Monday, December 27, 2010


I fell asleep early last night, reading the Grapes of Wrath (I know that reading in bed has dangers of falling asleep, but I still do it.  Go figure.), and woke up to this.  To get a sense of scale, the snow is approaching 2 feet on this railing. 

In my few waking moments through the night, I thought about shoveling the driveway and getting to work, but realized this morning that that will be impossible.  Gotta wait for plow guy to clear the driveway.  I waited until the moderately reasonable 7am to call plow guy's house, where his wife says he'll be out - sometime this morning.

It's still snowing.  Beautiful, white, fluffy flakes.  I didn't think (last Wednesday) to bring my work laptop home, so I'm stuck here, thinking that this is a real snow day.  Time to realize that I've done everything I can do for now and relax and enjoy, just like in school.  Wonder if I want to go out with the dogs and make some snow angels.  More likely I'll make some hot chocolate, put real marshmallows in it, and open the book.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Everybody's Better

Things got so much better after the vet (on our second trip yesterday) showed me a trick to keep Maggie's bandage from sliding down her leg and her from taking it off so often.  Tape. Specifically sticky tape.  Stuck to her hair.  This particular bandage has stayed on since dinner time yesterday, which is kindof a record for us.  When I was comfortable that the bandage wouldn't come off, I let her out off leash, making her a happier dog, and all of us a happier family.

The boiler peeps are coming today ... sometime.  Meaning I have to stay home until they arrive.  Not an awful thing.  I'm slowly coming out of emergency management mode as things resolve themselves and stopped at the library yesterday to pick up a classic to read.  My attention span has gotten so short, by reading news articles, that it's time to stretch the old attention span a bit by giving it one of the oldies.  The Grapes of Wrath.  I started it last night and fell asleep on about page 5.  Not an auspicious beginning!  I checked out Anna Karenina, too, which I have also never read.  But it's a thicker book, so to the shorter one I went!

(The above pic was taken with an iPhone app that Walt Mossberg recommended, Hipstamatic.  It makes pictures look all old-timey.  Cool, huh?)

Against the good advice of my mother, I bought the car in the lower pic, a VW Passat 4motion station wagon earlier this week.  I traded in the monster truck and used some of the money from the Scion settlement.  The car is All Wheel Drive, so should be able to get me up the hill to the country house with no problem.  And it has excellent reviews and only 75,000 miles.  Plus, the place I got it is the repair shop I've been using for the last 2 years - folks I trust. It makes me happy to get decisions like, "what am I going to drive" out of the way, and for less than the combined value of the truck and the car, giving me a small cushion in case of emergency.  To address my mother's concern about giving up the hauling/transporting capacity of the truck, I've got a few options that are less wonderful than just having a big truck sitting ready, but more wonderful than having to drive, and park, said truck every day. Thankfully, about 90% of what I'd want to transport will fit in here, and the other 10% (all the furniture in my country house), can go in one trip of a moving truck.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Playing With Fire

Someone from my old fire department invited me to a live burn exercise Saturday morning.  Since I haven't gotten a new fire department yet, I can still play with the old one, and I'm so glad I did. We burned a house down!

I'm finally getting serious about taking care of Maggie's wound.  I was SO resentful that she cut herself mere hours before I was going to let her and Desmond stay in the yard (and feeling badly from the accident myself), I wasn't willing to give her the extra work required, and I let her outside unsupervised even after being warned not to.  I'm not surprised that she busted her stitches, but it took a while for me to internalize that if she's going to get better, I HAVE to put in the time to take care of her.  Back on the leash for her time outside. Rewrap the wound as many times as it takes to give it 10 or so days to heal.   The human equivalent is that she partially cut off one of her fingertips (pads. The one partway up her leg.). I suspect that she'll just pull it off again if it's not fully healed and I'll have to go back and spend more money to have it re-stitched.  It's going to be painful to spend that money twice, but I have nobody to blame but myself. I hate when that happens.

It's still pouring.  The check engine light came on in the truck and something is wrong with the boiler/hot water heater combo at the new house and I'm running out of hot water ... sometimes.  I can't describe the feeling of being in the shower and running out of hot water when the bathroom is only 44 degrees to begin with.  Picture an agony of coldness.  This system is supposed to give me infinite hot water, but it's obvious something isn't working right.  Plus, I've somehow run through 1/2 a tank of oil in three weeks at the new house, even though 2/3 of the house is set at 50 and the the 1/3 I'm living in is set at 62 degrees.  The hot water and the oil situation were better at the old, crooked country house.  It sounds like I'm complaining (and I AM).  It's time to stop wishing things were magically under control and put in the time and effort to take care of my "issues."  Including the four-legged furry one.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Here's the peanut butter and pill sandwich I give Desmond every morning. 

He's thrilled to eat anything that has peanut butter in it, so I don't even have to disguise the pills, two glucosamine pills and one pain pill.  In the evening, it's one pain pill.

Maggie, on the other hand, likes to examine everything before she considers consuming it.  She eats in tiny bites, and a pill doesn't fall in the realm of yummy for her, even if it's hidden in liver.

I forgot that (blocked is more like it) Maggie's stitched wound on her paw has to be managed.  Keep the bandage dry with a plastic bag over her foot every time she goes out.  Don't let her run or jump or go up or down stairs.  Don't let her lick the bandage.

Most people with dogs know stuff like that is more aspirational than directive.  I spent Monday evening making Maggie a great plastic bag thing that tied at the top, and it lasted, oh, about 5 minutes on Tuesday morning before being shredded.  Then her bandage was wet and I had to take it off.  (oh yeah, and go to work worrying that she was going to lick the wound back open).  We got through Wednesday with the wound uncovered before she reopened it and pulled a stitch out while running across the yard Thursday morning.  Now, I'm reapplying the bandage about 4 times a day, as she takes it off. I'm trying anti-chew spray to keep her off the bandage while I'm at work. I just want to get a good scab or something on it, so it'll stay closed by itself.  She's getting used to being re-bandaged, and I'm getting used to doing it to her. Only 8 more days of this!

On top of that, I have to feed Maggie a pill twice a day.  For her, it's a little peanut butter on the pill, shoved far down her throat.  Then peanut butter on my finger to get her to lick my finger, accidentally swallowing the pill while she's focusing on my finger.

I've been a little resentful of the time all this managing takes, since I'm also focused on trying to feel better myself from the accident, while worrying about money, frozen pipes in the country, getting the ATV and lawn tractor over here and selling them, getting a possible new(er) car.  Oh, and learning my new house.  The bathroom I take a shower in was 44 degrees this morning, in the cold part of the house.  Last Friday, I made toast and set off a smoke alarm.  It's not terrifying unless you realize that one of the smoke alarms is hard wired to something (ie, the fire department comes when the smoke alarm goes off).  That's why I was freakily trying to STOP the thing, and why I was so shaky after I ripped it from the wall and realized the one that went off is not the one that's hard wired. Whew. 

Yesterday I tested the 1960s-vintage oven and made sure several fans and the vent were on high, ... just in case.  (FYI, it works, but appears to run much hotter than the chosen temp.  Now I can make cookies for Monday's cookie exchange. Must pick something that's tolerant of being burned.)

Now, was there something about some dogs needing attention?

Monday, December 13, 2010


On Friday afternoon I blithely wrote something about overcompensating with my left side for my right-side rib that still hurts from the accident.  That was about 2 hours before I got hit by the figurative truck and spent most of the rest of the weekend in bed with a hotpad.  I first lay down right about dinner-time with the hotpad, and a few hours later idly looked up "symptoms of a heart attack" on the internet.  Big mistake.  I had most of them, except the sweating and the nausea.  Sharp pain up my back, radiating up the side of my neck and down the inside of my left arm.  Dull pain in front.  The hotpad wasn't going to warm up the muscles that hurt like heck going through the inside of me from front to back (or back to front).

