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2/6/12

A Change Is Gonna Come : The Big Surprise That Does Not Make Any Sense But Does

Gratuitous shots of the passive solar OFF GRID prefab home
because this is exactly how I'm kinda feeling
right now. Loose the tethers...
Channel Aretha Franklin, June Carter, Meat Puppets,
My Bloody Valentine, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry,
Marion Anderson, Beastie Boys,
Lynyrd Sknyrd...
Lynyrd Sknyrd?

Freebird, y'all. You'll get it. Hold on... Tight.

We sold the mid-century modern, and now we're mortgage free.
A Change Is Gonna Come...
[Please stop and play this next video before continuing. It is the theme of this post. In fact, it is a dedication.
And P.s. We didn't go to the off grid prefab because it rained and I'm still sick & coughing so that's all you'll see of the passive solar prefab home for the rest of this post.]
 
Our closing date is March 15.
Gypsies, now, we are. 
With our hearts steady and friends holding us tight, always a constant, we throw ourselves to the wind:
Pamplin City / DC / RVA
Aaaaaand... 
Eh, more on that in a minute.

In celebration, I told the children they could get chickens, now.

'Cause WE have our chicken tractor back!


Last year's flock...

A business reporter had borrowed our chicken tractor last year to start her own flock, using it until her husband could complete their own Chicken Palace. Just this week, her husband kindly dropped it off. 

She: "And how are YOUR hens?" Honeychile Reporter Lady, do you want a story on my hens? #Don'tGetMeStarted!JustDon't!

With the chicken tractor back, and March nearing, this IS a good time for baby chicks. 
My children: "But what about Glen and Catherine Vanderspiegel?" 

Pretty Condescension

I: "Eh. The Vanderspiegels are not neighborly, nor part of our community.  Longtime residents here don't even know who they are. We all know urban hens are legal pretty much anywhere practical, hence sophisticated... I don't think much about what people like the Vanderspiegels, who have lawn service with five undocumented guys jumping out of trucks with weed whackers and leaf blowers twice a week, people like the Vanderspiegels who soak their yard (and those workers) with pesticides, really, do I care what people like that think? Urban hens are legal in any city that is cutting edge and competitive. How can a city dare call itself livable or sustainable if it doesn't even allow hens?!? We can't sit around all day waiting for Richmond to catch up. We can't wait around for people like the Vanderspiegels to have a deep understanding of... anything. There are fewer cities now where it's illegal than legal. I vote we follow the laws of the larger, more educated cities.

A cheer went up, followed by intense discussion of how many chicks, and of what breed. 
We're not the only Richmonders who feel like urban hens are a basic, sustainable right- over Eight HUNDRED people (and counting) here agree: https://www.facebook.com/chickunz

Hey, Richmond!
Georgia Lawmakers Want People to Grow Their Own Food And Yes, They Include Hens In That.
"Ehrhart says people should be free to raise chickens and grow backyard crops on their property. He says the Right to Grow bill represents a basic freedom, recalling those days when Georgians all grew their own food."

Our non-GMO backyard bounty...


Breaking: While our neighbors complain about our clover as they water their lawns in the rain...  
The Vatican Condemns Monsanto GMO as "New Form Of Slavery"
Lisa D: "Hey, a little help from above can't hurt at this point!"
But the USA still poisons its own... 
Guess what, "neighbors": More and more people are starting to "get it" about all the weird Freak Family things our family embodies. Slowly, our Freak Family philosophy becomes... recognized, and one day, mainstream.

(And fyi I was just reminded about one of my Freak Family Non-Smart Growth posts today by a reader, what a perfect time to read this, no?)

So. 
We sold the mid-century modern, and now we're mortgage free.
We now have to finish the passive solar prefab home, to get a certificate of occupancy before we can move in. That last stage- finishing the interior walls, septic, solar hot water... well, we can't move in until all that is done, and that's going to take awhile, sooooooooooooooooo...

Instead of rolling that equity flush into our pockets, we decided to keep on frugally goin' like we've always been goin' and... instead, we rolled that money into...
We bought a farm house in-town. 
In a town... on the other end of Virginia.

Wait?!? What?!? Who?!?

Hold on, be patient, and let me tell this story.

And remember: We are now mortgage free.

When I Was About My Children's Age, My Parents Bought An Old Fishing Cottage On The Chesapeake Bay.
And that's how a lifetime of happy summers sailing and roaming with a pack of children all over the peninsula began.  Eventually they proposed to tear down that run-down fisherman's cottage. I told them I would lie in front of the bulldozers if they did... I wasn't kidding...Even back then, before I was officially in the green building profession or espousing a frugal lifestyle, it just didn't make sense to tear down a perfectly good, solid structure that not only was architecturally fine, but filled with years of memories and love!

So they "re-did" and "added on a tad" to the cottage... and that is how we ended up with this:
This is the original cottage part but all re-done.

But it's not home.
After Christmas we realized we might have kinda have broken the cycle before but really, to keep our children centered and secure, we needed to protect them (and ourselves, we deserve that too...) further.

That whole passive aggressive Psycho Family thing? It's not worth it. We work hard and have struggled raising our children while running multiple businesses. We're exhausted. In our life, we want to spend it with those who love us, who make us laugh, who make us better people... who make things easier for us, not more difficult.

