Friday, March 30, 2012

Sweep the Floor - Mom's Coming! #18

The last day the earth spent drying out from the snow, Frank and I took a drive and checked out Lynx Lake in Prescott. I needed a break away from my book for a few hours. What a find. And on Wednesday there's no fee to get into the park. Frank should be able to do a little fishing there.

Soon to be vegetable garden
Then the clearing began in earnest. What progress they've made in a week! The blackberries are the most stubborn but it's getting close. I spent some time on the yard and the two front perennial gardens I hope will materialize one of these days. The expenses of planting are beginning. Top soil, a hoe and tree food. There's much more to come. We'll have to rent a tiller. None of us have ever tilled before but hope it doesn't take too long at $70 a day.

We ended the week with two days of family up from Phoenix. On Friday, my sister came up to go wedding dress shopping in Prescott. Last time she was here we found this cool dress store and decided we'd come back to pick out dresses. This is a later-in-life wedding and not the typical black and white affair. She's looking for eclectic. Of course, this trip we couldn't find a thing. We went to lots of other stores but nothing. Had a good lunch and a glass of wine to make the trip worthwhile.

I cleaned like crazy on Saturday - remember, I'm the only one who really does the deep cleaning - because Mom was making her first visit the next day. Silly, maybe, but the mud! I'd gotten sick of it and tore myself away from the computer for the day. Mom, brother and sister-in-law arrived for lunch on Sunday. It was a good visit. The dogs even behaved.

What really perplexes me is why I've not had to take allergy medicine since I've been here. Lots of dust and dried grass and weeds should be kicking my allergies into overdrive. Beats me but how great is this?!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

There's No Mud in the Wishing Well #17

A few peach tree blossoms
It's been a week since I've sat down to write about our new life on the prairie. What a week. But then most weeks have been that way since we decided to make this transition. I've been steeped in finishing my romantic suspense, the clock ticking. I have an appointment to pitch it to an editor at the end of April and I'm not near ready. Meanwhile, there's plenty to keep me busy and not writing. Where to begin?

We held our breath through the cold snap. We had only a few blossoms on the trees so it didn't look like much harm done. No veggies have been planted - the land didn't get readied before the snow. Plus Lance has done his research and the planting season here comes later.

By last Tuesday when the snow was running off the roof, we discovered a leak in the ceiling of the second bathroom. After removing the remaining snow from the roof, the leak slowed.

Gabby's favorite place to lay
A phone call the next day confirmed we had no warranty. Lance became our roof inspector and repairman. $8.00 worth of caulking appears to have fixed the problem. We hope.

Our Explorer started doing funny things. I know I've said we started this adventure with nothing in the bank but love. I said it in the context of not having any retirement accounts. We managed to have a few bucks set aside for just such emergencies. $549 later, the Explorer is fixed. Ouch.

And then a dash of good news. Remember the last of our retirement accounts that went to buy ourselves out of the house we sold in Minnesota? Pretty sure I told you about that. I got a phone call that they had figured it wrong and I would be getting an additional amount of $897! How's that for timing? Love it when these unexpected good things happen.

Xena and Gabby romp after the snow melted
Did I mention the mud? I've never seen such mud. Our lawn is pretty much non-existent after the house being empty for two years. Each day since the snow, we keep thinking surely today the mud will be gone. It took all week. The dogs would come in with it so caked between their toes, I wasn't sure how they could walk. This little experience has driven home the need for grass to those in this house that thought other things were more important to spend money on. Xena is the queen of the mud. She will find even the smallest mud space. We're hoping to keep the bill under $350 for lawn and stepping stones.

The Wishing Well
At least we found a good place to go when the fields are too muddy to work. Up the road a piece is the Wishing Well. It doesn't look like much but it's big and warm on the inside. There's cheap beer and the best burgers I've ever had.

And that's only part of the week. I'll finish it next time. Now back to the next book. I'm working on the dreaded elevator pitch.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I'm a Control Freak! #16

If you haven't been following my prairie posts from the beginning, you might not know why we embarked on this new lifestyle. The economic downturn hit us hard, Frank didn't think he'd ever retire and our son suggested we join forces and live off the land. We went on a hunt for a suitable house that offered enough space for two couples to live together but have their own areas and on enough land that we could raise our own fruits and veggies. And we could all afford. Here we are in Paulden, Arizona on a beautiful (but oh so dusty) prairie. And so like I said in the first post, we're doing this with nothing in the bank but love.

Putting five very different people together, happily, is not an easy task. The fifth one is a temporary house guest. Add to that two rambunctious puppies and a middle aged, spoiled only dog. Quite a combination. But we're finding our way.

Christie (my son's lady) wakes up giggling. I swear she does. Nothing gets to her - and more importantly - none of us get to her. So her number one strong suit is her upbeat personality. I'm jealous of her ability to sleep until 8:00. She's the last one out of bed in the morning. Maybe that's why she wakes up giggling. And she cooks - really, really good food. Since I hate to cook, she's special in my book! She brings to the household sunshine and cooking.

