Thursday, August 30, 2007

Some of the Way Back When Pieces of the Big Picture

Like my house cleaning, the blog frequency lately has been rather all-or-nothing. If I make it here, it's a stolen writing respite :)

I was thinking back on what attuned me the direction we desire to continue moving...something that has pulled me like a magnet throughout the years. It seems it was semi-derailed, or maybe just found alternate expressions in my former marriage. I wrongly assumed there was a kindred spirit toward things like gardening, DIY, rural living, returning to natural and traditional foods/skills/medicines/prevention...even physical labor. I assumed, since his parents were SO WONDERFULLY living that way, that was a shared love. Well, NO...hard lesson learned. But I concentrated on other things to make a warm home, and I do not regret a single moment staying home with my daughter, learning to be economical, being creative, homeschooling (in her early years...for the long term, I'm convinced BOTH parents have to be on board)...and so on.

I had married for keeps, and never anticipated at this point in my life the possibility I'd be writing about former things, meaning a past marriage. But I will say that God gives much graciousness and remembers us during the hardest of times, and I feel honored He gave me this second opportunity. He brought me my present husband, and has taught me many things in the process. Hopefully I'm a wiser person for it, but definately grateful. In the few years J and I have been married, we've had the real joy of realizing that we LOVE the same sort of lifestyle and desire the same sorts of things in some real specifics we'd never before been able to have a partner to share in. I'm determined not to pull in an opposite direction as my husband, and all the things he encourages me in uphold me as an individual. But we're definately a team, and I suppose this is what family it together.

I could write so much more about J, but my original intent with this entry was to try to remember bits and pieces of things that contributed to my lifelong love of returning to a different lifestyle. I meaning "returning to" in the sense of something that was taken for granted before "modernization." I remember my grandma heartily laughing at our talking about what we kids had termed the "good old days." She said she appreciates the conveniences that helped her save time, and never had any longings to return to cooking solely on a wood cookstove, that I can remember. But my grandparents were Depression era people, and knew the art of saving...EVERYTHING. They epitomized "frugal" without it meaning sloppiness or neglect. They just buckled down and did things themselves...grew their food, did their own carpentry, side craft-projects, house repairs and renovations, land upkeep, mending, car and machine repairs. They worshipped fairly often in a simple country church, but more often their simple faith was best expressed just by being the people they were...steady, honest to a fault, good neighbors, with quiet spirits and hearty laughs.

I suppose I'm trying to pull together scraps of things that even back then began adding up to the curiosity and desire that has lasted a lifetime.

Here's a very incomplete list:

1. Lying in the grass as a very small child and watching the clouds...for hours.
2. For hours, as a child, watching...just watching and learning...things like ants, all the crawly things that made the soil alive in garden soil, watching the cat hide/carefor/nurse regular litters of kittens
3. Growing my first plant from seeds. I remember they were pansies, watched daily, grown in styrofoam cups in kindergarten. I was so thrilled when it bloomed, and so devastated when I carried it home, but on the way home a boy in the carpool was being rough and kicked it over and it spilled all over the back seat and was crushed. After that, my parents let me have my own little corner of the flower bed to grow some more. I'd water it with the hose, and they were my first growing things.
4. Berries, and warnings that unknown ones were poisonous. Wondering how the birds managed to eat them and know the difference, since I didnt see the birds dying from them.
5. Picking up grandpa and I did this when we'd walk down the road together. He'd put them in his pockets and save them up. After a time, he'd put them in a rock polisher. They were our treasures.
6. Raising my kitten Rusty from runthood. He used to sleep in my jacket all those long days playing outside. When he was grown, he answered only to me, and I could call him loudly and hear him crashing through the bushes several streets over. It was like being Tarzan and doing the Lord of the Jungle
7. Raising and training our Elkhound, who looked wolflike, and also was bonded to me. Probably because kids (in our house at least) were made to stay outside instead of inside, so Nikki and I went for a lot of walks, exploring. Nobody messed with me...he looked too mean.
8. The facsimile journals of the American explorers, or at least folks along the lines of Kit Carson, Lewis and Clark, and I cant remember the exact others, but I looooooooved these. I'd sit under the hawthorne bush at my grandparents' with a cookie and "explore" through history, in the actual diary copies. Amazing. Eye-opening.
9. Handmade projects my mother would propose we all do before the holidays. She went all out at Christmas. It feels strange to reminisce about something I no longer celebrate now that I'm Jewish, but I cherish the memories of family. Usually, the projects were our way of economizing rather than buying store-bought. Some of the handmade items through the years I can remember were...quilts, appliqued pillows, photo collections arranged into scrapbooks, eggs blown hollow and made into baskets of eggs, decoupaged items, handbaked items, drawings, and so on.
10. Endless books about horses. I seemed to have been born with an obsession with horses from my earliest memory.
11. Flipper, Fury, Lassie, The Waltons, Bonanza...the end. We didtn watch much TV.
12. Numerous projects out on land. My parents bought several acres they readied for us to relocate to some day. We never did. But oh the work we did there. I do remember muscadine vines, an orchard of old pecan trees (and a million branches to be picked up), and burn piles from the brush that was cleared. And the time it got out of control and we nearly burned down the surrounding county.
13. Wearing rubber work boots that go ka-FLOP, ka-FLOP when your legs are too short and they boots are for adults.
14. The aura of the old hardware store and all the seed packets and hanging tools. And the glass globed lanterns.
15. Riding in the back of the pickup truck...before it was a crime ;-)
16. Hanging clothes on the clothes line.
17. Raising baby ducks and finding out how quickly they grow... and how instantly they know how to swim.
18. Sitting on my grandparents' back porch shelling or snapping endless containers of snap beans, peas, etc. Watching the hummingbirds on the trumpet vine and feeder and the woodpeckers and the progression of birds of all sorts. My grandpa was a bird lover.
19. Collecting wheat pennies in an old metal milk can that was used as a doorstop.
20. Cutting out the wormy parts of the peaches grown from the old peach trees that never got sprayed.
21. Watching my grandpa shoot buckshot at the stray dogs that tried to dig up the newly planted garden
22. The grape arbor and tasting an unripe grape...whew!
23. The two wisteria "trees" hanging with blooms and adored by fat bumblebees. The trees literally hummed with them.
24. Making clover flower chains for necklaces and tiaras, and old drapes for long hair.
25. Handmade swing suspended from the biggest tree branch
26. Drinking from the garden hose
27. Looking for four leafed clover
28. Trying to play croquet...and pretty much being bored to death with it, lol
29. Playing chinese checkers in the evenings with my grandma...or american checkers, on a wooded checkerboard nearly as big as the top of a card table. She was stealthy and ruthless...ha!
30. Sunburns and bubble baths of Palmolive dish detergent and really fresh, line-dried sheets at bedtime..white cotton...that grandma always had ironed. They felt so cold on those sunburns
31. hearing the bob-whites, trees creaking and leaves whispering, whip-poor-wills, and mourning doves at the end of the day
32. hearing the morning clatter of skillet and stove in the early morning when grandma started breakfast

There's more...those are mostly young childhood. Just making a note of many of the snapshots stored in my memory. It's interesting...most of my childhood was tumultuous...most of these wonderful times were few and far between, at my grandparents when we visited. They are truly gifts, and I cherish them.

What are some of your moments ?

Going to go tend to the soups. Homemade soups mean love :) and my girl is in need of some chicken soup TLC. Can't say it would hurt J and me much, either ;-)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Land Swap Update

Made a counter-offer for the five acres. J believes he shouldn't swap the whole enchilada, and the investor would be getting quite a lot. The hard part in this market is the valuation...if you trade for the land's currently competitive price, it's a different number than its actual worth, since nothing much around here is actually moving. We've found several 5 and above acre pieces for considerably less than what this man is asking, which is top dollar for his area. The only reason we couldn't pursue further with those lots is because the owners had notes on them that required payoffs, or they simply wanted a cash deal rather than a trade.

This most recent investor is a fellow with lots of land, since years ago he took larger acreages and started splitting them up for resale. He makes his money from offering zero down owner financing, and if the buyers at any point can't make the note (no matter how much of it they've paid off to him), they essentially just give him back the property.

A week ago, he had no properties available. Seven days later, he has seven that his buyers handed him back. What that's telling me is that no matter what he believes about the actual monetary worth of the land he's selling, people aren't being able to have it and afford it, too. It reverts back to him and all he has to do is pay the taxes till the next person who comes along decides they want to try the zero down deal, and so it goes.

