Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Septic woes

Well, we knew it was bound to happen sometime.  We're most likely screwed.  The septic inspection was today and it FAILED! Big time.  Since we agreed to purchase 'as is' we will probably have to cover the cost of replacing it ourselves.  Our realtor is going to give theirs a call tomorrow anyway, since the owner 'assured' us that the septic was fine.  Even though we had a copy of the original certification by the health department stating that it was only a 1000 gallon tank he said "I don't know where you got your information but it is a 1500 gallon tank and it's fine!"  Well, it was neither.  It is only 1000 gallons and is a homemade cinder block tank that has failed and is most likely leaking.  So he gave us misleading information.  We're not hoping that they will pay for the replacement but we would really like it if they would split the cost with us. Not only does the tank need replaced but the entire leach field as well and that adds up.  I'm not going to hold my breath that the owners will play nicely since they already came down so far but if they don't I'm not going to give them my business, even if they are the closest vets to us.  Maybe I'm being a bit petty but I don't like being lied to.  There is no way that tank got that bad since the last time it was pumped in 2005 so they most likely knew that it would need replaced.  GRRR.  We were ok with replacing the well pump because it is underpowered and we want a bit more water pressure but the entire septic system...  sigh.
C'est la vie.  We will take it as it comes and make it work somehow.  This will just make the financials much more interesting.  But we've already figured out how to make it work, even if we do have to cover the whole cost.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Independence Days- week 17

My goodness, where has the time gone.  Another week gone by.  It's been a busy but productive one.  Things are really moving along here rather quickly and spring is here- well, in theory anyway.  The snow that came and went so quickly didn't seem to bother anything that was already up and growing outside and the lilacs are ready to burst out of their leafy buds.
Here's the latest IDC update.
1.  Plant something- No, but I did place my order for my 'small fruits' that should arrive about the time we close on the house purchase or shortly after. My tomatillos are up and my tomatoes and peppers are ready to be transplanted into larger pots.
2.  Harvest something- Nope
3.  Preserve something- Um, no.
4.  Store something- Lets see, more mini-chocolate chips, and all our little jars of 'wedding honey'.  I'll have to think of something special for that.  I did make a double batch of chocolate chip waffles to freeze tonight as we were out and my crazy schedule has kept me from my usual weekend waffling.
5. Manage reserves- eating almost entirely out of reserves except for milk, eggs and bread. Yeah, I know, I could bake my own but time has been a bit thin for the past two weeks.  I also figure that eating out of reserves means less to move when we get around to that.
6.  Cook something new- Nope, it's been the old standbys lately.  I tend to fall back on the standards when things get crazy around here.  They are things I know will be eaten and are generally quick and easy.
7.  Prep something-  We're in the middle of the ultimate prep- the acreage purchase.  Since we are buying 'as is' the inspections won't stand in the way of the purchase but we're having them done anyway.  The well inspection was this morning and the septic is tomorrow.  Really, unless something falls through with the bank we're set to hopefully close before our date of the 30th.  V met briefly with the mortgage guy at the credit union this afternoon, dropped off the latest bank statements, and locked us in at a rate of 4.75.  What will probably take the longest is the appraisal by the bank, although with the state of the market, no one seems tremendously busy so things are getting done rather quickly.  I guess I could count my fruit order as well as prepping.  I took advantage of an online sale (not Gurney's which I was worried about earlier) and for a reasonable amount I'm getting 2 blueberry bushes, 2 red currants, 6 red raspberries, 50 strawberry plants and a blue climbing rose that J14 has been wanting.
8.  Reduce waste- Just the usual.  But I was talking to one of my co-workers (the one who teaches and works for us 1 day a week) today and she makes an annual summer trip to Brazil with students for an educational/service trip for therapy with disadvantaged children there.  I was bemoaning the great toy sort and she told me that she would love to have any toys we don't want (except really big things) to take with her for the children there.  I talked to the children about it tonight and they seemed to like the idea so we'll probably be boxing things up to go to Brazil.
9.  Learn a new skill- Hmmm, I don't know. Dancing probably doesn't count.  I haven't had any hands-on experience yet but we've been doing lots of research in home repair/rehab and I've been working on redesigning the kitchen at the new house to put in an island.  I found a killer range that I want to get,  it's a 6 burner with one huge burner (I'm thinking canner), a small- simmer burner, and regular ones.  It comes with a griddle that fits over the two center burners and both the burners and oven can be match lighted in case of a power outage.  To make it an even sweeter deal, it is even fairly locally made- in Illinois- in a small plant.
10.  Work on community food security-  Unfortunately, no.
11. Regenerate what is lost- We had a fabulous time reconnecting with family over the weekend. It was fun to spend time with my nieces and nephews now that they are grown up and get to know them better on more equal terms.
12.  Behavior change-  I continue to work on not procrastinating.  The house stuff has been hopping but I found myself last week struggling to complete the final evaluation of my student before his last day.  But I got it done and he has moved on and now I actually have to do my job by myself!  

