Mo Bloggin'

A little o' this, a little o' that

Archive for the tag “acreage”

Welcome 2012!

Like most everyone at this time of year, I’m looking at the brand new year with a mixture of reflection on what’s just past, and the eternal hope for what’s to come. This year started off much differently than last year, with a mild day and sunshine in the afternoon. On January 1 last year, everything was frozen solid, and I said goodbye to my beloved Cutter that day. I can hardly believe it’s been a full year already.  I still remember that last, awful night with him, not sleeping as I listened to him, and knowing what the morning held for me. I didn’t let it color my year overmuch, or believe that the rest of the year would be just as awful, but there’s no denying that 2011 was one I won’t forget. With Dinah’s passing only three months after Cutter, the dye was set for that.  Daisy’s arrival nearly two months later has had me smiling once again (and sometimes pulling my hair out, I won’t lie 😉 ), but the loss of those two beauties, one who became an iconic, life changing part of me, is still painful.  Then there’s the loss of two of my cats in July.  I can still barely speak of Jasper – it took a week to sink in, but once it did…  Yeah, it’s been one for the books.

On the upside, I’m sitting here in the quiet of my little home with my three beloved canines on the sofa, and the remaining cat sitting behind me on the chair, purring if I so much as look at him or shift my seat in the chair. Sometimes I just have to pinch myself that this little place is really mine, that I have a small acreage, just like I’ve always wanted, with livestock and a big garden as I’ve always dreamed.  Growing up my family never owned our own home; we always rented and I have many memories of strangers coming through the home(s) we rented, viewing it as potential buyers, then having to move when the landlord(s) sold it.  Being fortunate enough to own my little farm–almost the dream farm I want–is something I don’t take lightly.  I continue to dream of course, and have things I want to do (work from home, grow/make/sell products that originate here) or acquire (I’d just about give my eye teeth for a mudroom in this little place – the slop the dogs bring in is epic – and a pickup truck is definitely on the agenda; being able to haul my sheep, or more than one bale of hay at a time, or a load of gravel or compost… yeah, a girl can dream), in an ever-evolving life and goals.

As we look ahead to 2012, I hope for a better economy and a political process that is less contentious and more aware.  I’ve not engaged in political talk on this blog, but the current state of affairs, with polarization having become so ingrained in our political process – it’s no longer about the good of the country, or the good of the people, it’s about us vs. them – I’m disheartened and weary.  A friend emigrated to Canada four years ago and I’ve become more and more envious and interested in the past several years.  We have so much potential, yet are so mired in the petty and the absurd.  I am hopeful that the Occupy movement will continue to evolve into something we all can appreciate and join in, to make things better for all.  I don’t want revolution so much as evolution (though unfortunately humans can’t seem to manage the latter without the former) and an understanding by all of what’s really happening and what’s at stake.  And with the knowledge will come the ability to turn it around.  I am hopeful. 

I’ve received a couple of seed catalogs in the past few weeks, so am of course drooling over the many varieties of vegetables I want to grow this year.  My garden was a big part of my year in 2011; the prep work, the planting, and then the harvesting of, a bounty that seemed magical in its almost endless abundance.  Jack and the beanstalk was a piker compared to my King Kale!  The success of the garden was life affirming and one of those things that make you realize what really matters to you.  I’m looking forward to expanding my patch this year, trying some different plantings, growing new varieties of ones I love, and really getting my medicinal herb garden underway.  And strengthening my connection to the land. 

My beehive was another little earthquake in my awareness last year.  It heightened my reverence for life, for nature, and for its relevance in my life.  I fell in love with 40,000 honeybees in April and am still as excited as the day I brought them home.  They’ve been out a few days over the holiday season – we had some odd snatches of mild weather in between freezing cold and torrential rains – and I was so glad to see them again.  When I came home from an errand on New Year’s Day there were so many out and flying it almost looked like a summer evening. I was thrilled to see so many of them.  I’m resisting opening the hive to take a peek (it hasn’t been that warm!), but will do so as soon as possible in the coming months.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’re surviving okay (there have been plenty of dead soldiers, though not an excessive amount…I don’t think) and have plenty of honey stores to make it through the next couple of months – or until I can open things up and put in the feeder for them.  I am looking forward to becoming more knowledgeable about beekeeping (time and experience, after all) and maybe even adding a second hive this spring.  I heart my honeybees!

