Thursday, November 26, 2020

Our sad, pathetic, joyous, grateful Thanksgiving

We had a very quiet Thanksgiving here in our temporary rental house. Very quiet. In fact, I hardly had to do a thing beyond making a blueberry pie.

Our formal dining room room was a card table with three folding chairs. Older Daughter joined us.

And oh, someone was SO SO SO glad to see Older Daughter!

The reason I didn't have to do any cooking was because Older Daughter brought us our feast: sushi. Yes, really.

That is, Older Daughter and Don enjoyed sushi. Me, I had a delicious chicken katsu.

Who says Thanksgiving must be a turkey with all the trimmings? Right now we're "camping" in this charming little rental house, and somehow sushi/chicken katsu worked out just fine. We had our dear daughter with us, we chatted with Younger Daughter and later my parents via phone, and altogether we have a tremendous amount to be grateful for.

Bonus photo: The paperwork at the title company as we closed on our old home. New adventures await!

How was your Thanksgiving?

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Update: Moving, buying, selling, renting

Whew. Sorry for the silence, dear readers! The last couple of weeks have been absolutely loopy. Grab a cup of tea and join me on our latest adventures. As Don put it (tongue in cheek), we've had thrills! We've had chills! This has been an epic blockbuster seventeen years in the making!

Where to start...let's see...okay, I'll take you back to our chaotic attempts to locate a temporary place to live. We found a nice little rental in a city. The price is moderate, and it's actually a rather sweet little 1926 bungalow. I've always had a soft spot for older homes. The house is built on a hillside, so it has a basement (with two bedrooms and outside access), a main floor, and a charming little attic with such steep ladder-like stairs that only a fool would use the upstairs room.

Best of all, it has a pantry in the basement! This solved a major problem, namely where to put all my canned food. For obvious reasons, these jars can't be put into storage in winter.

These empty shelves just begged to be filled. So, load by load, I transported cases of canned food to the rental house.

As Don put it, it's probably the first time this humble little basement pantry has been used for its intended purposes in years, possibly decades, and certainly during its tenure as a rental house. Here's the first load on the shelves:

After many tiring trips, here's the full pantry. The shelves aren't as deep as my old canning closet, so many boxes are simply stacked on the floor. They'll be fine over the winter.

Meanwhile, I had to clean out my own canning closet for the new owners. I wiped down the accumulated dust...

...and vacuumed everything. The new woman of the house is also an avid canner, so she needed this space to be hers.

We started moving furniture to the rental house as well, including my beloved antique hoosier. It comes apart into two pieces, but I removed the glass and taped the doors shut.

I was paranoid about breaking the glass, so I layered each piece in foam...

...and taped the bundle together. I'll probably refrain from re-inserting the glass until such time as we move into our next home.

Meanwhile, Older Daughter also found a rental (an apartment, in her case). She's been working and commuting to her job, a very long twice-a-day trip which very quickly became unsustainable (especially as the weather became more wintery). This is her first apartment on her own and she was chafing at the bit to move into it (the lease started on Nov. 6).

Her apartment is a small one-bedroom place with a tiny galley kitchen, but it's all hers. She went crazy and did a lot of furnishing, and the results were lovely. Below are before-and-after shots:

Kitchen, before:

Kitchen, after:

Living room (one view), before:


Living room (another view), before:


So Older Daughter is set while her parents embark on their own Adventures.

We continued packing our belongings and transporting them to the rental. One day as we stepped foot inside the old house, we were startled by how cold it was. As it turns out, the heating system had gone kaput. Naturally, this happened on a holiday (Veteran's Day) so the property management office wasn't open. We had to use their emergency number to inform them of this development.

It's a good thing we hadn't officially moved in yet, as an unheated house in the middle of November is a truly uncomfortable place. We had a number of repairmen who passed through, but the heat wasn't fixed until the following Monday.

At one point, looking at the forest of vents that went into each room of the house, I quipped to the repairman how much easier woodstoves are. "You throw in a log, it heats the house," I said.

He laughed and agreed, and said he too had a woodstove...and he was an expert in heating systems!

The next phase of our Adventure came last Sunday. Don had just gotten off the phone with the buyers, assuring them all was well and everything was on track. Our packing and moving was on schedule, and they would be able to take possession of the house the following Friday. As soon as he hung up, I asked, "Do you know why we don't have any water pressure?" It's the kind of question to bring a clutch of panic to any homeowner's heart.