Soo - it was a long, scary night Friday.  I didn't think it was likely that I was having a heart attack.  More likely a stress thing (think Jack Nicholson in that movie with Diane Keaton where they're both "old"), or pulled muscles from the accident.  I went to urgent care Saturday because I wanted to rule it out though - and they wouldn't.  Rule it out, that is.  The EKG was OK, but my pulse and heart rate were elevated.  Of course!  Duh!  I'm stressed!  They wanted me to go to the ER, but said I could drive myself, thankfully.  So I did drive myself.  Home.  I was pretty sure, by that point, that it would be hours of very expensive tests to tell me that I have some pulled muscles.

Finally yesterday morning I began to feel a little more normal.  It's been a long time of feeling crappy one way or another (it started with plantar fasciitis from firefighter training in October, which had just begun to lessen), so I had started to long for the days when I feel the age that my body is.  Not feel twenty years older.  I don't feel good now.  Not at all.  I still feel like crap.  But the way the pain feels now, I'll bet it was (and is) a direct result of the accident, like whiplash or whatever.  Not an indirect result of me favoring my right side as I had thought. Surprised it took a week to show up.  Hello pain.

That Friday night was kindof a wakeup call.  To start treating my body better, get in better shape, etc, etc.  Both of my mother's parents died young-ish, something I remembered Friday night.

Bad stuff comes in waves.  Maggie sliced one of her foot pads yesterday.  I had to physically force her to not lick it overnight (an ace bandage and one of Desmond's pain pills helped! And I held her head away from her leg all night as we sortof slept.) until I could get her to the vet today.  It's too big a wound to heal with pressure, and she is at the vet now for sedation and stitching. Pow! Money I was hoping not to have to spend. 

It's so weird that the only times Maggie has hurt herself have been times when I was feeling extremely bad myself.  Maybe Maggie is super sensitive, or maybe it's like a karma thing.  My normal good luck deserts me, and has me hunkered down in a foxhole looking to the left and to the right.  "What's next?"  "Where's the next pow coming from?"  And come, they do.  Good thing it's not very often!

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Nothing important to say, just a bit of this and that. This picture is from the top of the hill looking down to the road (and the pond!).  The turnaround is behind me.

There was a business card in my mailbox yesterday, from the guy that plowed the previous owner's driveway (for, like 45 years!).  I had been avoiding thinking about snow removal, being very uninterested in buying another piece of big equipment, like a snowblower or plow.  My suburban driveway is about four times longer than my country driveway (and on a hill, and with a turnaround), so my country solution (drive on top of the snow) wasn't going to work.  I completely lucked out when this business card presented itself before any snow presented itself!  Talked to the guy today and we have an agreement.  Whew! Bullet dodged.

I spent most of last week favoring my right side, where one of my ribs hurt from the accident.  So Friday it boomeranged, and now my back and shoulder are killing me because I've been so unbalanced.  Grr.  No more meds.  The hotpad and some aspirin is all I can do.  It's a message that I didn't slow down enough after the accident.  I was asked multiple times if I took time off work.  Yeah, Saturday and Sunday!

Found out what the insurance settlement will be for the Scion.  Nowhere near enough to buy a replacement.  I started thinking about what I would get if I traded in the truck and used the Scion check, but the things I'm looking at would require a bit more on top.  It occurs to me that the best thing to do is keep the truck, at least until my country house sells.  I don't want to drive the freakin' huge truck as my main vehicle, but would be kicking myself if I wanted to, say, move stuff from house to house and I didn't have a truck!  Plus, with multiple mortgage payments, spending money on a car is kindof the last thing I should do.  Sigh.

Desmond is losing patience with his basement arrangement.  One option that Sue suggested, is for me to contact the rescue agency I got him from to see if they think it's better for him to go somewhere else, or stay here.  There are arguments both ways.  One good thing is that the invisible fence was installed on Wednesday. Maggie got it right away, so she can run free.  But Desmond can't hear the warning beeps and doesn't really see the warning flags (I don't think).  I gave them a trial where I walked down the hill to the mailbox and they didn't try to follow (good dogs!). Tomorrow I'll try driving away for a short bit to see how they act.  If it works, then they can be outside while I'm at work, with the garage for a warmish place.  That should go a long way towards giving Desmond some peace (because all day outside will make him tired enough so that sleeping in the basement will seem like a fine thing to do), and Maggie some exercise. That's the theory anyway.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Being in the Fire Club

I always loved these clothing items that say you're in a club.  It's like a secret society that only the pure can enter (hah!) and every time I wear this, I advertise that I'm good enough.  I'm one of the initiated.  This watch cap has gotten some serious wearing these last few weeks as I've spent hours outside with the dogs at the new house.  I'm proud to wear this cheap, acrylic thing and happy to be a member of that group.

One of the decisions I'm making is which department to join in my new neighborhood.  There's the one that's really, really close to my house that nobody seems enthusiastic about, or there's the one that's a few miles away where I already know a few folks and their chief already said they'd love to have me.

So, on Monday I went to the closer department and spoke to the chief and the membership person.  On Tuesday I had the fire instructor call the chief as a reference, returned with a completed application, my $6 fee, and a few other required items.  I walked into the building about 15 minutes before their monthly meeting, into a room with 10-15 guys and noted as conversation stopped ... and 10-15 male heads swiveled towards me, not looking friendly.  I gave my stuff to the membership guy and he said (wait for it) ... they'd get back to me.  Clearly an invitation to leave.  I left not feeling good about this.  Not at all.

I have a pretty strong suspicion that I would be the first girl in this department, and that girls aren't exactly welcomed.  Never mind that most of the other departments in the area have gotten over this hurdle.  For some around here, it's been decades that they've had women firefighters.

This is another example of should I choose to stay and fight the good fight or "give up" and take the easy road out.  In another realm, I recently took the easy way out when after two years of struggle, I gave up the lonely fight to raise goats by myself up on the mountain (where, by the way there are now several inches of snow.). 

I understand that staying and struggling to earn respect would somehow make me a more virtuous person, but I have exactly zero desire to fight the good fight here.  History remembers the firsts.  The women who do the challenging, difficult thing and struggle to make the path easier for those who follow.  If history doesn't remember me, but I get to be part of a supportive fire department where I look forward to being with the crew, I'm OK with that.  It's been a rough few months (actually years), and all I want to do right now is take it easy for a while.  I do not want to move from one struggle right into another one.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet, but one of these days, hopefully I'll get a hat from a new department, either the close one or the farther one.

On a more positive note: I put off trying the washer and dryer at the new house as long as possible (because they look pretty old), but had to finally give them a whirl (ha ha) last night.  I'm pleased to report that they both work fine.  Whew!  I may ride this streak as long as possible and give the oven a try this weekend.  If everything works, I'll probably allocate scarce dollars to getting a new-to-me vehicle (trading the truck in), instead of buying kitchen appliances.  The truck is too big to realistically work as my full-time vehicle.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Car Photo

Here's what the Scion looks like now.

It's really cool how the crumple part crumpled and the passenger part stayed completely normal.  Good design!  I'm amazed at how the airbags went off at exactly the right moment to keep my head from going through the window.  Excellent design!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

It Pours

In the, "It never rains but it pours" category, as if I didn't have enough things going on these days, I got in a car accident Friday morning on the way to work and the Scion gave it's life for mine.

The headline is, I'm fine.  Bruised and sore, but nothing is broken. Nothing bled.  Both front airbags went off, giving me a very sore chest, and some serious bruising where the seat belt restrained me. The hospital xrayed me to determine that nothing broke, gave me some tylenol+codeine and sent me home to rest.

