Country Living Series

Monday, July 15, 2019

Today's the Big Day!!

Today we officially listed our house for sale! (Kinda scary, really.)

We submitted a For Sale By Owner listing to Zillow (it needs to be verified before it will go live). We also have a listing on Survival Realty (here) and SurvivalBlog was kind enough to mention it as well.

We've spent the last few months remodeling and renovating the house and property, and we're still in that process (the bathroom is the current project, for example). Most of this beautification has fallen on Don, and his skills and creativity have resulted in some absolutely beautiful interiors.

I invite everyone to come see our dedicated webpage which has a full description and dozens of photos. Please send this link to anyone you know who might be interested in relocating to North Idaho. We would appreciate it if everyone would post it on their own blog, FaceBook page, or tweet it out to friends.


Friday, July 12, 2019

Is Facebook really this bad?

I have very little experience with Facebook, since I refuse to create a page or post anything (I tried once, it didn't work out, and that was the end of my interaction with them.)

But Facebook, it seems, is getting creepier and creepier. I know someone, for instance, who posted a group shot of herself and some friends while they were out on a hike. She did not include any names or anything, just posted a photo. But when the posting went "live," Facebook automatically supplied names to every face without her permission or request.

Eewwww. Creepy.

This morning I saw yet a new reason to never, ever set up a Facebook account. On a forum, one fellow posted this:

"Beware of a new Facebook policy. When you log off for some time or have issues getting on, you now must scan and provide a real ID or they won’t allow you to log on. No way will I send my ID to them."

Is this true? If so ... ewwwww. Creepy indeed.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Failed, but with class

Here's a little gif we came across recently. This young lady failed -- but failed with class.

Notice her leg pop up after she hit the mat. Her toes are even pointed. That's class, folks.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Painting the house

Here's a huge project we needed to tackle before our move: painting the house. We hadn't added a lick of paint to the outside in the 16 years we've lived here, so it was a long-overdue task. We decided to stick with the original theme of white with barn-red accents.

First we need to go back in time to last November, when we had some work done on the siding. The south side of the house -- which faces the prevailing wind/weather direction -- was getting somewhat battered. It didn't help that we had some red-shafted flickers -- woodpeckers with powerful bills, a subspecies of northern flickers -- wreak havoc with the siding a few years ago. We'd stuffed the holes with spray-foam insulation which worked very well to keep rain out, but as you can imagine it looked like kaka.

So we hired some local contractors, who completely removed the siding and replaced it. These guys were fast and efficient, and had the job done in a day.

We were pleasantly surprised to find the insulation beneath the siding in excellent shape (we were braced to have to replace it).

The material they used to replace the battered siding was a different color (beige) which actually looked so nice we thought about painting the whole house to match it, but in the end decided to go with the original color theme of white and barn-red.

That's all we did until a couple weeks ago, when we tackled the job of painting. This was a task we did ourselves because we were quoted a staggering $4500 a couple years ago by a professional painter and nearly choked at the cost.

To this end, however, we did purchase a professional-quality airless paint sprayer. It was pricey, but worth the savings in time and effort (especially when compared to the professional quote we received).

We waited until we knew the weather conditions were right: dry, warm (but not hot), calm.

Sadly, Don had to remove the heavy growth of Virginia creeper that had, true to its name, crept up onto the front porch roof and twined itself around the porch railings. He trimmed it back to ground level, otherwise we would not have been able to paint the porch. (It's already starting to grow back.)

Then we completely cleaned off the side porch.

While Don figured out how to work the sprayer...

...I started taping newspapers over all the windows.

The inside of the house was very dim as a result.

Before starting on the house, Don tried out the sprayer on a board to get the hang of things.

We soon got into a rhythm. He sprayed, and I followed behind and rolled with a extension roller brush. My goodness, that sprayer was fast. We progressed far quicker than we anticipated.

The dingy look of the house was replaced with fresh, bright paint. Looked lovely.

Speaking of dingy, this was what one of the inside portions of the side porch looked like before painting. Grungy, no?

What a difference!

While spraying near a window, we surprised a very scared frog who had been resting on top a window frame. Poor little guy got paint all over him. I hope he survived.

Here's the south side of the house with the new beige siding.

Soon it became white.

With the main house rough-painted, we turned our attention to the long barn, which had a similar color scheme (white with barn-red trim).

We hired the teenage son of a neighbor (whom we'll call CJ) to do handiwork for us. My goodness, this young man is a treasure. He works and works and works and works. Here he's on a ladder scraping wood on the long barn before priming.

Gee, what part do you suppose will get painted red?

Don started spraying, and I followed with the roller.

He worked carefully around this one part that has swallows nesting under the eaves. The parent watched anxiously as Don got closer. Don kept the sprayer at least a foot away from their nest, and I was able to follow and roll the paint all around the opening without disturbing the babies.

Once the white sides were painted, CJ climbed a ladder and started painting the trim red.