Wow!  I know that house stuff has been moving but I feel like I've been spinning my wheels in other areas.  But after writing this all out, I'm feeling pretty good about the past week.  
And now, I'm off to package waffles for freezing and I need to get some sleep-  the late nights and early mornings of the weekend are catching up with me as is the non-stop nature of the past few weeks.  I'm actually looking forward to the physical labor part of getting this house. At least then, it's labor not worrying about what will go wrong.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A honey of a wedding

Claudia's honey
We're home.  We weathered the snow storm and driving through central Illinois on not great roads.  Actually, the roads weren't as bad as we feared they would be, having heard horror stories of the snowstorm.  By the time we made it home, almost everything had melted and my crocus were bravely blooming in the sunshine.
The wedding was lovely, small and intimate.  The bride was lovely and my nephew, in spite of forgetting his vows and needing a cue, looked quite handsome.  Of course, I remembered to take everything but my camera!  I hope my sisters send me a few pics.  The dance was loads of fun, although K-9 refused to dance, even when one of the bridesmaids asked him to dance during the opening snowball waltz.  But I got to dance with V, I11, and my father (along with lots of other people during most of the dances). There were only about 120 people there all together and 24 of those were my immediate family (parents, siblings, nieces and nephews and a few fiances).  It was lots of fun to have my entire family together.  It's been a while since everyone was there, it seems that usually there is someone missing. 
The wedding favors at the reception were little 6 oz. jars of honey from the bees the bride studies for her research.  I was pleased that even the boys were excited to each get their own jar of honey.  
We ended up getting by much cheaper on this trip than I expected.  We didn't have to pay for any of our meals for the entire weekend.  Friday evening, we went out with one of my sisters (the one who's hubby works for the DOE), her family and my other niece and her finance.  My brother-in-law picked up the tab for dinner, much to our delight.  Breakfast both Saturday and Sunday was the complimentary hotel breakfast, my brother (father of the groom) picked up the tab for the Saturday lunch before the wedding and then there was the wedding dinner.  So we got off with only the expense of 2 hotel rooms (although we had an excellent rate of $45/room per night), gas money and boarding for the dog.  
While we had fun, it's nice to be home.  I was worried about how my seedlings would fare but they did fine.  Evidently Jim watered them for me yesterday when he came to pick up the mail for us.
Now, on to laundry so I have clothes to wear next week.

Friday, March 27, 2009

It just figures

I've got a 3 day weekend and a 'to do' list a mile long and I can't get any of it done.  We'll be weekending in Champaign for my nephew's wedding.  
Not that I don't want to go, mind you. It will be great to see all my siblings and nieces and nephews and all the other family that will be there.  I'm actually looking forward to the dance after the wedding.  They will be having a Contra dance.  It is a type of folk dancing that has been growing in popularity among the younger crowds on college campuses.  My understanding is that it is a combination of line, square and circle dancing.  Anyway, it should be fun.  There will be a caller and live music and we get to swirl and twirl across the dance floor.
But, we will be spending money on travel, meals, hotel rooms and kennel costs that I really wish we weren't spending right now, and there is the time factor.  I keep telling myself that it is going to be a cold, nasty weekend with a chance of snow so I probably wouldn't be able to do many of the things on my list anyway.  But I'm in the midst of toy sorting.  
I'll confess, we're packrats and haven't ever gotten rid of many of the toys from the children's babyhoods.  Some are stashed in boxes but some are still scattered in the toy boxes.   I started last night to sort out some of them.   I managed to find all the pieces of two playsets (one Pooh and one a safari scene) and have corralled most of the Little People Barn set.  Honestly, this is something that has been on the to do list for a long time but now we've got the catalyst of moving to make it happen.  I tried to enlist K-9 to help but he was no good.  I got way to many "Oh, we should keep this" responses from him- so this is a job for grown ups.  
I'll also add a disclaimer- while our kids have lots of toys, we aren't actually responsible for the purchase of most of them.  For many years, our children were the only grandchildren my in-laws had so they went WAAY overboard on Christmas and birthday gifts.  We still have 3 of 5 of their grandchildren- only one of V's siblings had a child and then adopted another so my MIL still tends to spoil them, although she is slowly coming around.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thanks to everyone

Your positive thoughts paid off.  We signed the purchase agreement this afternoon.  Evidently the extra $5000 was a miscommunication.  It was the realtor's idea in case we needed extra money for closing costs.  So we've got our price.  
We also had, transferred to us through the realtors, a message from the current owners giving an explanation of their decision to drop the price.  They said that our visit on Sunday showed them that we really care about the property and will give it the care it deserves.  Evidently they had other offers, one of whom wanted to bulldoze the house and build new and someone else who wanted to use it as a rental.  They said they were impressed by our desire to make something of the property and that's why they are agreeing to our price.  Wow.  Now I feel quite humble.  We'll have to make good on their trust.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


It's ours!  They have come down and essentially accepted the offer we gave them.  There is something that our realtor will have to explain tomorrow when we sign on the bottom line about 'if we offer them $5000 more, we will get that $5000 back at closing'  I'm not sure what that is about but we're still within what we were willing to pay.  Evidently our little walk through worked since they have offered it to us 'as is' for $45000 less than their initial asking price
Now, it just has to pass inspections of house, well and septic and we can close at the end of April.  We have lots of work to do here between now and then and then LOTS of work before we can even move but I can dig a garden and get my main crop stuff in at the new place.
I'm a bit stunned right now.  Usually when the phone rings at 10 pm it isn't good news.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Independence Days- week 15 and 16

I'm behind in my posting for IDC.  I've been a bit preoccupied with house stuff for the past week or so and haven't been keeping up.  I can't necessarily remember what is for what week but here goes:
1. Plant something- Yes.  Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are up under the lights and I planted tomatillos on Saturday.  I need to get my second battery of lights hung and get some lettuce started.  I know Roger put out some peas last weekend when I was working.  I'm not sure when I will be able to get out but was hoping to get them in the ground at least by April 4th.
2. Harvest something- Other than a few lettuce leaves from the basement crop- nope.
3. Preserve something- No
4. Store something- 10 pounds of flour (unbleached) and vanilla
5. Manage reserves- ate almost entirely from reserves last week since I didn't have much time to go to the store- it will be that way this week as well, especially since we'll be gone for the weekend.
6.  Cook something new-  Um, I don't think so...I have been perfecting my granola bar recipe and have finally settled on a waffle recipe that everyone likes.
7.  Prep something- Well, we've been working on the ultimate prep, negotiating on the acreage.  We met with our realtor again this evening and signed a new offer contract since the old one had expired.  We are now less than $25000 difference but we're not going to be willing to go much higher considering how much work needs done on the house.
8. Reduce waste- Not much different than usual- we do need to figure out what to do with our defunct microwave.
9. Learn a new skill- other than negotiating skills on the house- Nope.
10.  Work on community food security-  I've been trying to talk one of my younger co-workers to plant a little bit of garden at her house.  She is married to a farmer so you'd think she would be interested.  We'll see.
11.  Regenerate what is lost- Not so much this week.  I've been pretty self-centered with all the house stuff going on.  I am looking forward to seeing lots of family this coming weekend at my nephew's wedding.
12.  Behavior change-  Whew!  Not much procrastinating going on around here.  Things are flying fast and furious.  I've got the master list of repairs for this house to prep it for sale.  I'm not going to be a seller like we're negotiating with and leave things half done.

