Sunday, December 30, 2012


A long-time source of food and money was provided by the raising of pigs. This was continued by Unc as he ran the place by himself. He provided feed for them from his job in town at the grain elevator where he got free residual grain from the railroad cars that still had some of the previous load in them, which had to be cleaned out before loading. He also got lots of cast off produce from the grocery store. He had more food for the pigs than he could feed them, so a lot of the grain was left on the ground and it eventually rotted. Same for some of the produce. The place had a nasty odor to it as we took possession of the place, as well as lots of garbage left from the produce. Piles and pile of garbage and piles and piles of rotten grain. Its been a long process, but most of it is cleaned up now. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Twas the Night Before Christmas...

Here's how our homestead Christmas went...

The day before, we were thrilled to discover our cell provider had turned on their new tower, giving us 4G service in town. Hooray! Dreams of sugar-plum you-tube videos filled our heads as we drove back to the ranch, giddy with anticipation. This great service continued clear down the gauntlet... until we dropped into the homestead. After hours of comparing the various service levels on three different phones at various locations in and around the house, we discovered that we have minimal 3G data service (only slightly better than before, though still highly spotty) and no improvement in call service. Disappointing to say the least, but made for an interesting combination of technology and board game (nothing like texting each other between turns to see if it works yet).

Tuesday, we had a leisurely breakfast, fed the aminals, and settled in with our kleenex boxes and cold medicine to watch TV or read or do puzzles. Pretty soon, our day was interrupted by the dogs -- or more accurately, by the presence of porcupine quills in the dogs. Behemoth only had one, and it was quickly dispatched. Little Dog had about thirty between his chin and his paw (what exactly was he doing? reaching out to shake its hand?), and it took about 2 hours to remove them all. Poor baby. Maybe now he'll bark at the intruders instead of greeting them.

By the end of the evening, I was covered in blood and stray quills, disappointed the cell service wasn't any stronger, and feeling left out of the holiday gatherings. Someone had warned me that living out this far was going to isolate me. At the time, I didn't believe so, but it seems to have been a "perfect storm" of isolating events this year. Hopefully, next time around, we'll have all these issues fixed and we won't be sick.... 'cause we'll be healthy and strong from all the hard work in the country, right? Right.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Photo--1953 Family Photo

In this old family photo, we have Unc, Oxnix, and AuntI on the couch in the new house. Before I get too far I need to introduce Oxnix. I did not make up the name. Unc did. I never knew the meaning of the term, as he used it, though I'm sure it was used in a less than glamorous way. Oxnix is also my father, and the only one of the three to get away from the place and make a life for himself.

Anyway, this couch is long gone, but its replacement was only a few years away, and still "graces" the room in its tacky 1950s way. The recent maroon blanket covering makes this seat much more tolerable, and keeps the years of dust tucked away in the nooks and crannies that refused to leave via the services of the vacuum. This location is the only place in the room that works well for a couch, due to the big heater out of sight on the left hand side of this view. The wood paneling was probably less tobacco stained back then too, making it a much cheerier red, rather than a dull yellow maroon.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Photo--AuntI In the Early 1970s

AuntI is shown here thoroughly enjoying her culinary prowess. Christmas time is at hand, with the decorations hanging in the window and a candy thermometer in the sauce pan.

These cabinets are the same ones installed in the house when it was built, and the very same ones recently scrubbed of years of grime and cigarette smoke by the stunning Mrs. Dude. The cabinets above the fridge were raised years ago, to enable modern machines to fit the spot, though now they are nearly out of reach.

AuntI claims she still has the candy thermometer, and I think I recognize the pan from the group that got tossed out due to wear last week.


Being sick sucks. But being sick during a move? So much worse.

I know we have about six boxes of Kleenex... somewhere. I feel bad using AuntI's supply -- we're the ones with the means to buy more, if we could just get to town.

It took two days to find the cold meds. They were in a box in the kitchen with the tea and coffee, instead of in the basement with the multivitamins and colloidal silver machine. Fortunately, I now know I can make some silver water... if I could only find an empty jar, which I think are all in town at the storage unit.

