The Inside Scoop

As it turned out, we were not able to go and see the house in daylight yesterday. There were some scheduling conflicts, so we left about 7:15 pm – well into the evening last evening.

So – I’ll show you a few pictures…

Here’s the mud room/laundry room. I like it. I like that it’s big, it has two windows – so lots of natural light.

Here’s the kitchen – looking toward the breakfast nook. Isn’t it interesting that it has cedar ceilings? Of note, this house has been empty for three years – a business deal gone bad, from what we’ve learned. The kitchen – while not fancy – is nice enough, and brand spanking new – well, at least never used. The stove, dishwasher, and refrigerator – all never been used – are included.

Here’s the french doors (behind Jess) that would be the “front” doors – that is if the front doors were actually accessible to the real world. I’m sure that in 1890 it made way more sense. We think this is supposed to be the formal dining room – given the pretty fancy light fixture.

There are three large-ish sized rooms on the ground floor, with a tiny little room off of one of them. The picture below is the juncture between two of those large-ish sized rooms. I should probably make note of the fact that the carpet is pretty much trashed in this house.

Here’s a peek at the sink/mirror in the one and only bathroom. Interestingly enough there is a HUGE window right adjacent to the toilet. Said window is adjacent to the porch/entry via the mudroom – which would, in all reality, be the main entry into the house.

And here’s a peek at the other end of the bathroom – again, so interesting having the cedar ceilings!

Here’s the view from the third large-ish room downstairs toward the staircase. Sadly, I forgot to take pictures upstairs.
We were really surprised by several things…

  1. The interior of the house is in much better shape than we imagined.
  2. The three bedrooms upstairs were much larger than we thought they’d be.
  3. There’s not a closet to be found in the place. We shouldn’t be surprised, I guess – given the era of the house, but one would have thought maybe since 1890 someone could have thrown a few in!
  4. There are TONS of bugs in this house.
  5. We suspect quite a lot of dry rot.

So… what to do…

It’s a bit spendier than what we feel comfortable with – even though the bank says we can afford it. (The bank, however, is not feeding, clothing, and keeping healthy and hale three kids!)

It’ lacks a single outbuilding… sigh. We want outbuildings. And given that it’s more expensive than we hope to spend – there would be no money left over to build outbuildings in the near future…

It’s completely lacking fencing… We want fencing… We realize we’ll need to put up some wherever we end up going eventually – but one can’t help but hope for some, can they?

And while the interior is in better shape than we imagined it would be – there are some concerning features… like the dry rot…. like – where are all of those bugs getting in?!… like all of the places where the finishing wasn’t completed on walls, corners, fixture installation, etc.

We aren’t expecting a Street of Dreams kinda place for what we can afford – but we also don’t wanna be stupid, you know?

So – our real estate agent is running some comps… We’re kind of thinking it may be a bit overpriced given the issues that we were able to ascertain with two brief encounters.

We’ll see what happens – you never know!

Should we? Or shouldn’t we?

We’ve always just pretty much assumed we’d never own a home. We will be celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary in November – and – for us – it has never seemed an automatic that we should or would join the ranks of homeowners. We decided long ago that it was far more important – for our family anyway – for me to be home with the kids (where I want to be) than to be out in the work force. Yes, that means we have much less income coming in. Yes, that means we must be very intentional with every little penny.

We’ve been so blessed to be renting an older home – in NW Portland – on half an acre. It’s not a fancy house at all. In fact, it has original a bunch of stuff – not good stuff to have original just to be clear – you know, wiring, plumbing, etc. It’s not insulated. It has issues. Big issues. But it’s affordable – AND – it’s HALF AN ACRE IN NW PORTLAND! The reality being – our landlords are pretty committed to not improving the place. So, we must do with what we have.

For years now we’ve been working diligently to pay off debt – including mountains of school loans – we’re exceptionally well educated but of course, in fields that neither of us ended up working in. We’ve put our extra pennies into savings, and done without as much as possible.

As a result, we find ourselves in a place we didn’t think we’d be… contemplating purchasing our first home.

If the truth were told, we’d confess to longing for…

A home with enough room for all of us – the human contingent of our little world – two adults, the three kids, with an additional nephew thrown in for good measure at the moment.