All in all, not a bad two weeks.  I hope to get back on track with things soon.  I'm just worried that house stuff will interfere with my garden plans and we're depending on having garden produce to eat and preserve to help us make ends meet with a mortgage payment.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Quick reaction

Wow,  We already had a call that the owners "don't want to lose us".  That was faster than I thought it would be.  Evidently something sunk in this afternoon.  We will meet with our realtor tomorrow to work on a new offer.  Maybe we can come up with something they will bite at.  
I'm taking their quick response as a good sign in our favor.  Maybe the comments about the current housing market not being what it was struck home.
I'll keep you posted. If we can come to an agreement, I'd like to do it quickly so we can get on with things.   Especially since we will be out of town this weekend for my nephew's wedding and don't want to have all this over our heads while we're trying to have fun.
I'm feeling much more hopeful than I was earlier today.

Still in limbo

Well, we met with the owners out at the property.  We didn't have a negotiation on price but they did some explanations and we did a lot of pointing out of issues we have.  The owners started out quite defensive and didn't get much better.  We were pointing out problems with the windows and he stated saying 'YES' in a quite clipped voice and said it again with every other thing we pointed out, seeming like he wasn't even listening to us.  It finally got to the point where I was about ready to slap him if he said it one more time.  They were really defensive about the amount of insulation- 'Well, do you NEED more insulation, or is it just something you would like'.  V was quick to point out that building codes here require 12 inches of attic insulation at a minimum. All this guy said was 'Oh'.   It was the same thing with the broken, rotting windows:  'Well, we lived here with them like that and it didn't bother us.  They don't leak that much cold air'.   And again with the rotten siding and fascia boards. Pretty much total denial that these were real problems. 
I was rather amused that when we got there, the husband of the couple was hastily using 'goof off' paint remover to try to fix some of the sloppy painting on the woodwork and I noticed that many of the outlet covers had been put back in place.   I did ask about the outlets and he said something on the order of 'when we painted and left, that was something we didn't get around to'.  I still just find it hard to believe that for over 6 months they haven't managed to 'get around' to it.
We haven't made another offer,  at the advice of our realtor, we're going to let them dangle in the wind for a while to think, and wait for them to contact us.  I guess it really hasn't sunk in that the market has shifted since they put this house up for sale and it's taking them a bit to realize that they aren't going to get what they wanted.  We did manage to piece together some information.  Evidently, they bought some land and are living in a trailer there, waiting for this house to sell before they can build a new home on their new land.  As our realtor said: if they don't come to their senses, it could be a really long summer in that trailer.
So, We're still in limbo- waiting for them to think a bit.  We're still willing to go up on our offer but probably not as high as they would like.  They said they're motivated, we'll just have to see how motivated they really are.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring is here

At least on paper.  It is a lovely day here today- in the upper 60s.  Too bad I spent almost all day inside at work.  The crocus are blooming and the daffodils and tulips are pushing their heads up. We re-bedded all the bulbs last fall, hoping to be putting the house on the market in the spring- or at least to be able to get spectacular photos when the bulbs and the lilac hedge are all blooming.  
In some interesting news- we learned this morning of a new law in Iowa that went into effect March 1.  It requires that all electrical work in a building be done by a licensed electrician except for 'routine maintenance' and have a final inspection by a master electrician.  Routine maintenance means swapping out existing lines and fixtures.  Any changes need a permit and all such.  One more thing to add onto the list for tomorrow- although I see this as a rather unenforceable law...unless they make you show your license to buy something at the home improvement store or if someone turns you in.  They are touting it as a safety measure but I really see it as the state trying to make some extra money from permits and inspections and the union trying to drum up business.  It definitely puts a damper on the do-it-yourself-ers.  I'm just sure my Dad is going to get an electrician to do any work on the farm- he's been doing electrical work for 50+ years.

Friday, March 20, 2009


That's the day we meet about the house- at 1 in the afternoon.  It seems so far away.  Of course, I work all day tomorrow and V is driving half way across the state to pick up our friend Jim and drive him home from his father's funeral in the afternoon :(     So the kids are home alone with J14 in charge.  Not a problem, she'll keep them in line.
We were pricing things like insulation, stain for the siding, replacement fascia boards, etc last night in order to get a bit more ammunition for our side of the bargaining.  Does anybody know what labor for such things is worth?  We have never hired anything out so I honestly have no clue.  V jokingly said that he charges $50 an hour but I want this to be an accurate reflection.
Since we will also need to replace the stove (the one there is an electric, glass top one that I can't can on) I was looking at those online. We're thinking about putting in an island with the stove in it (if we get this place).  Who knows.  I don't want to get too wrapped up in planning- yet- but I really can't help myself.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Gardening for the masses

Hooray!  The Obama's have announced that they will plant a garden on the White House lawn.  It's going to be a raised bed, organic garden.  It seems that they are touting the benefits of fresh, local food, especially for children.  But then, we all already knew about that, didn't we.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Back to the old ways