Now, where to find the little garbage can for my bedside so I can throw away all this Kleenex?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

We just wanted to wish you happy Holy-days. Enjoy your family time and good food and wrapping-paper disasters.

Think of us. We'll be sitting here with our Kleenex boxes and storage boxes and unpacked boxes with bows of packing tape. And mac'n'cheese and ramen. And disasters around every corner.

And family time, 'cause really, that's what we remember most about all these traditions, isn't it? And even though our family doesn't believe Jesus was born this time of year, it's a good opportunity to remember His birth -- and that without Him, none of the rest of this matters!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Photo-- Unc In 1952

Not much has changed in this photo, taken way back in 1952, if you discount the pigs having been eaten and Unc gone on to his Great Reward. No really, not much has changed. The road Unc is standing on is still there, headed out to the northern end of the property. The rock retaining wall is still there (and the home for numerous snakes). The fences are kind-of still there. The wagons are both still there. There is a big barn behind the photographer, which is still there today, though back when the photo was taken it was probably still very sturdy and upright. This area is still full of garbage and debris, having been left there over the last few decades. Not yet purchased, though visible in this same scene today, is a long dormant truck purchased by the Hillbilly, Unc's father. Said truck was parked in the right hand side of this view about 1992 when the Hillbilly could no longer work outside, and it has sat there ever since.

What to Do?

Dude snuck out of the Ranch. Just barely. We had accumulated two more inches of fine powder on top of the four inches left lying around from the last storm. The wind was howling through the valley. Even Lucky and Dodge were hiding from the elements.

The decision went something like this:
"If I get stuck in the gauntlet, I'll just call you to bring the backhoe."
"At 3am? I guess." Pause. "What if we go plow it now before it gets dark?" Thoughts of an unenclosed big-toy with no headlights in the dead of night... and limited cell service.
"But we don't know what it's going to do between now and then. It could be all drifted over again by then."
"Every year, there's about three to five days we're snowed-in." (This was AuntI's contribution to the conversation. Historical, but lacking in understanding when it comes to Dude's employment.)
"I don't work, people don't get their product, I don't get paid." Not to mention, his boss works in the next town over, where it's generally warmer and less snowy this time of year.
"What's the weather forecast?" Pause. "No internet, I know."

We found a spot that offered a smidgeon of reception, but the web-weather wasn't specific enough to help us. I suggested he stay with someone closer to work, or more specifically, outside the gauntlet. Multiple names were mentioned, and ultimately he called on a former neighbor with a big, empty house less than a mile from his base of operations.

It was looking like an overestimation of the danger, until his return home. The roads were easy for 28 minutes of the trip -- and then he entered the gauntlet. Two miles of fenceline on both sides of a narrow gravel road, now filled in with abominable-sized drifts on top of the ice. At the end of this treacherous tunnel is a sharp turn over a cattle guard. If you miss it, you hit either of two basalt outcroppings, or a series of gates held up by piles of rock in a cocoon of ancient barbed wire -- we know from experience. The little car still has the battle-scars.

Little Car is now parked safely in the skating rink... I'm sorry, I meant the driveway... but with a belly full of snow. Dude is exhausted, but glad to be secure at home.

This is that part of isolation I don't relish. Scary drives and lack of connectivity aren't my cup of ... snow?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Held Hostage

We knew it would happen, but it still came on us rather suddenly.

We've been snowed in.

It's not the ten-feet-deep, tunnel-out-from-the-front-door kind of snowed in. That would imply warm fires, warmer sweaters, snowmobiles and sled dogs. No boss would ever question that kind of absence.

Instead, it's six inches of ice on the mile of hills and dales out of this place, covered with drifty stuff that blocks the remaining two miles to the main (but often plowed late in the game) road to anywhere off this Ranch.