Enough land to grow what we want to grow – lots and lots of organic stuff.

Enough land to have our chickens – and maybe even a small flock of turkeys.

Enough land for a goat or two.

Enough land for a couple of cows.

That doesn’t exist in the area where we live right now – at least not in our price range. Speaking of price range – ours is pretty modest – compared to the values of the places that we can see in a five mile radius of where we live. VERY modest. It’s a given that if we end up buying a house it won’t be nearby.

We figure we’re gonna need a place to be within an hour drive for John’s commute to work. We know we won’t move to a place that has schools that don’t meet certain criteria. We know it’s going to be a big deal – moving our kids from one set of schools to another, as well. And we know that it will be a big adjustment – going from suburbia to a more rural lifestyle. When we lived in Kentucky we lived about 20 miles from the nearest town. The places we’re looking at now are nowhere near that far out.

So we’ve been looking. A bit passively, actually. Not many places come up that fit our criteria! But of the ones that do – it’s kind of funny how many places look amazing on ads – but not so much in real life. Seen a bunch of those. But what do you expect given our price range?!

Today we did a drive-by on a place that at first blush is beautiful. See?

We were happy to learn from our real estate agent that it is vacant, so we could peek in the windows. Bottom line… from the outside it’s REALLY cute. Come Monday we’ll actually peek inside to see more.

But the real question is this, I guess: Just because the lender says you can afford to buy this house – can you really? Or more specifically – can we? Or should we?

There is a great yearning in our hearts to own some land… Usable land. Land that we can do something with, and that will sustain – well – not just us but our animals.

But at what cost?

I’m guessing we’re not the only ones asking that kind of question right now – given the current state of financial affairs in our country.

Owning, of course, has it’s advantages. Not owning does as well.

Oh – if only we knew what it was we really ought to do.

It may well be we’re not the first ones to ponder that very question while standing a ways off gazing at the potential of this being our home – it was built in 1890, after all.

Hmmm…. we’ll see.

On a completely different note…

We get the magazine Backyard Poultry and this month’s issue arrived today. There’s an article on Barred Rock chickens. Know what? I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that our BB and Speedy just might be Barred Rocks! But after reading this article today – I’m convinced that Ducky (below) is a Dominique. (Our only Dominique pullet – out of the six chicks we started out with!)

Wasn’t it nice of her to stop and pose for me?

And here’s Rooth – not to be outdone by Ducky – she wanted her picture taken, as well. Isn’t she growing up?

Sigh… it really would be nice to have a place of our own…

I was wrong!

Remember the mondo egg? The 2 and 7/8ths ounce one? Here’s a picture:

And remember how we thought it was BB who had laid it?

Well – I was wrong! It wasn’t BB at all – it was Millie! Here she is below – she’s the darkest of our Rhode Island Reds – and has the sweetest temperment. Not only has she laid that one mondo egg – she has followed it up a couple of times now with others of exact same size! She’s kind of coming into her stride egg-laying wise. She’s laying pretty much daily now and the majority of the time her eggs are right between the 2 oz and 2.25 oz range.

Remember my late planting of the Scarlet Runner Beans? Well, they worked hard and finally filled out – and produced the most beautiful peachy color blossoms… See?

Here’s a picture of the other planting on the other side of the trellis:

These ones (which I can never remember what they’re called) have a pretty little yellow flower.

And this is what they look like now – after the deer came to visit my garden:

I’m not feeling very warm or fuzzy toward the deer right now. Grrrr!

On Saturday late afternoon – with the skies and the weather forecast predicting rain, we realized we ought to pull the ripe tomatoes in. When all was said and done – we picked about 120 pounds of tomatoes of various varieties…

We love the stripey yellow/orange/red tomatoes that you can see below. They are so sweet and robust tasting.

We decided to try a yellow Roma this year. Wow – they’re gorgeous! And tasty!

We always plant cherry tomatoes, and grape tomatoes, and pear tomatoes, and… you get the idea. This year we planted a variety called sugar lump – here’s a good picture:

Here’s a couple of baskets full of the mini tomatoes. They’re amazing!

