Thursday, December 30, 2010
Thick forest!! And is that a donkey in the pasture? Do you like our new place?! We're very, very excited. We'll be even more excited if it ever goes up for sale. 'Til then....
we're scheming, planning, and making a list of "if yes, then" and "if no, then" charts so that we can make some sensible decisions without messy emotions getting in the way. For example, today we'll likely learn whether the sweet-talked appraiser manages to add more value to his appraisal so that the bank will lend. If "yes" he does, then the cabin's a go. If "no" he doesn't (which is what will happen) then we go back to a builder waiting in the wings to use his metal sided home bid. And then we start over. New lender. New appraisal. Fingers crossed. Again, again, again.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
This is just awkward.
Jezebel got a little turned around here.
The asexual Boo was content with a good butt scratch. Life must be so much simpler without any hormones.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Cheers to all of us searching for our own patch of dirt, this scrappy group, with the country in our blood and bones.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Jeremy was (is) not ready to kick her to the curb just yet. The sweat and blood equity he's invested is exponentially greater than mine. They went through a lot together, Jer and the 15 acres. Together they've weathered drought, a broken tractor, and a recession. It's fair to say that I also have invested deeply in those acres, more emotionally than physically. But my eye wanders. It always has. And I'm prone to reach a tipping point after so much disappointment. The thing is, it might be..well..we're just not that compatible and have grown apart. I think it's over between us.
Well - at least - that was my stance by Sunday night. Sunday afternoon I spent cheating. Drove around the other side of this county and scoped out available properties. With houses. AG EXEMPT. Fantastic school districts. Shining tube fences. Horse properties. Our land can't compete - it's a no-contest situation.
I scrapped together a list of available properties, picked three contenders, and developed an argument to force Jer's consideration. But his devotion is powerful. He's a second-and-third-chance type of guy. I both love and hate this about him. His argument against the break-up was also powerful by simply stating that most other land is out of our league. "We're scrappy people," he reminded me, "and so we need scrappy land." Who needs horse fencing, standing homes - running water?! Isn't half of the thrill in the blank canvas we've been given? Utilities and barns already prepared and ready for us?! WHO WANTS THAT?! - he questioned.
I've questioned a lot over the course of this most troublesome half-week, during which our options are simultaneously seriously limited, but possibly also re-opened for consideration. We can roll the dice with our current situation. Submit appraisal after appraisal. Move from lender to lender until the stars align and someone finds sufficient value in our pocket of the county to provide a loan. We can do that. Or we can pat our backs for a job well-done, pack all of the lessons learned away into storage, and move on down the road to something already, well, READY. A spot with a house, utilities, a barn, some fencing. That sounds like a lovely relationship.
In a single day I fluctuate between wanting to completely divorce myself from the land, to feeling snively about the thought of losing it all because of one lousy little recession. The emotional separation has begun, and I can picture my life without it. But I know I'd have regrets. So there it is; an update without an update. A break-up being reconsidered. Or rather, a relationship on the brink. If possible, I'd like to work through this in therapy; me and the land together. Primarily I'd like to know why it makes forward progress so incredibly difficult and how it keeps us too enthralled to walk away. Evil seductress.
Most stories have one beginning and end. Ours seems to have many.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Today, the appraisal was completed, submitted, and reviewed. Our land is at its highest historical value. Fantastic! And our house plans were valued at less - MUCH LESS - than the actual cost to build the house. Fantastic! Values have receded nationally - we all know this. However, in every possible configuration of how the house build might play out, it never occurred to me that the appraiser would tell us that the house would be worth a fraction of its cost to build. After interviewing 10 builders and receiving 6 bids, it never occurred to me that our lowest, and arguably fairest, bid would still be considerably higher than local values. Meaning? No loan. No house. No build. Until markets recover or a wealthy relative leaves us a large sum of money - no house.
An interesting realization on this day, the anniversary of my birth, in which I (we) feel so very ready for the next phase of life, whatever that may bring, to discover that we're more deeply rooted than ever in our current situation. Here in suburbia it seems we're planted, despite the daydreams of land and forest and donkeys and tractors. At what point does one heed the warnings and retreat? This might be the wrong property. Building might not be an option. I looked at real estate listings tonight for 15 acres with a house. They're out there. They might be the next step. 2 years of planning, scheming, organizing, interviewing, drawing, re-drawing - culminate in this most disappointing revelation. Onto the next phase. We'll let you know when we figure out what that happens to be.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Since I didn't have time to put in the contact lenses, I walked blindly into the backyard and listened as Jer told me where the chickens were located. I shrieked repeatedly, "Are they OK because I can't SEE any of them?! Where are they?! WHERE ARE THE FREAKING CHICKENS??" Jer calmly reported the location of each (3 at my feet, 3 in the tree and 2 on the coop) and marveled yet again at my incredible lack of vision.