Our vehicles are all 20+ years old, tired, and aren't yet prepped for this kind of thing. Apparently, all-season tires aren't exactly appropriate for all seasons in the sticks. The little car is sporting studs now, after two major snowstorms, but it's still... well... little. The drifts out here fill the engine compartment. Little Truckie (yes, that a technical term) had bald tires, and no running lights or blinkers. The cop we used to live near gave us a bye on getting them fixed because we were moving. Time to take care of that. The big car has decent tires, but has about as much gumption as an old man without Ben Gay. And there's no radio, so no one wants to drive it anyway.

The only vehicle that gets us out of here is the backhoe. We've now plowed parts of this three-mile gauntlet three times, and Dude is hoping we can get a deduction in the property taxes. The county doesn't like that option, so the plow shows up within a couple hours of our call, but there's only so many times I can use the "shut-in living here" line before they send a social worker out.

But any agent would have to wait for the plow to come first.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Of Mice and Meow

Our house cats left us a furry little present in the kitchen this morning. Munchkin found it under her foot; thankfully, she was wearing shoes.

We don't know which of our little dears caught him, but whoever it was, the sport was more important than the eating. The barn cats appreciated the treat... well, at least one of them did.

This is a delightful turn of events. There is plenty of evidence of rodent infestation at some point in the past. Unc bought mousetraps like they were Twinkies -- flying off the shelves and never to be made again -- and they sit empty in every corner of the house. I even found two tiny skeletons when I shop-vac'd-out the years of grime and cobwebs and concrete dust in the canning room. But in four years of remodeling, I've never actually seen one.

Maybe he just committed suicide out of inevitability. Four indoor felines, eight outdoor felines -- he had nowhere to go. No more food stores left out for his sustenance. Might as well end it all now.

The cats aren't talking. When I woke up, there was one cat in each window and two at my feet. They all looked at me with sleepy eyes, like they'd been basking in sun-spots for hours.

But it doesn't really matter. I just wish I could teach them to take out the trash when they're done playing with it.

One little fat terrorist down...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Roughing It

Wasn't today supposed to be the end of the world? I didn't notice. Nothing has changed.

We're still living in a hoarder's situation, which means we have everything we need (except Internet) -- despite the fact that we can't find it. Does that make us well-prepared? Self-sufficient, or self-frustrating?

We at least have enough barnwood to keep ourselves warm... but no fireplace. Plenty of canned grape juice. And an old outhouse.

Ah, living the Homestead Dream.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Testing the Waters

I remember all the ecological coloring books I had as a child, picked up from school or the fair or some community event. I didn't understand it then, but I get the need for 5-minute showers now.

It's one of the most important factors in our day. For years, AuntI and Unc complained that they couldn't do a load of laundry and wash dishes on the same day, especially during the summer when the local landbaron turned on his well-irrigation. We're still testing all those parameters. "Yesterday, we managed three showers, one load of laundry and one load of dishes. Today, we're increasing that to two loads of laundry. Ready? Break!" Team B launches into Operation Run-the-Well-Dry.

Any moment, I expect to see Lassie come bounding over the hill, barking furiously. "It's okay, girl. I know Timmy's in the well, but it's dry, so it's okay."

Not unheard of, to be honest. Homesteader hand-dug all these wells, most averaging about ten feet deep. When Dude was a child, his parents crawled down in one to dig it out a bit more. I look at that concrete box outside my bedroom window and almost wish for a dry year, just so I could see it from beneath the ground. It's not a domestic well, so ours higher on the hill could still keep our house functioning while I'm spelunking in the animals' water supply, right?

Others around the property are in various states of disrepair. One has a windmill collapsing into it, another an entire building falling into it. It may be Lassie herself -- or Little Dog or Behemoth -- getting stuck in the well if we don't fix them. Worse yet, one of the cows on the North 40. That would be a happy project. (Please read sarcasm there.)

For now, I'm dreaming up grey-water systems (thanks to the despised Green Team in Architecture School) and learning about windmills and solar panels. Xeriscape has become my new favorite word. And cool, clear water is sweeter than ever before.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Abominable Snow

We have over 6 inches of snow on the ground. I hate snow -- it makes me cold.