Our microwave had officially packed it in.  I was making granola bars this evening and put in my mix of honey and sorghum to warm a bit (it mixes in easier) and the microwave made a terribly loud buzzing sound and began to smell of hot electronics.  I quickly turned it off and called V who, after a bit of hemming and hawing, pronounced it DOA.  Oh well, it's back to the basics...not that we do a lot of cooking in the microwave anyway but V will have to use the tea kettle to heat water for his afternoon tea while he proofreads.  OH, THE HARDSHIP.  I don't think we'll be in a great hurry to replace it.
In house news, we're still waiting for a time to meet with the sellers.  I was really hoping for this evening but we haven't heard anything. We are requesting to meet at the property so we can do a walk through together to explain our concerns.  I hope it happens soon. I'd like to get this out of the way so I can focus again on other things and figure out which way to go next.  If we can come to an agreement we were hoping to be able to close by April 15th, assuming that we could get all the inspections done in time.  I'd really like to know where I'll be planting my garden this spring.  I know either way, I'll be planting my peas and other really early stuff at Roger's house.  He was so itching to get something in the ground yesterday but I urged caution.  It's still a little bit early here, I think.
I've gotta go.  We were awakened at 4 something am to fireworks being set off in the intersection near our house- Ahhh, spring break.  Just not for those of us who have to get up and work.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The saga continues

It's another round of offer/counteroffer.  They dropped another $6000 in today's round and even more interestingly- they have offered to have a face to face to 'discuss home conditions and remedies' and 'hopefully eliminate any misunderstandings about property condition'.  Great! Bring it on!  I have no misunderstandings about the condition of the property and I would love to educate them.  V and I spent the last few hours compiling our lists.  I say lists because we have several.  First we have the 'major concerns' list including:  insulation (which we have decided that due to animal incursions into the attic we want the existing insulation removed and then replaced with new), weatherization concerns (windows, screens, sealing the mudsill, etc), re-roofing the porch, garage and barn, and, not the least: the rot issues.  We also have the 'other concerns' list- the painting, outlets, broken light fixtures and bulbs, wiring issues.  Lastly, we have the list of 'reasons we don't think it is worth $300,000.  This one includes things like the basement being finished for a business and not for domestic use, outdated kitchen and bath, drainage and erosion issues with the land and a few other things.
We've looked at other properties in this price range, one just a few weeks ago.  With all but one of the others, the houses were beautiful and 'move-in' ready but there were things with location or the land that we didn't like.  I've seen what kind of house that much money can buy here- this one isn't it.  
I'm really interested in hearing their rationalization for why they think this property is worth that much.  Now it's time for the realtors to try to set up a meeting time. Unfortunately, V has a rush editing job for his former employer and also a project coming from his brother's firm tomorrow so he's going to be busy.
We'll see what happens.  Time to put on my game face.  GRRR.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The latest

Well, they didn't accept our offer.  They sent a counteroffer of $10,000 less than their original asking price.  We're countering back by raising our offer $5000.  With the amount of work that the house needs and what it will cost us to repair it we have a definite upper limit of what we will be willing to spend.  Currently there is a $40,000 difference between our offers.  We'll see who wins this game of chicken.  Really, they own the land but we hold almost all of the cards. We can set our upper limit and tell them take it or leave it. We would be out of that land but we still have our house and the garden with Roger so we can't lose.  They will be stuck with this land and a house that is in really bad shape.  We're in the bargaining phase-  and my stomach is churning.  
I've showed you the pretty stuff about this place- here is a little of the problem areas:
This one is minor but there is lots of sloppy wiring.  Lots of sloppy work on everything.
The attic vent has been pulled out and there are critters up there.  Not sure what....
The entire length of this board looks like this off and on all along the north side of the house- it goes all the way through leaving another entrance to the attic space.  There is lots of other dry rot in the siding and windowsills/frames and the thresholds of the doors.
All this, combined with the fact that there is almost no insulation in the house (attic or walls) means that there is a lot of work and expense when/if we get this place.  I really don't see how, even with the land and outbuildings attached, that they can be asking well over $300,000 for this place.
Keep your fingers crossed.  We'll see who wins the game of offer/counteroffer.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I don't wait well...

Ok, I'm getting anxious.  Our realtor met with their realtor- I don't think they had lunch, though.  He did a fabulous job with the presentation (or at least what we saw was great).  He took lots of pictures and presented a bound portfolio of color pics with the proposal detailing the problems we have with the house and why we are offering a reduced price.  I guess he tried to sell the other realtor that this was a good offer based on what he had seen of the house and that the chances of getting someone else willing and/or able to put the work into this house that it needs, are slim to none.  
We'll have to see how it goes.  Evidently the couple who own the property had another offer in a similar price range to ours and turned it down.  What I don't know is how long ago that was.  I guess this other person had no intention of fixing up the house.  They planned to bulldoze it and build new (although that may be easier and faster than rehabing it!)  The price the owners are asking is totally outrageous considering the amount of work that needs to be done on this house.  I don't know if they think they need to get a certain price to 'get back' what they put into it or what.  Both we and our realtor (who has 40 years of experience) feels that our offer is reasonable given the condition of the house.  Personally, I would think that a second offer at about the same price would send a pretty clear message of what it's worth- or what people are willing to pay.  I'm hoping that they're more motivated to sell, even at a lower price since the house has been on the market for so long.
The other realtor was to be meeting with the owners this afternoon. We gave them until 1 pm tomorrow afternoon to make the decision to accept or not. Sigh...

