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Archive for the category “The hunt”

The hunt is over

After two years, and a couple of major life events, I finally found it.  My peaceful little farm.  I signed the papers today, agreeing to a healthy mortgage payment (the guy at the bank, preparing my cashier’s check for the title company, helpfully told me that the Latin meaning of mortgage is death pledge.  Nice.) and plenty of fix up work in the next year or so, not to mention property maintenance (looking forward to that!), and I’m a proud new homeowner.  Gulp!

I dressed a little nicer today than I usually do, feeling the need to honor this transaction with attire that said (to me?) I’m serious, worthy, professional, and an adult.  I walked the few blocks from the office to the bank (right next to the building the title company was in) with a stomach full of butterflies, not sure why I was so nervous. I imagined all sorts of scenarios where the bank wouldn’t write the cashier’s check; I didn’t have the account number of the savings where I’ve had the money stashed waiting all these months and thought they might think I was trying to commit fraud.  The checking account, debit card (have NO idea what the pin number is since I no longer use the account much – awkward!), and drivers license worked though, and the transaction was seamless, even with my nerves causing me to fumble my checkbook over the counter toward the teller, and muffed filling the withdrawal slip.  “I guess I’m more nervous than I thought” I chuckled, thinking, too late, how false and conniving that must sound.  Evidently not, though, as the check was prepared in minutes. 

It seemed, still seems, surreal to me – ME, buying a home all by myself!  How wild is that?  There’s something life changing, or rite of passage about all of it.  I felt like a real person, a member of society, and validated somehow, as I signed, initialed, dated, signed, and signed again, ad nauseum.   When it was done I left, walking back to the office feeling amazed and excited, almost disbelieving of the fact that I just bought a house on nearly six acres, for me and the critters, all by myself.  A roof of one’s own (that needs replacing ASAP).  Wow. 

I got a little verklempt (tawk amungst yourselvs), thinking of my mother at this momentous event in my life.   “I just bought a house, Mommy” I whispered as I walked to the corner, blinking back tears.  I thought of all her sacrifices for us kids, how she never owned a home of her own, and how excited and proud she would have been for me today. 

I just bought a house. 

It looks like a go

I got word a week ago that the short sale I’ve been waiting on since August is a go.  Both of the lienholder banks have approved my offer and now want to close within 30 days.    My hackles go up at being pushed around by the banks, again, but it’s their racket and I’m the one who asked to play a round. 

I’m trying not to get too excited, but I really am thrilled, and eager to move in to MY OWN PLACE.  (pinching myself)  Like, all mine; my first house by myself.  I went from endless waiting to a target move date only three weeks out (now two weeks).  It’s still just a target, though, as I have no closing date as of yet.  The financial guy I’ve been working with said we’re ready to go and are just waiting for the final paperwork from the lienholders.  More of the hurry up and wait, I guess.

I don’t even know it’s mine yet, like, for sure it’s mine, and I’ve dropped over $1,500 on it (not counting the earnest money).  I had a plumber out a few weeks ago to inspect the pipes.  After our weeklong freeze in December I was concerned that there would be burst pipes (no heat to the house and not winterized).  I was out there that week – even the toilet was frozen solid – and was feeling like it was a lost cause.  The realtor went out after it thawed and said she didn’t see anything leaking (we’d turned off the power so the well wouldn’t continue to pump).  The plumber didn’t find any problems and was amazed, stating “you must be the luckiest person in the world.”  (heehee)

Last week I had the well inspected and pumped the septic system, and sent in paperwork to the county for the septic inspection.  Both systems looked good, and it was nice to get good, honest service for these two important checks, and the plumber’s inspection too.  The well guy, Pierce from JKA Well Drilling, was a fount of information (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) about the well system, and wells/well care in general.  I forgot to ask a couple of questions and received prompt answers when I contacted him a couple of days later.  He also took a water sample and sent it in for testing.  It tested free of bacteria and we’re still waiting for the arsenic test results.  Once I move in I’ll do some more testing for inorganic compounds to be sure I’m not getting overloaded on iron or anything. 

Next is getting the propane tank filled and the furnace inspected and turned on, but I’ll wait to take possession before I do that. 