When we think of those qualities, we never think of our family.
When we think of family...

But we do have a lifetime of loving faces around us.

We gathered, sat the children down, and made a family decision.

Then we called our friends for counsel, and they weighed in.

This is not the most frugal, practical decision: It began as purely heartfelt, purely as a reaction to Our Families and wanting to provide the same life and friendships on the water I grew up with for our children...

I'd like to thank each friend who weighed in with their deep experience, thoughts, and opinions. Especially Lisa & James D., who took a long phone call to discuss it... Melanie H. who reminded us of tax and legal issues, Chris and Steve A. who didn't even know they were in on the conversation but in my mind I was always thinking of pictures of their beloved farmhouse when they bought it, R. & J. B., who refuse to visit but I *will* get them down, the W's who patiently listen to me ramble, K.J., the L's- L.L. especially cheered us on... Our friends *told us what they thought,* yay or nay, because they care about our decisions and that's what family does.

And so it was done: We bought an 1800s farmhouse, in another town. It's in dire condition.
The pictures make it look a *LOT* brighter and cleaner and better than it is.

But I already see practicality--
It has the huge farmhouse kitchen I need to spend the summer canning.
Hellooooooooo canning bonanza.

The soil is black and rich and the .75 acre property, while we improve the soil at Higher Ground, can provide us with an easy food garden, to be canned, then brought back to the off grid prefab home for an easy-to-serve bounty for the rest of the year.

We can fit all our friends within.

You can see the town tennis courts from the kitchen window, and the little local coffee shop is right down the street.

This is where my home schooled children will be surrounded by throngs of kids. Like I, growing up there, they already see the same children here year after year after year... so are solidifying a big passel of friendships for a lifetime.

So, For The Next Year, We Not Only Eat But Live Seasonally
So basically, we might spend many weekends end-of-November-until-mid-January in DC.  
Why? Deer Season! The children can't play outside! But December in DC? Concerts, Christmas tree lightings, Holiday parades, the National Building Museum has a Gingerbread man workshop... I've spent the holidays in Manhattan, in Paris... now it's time to enjoy the holidays in DC.

In summer's highest heat? We take to the water.
The rest of the year? Busy, busy, busy improving soil, planting, and occupied with our home, Higher Ground. Higher Ground is our HOME, but we also carry home in our hearts to other places.
It's what the Indians did; Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry just followed their example.
Now we trace our geography through seasons, using it as opportunity for learning.

Carbon Footprint
But that changing of geography comes with a hefty carbon footprint, no?
Yes. This is not The Forever Plan, this is the One To Two Year Adventure.
And to have that adventure, we will relocate seasonally to new geography. 
Once at our destination, there is mostly walking / biking. But to get to each locale? Miles.
I might even call in some Carbon Credits, ha: Since 1999 I have commuted, daily, to work... ten feet. Usually barefoot. This 3 hour journey, about 200 miles, will be once a week, (so a total of 400 miles) going up, then staying days, before returning.

I'm not justifying anything. But let's just look at this as an opportunity to learn more about today's commute:
  • Americans now spend over 100 hours a year commuting.
  • More workers are willing to travel three hours a day. But what is the long-term cost?
    "...They spend at least a month of their lives each year traveling a minimum of an hour-and-a-half to work and back, vs. the U.S. average of 50 minutes. Their ranks have jumped an astounding 95% since 1990, according to the Census Bureau, accounting for 3.4 million workers.

    Experts say the numbers of these supercommuters will continue to swell. In 1990, 24% of all workers left their home counties to get to the office. Since then, 50% of new workers do, according to transportation expert and Commuting in America author Alan Pisarski." 

We Speak Of No Longer: Exhaustion
Mentally and physically. We killed ourselves on the land these past years, we killed ourselves renovating the mid-century modern house.  We agreed that IF this in-town-farmhouse came through, the rule is: We will not kill ourselves.

The stained wallpaper? Can stay awhile. We'll just hang more pictures.
The horrid, worn wall-to-wall carpet? All the better to ruin with sandy bare feet for a few years.
No, we're going to continually work on it, starting with the bathroom, the green bedroom, the kitchen, and of course, all roofs. But we will NOT kill ourselves.

Ironically, this just came through:
Henry Miller's work schedule, via a friend, L.T.:


Let's Look At "The Crazy Farm House Plan" Again
Yes, that's the biggest camellia *I've* ever seen either, too.

While not killing ourselves, once fixed up and updated, that farm house could provide good rental income as we near retirement age, the years the children are off in college and working in the big cities as they start their careers, and we remain happily at our home, Higher Ground.

Next Steps
The next few weeks will be wild. We have to pack up and move into a dilapidated farm house in another town [because THAT has a certificate of occupancy, lol!], enroll the children in a new school, in the middle of the term, unpack and continue working on the off grid passive solar prefab home's final steps- septic, solar hot water, finishing the interior of the SIP and having it approved by the building inspector, so we can finally move in.

P.s. Want to take a walk around the In-Dire-Condition-But-It's-Awesome Farmhouse? C'mon!
I didn't say anything during the video because I figured you've probably heard enough from me by now.

More updates and lots of packing over the next weeks, stay tuned!
[I can't wait for this part to be over so we can go back to finishing the passive solar prefab house...]

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