Suddenly we had no water. I was able to gather about a gallon and a half of water from the gasping faucet before it dribbled dry. We had nothing for washing clothes, doing dishes, mopping floors, taking showers, or flushing toilets. Whee! Are we having fun yet?

A frantic call to the well driller brought that good team out within two days (cha-ching), and they assured us it wasn't the well pump (which was almost new) or the pressure tank. The driller speculated we had an underground leak somewhere. (Cha-ching.)

This was far from funny. Water pipes, especially on a farm, scatter to distant taps. How could we determine where a leak was without digging up the entire system? And why did this have to happen five days before the new owners took possession of the house? We'd lived here for 17 years without a problem! WHY NOW??

The driller suggested we bring out an expert in underground leaks, and recommended a fellow. He was able to come out and determine with impressive accuracy where the leak was (he had mega-sensitive listening equipment). Cha-ching. Then we had to bring out an excavator and pipe-fitter, who first looked over the project and gave us an estimate (as if it mattered; we needed it fixed), then finally on Saturday -- one day after the buyers took possession of the house and a full week after the water went out -- the job was done. Ch-ch-ch-ch-cha-ching!!

Then, as if this wasn't enough, the buyers let us know the kitchen faucet wasn't working, even though it, too, was fairly new. We promised to remove the faucet and replace it.

Meanwhile, while all these water woes were taking place at our old home, we were moving our possessions out and trying to clean the house without water. The buyers planned to move their possessions in before taking actual ownership, so we wanted to have the place as tidy as possible.

While Don was dealing with all the water woes, I moved into the rental a few days early because I had some online job commitments I needed to attend to. All this time, we had simply been piling our possessions into the house without any kind of sorting or order. The result looked like a hoarder home. This is what happens when you compress a 3600 sq. ft. home, a woodcraft business, and a farm into a 900 sq. ft. rental.

We were both filthy and exhausted, but at least the rental house had water. Unable to take the time to get clean, Don went back home while I stayed behind in the rental. As I unpacked and tried to find where to put things, I unwrapped my favorite wine glass and put it on a shelf, since I didn't want to accidentally crush it. Somehow it seemed symbolic.

I was beyond desperate for a shower but realized I had a shower curtain, but no shower rings (and no car; Don of course took it with him). I rigged up "rings" using twist-ties on a few of the grommets. You know what they say about the Mother of Invention.

Then I felt guilty because I was clean while Don (who had returned home) was still filthy, but such was life.

At any rate, he got the house sorta buttoned up and turned over to the buyers, and was finally was able to join me at the rental. I celebrated by doing a load of laundry (the washing machine is located in the basement). And then -- you're gonna love this -- Don went into the basement and reported it was flooded. Had the washing machine malfunctioned? No, it seemed fine. I ran some water in the kitchen sink, and he called up to me to turn off the water immediately. Evidently any and all water flowing through the pipes was burbling up through a downstairs drain. This, of course, was a Saturday night when the property management company was closed.

Oh well, we could make do until Monday...until suddenly Don said, "Go flush the toilet and see what happens." I went upstairs, flushed the toilet -- and the water came burbling up through the downstairs drain.

Not good. Really not good. At least at our old house, we could use the woods when nature called. Here in the city, they frown upon such things (except in Seattle). We called the property management company's emergency number and reported the issue, and the poor woman was tasked with finding a plumber willing to come out late on a Saturday night. "How late can I call you?" she asked. We assured her she could call as late as needed. Midnight. One o'clock in the morning. We didn't care.

So there we were, unable to wash clothes, do dishes, mop floors, take showers, or flush toilets. We had all the water we needed, but it had nowhere to drain out. Whee! Are we having fun yet?

The plumbers, bless them, were able to come early Sunday morning, and it took them about two hours to roto-root out the pipes of this old house. Apparently they do this about once a year for this particular house, the culprit being tiny tree roots that grow through the pipe (they showed Don a collection of the debris approaching a soccer ball in size). By the time they left, we were both in acute distress at the need to postpone answering the calls of nature.

So that's what the last two weeks have been like. For the time being, we're getting used to city life. As mentioned, our rental is on a small hill, so we have a nice view of the city below us. We're getting used to the roar of trucks and the ineffable hum of urban life. There is also (cough cough) a superb used book store about a block away, which could become a deeply dangerous destination (ahem).

It also has a patch of vicious cactus nearby that looks oddly beautiful in the morning sun.