I’m beginning to get excited.  I have lots of packing to do yet, but am so ready to settle in to my little place.  I’ve been refrigerator shopping, but haven’t settled on a model yet (white? stainless? black? side-by-side or French doors?).  And once I move in I’ll get it surveyed and a fence up, too.  Farley will be so happy.  There’s a LOT to do in the next few months (roof replacement, fencing, chicken coop and pen built) and I’m looking forward to all of it.  And hopefully a hot tub by the summer, too.  Ahhh. 

She looks a little sad right now, having been vacant for so long, but not for much longer!

Seven swans a swimming

I was out driving this past Sunday, doing some drive-bys on homes listed I thought I might be interested in.  As part of the process I’ve learned that you can pull up the pictures – hopefully there’s  a nice balance of indoor and outdoor shots – and check out the aerial view (look for power transmission lines adjacent or on the property, other property features (wet? flood plain? flat? steep hillside?), and neighborhood features–what’s that down the street?  A junkyard?), and map it, and if all systems look good, it’s time for a drive.  I put the bird dog in the car and took off, feeling glum about my “maybe” house (short sale that’s been vacant…and unheated during our recent week long artic freeze; I was worried about the frozen pipes bursting and causing damage to the home), and thinking I needed to step things up. 

We drove to the first property, the one I was most hopeful about, and found that although the land was quite nice (six acres), the home was much too close to the rather busy road, and worse, the neighbors home was on the property line as stone’s throw from the front door.  Six acres and no privacy?  No thanks.  Next! 

We drove by three more I had targeted – a couple of maybes, but nothing that blew my hair back.  Farley was climbing back and forth from the front seat to the back and starting to irritate me.  He was excited, with no outlet (I’d promised a hike, but the drive-bys were first) and I scolded him to either stay in the front seat or get in the back.   Finally he laid down in the back, evidently giving up on any release.  (“Hike, my tail feathers.”)  Few dogs can do pathetic better than a Setter.  So now we were both glum.

I was feeling discouraged and wondering if I should put moving out of the area completely back on the front burner.  Oregon’s pinot noir wine country, or Bellingham by Mt. Baker (where there was what may have been a grizzly bear sighted in recent years – a huge plus for me), or to my beloved Okanogan Highlands.  As I drove through the Sunday snowflakes (it looked like dandruff, though was accumulating in some areas) and mulled these ideas, I saw them.  Trumpeters, a formation of six or…seven, flying low overhead.  I looked over and could see dozens more in a fallow corn field back from the busy road.  There were plenty of adults and youngsters mixed, the immature swans a sooty brown color in comparison to the adults’ pure white plumage.

I’ve been looking for them for a few weeks, ever since I saw about ten  flying low over the river by home when I was out with Farley over Thanksgiving weekend.  I’d heard them first, their trumpet-like call causing me to crane my neck looking for them.  They’re back!

Sunday’s group was a little farther from our usual haunts, and  I pulled off on the first side road I could find.  These farm roads are a series of els, and I zigzagged along, hoping I could find some swans to view a little closer.  I pulled down one road with an old dairy barn (no cows seen), and watched an immature Red tail hawk swoop on something in a plowed field.  It didn’t look like a killing dive, but he stood on the ground next to something.  I stopped the car across the road and watched him.  And he watched me.  Finally I pulled the car away a little.  That’s when he grabbed the meal; it looked like a mole, perhaps turned up by the plowing, and flew off to a nearby tree with it. 

I rounded another sharp turn and saw them then.  Dozens of swans a few dozen yards from the road in a cut corn field.  By now Farley was practically singing, whining with excitement at all the birds.  I rolled down my window and snapped a few photos, careful to keep him from leaping out the window or making enough noise to scare them.  After we’d been watching them for a few minutes they visibly relaxed, the sentry swan even foraging for leftover corn.  As we sat there – no more than five minutes total – dozens more flew in, mostly in small groups of four or five, or sometimes just one or two.  The noise was as thrilling as the sight; they called to one another constantly, sounding like an orchestra of trumpets tuning up before the concert.

Seeing them brightened my whole day, and my worries and woes disappeared.  And of course it  reinforced my emotional bond to this area, and my desire to find my peaceful little farm somewhere close.  Maybe all is not lost.  The promised hike with Farley was a treat for both of us.

Real estate musings

So it’s been over two years now since I sold and began looking for a new place with a piece of land (see previous posts under The Hunt).  In that time the real estate market took a nosedive and the wild, inflated price increases of the early part of the decade are recalibrating.  The prices will rise again, though probably not as quickly as homeowners would like. 

