Friday, July 8, 2011

The Past Few Weeks

Well, here we are!
We have been in the process of packing, moving and set-up for about 5 weeks. It makes me never want to move again!
I think people probably wonder what's taking us so long, and I realized-in the last 7 years, I've had from one to three kitchens-functioning kitchens-the most being when I was in Oregon and Alder was in GA, plus the "camp kitchen" for our rock-star intern, Gina.
Plus we had several "spaces" worth of furniture, beds, sheets, blankets, pillows, tools, etc. We still have some of Alder's dad's stuff too. I am also a hoarder of fabric, yarn, towels, clothes, herbs and food.
I guess it's been easy not to notice what it adds up to but now that it's all in one place, uh, we have a LOT of STUFF!! Thankfully we now have 5 outbuildings, plus a giant metal "barn" and the house (~1200 sq. ft.) to put all of it into!

I guess the first inkling
of how much we have was the two U-haul TRUCKS plus the last little open trailer that we hauled all of it to Cali with. Yes, TWO trucks-one 20' long, and one 26' long.
Yes, they were full. (See photo left). If you ever want help packing, I'm your woman. The gypsy in me has learned quite well how to cram things in every little nook. My dad once crowned me the "Queen of putting 10 lbs. of $#!t in a 5 lb. bag." :)
Since I'm the one with all the U-haul experience, I am the one that opted to drive, DOWN the Siskiyous to Red Bluff.
A 5 hour drive going about 45 miles an hour and not caring what other drivers thought of me. Stressful to say the least. So now, I've discovered two things for sure: 1. I could totally be a truck driver; 2. If I did that a lot, I would die of a stress-related heart attack!
The second truck had me ready to sign papers for Alder that I would never move again. Really. I mean, 29 moves in 29 years (strangely that's with living in one place for 9 years) is enough!! And since I'm about to turn 50 i figure the 2nd half of my life should be very different. Stationery. So hopefully, no more moving! (Never say never though, right? Maybe now I can jus travel :)

On the second day that we began to unload the 2nd truck, around noon, we were met with a very frightening sight-SMOKE behind the next rise to the north-east of our place.
Total fear struck, especially since I had been reading daily updates on Kiva Rose's home and impending fire in N.M.
( Having grown up in this region, that is one of the things I still remember being keenly aware of. It pays to be well informed about who's burning what when, and is it wild or is it farmers.
Problem was we had NO phone and NO internet, NO cell service and only minimal mobile wireless, which would not work. I checked the wind, and strangely, the wind was FROM the north-east, which was right-freaking toward us!
I had the idea that if we needed to leave because our home was going to burn, having 3/4 of my stuff in a truck was a good time-and I backed up the truck so that it could quickly exit the area if needed. I grabbed all important stuff (purse, computers, etc) and piled it by the door.
We waited and watched, and thankfully, the fire died out.
The next day, after the phone guy left, we noticed smoke from the same direction, and knowing that's not likely in a wild-fire, maybe in a heavily forested area or a few hours later, but not 24 hrs...I figured it must be someone burning something, although I'm surprised it would be allowed.
I found the number for CalFire (I love you already guys!) and check about "Farmer burn days". Sure enough, on windless days, farmers are allowed to burn detritus. Great. Somehow I had gotten the idea that farmers had quit doing that in the 20 years I'd been absent from Cali, but now I think it's maybe only the rice-paddies they can't burn. Dunno, but it still scares the bejesus out of me when anyone burns anything in this state.
We took a little ride later that 2nd afternoon and found that indeed, one property over, behind our land, there is a rancher (not farmers, here-they raise cows) who likes to burn off his land to keep it clean, sterile and free of anything but grass. OOOOH, I'll hold my tongue about ranching practices. We had to sign a form when we bought this place saying that Tehama County is known ranching area and we are not allowed to SUE anyone for their practices that may cause us inconvenience, nuisance or worse...(Can we say cows in the creek?). Sigh.
But anyway, I was glad we didn't have to start our life here by running from fire, BUT, between reading about Kiva Rose's family preparing for the worst, and getting settled into this place-seeing all the over-grown and un-pruned flammable stuff, we are now WELL aware of the fire proof practices, and, as UGLY as it may be (nothing but bark mulch surrounding your house and the less wood the better) it's a necessary evil that we will have to learn to live with. Goodbye giant rosemary right outside my door!
I have been drilling Alder in the fact that fire is NEVER a casual thing here-unlike Georgia where they set the entire woods on fire and leave, knowing it's not going to jump or engulf anything-and in training his eyes, nose and brain to be constantly sniffing, looking around for smoke.