Thus far we’ve made pomodoro, diced tomatoes, tomato basil sauce, garlic tomato basil soup, and I’ve got about a gallon of peeleed and seeded tomatoes waiting to be processed.

This is the pomodoro, above; and the tomato basil tomato sauce below.

John’s Hungarian Wax peppers are nearly ready to harvest! Aren’t they pretty?

And just a few of his bell peppers… They’re nearly ready!

Henrietta – always willing to reassert her role as leader of the pack – loves to sit up on the lawn furniture. Here she is – on her throne – observing her minions!

And lest you think we’ve gotten all of the tomatoes that our garden will offer – THINK AGAIN!

These are from Wednesday evening.

That’s a BIG tomato, huh?

Guess I’ve got my work cut out for me! Our tomato plants are still pretty loaded and it’s supposed to be 90 on Monday – in the mid to high 80’s on days on either side of Monday. I’m thinking there’s gonna be lots more tomato processing!

Bone Health post-op…

Amy was kind enough to send along an abstract of a report of a clinical trial on Vitamin D injection treatment. It’s worth a read!

It’s actually a study that a post-op I know was in – you’ll note it took place in Australia. So much for the theorum that it’s only those of us who live in the northern areas of the world who suffer from Vitamin D deficiencies, etc.!

So – folks are known to say – just take Vitamin D. Well – we are! Did you know it comes in various forms? The most commonly known form being the lovely little gel caps that doctors are famous for prescribing – they are 50,000 IU’s of D2 in those little caps. And, if you weren’t aware – gel caps without exception – are packed in oil. Unfortunately, for those of us who have intestinal malabsorption – we may as well just skip the swallowing the pill part and flush it down the toilet! We malabsorb oil! That means it is not absorbed in our GI tract – it literally just goes through us.

A lot of us are taking the Bio-Tech Dry D3-50 – it’s a dry form of Vitamin D3.

There’s a petition going on in the WLS post-op world… it can be found here:

Sadly, only 73 folks have signed. Yet I know literally THOUSANDS of post-ops (of various surgeries) who are struggling with keeping their Vitamin D levels in the correct ranges for those of us who live with intestinal malabsorption daily.

So what’s the big deal? Why not just pursue the injections?

Some in the WLS world cite “potential for complications” as the reasoning behind not making them available here in the United States. Well – do some homework – read up. Can you find citations for complications because of injection series? I’m looking – if you find them, will you let me know? Cause I’m honestly trying to figure out if it’s a good option or not.

I’m about to head to Spain in November. I plan on investing some time and effort into trying to locate injectable Vitamin D. I’ll report back on what I find.

A quiet day

I don’t get many of those, by the way – quiet days, that is. Yesterday I didn’t have a single appointment until 6:00 pm. This in contrast to the day before when I had TWELVE.

I needed a quiet day.

And while it was a quiet day – it was not without it’s thrills. Like just happening along and accidentally opening the door to the nest boxes, checking for eggs, and getting to witness our Hallie laying an egg. Standing up, I might add. Danni has a great video of her Sparrow doing the same on her blog today – you can see it here.

How cool is that?! I was really surprised – I guess I shouldn’t have been – that it would be sorta slimey when first laid. And further amazed to watch it dry in what seemed to be just a fraction of a second. And how VERY warm it was when I was able to retrieve it.

A definite highlight of my quiet day.

Here’s our Hallie…
And I spent some time playing with Pepper, the wonder chicken dog. I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but she spent several weeks with our wonderful friend (who is a vet) up near Tri-Cities, WA while she was being spayed. I missed her!

Here she is in classic form.

I’m usually pretty driven to get a whole bunch of things done – ’cause there are always a whole bunch of things that NEED to get done. But you know what? Yesterday was amazing – quiet, restful, peaceful, restorative. Sigh. What a gift!

Now that’s a BIG egg!

Yesterday BB laid her first egg…

That’s BB on the left. Her name stands for big black – yeah, I know, not very inventive – but we were trying to keep a LOT of chicks straight – and she was just consistently bigger than the other chicks! She (and the rest of the “middle” girls) was 18 weeks old on the 1st of September. So we’ve been watching for her first egg.

Yesterday was the day! It was exciting – but a rather average, albeit a bit smaller than average (compared to the big girls, anyway).