The details are that I was driving merrily along and someone driving the other way on the same road turned left right in front of me.  The other driver and his passenger were not injured, but he did get a ticket and the dubious honor of being at fault.

It's my first car accident where I was driving, and I'm still amazed at how there was only an instant of notice, it happened so fast. Now I understand that phrase, ("it happened so fast") in a whole new way.  I'm completely grateful to the Scion for saving me.  This car that so many think is flimsy did it's job perfectly, and here I am to testify.  After I free the pictures  trapped in my camera, I'll put them up here.  You'll be amazed, too.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Less Campy

Partial list of things that I picked up from the old house yesterday after work. I totally need lists these days or I'd forget something... like the cat.

-shoe rack
-table from porch
-wire shelves from 2nd flr BR

Yup, I left Sparky to fend for himself for a few days while me and the dogs learned our way around the new spread.  He didn't like the ride at all (not much of a travelin' cat I guess), but he got happy as soon as he saw his doggy friends at the new place.  He's being a bit clingy.  I guess several days alone will do that, even for a cat.

We got the refrigerator TO the new house on Sunday, but weren't successful at getting it up the stairs to the kitchen, so I hired movers to do a fridge switcheroo this morning.  Old fridge downstairs ... new fridge upstairs. After a week of having no usable refrigerator, I'm pretty excited to have normal, cold food, like everyone else in the civilized world.  Now I only need to get a working oven and a stove with more than one working burner.  Baby steps, I guess.  I'm so happy about saving an hour a day of driving that I won't even complain.

The cable company is coming on Saturday to give me fast internet.  I REFUSE to pay for television (one thing living on the mountain has taught me.  The digital antenna I have still works and I can get all the same TV stations I had before.  Free. ), but the internet I'm getting is going to be super fast.  I'm half expecting the cable company to find some reason not to be able to sell me internet, but if it works, my internet will be something like 30 times faster than it was before (and $10 a month cheaper).  I'll be able to watch all those cable shows I refuse to pay to watch on TV ... online.  And YouTube?  I've completely missed the YouTube revolution.  I want to watch all the videos of firefighters that I've heard so much about through firefighter training.

Then, next week the invisible fence peeps are coming and I'll be able to retrain the dogs to the fence.  Maggie will get it quickly and earn herself free rein around the yard, but Desmond, who can't hear the warning beeps, may have to continue to be walked, if he's to stay on the property.  Not such a bad thing for me, ... or him.

Every little improvement makes it feel less like camping here and more like living. I'm even contemplating bringing over the propane stove for when I pull out this '60s thing I'm cooking on.  How's that for camping?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Maggie's Place

I finally cleared up enough of the moving piles to be able to take a not-so-awful picture of the current scene. I'm sortof camping in one of the front rooms for now.  It's 20+ feet downhill to the road and there's a pond on the other side.  The view at night is beautiful, with glimpses through the trees of lights reflecting off water

Maggie has calmed down a bit since there's something soft for her to lay on that's close to me, and I've calmed down a bit since Desmond isn't acting like he's being tortured by being kept in the basement.  He doesn't love it, but he's not whining or barking or anything that would really break my heart. It helps that we have together time and he gets sensory stimulation on our walks around the yard.  I'm not taking them down the driveway for a real walk down the road, because I don't want to confuse them when the invisible fence gets put in and the driveway and road will be off limits. We walk around and around the yard.

One thing Desmond's good at that I never taught Maggie is pooping on cue.  He must've been leash walked in a prior life, because he's fallen right back into the poop rhythm.  I think Maggie used to do her business in the rough areas at the other house, and since we aren't walking in the rough, she doesn't poop outside.  Her system hasn't yet caught up to the fact that she's got several short windows of opportunity to poop.  Good thing the basement floor is concrete!  Unfortunately, even though I've blocked off half the basement, it's still large enough for her to find a place away from the "living area" to leave me little poopy presents.

What this all means is that Maggie's place right now while I'm at work, is in a crate.  She never grew to like that thing, so she thinks she's being tortured.  I'm hoping that a few days will be enough for her to start leaving the poopy presents outside, where they belong.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Country Bumpkins

I went to the old house earlier today to get some things I had forgotten (paper towels, sponges, a trash can, pet odor eliminator, some sneakers, dish soap, hand soap, the TV remote, a duvet, some bath towels, a bathroom rug).  You know, just a thing or two.

I passed my normal gas station on the way back, thinking that it'd be easier to get gas tomorrow when there aren't two dogs in the car.  But then I realized that it's going to get mighty cold tonight and the car likes having more gas in it when it tries to start on a cold winter morning.  So I drove a block past my new house and got gas on a main thoroughfare.

There I was, standing by the car putting gas into it when I noticed a commotion in the car.  Both dogs were excited by all the "ruckus" outside (ie, cars driving by).  That's when I realized that my dogs are country bumpkins.  On my country road, every single car is cause for barking and guarding.  So here, closer to the city, they're doing familiar behaviors.  Something tells me they'll get tired of this rather soon.

I hope.

Domestic Bliss

This seems like the first opportunity I've had in a long time to choose the time option over the money option when given the eternal choice of whether to spend time or spend money to get something done.  The long Thanksgiving weekend, combined with me not going anywhere special has meant that I've had time to run load after load back and forth to the new house.

I put it off as long as reasonably possible, but finally brought the dogs to the new house and we all spent the night here last night. I suspected it would be stressful for the dogs (and probably me, too).  Desmond, who avoided the "final"vet visit when he perked up immensely after I started feeding him more treats is now living in the basement, because I can't carry him up the stairs into the living quarters.  And Maggie has never really lived anywhere but in the country where it's quiet and there are no cars.

So Maggie has this constant walking around and whining thing going on.  When a car goes by.  When geese honk, when sirens and other normal city noises happen.  We've all gone out umpteen times (it's back on the leash for everyone) because I've thought she had to, you know, poop.  Of course I missed the actual time she had to poop (because it was about 10 minutes after we'd all come inside), so she did her business in the basement.  So did Desmond.  Frabjous.  Just frabjous. My dogs have both forgotten that they're house trained.  Surprisingly, Desmond doesn't seem too bothered by being in the basement, which I was feeling incredibly worried and guilty about. 

I gave up on the refrigerator and unplugged it.  You don't really appreciate those things until you don't have one!  I'm only heating part of the house, so I've got the essentials (eggs, bacon, half and half) sitting in a bag in a cold part of the house.  It's only for today, thank goodness!  Someone is going to help me move a real bed and my fridge from the other house sometime later today, and I'll feel less and less like I'm camping in my house as time goes on.

I hope the dogs feel that way, too!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Closing and Opening

The house closed on Wednesday after all, two days too late for my overwhelmed immune system.  I took a truckload full of stuff to the closing and started moving in immediately afterward, coughing and sneezing and wheezing.

Yesterday at noon, I arrived for the walkthrough to find deer in the yard. It's a much smaller yard than I have now, but it's got a swingset!  I love swings!

I took the tape off the vintage refrigerator, turned it on and opened it up.  I think it's the same age as the house.  The fridge still works, sort of.  The freezer gave up the ghost years ago, which is ironic, considering how much frozen blueberries, peaches, pesto and other garden bounty I have in the freezer at my place in the country. (Yeah, it sounds way weird to say, "my place in the country.")

Looking inside, the shelves are metal and they rotate out!  I was hoping I could use this for a while, but it's obvious that I'll have to buy a new refrigerator really soon, as in if I want anything cold, I'll have to have a new fridge.  It's a shame to let Sears take this one away, so I'm thinking about putting it on ebay just to see if anyone's interested in a vintage fridge. I doubt it, since there are other vintage refrigerators on ebay that are un-bidded-upon, but I should give it a chance.  It'll be a good excuse to take a break from packing and moving and curl up with the hotpad and the laptop.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


The stress of the past few months has finally caught up with me and I feel like crap.  Achy sore, tired, worn out, scratchy, hurty throat.  I went to bed crazy early last night and wrapped myself in the blanket cocoon and read for a bit before going to sleep early.  Looking forward to doing that tonight, too.