Since we're having to consider what J's vacant residential lots would be worth not only on today's market, but also an average of its actual worth over the longer term (prices spiked and dropped several times in the past years), he's not willing to take the lowest valuation if the other trader isnt using the same valuation for the acreage. This man is valuing it at what he could get in a year or two, if he left it on the market long enough...because he can afford to....his money comes from the interest on all his present buyers' notes they owe him. But he's wanting to trade at OUR lots' least possible MLS comparison price. He comes out ahead, which is fine either way by us, as long as we're not doing something stupid. So far, J thinks that lowballing it isnt wise, and that his two waterfront lots have a lasting value despite the market vagaries.

And so we keep researching (well, mainly he does :)), and wait to see what the next day brings.

Like today.

I have my final exam today. Must run!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What I Did Do, What I Didn't

This afternoon after blogging this morning...

Get the grocery shopping done and have the stuff for slow roasting and cooking so we can eat home-cooked stuff through the week. The fast food isnt cutting it for us healthwise, satisfaction-wise, and budget-wise.

Notice that I have a regular warren of dust bunnies accumulated on my neglected floors. Who says I can't raise animals? ha

Disturb the dust bunnies. Live and let live, I say. At least until my next day off work...

Spend time with my daughter talking.

Convince her that going grocery shopping with me is far more fascinating that hanging out with her friend.

Enjoy my grocery shopping. Ferreted away some amaranth flake cereal and some spelt flake cereals to try for the first time. And some Ezekiel bread granola stuff. If it doesn't taste good, it'll at least keep my teeth plaque-free...ha!

Buy organic milk. Wish we had a supplier of raw milk nearby. The nearest one's somewhere east or north by a couple hundred miles, but there's a way to get on the "milk-running" pipeline of buyers. Pet-grade milk only, of course. At $10 a gallon, we couldnt afford it anyway. At that price, and at the rate we drink milk, we could afford a decent milk cow in less than a year. Wonder if we could hide one in our present backyard?? heh heh (Don't think I haven't thought about that. Just haven't convinced the Hub yet)

get all my uniforms ironed in time to get to bed early. Have to get up at UGH 4 A.M. Did I mention UGHHH?

Sneak away into the air conditioning prior to grocery shopping to a family owned restaurant and had The Best Chicken Soup I've Ever Tasted....made from scratch. I haven't found a diplomatic way to approach their kitchen and beg for the recipe. Maybe I should feature local places on my blog here, doing monthly interviews and suggesting a shared feature recipe? Hmmm, shall think on that. When I have time to think on anything :)

Scribble a more detailed working sketch of "the guest house"...along the lines of a Tiny House, but probably less tiny, since neither of us is a tiny person and we wouldnt want to find ourselves in an Alice in Wonderland predicament without something to nibble to shrink us down to the correct down-the-rabbit-hole proportions. Or, like another childhood story character, we'd be stuck half in and half out like Pooh, who having stuffed himself with too much honey found himself "wedged in a great tightness." Funny the lines that stick with you after a decade of reading children's books...still some of the best reading around :)

Call my husband and flirt with him over the phone. We don't see each other much. But we can still flirt.

Make it home with the groceries, put them away, and gasp like a drowing person, for cool air when I got indoors. It's just SO danged hot outside. Up for cooking...a pack of cut up chicken thighs-with-legs which is kashering in salt water just now and soon to be rubbed down with sea salt and herbs and roasted; some sort of beef...the man has to have his meat, but I'm ambivalent, having begun to be satisfied with veggies and whole grains a lot more since I (ahem) reached a more mellow age. Will slow cook it with a dash of wine and a lot of sauteed mushrooms and onions. Of course, when the time comes, I'm sure I'll force myself to eat some, too...heh heh; um, let's see, there was something else. Oh yes a small "whole young chicken" I'm going to put in the soup pot with fresh herbs, ambitiously attempting to recreate a similar taste experience I had today with the oh so wonderful restaurant soup. I think I tasted a hint of lemon?

Read a couple blogs and get once again sucked into the glorious land of homestead bloggers. This should fuel me till my next off day, and next stolen hours...

Buy the first of a few purchases I need to make for a "jump bag" emergency duffle bag or backpack to be kept at work in cased we're locked down at short notice for a hurricane. Not that I see any hurricanes, but they watch those tropical storm developments like a hawk. Once locked in, you'd better have your supplies, and your families had better have their alternate emergency plans already rehearsed separately. Our plan...J takes R and gets the heck out of Dodge, NOT waiting till the very last minute like he did with Charley before we were married and I was states away....SHEESH

Get to finish my blog To Do list. Yet.

