Thursday, July 28, 2011

Crossed peas

The peas are growing like crazy. Beautiful pea pods are dangling from them, tantalizing us with their potential goodness. Grab a snow pea (which I didn't think I'd planted), take a bite and.....YUCK! The snow peas must have crossed with the shell peas. The result is something that looks like a snow pea with all the flavor of a shell pea pod. And anyone who has inadvertently eaten a shell pea pod knows they have no flavor and are quite stringy. Even the peas inside the snow pea pods are flavorless. Guess I'll be pulling them out and feeding them to the goats, who seem to love them by the way. At least the sugar snap peas seem to have retained their flavor.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A break from the Bummer Summer

We took a couple days and went to Orcas Island. Generally the sun shines through the trees and glistens off of the water in July. This year, the year of the Bummer Summer, is an exception to the rule. The clouds were spitting at us off and on, limiting our activities to things like tourist shopping and exploring the island via car. We came home late Sunday night and, of course on Monday morning, we awoke to sun.

Oh sun, how we've missed you and appreciate your return, no matter how brief. The rain made all of the weeds grow like crazy over the last week, so the return of the sun allowed me to get a handle on the worst of them. The peas, which are not weeds unless you don't like to eat peas, are growing like weeds and are now around 7 feet tall. I have never seen peas so tall.  And finally, mid-July, I am harvesting my first peas. They are at least 6 weeks behind.

As the sun shone down on me, I marveled at how quickly the brassicas are growing. Won't be long before I see broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, even if the sun only appears occasionally. The mystery squash are taking over large areas in the garden. Turns out that if you toss your squash and pumpkin seeds in the compost and it doesn't get up to the right temp during the decomposition process, you end up with viable seeds that will end up in the garden when you spread the compost. There is a pretty fierce competition going between them and the beans - they are both growing up the trellis just as fast as they can. Squash look amazing when grown on a trellis. I don't know why more people don't grow them that way.

The sun dried out all the grass and we finally got to mow.  We tag teamed it. I did half the lawn and P did the other half. But he also mowed around the roses which were being buried alive by grass and weeds. It was hours of work. But looks so good now and the roses can breathe! We have been putting the grass clippings around the tomatoes in the garden for weed suppression. It is working beautifully and I even lined part of the garden with it to keep weeds from snaking their way in.

We ended our day by roasting hot dogs over a fire with the kids. Then they put on a talent show for us on the swingset. And then we had root beer floats for dessert. The kids get to sleep in the tent since the weather is finally nice. P and I get to curl up in bed and watch a movie. What a great break from the Bummer Summer. I wish for more, but if there is none on the horizon, at least we made great use of a beautiful day.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bees and Beer

   There aren't many things I like more than beer, or fear more than bees. SO I ask myself why those two things rise to the top as my hobbies. Well, truthfully beer gets you drunk - legally! Especially if I brew it at home and drink it at home. The beauty is that I'm not going to go to jail for drunk driving or have the feds come down on me like it's a grow operation. As for bees, it is more a fear thing. While I often am literally paralyzed by my own fears, I also often face them head-on. When I was a child I was attacked by 'bees' and found out I am allergic to them. It's an irrational fear, much like my fear of dogs, so it is up to me to break it. The thrill of having them crawl on my bare skin without being harmed in any way is somewhere between skydiving and a religious experience.
   So last week it was time to brew beer. I was running low again. In a future post I'll outline the basics if anyone would like, but for now just know that if you are able to can jam you can brew a wicked beer. Anyway, I was brewing beer from an all grain recipe and there are a few points where you have to wait for a while as water is heating and such, so I decided to check on the bees. Great news! The colony that was trying to swarm incessantly has calmed down. The measures I took seem to have worked. For those Beeks out there I cut cells and added another deep, Checkerboarded, and finally removed the swarm cells into a nuc and made a false swarm. They fell for it. Phew! So now I have two colonies. If you would have asked me if I would have bees right after my first disastrous try I'm sure that I would have looked at you like you had blue hair.
   When I got the hives back together it was time to check on the beer. Yup, it was up to temp. Now was time for the sparge. As simple as rinsing sounds, it is always the hardest part for me. This day was the exception. Not only did I hit the expected efficiency, but I hit it dead on. That was a first! There are few joys in life as great as when you strive to learn something and after much effort you finally taste success.
   All that I wish for anyone is to know that feeling... How sweet it is. Like your own honey.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Suprising twist in the house hunt

I had given up on the house I offered on. Practially forgotten about it, even. Two days can do wonders at changing one's attitude. Ended up having a fantastic July 4 weekend. Sun was finally shining down on Western WA, elevating everyone's spirits. So you can imagine my suprise when I rolled out of bed at 9:30 on Tuesday morning (sun, fireworks and beer for the grownups make for late mornings) to find an email AND a voicemail from my real estate agent saying that the seller (aka Fannie Mae) countered MY offer, even though mine was 2nd. Turns out the agent was right, my large down payment made for a strong offer. Only catch was that I had to match the highest offer. It was a little high for my liking, but still within range. So after taking a few hours and discussing it with P, I decided to go for it!

At this point the inspection has been completed and it needs a new roof (no surprise there) and there are a few minor problems but nothing that can't be fixed or that are deal breakers. We are going to try and get the bank to pony up for a new roof since I am paying quite a bit over the list price. Next up, getting the financing in order - I won't bore you with the details of that.