You see - on top of all the other stress and stuff, I was hoping that the new house would close tomorrow and I'd have the long weekend to start moving in. 

It wasn't so far-fetched.  The close date was scheduled to be Monday, just one business day later.  However, for underwriting purposes, the funding bank has to treat everyone like they're a potential liar and make us document everything.  Perfectly.  Perfectly perfectly.  Something wasn't perfect enough and I had to produce a statement on one of my 401(k) accounts after I'd already closed the account and moved the money.  (It gets better.  They had pages 1-3 with all the balances, but want and don't have pages 4-7 with all the junk on it.)  Unfortunately, Vanguard will NOT email statements to people who don't have open accounts.  I tried multiple times.  They will only mail paper, and it will take 7-10 days for me to receive it.  This means that not only will we miss my want-to-move-in day, we will also miss the scheduled closing day.  This house could close in December because the bank wants pages 4-7 of a statement where they already have the pages with the good stuff.  I've sent them two other complete statements that include the junk pages, but it's not good enough for them.

Up until yesterday afternoon I was trying very hard to make the closing happen this week, but when the bank called me yesterday afternoon requesting something more, I gave up.  They're saying stuff doesn't show ownership when the account numbers are right there!  I surrender.  Immediately after I gave up, I started sneezing.

I completely believe that my cold and flu load depends on a large extent on my mental, emotional and stress level.  Even though it's been a stressful few months, I never felt so overwhelmed as I felt yesterday afternoon (except for one, lousy, loud night spent listening to my neighbor's noise and worrying for my safety).

Anyway - I had the refrigerator mostly empty (because I don't know if the 40-year old fridge in the new place even works!).  But yesterday after I gave up, I stopped at the grocery store and bought enough food to get through the weekend.  I've packed enough to get me started at the new place and left unpacked enough for me to stay here a while longer.  I'm in limbo.

I brought the truck into the shop this morning.  Again.  According to them, it's a water pump and a few other pricey things.  I've been worried about this old thing and the best way to make sure it'll help me move is to get it fixed at the shop.  Again.  In the 2 years I've had it, this truck has seemingly spent more time at the shop than taking me places.  I made the decision this morning to sell it.  I got this huge truck to haul goats, and if I'm not going to do that, this truck is about 10 times too big for me. Not to mention the constant, "is it going to get me all the way to where I'm going?" stress that I don't want.

To end on a good note, my new roof is about halfway on.  Yes, roof, truck, and house (multiple houses!) are putting a big strain on the bank accounts.  But I think they'll be OK.  Believe it or not, money is the one thing I'm not worried about! (probably just too low on the list!)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Something Bigger

Last night was pizza night at the fire department and I pulled my weight as the topping lady.  It was exhausting but exhilarating in a way.  This group of folks isn't a tribe in the same way that my friends were in 1983, but I really enjoy being around them and my contribution is much appreciated. We're all working for something bigger than ourselves, and I love that. 

I had put off telling the department that I'm leaving because I felt bad about abandoning them so soon after they'd invested in my gear and training.  I had said something general a few weeks ago, but told them the specifics on Thursday, firefighter graduation night (great timing, huh?).  After they got used to the idea, they were very supportive (short of offering to help me move!), and they asked me to stay involved with them as a social member.  Something I will enjoy doing, too.  It sounds a bit strange, but even after I leave, I think I'll come back and help with pizza nights - it makes me feel that good.

Friday, November 19, 2010

At the Beach - 1983

I love this picture.  It reminds me of those grainy shots you see of the 1950s family, where the greens and the peaches and the oranges are all a little too bright and there's an old Buick or Pontiac somewhere in a driveway.  I look at those old photos and think, "I may be stressed and worried and not calm right now," but there's a world that's perfect.  I always feel calm when I look at those old pictures.

So here we are.  That's me in the center, in 1983.  (At least we think it's me.  I don't remember this day, but others do, and I'll believe them when they say I was there.)  That's the year I graduated from high school and this picture captures us all being together.  Friends.  Part of a tribe.  I've written before about being new in this area and looking for friends.  Now that I've got some I realize that I want more.  Not necessarily more friends, but friends in a different way.  I want to be part of a tribe, like I was in 1983. The kind of tribe where some group thing is going on most weekends, where you don't need an invite to attend, just know where people are and show up.

I was in a few tribes back then, and one of them is still together, almost 30 years later, raising their children in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.  I see them on Facebook, still a tribe.  It felt so enveloping.  So safe to be part of something bigger.  It's an easier push, that pushing, when you're not alone. 

There's a quote I latched onto many years ago that feels relevant now.  A band was being interviewed and the interviewer asked a band member what they were after.  "I want what we all want," he said, "Connection.  Clarity.  Bendiction."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Drivin' and Cryin'

So I went to pick up a refill on Desmond's painkiller prescription today and spoke to them about his final appointment.  For the last six weeks Desmond's been getting high twice a day on some opiate -  and it's made a huge difference in his demeanor. There's no pain anymore in him and he notices things now that he used to ignore in his focus on the basics.  Get up.  Walk.  Pee.  Poop.  Lie down.  Now his ears perk up, and sometime he trots.  He trots!

But the last week or so has found him unable to get up without a boost and I've realized that it's time for him.  I've known for a while that it was coming and am secretly thankful that it comes before we move to the new house.  The basement is the only place where a dog could live without walking up steps, and he'd have to live down there by himself or be carried up and down.  The one would make him very unhappy and the other, he's made clear hurts him.

It's been a year full of loss and tears over various things and here I am, eyes melting in the car on the way home.  But I come around the final bend and see Desmond and Maggie both upright and running (or trotting) to meet me as I stop the car and I think that maybe it's not time after all.  Then later he accidentally leaves another poop bomb in the house as he's been doing almost daily for a year and I remember that it really is time for him.  I'm sorry Desmond.  I'm glad that you're happy and you feel no pain and I'm sorry that it's only because of the drugs.  This week you'll eat like a king!  Cheeseburgers, ice cream, whatever you want!  Too bad you can't tell me to make you a hamburger pie with lamb gravy.  Maybe I'll make one anyway.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Urban Sharecropping

Saturday's Wall Street Journal had an article entitled, "The Rise of the Lazy Locavore," about the juncture between folks that have land but don't grow food and other folks that grow food but don't have land.

Link to the article:

The last three paragraphs of the article discuss how landowners and gardeners can connect, mentioning an organization called Sharing Backyards, and some great examples of connections made.  I would love to post parts of the article, but it looks like my subscriber agreement prohibits me from doing that.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Day of Rest

Last week was a busy one, and now that some things are done, today stretches out like a wide open expanse of nothingness.  Relax time.

Yesterday was the last firefighter class.  We divided into our crews and  practiced putting out several fires in the training tower.  As usual, it was pretty tough getting up at 5:30 on a Saturday, climbing up the ladder in full gear plus SCBA, hauling the full hose, going in the window, etc, etc.  But now it's over and there'll be no more Saturdays or Sundays lost to training. I'm glad to have that time back.  It seems like the time since Labor Day has gone by in a whirlwind.  I raised my head yesterday afternoon to notice that fall's gone. 

One of the instructors introduced me to the chief of a department I could transfer to.  They want me, which is heartening.  But there's another department quite close to my new house (as in virtually around the corner), and I think I'll approach them first.  I'm happy that this training won't go to waste.  These new departments get more calls than my current department's one per month.