Frank (my husband) wakes up before Christie but after me. He's not as cheerful as Christie but not grouchy either. He's a jokester. Even when you'd like to get serious sometimes! Hint of annoyance from his wife. He's our inside project guy. He fixed all the windows, maintains the irrigation system and whatever else might come up. He doesn't "play in the dirt" but neither does Christie. And that's okay. He's also our senior member if that means anything. He brings to the table the willingness to research ideas and be a jack of all trades.

Brenda (hey that's me) is usually the first one up. And I'm rather driven at 5:30 am. I get the coffee on and fire up my laptop. I'm a control freak. Living with another couple is teaching me to let it go. No one keeps things as clean as I do. No one is as organized as I am. No one is as thrifty as I am. And the list goes on. I'm learning to deal with it - I hope. Otherwise, I'll go nuts and will never get my book written. I am the main housekeeper. I hate cleaning more than cooking, but it has fallen to me. Not that others wouldn't do it - but I can't wait that long! Mostly I'm easy to get along with. I bring to the table a willingness to work in the dirt both inside and out and handle the household budget and bills.

Have we had rough spots? A few. I imagine we'll have a few more. None of us are shrinking violets and we're all pretty mouthy. But we all share the desire to keep this little experiment going and to share a rich, full life with nothing in the bank (to start with) but love.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Gophers 3, Lance 0 #15

First fully flowered tree
Do you remember a movie call The Money Pit? I thought it was pretty funny. No, we didn't buy a money pit but we are finding out things we hadn't thought about or paid attention to before we put our name on the line. And of course, they cost money. Of which we have little.

First of all, we're city folk so yeah, we were ignorant about a few things. We lost electricity during the recent snow storm. Didn't think about losing water or toilets. Well, maybe Lance had thought about it, but we hadn't actually talked it out. Now the guys are looking at options such as hand pumps and generators. Chi-ching!

Same tree 48 hours later
The inspection report said the windows opened roughly. Oh ha! Most of them didn't open at all. Nor did they lock shut. But since it took a 300 pound muscle guy to open them, the locking part was hardly a problem. After some investigation, Frank discovered they were all missing their guides and badly needed lubrication. A small chi-ching!

Field work suspended due to...snow?
Now this last hidden expense was really hidden. After a couple of days, we managed to clear enough land to see we had gophers. They're the cutest little things that stick their heads up out of their holes and sing "na-na-na you can't catch me!" They're called pocket gophers. Lance and our house guest, Scott, have declared war. First they tried flushing them out with water. Useless. Then they bought a bunch of traps and followed the guy's instructions on how to set them. On four different holes, the gophers filled in the trapped hole with dirt and dug a new tunnel three inches from the trapped tunnel. A couple of days ago, Lance and Scott put bubble gum and juicy fruit gum down the holes. Some urban legend about the gophers eating the gum and croaking. So far it's gophers 3, Lance and Scott 0.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hot Spots and Tumbleweeds #14

Debra and Christie in Prescott
Took a break from the natural flow of the day with Debra and Christie. My sister came up from Phoenix, we explored a bit of Prescott and Chino Valley and she spent the night. When we mentioned to someone in Chino that we were checking out the sights he looked stumped - "in Chino?"

We've settled into a routine of sorts, for now anyway, until the land is ready to plant and all boxes are unpacked. The natural flow of the day might go like this:

5:30 am I wake up. I huddle under the covers and decide if I can doze off again or not. Usually not, so I get up, carry my computer to the kitchen island and make my coffee. I settle down to check email or write and watch the sun rise outside the window.

Lance working in the orchard
6:00-6:30 am Lance joins me in the kitchen. We don't talk beyond good morning. No one talks to Lance when he first gets up. (side note here - I have a wonderful son but he's been a bear in the morning all his life) He makes his coffee (some sort of single shot manual drip system) and settles down at his computer in the office corner of the kitchen. He catches up on the news and social networks. The two pups, Gabby and Xena are with him.

7:00-7:30 am Frank rises, spends some time at his computer in a corner of the bedroom. Now I take my laptop back to my writing corner in our bedroom after letting Rusty outside. He doesn't get up until Frank gets up. Our house guest, Scott, arrives in the kitchen to make his coffee and then retreats back to his room to read for a bit.

7:30-8:00 am Christie arrives in the kitchen all smiles and giggles. This lady is the light of our household. She feeds Xena and Gabby while Frank or I feed Rusty. None of the dogs eat commercial dog food so it's quite a process!

Me finding blackberry bushes among the weeds
Around 8:30, Lance and Scott head out to work in the gardens, clearing tumble weeds and unwanted grass.
I remain at my computer, Frank works on a photo project at his computer and Christie works on boxes or laundry or looking for a job.

By 11:00, Frank and I have joined Lance and Scott outside. Frank repairs irrigation lines or clears grass from the orchard or burns weeds. I've been working on removing dead wood from trees and blackberries.

Midday, we eat when and whatever we feel like and then back outside.

Around 3:00, Lance and I retreat inside - me to write on my book, Lance to write song lyrics for his upcoming show with his new band. Frank may or may not stay outside.

5:30-6:30 We settle on the patio, maybe have a drink and talk. Someone starts dinner - usually Christie, Frank or Scott but mostly Christie. Dogs get fed.

