Thursday, October 29, 2020

"Hell is bureacracy"

My goodness, we've had a chaotic couple of weeks.

To let readers know, we've sold our homestead. We close on November 20, but until our property closes, we don't have the cash in hand to purchase another home. The timing of this closing is awkward. Why? Because every rural and suburban property in the Inland Northwest has been snapped up by urban refugees desperate to get out of the cities.

We can't blame these people -- we'd do the same thing in their shoes -- but because we don't yet have cash in hand from the sale of our homestead, we've been unable to find a place to live.

As the weeks went by, this became an increasingly urgent matter. We have a household, a woodcraft business, and a farm to move -- but nowhere to move to. And winter is coming.

A couple weeks ago, Don and I took an overnight trip and looked at a few properties. We had it in our minds to purchase a little suburban fixer-upper in a small town, a place we could live in over the winter, fix up, then sell in the spring.

However we discovered two problems with this idea.

One, even fixer-uppers are being snapped up rapidly, and we still don't have the funds from the sale of our homestead to make an immediate purchase unless it was based on a contingency (closing after our home closes). Banks have made it clear they're not making loans, even temporary ones. Sellers realize they don't have to bother with something as absurd as a contingent offer when they know someone with a full-cash offer will be right behind.

And two, such a plan would tie up our money if and when an interesting homestead should suddenly come available.

On this exploratory trip, we actually viewed a home on acreage that at first didn't much interest us -- until we viewed it in person. Yowza, it was lovely. The house was "meh," but the property was beautiful. We made an immediate offer...contingent upon the closure of our home.

Sure enough, another buyer outbid us within hours (with a full-cash offer), and that was that.

Frustrated, and increasingly desperate, we had a "Screw it!" moment and made a full-cash immediate offer on a really really cheap 1970 mobile home in an RV park. The outside looked like ca-ca, but the inside was in fairly decent shape. We could be satisfied there for the winter -- especially since we could fix it up and probably sell it later for a small profit. And it would give us a base to live in while we searched for property in the spring.

This was a terrific decision, and it brought us great peace of mind. We worked with the realtor, signing paperwork and getting all the i's dotted and t's crossed. We worked with the property management company to transfer the lot rental to us. We called and reserved a storage unit in a nearby facility. In short, everything was falling into place.

Until yesterday morning.

The realtor, a very nice young man, called to tell us the seller -- who had been cagey during the entire sales process -- suddenly and capriciously withdrew his offer to sell the trailer. The realtor was very apologetic and frankly sounded weary. I gather the seller has pulled this stunt before.

This suspicion was confirmed when Don called the property management company and explained the situation. "Let me guess, it's Lot X," said the woman. When Don affirmed it was, she let loose a very frustrated four-letter expletive. She immediately apologized for her language, but Don laughed grimly and said he felt the same way.

Back to square one. We were going to be homeless in three weeks unless we could line up a place to live. We embarked on a frantic online search for a short-term rental and finally located a Craig's List posting for a pet-friendly apartment by a student who wanted to sublet his lease. I called the young man and he explained his lease was in student housing. We said we didn't mind, so he gave us the contact information for the property managers. However when I spoke to that organization, I was informed the sublet was for one bedroom in a three-bedroom apartment. In other words, Don and I would be sharing a three-bedroom apartment with two other students. Um, no.

(Though we later joked this could have a profound influence on the other students renting the apartment to suddenly have two old fuddy-duddies living with them. Can't you see it? "Young man, does your mother have any idea what you're doing?")

At last, Don got wind of a rental house in a nice neighborhood with a lease that only lasted until July, which is all we needed. We called and talked to the property manager and explained our circumstances. She promised to expedite the paperwork. We filled in the application form, then took a trip to deliver the application in person. She said everything was acceptable except we needed to verify our monthly income, which had to exceed two-and-a-half times the monthly rental amount.

No problem. We're self-employed and so our income varies, but we have documentation up the whazoo. The property management rep said the first page of our tax form should be sufficient. We came home and pulled together tax forms, affidavits from freelance sources, and other necessary proof of our monthly income.

Not good enough. The tax forms showed our net income, not our total gross income, and we were told that "Word documents" (with affidavits from our freelance sources) "can be forged" -- even though we provided contact information from these freelance sources (editors, etc.) for verification.

"Oh for Pete's sake," Don exploded. "After November 20th, we'll have enough money to buy the house outright if they were selling it." But we scrambled and found the Schedule C forms for last year's taxes, which showed our gross income. We offered a massive, massive security deposit. We even offered -- and this is really jumping the shark -- to have my elderly parents co-sign for us. C'mon, folks, throw us a bone!