My house was listed for sale yesterday, after a horrendous week of rushing to make it presentable for picture-taking.  I won't post the listing here, since I don't want to publicize where I live (even though it wouldn't be difficult for someone to suss it out).  I'll post the listing after I move, or will send the link to anyone that's interested and sends an email.

The neighbor's dogs came over to visit twice, so far.  Court order be damned.  Last Sunday morning and this morning.  I'm terrifically tense, expecting the neighbor herself to drive up and threaten me again.  Unreasonable fear, yes.  I know that.  But it's like waking from a nightmare - knowing that the feeling is not real isn't enough to make the fear go away.  Last week the dogs didn't have any collars on, indicating to me that she wasn't even trying to keep them contained.  Today at least, I see collars. (Yes, I got pictures both times.)  I've decided not to call the dogcatcher.  If there was something I could do to guarantee that I'd never see the neighbor again, I'd do it gladly and watch as this fear slides from my shoulders.

So today, in honor of finishing firefighter training.  In honor of getting the house listed, I'm going to relax.  I really should clean the house more, to make it ready for actual showings, but I think I'm going to relax instead.  I'm burnt out and tired of running.  I think I'm going to go see a movie (a first since I moved out here!), and then I think I'm going to get a pedicure. Ha!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hard Things

This picture from firefighter training last night.  Only one more class to go and firefighter training will be over! Complete! Fin! 

It was hard.  This 86 hours of training over 9 weeks was the hardest thing I've done in years.  I'll remember it as harder than getting my college degrees because it was SO far outside of where I'm comfortable (is this a theme with me?  I'm beginning to think so. I have this idea that I should be able to do anything I put my mind to, and off I go, comfort zone be damned.)

Here are some examples of why I thought this training was hard.

- Class started at 7 (be there 10 minutes early please!), so it was drive 45 minutes home, feed the dogs, stuff a few things down my throat and drive 30 minutes back into class.  Every time I had a big dinner, it seemed, we'd get suited up in our turnout gear, SCBA mask on, and do something REALLY exerting and scary, like a claustrophobic obstacle course in the dark, or crawl at full speed dragging a charged hose, or run up 3 flights of stairs dragging a hose.  I always felt like I was going to throw up after stuff like that.  So it got to where I was wary of eating much before class.

- standing for 3 hours with full gear on, plus SCBA, in dinky rubber boots that provided NO support added about 50 pounds to my weight and aggravated my plantar fasciitis.  Anyone that's had this will know that it's an inflammation of stuff in the foot making it painful to walk.  It takes several days for it to un-inflame, but since we were doing this standing for 3 hours thing several times a week, I've been walking like an old lady for a month now.

- class goes to 10 pm, which would normally be my bedtime.  Then it's drive home, have the rest of dinner and try to come down enough to go to sleep so I could get 5-1/2 hours of sleep.  I *lurve* my sleep (!), so this one hurt.

- The ONE time I came to class without the requisite 2 full air tanks (I brought my 2 partially full tanks from the prior class) was the day we did vehicle fires.  First I used up one tank and then I used up the other one.  The sound the air tank system makes when it's approaching empty is a scary sound. I've got a better feel for how much on-air time I really have after it starts making that sound.  But it's still scary in an elemental way.  Breathing is elemental. I appreciate that now.

- I am the oldest person in the class by 5 years, and out of shape to boot.  I struggled with some basic things like climbing up the ladder in full gear plus SCBA.  Things that the 16-19-year-old rest of the class had no (overt) problem with.  My team compensated, but I was a drag on team performance.

Anyway - it's almost over, and I've been thinking about comfort zones.  I think the last time I was in one (comfort zone, that is) was when I lived in Washington DC, before I went overseas for a nonstop year of out-of-the-comfort-zone living all over the world.  That was three years ago and I'm ready to go back there (to my comfort zone).  They say that you need to push yourself out of your zone, but I think that's for people who don't leave it.  For me - I want in!

I FB-status-ed about firefighter training last night and got a chorus of "awesome," "admirable," etc, from my FB friends to whom I hadn't previously mentioned firefighter training.  That's what people think about people who do hard things, like firefighter training or solo homesteading in the wilderness.  That's the land I'm leaving, at least for a while.  The land of hard things.  The land of out-of-my-comfort zone.  I may come back to these hard things, but next time I'm going to have more backing me up than optimism and hard work.  More planning.  More practice.  More support.

I've decided what I'm going to do with the extra hour every day that I'll have because my commute will be so much shorter than now.  I'm going to take care of myself better.  Spend time on better food, on moving my body, on feeling better.  I'm looking forward to it in a way that feels like coming home.  I think it's my comfort zone calling.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I spent the weekend in hazmat training.  The ENTIRE weekend, both days.  Doing my duty to finish up firefighter training.

It's amazing how when you need time, time is the last thing you've got.  The real estate agent is coming over Friday to take pictures of the house so it can be listed for sale, and there are some visible, ugly things going on here that are fixable with a little time.  I want to get the house listed before Thanksgiving so that (hopefully) a few folks will want to come see it that weekend and maybe it will sell a little quicker.

What's wrong?  First, earlier refrigerators have leaked and prior owners pulled up tile and put down plywood (which was then leaked on and rotted).  I'm planning on taking this fridge with me (it's a nice one and I've grown attached to it!), so this rotted plywood area will be visible.  Also, I had to remove cabinets over the old fridge when I replaced it, because nobody makes refrigerators that small anymore so now there is a dark, sunken area on the wall where the cabinets were.  Also, the first floor bathroom has some severe water damage on the walls that needs to be covered, and the porch has some rot that I want to minimize.  None of these things need to be perfect (heck, nothing in this 200-year old house is perfect), but they do need to pass the first, "is it ugly" inspection by a potential future owner.

Plus, there's this whole thing about "staging" a house that I've got to get ready for. As in making the floors gleam, the rooms and counters clean and inviting so that the pictures in the listing will make someone want to live here.

So there I was in hazmat class, counting the minutes that I was losing and being a little resentful about the whole thing.

I was driving to work Monday when I realized that there's no chance for success unless I take some time off work.  So, here I am blogging from home.  I just put a raft of leveling compound down and need to let it dry before I put a second layer on.  A little lunch, a little more cleaning (gleam-ifying, if you will), and it'll be time for layer two of leveling compound.

Strange what grabs the attention.  I was hoping there was a way to NOT have to use this old, ugly noncombustible piece in front of the wood stove.  I priced replacement pieces online (all in the $180-$300 range), and realized that I can *make* a replacement easily enough for a fraction of the price.  A little plywood and glass tile later, and there it is in front of the stove.  I put the tiles on one night while watching TV and grouted it last night.  It will be shinier when I clean off the grout haze, and look better when I find a border to put on it.  It's probably borderline in its noncombustible-ness, but I enjoyed making it and it felt like I was accomplishing something useful at the same time.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Just finished the inspection for the new house, and am glad to say there are NO major findings.  That's right, none.  The worst thing this highly respected inspector could find was that the railings on the porch would allow a child to get through.  This is the 6th house I've bought in my life, and the one in the best shape, by far.  There's a reason for that.  This house is not even 50 years old, less than half the age of all the other houses I've bought.  Compared to the struggles I've had trying to learn how to live alone out here in the woods, buying houses is a breeze and something I'm totally comfortable doing (too bad I'm not rich!). 

The kitchen is bright, clean, in good shape, plenty of cupboard space ... sigh.  All the bedrooms have closets, some closets even have lights!
Yeah, maybe the oven and the refrigerator are the same age as the house, but I have a 2-year old fridge ready to move.  No problem. Looks like I'm going back to no-oven-land though! At least for a while.

