Feeling Like Home

Everything about living in the apartment is different than living in our home in Montana. It is more than the size, or that it is urban. We can’t surround ourselves with things we have collected that make our nest feel feathered because our belongings are in storage. I have found one thing in spite of all the challenges of a temporary living situation is I can cook. Feeding my family and friends has always been a way I showed love. So figuring our cooking is a step that makes this move, this place feel like home.

One of the biggest challenges in decking out the temporary kitchen is that I have a lifetime of collecting things that make an awesome kitchen. All of that is in storage, so the idea of going out and buying things I already own seems a lot pointless spending of money to me. Instead I am challenged to think about things that maybe I wanted to try, but have never done so. I am also tasked with finding things in either a thrift or discount store that will work for us for the next several months.

So far thrift store pickings have been some of the worst I have ever encountered. I’ve always found a fair number of things this way. This time and this location so far I have found no treasures. I find myself comparing prices in discount stores and Amazon. After three weeks I have managed to set up a fair kitchen.

The three big items I have purchased so far are: an instant pot, a countertop modern toaster oven, and a indoor electric grill. Stay tuned as I tell you what I discover about these purchases.

Very Big to Very Little

We have arrived in North Carolina . We will be spending the next six months in a small rental unit while they finish our building our new home. We have gone from a single-family house on 20 acres to a one-bedroom apartment in a suburb of the great Raleigh Durham metro area. Wow! That is all I can say.

Our home in Montana was packed up and put into storage for the next six months. We spent time with friends and family while we waited out snafus in the final days of closing on our house and traveled cross country. It was a time of lots of unrest and all that went with it. Plans were made only to be changed and then changed again.

We planned on downsizing in our new home, but this apartment has taken downsizing to another level. Strangely enough it is good and very comfortable. I guess the fact we went from 2100 square feet to 737 square feet and not feeling like we are packed in here like sardines is a good sign we are making the right choices.

Imagine this with nothing in it.

The hardest part is our household goods are in storage for six months. Imagine this apartment naked, but everything you could want you already own and is in storage. Rental is a more than we had budgeted. It is obviously not unmanageable, but it means we need to be careful in other ways. That said we still needed to make it feel like a home. We are working on that and I will share that wit you in my next post.

Art Of Moving With A Dog

Moving is never easy for humans. Humans are lucky, we know what is going on and that there is an end game. All a dog will see is change at best, abandonment at worse. We have had our rescue dog, Zip, for over five years. We have never moved since he arrived in our home. So this is a first for him that we know of.

We started packing in earnest when we listed our house. We constantly worked our way through the house saying we can live without this. At that point we either rehomed it, trashed it or packed it. So things started changing around our house slowly and Zip did not seem to mind when love seat that gave him window access disappeared. He looked at the moving boxes as a new vantage point and as long as his humans were around this was ok.

Last Thursday the movers came and loaded up everything but the clothes on our back that were going to make the trip cross country in the car. I was once again not sure what he would think. It did not seem to phase him too much.

We were blessed in that several of our friends offered us accomodations since the buyer’s loan was having all sorts of things that were delaying our closing. Once again Zip just settled in like it was his home. He’d always been a good visitor, but moving into another’s home,well one could never tell what to expect.

Our next step is spending hours in the car as we move across the country. He has never been a good car rider so it is a bit of a question how this is going to go. He is taking an anti-anxiety medication each morning before getting into the car. He is seeming to do well in the car but our laps are his first choice. We have a seat belt set up for him and cushion on the center console, but he is always looking to sneak down onto our laps.

We will keep you posted on how he does as we change locations as often as we change our underware.

My Identity – What I Did Not Pack

The time between when we close on our current house and when close on our next house will be a four, possibly five, months. On Thursday, the movers picked up our household belongings, and they are going into storage for the indefinite future. We will be keeping some clothing and select belongs with us in our little Ford Escape as we travel and visit friends and family. I learned that trying to figure out what I think I will need to have for my art supplies and what I will pack was one of the hardest things I had to do. It was more than high grading my studio supplies. I am not sure but I think it is a combination of my personality and my comfort level reflected in what I kept and what I packed.