Go now and get some sleep...after popping the eats into slow cook mode. On second thought, those chickens are going to have to be roasted tomorrow...maybe? Argggh, not enough time for everything. Sigh-o-nara for now :)

Oh yeah, and the sketches I did of the guest house? I realllyyyy like them. Let's see if they survive J's practicality editing ;)

Working Together

It's been really fun, the few times our days off have intersected with each other, to spend time as a couple. I've been contemplating how different my life would be were I still single and trying to do any of this on my own. That's what I was having to do not that many years ago, and sometimes it's still an adjustment merging the particulars...a welcome adjustment, I'd have to say.

You Gotta Love a Man Who Can Fix Things

I daily am more appreciative that J has the skills he does. He loves to tinker, and can build or fix pretty much anything. He's also had a lot of years of trial and error, and has some well-defined ideas of what mistakes he doesn't want to repeat...and of successes he'd love to duplicate. He's also a good financial manager overall. He's determined that the risk factors, especially at where we are in our lives now, should be given a long, hard look.

I'm learning that much of what we're calling Homesteading is really living in a way that is best for us and being good stewards. We have a developing mental picture of some ultimate goals, as we're now in the thick of the preparations. Many of our "wants" have had to bow to the reality of their practicality.

Preference and Practicality

I love older houses and the craftsmanship of their construction. My sister lives in a turn-of-the-century house in Illinois, the lovely old white sort with wraparound porches. Beautiful! Those houses speak to me, and I love the sound of feet on a wood floor, the older craftsmanship, the surprises you find in a house with a history.

I love wood. I love a wide variety of animals and used to dream of raising horses. I love being at home, being a homemaker. I love large acreages where a person doesnt feel crowded and you don't see houses next door.

We've begun merging our preferences with practicalities, and so for us, renovating on a large scale is at the low end of our wish list, though we'd absolutely love it. We simply don't forsee the finances. For my husband, that is also the case with wood floors. Florida meltdowns and humidity make wood a Welcome Home sign for insects, especially termites. That's why he prefers tile for interior floors, and concrete block or stemwall designs for the structure itself, finished out with "knockdown" textured stucco. That's what he incorporated in our present home...concrete block with a knockdown finish stucco and clay-toned cement barrel tile roofing -- 18" ceramic matte finish tile for the flooring throughout. I have no complaints, with the only precaution being that unseen spills can make for a hydroplane tailbone-cracking experience. :)

We're finding that the house plans we've sketched during all this process have morphed. At times it was plans for a large house, and then started becoming smaller. Charmed by what I found in the Tiny House movement to smaller, customized dwellings, we drew plans for the more diminuitive of liveable structures -- hardly more than a garden shed in size. It's interesting seeing how we're shifting over time. Recently, we discussed the use of steel shipping boxes as a possiblity for incorporating as part of the underlying structure of an expandable design, since they come in widths of 8 1/2 feet. Then J began thinking about modules that could be constructed over time, in sequence, for expansion. We've run the gamut.

Here's what we're thinking at the moment:

An Evolving Plan

If we can trade for acreage, we want a structure that we're not wasting our money on, that's easy to build, that can be built quickly, and economically. It needs to be expandable.

As we're thinking presently, this is the proposed sequence after acquiring the land:
A. fence the property with a perimeter fence
B. build the first structure, the size of a guest cottage, which will serve as our "camp" as we improve the property, build animal shelters, put in our first garden, etc.
C. start very small with animals and build from there, in stages, seeing what works for us best and which animals we find we really want to continue expanding the numbers of and which ones we don't want to
D. living for a time, during the transition, "half in and half out," meaning that we'll keep our residence we're in now, pay only cash for the above, and do the actual building of the small guest house (with kitchenette and loft) by hand or partially sub some of it out -- taking it in stages. See HOUSE, below. It's surprising just how useable a small square footage can be if designed that way.
E. Once we're "set" on the land, with the structure built, we'll find a way to transition and sell our present home.