 I've finally found all my gloves and hats and scarves and snow boots and the winter coat. I have no place to put them, but I know where they are.

It's not so easy outside. There are lots of hills and dales on and into the Ranch, and this creates great sledding hills, which are not exactly good driving hills. Or parking places, for that matter.

This morning, just to get out for our internet fix, we got the little car stuck, plowed it out with the backhoe, got it stuck again, plowed a turn-around, drove it to a different location (because we still don't know where to park it) and got it stuck yet again, plowed a mile out to the nearest shared road, jockeyed all the vehicles and plowed around them, parked some vehicles, and finally took the bigger car into town. Over an hour just getting out of the driveway.

And this is the third time we've plowed out the driveway in four days. I think the county road department has forgotten us. The nearest plowed road is three miles away.

We also thought the shetland pony was lost. Picture Marty from Madagascar, without the stripes -- we're actually thinking of getting him a rainbow wig, because he matches the snow at great distances. Now that he's found, maybe we can use him to get to town.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Place for AuntI

Today we finished updating AuntI's room. Not remodeling it, but actually cleaning it for the first time in 60-some years.


Under all the dust and stashed stuff, we found a pinkish laminate, dirty pink walls (far pinker under the pictures that have been in the same location for decades), purple trim, a light cover with little girls on swingsets, and dainty white curtains with little blue flowers (they looked brown yesterday). Her father built this space for his only child when the house was built, and her mother dressed it up for her precious little girl. It never changed.

When we carried the bed frame out yesterday, she said it was the first time it had been taken apart since she was a child. I don't move furniture often, but I do need change a little more regularly than that.

We took out one broken down dresser, leaving two behind, plus two little chests of drawers and our "old" entertainment center now filled with her books and trinkets. Her TV is set up, complete with a "Joey" off our Dish Hopper system; I watched old reruns of NCIS on it all day.

Once we finish up putting away all the laundry and find a space for all the blankets and afghans, there will be room for her recliner, and it should feel nice and homey. I hope. She's going to need a place to get away from us and all our noise, and we're going to need our living room after 10:30pm once in a while. This may be the thing that makes combining homes actually work.

Monday, December 10, 2012


The Homesteader claimed this parcel (one of five out here) in the 1890s. He lived in a small cave in the cliff face for a time, building a simple lean-to in front to increase the floor space. From that vantage point, he could see this entire valley -- and from what we've experienced, hear everything that happened in it. During the summer, he "lived" in a hammock under the ancient willows. As time went on, he built cellars for food storage and smaller buildings for living. He hand-dug several of our wells.

In the early 1920s, he sold it to Dude's great-grandfather. In fact, the two families swapped properties on opposite sides of the state, as the story goes; we hold paperwork that seems to corroborate the legend.

Dude's grandfather -- Hillbilly -- was in his late teens when they arrived here on the scabland. His great-grandparents and an aunt lived in the tiny frontier-style cabin, parents upstairs until Great-Grandfather's health failed, and daughter in the addition next to the summer kitchen. The boys slept in another building called the Bunkhouse, across the driveway. Two outhouses still stand where they were founded, one near the cave, and one behind "Grandma's House," as it is known.

Great-Grandfather, originally a blacksmith for a mining/railroad company in the backwoods back East, set up a blacksmith shop, making himself all the nails and latches and hinges that have held this place together ever since. He also started a dairy, shipping cream (stored in the cold cellars) on the local branchline railroad into the big city a few hours away. Several other parcels were picked up surrounding the homestead, totaling about four sections of land.

Eventually, the siblings all moved away to start their own operations, and the land was left to Hillbilly, who then started growing dryland rye in the flats up north on the property. The county constantly hounded him for his "noxious weeds," but the rye still grows well out here. The dairy continued until World War II.

In 1951, Hillbilly built the house we now live in. Pictures show a huge construction operation in the midst of a nice ranch, a large crane-like machine in what became the front yard. I call it Duct-Tape and Baling Wire (or Dude's reference to "a lick and a prayer"), but I'm sure at the time, it was solid and well-built. A 3-bedroom home atop a concrete daylight basement, it was just right for Dude's grandparents, AuntI, and her two brothers -- Dude's Dad (Oxnix) and Unc, the one who left us this treasure of a fixer-upper.

