Monday, July 26, 2010

The Times They Are a Changin'

Jacob was disappointed that I returned to blogging without filling in the last four months. He appreciates the blog as a diary of our lives- our own little 'Little House' if you will. He said, "Why didn't you write about the chaos of the move?" and I said, "Well what would you like me to write about it?" and he said that he envisioned me writing all about how the house was sold, we successfully downsized and found a good rental and now we were saving money for our travels and shifting our consumerist patterns. So here it is in a nutshell.

The first step in putting the house on the market was to get it presentable and that meant finding a new home for the bunnies and Suki. After we found a home for the rabbits, I set about finding a new home for Suki. Despite all her faults, Suki is a pretty good looking dog and small dogs are pretty desirable. I was really candid in the ad on Craigslist about her “challenges” in the hopes that someone would go into the adoption process with eyes wide open. After a few flakey callers (including one woman who already had a three year old pug who wasn’t housebroken and , inexplicably, felt her life needed more pee to clean up) we found a new owner for Suki. In the weeks after giving her away we were treated with mini updates as to how her “dog daughter” was doing (she was always being a “perfect angel”) and the occasional picture of Suki in a new outfit. Suki’s new owner works for Banfield, the national pet hospital chain and Suki gets to go to work with her every day and has allegedly even starred in an educational video on pest control. I went so far as to sign up for an online Banfield account (even though they are not our veterinarian) in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the video that rocketed her to stardom. The inevitable SPAM I’m going to get for signing up for the account was for naught since there are several video choices in the flea-and-tick genre and I gave up after three minutes of watching just one.
I can’t say we really miss Suki. Like at all. Jacob may have summed it up when he said, “I’m so happy that damn dog is gone” - an hour after she left. At least we can say she is in a better place.
With the pets gone (except Hannah and Goldie) we could move on to the task of cleaning, organizing and repairing. For a solid two months our weekends were filled with projects ‘round the clock. We discovered that some of these things, like cleaning behind the stove for example, should be done on a more frequent basis than once every six years. Throughout it all I nursed a vision of us paring our lives down to a simplicity that included just one bowl for each of us. Ultimately we would end up hauling over to the new house dozens of boxes with unhelpful labels like “Junk Drawer #2” on them.
The house went on the market the night before Easter Sunday and we got the call that morning at 10 am that a couple named Jason and Cam would like to come by and see it. They had been looking to buy in the area for a while and by the next morning we had a full price offer – minus some closing costs they wanted us to chip in.
Their real estate agent was from Windermere and turned out to be the new partner of the agent we had sold and bought with on our last move. Jeannie was friendly and helpful but since we were representing ourselves we had to constantly be on guard for all the real estate agent mind tricks. She greeted our generic real estate template forms with a mixture of pity and amusement as if we’d written them on diner napkins. After the inspection came back she reacted with indignation that was on par with someone expecting to meet a petite 25 year old blind date only to come face to face with the obese senior citizen reality. We kept saying to each other, they do realize this is a 100 year old house, right? We were told that Jason and Cam were “fair people” but that they were facing some “significant and expensive repairs.” The implication was that perhaps we should consider condemning the house rather than selling it. While we realized that topping the “repairs” list were things like redoing the hardwood floors and vaulting the ceilings, we also didn’t want to jeopardize the sale so we gritted our teeth as we weighed just how much we could live with. We ended up having to replace the sewer lines because, in what must be the most amazing display of government efficiency on record, we received a letter in the mail the day after our inspection that they were aware our sewer line did not link up with the main street line and that we had exactly 30 days to figure out how to make this happen.
The next month was a whirlwind as we finished packing, cleaning, repairing while desperately scouring Craigslist for a decent rental that would actually allow us to save the money needed to finance our travels. One evening in the midst of all this our neighbor from across the street walked over to hand us an oversized, glossy postcard featuring a beaming Jeannie proudly announcing her sale of our house. I had to walk into the paint store and let Jacob handle sitting in the car to call up Jeannie on Saturday morning to tell her exactly what we thought of the postcards.
We’ve hit a stage in life where the amount of bribing it takes to get any of our friends to give up their weekend and jeopardize already aging backs is about on par with just replacing everything and starting from scratch. Jacob headed down to Portland’s day labor site to hire a couple guys for a few hours to get the major furniture out of the house. They were happy to have the work and we were happy to have the help. Being cheap, we took them back to the center a few hours later and decided to move the rest of it ourselves. Three U-Haul trips later we were out and moving on to a new house and a new stage and I can honestly say that all three of us were ecstatic.

Bob the Bearded Dragon

Vaughn and Sten pooled their money and are now "co-parenting" a two-year old bearded dragon we got off Craigslist. I use the term "co-parenting" loosely because, while I don't know how things go down at Sten's house, 'round these parts I still do all cleaning, feeding and paying for all of the expenses that came after the initial $50 purchase.I'm used to this role and I don't mind except for the crickets. That's right- Bob's diet is half crickets. Crickets that have to be rolled in two kinds of vitamin powder prior to feeding. Because he is an adult, Bob gets big crickets that crunch when he eats them. I'll admit that I do find it strangely satisfying to watch him dart around in his tank and dispatch them with exoskeleton grinding efficiency.