You could roller skate in this huge, clean, dry basement!  This picture shows only HALF of the basement.  It's SO far away from the rock and dirt floor with the 5 foot ceiling that is the basement in my current house.  I think about living in this house and a feeling of peace comes over me. 

The thoughts that I might not want to live alone in the country any more began to creep into my mind in July after I briefly dated a writer.  Time I spent talking to him and other city folks made me remember how much I had enjoyed city stuff.  That's when I re-subscribed to that girl magazine I used to like and when I got a pedicure - and red toenails.  Sometimes it's the small things that start the ball rolling!

It's like the washing machine.  After I moved in with my husband-to-be, I did our laundry at a laundromat for years.  We lived on the 2nd floor of an up-and-down and every few weeks I'd take 10 loads of laundry out, wash it, dry it, fold it and then haul it back home and up the stairs.  I hated it, but you really can't hate something you have to do like that and besides, we were poor and didn't have any options. (Don't even ask why, if we both had full-time jobs and I was also taking a full course load, why it was my responsibility to do the laundry.  It was a few years before I even asked myself that question.) Then a friend sold us a washing machine cheap, and I began to do laundry at home.  I can't overstate how much it changed my life by taking away some of that time-consuming drudgery I had refused to think about because I felt we didn't have any options.  (Eventually I made my unsupportive husband-at-the-time do his own laundry, but was then and that's another story.)

I don't revisit decisions after I've made them, so here I am in the woods, struggling through first after first after first.  Desperately wishing it wasn't so hard and such a struggle and that I didn't have to do it alone.  And then it was July and I dated the writer, and then August and the goats died, and then September, or maybe it was October and my neighbor was a complete scary jerk, and then I realized that it doesn't have to be like this and I made a different decision and here we are.

This house has a distinctive midcentury modern style.  It's like the architect was copying the Jetsons in places.  Yes, this house was "architected," also a first for me.  Everything is solid.  Everything works, everything is straight and no floors are soft and everything is square and I don't have to replace the roof or snake any drains that fall apart if you run too much water.  Like I said, peace.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How Much Wood ...

After a few weeks of starting a fire in the woodstove and letting it go out, I started a fire Friday that is still going, using up wood like a bandit, but keeping the place toasty warm.  Two years ago when I was doing this for the first time, I had NO idea how to start a fire and keep it going and the fire went out constantly.  I would restart it every evening (several times!) and just shiver through the cold mornings.  I feel like an old timer now, but really I am/was just beginning to learn the ins and outs of when to use different types of wood.

My new house doesn't have a woodstove.  It's got a few fireplaces (2, plus a double-sided one in the basement!), but they're not intended to be used for heat.  Earlier this week I brought a load of wood in from the woodshed and realized that soon I won't have to haul wood any more.  Managing wood and the stove was a really time-consuming aspect of learning to homestead, on top of all the other time-consuming and hard aspects (don't get me started).  I enjoy(ed) having a fire going, but I'm really going to enjoy not having to do that any more.  The new house closes at the end of the month, so this is my last month here.  Ideally, the 'stead will sell quickly, but realistically, it may be spring before someone else calls it home.  I can't have it both ways (buy low AND sell high), so I'm settling in for a long haul on selling this house (and contemplating not making any money on it, despite all the work I did).

There's one more looong night of firefighter training this week, all weekend and one night next week before this class is *finally* over.  I'll find out tonight if my new neighborhood has a volunteer fire department, and if they need people.

On another note - I don't know how long I'm going to continue this blog after I move (sorry Melanie from MN!).  The aspects of discovery and learning about homesteading that were so constant here won't be relevant there, and I have lost interest in posting any more details about my personal life or living my life as publicly as I have been.  I considered starting another blog, but I'm currently thinking that I don't want to do that.  I'll leave this blog open, since there's likely some homestead-y things left in my creaky bones (and several totes of raw fiber to be spun and knitted!), but I've noticed that the desire to post frequently has left the building.  We'll just have to see how it goes!

[Edit:  Hm.  I didn't intend to convey that I'm going to stop blogging immediately, although several commenters got that impression.  I haven't decided anything, but I don't have an urge like I did before is all I meant to say. I want to leave it open in case I have a burning need to tell you all about some really important thing like an article in WSJ, or my dog doing a cute thing, etc, etc. 

It bothers me when people misread or misinterpret my stuff because I feel that the error was mine in not clearly expressing myself.  This highlights what I'm struggling with - how difficult it is to accurately get across thoughts and feelings to people I don't know.  There are two ways to fix that (actually three): 1) try harder to be clear, 2) don't care if I'm misread, and 3) don't write things that can be misread.  I'm currently leaning toward the third option.  It may be a phase, ... or it may not.]

Saturday, October 30, 2010

25 to 1.5 Equals 230

It's kinda done.  Or starting to be done, at least.  Offered and accepted, I'm under contract to buy a house about 2/3 of the way into town from my current house.  The property is 1-1/2 acres, which is unusual that close in, but the housing crunch benefits us buyers and my lowball offer was accepted after a short negotiation.

The key part is that my commute will be about 1/3 of what it was.  I'll do the math for you: it takes me 45 minutes to get to work in the morning now.  It will take me 15. That's an hour a day saved.  I drive to work about 230 days a year, so there's 230 hours right there.  Ta Dah!

It's very close to things I want to do, so I anticipate being less alone than I currently am.  The yard is garden-able, there is space for Maggie to run.  Desmond, who can't go up more than one step will be a problem here, but there are non-wonderful optons so that he can at least live out his days with me, continuing to sleep 23+ hours a day.  My current plan is to put my rocky 25 acres on the market soon.  Anyone want a breezy hilltop house built on 25 acres of rocky goodness? Not even if it's got blueberries, apples and cherries, I mean crabapples?  Onset of winter is a bad time to sell a house that requires 4-wheel drive on snowy days to even look at.  The realtor wouldn't even be able to get here, ha, ha!  If it doesn't sell, I could rent it out.

Thanks for the support yesterday!  It felt a little wierd a few months ago when I realized that I'm more comfortable in a sketchy city neighborhood than in a sketchy country 'hood.  I paused for quite a while on writing about it because I wasn't sure about the reaction of folks that "met" me when all I was writing about was learning to homestead.  I'm humbled.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Debating and Dreams

One of my weaknesses is that I enter into debates that smarter people know to avoid.  Here I go... knowing fully that if I were smarter, I would let this one go.  (against the advice of my mother, putting waders on and wading in)

I don't know who the anonymous commenter is.  I have two or three guesses, based on people I've had discussions with recently and over the past year.  I could be totally wrong and this could be someone new.

I think it's amusing that folks like this commenter who have only known me within the last year think that they can read a few blog posts and know who I am. And then lecture me about what my dreams are.

Twenty years ago I had a dream to be an environmental engineer so that I could save the environment.  I worked *very* hard for years and made that dream come true (not the saving the environment part unfortunately!), and then more clearly found out what's involved with being an actual environmental engineer working in the world.  Hint: it's more about lawyers and less about improving the world. 

I used to dream about having a job that would let me travel - and then that dream came true.  Too true.  Try traveling 90% of the time, with weekends for laundry and one week out of 10 spent at home.  Picture living a life like that.  And then know that I lived variants of that for years.  Years!  I actually loved it for much of that time.

Five years ago I had a dream to be a citizen of the world.  I wanted to live overseas so badly I could feel it in my gut.  I made that dream happen and after many very painful months in exotic locales realized how difficult that dream actually is to live. 

For years, I wanted very badly to live in New York City.  I never made that dream come true, but I lived in other large cities (and loved it).

The "dream" to homestead that the anonymous commenter chides me for 'giving up' was born in an apartment in the Middle East as I was daydreaming about being anywhere but in the Middle East.  It is inaccurate .. strike that.  It is totally wrong to assume that a dream I birthed mid-2007 is more important than any of the other dreams I worked for years to accomplish.