Through a series of unfortunate events, Unc ended up with the place (but AuntI still living here too) and then left it to us when he passed away four years ago.  As we came onto the scene, it was piled with garbage he couldn't handle during his illness, falling apart at the seams and needing much love and attention. Dude stretches his arms wide, and says, "There's this much to do. And after we've worked hard all day, there's still this much to do." The arms don't move.

In a nutshell, that's the history of The Ranch. Old, dilapidated, ugly and unkempt to the rest of the world, but ours for the small price of a lifetime of work. It might be worth it after all.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Song That May Never End

On the first day of Hannukah, my true love said to me, "Which box is the Menorah in?"

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love said to me, "Oh, I thought we threw out the plastic tree."

On the 42nd day of Kwanzaa, my true love said to me, "We can't seat the family at the table. It's still stacked on the red chair."

On the 58th day of New Year's, my true love said to me, "I don't know. The party supplies were packed six months ago."

On the 114th day of Valentine's, my true love said to me, "No, those are still packed too."

On the 177th day of St. Patrick's, my true love said to me, "Another day of unpacking? I need a beer."

On the 183rd day of Easter, my true love said to me, "You found eggs?! They were supposed to be unpacked last winter!"

On the 231st day of Memorial Day, my true love said to me, "I remember seeing that box somewhere...."

On the 244th day of Independence Day, my true love said to me, "You know, I'm about to drop some fireworks on all this cardboard."

On the 308th day of Labor Day, my true love said to me, "Can we avoid unpacking for just one day this year?"

On the 366th day of Halloween, my true love said to me, "Who covered those boxes in cobwebs?"

On the 374th day of Thanksgiving, my true love said to me, "I'll be thankful when we're finally moved in."

Friday, December 7, 2012

Daring the Godfather

The llamas are fired.

Daring the Coyote walked right into the pen in front of them, and they did nothing. He looked me in the eye and walked directly toward them in defiance. While I was grabbing the gun and opening the window, the llamas apparently bowed low and kissed his ring.

At least now I know how the Coyote Mafia is gaining entrance to Bird Heaven. We’re quickly closing in on their secret hideout, and will have them taken down in no time.

Fortunately, we moved the ducks back to the Safehouse a few days ago. Daring didn’t seem too happy about that. When I caught sight of him, he seemed to be confused to be in Bird Heaven, but his prey two fencelines away. Big Red the Rooster seemed to taunt him, flaunting the fact that he was outside the Safehouse but in no danger. Lucki and Dodge (as in “-the Bullet”) were happily swimming in the water trough, oblivious Daring was intent on eating them for a late breakfast. Who knows where Little Dog and Behemoth were – probably snoozing after a long night of warning the Mafia to stay away.

It’s time to end Mafia control of the ranch. Are you ready to join the posse?

Do you want four lazy llamas? For free.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Negotiating for Territory

Dude’s AuntI lives with us. She’s lived here since she was born, never married, has nowhere else to go. We’d never dream of asking her to leave. But we have asked her to relinquish territory.
In the past, it was a War of the Roses situation between her and her brother. The standoff resulted in a serious hoarders situation. Neither was allowed to touch anything of the other, and pretty soon it escalated ‘til no one claimed anything and both let the spiders and mice rule the roost.

Coming in as Unc’s heirs, we tried to be considerate and work around her space. She sits queen over her domain, entrenched in her recliner 24/7, watching every move we make, sometimes entertained, sometimes annoyed at this interruption to her way of life. I try to involve her in our paint choices, the remodeling decisions, the effort to move her back into her bedroom so we can use the family room for its proper purpose. We’re never quite sure how it’s being taken.