We spent A LOT of the first several days cleaning. The former owners had not lived here in at least 6 months and this place was NASTY with mouse poo. We cleaned and painted one bedroom so we could sort of live in that, deep cleaned the bathrooms, laundry room, and then cleaned the kitchen, painted the pantry, and I even put down shelf paper. That day ended with a headache, from the bleach water and PVC smells of the shelf paper, but it was pretty necessary given the mildewy old particleboard under the cabinets. Newspaper would have been cool, but mice would make nests out of it.
11 mice later (that was the laundry shed and kitchen) and it's smelling less like a big mouse maze and more like a house!
And lest the permies think I've lost my mind using bleach; Two words. Hanta virus. Carried by mice it can be very deadly, so that will probably be the ONLY time I use bleach on my home, but we thought it pretty necessary given the quantity of mice.
Speaking of mice, we have yet to tackle the barn, which must be a veritable rodent zoo, since the owner left a giant bag of organic flax seed (for chickens) in the barn, and the mice seemed very happy with it, judging by the quantity of poo in the barn.

Between obsessive all day cleaning bouts, I started doing the mountains of laundry that pile up when you move, but it took me a while to
figure out the clothesline pully.
At first I thought it was kind of dumb and only worked one way, but that would be ME that was dumb. It actually works two ways, and basically, if you put out one load, then as you put out the 2nd load on the other line you can bring in the first load, and YES, most days, you can dry a load of laundry on the line in about 45 minutes, which in Georgia was impossible-sometimes it would take DAYS there. So I am now extremely happy with my cool little clothes line and it's neat little wheel (see upper right of photo.)
Someone had built a little pier and table right at the point where you stand to do laundry, but it's pretty rotten and needs rebuilding. I think it's a cool perk that you can put out laundry without taking a step. Lazy woman's eco-friendly clothes dryer!
It actually uses some otherwise pretty useless space (over the gully) which seems like a good permaculture idea. I am sure the day will come when something falls off the line and down into the gully, but it is accessible.

It's going to take a lot of time, and a lot of emergency maintenance and site set up before this place starts looking like permies live here. Vegetables are the furthest thing from our minds, although there's artichokes, asparagus, dandelions and purslane growing around already.
So far besides cleaning, and unpacking, we (mostly Alder) have fixed the kitchen faucet (not once, but twice-long story), put in a new vent fan over the stove (because I cook a lot), gotten the swamp cooler working (they work GREAT in a dry climate!), fixed a snafu with the well that caused no pressure for a while, lined the insulated but not covered walls of the laundry room with plastic (for now, until we have time to cobb it or ?), buried at least 2 dozen mice (the cats are finally doing some WORK!) We're also working on fire-suppression by getting rid of all the waist-high star thistles. Apparently the last people had a LOT of chickens, and they ate everything except that, and fertilized it, so it's growing like mad! Alder has gone out every morning with his scythe and, minus a little blood from his thumb (scythe needs to be very sharp) it's starting to look clearer-and safer!

The other thing that has become a not-so-fun daily chore, is de-burring the dog. Poor Lakshmi, this may be the worst place for her and her little hairy black dog self!
The cats don't seem to get burrs so much, either because their fur is slicker or they don't go in the tall weeds like the dog, but the dog has been COVERED in them-the little tiny round burrs as well as the long V shaped foxtails, which can cause havoc, pain and large vet bills if dog owners don't stay on top of them.
They are bad about getting between paws, in ears and nostrils and even up the dog's rear. Their V shape means that they will only "work" themselves ONE WAY, which is inward.
I already had to pull one long foxtail out of Lakshmi's leg-that had gone in about 1 inch. YAK!!
Maybe she just thinks she's getting a massage every night at sundown, but being next to a hairy hot dog on a warm evening up close picking burrs is not my idea of fun. We are seriously thinking about keeping her penned up some or most of the day so she doesn't have to be a canine pin-cushion. I'm guessing that next year, when we are HERE, we can keep those weeds down and they won't go to seed so they hopefully won't produce the incredible volume of burrs they did this year.
Ah, yes, I think I can safely say now that I romanticized my childhood, and, while I remember grass fires and spiders, I DO NOT remember the quantity of spiders, mosquitos (we are near a seasonal creek), mice and burrs that I am now faced with. So chiggers, mold and fire ants in GA have been replaced by their Cali. counterparts! Ah, life on a farm IS a bit the same where ever I go!

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