Our best guess is a hungry raccoon made a misguided attempt to snag one of the hens last night. Chances are it will return, therefore, chances are we'll spend many more frantic early mornings running through our backyard shushing hens, half clothed, in 30 degree weather for the next few months. If you ever wondered how I look in a robe and jogging shoes, I can assure you it's pretty awesome.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
That's because I am.
Don't get me wrong, being at the land is the only place I want to be in most situations. I love the look of it, feel of it, smell of it - but I don't like leaving it. In the middle of a day that falls in the middle of a week, hopping into the car down the long roads that point towards country, I feel more trapped than free. It's another commitment that I fear I've half-a$ed because I'm fitting it in between things, peeking my head over a fence, patting a donkey head, and waving goodbye before I'm out of the car. Another example of the dual life dilemma that hopefully does, in fact, have a happy ending. But 'til then I feel guilty driving all that way just to count animals and check pulses, only to turn around and leave again. This doesn't rival the magnitude of natural disasters and federal economic crises - but on a personal scale - it's a responsibility that feels more chore than privilege. So today I made it more privilege than chore. I spent some extra time giving the animals treats so I could walk around undisturbed. Followed a path down to the "pond" (transformed back to dust pit). Watched as woodpeckers hammered into dead trees, their red mohawks gleaming in the sun. Walked to the homesite and back to the animals where I found the cows had chased the donkeys off into the pasture. Wandering makes Wednesday less of a chore. But it doesn't make the leaving any easier.
While there I snapped a shot of one of the many doors that needs to somehow get sanded, primed, and painted (hardware replaced, cleaned, blah blah). I like this one an awful lot for some reason, which just figures since it's in the worst shape.
I also found the most unusual and stout berry/grape type of plant growing in the middle of the homesite. Let me know if you can identify the thing. It seemed to bloom and wither in a matter of 48 hours. Is it poisonous? Medicinal? Delicious?
But now it's the end of Wednesday. And it's cold outside. I know this for two reasons. 1) Jeremy made a fire, and 2) Simon the cat is glaring at me through the back door. See, we've decided that our cat Simon only appears on the back stoop, quietly mewing (Not to be mistaken with a meow. This version is waaay more pathetic) - if it's at or below 45 degrees. The cat doesn't tolerate chilly weather. As I type, I see the glow of 2 little eyes peering through the door. And I hear him too, "meeewwwwww. sniff. meww" Yes Simon, it's cold. Thank you for the weather update.
It's almost Thursday (Friday, Saturday!). Cheers.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
IF we begin construction in June, we've signed on for site prep duties for the homesite along with the task of trenching in and laying water pipes, clearing a path for electric poles, clearing the large septic field. Making a driveway. Starting/finishing work on all 14 doors. Re-wiring old lights. Re-furbishing the old oven. Researching the actual meaning of "refurbishing" an old oven.
It's quite ludicrous when I see this all written down.
Due to this ludicrous-ness (Yep, it's a word. I just made it up) we felt a "To-Do" list of epic proportions was in order. I rattled off this list while driving to another family Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. Jer recorded the list while I drove and sent it to me via email. I have yet to open the email. I am intimidated.
Which got me thinking. What's the deal with to-do lists anyway? Are they really all that useful? Don't they just create undue stress in an already tense situation (life)? What's with all the added pressure?! Because, come on, if stuff's really that important, don't we usually get around to it in the end? Can I get an amen?
Tonight I am alone in the house while Jer spends the night at the land. It's the perfect opportunity to crack open the list he sent me, face my demons, act like an adult and get moving. But I've been sidetracked by a glass(es) of wine and the Coal Miner's Daughter. And I'd rather work on a very different list.
After careful consideration I've created the following list to help guide me through the spring - if not life. Feel free to use this as your own general road map, and please do re-prioritize as you see fit.
1. DON'T pass up a glass of wine for any reason. Unless it's a really good reason.
2. DON'T over-clean your house. Clean it once in awhile and feel quite proud of your work. Then just forget about it until someone complains.
3. DON'T live by lists. If you feel the urge to create one, just jot stuff down on a post-it and leave it lying around the house. At some point in the future, find the post-it stuck under a magazine. Say "Oops, I forgot to do that" and then shrug your shoulders. It's therapeutic.
