Friday, June 15, 2018

Fifteen years ago today

Fifteen years ago today, we moved to Idaho.

It was Friday the 13th that we left our beloved little home in Oregon for the last time. Don drove ahead in the truck, packed to the rafters with shop tools. My parents drove separately, taking the girls with them (who were then five and seven years old). With our old yellow lab, Amber, I spent one last night in our Oregon home attending to last-minute details. Then I spent another night at a friend's house before embarking on the fifteen-hour drive to our new home on 20 acres -- a home each of us had seen only once.

It was a hard decision, leaving Oregon. We had many good friends. Our tiny old house on four acres was built in 1874 and we adored it.

Our Oregon house when we first bought it

Our Oregon house when we sold it

But it was tiny, and between a home business and homeschooling, we were bursting at the seams. With just four acres, we felt we couldn't be as food self-sufficient as we wanted. We needed more acreage for grazing cattle. Also, the area was getting more and more crowded, and we longed for a more remote home without traffic.

At first we confined our search for another piece of property to Oregon. We looked long and carefully, but couldn't find anything within our price range and bucket-list of requirements. We made an offer on one beautiful old farmhouse on 40 acres south of Eugene -- an offer that was more than we were comfortable making -- and were outbid by $40,000 within an hour. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. Time to look further afield.

Our employment was portable, so we could live anywhere. With the aid of the internet (still fairly new), we researched properties across Washington, Idaho, and Montana. But we also researched homeschooling laws, and quickly discovered Idaho was unique in not having a bunch of state bureaucrats poking their noses into private business when it came to teaching one's own kids. It would be no exaggeration to say the homeschooling laws are what tipped us into Idaho.

The next step was exploration, since neither of us had ever been to the panhandle before. Because the girls were so young (Younger Daughter was still four years old at the time), Don and I split up. I flew ahead in March 2003, rented a car, and made arrangements with realtors to look at about 30 different properties over a week's time. I narrowed it down to two. Then we swapped; I came home and stayed with the girls while Don came up and looked over both properties with a fine-toothed comb. We decided on this property and made an offer.

We didn't learn until later the sellers were going into bankruptcy and were offloading the house and acreage for an extraordinarily low price. All we knew is it looked like "caca" but had good bones, and it was a price we could afford on a woodcrafter's income.

We put our Oregon home on the market and it sold in three days. We packed/sold/gave away our worldly belongings. My parents came up to help us with the logistics of getting to Idaho, and off we went.

Don had arrived the day before, and my parents had taken the girls to a motel. When I crawled up the driveway, exhausted after 15 hours on the road, I walked into the house and burst into tears. I hated it. What had we done?

The first night we spent here (remember, June 15) was so cold we had to turn on this weird propane heater to keep from freezing our tails off. (This is nothing unusual. As I write this, it's 36F outside -- on June 15.) The next day was frantically busy as the movers arrived and started offloading our possessions, my parents and the girls arrived, and we tried to come to grips that this was our new home and there was no going back to the cozy, beautiful little place in Oregon.

But it grew on us. It grew and grew and grew on us until we've come to love this place with all our hearts. The rippling prairie grasses before us, the dark and rustling woods behind us, the canyon that surrounds us, the sunrises and especially the sunsets that bless us -- it's all beautiful beyond compare.

Gradually, as money permitted, we added many accouterments to turn this into the farm we've always wanted. We added a barn, coop, fencing, corral, feedlot, bull pen, garden, orchard, wheat field, and pond. We came to know and then love our neighbors. We found a church and rediscovered our faith. We raised and educated our daughters. The woodcraft business flourished and the freelance writing took off. The sunsets continue to dazzle, and the snow makes us realize working from home is very nice indeed.

Idaho has been good to us. We used to think of ourselves are "remote" but now we think we're just "rural." (Trust me, in Idaho there are places that are truly remote.) It's the longest Don or I have ever lived in one place. Now that they're grown and out of the house and near huge cities, our girls understand the uniqueness of their rural upbringing, and an element of wholesomeness and fresh air still clings to both young women.

So there you go. Fifteen years ago today we embarked on another chapter of our lives, and it turned into a long and happy chapter. We've had setbacks, of course -- who hasn't? -- but on the whole our progress has been satisfying and interesting. It's the journey, not the destination, and so far the journey has been exciting.


  1. Great story. As a veteran of moves {Tennessee to Minnesota to Canada to Washington state and back to Tennessee} I can truthfully say I'd rather be beaten with barrel staves than move. But, when the unpacking is done ,finally, and the last box is thrown away the feeling of accomplishment is real.


  2. Congratulations Don and Patrice. I used to envy you but I’ve hit that point in my life where I say put up or shut up. So I have started to put up. In 15 years I hope I have my own piece of heaven as well.

    Thank you for sharing your lives with us.

    Ouida Gabriel

  3. Friday the 13th? How a bad omen turned into a wonderful move. I am so glad that I found your blog all those years ago and watched your daughters grow up and fly away on sturdy wings. Wings that you and Don provided them. Thanks for letting me come along for the ride!

  4. I'm glad your experience has been a happy one, and that you have shared so much of your life with us. May God continue to bless you.

  5. New movie idea... "Don And Patrice's Most Excellent Adventure". God willing, my wife and I will "join you" in Idaho as we look to moving to the Sandpoint area once I retire in 4 years. (sigh...)

  6. God has richly Blessed your family...
    Wish we would have chosen a different life
    when we were young...always served others, but
    didn't retreat to the serene countryside...Now that I'm a widow, I don't know what the next season of my life will be like....Still praying about what I should do...
    So glad that you share with people reading yur blog...
    Love from NC

  7. Husband and wife, mid-seventies and we have been blessed with our little piece of heaven. Have prayed for years for this to come about and now it is here....6 acres of beautiful woodland. Think of you every day and so grateful for your encouraging experiences.

  8. Came to Idaho in 1986.
    Have moved lots of places but will never leave Idaho.
    Welcome to Idaho.
    Here is to 15 more and then some.
    Now don't tell anyone about it.

  9. Very nicely done. I enjoyed your life synopsis. May you grow old and comfortable where you love the best.

  10. Isn't it amazing how God knows what we need and when we need it?

  11. Robert Front knew. You and Don have taken the road less travelled, and it has made all the difference.
    Dock Guy

  12. Once upon a time, for a list of reasons it would be disrespectful to go into, I hated our Arkansas house with a flaming purple passion.

    Our house now was less than half the price, and in MUCH better condition. And I regularly dream about the AR place, always so happy to "be home," and then cry when I wake up.

    Memories make a home. Memories, and the work you put into it. Here's to 15 more.

  13. I've just discovered your blog in a web search for "immature watermelon pics" - and yours looked a lot like my one and only watermelon from last summer. We moved from Spokane to Phoenix, a huge life change in the opposite direction. It's gonna be fun catching up on your writing.

  14. Your Oregon home was so cute, but like you said, when you're bursting the seams it's time to go. We did the opposite. Twenty years on a BIG farm in a big house and when they kids were all grown we downsized to a grain bin house on a few acres. Best move ever.

  15. I just went on google maps and compared that to the photo that heads up this post. You guys have done a ton of work there, you should be proud.

  16. The years do pass so quickly, at least when you look back on them. We've been on our homestead for 31 years now. Our kids were 11 and 7 when we moved here. They are now both married with children and one lives close so we see those loves every week. So fun to have the grandkids come out and do stuff the their parents got to do when they were little. Nannie