F. Start with animals and plants we can use to begin substituting for our present grocery bills. Make things ourselves. Starting simple, with the goal being to try raising things that are going to help us be self-sufficient. This means we may not focus on a specialized breed at the beginning, if it's not obtainable locally or requires risky investment. And we want to focus on the right number and types of animals for the specific property. We can fine tune that over time to include our ideal breeds of animals and bloodlines, etc. First, we probably need our learning curve, and to do it in stages slowly. For instance, we may decided we want dairy and meat, but we don't know right now whether that would be a goat, a cow, or something else better suited for bartering with another local farm. We'd try our hand at two or three sheep rather than setting up for a larger herd. We want to discover which we love to work with ourselves, and which we'd rather admire at a distance.

The House
As stated above, one idea begins with constructing a very small guest house (1 bedroom with loft for more sleeping room if needed)and kitchenette, which would be used later as a guest house (duh :)) or mother-in-law wing, or for a farm-sitter to live in if we traveled for any length of time.

That could be expanded from by way of a short enclosed dogtrot (sun porch) connected to a common room-- a really big room that's essentially a simple square or rectangle and big enough to have a lot of people in, or to use as a dual purpose living room/kitchen. The main gathering room, a place several people can work on a canning project together, or other big projects, for gatherings, Bible studies, sleeping a bunch of kids in sleeping bags for sleepovers, etc. Tables could be set up or taken down in it, or it can just be arranged into a great family room.

A third expansion step would be to expand from that room with another enclosed dogtrot (connecting porch) connecting to a third structure, which houses a master bedroom/bath, large closets, loft office, and sitting room/library (a quiet nook to knit or read or talk together privately); essentially a little bigger structure than the guest house, but with no kitchette. Still very easy to build.

The buildings could be arranged according to their best site advantage on the property.

If we don't go that route, and opt for an all-in-one house, we have a second design better suited to doing passive solar, though anything we build, J will try to incorporate sustainable and economizing materials and means.

The Properties in Discussion

There are two properties now on the board. One is five acres of mostly pasture with a crescent of trees toward the rear of the property, and it's already fenced for cattle. There are neighbors on every side, some with a lot of collected clutter (I dont mean tools and tractors and such...just...clutter). Across the street are two very unique still under construction, approximating an unfinished, castle with a metal roof, complete with moat and mounds of fill dirt from where the moat was dug, and the other a recreation of a beach retreat (there's no beach nearby) with holes dug around the property and boardwalks suspended over them.

Since the neighbors are probably lovely and fascinating, my only concern at present is if we'd ever be able to resell the property for what it's worth if we found ourselves having to at any future point. Not that we're buying anything at this point for its resale value. I think the Tennessee girl in me wants pristine vistas of views, and I'm very spoiled to rolling hills and mountains. It would just be a minor adjustment, I think. The road is a dirt road, which I love. The front edge of the property has a wet-weather (sort of) creek thick with some mature hardwoods, brush, and thigh-high ferns...I really liked that.

There was a separate 10 acre parcel that I was more interested in, which is mostly pasture, but has two ponds. I did actually tell J he ought to offer to swap everything for that one. There is another man from out of the country who owns five and ten acres in the next county, and his land is all wooded. That would be a whole new set of considerations. So we're praying for wisdom and one of these opportunities to become a reality. In the meantime, I'm so busy at my job that I don't have much time to fret and worry over any of it. But it will be a red letter day the day I can type right here "the land is ours!" (which calls to mind the native american realization that no land belongs to us, but it's under our stewardship)...ah well, you know what I mean, though. I can't wait to make this step!

The Town Nearby the Potential Properties

I love the little town it's in. Though the views overall are unspectacular (in comparison), the area is smalltown, which I LOVE. The drive in was of a lot of big agriculture such as orange groves, berry, tomato, and potato farms, but there were also smaller farms with signs reading "Eat Local!" and such. There are some really big holdings of hundreds of acres, mostly vacant in places except for Beefmaster cattle. There are also many smaller farms tucked here and there. It has all the small town features I grew up with in Mississippi...the single grocery store, hardware store, a junk store (perk!), and a few others...few and far between...and a real one-room (ok, it's really five rooms) school house still in operation. There was a five acre vineyard not far from it, a sand hill crane sanctuary, phosphate mine at the perimeter, butterfly farm (how cool is that?), and local folks raising cattle, horses, and minature goats.
And at this point, I'm resisting the urge to beg J to just give all his remaining handful of vacant residential lots, waterfronts included, to this man so we can GET THERE and have our land. Only that's really impulsive, he's much smarter in real estate over the long term than I am, and I have confidence that our prayers won't be in vain. We'll BOTH have a good feeling about the acreage when it comes.