"Hell is bureaucracy," Don growled at one point. But we got the additional paperwork submitted and finally -- at last -- signed the contract to rent the house.

In short, it's been a roller coaster over the last couple of weeks.

So that's our status. Now that we have a place to live temporarily, we'll start moving things into it so the new owners can take possession of our homestead by closing.

It's an adventure, we keep telling ourselves with gritted teeth. That's it, an adventure.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

October surprise

 Well, the winter weather that was predicted for Friday certainly materialized.

Thursday evening, the sun lit up trees against thickening clouds...

 ...then set in a modest blaze of glory.

Our barn cat took advantage of the last warm rays.

 On Friday, as predicted, it snowed. And snowed and snowed and snowed.

The willows in the yard, still in the process of losing their autumn leaves, didn't know what to think of this.

By evening, branches were laden with heavy wet snow. They looked like something out of a Hallmark card.

Darcy, however, thought it was about time snow fell for his personal amusement.

It snowed all day Friday, and Saturday morning revealed a landscape more like January than October. A bitterly cold north wind blew all day.

We're calling it our October Surprise with, I'm guessing, six or seven inches of snow.

Saturday was a good day to stay home and, er, admire the scenery.

Here's the view from the spare bedroom, located under the steep roof with low windows. Sun is shining through icicles.

 We took Darcy for his morning walk. He was ecstatic about the white stuff.

 But the poor bushes, still sporting their colorful autumn plumage, didn't know what hit them.


 Everywhere we went, bright leaves lay on top the snow -- an unusual sight.

We also saw lots of downed tree branches.

 It wasn't hard to guess why.

This morning the temperature was 11F, considerably warmer than the 1F they were predicting a few days ago.

And this is pretty much the end of the cold snap. From here on we're warming up in line with typical October weather.

Why, you may ask, did we have such a bizarre cold snap this early in the autumn? Why, it's 2020. Nuff said.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Gift ideas for homesteaders

 Here's a piece I wrote for Lehman's entitled "Gift Ideas for Homesteaders."

Hop over and take a look!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Winter's a-coming!

 Whoo-whee, do we have a cold snap on the way!

Not only is nearly seven inches of snow predicted for Friday, but then temperatures absolutely plunge to 1F late Sunday/early Monday. Whee.

To this end, Older Daughter and I have been frantically harvesting the garden. We tucked the potatoes, peppers, and carrots indoors so they won't freeze.

Dried beans are out in the barn. The cold won't affect them.

The cold snap isn't supposed to last long, and with luck all the snow will have melted by Wednesday or Thursday of next week. But wow, temperatures like that this early in the season? Are we in for a hard winter?

Monday, October 19, 2020

Book bomb day: The Ultimate Prepper's Survival Guide

 Last month, I did a book review of James Wesley, Rawles' latest creation, The Ultimate Prepper's Survival Guide.

I reviewed some of the reasons I thought this was a superb resource for preppers. First of all, it's laid out in binder form with tabs: Dangers / Mentality / Essentials / Protection / Community / Checklists.

Second, each chapter has subheadings addressing various components of each subject.

And third, it places a great deal of emphasis on checklists. In some ways, I consider this one of the most valuable components of this volume. 

All in all, I consider this an extremely valuable resource especially in this wacky year of 2020.

There was some confusion when I first posted the book review, because I didn't realize at the time the volume was only available in Costco. However today – Tuesday, October 20 – is its release day.

And here's the thing: if you purchase the book today – Tuesday, October 20 – it forms what's called a "book bomb" and helps the author achieve some stellar numbers on Amazon. It's what you all so kindly did when my Amish romance novel was released, and it was a tremendous boost.

 So, if you're inclined to purchase Rawles' latest creation, today's the day to do it! Go help create a book bomb and purchase The Ultimate Prepper's Survival Guide!

Saturday, October 17, 2020

How to relieve stress

As 2020 proceeds on, hurling obstacles and challenges left and right, apparently there's a growing trend on how to alleviate stress.

Hug a cow.

Yes, really.

This article offers details: "Cow-hugging, an alleged wellness fad, has people cuddling farm animals to relieve stress": "According to the BBC, the practice of cuddling cows is supposed to reduce stress in humans by releasing the bonding hormone oxytocin. Cows are chosen specifically for their warm body temperatures and calm demeanor, the outlet reported."

To be fair, I can't argue. It's one of the reasons I loved milking bovines. Warm body temperatures, calm demeanor (and fresh milk) what's not to love?