Yesterday, we began the negotiations over the kitchen. It’s a small space that has seen much better days. Far smaller than our old kitchen, we don’t know how we’re going to get all our stuff in there, let alone hers – and we won’t even discuss the items from the two previous generations. The approach is to have three stages – use frequently, use sometimes, use rarely or not at all. The Sometimes group will go downstairs to the canning room. The Rarely group will go to the storage unit in town, for now. The Frequent group will need to be squeezed into the sardine can my personal chef will now occupy.

So the negotiations sound something like this:
“How often do you use this?”
“So here in the basement, or out to storage?”
“Storage, I guess. It was Grandmother’s.”
“Does it even work?”
“It did when we put it in there.” Thirty years ago, or more.
Dude plugs it in and finds it does nothing, and so dumps it on the metal pile waiting outside for higher scrap prices. Over and over and over.

I overheard the discussion over dishware yesterday. “Do you want to keep your stuff separate, or we just going to combine everything?”
“Doesn’t matter to me.”
Which isn’t entirely true. AuntI can’t get up and down the stairs well, so her things either need to merge with ours, or hers must take precedence for space. That will just drive us nuts. We may be younger, but it’s hard to cook a gourmet meal when all your ingredients for creativity are hidden in a dark hole in the basement.

So, apparently, half our dishes will stay in storage (they’re too big for the tiny 1950s metal cupboards anyway) and the chef stuff will go on higher shelves that are out of her reach, but accessible to Dude. Munchkin and I will just have to use the step-ladder when he’s away, which I’m hoping won’t be often.

This is definitely not my territory. At least, it isn’t until we get to remodeling it.

Today’s chore is finding a place for the chef knives. Won’t that be fun? “I’ll give you more drawer space if I can have the wall above the stove.” I’m going to need a floor plan and a color-code system to make sense of it all.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wired for Progress

I have to send a huge shout-out to our new Dish tech, Matt. He endured our Hoarders situation for three hours, diligently installing wires and dishes and adapters to old TVs. He dug through a deposit of old glass under the yard to put up a pole for the dish. He stood in a tight corner of the library, surrounded by boxes and books and cats, to drill holes in the ceiling. He pulled wires through the holes we cut in the walls, dodging the wires we were cutting from the old heaters just moments before we were sure the breakers were off. He was patient when we couldn't find the step-ladder or the crowbar, and would have had the job done faster had we had internet or cell service or any semblance of modern life -- like a sink not attached to the washer or exterior plumbing. At least now we have HD TV and local news.... and Sirius music channels, and Leverage, and Rizzoli and Isles, and Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan... These things are essential for feeling normal right now.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Get the Flock Out of Here!

We had a flock of birds -- a dozen geese, 25 ducks, about as many chickens. Notice the term is past-tense, though. We have a coyote... maybe a whole pack, but one brave one anyway. We've named him Daring. Everything that lives here must have a name, and he doesn't seem to have any intentions of going away.

The moniker is, of course, descriptive. In the morning, Daring saunters casually past the house, barely ten feet from the front door. Past the barn cats on the AC unit, who are far too familiar with his passing to worry he might kill them. Past Little Dog snoozing on the ancient stuffed chair we dumped in the yard when we cleared the living room. Past the four lazy llamas who are supposed to be guarding said birds, and right up to his dream feast.

We've seen him make this walk once. We know he's made it far more often, as evidenced by his cavalier disregard for our presence, the yelling and rock-throwing that ensues, and the armed hunt that follows each sighting.

He's just smartened up. Now he waits for the car to leave, the lights to turn off, the llamas to begin their nightly stand-off with the horses.

Despite the disrespect, Daring's a doomed dog. We are conscripting a small militia to take him out. Let me know if you'd like to volunteer; we'll contact you with marching orders shortly.

Three Two ducks and eight chickens are counting on you.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Third-World Connectivity

We've been spoiled for the last decade. Fiber-optic internet... lightning speeds, virtually no load times, always on. It's been Internet Bliss.

In comparison, we've moved into the virtual dark ages. My smartphone picks up a momentary signal if I stand on the toolbox of the pickup, or if I drive to that three-foot sweet spot on the gravel road two miles away. And that's only if I jockey the car back and forth until I see one bar's worth of signal. Even basic cell phone calls have to be made with the phone against the glass on the front door.