Debt-Busting Progress

He thinks we can retire it within a year. R's nursing school expenses, my used car purchase and repairs, and the commute gasoline costs offset the increase in our profits since I've had this sheriff's department job. However, there is a momentum that has built from the efforts we're all making. It does feel like we're making some forward progress. I'm making "thermometer" charts so we can visibly see the debts going down each paycheck as we eat away at paying them off entirely. It's good that this all will be a process, because R still needs to live at home until she's well into her second leg of becoming an RN. She's finishing the LPN first. I never had parents available to help me over the financial bumps between high school and college and beyond. I vowed I'd not leave my child stranded and without some direction if she wants to make the most of that, so even her schooling has been a group effort. We pay for her transportation an hour away to the daily clinicals and labs, and each of us puts in 12 to 14 hour days before we arrive safetly back home. I have no complaints...I just hope I have staying!

The Blog

(Sigh...) I just havent been here very much. But I try to update as I can. I STILL have to do that promised blogroll, give honor to others and thank Phelan and Wilma for their inclusion of this site for two blog-buddy awards. I'd like to know how to make the blog graphically more attractive, especially with a customized know, the sort with photos and a decent font. And I'd love to get a camera and take pictures to add to the journal entries to add visual chronicling, too.

Ah, what would life be like without all the To-Do lists??

I'm going to knock out some household chores and grocery shopping, and maybe I'll be back later today to give more attention here and catch up with emails. Life's exciting and busy, but not much fun without clean clothes and some occasional homecooking...ha!

Sayonara till Soon, hopefully :)

Monday, August 27, 2007

I Heart Tea

I sat. I blogged. I sipped hot tea. I blathered.

I deleted.

It boils down (pardon the pun?) to the fact that hot water + tea + a favorite mug = a seriously good drink.

When not consorting with Earl Grey, here is my favorite standby...


Life keeps happening. Despite the goals we have yet to realize, I have found that I'm very very happy right now because I see so many good things happening...and I am so grateful!

Here's what's been going on with my family in the past couple of months or so. I'm so happy for my daughter, who's featured in some of these pics. She's rounded the corner from childhood to young adulthood, and yes, the years DO fly by too quickly. Highlights from her life: was a packed house. Glad it didn't rain :)

Her graduation cruise, compliments of her dad. These are some of the souvenirs she tried to fit into her luggage for the flight back...heehee..

And then there's nursing school. She entered the adult program right after high school graduation. That called for new scrubs and some new textbooks perfect for later use as industrial strength doorstops.

After seven months of a series of interviews and testing, I entered training as a 911 calltaker.

My husband J changed jobs and is much happier where he is right now. I don't have a picture of either of us, but just know we're the nondescript couple looking pretty tired but quite happy.

Want to know some of the things I love about J?

He still holds my hand, he prays for me throughout the day, sketches house plans on paper napkins at odd moments of inspiration, tells me I'm beautiful, and shares the same side of the booth in restaurants....even when we're the only ones eating. He makes the word Together mean, for me, contentment.

And the land trade...
J is steadily sending out inquiry letters to people with vacant properties in the hopes one might be interested in trading us acreage for one or more of his residential properties, namely the waterfront ones. The good news is that just yesterday, we went to visit an interested investor and had a really enjoyable morning with his wife and him looking at his different parcels and seeing the area. The acreage that was offered to us is one we're unsure will serve our purposes best and has some advantages and some disadvantages. The investor is a shrewd haggler, and J won't go for broke. So we're still in the talking stages, and the negotiating ones. It's just encouraging that we've come to a point where some movement is happening in the possibilities :)

Ah, feels good to update. :)

More to come, hopefully, either tonight or tomorrow, my last day off before getting back on the wheel.



Tests come, tests go. I've had my share of tests at the In Town Job, and happily they've all been passed so far.

I'm hoping at this very moment to pass a personal test of Basic Blog Construction by seeing if I can, with grace and ease, FINALLY learn to include smack in my blog text words that link elsewhere...which everyone else out there seems to be doing without any problems. You know.. the highlighted little places in the text that you click on and it boings you to blissful elsewheres of further reading.