After dinner, we've gotten into watching the first season of 24. This is all new to Lance, Christie and Scott. And they're hooked.

Days vary with trips into Prescott or visits from family. Or if I'm busy with  promo - like last week with the blog tour. One day L & C sold their over sized van and then went to Cottonwood to buy another car. A couple of days, Christie and Scott went in search of jobs. And found them! They both start this week on Thursday. Scott is working in Prescott and Christie will be working at CD's Cattle Co. in Chino Valley.
Chino Valley's answer to the mall

Another Chino hot spot - seriously it was fun
Christie had a birthday. Scott baked a cake from scratch at Lance's request. Lance had intended on baking it but the day blew up with computer problems and equipment malfunctions in the field. Lance is our lead out there. We had a fun celebration once the sun went down and everyone chilled out.

Frank's computer is starting to die too. Christie's mom has a lead on a free one and we're hoping it comes through for the guys. Everyday we learn new ways to keep it simple.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pickled Peaches and Frozen Coils #13

Lance & Christie move in. Yes, we still have the ramp.
A quick mixed bag today. My week-long blog tour fell apart today when the blog site failed to post my promo for Honey On White Bread. So in the absence of interacting with readers, I'll comment on a few new happenings on the prairie. I'll be back on the promo trail tomorrow.

Frank power washing the house.
We needed a new thermostat. We got a programmable one and Frank installed it. He's installed these before - no problem. Well, yes, problem. There were two ways to wire it, and he chose the wrong way. I asked him why it sounded like a motor was running in the laundry room where the innards of the system are when the heater wasn't on. No idea. Took the cover off and I freaked. All the coils were iced over. I saw dollar signs of repair bills. He quickly shut it down and rewired it and I paced waiting to see the long term damage. I'm so reactionary. All turned out okay.

There's asparagus under there?
Excitement!! Frank called the former owner to get the lowdown on this very unique irrigation and watering system stemming from the well. And found out we have way more fruit to come than we thought. We have apricot, peach, plum, fig, cherry and apple trees. And one of the peach trees is an Indian Purple Peach that is for pickling. Pickled purple peach - say that three times fast. Then we have Arkansas Fan Plum bushes - I don't know what the heck those are. And he said we have asparagus that will spring up and be ready for harvest by April if we get to watering. This one has us all doubtful.

The grapes are gone. We're supposed to have five grape vines. We have five holes. The guys said they can see vines at the house behind us. Lance was ready to go confront them but Frank prevailed.

Frank is now our irrigation man. Eventually, everyone will settle into their specialty.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

It Had to Happen; A Few Bad Days #12

Not that the bad days had anything to do with the lifestyle change or prairie life, but still a dip in the up mood. Thursday morning I woke up after a fitful night, feeling like I'd been hit by a Mack truck. Swollen glands, headache, the whole bit. And Frank couldn't find his hearing aids. He has these super duper ones that the VA gave him because of his hearing disability. The hearing loss, caused by the Army not issuing earplugs at the rifle range, is significant. So we tore the house apart. For two days. It's now been several days and still no sign of them. Frank looked gray with worry for a few days.

My ickys passed by Saturday, but his hearing aids still remain lost. On Friday, he went to the VA in Prescott and they told him they'd replace them but he had to stand in line - expect them in about sixteen months! He called the doctor who tested him and prescribed them (not a VA doc), but he couldn't help. Monday, he'll call the VA in Minnesota where he got them and hopefully they'll have a better solution. Not like we can replace them at $5,000. I'm getting tired of repeating myself and listening to a very loud TV.

Last weekend, we went in search of an arts fair advertised in the local paper. It didn't exist. Probably canceled and no one bothered to change the announcement. Funny small town stuff. On our search, we rounded a corner with a cardboard box advertising a yard sale. I caught some writing on the inside flap - it was one of our boxes we donated to local U-haul. "Bren's Clothes"

Speaking of the local paper - it comes once a week. If we take the daily paper, we'd have to go out to the main highway. At least Rusty gets to collect the paper for us once a week. He loves his chores.

Our numbers are temporarily growing. Looks like we'll have two guests for a month or so. Lance's good friend is also moving to the area but hasn't got a job or a place to live yet. Scott will be moving in when Lance and Christie arrive to stay tomorrow. His cat, Debo has already arrived. Debo has been bunking in the garage since Christie is very allergic. Scott has been helping them move. He's a big, sweet, powerful guy, but he's kind of a bull in a china shop. First day, he's lugging in a mattress alone and knocked a picture off the wall and broke it. Next day, my door wreath met with his finesse. He'll be staying in L&C's half of the house.

Rusty's afraid of Debo. He wants to play, but when Debo romps toward him, Rusty runs for the house. Big tough watch dog? Not.

Next week should be a whirlwind: Lance and Christie arrive for good, two new temporary members and my Virtual Blog Tour to promote Honey On White Bread. There's a grand prize at the end of the week.

My coffee corner. I'll need a lot this next week
Right now, this minute, I'm more consumed with the tour. By the end of next week, I'll have a better idea of how our communal living will work. Fingers crossed.

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