4. DON'T, as they say, sweat the small stuff. If you do sweat the small stuff, like myself, then refer to #1.
5. DON'T forget to repeat #4.
6. DON'T ever go through life without a pet or access to some sort of animal.
7. DON'T get pushed around. In any situation.
8. DON'T just trust your instincts; follow them.
9. DON'T pass up a glass of wine for any reason. Oh! I already said that.
10. DON'T listen to me. I'm still working on achieving most of these. But doesn't this beat the hell out of a TO-DO list?
Sunday, November 21, 2010
99% of the time. That leaves a whole percentage point open for error. When you're talking about a donkey, that's a vast expanse. This long-winded story set-up leads us to a recent day at the land. Jer and I were patting the donkey herd through the "newly" built fence. At this particular moment, we were remarking on the wonderful invention of fences and the beautiful safety and freedom this fence afforded us so as not to always be worried about the donkey sneak attacks we'd grown so accustomed to. With the fence, we created a "controlled environment" in which The Humans exert their power and superiority over The Asses. Order was restored. The world was right. I was enthusiastically discussing the fact of how we so cleverly created a safe distinction between Us and Them; a designated animal space on these wild acres that had gone untended for so many years. At this precise moment I felt something grab me in the most unfortunate place. My eyes shot down in a panic to see that Boo had managed to quietly push his gigantic head through the narrow gate bars while we talked, had managed to slowly crane his neck waaaaaay out towards my chest, had managed to grab onto something and, once there, managed to tug backwards ever. so. slightly.
Remember the land? It's that big lump of dirt that we have to somehow make useful. It's gotten a little lost in the excitement of Marta and the cabin but it's still out there, costing money and growing more tangled by the day. Perhaps my contributions will emerge through goat handling/cheesemaking since my fence-mending and post-hole digging "skills" are just crap. Perhaps a few goats will lead to selling raw milk and fresh cheeses. It won't pay all the bills, but it could bring a bit of spare change and make this girl very happy, to boot.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
That there's Matilda inspecting the overturned canoe after managing to knock it off its side where it leaned against a tree. She put both front legs in it right after the photo was snapped, trying it out for size, but decided it might not hold her. Mostly I enjoy Seamus's "been there, done that" attitude towards the entire situation. Ah, cows = endless entertainment. Or is that just me?
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Aside from numerous electrical and other tasks involving switches and hoses (I'm already bored with this sentence), one of the first jobs was a new floor. Marta came to us a little more shabby than chic and the state of her floors elicited a slight gag reflex when I first stepped upon them in bare feet. Imagine the filthiest gym shower stall you've seen, but with 3 more years worth of grime and old cheese smell. Yep. Once the 'ol peel and stick "wood" floors were in place, we decided the next upgrade would be an addition to the "kitchen" (I use all room related words loosely when it comes to the trailer. Including the bathroom. Sigh). Jer's magnificent engineering skills were put to good use when he whipped up a new butcher block/table, tripling counterspace, and generally sprucing up the joint.
I don't even have a counter this nice at home! Thank you Ikea/Jer! Thank you very much.
So last weekend we commenced the Great Lean-To Build, 2010. This means that Jenna gets to man the tractor/auger in order to dig post holes while Jeremy breaks up rock and unruly clay. It's a job that involves a lot of cursing and sweating, on his part, and a lot of pulling levers, on mine. As farm tasks go, digging post holes ranks up there with watching a donkey castration. It's best to do no more than once a year.
And yes we did, oh yes we did, meet with the cabin builder. We met for over 2 hours and walked through their model cabins once again, as we did almost two year ago (pulls out hair). And would you believe it?! We love the damn things as much as we did the first time. And would you believe it?! We might be signing a building contract with them in a few weeks. And starting in June. But don't hold us to that, as plans are malleable around here.
So there are lots of changes. Change of house plans, change of routine, and changes of name. I've spent considerable time with the donkey herd, particularly the minis who are rarely mentioned here because I'm so very partial to the original star, Boo. However, those three ladies certainly have distinct enough personalities to merit a few name changes. Regardless of their high intellect, donkeys don't know their names (or, mine don't) so new names are basically symbolic. Fiona becomes Noni, to better suit her curmudgeony demeanor and short stocky physique (think: small Italian grandma). And Jasmine is easily a Jezebel since her....well..ok, she's basically an aggressive b*&%h and just trust that the name fits. And Brownie remains Brownie. The name I hated the most stays the same. She sidles up to everyone without stirring the pot or throwing things off kilter, just like the name of the dessert that everyone brings to potlucks. It (she) goes with everything.
Martha also underwent a change after our recent and manic bout of re-watching Arrested Development. From here on out we'll call her Marta. And yes I am talking about an inanimate object so if you're trying to follow a stream of logic, there is none.