Those who are selling homes now are often doing so to get out from under a mortgage that is for more than the home is currently worth.  Those with mortgages on homes purchased over five or six years ago are generally okay or breaking even.  To buy a home now is to enter a buyers market where the selection is decent, and better yet, you don’t have to make an offer on a house as you’re walking out to the car after viewing it, hoping to beat out the other buyers, and praying you don’t wind up in a bidding war with someone who wants it as bad as you (think you) do. 

So why, with the market in the doldrums, do realtors act like all they have to do is take a few crappy photos and post them on the multiple listing services and expect the house to sell?  And those photos.  Honestly, some of the places I see (online) look like the photographer was seriously medicated.  As a prospective buyer, I don’t want to see the seller’s decor.  I’m not interested in their paint job, or their matching recliners and big screen TV.  I really wish they’d clean the kitchen before they take the photo, too.  Occasionally an agent will get creative, and either stands on a counter or perhaps brings in a ladder for these odd overhead, almost aerial shots of each room.  I’m not sure what the point is, as only Lurch might see the room from that perspective.  There are pictures of toilets (oh good, the home has an indoor loo), or a wall of photos or artwork that doesn’t appeal to me (evidently the listing agent likes it?), a dining set, or a bed (What, is it the quilt?  The headboard?), or the taxidermy antlers or ungulate head, or the occasional bear skin.  I see a lot of this stuff because evidently people who live on acreage trophy hunt. I have no idea if tract  homes decorate the same way, but I’m thinking not.  There is often a Western themed decor that the realtor/photographer seems to like, or perhaps it’s their way of upselling the “equestrian property” angle, and they take a photo of the cowboy lampshade on the side table, or the rug with the horse shape woven into the pattern.  Nice, but I’d really like to see the structure.

While my appreciation for these decorating tastes may seem condescending, it’s really not my point.  I don’t care if your preferred decor is apple crates and bean bags; it’s the realtors I wonder about.  Just what are they trying to sell?  It sure isn’t the house.  Nor the property; a fuzzy photo of overgrown brush in the winter doesn’t really do much for me.  A soggy pasture or unkempt landscaping isn’t doing the home any favors either, though I also realize that short of dropping a couple thousand in landscaping services, the outdoor factor is often beyond the control of the listing agent, or the seller, depending on the situation. 

When I sold my home, the listing agent insisted the indoor decor be kept to an absolute minimum.  Pictures came off the walls, knick knacks packed up, and kitchen utensils and small appliances put away.  And the house needed to be spotless.  Thankfully we listed in mid-summer, so rain and mud wasn’t a factor but living with three large dogs and two cats meant vacuuming every day (have I ever mentioned how I loathe vaccuming?).   The normal clutter and detritus of life (and I am a bit of a clutterholic), had to be eliminated.  I did as he recommended, and it was like living in a hotel for the six weeks it took for the house to sell, without any of my personal comforts around – books, photos, favorite decorative items were boxed and packed away.  It looked stark, but it photographed well, and the outside photography was genius.  We HAD hired a landscaper and completely scoured the outside too, with M amazingly coming over once a week to refresh the edging, weeding and other small, but huge, tasks. 

I remember being a little put out at the time; surely this wasn’t necessary, to live like a monk on holiday just to sell a house.  Now that I’m on the other side of the fence, I see the brilliance in the plan.  No one would be interested in my collection of small framed photos and artwork (but it was so artfully done!), or my idea of what looks great on a bookshelf (maybe not that one sentimental Rottweiler figurine, and surely not the stuffed toy Rottweiler puppy). 

I just wonder what some of these listing agents are smoking, and feel bad for the homeowners trying to sell a home with this handicap of bad photography and clutter.  Of course, it’s entirely possible the agent recommended all the things my agent had and they just disagreed.  In which case, the home won’t sell for a long time, and it won’t be for the price they want.

Still looking

Duvall Deer 001It’s been two years  now.  I sold my home and moved out two years ago this month.  I’m in my second rental home (same landlord) and have been here for 16 months now.  The critters are all here with me (minus three hens – old age and attrition and I’m down to 10 from the 13 I started with) and we’re all a little older, but still looking for the perfect place.  The real estate market’s been opening up for me in recent months, with more places in my price range that are closer to civilization.  They aren’t perfect –  there’s a reason they’re in my price range, after all, but up until this summer I couldn’t find these kinds of places unless I drove for an hour first. 