So as we begin this new year, I continue to count my blessings – Pal and Daisy are now playing in the next room, Daisy sounding so much like a Wookie that I swear I should have named her Chewbacca.  She’s such a tomboy, and of the bull-in-a-china-shop variety, that I sometimes wonder if I “picked” the right name for her.  Farley is close beside me, his countenance so appealing and endearing that I have a hard time restraining myself.  The slightest of glances at him has his tail wagging, thumping the floor and happy.  And always ready to play.  Or for a treat.  The sheep are munching hay in their shed, protected from the drenching rain of the past week.  The chickens are roosting in their coop, snug and warm.  And we all dream of our perfect future to come. 

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.

The search…continued

Okay, so to back up for a moment, let’s consider the “what” since the what to a large degree will determine the where.  (Who’s on first.)  No, really.  What I want is the primary part of the search, for me.  And first and foremost, I want acreage.  At least three acres and preferably five or more.  After living in town for nearly eight months now, this has become even more apparent to me.

After selling my house in Sammamish I moved to a rental home on acreage in Carnation.  Five blissful acres, bordered on two sides by a wildlife preserve, and two mostly quiet neighbors (both also on five or more acres) on the other two sides.  THIS is what I wanted when I left my one acre in Sammamish.  Elbow room and quiet, without feeling like your every move can be monitored by a nosy neighbor.  Room for the dogs to wander, for Farley to do his bird dog thing, and for all of us to settle in the quietude we needed after four stressful months of real estate frenzy.  Then, after eight months, real estate intervened again.  My landlord needed to put the home on the market and we moved into town.

At first living downtown in a small town was a fun novelty.  I hadn’t lived in a real neighborhood for over 25 years.  I could (and do) walk to the library, to the post office (this is a necessity, since they don’t deliver mail to this address — it seems the house is too close to the post office to warrant that service), to local shopping and restaurants, and to the large county park along the river.  This is hugely convenient, and during the December snowstorms, a great benefit.  But with the closeness and convenience comes, well, the closeness.  It’s a small town, so it’s not like there’s tons of traffic, but there is constant activity.  Foot traffic and vehicle traffic (especially motorcycles, big trucks and bicycles) make the dogs a little crazy.  Well, Farley anyway.  He’s easily stimulated, and can be an absolute idiot when outside and there’s activity on three sides of the house. 

The house here is on a large lot in the middle of the block, and completely fenced (chain link), with cross-fencing to keep the front and back yards separate.  That being said, we’re surrounded.  There are houses on each side and no privacy whatsoever.  No matter where you are on the property, you can be sure you’re in full view of someone, should they care to look.  This is true to a large extent for the inside of the house too, and I dress/undress furtively unless in one of the small bathrooms.  The neighbors are all nice people, and have put up with and/or been charmed by my chickens and the dogs.  But this closeness has just underlined my desire for more room, and the two homes in the past 16 months have provided great contrast and, in general terms, clarity.  My interests and desires lean toward animals and farming, and living  close enough to the hear telephone conversations of my neighbors on a warm day pretty much precludes both.

So, I know I need room in the form of multiple acres–literally, emotionally, spiritually, etcetera.  And I need a house on that acreage, preferably stick built, and certainly move in ready.  I’ve looked at a lot of parcels in the past 18 months, many very nice ones, some not so nice, some with nice bits, some where the preview pictures were totally deceiving. There was more than one that looked positively bucolic, only to arrive on site and find the Ma and Pa Kettle neighbors breathing down your neck, with pallet barns and blue tarps fluttering in the breeze in full view of your front window.  I’m sure they’re very nice people.  I’m still looking.

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