, on the other hand, is in the top  third of counties in the areas measured.  

A lot of times friends or acquaintances ask why we're moving, and if I had to point to the biggest issue, this chart sums it up nicely.  I may hate the summer weather here, the fog, and the declining socio-economic climate of our town, but the health issues are what's most important.  The air here is so bad I can only stay healthy by getting a Kenalog (a steroid) shot a couple of times a year.  Unfortunately, it comes with some nasty side effects, so being able to stop the Kenalog shots will make a huge difference in my quality of life.  I also have asthma, which is exacerbated by the poor air, so I'm expecting that to improve as well.

I can wax romantic about the lovely hills, the vineyards, the nearness of the ocean and the dark skies at night, but the fact is we are making this decision to move for health reasons above all others.   I feel bad for the friends we are leaving behind, but make no apologies for putting the long-term health of myself and my family first.