I made an offer on a little place on six acres a couple of towns over.  I seem to be hopscotching around all these little farm towns, so it would only make sense I’d find a place in one of them.  It’s a short sale, and will be several months if it goes through.  I made the offer and it was accepted by the homeowner, it just needs to be accepted by the two lienholders…or something like that.  Of course I’ve been hearing all kinds of short sale stories about people who wait and wait only to have it refused at the last.  Or the bank accepts a higher offer from another buyer and they lose it.  I’m not putting a lot of worry into these possible scenarios.  And if the house doesn’t work out, well, I’m still looking.  That’s the good thing about a short sale – you can pretty much withdraw your offer at any time, so if something better comes along in the meantime, I can switch.

It’s a smallish house, with some nice features, some things that need to be changed.  First on the agenda will be a fence (surveyor and fence contractor) and of course the chicken coop.  I’ll craigslist that one for help.  There’s a little more road noise than I’d like, but the house is set well back from the road (hidden from street view) and will be a good place to sit and gain equity for a few years.

My eastern Washington dream, the Okanogan Highlands and Columbia Highlands, will still be there for me.  I’m going to take a trip back over this fall and winter, just to see what the weather is like during the cold months (and if I’m up to it).  For now, if this is it, it will work.  And my new neighbors are pretty cute, don’t you think?  (Mama deer and her half grown fawn.)

Spending time in heaven on earth

Part 3 of 3

The drive over started late.  I didn’t leave town until nearly noon, then got stuck in a several mile back up on the freeway.  It was a long drive.  The dogs did well, though Dinah was a bit nervous about the whole idea.  We stopped at Fort Okanogan so I could let them out to stretch their legs, go to the bathroom, and have a drink of water.  I did the same.  It was like stepping into a convection oven, with warm wind blowing my hair around.  I would have loved to explore a bit more (there was a museum open and not another soul around) but it was way too warm to leave them in the car, so we just continued on.  As I headed farther north, we ran into some clouds, with a few raindrops too.  Rain had to be good, then I realized they were thunderheads–lightning is not so good  in this country.  Hopefully it was mild and wouldn’t be a problem.

I rolled into Oroville around 5:30, and headed east toward the ranch.  There was a big sign I remembered from last year, telling me the ranch was 10 miles ahead.  I headed up the road, the deceptive incline forcing me to downshift, and remembered this from last year, and the time in the mid-80s.  The road heads into rangeland, with steep gullys, canyons and gulches, and is basically dry, rocky sagebrush country.  There are a few trees, some evergreen, some not, and all looking rough and worn.  It’s very misleading, considering what’s ahead.  After several miles of “eh,” it seems you come around a curve into country that’s as beautiful as you can imagine.  Rolling grassy hills dotted with evergreens — pine and doug fir — and the country is expansive and open, with lots of sky and views that seem to go on forever.  It’s almost too much to take in all at once. 

I turned down the road to Eden Valley Ranch, a well groomed dirt road, then to their long driveway to the lodge house.  I pulled up to the main lodge aThe Lodge at Eden Valley Ranchnd got out, rolling the windows down for the dogs but leaving them in the car.  The first thing you notice is the quiet.  It’s delicious.  I walked into the lodge and was greeted by Tabitha, who said Robin was out and hadn’t had a chance to prepare my packet.  She gave me a key to my cabin (I had prepaid on the phone when I called, and was given a 10% discount) and I drove to it and moved in. 

Eden Valley Guest Ranch is a working cattle ranch.  When I’d called the weekend before, Robin had been out baling hay.  It is 900 acres of Okanogan beauty, and as I unpacked the car and settled the dogs (Dinah was a bit of a nervous nellie, so I set up the crate for her safe house), I opened the windows and left the door to the cabin wide open to enjoy the view across the valley.  It’s an aptly named ranch. 

Home for two daysThe cabins are tucked up against the bosom of a rolling hillside, with an expansive view across the valley.  They’re fully equipped with kitchenette, wood stove, all cutlery, dishware and pots and pans, coffee maker, and a full size refrigerator, as well as a full bathroom and separate bedroom.  All you do is bring your own food and you’re all set.  They even have wi-fi, if you’re so inclined (though no TV or telephone in the cabins).  I didn’t bring a laptop so was blissfully free of electronics the whole weekend. 