In other news, I spent this lovely day working hard to get this place into condition to sell.  I spent the afternoon stripping the wallpaper from the upstairs bathroom and scrubbing the walls in preparation for painting. J14 helped a bit with the stripping part.  The wallpaper had been there since we moved in and was awful.  We've been planning to remove it for a long time and I've just been waiting for it to get warm enough to open windows while I work.  The children are off on spring break next week so I'm giving J14 the task of priming and painting tomorrow and Tuesday since the weather is supposed to be lovely- at least for the first part of the week.  I forewarned her that she'd better get used to the work. If the house sale goes through we will be working on two houses simultaneously, while in the spring rush of garden planting.  Whoosh!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

More gratuitous photos

Hills and valleys!
The tops of the rises are fairly clear of trees.  I'm envisioning berries and possibly a gazebo.
View from the south end, looking at the house. Children exploring near small pool.
Kids and creeks!  J and K work on a small waterfall.
I think this is the spring fed creek. 
The rise to the rear (southeast) is lovely and flat on top, with hickory and walnut trees around the edges.

Making the offer!!!

Is this the house of the future??? The view from the southeast
It isn't much to look at and it has it's issues but we're making an offer today.  We spent about 2 and a half hours out there, walking the perimeter of the property, going over all the buildings and talking offering price.  I'm really happy with the agent we have representing us.  He evidently went out to the property earlier in the week by himself and had already made notes of lots of things. He had called the company that services the well and septic and asked about records for all those things.  
From the dining room to the kitchen.
From the drive, looking west at the barn and pole building.
The riding arena.
Ok, looking at this, maybe I don't want my garden here.  It seems really wet, even with the gravel and sand base. With the weather sunny and 50 we had more time and motivation to wander the property so I was able to scope out several other places for a garden so maybe this is out.
The house needs LOTS of work- V will have his hands full (as will I) but here is the biggest selling point:
The view from the deck to the south. Heaven!!
The kids had so much fun playing in the creeks.  There are, I think, 4 creeks that converge on the property.  Where they join there is a tiny pool where K9 discovered a little fish, which tells me that there is likely water there year round.  To me, that means that at least one of these creeks is spring fed rather than just being intermittent drainage.  
I have tons more pictures, lots of the children exploring- I'll try to post some more later.  Now, lets just hope they like our offer.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Tomorrow is the day.  We go for another look see- kids in tow, and make our plan for an offer on the property.  We've been having fun making plans.  V and J14 are talking about turning part of the riding arena into a mediaeval fighting ground, or an open air theatre. Me, I just want my raised bed garden spot.  But as big as it is, we would have room for both.  V has been researching how to better insulate the pole barn.  It should be fun. We've begun to come to terms with the amount of work that will be involved with this house.
I'm a bit anxious though.  Today was a crazy-busy day at work and now we're unwinding.  We got a bottle of pre-mixed zombies and have been sampling.  Maybe that's why I'm having trouble typing correctly.  While we do indulge in alcoholic beverages (I know some of you are SHOCKED! by this) we really don't drink that much.  I haven't had a zombie since my college days- Wow!
V just refilled my glass- I'd better go while I can ;)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wacky Wednesday!

Whew!  I made it.  What a day!  I didn't sleep well last night so I've been up essentially since about 230 this morning.  Oh, I dozed off and on after that but not very well.  I haven't slept well in years.  I tried the medicated sleep for a while but didn't like it.
Anyway,  after a full day of work, we picked up I11 from band, ran to the soup supper, served and ate quickly and they flew to J14's concert.  That was nice...although with as tired as I was classical music about put me to sleep.  So now, here I am, unwinding.  Hopefully I'm not too keyed up to sleep.
We have an appointment with our realtor on Saturday to go through the house with a fine tooth comb and make our offer.  While we were waiting for the concert to start V and I were talking about plans: kitchen remodel (minor), basement, outbuildings and garden space.  I hope we can come up with a reasonable offer,  I would love to know one way or another soon. Partly for purely selfish reasons.   I have the most recent Gurney's catalog.  They have a special deal that when you purchase $25 you get an additional $25 worth of merchandise free.  I was eyeing the raspberry, blueberry and strawberry deals that are already buy one get one free offers and was plotting how much I could get for about $30.  Unfortunately the offer expires on the 18th.  That's one week from today.  I don't want to get too hopeful and order, only to have something fall through and have no where to put things. But on the other hand, I can get some great deals and I'd love to get things in the ground sooner than later.  I guess at worst, I could plant things at my parent's or at Roger's place and then transplant at a later time but I hate to do that.  Well, hopefully I'll know something soon.  I think we're going to give them 2 days to respond to the offer when we make it.  I do hope they're motivated to sell.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A question about apples

I've got a question.  I'm not an expert on apples.  My parents have an orchard and I've grown up around apple trees but I really don't know that much about them.   Here's the scoop:
A few weeks ago I was cutting up an apple for K (now 9) as I was cutting out the core a seed fell out.  The curious thing was that it was starting to sprout.  Since they are doing their 'growing things' unit in science at school he wanted to plant it.  I've got no problem with that.  We get an old cup, fill it with seed starting mix, popped the seed in and set under the lights downstairs.  Given that the apple had been in the fridge I wasn't sure if it would continue to grow but it did.  Now we have a lovely little apple tree in a cup- it is a few inches tall and has 4 leaves on it.  I fully realize that it will be many years until this would bear fruit but my question is this:  Do apples grow true to the parent fruit?  This was from a Braeburn (Yeah, I bought some since we were out).  K is so excited to have an apple tree but will it be Braeburn apples if it lives long enough to produce?  I guess I'll have a few years to work on this one.  Now we just need to find a place to plant it where we will be around for a few years- I know it won't last forever in it's little solo cup.

First up!