Our cell carrier has a new tower up, but not quite on-line yet. We're hoping it will boost our signal and make one of those Internet thumb-drive things an option for us. But the company won't tell us when they're powering up; in fact, the only reason we know it's their tower is because a nosy neighbor was discussing it at the Coffee Shop.

So for now, we're making daily trips into MiniCity: to the Coffee Shop in the morning, or the Burger Joint at night, or the Library -- which isn't open every day, but has multiple computers. This passing the laptop thing is rather time-consuming.

I guess the trade-off is that we're getting to know MiniCity and it's people, albeit through overheard gossip.

Pass the ketchup and the computer, please.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Our Addiction to Cardboard

This is like an episode of Hoarders. Boxes everywhere, paths winding through rooms, living out of a suitcase. Nothing is labeled properly, either, so finding anything is like an exercise in both frustration and Christmas. “Oh, look what I found!” and “What day did you bring that up and where did you put the items from that trip?”

We need to take the big dog on a perimeter walk, but he’s now terrified of something, so we need the leash to pull him with us. No one knows where the leashes are, because no one thought we’d need one now. But we might know where the lead ropes are…

Our closets still aren’t done (picture pink insulation loosely stapled to studs, but no cedar over them yet), so the old dressers are in places not meant for dressers and boxes of clothing are stashed where other storage was intended. 

It’s like sorting through puzzle pieces on a house-sized table. Make that two houses, because the basement is just as bad, if not worse.

The scrapbooking stuff is upstairs instead of down, the cookbooks are downstairs instead of up, the dining room table is on top of an easy chair, and the computer is everywhere. Wishing I could do a nose-twitch and have it all move itself.

We spent an hour setting up the giant TV and accompanying gadgets just so we could listen to a radio show. There were pieces all over the place.

Just moved another box – found the backhoe.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Transition


The place where my heart is? Not yet. Hearthfires and the family table? Can’t even find the table at the moment. A place of memories and comfort and shelter? Maybe in time.

Last night, we said goodbye to the home we’ve shared for eleven years and moved to the place we’ll live out the rest of our lives. Very different these two places: one suburban country, rented mobile home with a little chunk of land, the other a very rural stick-built on our own huge ranch in the middle of sagebrush and rattlesnakes. Reminds me of the term I used to describe the relatively more-urban location my parents moved me to when I was about the same age as Munchkin is now.

Munchkin wasn’t quite two years old when we moved into that suburban home. Now a teenager, she’s devastated to leave. All of her memories are tied to that one house. I found a note yesterday that she left on her closet shelf for the new owners, telling them of the paint scheme and curtains dreamed up by her and her grandmother and asking them to take care of the home she’s loved so much. Makes me cry even now.

I understand how she feels. I was fourteen when my parents moved us from Western Washington to Eastern. I thought my life had ended. Back then, pen and paper and a few phone calls were all I had left of friendships built over the ten years I had lived there, my entire memory bank at the time. But I met my husband here, and eventually found the desert to be my home. Munchkin has internet and email and blogs and a cell phone… and soon a car; hopefully, she’ll find this to be her home quickly too.