As I was getting settled, Robin drove up in an older sedan, apologizing for not having my packet ready or being here to greet me when I arrived–she’d been out with the local volunteer crews putting out the spot fires from lightning strikes.  I assured her there was no need to apologize–we settled in just fine.  

She told me a bit about the ranch, then went back to the lodge and came back with brochures and a map of the ranch.  She explained about the numerous trails, and the cows I might run into (be sure to close the gate), as well as other things to do in the area and lakes that would be good ones to bring the dogs.  Farley could run free, but there were deer in the area.  She also, sweetly, brought a few of her personal books for me (“With three dogs I knew you must be a dog lover.”)—dog behavior books and an excellent article in National Geographic about animal intelligence.  She’s the proud owner of a young Border Collie, so she knows a wee bit about dog/animal intelligence. 

It turned out to be a perfect little weekend getaway.  The weather stayed a bit The view out the front door with thunder storm rolling across the valley.tumultuous all weekend, with a wicked loud thunderstorm on the second night, but the days were mostly sunny and warm.  The sweet clean breezes across the valley smelled of hay and earth, and kept the cabin from getting too stuffy.  My bird dog was in his element, running through the field in front of the cabin and looking like photo art in a gun dog magazine.  I was careful to keep him on leash or tied in the morning and evening hours when the deer were active (he wouldn’t hesitate to give chase).  We took several slow walks on the trails close to the cabin—Cutter keeping up gamely as the other two engaged in the excitement of cornering chipmunks in a brush pile and catching sight and scent of the whitetail deer in the distance.  Fortunately Dinah’s of an age where chasing deer is contemplated long enough that I can talk her out of it with a firm “leave it.”  Farley just tried to dislocate my shoulder when he caught sight of them.  At night it was pitch dark, with just a two or three lights dotting the hills a few miles away.  A chorus of coyotes howled up from the draw across the field on the second evening, serenading us on the dark, cloudy night. 

I drove around the area both days, looking at the country and birdwatching Swainson's hawk enjoying a juicy meadow vole on utility pole.(and cattle watching—it’s range country, so cattle are more numerous than humans).  I passed only a few cars on the Chesaw, Hungry Hollow, and Havillah roads, most of the other drivers lifting a hand in a wave as we passed each other.  Were they responding to the goofy smile I found myself wearing as I drove around in this beauty, or are they just that neighborly?  I went to look at a couple properties I’d had my eye on (from Internet realty sites).  Both were very nice 40 acre (be still my heart) homesteads but both were on roads that could only be called such by default.  Washed out dirt driveway is what I would have called it, and was very glad I didn’t meet any oncoming cars.  It was rough and pitted, with a good-sized washout in several places, and the dogs bounced around in the back of the car like balls as I crept along.  Too bad.  A mile of bad road to get in or out just isn’t in my visual of ideal homesteads.  Good to know. 

I left the ranch reluctantly after two days.  I considered staying an extra day, and Robin offered me the discounted three night rate prorated if I decided I wanted to spend another day.  I was tempted.  She had come up to the cabin on her ATV to bid me goodbye that morning.  She was getting ready for a trail ride with a party of six and went out of her way to be sure my needs were taken care of before she left.  She’s the quintessential hostess and made me feel welcome and as if I were truly her guest, not merely a paying customer.  As I packed up to leave and straightened up the cabin, I took a break to have a cup of coffee on the cabin steps in the morning sun.  The trail ride group Trail ride heading outwas heading across the field out front toward the trails.  Robin raised an arm in a big wave, calling “Hi, Maureen!” across to me.  She was shadowing a horse with a tiny rider in the rear of the group, while Tabitha led them.  I waved back and called a greeting back to her, smiling.  As I watched them head out I blinked back a few tears, not for the first time that weekend.  The beauty of the area makes you appreciate being alive like no place I know.   And I think it just might be the location of my future lavender farm/goat ranch/draft horse sanctuary/?.  Lodge and cabins at Eden Valley Ranch

…on earth

Or should I say Eden?  (Part 2 of 3)

In the early 1970s my stepfather decided we would go on a family vacation.  We’d been living in Washington State for a year or so, transplanted from Southern California (one year of sunny bliss and beaches, before So. Cal became the “teeming masses” it is today), and before that, northern New Jersey, land of my birth and early years.  By this time my family was already growing apart–my older brothers were on their own, one stayed in So. Cal, where he lives to this day, and the other enlisted in the Army–and my older sister was a recent high school graduate. 