Amish Paste wins!  Followed by Cherry Roma in a close race.  India Paint eggplant in third!
Wow! who knew seed starting could be so much fun.  Some of my little seedlings are starting to pop up. Too much fun and excitement for me.  I left for work this morning- nothing-  I come home and there is a little green buddy popped up and several others beginning to show.  Isn't it amazing how quickly they grow.  I was a bit surprised by the cherry roma tomato.  It's an heirloom variety but the seed is a couple of years old.  I didn't expect it to germinate as well.  We'll see how many of them come up, though.
In house news- we're trying to work out a time to go with our realtor back out to the acreage for an extended walk through to finalize our offer.  Probably Thursday afternoon or Saturday.  
I'd do it sooner but tomorrow is a crazy day.  I11 has band until 430.  By 5 J14 and I need to be at church to serve at a soup supper and by 630 J needs to be back at the high school for her orchestra concert.  The concert is usually held on the university campus but due to flooding last year, the arts/music buildings are still out of commission. Anyway, it's going to be a long day.
Friday V has an appointment in the psych clinic that I don't want him to miss.  He seems to be holding up well from a depression standpoint, I think the excitement of the house helps and having work from his brother and other freelance jobs is good. But after the trouble we had a few years ago with his depression, I'm not taking any chances.
Thursday looks promising for us it the realtor can make it. I can most likely sneak out of work early (although I have to meet with folks from the University of Calgary from 1-2) and the kids have an early release day from school (out at 2 and 215) since they really want to come see.  
I'm getting excited.  I really, really hope this works out. Since the house is vacant, if we can come to a quick agreement on price and get all the inspections done maybe there is still time to plant some garden out there this year.  A lot of things don't go in until about Mother's day so I've got some time but the early garden may still end up at Roger's house.
Roger is a bit sad that he may be gardening alone but he's also excited about the possibilities for us.  What a good friend.  I will miss gardening with him.  We can still share seedlings since we each planted different things.
Gotta run.  I need to bake brownies for this dinner tomorrow night.

Monday, March 9, 2009

In the works

Things are moving on the home front.  We met this afternoon with a realtor who looked around our house and gave us his opinion on selling it.  He seemed to think that we should be able to get our top asking price for it and that it would sell relatively quickly, even in this economy.  Our location saves us again.  Even though we are a single family home, we are in a high density zoning area and evidently properties in this zone don't come up for sale often.  He pointed out some of the things we already knew- we need some painting and minor cosmetic repairs before we put it on the market.  He also gave us his opinion on the property we have been looking at.  He seemed to think that what we are thinking about offering is reasonable and encouraged us to make an offer soon, since more people are out looking when the weather warms up.  He also reminded us that acreages this close in don't come up often.  We're beginning to prepare our offer.  I think we want to go look again before we submit it and take the children along this time so they can see what we're getting into.  Things may be moving quickly from here on out. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Independence Days- week 14

Another week gone by already!  Where does the time go? It seems like it's been a busy week but I don't really feel like I've accomplished much.  But then, how I feel doesn't always correspond with what I've done.  I really like the Independence Days challenge- it helps me see how much I've accomplished toward my goals. Speaking of goals- I'll have to do a post on my personal goals for the year soon.
1. Plant something- YES!!  I have 8 varieties of tomatoes, 5 varieties of peppers and eggplant down in the basement with heating cables and lights.  My little broccoli seedlings are doing well but don't seem to be growing very fast, and my hot peppers that I started early are hanging in there as well.  Roger keeps asking me if the potato sets have arrived and I keep telling him "No, it's still too early- but soon..."
2. Harvest something- Other than snacking on a few lettuce leaves while I was checking the seeds, NO.
3. Preserve something- nope
4. Store something-  25 lbs of whole wheat flour, 12 lbs of oatmeal, 5 lbs of rolled seven grain blend, half lb packages of sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds, 1 lb of wheat germ, craisins and dried apricots from the Amish bulk store.  Can you tell that I had granola bars on the brain while shopping.   Made a double batch of waffles to freeze for this week's breakfasts.
5. Manage reserves- Had a lovely creamy butternut squash soup for lunch from the last of the squash.  It didn't have a spot but was starting to wrinkle a bit at the stem end. Ate mostly from stores all week but did have several big shopping trips this weekend- once to the bulk store and once to the local grocery- there were a lot of things that we were about out of.  
6. Cook something new-  Tried my hand at fondant for K-9's birthday cake which turned out well.  Improvised my own recipe for granola bars.
7. Prep something- Not really.  J14 and I found another candle sale and picked up 2 pillar candles for the sconces in the living room since the ones there are getting low.
8. Reduce waste- The usual, plus I reused a saved gift bag for K's birthday presents.  One of K's presents was from e-bay so wasn't new.
9. Learn a new skill-  Hmmm- I looked at my knitting sitting by the couch- does that count?
10.  Community food security- Donated a bag of canned goods to the local food pantry.  I had picked them up a while ago when there was a good sale at the store and finally remembered to take them along to drop them off.
11. Regenerate what is lost- had lunch with one of the other OTs where I work who lives down the street.  She works in a different division than I do, so I don't get to see her much.
12.  Behavior change-  working to not procrastinate.  Did the mandatory on-line training the day after we got the e-mail about it so I didn't forget.  I'm trying really hard to keep my inbox in line at work and respond promptly to emails.