Meanwhile, poor Mr. Darcy is also getting used to city life. Our rental does not have an enclosed yard, so we're leashing him up and walking him around a block or two several times a day. He's a Nervous Nellie, overstimulated by the constant din of traffic and the clatter of a city, but -- and this is Big News -- it won't be for long.

You see, we've found a place to buy! We made an offer, and it was accepted. I know -- after all this trouble, we hardly move into the rental and we're making plans to move out.

Our new home is not Perfect (it's not a quaint log cabin in the woods), nor is the property ideal in every respect. But as should be abundantly obvious by now, Utopia doesn’t exist. The overall package (home + property) hits many of the marks of what we were looking for in terms of developing it into a self-sufficient homestead. And one of its greatest benefits is it's far off the beaten track. Far off.

Ironically, I haven't seen our new home yet. Don made plans to go see the property literally within hours of it being listed, but I had commitments that prevented me from going with him. However the virtual tour provided by the realtor was excellent and I was able to see the inside of the house with great clarity.. Don looked over the house and property with a fine-tooth comb and came away pleased, and I trust his judgment. Tentatively we close on this new place on or about December 18. We don't anticipate moving in on that date -- it may take the sellers some time to move out -- and we have to remember conditions for moving aren't ideal in the winter.

The new home is smaller than our old home by a fair margin, about 1400 sq. ft. total (vs. 3600 sq. ft.), but it's adequate for our needs. It has not quite eight acres of property, and a huge barn (bigger than the house, about 1800 sq. ft.). While it's located well off the beaten track, it's not too distant from a town with a hospital. As I said, it hits many of the marks we were looking for.

So that, dear readers, is what life has been like over the last two weeks. If I sound scattered and distracted, it's because I am. We're still moving things from one place to another, still dealing with some last-minute repairs to our old house, and still trying to create order and calmness in our temporary rental house.

But it's been an Adventure. And now that we have a place to look forward to, the next part of the Adventure is waiting to unfold.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Days of Elijah

Today has been a ... well, challenging day. I won't go into details (except to say it's associated with moving), but it's been challenging. I'll leave it at that.

So, needing a little pick-me-up, I remembered one of my favorite church songs and dug it up on YouTube:

Yeah, a pick-me-up. It helped.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Garden seeds – in November?

Yesterday, an interesting post came across a regional preparedness website as follows: "Order garden seeds NOW. Today, I went to my favorite garden seed sites to find out that many are not printing catalogues this year AND they are out of some of my favorite varieties, forcing me to try different ones. If you have saved some seeds you are way ahead.  If not, a seed exchange may be considered in the early spring to share extras."

We've been so busy with our relocation that I haven't given any thought to gardens, much less seeds. Is this person correct? Is a seed shortage already in the works for 2021?

Curious, I did a little poking around online and came across a post called "Top 12 Garden Seed Catalogs 2020" which mentioned: "Update: Some companies, in order to save on waste and money, no longer print paper catalogs… Their catalogs are online only. While I do love curling up with a cup a tea and a stack of catalogs, consider doing the same with a tablet. I encourage companies to save all the trees they can, and besides… you get faster service with online ordering anyway!"

While this cheery note hardly bespeaks dire predictions, it is certainly a break with tradition for seed companies not to send those seductive and colorful paper catalogs in the mail each January.

I logged onto my favorite seed company's website, Victory Seeds, and all seems normal (or as normal as can be in 2020). They have catalogs available upon request. However ...

When I clicked on a random vegetable corn many many varieties are already sold out for 2020. Not everything, but a lot more than I expected.

Same with beans.

Other veggies (broccoli, carrots) seem well-stocked. Yet other veggies (peas, lettuce) have mixed results some seeds are in stock, others are sold out.

Now granted, I haven't gone through every seed company or even every vegetable within a particular seed company. However certain news articles are confirming the trend of ordering early (here and here).

Remember, older seeds are still viable. They may not have as complete a germination rate as fresh seeds, but who cares?

So I think the person who posted that comment is correct. You may want to beat the rush and order garden seeds NOW for your 2021 garden. We don't know what next year will bring, and garden seeds are a relatively cheap investment.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Update on my Amish fiction début

If I neglected to say it earlier, allow me to thank everyone for their outstanding show of support for my inaugural romance novel, The Amish Newcomer.

I don't know what the final sales numbers are, but I took some interesting screenshots on its release day.