My stepfather had lived in Washington before, and knew the area somewhat.  We drove across the state (a drive I remember not at all) to a place called Sun Cove Resort on Lake Wannacut (Wannacut Lake).  I think it was my first encounter with cattle guards.  I have no idea how he knew of this remote location (he would be deceased no more than three years later), nor what possessed him to take us there.  It was an old fashioned cabin-style resort, with units that had small kitchens and there was even a miniature golf course for us kids.  We fished from the resort dock and with one of their motorboats, and went sightseeing–the old Molson Ghost Town was a high point.  It was my initial experience with the Okanogan Highlands.

Fast forward to the mid-1980s.  I was with my future (ex) husband by then, living in a little house in downtown Issaquah, growing a garden that was, and still is, unmatched in its bounty and ease of growing (creek bottom land).  His employer was a local contractor, Jim, who owned property in…the Okanogan Highlands.   We were both a little tripped out when we realized we’d both been to this remote lake.  We took a weekend trip to stay over there with Jim, just east of Chesaw, and I remember Jim singing the praises of the area, exclaiming how it was “glorious!”  That seemed a little over the top, and as we drove and drove, through the magnificent Teanaway valley and over Blewett Pass into the desert country of midstate I wondered at Jim’s exortations.  Just when I figured it was just hyperbole, we rounded a curve…turns out he was spot on.  Once again I visited the Molson Ghost Town, and soaked in the stunning beauty of the Okanogan Highlands.  We went to the Chesaw 4th of July Rodeo (my first rodeo) and spent several days on a ranch just east of town.  Glorious was an understatement.July 23-25 09 010

It was over 20 years before I made it back.  In 2008, on my statewide scouting trip for relocation properties, I was back.  My friend Karen and I were on a road trip of the north central and northeast parts of the state, and I made sure to stop at the Molson Ghost Town museum again on our day drive through the area.  The memory of the area’s stunning beauty was not tarnished with age, nor out of proportion due to fish story time-exaggeration.  It was just as magnificent as ever.  Could I live here?  In a minute.  By myself?  Um….

I recently went back to spend more time and to look at a couple of properties I’d seen for sale.  The realtor I’ve been in contact with was unavailable (and evidently had no associates to refer to me?) but it didn’t matter.  I had made my plans spur of the moment and was going regardless.

A big issue with going anywhere, any time, is what to do about pet care.  The cats are okay in the house for a few days–plenty of water, food and litter boxes and they’re good for at least three days, even four days isn’t a problem.  Same for the other critters–turtles, parakeets and the hens outside.  So I decided to bring the dogs with me and either camp or…?  I was perusing my brochures and tourist booklets from last year and came across an ad for Eden Valley Guest Ranch.  I picked up the phone and called, leaving a message and not expecting any availability for the coming weekend.  Robin, the proprietor, called me back and said they had openings and the three dogs were welcome, so I booked two nights  in one of their cabins.

Concluded in Part 3.

Small town living

Today is “Fall City Days” in my little town.  I’m assuming at some point in its history, the festival was both days of the weekend, but these days it’s just one day.  And it marks my one year living at this location.

I remember last year’s festival.  I had only been here a couple of weeks and was still “recovering” from the sudden, unexpected move.  The move itself was fraught with unneeded stress, and there was a lot of emotional decompressing still going on.  I’d noticed in a local publication the mention of “Fall City Days” complete with parade and Duck Derby (though this was postponed to a later date due to unusually high, and dangerous, water on the river last year).  The main drag through town (a state route highway) was actually closed, and the traffic to be diverted.  Little did I realize…

So here I am, one year later, hunkered down and waiting for the day to pass.  Fortunately the weather has turned, so now that it’s officially summer, the month of abnormally sunny days and warmth (summer in spring?) is over and we’re back to typical NW weather.  The cooler, wet weather is good all around, and is soothing to me.  And, hopefully it’s dampening the attendence to this down home street festival. 