Now granted, not every cow we've ever owned has fit the blissful category the article describes: "Cows are very relaxed animals, they don’t fight, they don’t get in trouble," a farm owner who promotes the practice told BBC. "You come to the fields and we have some special hugging cows and you can lay next to [them] people think it's very relaxing." (In fact, we've had a few bad-tempered critters who soon found a new home in our freezer.)

But my Jerseys – ah, those were lovely creatures, ready for a cuddle at any time.

 I've seen worse advice on how to handle stress.

Monday, October 12, 2020

New rendition of "God Bless the USA"

 I stumbled across this updated version of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" a few months ago. In my opinion, this is better -- way better -- than the original. Get a hanky, you'll need it:

This was made with the United States Air Force Band. Frankly, when the news gets too depressing, I stop and watch this video.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

CC&Rs? No thanks!

Some of you may be wondering how our homestead sale is going. I don't want to divulge too many details at the moment, but suffice it to say we're under contingency with an interested out-of-state party, and hopefully will have closing within a month.

That means Don and I are at the point where we need to find a place to live. Unfortunately we have two strikes against us: (1) winter's a-coming; and (2) rural properties are scarce, thanks to the influx of urbanites desperate to get out of burning cities. Can't help the first, and we don't blame the second.

We'll probably just end up wintering over in a rental somewhere with most of our possessions in storage, then resume our property search in the spring. We're open to both purchasing an existing home, or building from scratch if necessary.

So we've been watching the real estate market closely. Recently an undeveloped 24-acre parcel caught our eye. The price was right, and it was a nice mixture of "remote" and "close to town." It was described as a planned rural community. In our naïveté, we thought, "Gosh, that's not so bad. It would be nice to have neighbors." We were so interested that we made an appointment with the realtor to go see the parcel.

Until we learned it had CC&Rs.

For those unfamiliar with the term, CC&R stands for "Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions," and it's a collection of rules and regulations for what you can and can't do on your own property. For obvious reasons, Don and I have never wanted to live under CC&Rs.

And this particular collection of CC&Rs, as it turns out, was particularly oppressive and bizarre. Among the worst:

• Farm animals are restricted to no more than three horses per parcel.

• Livestock, exotic animals, or poultry of any kind shall not be raised, bred, or kept on any parcel. (No cows? No chickens...???)

• No more than a total of two dogs, cats, or other household pets. (This means you can't have three dogs, or two dogs and one cat, or three cats, or a dog, cat, and parrot.)

• Houses cannot be more than 35 feet in height.

• All dwellings must have, at minimum, an attached two-car garage.

• No manufactured homes or trailer homes.

• No more than two outbuildings, and no outbuilding can be more than 1200 square feet in size.

• Outbuildings must match the house in color.

• No fencing shall be higher than eight feet. (Um, hello? Deer fences around a garden?)

• For the house, the ground floor cannot exceed 1800 square feet in size. If the home is two stories, the combined floors cannot exceed 2000 square feet.

• No "noxious or offensive" activities can take place on the parcel, including "discharging of firearms."

• No hunting is permitted.

• No radio towers are permitted.

• Inoperable vehicles must be kept inside garages or enclosed outbuildings.

• All motor homes, RVs, boats, trailers, etc. must be parked/stored in an enclosed building.

• Owners must maintain a green lawn a minimum of 30 feet out from the house, and cannot have shrubs or trees on the lawn (for fire control). From 30 to 100 feet from the house, all trees must be pruned to keep them below 40 feet in height. (Idaho is land of the conifers, where trees can easily top 150 feet. How do you "prune" a conifer to a maximum of 40 feet?)

When we read this, our reaction was "Not just no, but [bleep] no!" Why have a rural parcel if you can't do anything with it? Who would voluntarily put themselves under restrictions this onerous?

As it turns out, lots of people. Of the original 12 parcels available, 10 have sold. Go figure.

The house size restrictions, for example, make it impossible to build a McMansion, which some might consider a good thing. However it also places restrictions of large families (7 to 12 or more kids), which are common in rural Idaho. Limiting the size of a house to 2000 sq. ft. would make for very cramped conditions for these families.

Since these types of CC&Rs would apply just fine in a suburban environment – but are just plain stupid out in the remote nether regions of Idaho – we can only guess they were purchased "off the shelf" by the developer and modified for these 24-acre parcels. Still ... 10 of the 12 parcels have sold, with those CC&Rs in place. Go figure.

So our search continues. Eventually we'll find the perfect place – either an existing homestead, or a parcel we can turn into a homestead. And it won't have any CC&Rs.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Leaving the city for a simpler life

 Here's my latest blog post for Lehman's entitled "Leaving the City for a Simpler Life."

Hop on over and take a peek!