In the meantime, our memories of our old home will give us hope for new ones…
Birthday parties and holidays with friends and family…
The thousands of meals cooked in the kitchen, and hundreds of popsicles stolen from the freezer…
The mouse caught in the bathroom ceiling fan…
Sleeping in the sunspot on the living room carpet…
Huddling over the floor vents in winter, with blankets over our heads to hold in the warmth…
Balloons flying over the same vents, seemingly by magic…
The night the paper towels and then the carpet caught on fire, and I hosed down my mother-in-law with the kitchen sprayer in an attempt to put it out (in a room full of startled firemen, no less)…
Rebuilding the grape arbor, and then years later, finding solace there during recovery from surgery…
Canning grapes and pears and green beans and beets and apple cider and jams and tomatoes and everything else we could get our hands on…
Digging raised beds for a garden by hand…
Building straw-bale chicken and dog houses after the garage burnt down…
Board games and Wii games and computer games and puzzles, dancing to Newboys and crying to Natalie Grant, Doctor Who and Leverage and Veggie Tales and Winnie the Pooh…
Political signs on the fence and house…
Ducks and geese in the hand-dug pond, chickens and turkeys and guineas, chicks and goslings and ducklings in the spring and summer…
The cats: Scruffy, Tom, Jerry, Spike, Tootles and Twittles, Pepe, Samantha…
The dogs: Dita, Angel, Nibbles, Atticus, Tyke, Ralph…
Spirit the pony in the pasture and Penny the filly in the yard…
Guppies, plecos, apple snails, Vido the angelfish, and Isosceles the arrow crab…
Swimming pools and sprinklers with giggly girls in bright swimsuits…
The April Fool’s Day sign Munchkin hung from the beam in the dining room…
Curling up on the couch with hot tea and a good book…
Munchkin chasing the cats around the house, sliding on the linoleum and throwing catnip toys…
Snow forts in the yard, and dreams of Calvin and Hobbes snow monsters…
Taking pictures of noctilucent clouds on the side of the road in my jammies…
Bike rides and long walks, catching loose horses, and avoiding coyotes and cougars…
Neighborhood barbecues and fighting the city to keep our neighborhood in the county…
Carpet in the dining room, but linoleum in the bedrooms…
Seeing the town light display from our bedrooms…
The year we faced black widows, a scorpion and a wasp invasion all inside the house, then bug-bombing but not quite enough to kill all the spiders…
Grandma’s big daffodil bulbs in the front yard, then a summer of flax blooms that were fresh every morning but wilted after noon...
Dude calling the neighbor’s name to get his donkey to bray, and making any kind of loud noise to get our turkey to gobble…
Zinnias, tulips, blue fescue, dianthus, lilacs, catnip, rose hips, walnuts, pears, plums, peaches, apples, cherries, elderberries…
The sound of pinecones opening at the back door…
The inattentive drivers around our corner who took out telephone poles, our mailbox and our elderberries…
The trains thundering by, and Dude thundering through the front door to see what was on point…
The herb garden I loved, but has since been decimated by the morning glory…
Wind storms and lightning storms, and Munchkin huddled under the pool table hiding from the thunder, and then dancing in the mud-lakes in the driveway afterward…
All the notes and pictures and creations Munchkin hung on our wall above our bed over the years, still there when we packed the house…
Painting Munchkin’s bedroom and the dining room with my mother, hoping to get rid of the wallboard pattern that sticks in my dreams…
My dad building me new, indestructible pantry shelves, while little Munchkin “helped”…
Sitting with my tweenager discussing growing up…
Pillow fights and ball runs and dart-gun wars and hide-and-seek…
Trains passing in the night with stuck horns and flat wheels…
Hiking Beezley Hill and another two hours’ worth of landscape between there and home…
My parents’ 25th wedding anniversary, hiding the cars across the tracks and turning the living room into a theater…
The irony of holding architecture degrees but living in a mobile home…
Making thousands upon thousands of dog biscuits before and after the oven died…
Prepping for catering events and cleaning up afterward…
The other two times we moved out…
The changing quote, if we wanted to buy the place…
Taking out part of the lawn to put in wildflowers, and taking out rosehips to put in a lawn…
The year the planted sunflowers naturalized – all over the property…
Pinochle parties, while the kids watched movies and played games…
Grammy’s visits during hunting season…
Munchkin doing Olympic gymnastics onto our old dumpster-salvaged wooden furniture…
Fingerpainting flowerpots and wooden boxes…

All these and more. So much more. Things I’ll remember in the middle of the night or the middle of a conversation. Triggered by scents and sounds and emotions and music.

And soon, here, we’ll have more memories. Not little-girl things like the last house, but young lady things. Not newly-married things, but middle-aged, starting-to-grey things. Not keeping a house, but making a home.

Our home.