People read this blog that have known me for years, decades even.  Some people read this blog that have known me my entire life.  They are the ones that asked me privately, "what air did this 'homesteading' thing come out of?"

There are many folks that have been dreaming their entire lives about being a homesteader, and many who have been working very hard to make that dream come true. I am not one of those people.  My homesteading dream was very new and very uninformed, but I can truly appreciate those who've been working harder and longer than me, now that I've worked for 2 years on it. I am going to spend my money and my time in ways that can make a better difference in the world, farmer's markets, local initiatives, helping other people that are spending time tilling dirt, making cheese, knitting, spinning, cidering, gardening, etc. I am not going to throw any more energy into the pit that is my huge commute and my lonely, snowy mountain far away from friends.

To the anonymous commenter: Go put *your* dreams of homesteading onto someone for whom it is really appropriate.  My shoulders will not carry your dream for you.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Reassessing Reassessing

Over the past week I've had the chance to observe the page hits as someone has read my blog.  All of it.  From the beginning.  All 619 posts.  Since he's read page by page, I've seen post titles from things I posted a year ago flash by.  Posts like, "Reassessing," and "This is Not Working," and "Balance."  It's surprising how frequently I've written about trying to balance friendships and a social life with living out in the woods, and how I failed, bouncing from one extreme to the other, alternating being a hermit with being a social butterfly. Instructive.  I'm not really a hermit, but I did enjoy time alone in the woods, and I seem to have written a lot about it.

Melanie posted a post that shows some of my former chickens, being happy and doing their scratching thing.  That's one of the funnest things about owning chickens, watching them do the back and forth as they scratch and then back up to look at what they scratched up.  And I enjoyed listening to them making happy noises.  Chicken TV.  It's as good as cable, and cheaper. (cheeper?)

Sooner or later Blueberry Hills Homestead is going to move away from these hills.  If ongoing negotiations work out, it will be sooner, and I'll let you know when I have something concrete to say.  If not, it will be later, but it's gonna happen.  I'm looking for a place with some space that's closer to the places I want to spend my time.  Rather than live out in the woods and work extremely hard to get needs met, I can live closer in and work less hard. Took me a while to get here, but it makes more sense for this solo city girl to move closer to the city.  Plus, the city I'm looking at allows chickens!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In a Better Place

The chickens have moved on.  They're in a better place now.

Not THAT better place!  Nope, these hens are at Casa Wee Farm where they're gamboling with Melanie's other chickens and having a gay ole time free ranging and doing other chicken stuff.  It's down to 1 female, 1 cat and 2 dogs at the 'stead.

No leaves left, up here on the mountain.  Leaves are at their peak down in the valley though.  Later this week, Mom and I will head downhill for another afternoon of civilized city stuff and leaf peeping.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Mom wanted to taste a local specialty, cider donuts.  So the other weekend, we went to a local apple orchard to get the things from the horse's mouth, so to speak.  The donuts were OK.  I'm not sure what everybody thinks is so special about cider donuts, because they just taste like donuts to me.  But it was nice to do leisurely things off the ranch for an afternoon.

We stopped for a moment at the pumpkin patch, where we noticed an odd thing.  No stems, leaves, or anything attaching the pumpkins to the ground.  In a CSI detective moment, we realized that these pumpkins were probably trucked in instead of grown here.  Doesn't bother me, but it was amusing how we had both assumed they were grown on site.

My company recently merged with another chemical company, and the VP of Global Six Sigma is coming to our plant tomorrow to meet with all of us Six Sigma types.  This merger spells opportunity for some folks, and I checked the job postings board to see what opportunity there may be for me.  There are five Master Black Belt positions around the world (Rotterdam, Houston, Germany, Australia, and Columbus, OH).  Since Master Black Belt is what I was before I stepped off the career track to live in the woods, and I'm qualified, I briefly considered throwing my hat into the ring for one of those jobs.  But I can picture it now - move somewhere interesting, like Australia, live an extremely interesting life for 1-4 years, and then want to come "home".  Still alone.  Still choosing an interesting life over what most people have.  Stability. Connection.  At least this time I can see it now, *before* I go and do something interesting.

PS: - Here's information on Six Sigma for those who have never heard of it:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

City Stuff

Ma Mere is still here, and I'm really glad about it.  When she was here in the summer, I don't think we went off the property much, except to hit the hardware store and the dump.  This time, I'm showing her more of the surroundings.

Last weekend, we went to Hudson, a walky, shoppy town a bit south of here on the (ahem) Hudson River. It was full of New York City types and expensive antique furniture, but a nice trip anyway.  I'll give you two tries to guess what I was most interested in.  Here's a clue: it's red.  Another clue: it's to the right of this picture, and hidden inside a building.

We honked around Troy and Albany on Tuesday, and may head back in this weekend.  As I've mentioned before, this is an either/or thing.  Either city stuff OR country stuff.  I live too far out to do both.  (Oh sure, I could do both as I have tried this past 2 years, but it's both ... badly and neither thing well.) So we're dropping country stuff this visit, in favor of seeing the city a bit more. 

I spoke with a friend today who raised sheep in the past.  She processed the wool all the way from her sheep through shearing, washing, carding, spinning and weaving, into a dress.  She lives in one of the river industrial towns north of Albany now, and understands *exactly* how I feel.  She raised her children in the country, but after her nest emptied and she was alone, made a choice to give up the country for the city about 10-15 years ago and hasn't looked back.

Here's gramma using high tech to talk to the chilluns from home...  Hi kids!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


When I started this blog, I made an effort to write every day, and for a while really enjoyed the discipline of frequent updating.  I believed that in order to be a good blogger, I needed to post every day.  That was a home-made rule that came out of my head - there are plenty of really good bloggers who only blog when they have something to say (and plenty of good bloggers who have something to say every day).  It strengthened my writing skills.

It was intended to be a journal of sorts, of me learning how to fend for myself out in the country.  I called it learning to homestead, even though I didn't really know what homesteading means.  But I also added personal stuff about my hunt for a partner.  When I started this, I didn't know anyone else doing the same thing as I am, live alone with animals, work a full-time off-farm job, try to find a partner.  Now I know several; three come to mind immediately - other strong women, making successful lives out of hard work and chutzpah.

The hard life has taken it's toll, and I've made mistakes, too.  Aside from the normal mistakes of doing stuff I didn't know how to do, I made the mistake of putting personal things in the blog, and putting the blog out there for potential partners to see.  Potential partners have read the blog and have made mistakes themselves.  Big ones. 

Several (as in more than 3) potential partners have read the blog and thought that it contains the entirety of my life. That people I wrote about are the only people I have met, or dated.  It does not.  Several folks (as in more than 3, a different 3) read the blog and decided that's as far as they wanted to know me.  Several were concerned that they would end up in the blog.  Also wrong.  The folks I wrote about never even knew that I have a blog, and other not-important and important people in my life will likely never grace these 'pages' (unless they want to).  Most read the blog and think that in reading the blog they know who I am, which is also wrong, and the biggest mistake of all. This blog is about less than 1% of my life.  The rest is private, between me and my friends and my lovers.

I can say, unqualified, that Every. Single. Time. I have let a potential partner read the blog before we know each other, I have regretted it.  It will not happen again. Other female bloggers have made the same mistake, have had the same results and came to the same conclusion.

So when Heather, who writes nagoonberry, wrote about an online journaling program called 750 words, I jumped at it.  The idea is that if you can get in the habit of writing three pages a day, that it will help clear your mind and get the ideas flowing for the rest of the day.  She wrote about it near the end of August, and I've been doing online journaling since then.  It's separated the I-need-to-write-about-this personal stuff from the public persona and made it easier to keep my personal stuff to myself or close friends (meaning that the blog contains even less of "me" in it than it did before).