THIS is today’s egg from BB:

Yep – that says 2 7/8ths ounces.

DANG! That’s a BIG egg!

Compared to Rooth’s eggs…And in with the other eggs from the big girls – who routinely lay about 2.25 oz eggs…

By the way… Aren’t they pretty eggs? I love the color variations. The kids are getting expert at being able to identify who laid what egg. Wild!

We live in an old house – and sometime shortly after the house was built (in 1946) someone planted a hydrangea right under the kitchen window. It’s a very large bush! It is kind of wierd, though – the colors on it tend to wash out to almost white in late summer and early fall, and then it seems to shut down production, as I assume other hydrangeas, do. I was walking past the bush – as I do many times each day – and was shocked to see one cluster of flowers on the back to a truly stunning blue. Isn’t it pretty?

Here are a few of the girls out sunbathing the other day… So much for cleaning the carpet and letting it dry in the sun!

It didn’t take us very long along the road of chicken ownership to figure out that chickens make the funniest noises. Henrietta makes the funniest little chirping sound when she’s on the nest box and you dare to disturb her. Here’s a tiny little video clip that Jessica took of her the other day.

And here (the lightest brown egg) is the egg she laid shortly thereafter!

Interestingly enough – Henrietta is still the most consistent egg layer. We get an egg a day from her – pretty much without fail. Rooth is right behind her in consistency. Interesting, huh?

Our Rooster Laid an EGG!!!

So we have this neighbor…

Well, I should back up a bit… If you remember Harlan the rooster, you’ll remember the neighbor – you can get the whole story here. Suffice it to say – our neighbor does not approve of roosters.

In the past week I’ve had several alarming mornings… picture this… me, in my nightgown, wearing my muckers (the world’s best shoes for running around a dew-wet yard), a cardigan, my hair all over the place… madly trying to coax my California White chickens out of the neighbor’s (yes THAT neighbor’s) newly seeded lawn. I nearly have a heart attack every time I glance out the bathroom window and see that they’re THERE – AGAIN!

About a week ago the neighbor’s wife came and knocked on the door to let me know our chickens were in her yard and I should come remove them… I, of course, quickly donned shoes and followed her to the sight of them scratching in her yard.

This neighbor and I have never spoken before. It was an interesting conversation. She mentioned casually that she used to raise chickens. She shared some tidbits on the best methods to raise chickens. And then she informed me that one of my California Whites was, in fact, a cockerel – not a pullet and that I should be cautious. I responded that I was pretty sure that it was, in fact, a pullet, not a rooster – we’d already gotten rid of our California White rooster – and that it wasn’t unusual for the pullets to develop more pronounced combs and wattles right before they started laying eggs – just about the age of these chicks. She made certain to let me know that she had no doubts we had a roo on our hands, and that she’d be keeping an eye out.

Today – our “rooster” laid an egg!

Here SHE is… she doesn’t have a name, but since she’s so easily identified visually from her peers now, I suppose we’re going to have to come up with a name for her! Any suggestions?

And here’s her egg. It’s our first white egg! Woo hoo! It was petite – only 1.375 oz – but perfectly beautiful!

How’s that for a display of variety?! The darkest eggs are Millie’s, the lightest of the brown eggs are Henrietta’s, and the medium brown ones are Hallie’s.

Oh – and Jake has found a new favorite place to nap during the day:

Yes, that’s him curled up right underneath the nest boxes. The girls don’t seem to mind him there – and he doesn’t seem to mind them, either. He’s such a goof!

It’ll be interesting to see if he’s allowed to continue to nap there as more and more of the chicks start laying… The middle girls are now of an age where that will begin. I’ll be sure to report!

It’s official – I’m outraged!

May 29th, 2008 I celebrated one of the biggest milestones of my adult life: 1 year of being high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) free. (You can read a little about it here.)

I know – seems kinda weird, maybe to wholesale eliminate an ingredient from one’s life, but I have motivation: my bones. I was diagnosed with osteoporosis quite a few years ago – since then I’ve taken big strides to improve my bone density – including losing a couple of hundred pounds, supplementing appropriately, getting appropriate exercise, etc. A little over a year ago it came to my attention that one of my – literally – lifelong addictions was fighting me tooth and nail for my bone density. My love for Coke. One of my orthopedic surgeons mentioned to me a couple of years ago that I wasn’t doing myself any favors by consuming it, but I kinda shrugged the comment off as some health nut type of comment! LOL!