Here is my Amazon ranking at the beginning of the day:

 I tracked the rating throughout the day until they culminated -- in large part thanks to you, my dear readers -- in these delightful statistics:

SurvivalBlog also kindly gave me a shout-out, too.

As a result, the book got on Publisher's Weekly top seller list!

 I was also asked to write a piece called "New to Amish Romance?" on Harlequin's blog.

Now that the dust has settled, it's on to additional projects. My second book, entitled "Amish Baby Lessons," will be released next March (thumbnail artwork only, sorry if it's blurry).

And then -- this made me squeal -- on Tuesday I was offered a three-book contract! What's nice is two out of those three books are already written!

So I'm well on my way with this new career. I'm just so tickled to be able to take all of you along for the ride.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Remind me again why we're moving?

In response to my last post, "Hell is Bureaucracy" – in which I had something of a temper tantrum about obstacles we've experienced – a number of alarmed readers expressed concern at the timing of our homestead sale. They urged us to renege on our agreement with the buyers and stay where we are – safe and secure, away from the potentially explosive results of the election.

Don wrote the following post in response to these concerns.


There have been a few people – not just here on Patrice's blog, but also among our family and friends – who have questioned our decision to leave our established homestead of 17 years … especially in these "consequential" times. Some have said we should call it off, that we should simply hunker down and not sell.

So let me try to explain our reasons.

First and foremost, for those who suggest we call off the sale of our homestead: We won't. We've already given our word to the buyers. I wish I didn't have to explain any more than that, but in these days of more "liberal" interpretations of what we consider to be fundamental truths, that might not be enough. For us, our word is our bond.

While we have no legal reason we can't pull out of the sale at the 11th hour, we certainly have a moral reason. The party buying our place has placed their faith in the value of our word. They have already left their home in a far-off state – leaving their own place behind them – and arrived here in Idaho with all of their belongings.

In Patrice's last post, she related how we attempted to buy an inexpensive mobile home as temporary housing, and at the last minute – the 11th hour – the seller withdrew. We were understandably upset when the seller reneged on the mobile home sale, since he broke both his promise and a contract. And that was only an inexpensive mobile home.

Now imagine how our buyers would feel – coming to a strange place with everything they own in a cramped trailer, with no family or friends nearby, hoping for safety and security of the new home they were promised – if we suddenly and capriciously changed our minds and made a bad-faith decision at the last minute not to sell?

And imagine how WE would feel if we broke our word in that manner?

But putting that aside, there are a number of other reasons why we don't regret our decision to sell our homestead, even during this awkward time.

One of the most important is economic. Despite the relative difficulty of finding a new place, it's not impossible. Just today, I did a quick Zillow scan and found at least four properties that look interesting. When we finally have cash in hand from the sale of our homestead, we'll be in an unbeatable position to jump quickly.

We still have the remnants of a mortgage on this place, but when the sale is finalized, we'll be in a position to buy (or build) our next place mortgage-free. We'll have a homestead without debt. I can't even begin to tell you how important this is to us.

Another reason for our decision to move is more visceral. We've learned many skills over the years we've lived here, and we've figured out how to do things faster, better, and cheaper. Our current homestead has been a 17-year practical master's-degree program in self-reliance, prepping, construction, farming and country living.

In other words, we've done about as much as we can on this homestead … but we believe we can do even more and even better with a cleaner slate. And while we're both 17 years older than we were, we feel perfectly confident on our abilities to raise one more barn and set up one more homestead. However, that happy fact comes with a deadline – so if we want to do it again, and better, we have to jump now.

Finally, we've "been hearing the wild geese honking in the sky and wondering where they go." Both Patrice and I come from foot-loose families, and the past 17 years here were as much about giving our kids a stable place to thrive and grow as they were about building the homestead. Now that our kids are out making their own way, we're itching to see what's on the other side of the mountain. We aim to find out.

I agree these are consequential times. But I recently wrote a couple of articles for Backwoods Home and Self-Reliance Magazines about the pioneers. These were whole families who also lived in consequential times, but headed west anyway, often against the advice of family and friends. These folks often left behind snug, secure farms to chase the wild geese. My ancestors were among them.

For these reasons and many more, we're not afraid of making the attempt. We're looking forward to it. Despite the relatively minor hiccups we've experienced so far, we're eager to move forward. As we keep saying to each other, "It's an adventure!"

We don't know what lies around the curve in the road. But we promise to keep all of you in the loop every step of the way.

See you on the road.