And goes The Very First Sentence I've Typed With Most Basic Linkage Included. Can I make it work?

Sample Sentence:

Robbyn, preoccupied with thoughts of what sort of
goat might help clear the brush on a property she hopes to one day own if her
husband makes a successful real estate swap, remembered one of the books that
Started All of This
...the one nearly shouting to her from the bookstore
shelf all those years ago, demanding to be bought, read, and admired in a way
fatefully provoking an escalating tumult of ideas now fueling her urge to
leave it all behind and live in a snug lean-to in the woods.

Ah, now to publish and test this.

Be right back....

(Now I'm back)

Hmmm, well YAY, I finally got some text to link! Boo that it turned out underlined rather than highlighted...wonder if that is normal or just happened because I included it in a quote paragraph thingy?

And yes, I know this entire post is fraught with horridly-constructed run-on sentences. That trend may not subside till I've fully typed out all my pent-up blog withdrawal. Sort of like every time I try to read Charles Dickens and get more preoccupied seeing exactly how many pages I have to turn before actually finding punctuation such as a Period.

Or in typing sentences beginning with the words And, Sort Of, or Or, and containing no subject with which to make a predicate agree, simply because I want to.

And now to fix one problem and ignore the other. Off to try to figure out the link dilemma.

Computer Reunion

Wow, I'm actually sitting at my own computer doing something non-work-related. This past two or three months have been a blur.

I'm kind of proud that I've lasted in the job training up to this's certainly pushed me to some unfamiliar discomfort zones, and the outcome is still yet to be determined....but having lasted this long, I do look back, thank God profusely, and enjoy knowing that I've stuck it out.

I've been battling brochitis or some flu thingy for the past three weeks, trying the herbs and the over-the-counter remedies till frustration at last drove me to beg my doctor for antibiotics.

All else is good....R is still plugging along at her nursing schooling, and J is still on assignment at a job he's enjoying. There have, however, been some VERY interesting developments...

and now I shall break them down into a few smaller and more manageable blog entries instead of trying to fit them alllll here right now... otherwise I'll get halfway through, decide a cup of hot tea and a warm blanket are my more favored companions than my keyboard, and get lost in an impromtu nap, now that I have a couple days off.

Ah, see...and now the phone rings....ha!

Shall return...(with tea!)

Friday, August 10, 2007

The smallest of updates

The 911 job has its moments, and my learning curve is still a Gordian knot. I have a wonderful training officer, so that makes the hard days better. The vote's still out on whether I'll be there in a couple months, but if I'm not, it won't be for a lack of trying.

The rains have been regular, which makes me long to be digging in the dirt again, but that has been shelved while I am cycling through varying shifts at work....days for a few weeks, nights a few weeks, etc. So I snip and add to the old three ring binder that houses my various ideas, clippings, and such for our one-day-homestead. Homesteading is a heart inclination. I'm finding myself preferring to choose a few things to do well rather than to run around chasing too many other things right now. Right now it's all about getting the debt retired, and my husband's continued efforts to trade one of his residential vacant lots for rural acreage.

We've had another encouraging lead in that area, so J is pulling the plat maps and records to talk further with one man who's shown an interest. He has five acres he'd consider trading. We'll see if anything in what J sends him to look over piques his interest. I'm quite curious about what the acreage looks like and how it's situated, though I do know the general area. But I'll wait till we know if there's a real interest in doing a trade or not before getting excited about anything...and in the meantime I'll be studying for my next test.

J is now working fewer days with longer shifts, and this seems to suit him because in the alternate days he can rest when he needs and also pursue the many chores and projects that need finishing...which he really, in fact, loves to do :) In years past, he built a house owner-builder, which is to say he did the actual building of it himself and with the help of a few things contracted out. It took him a while to build. I'm not sure how long, because that was before our history together began. When he left high school way back in the day, and returned from serving (and surviving) military service (ah, the draft), in whatever he did, he always set aside a little bit of whatever money he made to renovate run-down houses, and eventually to build a house at a time on the side. He's never been rich, but in my opinion, he's a smart fellow, and I'm fascinated that he over the years has always had something like this going on in addition to his regular job...simply because he loves it. He dreamed in those years of doing what we want to do now, but he did not have a partner with the same vision at that time, so he was content building houses, little by little, one by one.