The traffic diverted from the highway is on a street adjacent to my house — basically one house over–and has been loud and busy all day with constant traffic and festival goers.  My own street is closed, blocked off with a large “Steet Closed” barrier, as are all the downtown streets, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.  The festival goers still come down the streets looking for parking.  Consequently the street is busy with families walking (laughing and talking, and excited “screaming” children) by, and parking out front.  I have three strange cars out front, and constant slowdowns for the oh-so-tempting gap between parked cars left open for my driveway.  I won’t be using the driveway today (at least until after 6 pm!) but I’m glad that common courtesy and adherance to law is prevailing!

So I’m here with the dogs, guarding them as they guard the house.  They’re doing okay with the disruption–probably better than I am!  All of this activity–noise, passersby–feels invasive and insidious.  It’s not, of course, because people are keeping to the public roadway, but there’s no denying it intrudes on my personal sense of space.  And it makes those remote, “north of nowhere” locations that already appeal to me , all that more appealing.  I saw two properties listed this week that have me dreaming…  Both are 40 acre parcels, and as gorgeous as I can imagine.  One is remote.  The other is remoter (just south of the Canadian border), but I’m ready to spend a weekend to go view both.  Soon.  One is an almost-100 year old homestead, built in 1914.  The inside walls are wood plank that looks like it could have been milled right on the property.  It has been kept up with the times by the look of it, with a new, metal roof (nice and steep for that winter snow to slide right off…) and a dishwasher in the kitchen.  There are charming outbuildings that look as old as the home, including what looks like a sod house/sweat lodge built into a rise.  Put a round door on it and it could be a hobbit home.  I’d call it a root cellar except for the small chimney pipe you can see on one side of the mound.  Nice.  The other place has a large, newer home. Like 3,000 sq ft large –that’s about twice the size I need.  Still I wonder about it…maybe I could take in boarders (I may need to, to tend the farm/livestock during the growing season, right?).  Both have me salivating, even as I talk myself out of them.  I mean really, they are sooo far out–why would I isolate myself like that?  Well, perhaps Fall City Days provides the answer to that. 

I’m going to “suit up” and dive in shortly, to head over to the library and post office to pick up my mail, and walk through town to check out the booths.  Shields up!

The secret yearning

Well, not a secret, exactly.  More like something I’m trying to talk myself out of, like an illicit vice or lust.  And lust is probably the most apt description, though there’s nothing illicit about it.  You see, I am in love with the Okanogan and Columbia Highlands areas of Washington State.  I have lust in my heart for these areas, and don’t quite know what to do about it. 

First, let me describe, if I can, why these lands make me giddy…  Okay, forget it, I can’t.  The descriptors that come to mind seem tired and trite, and wholly inadequate.  Stunningly gorgeous?  In spades. Next.  Breathtakingly beautiful?  Check.  Next.  Glorious?  Um, yeah.  Like, a chorus of angels singing glorious.  Like, so pretty it will bring tears to your eyes and a lump to your throat.  Like, something here speaks to me, at some visceral, elemental level, and the vistas are so achingly beautiful they make me want to cry.   On a September afternoon, with the sun warm and the breeze blowing, the giant, fluffy clouds sailing overhead like clipper ships, you want to yelp with joy for being alive and able to appreciate this.  And this is the “ugly” time of year, according to a local.  Can you imagine how perfectly glorious this scene would be with my bird crazy bird dog quartering the field a couple hundred yards out?

While much of the eastern part of Washington State is essentially high desert–dry and unforgiving, with sagebrush as the most abundant vegetation (aside from the multi-dammed Columbia River irrigation and the miles of apples, cherries, peaches, and more apples)–if you head far enough north and east, you find this wonderland.  It has just the right combination of wide open, big sky vistas and evergreen forests, of rolling hills you want to snuggle up into, with puffy white clouds dotting the oh-so-blue skies, snow covered mountains, and verdant green valleys.  And land is affordable.  I scan the real estate sites and find parcels with decent homes on 10 and 20 acres, and, be-still-my-heart, sometimes even more acres, that fits in my budget.  Why acres of land should make my heart beat faster is beyond me, but the idea of settling on a chunk of this heaven on earth beauty is thrilling to me. 