It seems that I am actually buying a house! 3 years ago when I was contemplating a divorce and the time since that I have been a "single" parent (on paper at least) have been so full of change for me. I never thought that 3 years post divorce I would be in such a good place in my life. Even if something were to happen and this house fell through (again) I will still be greatful that I have come this far all on my own. And having the support of a GOOD man who supports me in every way makes a huge difference.

P is looking at maps and planning and plotting where to put things. It is hard not to catch his enthusiasm but I don't want to be completely crushed if it falls through. But I might as well join him in obsessing and planning, since that is the way I usually roll anyhow! I'm still hesistant to start boxing things up, although he has brought home some fantastic boxes from work.

Starting to get excited butterflies in my tummy!


Sunday, July 3, 2011

A glass half empty kind of day

Got an email from my real estate agent yesterday saying that a THIRD offer was submitted on the house I wanted. And that one of the offers was higher than mine. That was the last house out there that met my minimum criteria....3 bedrooms (although that is negotiable depending on the price of the property), animal property, in the right location. So now I wait until something else gets listed that is within my range and meets my criteria. Right now I just feel like giving up - that as much as I want to do this on my own, I am just too limited by my price range. I think "If only I made more money."  But I am not trying to live above my means in any way. And I don't NEED more money. I have everything I need. I can pay my rent, food, utilities, car payment and still have money left over. I am NOT a spender. But it just kills me that I have a hefty down payment and can't even use it. I am really about to just give up on my dream. But then again, in a day or so I will probably be feeling better - P says that blowing things up on the 4th will help, and he might be right. Right now though, I feel like Eeyore.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Roller coaster ride of home buying

I wasn't planning on blogging about this, but I need an outlet.

All by my lonesome, I was approved for a home loan. So I am trying to purchase a property that fits in with our lifestyle. Needs to have at least 3 bedrooms because of the kids. Must have the right kind of acreage for animals. Pretty much everything else is negotiable.

Not many houses in my price range in the area we want to live.

Went out with the real estate agent, whose driving was TERRIFYING. I think I was more anxious about that than dropping a large sum of money on a house. Even with her earpiece in she was swerving all over the road and missing turns. We vowed to do the driving next time.

On that first trip, we saw two houses that were stick built and a few manufactured homes. The bank will not fund manufactured homes so those were out. Out of the two stick built homes, one was scary. The carpet had been removed, exposing the animal urine stains on the plywood below. And there were at least 10 air fresheners around the house trying to cover the stench. It was slightly out of my price range and required too much work, including gutting the kitchen. The other house needed quite a bit of work but was on a BEAUTIFUL five acres. I decided to make an offer. I went in a little less than the asking price and asked the seller to pay for half of the repairs. Gave him two dayes to respond. At the end of day two, the sellers agent was not feeling confident but asked for another day for the seller to do a walk through with the contractor. Realizing that was probably a lost cause, I checked to see if there were any other properties listed that might be worth another look.

Found two. One was on a funny shaped 2.6 acres and I had not put it on my list because of the shape and it's vicinity to a major highway. We don't want to live somewhere that is noisy. Plus it has a large swath of land behind it that is a proposed highway that was bought in the 70's and nothing has happened since. But when we looked at it the house was really nice, no real work needed and it had a lovely red barn plus the price had dropped 10k just that afternoon. Oh, and it had a mother-in-law unit which could be used to help offset the mortgage! The 2nd house was on 1.43 acres and backed to a river. Had a lot of charm since it was built in 1903. The property was pretty well parked out with large trees, a grass field out back and several fruit trees. Needed some cosmetic work but was livable. However it had only one bathroom which is a major negative, especially since out of the 5 of us, 3 are girls and all of us vying for one bathroom when they become teens would NOT be good. I should have LOVED it. But it didn't capture me the way that the house on 2.6 acres did. After sleeping on it, I told my agent to put in an offer on the first one and make it pending a neighborhood review, so that I had time to do research about the proposed highway.

I spend hours on the phone and internet that day trying to figure out if there was any plan to do something with the proposed highway. Pretty much all anyone could say was that it might happen someday but there is no funding and it would be the 3rd phase of a 3 phase project which hasn't even had the first phase planned. And it would have to compete with other state projects for funding. I felt much better about possibly living there if there were no plans to develop it in the next 10-20 years.

I seem to have a pretty good sense of what will sell at what price. When I saw the place and the price, I knew it would go fast. And I was right. When I put in my offer there was already one. The seller's agent said that the seller was probably going to counter, which meant we still had time. So I signed an offer for the 2nd time in a week. This morning my agent called and said that the seller was asking for a multiple offer form. Basically they want me to up my offer, keep it the same or withdraw. So after much hemming and hawing I decided to up my offer by 3k. Now I wait....

The worst thing about this roller coaster is that today is the Friday before a 3 day weekend. Which means if the other buyer doesn't submit their paperwork in a timely manner and the seller doesn't respond quickly, I am looking at not knowing until next week.  That is 4 days of anxiously waiting and trying not to get my hopes up. However if I don't get this house, there will be another one, but that's not to say I won't be disappointed and maybe shed a few tears. Someday I WILL realized my dream of having a mini-farm. Maybe not now, but it will happen.