Yesterday V and I went to look at another property.  It is relatively new on the market with 4.5 acres and a 3 to 4 bedroom house.  They were having an open house and we thought it would be a good opportunity to check it  out.  Let's just say that we nearly drove right on by when we got there.  The house was lovely - almost too much so- it looked like something out of a magazine with lots of busy wallpaper and 'stuff'.  Not our style at all but a nice house.  The problem was the land.  There may be 4.5 acres but the house sits on the only flat part and it appears that the rest of the land encompasses a wooded ravine.  Don't think so.  So we are back to thinking about the first one and trying to decide if it's worth the amount of work that would be required.  I need to push V to make the appointment with the realtor but I don't want to nag him.
I did manage to get lots done this weekend- the usual laundry, cooking and cleaning.  I've got the meals planned for the week but it's going to be a busy one.  We're double booked on Wednesday evening so things could get interesting.
Hope everyone has a great week.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Name change

K8 has a name change today.  He is now K9.  Although, I will always think of a dog when I type that so I may need to think of something else.  V and I had a lovely afternoon off together.  We ran errands in the morning and then spent the afternoon decorating K's cake.  It was our first attempt at sculpting a cake and covering it with rolled fondant.  It actually turned out rather well for a first attempt.  We made the cake shaped like a whale- it is a family joke from bedtime when V will often flop on top of K tickling him talking about being a wormy bed whale.  Ok, I guess you have to be there for it to be funny.  Anyway, we made a wormy whale- yes, it had gummy worms inside it as well as for the spout.
V trimming the fondant.
Here I am, presenting the finished cake to a delighted K9.
K loved it!  "It is so weirdly awesome' I think was the direct quote.  Anyway, it was a wonderful afternoon working with V, laughing and being silly while we tried to figure this out.    J14 has now demanded something equally 'awesome' for her birthday. Hmm, I have 2 months to figure that one out.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Signs of spring

The first tulip!

It was a sunny 70* here this afternoon!  What a tease! The first tulips are starting to peek out of the soil.  We completely rebedded them last fall, hoping for a more spectacular show this spring in hopes of showing the house.  I'm sure it will get cold again and things aren't completely thawed anyway but it certainly makes me want to get into the garden.  I picked up my fencing material that I'm going to be using to trellis my peas (we're planting a lot more than usual so I got new fencing), and tomorrow or Saturday I'm going to be starting my tomatoes and peppers.  I think I need to try some more hot peppers. While 3 jalapeno plants and 3 hot hungarian wax should be enough I only had one Anaheim come up (out of 6 seeds started)  We eat a lot of stuffed chilis in the summer (and winter, I freeze them halved so we can stuff them).  I had really hoped for a better germination rate for them.  I don't know if it's because these are heirloom varieties and not the hybrids I've started in the past or what but I had bad luck with the hot peppers this year.
V and I talked.  With the economic news getting bleaker and bleaker, it seems, we are still hopeful about the house.  We will still plan to meet with the realtor to see what he feels are the odds of our house selling in a reasonable amount of time.  If we can sell this place, the new place is quite doable, if they accept our offer (or a reasonable one).  Again, I'm impatient and not wanting to wait.  V has been going to call but he's been busy working.  He is, in fact, still sitting at the table working on a manuscript that he has to turn back in to the publisher tomorrow morning. So, he hasn't taken the time to call to set up an appointment.  I am trying to be patient,  I realize that, given that this house has been on the market for so long, the odds that someone else will beat us to it a this point are small- but you never know.
I have tomorrow off work since I worked last Saturday.  We've got a lot planned.  A run to the local Amish bulk store- we're OUT of oatmeal and will also pick up a few other things. A trip to Menard's to pick up another fluorescent bulb for my grow lights- and we have a cake to decorate. We're going out for dinner as a family tomorrow night for K's birthday. That should be fun, it's something we rarely do.
Now, I need to go bake a cake so it is cool enough to frost tomorrow- We're making it shaped like a whale!  (family joke)  I'll take pictures.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Weekly meal plan

Ooo, a two post day.  What will everyone think!  
I was going to post this yesterday but never got around to it.  I was tired after only getting a few hours of sleep on Sunday night and just didn't have my heart in it.
Here is the meal plan for this week- even though we're already partway into it.
Monday- Beef roast with winter veggies.  On Mondays J14 has orchestra so we don't eat until about 7 pm so I have time to do something that will take longer.
Tuesday- Beef and been burritos with homemade salsa. Ok, I'll admit, I used canned refrieds- soaking and cooking beans just didn't happen.
Wednesday- Cheese tortellini with pesto. (Veg)  Ok, another confession- I love the local store brand of frozen cheese tortellini.  It is not terribly expensive, really easy to make and quite tasty.  The pesto is from the garden.  I make it (minus the cheese and some of the olive oil) and freeze it in ice cube trays in the fall.  I pop the cubes out of the tray into a freezer bag then thaw as much as I need, add parmesan cheese and olive oil, and voila!
Thursday- Stir fry with Tofu over rice (Veg) using mostly frozen veggies.
Friday- K's choice! K8 will have a name change and become K9 on Friday.  It is our family tradition that the birthday boy or girl gets to choose what or where to eat (within reason).  K8 had initially chosen Kneip- an old family recipe of egg dumplings in broth but now he changed his mind and wants to go out to dinner at The Mill- a local restaurant- he LOVES their chicken strips.   I'm a bit hesitant to go to a restaurant/bar downtown on a Friday night but I think we'll be home long before the college bar crowd is out.
We're eating 2 vegetarian meals this week.  We generally try for at least one per week and have really tried to cut down on the amount of meat we eat at other meals as well.