Don tackled the trim on the upstairs windows of the house.

(He still has the little window in the loft to do, as well as some overspray cleanup.)

Don and CJ are still working on the painting details of the house and barn, but so far the results look splendid. A new coat of paint. Who'da thunk it could make such a difference?

Monday, July 1, 2019

Ready ... set ....

We've decided to officially list our homestead for sale on July 15. We've had a huge -- tremendously huge -- response of interested people after the initial announcement of our plans to move, so we hope our little farm is going to sell quickly. To this end, if you're serious about making our home yours, you may want to get your financial ducks in line before July 15. A friend who used to work in real estate says this means interested parties should go beyond getting pre-approval by a bank; it means they should get a loan package filled in.

The one mystery question most people have is our asking price. We're still deciding that. All I can say is this: A large house (3600 sq. feet), two barns, huge garden, 20 acres, and every other amenity, improvement, and bits of infrastructure we've built up over the last 16 years will cost less than the average suburban house on a tenth-acre lot in California.

We're still remodeling and making home improvements, and that process will continue even after we list the house (so if you're an early viewer, please keep that in mind). The house itself is ... well, yowza, it's looking gorgeous. New flooring, new paint, oak trim details, handcrafted wainscoting (woodworking husband!), new outside paint job, productive garden and orchard ... why do we always fix up a place this nice only to sell it? That's just one of life's mysteries, I guess.

At any rate, let this post be an advanced warning about our homestead's availability. Keep your eyes on the blog for the Big Reveal on July 15, at which time we'll have a dedicated website with loads of photos showing what buyers can expect.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Early to bed, early to rise...

When I was in high school, I distinctly remember setting my alarm clock for 6 am so I had an hour to read in bed before getting ready for school. During summer vacations, I would often get up around 5 am just ... because.

Interestingly, in the summers when our schedule was flexible, I would often wake up just as my younger brother was going to bed. (To say he's a night owl barely hints at the degree of his nocturnal preference.)

You see, I'm a morning person.

When our girls were babies and toddlers, early mornings were my time. It was the only chance I had to get some writing done, drink a quiet cup of tea, and not have tiny children demanding my attention. When the girls grew out of that stage, my early morning "my time" continued -- a necessary compromise in a household where all work is done at home and everyone is together 24/7. We all need our "alone" time. Since Don is a natural night owl (though not quite as bad as my younger brother), he gets his "alone" time after I go to bed.

Now that our girls are grown and gone, my early bird habits continue. It's not unusual for me to pop out of bed at 4 am or even earlier. Just don't ask me to stay awake beyond 9 pm or I turn into a zombie.

Which is why I found this article so interesting: "Waking up early can make you healthier and wealthier — yet 95 percent of Americans hate mornings."

"A whopping 95 percent of Americans hate mornings, according to a new Ipsos survey commissioned by the Sargento cheese company," starts the article. "And 43 percent of people 'despise' the sound of their alarm clock, while 39 percent identify as 'slow risers' who need to ease into their day."

In a society that requires most people to show up for work at 8 or 9 am (or earlier), the night owls have it tough. On the other hand, I've had jobs where I worked nights, and that's just as tough (if not tougher, I like to think). That's one of the blessings Don and I have cultivated over our married life -- working from home allows us to set our own hours and work when we're freshest and most awake. It's also handy during winter when Don can stoke the woodstove before going to bed and I can stoke it when I get up, so the house stays cozy.

One preference (early bird vs. night owl) is not inherently superior to the other, despite the old proverbs about who gets the worm. As long as the work gets done, who cares when it's accomplished? However the characteristic does appear to be genetic.

Unfortunately for the night owls, most sleep-cycle advice articles tend to focus on how they can reprogram their internal clocks, something early birds are usually spared (no one calls us lazy if we go to bed at 9 pm).

So I guess the bottom line is Vive la différence. I'm glad there are night owls to work graveyard shifts when the early birds are in bed.

Monday, June 24, 2019

What on earth is in my shoe?

I think it's something of a primal fear: inserting one's foot into the dark depths of a shoe, only to feel something that shouldn't be there.

The other morning I came downstairs, yawning, and sat down to put on my shoes and socks.

But when I inserted a foot into one of my battered sneakers, I felt something wet and lumpy and definitely foreign. I yanked out my foot instantly.

Fetching a flashlight, I peered into the shoe and saw:

Okay, 'tis the season to get little frogs in the house. I guess this guy thought he had a nice cozy cave and didn't appreciate a gigantic invader trying to squash him. I put the visitor outside.

I also put on my sandals for the time being. My sneaker had to dry.

What's the weirdest thing you've found in a shoe?

Friday, June 21, 2019

"A job to go to"

In reading the comments from folks in response to the quasi-humorous "Leaving California" meme I recently posted, several people expressed an urgent desire to flee the state toward greener pastures, but are hampered by the need for employment in a future place -- a "job to go to," as one reader put it.