What I really don't like is the frequent trips to the pet store to get the crickets and the fact that half of them form a sad, dead layer of deceased cricket carpet on the bottom of their holding cell.

Yesterday Michael brought Bob over to our house to begin his two week stay that is part of the joint custody agreement and I greeted him with a cricket wrangling task. I had dumped all the crickets from the morning's purchase into a very large cardboard box because they were steaming up the plastic transfer bag and I wanted them to be comfortable (or at least not die immediately). The box was out on the porch and taped securely because when I had just closed the top and put a book on it I looked over to see escape crickets making for all four corners of my living room. Now I had to get all 48 crickets from the giant box into the small plastic cricket container.

We cut a small hole in the corner of the box and I held the container while Michael shook the crickets down to the bottom. They rolled out and into the container like a slot machine payout in a reptilian version of Vegas. When the jackpot slowed we decided to open the box to see how we'd done. Just a few remaining crickets clung to the side until Michael lifted up the bottom flap to reveal a good 15 of the big suckers milling around. It is amazing how one cricket is manageable (I've even gotten to the point I am willing to handle them with my hands) but several crickets is skin crawling and we both dropped the box and backed up with little shrieks.

Overall I'd say he's a good pet though and I'm really enjoying him. Jacob doesn't understand why I find things like him laying flat on his rock cute but I do.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Joy of Cheese

Yesterday Michael, Annalee and I went to the cheese making class that we had signed up for a month ago after reading about it in an issue of Sunset magazine. As we pulled into the parking lot at Kookoolan Farms for “Basic Soft Cheeses” and neatly parked our Subaru next to a row of other Subarus it hit me how clich├ęd we’d become.

The instructor was a very nice man with a slicked back ponytail and a batiked shirt who kinda reminded me of Steven Segal’s hippie brother. His name was Scott but he went by Dominic (his middle name) as his “cheese making name.” I’d never thought of cheese making as something you needed to adopt a separate persona for but apparently you do.

We took the remaining three seats in the back row and poured ourselves a glass of complementary Kombucha tea. While Dominic started explaining about the types of cheeses we’d be making that day, a series of cheese-related slides rolled through on the wall to the right of the front of the room. Most of these were pictures of cheese or facts about the history of cheese but there were some gems, including a slide with a song to be sung on April 3rd which is “Cheese Weasel Day” (country of origin unknown). The most notable slide, however, featured a grinning pseudo-hippie in a garish black wig flashing a peace sign with the caption, “You have any soy cheese heroin?” This slide was never explained and I decided not to ask about it so I could just imagine all the different things it was supposed to represent.

At the end of the class we decided that a lack of a cooler and free time on Sunday was enough of a deterrent to keep us from diving into purchasing raw milk and supplies. The owner, a petite redheaded woman, was sitting at her computer in the backroom and I walked back to inquire if I might be permitted to go look at the cows. Not only could I look at them, she directed me to the pasture where they were nestled down in the shade and told me I could walk down if I wanted to give them a pat. Michael and Annalee declined my offer to let them tag along with me so I let myself through the first gate and set off down a long, steep cow-patty strewn hill.

I came to the gate at the bottom of the hill which was just held shut by a thin chain attaching the gate to the fence. The one bit of instruction I’d been given was to make sure they didn’t get out since “everyone’s pasture is always greener.” I trudged over across another half of a pasture with even more cow manure and it hit me how my Little House fantasies aren't filled with this much shit. In the corner of the pasture, under the shade of a tree were five of the most beautiful, otherworldly looking cows I’d ever seen. Their eyes were huge black orbs. But also diverting from my fantasy was the fact that these cows’ faces were covered in flies.

I gingerly walked over and tentatively tried to pat one on the nose while whispering upbeat and calmly reassuring “Hi guys!” to the group. They weren’t impressed and started to squirm as if to say, “Listen lady, it’s hot and we’re covered and flies and our own fecal matter but if you’re really going to make us get up and walk over to the other side then that’s what we’ll do.” I decided to not harass them further and began to walk away.

I’d only gotten a few steps away when I heard one of the cows get up and start walking toward me. I turned and gave a reassuring, “Oh hi! Hi buddy!” Another one got up and began walking toward me. I was elated, clearly these cows trusted me. Then I turned to and saw to my horror that the gate to the main pasture had swung wide open. This was bad. I started to run toward the gate at exactly the same moment one of the cows broke into a trot. I could hear the other three rising to their feet behind me. Clad in one flip-flop and a post-surgery Velcro shoe from getting the screw out of my foot two days before, I ran toward the gate, arms flailing as I shouted “No! No!” I pulled ahead just in time to swing the gate shut. My heart was still racing by the time I trudged back up the hill.