Cold Feet

And not the kind you can warm with slippers...  
The recent economic down turn has gotten V worried.  He is concerned that if things continue to get worse the hospital will make more cuts.  While that is always a possibility, I do feel that they would be shooting themselves in the foot to make more cuts in staffing.  Of course, no one ever said that hospital administrators always make the best decisions.  I'm not too worried.  Our division already gave up the new staff we had been promised and are going to be cutting another .2 FTE.  That will leave us only 4.05 FTE to cover 5 inpatient units, 2 outpatient programs and outpatient cognitive evaluations.  I'm not holding my breath that we will get a raise in July like we usually do but I'm okay with that given the current situation.  I may be wrong but I really don't foresee my hours being cut.
But V is worried.  He wants to back out of making an offer on this property and just sit tight for a while longer.  I'm anxious to move on- we've been 'sitting tight' for too long.  We really need time to sit down and talk about this but I've been busy at work and we've been running in the evenings this week.  V has been working on freelance stuff.  He has a bunch of start up stuff for his brother and has a manuscript to edit for his former employer by Friday as well.
I want to make an appointment to meet with a realtor.  A different one than who showed us the house.  We will eventually need someone to help us sell this place and we want someone who can help us negotiate on this property- who is more experienced than we are.  We know a realtor socially (he is a friend of my brother and we have chatted with him several times at my brother's parties) and I've been trying to talk V into at least going to talk with him.  Who knows- he may know of something in our price range that we haven't found.  There is another place that we've looked at on line- but it's only 3 acres and it's almost 20 miles from town and the children would be in a different school district unless we wanted to pay for them to remain in this district and provide transportation- that seems a bit much- but the house on that property was built in 1990 rather than 1951 and would be much less work to repair.  It does have a bit of the McMansion look about it- it looks like a garage with a house attached-yuck.
I'm going to try to corner V tonight after we get the children to bed.  Hopefully we can both stay awake.  I think we both slept better last night than we did the night before so we're not dragging our tails quite as much.  Sunday night both of us had too much running through our heads about house stuff.  I was cataloguing problems and V admitted that he was choosing power tools for different projects in his head (I guess that means he's willing to tackle them)
I really don't want to give up on this one.  I know that the economic times are scary but I feel that we're in a much better position than many.  
I guess I allowed myself to get my hopes up and I'm worried that it will all fall apart.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Independence Days- week 13 and other news

What a week!  Things have been flying around here!  Trips to the bank, working 6 days straight and then today, out to look at a house.  Whew!  No wonder I'm tired tonight.  It has been a challenging week in my Independence Days- but here's the run down.
1. Plant something- Not this week but I have 30 little broccoli seedlings in the basement and a few of my hot peppers have begun to sprout.  I plan to start my tomatoes next weekend so I hope my peppers finish sprouting so I can move the heating cable to the new flats.
2. Harvest something- Only a few leaves of lettuce from the container in the basement.
3. Preserve something- Nope.
4. Store something- No to this one as well. We kind of stopped buying anything until we know if housing is going to change.
5. Manage reserves- Ate mostly from stores.  Only made a trip to the store for milk, eggs and booze (We did need to celebrate after securing a loan!)
6. Cook something new- No, again.  Another boring week.  With so much going on I haven't been in the mood to try something new.  We've been sticking to old standbys.
7. Prep something- other than house hunting, nope.
8. Reduce waste- just the usual.
9. Learn a new skill- No to this one as well.
10. Work on community food security- Um, not so much
11. Regenerate what is lost- Hmm. Not sure.  
12. Behavior change- Well, things have been flying around here so the procrastination certainly isn't a problem, at least for me.  I was a bit cranky with V when I thought he was procrastinating about making appointments with the banks.

House hunting update:
V walking uphill through the meadow.  Pole building at the top, house beyond that at the crest of the hill.
From the bottom of the meadow looking north to the riding arena.
When it thaws it will be quite squishy here.

Well, we spent a while looking at the acreage this afternoon.  The land is beautiful.  A bit of it will likely be much too wet to be really useful as it is the confluence of several drainage areas from neighboring farm fields.  But there is plenty of high ground although the entire property is rather hillier than I had hoped.  
The barn is lovely.  A 3 stall 'hobby barn' with a hay loft.  The pole building is just that:  big and blue with a concrete floor.  It isn't well insulated but it does have heat.
The house, however, has 'issues'.   We spent quite a lot of time hashing it over after we got home and have decided that we are going to make an offer- but at about $50,000 less than their asking price.  The realtor said they were pretty motivated to sell (the house has been sitting vacant for about 8 months).  There is no way we will agree to the selling price- there are too many problems that need fixed and if we end up paying too much for the house we won't be able to afford any repairs (figuring finances with mortgage on the full asking price we would be pushing it to stay in the black on just my salary.)  What issues are we arguing?  Here are a few:

There is only 2-3 inches of insulation in the attic (that should be a crime in Iowa!)
Very little weatherization has been done (crappy storm windows and only 1 of the 4 exterior doors has a storm door).
There are drainage issues (no gutters or downspouts!) and the basement leaks a little.
The breather stack on the septic is nearly rusted through and would need replaced.
There are several broken windows and numerous screens that will need repaired.
There is rotted wood on some of the window sills.
There is a huge crack in the chimney (at least in the plaster covering it- we're not sure if it's structural or not).
They were evidently doing some repainting but now there are missing switch plates and outlet covers and there is some exposed wiring.
There are significant erosion problems with the driveway.
The basement will need almost totally remodeled for domestic use.  The basement had been converted into a veterinary clinic so the space has been chopped up into lots of little exam and procedure rooms- and there are more plumbing fixtures and lighting than anyone would need. 
Even though they list a refrigerator, there isn't one there- not that's an issue, we were planning to take ours with us anyway, but we're thinking of offering to overlook the missing fridge if they throw in the Cub Cadet riding mower in the garage ;)
This isn't even the entire list- we have an entire page of problems that we found.

So, do you think the list is extensive enough to knock off a bunch of money?  We are willing to go a bit higher than we're offering (we're not going to tell them that, though)  but not too much.  Fortunately, we're in a good position.  We're not out anything if they refuse to play along.  We will still have this house and I can garden with Roger.  They are the ones stuck with a house that isn't selling. I guess we'll see how motivated they really are...

Oh, and the riding arena is probably out for a garden space.  It does have some weeds growing there, but it is sand over a crushed limestone base.  We would have to bring in several truckloads of topsoil and rely on raised beds.  I'm just not sure where else I would put a garden the arena is on the largest flat space on the property excepting the house.  And there are definitely deer out there.  There is deer poo all over and the shrubs in front of the house have been nibbled down to sticks.  Of course, having the house and land vacant for so long left it wide open.

We'll see how this week unfolds... Should be interesting.