But really the biggest change has to do with a definition. The home pictured in my mind for so long is now completely erased. Home is a cedar cabin. Home is a trailer. Home is the land.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
And in lighter news - our first civilized dinner in Martha! Ta da.
The dogs also spent nights in the trailer for the first time. We were worried about the limited space, but they didn't let the size cramp their style.
Although, I must say that having dog heads pop up under the bathroom partition is slightly unsettling. Personal space is important especially in 100 sq. feet.
In house news, there's news (ihopeihopeihope!). We received a rather expensive bid on Friday, so expensive we simultaneously fell over laughing until laughter turned to tears, and tears turned into comments about how suddenly Martha plays a starring role in our five year plan. As I shuddered at the thought of my dogs' heads popping up under the bathroom partition for the whole of my thirties - a foggy memory suddenly floated into my mind. It was a memory of a small road trip Jer and I took almost two years ago to a cedar cabin building company in Smithville, just down the road from our land. I suddenly remembered their "package deals," their impressive and sustainable building methods and, overall, the incredible natural beauty of the structures. We dropped that idea when we believed we could build a metal home for half the price.
HA! HAHA!! AAAAHAHAHA! Oh boy, if I could only reach out to the Jenna of two years ago, pat her on the head and say, "Awww, it's cute when you think you know something about building!"
Fast forward to Friday night, mouths agape at the new bid, minds boggled at the prospect of the back and forth with the builder trying to understand the costs, knowing that the other forthcoming bids will be similar. Once and for all, crying uncle. We give. We have an appointment next weekend with the cabin maker, the very first place we visited on our quest to find the right home for our little acreage. Some people find that coming "full circle" in this way is somehow comforting, but to me it feels a little like a punch in the gut. However, the prospect of going back, aaaallll the way back to what we wanted in the beginning, is awfully exciting. Living in a house filled with the warmth of woods grown and harvested sustainably right here in Texas, handmade by craftsmen from only one town over, and nestled into the trees on piers and beams (and NOT on a massive bed of concrete, thank you very much) feels - right.
Finally, and arguably the biggest news of all, our Boo turned 2 years old today. He would have received his very own birthday apple but Jasmine kicked him just as I stretched my hand over the fence to shove the present in his mouth. He bit her neck, was kicked again, and then suddenly 5 donkeys stood in a circle, heads pointed out, kicking each other angrily. Such is a birthday, if you're a donkey. Anyway, happy birthday Boo. We are grateful for all of the humor, scars, and torment you have brought to our lives.
There is no photo to better epitomize Boo. Here he is attempting to snack on my elbow after having just nipped Seamus on the nose. Seamus, I'm sorry.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
(For the record, this is off the record.)
So here we are in month 15.62 of the House Build. We are 1 (2, 3, 4, ?) contractors + 2 designers + 2 foundation engineers down and the only place it's gotten us is up sh$t creek. We've received a preliminary bid of the new (purportedly "cheaper") foundation plan, only to find that it saves a whopping nothing and still comprises almost 1/2 of the budget. This means that the original floor plan (which has been worked on by 2 - count 'em! 2!) designers may be scrapped. Of course by "scrapped" I mean lovingly rolled up and dipped in bronze, encased in glass, and placed on the mantel since they cost too damn much to scrap.
It's an ambiguous science, this. The timing has to be correct in terms of personal finances and their alignment with interest rates. The relationship between our greed and our reality must be rock solid. Along with the relationship between our reality and the builder's reality; understanding what we want, what we can do ourselves, the definition of a "budget." In the end we're like freaking Goldilocks. We need to find something that's juuuuust right.
Oh no! I'm not complaining mind you! No, no, no sir. Things are splendid with the trailer, the lingering promise that someday it'll work out, the stars will align and the urge to jump ship will subside. But 'til it passes, I am done. Kaput. I can't even get excited about paint chips these days. Or old hinges. I've lost my will, my nerve. Jeremy's too busy to steer and more at ease with the back-and-forth of this life; city weeks vs. country weekends. But all this stagnant, non-movement leaves me nauseous.
Not to play the blame game, but lately I've wondered where we went wrong as two wide-eyed newbies navigating the world of construction. Of course by "wondered" I do mean that I've devoted extraordinary amounts of time, list-making, chart-making, poll-taking to this endeavor. And I've finally come up with the completely justifiable and absolutely academic conclusion that WE do not have the problem here! We did it all right! From day one, even!! I mean, what are the odds that two novices would make all of the right decisions from the very beginning?! Shocking, I know. So, it's not our problem. Therefore, someone else has to fix it. You know how to contact me if you figure it out.