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.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Farming as High Drama

This headline from the weekend's WSJ about the USDA lowering crop projections for corn by 3.9%, a greater figure than expected. Oh, the drama!

Mom is here.  A few folks that I've known for years recently wondered aloud (in writing, after I began to question it myself), how I magically transitioned from a city girl to a homesteader-wanna-be-girl.  Where the sudden urge to "homestead" came from.  I can explain the chain of events that led me to here, but can't explain why I threw out everything that I loved before to live by myself so far out here in the country; leading directly to me missing city things that I loved before, and partly ... my angst.

You see - I'm an engineer.  My entire career (all 25 years of it) has been about me successfully making things happen that didn't exist before.  I don't really pay attention when people say things are impossible or hard to do, because that's stuff we engineers get done regularly.  I've done the same thing in my personal life (make big, hard changes), and then ended up changing back when I've realized that things aren't working.  Still thinking about that, and mom is here to help provide perspective.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Notes From the Universe

I was reading Hope Dies Last the other day and saw this thought-provoking thing:

She started her post with this phrase, "A couple of weeks ago  The Universe sent me this note:"

Curious about how The Universe sends emails, I followed the link, read a bit, and then signed up to get emails from The Universe myself. I kinda believe that my thoughts have an impact on my life, so a daily reminder to think constructively is a good thing.

Here's the email I got yesterday morning from The Universe:

Simply put, Jordan, the reason there are things you want that have not yet appeared in your life, is because you're just not used to thinking of yourself with them.

Sorry, kind of wish it was more complicated.

A tiny bit of fluff, but useful for me, especially right now when I'm tempted to get caught up in negative thinking.  Another blogger, Julie, from 47 and Starting Over had this to say last week:

So Dr. Penny has been telling me for years...YEARS....that I have to change my thinking in order to change my life.

I hate it when that b*** is right. LOL She NEVER lets me forget it.

Seriously though.... 

I finally took her advice. And I changed my actions. I stopped "wanting" what I didn't have, I stopped the constant barrage of negative, toxic thoughts (read more of her blog post here).

Pretty cool, huh? 

I'm so questioning everything these days that ALL options are on the table, except continue things exactly the way they were.  I don't feel safe alone out here any more.  Maybe I'll stay in the country and get a roommate or rent the place out and move closer in, or sell the place and move closer in.  My dreams of homesteading were not because I've always dreamed of homesteading, but were to enable me to quit the corporate life.  I see now how superhuman of an effort that would have been.  I don't know if my plan would have ever allowed me to quit corporate life.  I think I'll come back to parts of homesteading (good lord, I have a room full of raw fiber that needs to be spun and now that I know how to make cheese, I'm never going to stop!), but as long as I am alone, I have to consider other options that allow me to get my needs met.  Homesteading is a want, not a need. 

My company has recently merged with another chemical company.  My boss has been incredibly understanding of me being essentially half an engineer for the last two years while I gave most my mental energy and all my emotional energy to trying to make it in the woods. We spoke today and I let him know that I'm back in.  I'm coming back to work, at least more than I have been for a while.

Monday, October 4, 2010

What Mothers Do

Mothers read anguished blog posts by their daughters and then they buy plane tickets east.

I've been taking the time since Penny and Coco died to think about why I'm here in the woods and what I'm trying to accomplish, except now I'm trying to be more realistic than optimistic.  Now that I've got 2 years under my belt, I have a better sense of how much I have time to do, how long it will take to get where I want to go, or if I could even get there and what the quality of my life would be like.  I see that I can't live alone, have a full-time job, grow and process food, get the 'stead ready for a goat business AND have a social life.  AND deal with a vindictive neighbor that just moved back after almost 2 years away.  I suspect something is going to change, but I'm not sure what, just yet.

I've been in this place before, and I think it's because I've stretched so much in my life.  I've pushed my life into places that most people never go, and then evaluated and made changes when I had to.  When I find myself crying at unusual times, that's generally a clue that it's time to evaluate.  It's time to evaluate. 

And that's something else mothers are good for.

PS - Examples where I've stretched my life that maybe some people have not.  These are all after my divorce 12 years ago, so I had no partner through any of this:  job with 50% travel all over the country, job with 90% travel teaching Lean Six Sigma to defense dept folks, job with 100% travel literally living out of suitcases, living overseas, living in hotels, living in the middle east.  (Note to self and others, 90% travel and 100% travel is a HARD life. Especially in countries that don't speak english and you can't drink the water.) And now, alone, 45 minutes away from civilization, stuff you know about.  This is also a hard life.  Most people don't even try to do what we're trying to do.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


I'm really disturbed.  When I came home from firefighter training, the neighbor drove up the hill to ask me not to call the dogcatcher today while she tries to train her dogs.  We ended up yelling and talking for something like 1/2 an hour.  She still doesn't think her dog killed my goats.  She still thinks I am being incredibly not country savvy and kept on asking me over and over why I was starting trouble.  She told me that I don't like the way her dogs look, I don't like her roommate, all stuff she pretty much made up out of thin air. She gave me advice on how to keep animals safe.

When I told her that she had a court order to keep her dogs on her property and she should just do it, she called me a b***h and a c**t, came up close to me, waggled her finger in my face, told me I had no idea what I was in for,  because she put her dad in a nursing home and was back living in her house full time.  She told me that there's no guarantee of peace and quiet when you live in the country and she can do whatever she damn well pleases on her property and I better get used to it.

I'm obviously much less happy than I was an hour ago.  I wish I could transport myself to another place where I don't live next door to a hilbilly nutcase, where people are sane and I don't have a whole load of crap to look forward to.