It was even more freeing when I took away the invisible, made-up rule that I needed to post every day.  Instead of manufacturing something to write about every day, doing my best to make it amusing, I can wait until I have something meaningful to say, or a point I want to make in a public forum.  As I evolve in understanding and separating my needs from my wants and focus on reliably getting the needs met (homesteading is hard and satisfying in some ways, but it is a want, not a need), my life will change more, and this blog will likely change with it.  Thanks for coming on the ride with me!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Survival Skills

Firefighter training is about halfway through.  I'm amazed at what I know now that I didn't know a few short weeks ago.

File it under How to Get Out of a Burning Building:  (Picture this. You can't see.  It's smoky and dark, and besides, you're wearing full turnout gear, an SCBA and a face shield.)  And oh yeah - it's hot. You find a fire hose, but don't know which way to follow it.  Follow it (on your hands and knees, bro) until you find a connector.  Feel (with your gloves on), and you'll notice that one side of the connector is bigger and has bigger nuts.  Yep, uh huh.  That's the male side.  Follow the male side to water and outside, and safety.

I don't think I've ever in my entire life been challenged the way this training is challenging me.  The other week we got suited up, on air, and did a maze in the dark, one at a time (similar to the pic below, but our maze was narrower, and had a trap door, a wall joists like this, and some other stuff). The firefighter below will probably have to take off their air tank to get through this wall.  I was terrified. I can't specifically say what frightened me so much, but I was definitely terrified.  I've seen live-your-life-better things say to, "do one thing that scares you every day."  Do I get two or three days' worth if I'm three times more frightened?

The maze was for Mask Confidence, and the instructor made it only as hard as we could stand.  For me, he shone a flashlight on every obstacle before I did it, so that I could see what I had to do.  Others did it completely in the dark by feeling their way through.  One person got turned around in a dead end, and we could all hear his harsh breath faster, and faster as he figured his way out.  Sounded like Darth Vader, if he were breathing fast.

I'm the oldest person in the class, and I struggle with exercises like Saturday's, where we climb on the truck, pack the hose, then jump down and practice different ways to carry the hose off the truck.  Or the one where we connect and disconnect hose lines from the truck, or roll and unroll hose lines.  At the end of the class, most of us struggled to lift the hoses to put them away, we were so tired.

Tonight we get suited up, go up a ladder to a 'roof simulator' and learn how to break through a roof.  Betcha class goes to 10 and I get home about 10:30 - again.  Exhausted.  Then it's up at 5:30 to start again tomorrow.  I suppose it could be worse.  My crew chief is a nursing student and she has 4 midterm tests this week!  All I have to do is work.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Yay, Us!

Ever since it became obvious that the Chilean mine rescue operation was a well-managed operation, I've been wondering who the project manager was.  Every time something like this happens, the guy (yes, pretty much always a guy) behind the scenes is usually an engineer or a project manager or both.  In certain circles, these guys are superstars.

And here he is:

Straight-talking engineer was behind Chile rescue

SAN JOSE MINE, Chile – Three days after 33 men were sealed deep within a gold mine, Andre Sougarret was summoned by Chile's president.
The Chilean leader got right to the point: The square-jawed, straight-talking engineer would be in charge of digging them out.

 more here

Yay, us!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Apples and Things

Here's what's happening with my apples.   What you see are some experiments:  the far right bag are McIntosh apple slices, dried after being dunked in lemon water (to retard darkening).  The middle bag is Cortland apples, dunked in lemon water, the leftmost apples are Cortland, not dunked in lemon water.  The slices didn't darken, but there's a little less *zing* in the flavor.

The McIntosh are almost gone for the year.  We had a windy storm last week and a bunch of apples fell.  I went to pick some up the other day and most of them are partially rotted already.  The Cortland apples are looking great!  Unfortunately those don't cook well - which is why we're into drying these days.  I considered trying to root cellar some apples, but all the literature on the topic says that the apples to be stored should be perfect, and I don't have any of those.  There's no such thing as a perfect apple on this 'stead.

Sharon Astyk, who writes a blog called Casaubon's Book, wrote about re-evaluating her life today.  Her stuff, is normally pretty dense, weighty and doom-y so I don't read it often, but the topic of reevaluating is hot for me these days.  She talks about reevaluating on several aspects, but the aspect that strikes me is community, something I totally ignored when I bought this place, but have been struggling to find.  I wrote a blog post almost exactly a year ago saying that I was going to find comunity, darn it, even if I had to drive an extra hour and a half every day (or something like that).  We'll I've tried the whole "drive an extra hour and a half a day just to be part of a tribe" and it doesn't work.  I wonder why I didn't learn that lesson when I lived in a similar situation in South Carolina.  The lesson is Live Where You Want to Spend Your Time.  Not 45 minutes away.  Not an hour away.  Actually, when I had the apartment in The Hague, I knew I'd want to be in the Centrum, so that's where I got my apartment.  I'm only dumb sometimes, like when I want to totally change my life to something I've never done before!  Alone.  In the woods.  Leaving my family shaking their heads in curiousity.  OK, OK, we'll call it optimism, not totally dumb.

I am finally beginning to give myself permission to not try and do everything all at once, by myself out here, alone in the woods.  What I feel is relieved.  That ... and sad.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Back in the early, early days of internet over wi-fi, the term "wardriving" came up, to describe folks driving around looking for open wi-fi signals.  This ancient past was maybe, 5 years ago.  I never did 'wardriving,' but I find the term interesting, and it fits something I've been doing over the last few months.  First let me digress a bit.

I'm a bit of a technogeek.  I've had various smartphones ever since they've existed, and before they were even very smart, like, about 7 years or so.  At the beginning of August, my last phone contract loosened up enough for me to get a new phone and I got ... an iPhone.  This phone has changed everything.  I don't need a separate GPS any more, I don't need a separate MP3 player.  I will never get lost again. This phone (and apps) does stuff I've been hoping for for years.

In addition to being a technogeek, I'm a bit of a real estate geek.  When I was living in sketchy Cleveland neighborhoods in the 1990s, I avidly followed which houses were for sale, for how much, how long, etc, etc.  When I was trapped in hotel rooms in the middle east in 2007-8, I looked up real estate listings as a way of daydreaming about being anywhere but by myself in a hotel room in the middle east.  (Note that the Cleveland neighborhood, Ohio City that was so sketchy then is now the hottest place in the city, or at least one of them. It's older than Cleveland, beautiful old, well-made houses and based around a farmer's market that has been there for around 100 years.  Also note that the line from me daydreaming in the middle east to the remote acreage I own now is pretty bright.  As soon as I came back to the US and found a job, I bought the closest thing I could find to what I had been daydreaming about.)

So here I am, this morning, driving to work.

About 10 minutes into the drive, the first road with a line on it.

Moving' right along as the sun rises, burns the frost off the fields and begins to show off the flaming trees.
About 40 minutes into the drive, I cross the Hudson River, still shrouded in fog.  It's the lowest thing around, and the last to burn clear. I'm only a few miles from work now.

Here's the wardriving part. has an iPhone app uses the phone's GPS to show nearby houses for sale and link to the listings.  In the phone pic below, I'm the light blue dot in the center of the pic (stopped at a red light). It's SO easy to stop while I'm driving through an area and see how many homes are for sale, for how much and for how long.  There's a Zillow app that shows home values for nearby homes, too, so I can see values for homes not on the market.

This is stuff I've been interested in for years, so don't read too much into this.  I'm an information geek.  The iPhone and these apps have finally put together information I've been manually looking at for years.  It wasn't possible to do something like wardriving for real estate before, but now it is thanks to the iPhone, pulling together several long-time interests of mine into one small package.