Shortly before I took the plunge and decided to kick the HFCS to the curb my endocrinologist casually mentioned to me that HFCS and carbonation BOTH inhibit calcium absorption.

That stopped me cold in my tracks.

“WHAT?!” I exclaimed. Why didn’t I know that?

That’s when I decided I had to research and decide for myself the veracity of such a statement. I put on my researchers hat and jumped in with both feet. It didn’t take very long to find some alarming information. Timeline was also troubling – introduction of HFCS into the food chain and parallels to the obesity epidemic were difficult to dismiss. Incidence of spikes in the numbers of the general population developing Type II diabetes and that timeline were interesting, as well. And particularly concerning to me, the fact that there were many references to a correlation between increased HFCS consumption overall and declining bone density.

There were some really great resources available. As always, was offered lots of interesting articles – one in particular that I found helpful was by Sally Squires entitled, “Sweet but Not So Innocent?” dated March 11, 2003. I wish I could offer a link to the entire article here, but it’s now in their archives and you have to buy it to read the entire thing – the free preview gives you a good idea, tho.

Suffice it to say – there’s a lot of excellent information available for an intelligent person to make an informed choice. My choice, obviously, was to exclude HFCS from my world.

Easier said than done.

Have you ever read labels? I do a lot – one of my motivators for label reading is because I’m allergic to so much stuff, so it’s a pretty important thing for me to do. But have you ever read labels with an end to ferreting out whether or not HFCS is in the ingredient list?

Whoa Nellie!

It’s in almost everything! Good grief!

So why? Why is it everywhere? Why is it in Ritz Crackers? I love Ritz Crackers. Why is it in Wheat Thins? I love Wheat Thins, too! Why is it in crazy stuff that you’d never dream it would be in? Honestly, too much stuff to begin listing. It’s a little bit frightening when you start to pay attention and realize how pervasive the use of the stuff is. And then you look around at your fellow shoppers and the light bulb kind of goes on.

One of the reasons it’s everywhere is money. It’s a cheap way to sweeten stuff. Another reason is that it’s sweeter than table sugar – so your taste buds crave that super sweet sensation. Another reason is convenience – easy to add to stuff, making production costs – even marginally – lessened – which means more profit for the manufacturer.

Maybe another reason is the Corn Refiners Association really, really, really likes having the resources available to produce commercials like the ones I saw last night – over my shoulder as I was sitting at my desk working on a project.

Okay – so let me just preface this by saying – I really don’t watch a lot of TV. Just not a lot of time. Usually it’s kind of by accident that I catch stuff. Kinda like last night. So I don’t know how long these commercials have been playing, or the web site they promote has been active – but last night was the first time I saw them.

Let me just give a brief overview of the first commercial I saw. I’d give you a link to it – but I don’t want to promote the stinkers who are promoting it! Two Moms – at a party of some sort – it’s summer time – happy children playing in the background. One Mom approaches the obviously hosting Mom as she’s pouring some sort of juice into glasses for kids. Approaching Mom says something to the affect (and in an obviously condemning tone) “You must not care what your kids eat/drink. You know that has high fructose corn syrup in that, right? You know what they say about it, don’t you?” Hosting Mom responds with a very laid back persona, “No, what are they saying?” Approaching Mom responds, obviously stumped, with hems and haws… Hosting Mom interjects, “That it’s made from corn, it’s all natural, and should be used in moderation like table sugar?” To which Approaching Mom stammers, “I love your shirt!”

So bottom line – one must conclude that anyone who is opposed to the use of HFCS is:

1. Stupid
2. Really stupid.
3. An idiot as well as stupid.
4. And a fear-monger as well.

Okay – yeah, I know, sorry. I’m mad. I shouldn’t say stuff like that. But STINK!

I know better than to ask, “Don’t they care?” Because obviously – they do – just not about the stuff that seemingly really matters to me.

Okay – I’m gonna shut up now. I’m still too mad.