Long story, and as always, I'm short on time...and I have a laundry list of things I need to do HERE, on the BLOG...such as the overdue blogroll (days have turned into weeks!)...but I wanted to acknowledge that my world and my life would be colored entirely differently were it not for the steady and willing partnership of my husband. What an amazing gift of the Almighty to my life...whether we ever "get anywhere" or not...whatever we build, I'm so glad it's with him. I'm hoping that will make each step, even this step of waiting and preparation, something to be appreciated.

J is working on piecing together a house plan in readiness for that day we're hoping will be sooner than later. At any rate, we're enjoying the collaboration. Not that we have many spare moments for leisure conversations about it, but it's always rattling around in our heads, and we catch our time together on the fly...and have fun discussing it again and again as we collect ideas. He wants to utilize passive solar, as he did in one of the houses he built and lived in in the past. He's the sort of guy who can build and fix things, and we're poring over the scientific fact sheets on this and that related to keeping a house IN FLORIDA as cool as possible, as efficiently as possible. He likes utilizing traditional methods AND keeping an eye on newer innovations. My bent is far more traditional and spartan, but I also like bounty and beauty. I'm not sure how he'll marry some of my requests to his requirements for a house design...we definately each have our own ideas in that department. He has so much fun with the planning, though, that there is no rush, and whatever it becomes, it'll be unique and personalized, probably over the course of time. Neither of us wants to rush when we finally get to that point.

He wants passive solar, with any innovation that brings the $$ down as low as possible. I want function and a good flow to the design. I have some personal preferences that fall into no particular category, but are just on the wish list. For me these include:

1. Kitchen with at least one exterior window with a decent view, a window sill deep enough to set things like potted plants on, and designed so that the interior of the kitchen (the work area) does not have to be a main thoroughfare to any other place such as a garage, laundry room, or other high traffic area. I dont mind the traffic flow going beside the work area, around it, near it...but right through the middle, ARGGGHH :)

2. Seemingly contradictory to the above, I do want the kitchen to be THE main room, or A main room of the house where people can gather and munch or work together on meals. I love visible and serviceable pot racks that arent just decorative, and some sort of work area that is open to the dining and living areas, no matter how large or small those are.

3. I'd like transom windows above the interior doors, ones that can open and close in a way that's vented towards the ceiling, to allow for airflow through the whole house.

4. I'd like at least 9 foot ceilings, but not much higher than that unless in a particular area like a living room, where there might be a loft with a half wall or balcony. Even in a very small house.

5. I like windows that are positioned whre you have good airflow through the WHOLE house, or at least crucial areas.

6. I'd like at least one bedroom to be on a second storey, with windows that can be opened at night for good airflow when the weather permits. The reason I really want this is because I really dont feel safe leaving ground floor windows open while sleeping at night because I dont know anywhere in Florida we could live that that could be reliably safe. But an upper floor bedroom could get some excellent breezes, especially with the aid of a ceiling fan. And boy is it hot here most of the year...

7. I'd like it to look aesthetically nice...not like a space capsule, bad science experiment, or strangely out-of-place in a natural setting.

8. Openess to the living room/eating area/kitchen with a good flow.

9. Some good storage and room to customize extra storage in later years.

10. EFFICIENT. Enjoyable.

That's about it....and oh yeah...

11. A mini guest cottage attached to the house with a dogtrot.....for visitors!! :)

Ah well, frankly I'd be happy with a big cardboard box and a sterno can to cook over just now if it were someplace that's OURS :)

I need to sign off here quickly. I read all the wonderful blog postings out there, and cheer for the gardens that are cranking out their bounty, and all the wonderful endeavors that are underway and being documented....I'm always so inspired. I'm happy for the Eating Local folks who're showing me it CAN be done...and so well! I'm following the legislation updates and the livestock tales. I feel very behind in all I'm doing, but I dont have time to wallow in self-recrimination. I actually LOVE the 911 job when I feel I'm doing well at it (those moments come and go just now)...on every call, people are being helped, and I've had some calls I'm proud to have kept a steady head through. It's knowing that many of the calls are truly life-or-death that makes me the most nervous during the learning process. And it really makes me not take for granted seeing my family each night safe and sound at is fragile and precious and each day now IS truly a reminder.

Hope to be checking back in soon. If J comes up with some sketches, I 'll see if I have the computer skills to try showing them :)

Hope all are well, content, and prosperous ...hug your loved ones "good" :)