I thought this would be an interesting and helpful topic to open for discussion. How do rural people make a living? How many "go to" a job (i.e. are hired by someone) versus how many create jobs for themselves?

We (the Lewis family) subscribe to what I call the "many irons in the fire" philosophy of earning an income. We make money a variety of different ways -- primarily from our woodcraft business, but also through freelance writing and other assorted odd jobs we've done over the years. Our primary focus is to take whatever work we can do from home.

Why home? Because it allows us to live as far away from urban hubs as we wish, without being tied by an umbilical cord of commuting to cities for employment. We have neighbors who commute, and it's tough.

But working for ourselves also means financial uncertainty (which is why we prefer the spend less vs. earn more financial philosophy), and it also means we do more than one thing to make a living (i.e. irons in the fire). This, too, is common among rural people -- holding down multiple jobs.

I thought this would be a good time to open up for discussion what kinds of employment people can find or create in a rural location, keeping in mind everyone's experiences, education, and skills set are different. One advantage people have today over what we had when we first relocated out of California in 1993 is the internet -- there are many jobs that can be done online.

One universal piece of advice I'll give for those seeking to leave cities: GET OUT OF DEBT GET OUT OF DEBT GET OUT OF DEBT. Your income is likely to drop off a cliff, so don't drag any debt down with you or you may never climb out of the hole.

So let's hear some thoughts from those who successfully moved from urban to rural. How did you manage to make it financially? What advice would you give others who want to move rural?

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Leaving California

A reader who lives in California sent this:

As a former Californian, it's easy to remember why we left...

Monday, June 17, 2019

Evangelism for introverts

I have a guest post up on author Davalynn Spencer's blog entitled "Evangelism for introverts."

Hop on over and take a peek, then linger and explore this neat lady's website.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Earning more vs. spending less

I had a conversation with a friend recently, who was inquiring about our upcoming move.

During our discussion, the subject of finances came up, and I mentioned that our financial strategy has been to spend less rather than earn more. I mentioned our average monthly bills (besides the mortgage) come to about $500 (not counting food, hardware store purchases, and other variable expenses). The monthly bills include electricity, telephone, internet, FedEx (for our woodcraft business), home/car insurance, credit card payments (we have certain revolving charges on the credit card, such as the website hosting our ebook sales, etc.), health care premiums. Non-regular expenses include such thing as car registration, propane tank fill-ups, LifeFlight membership, Costco membership renewal, taxes (we pay quarterly), etc.

We're spending a bit more than we normally do as we renovate the house (paint, flooring, etc.), but those are mostly one-off purchases. But in general we continue to tweak and adjust our lifestyle so these costs are either maintained or decreased over time. Just this week, for example, we decided to give up our merchant services account (for accepting credit cards). Since our woodcraft business is now exclusively wholesale and we're no longer doing craft shows, our customers usually pay by check or PayPal rather than credit card. Our merchant services account charges us a base free of $35/month, plus a percentage of whatever charges we run through it. Closing that account means that's another monthly charge, gone.

This "spending less" strategy is fun. We enjoy the challenge of finding ways to reduce our expenses.

Anyway, this strategy seemed doubly smart when I read an article headlined "Celebrity surgeon went 'all in' on $180 million Bel Air mansion; then came the high-end housing glut."

The article begins:
When celebrity plastic surgeon Raj Kanodia started building his 34,000-square-foot mansion to flip for a profit, his real estate friends gave him a warning.

"They said, 'You're way out of your league,'" Kanodia recalled. "They told me, 'You'll run out of money and you'll be forced to sell it to service your debts.'"

Four years and well over $70 million later, Kanodia is feeling the weight of their advice.

The modern glass palace he built in Los Angeles' Bel Air neighborhood has been sitting on the market for more than a year. Rather than rolling in profits, Kanodia is now performing as many plastic surgeries as possible to fund millions of dollars in loans and the high costs of maintaining the empty house and grounds. After failing to find a buyer, he's now offering it for rent at $1.5 million a month and says he would consider offers of more than $120 million — marking a $60 million price cut.

The reason this caught my eye is because Mr. Kanodia is, presumably, older than we are (one website says he has "48 years of experience," so I'm guessing he's in his late 60s). At a time in life when Don and I are interested in downsizing and living on as little as possible, Mr. Kanodia is well and truly stuck with a level of debt unfathomable to us. The line that struck me most powerfully is this one: "Kanodia is now performing as many plastic surgeries as possible to fund millions of dollars in loans and the high costs of maintaining the empty house and grounds."

This is why we're looking forward to purchasing our next home without a mortgage – to be free of as much debt as possible.

Truly the Bible has it right in Proverbs 22:7: "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender."

At a time of his life when Mr. Kanodia might otherwise look to a comfortable and peaceful retirement, instead he is well and completely enslaved, arguably because of greed (his hope for a huge profit when flipping the house).

I pity him.