And the wildlife!  Not only do you have all the usual players of western Washington State (deer, elk, black bear, cougar, bald eagle, hawks, etc.) but you also have the most recent confirmed sighting of a Grizzly bear in the state (Chesaw) and the Lookout Mountain wolf pack, the first confirmed wolf pack in the state in 50 years.  I mean really, does it get any better than this?  Imagine stepping outside on a brisk spring evening, the stars a canopy of lights above you, and hearing the sounds of wolf howls in the distance.  Sure, your hair would stand on end, but you would know you were alive, and the Earth was singing. 

So why haven’t I packed up and left for the hills to satisfy my yearning, my lust for this country?  Ah, yes.  That.  Just a handful of reasons I can’t seem to get around.  While my heart sings, the head says, whoa Nellie!  Can we talk snow and cold?  Like feet of snow and temps in the teens.   For weeks.  Have you heard of remote?  Well, this is north of that.   Like Ted Kazynski north.  Like “The Shining” remote.  Like, no jobs to go to even if you could get there during the winter.  Okay so I’m exaggerating a bit.  But there are a million little and not so little reasons for my heart’s “cold shower”  (good vet care for Cutter is one).  And the thought of moving to a place where I know no one, where I, as tree hugging, Obama-loving liberal,  single woman, (again) don’t fit the demographics  (I’m not anti-hunting or guns, just to set the record straight there), and the winters are below freezing cold (but it’s still blue-sky sunny gorgeous) for weeks on end…well, I’m just not quite ready for that leap.  So I lust.  And yearn.

Goldilocks had it right, juuuust right

I mean, really, don’t we all want things juuuust right?  Not too hot, not too cold.  Not too hard, not too soft.

In my house hunt–searching real estate primarily via Internet, daily–and bl01007iconstant picking at the process, I’ve realized a few things about myself.  First, my standards are pretty high.  Impossibly high?  I refuse to think that.  I’m willing to compromise on some things, but as mentioned previously, there are some deal breakers (i.e., even if every other desired element was perfect, they’d blow the whole deal–transmission power lines is one biggie).  But this is my home I’m looking for, not a used car.  It’s where I’ll reside and settle in to a community, spend my money and work, and contribute; where I’ll feel comfortable and safe, where my values are aligned with others  in my community, where I will live. 

Second, I’m more “a-skairt” of this leap than I thought.  It seemed like 2007’s decision to sell, then actually sell and move after 21 years in the same location, was big and scary.  In reality it all felt right on target, even at its most challenging moments, and I haven’t looked back or regretted that decision for one iota.  Renting is scary, and feels inherently unstable, but it seems it’s not as frightening as taking the plunge to buying a new home of my own, however much I desire this.  The What Ifs have me hiding under the proverbial covers, even when I KNOW that everything is going to be okay, and that the perfect place will manifest in perfect time.

Pokey MoSo behind the false fronts of prudence and discernment, I’ve been taking my time on the search, content that the right place is out there, waiting for me to find it juuust right.  Lately, though, I’ve been feeling more and more frustrated.  Perhaps it’s the time of year–it’s mid-Spring and the world is waking up, growing and blooming.  I’m tired of living out of boxes, waiting to move into my own place.  I want my own place to settle into, to spruce up and decorate, to plant and grow things, so that when I spend half of a day each weekend on yard maintenance, it feels like I’m making my own home, not maintaining someone else’s.  But more likely it’s frustration with my own hesitation and fixed ideas of what/where/when.  The goofy part is that I haven’t truly nailed those three items down, and my ease with trusting that I’ll know it when I see it isn’t working for me any more.  The somewhat nebulous approach is having nebulous results.  Shocker.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a list of what I’m looking for–it’s nearing 100 items/conditions, though there is some overlap–it’s just that it isn’t specific enough, primarily in the “where” topic. 

There are factors beyond my control–finding the right house/location/price coming on the market (although, as the saying goes, if you can dream it…)–and other factors that are totally in my control, like the decision of where I’ll move, and the probability of leaving my job to move.  Leaving a job in this economy seems like financial kamikaze, especially when you’re moving to take on a home mortgage.  I have to believe, to trust, that I’ll manifest enough income via my writing and editing, and/or a new job in my (likely) new community. 

So it’s time to make another list, the old PRO vs. CON list on those areas that  appeal to me.  The fear factor can be conquered after that.

To be continued…

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