It was hard to let things go into the packing box knowing I would not see them again for months. A friend of mine said that when I unpacked them it would be like finding friends again. This experience also serves as a reminder that what I have is a blessing of abundance. I got rid of supplies that maybe did not turn out to be my kind of creative. I also let go of supplies that I could not see myself using again. Sometimes we creatives try things and after making a few things it turns out to be “been there-done that-don’t need to do it again”. Supplies that fell into that category I allowed myself to let go of as well. I think we creatives tend to hoard things because we might want them again. It makes more sense to share with others, rather than discover several years later that the product is no longer usable. It took me weeks to slowly figure out what I thought I would not have “to have” for the next few months, what I would pack away and what was better served by giving it to someone else.

After may layers of packing I have finally come up with a very full satchel bag that will be my art supplies for the foreseeable future. In my bag you will find:

  • My good watercolor brushes in their case. There was no debate on these.
  • A custom watercolor pallet case with personally selected half pans and a swatch sheet.
  • NeoColor II – I debate long and hard between this and Inktense pencils. I chose this one because I thought it would be more flexible
  • A water soluble graphite pencil and sticks.
  • A collection of cube ink pads. It is a collection of Archival, hybred, and Distress inks.
  • 5 stamp collections
  • 5 stencils
  • Watercolor sketch book
  • Dyan Reavley small art journal
  • Small dot journal for daily journaling
  • My Mixed Media journal for my year long weekly art lessons
  • Two zip pouches of assorted materials that can be used for mixed media, classes, and art journals
  • Clear gesson
  • Small collection of soft pastels.
  • My pencil case with assorted pencils
  • My pen, watercolor, marker and other goodies bag.
  • Liquitex clear gesso

I was also allowed an art box of things that was fully enclosed for items that may not traveling the bag well. Here is what I selected:

  • Acrylic Paints – I picked an assortment of craft and art paints.
  • PVA glue
  • Stabilo pencils in black and blue
  • A black archival ink pad
  • Glue stick
  • Assorted pens, pencils water brushes
  • Gel matte medium
  • Lindy’s Magical and Shaker water colors
  • Prima metal wax
  • ratty craft brushes.

I would have to say there were two things I packed a day before the mover came that were actually the hardest to let go of but space prevented them from even being considered. I hated to let go of my sewing machine and my Sizzix cutting machine. They are two things I use all the time in so many of my creative endeavors. I hated to let them go and have already had occasions when I wished I had them.

If you had to use only a few of your many art supplies what would you keep out and what would you pack? Are there supplies that realistically you are not likely to use again and would better served by giving it to another person to use?

Emptying the Larder

Since I last wrote RangerSir and I have sold our home. It has been a ride like no other home sale we have experienced before when selling prior homes of all sorts, in many different states and locals. We will be having a closing on June 1st. One of the things we must do before that date is empty our larder because we will not be moving directly from one home to the next. Nor will this move be a local one. We will not be moving food. We must empty our freezer and cupboards.

I still make pies using the same rolling pin RangerSir and I found at an estate sale when we first got married.

After years of living without a grocery store just minutes from home, we developed a habit of having a well-stocked pantry and freezer. We bought our beef, pork, and lamb from a locally known rancher. We raised and butchered our own chickens. We stocked up on meat when it was on sale, so if tonight we wanted brats on the grill, it was possible without running to town by looking in our freezer. Our freezer was well stocked. If beans or can tomatoes were on sale in the 10 for pricing option, we stocked up so we could make chili if the day turned cold. Our full pantry always had lots of options available.

Apples and cranberries almost make something like a tart cherry pie.

This last year in the midst of COVID, a friend offered us apples. We accepted the gift and went about putting them in the dehydrator for snacks, and making enough apple pie filling that we could have a pie a month before apple season next year. I love cranberries and when they were in season, I bought multiple bags and froze them so I could make a salad, relish, or bread when cranberries were no longer in the store. I did not think much about this because 2020 had been such an unpredictable year. I did not know for sure if we would move or 2021 would be another year spent in Montana. COVID taught us life was a toss-up and anything was possible and any plans could be upended.

In 2021 we sold our home and found our moving plans for retirement back in play. Because of how the sale’s timing, it turned out we were short on time on our exit plan. We suddenly realized we had five month’s worth of apples, and bags upon bags of cranberries, and just weeks to use them up. I decided that I would make pies. I found a recipe for cranberry apple pie. I made five pies, mixing the two together in a pie mashup.

I’ve never made pies in aluminum foil pans before. I did not get the browning I wanted but oh they did make wonderful gifts.

I enjoyed making the pies. It took my mind off all the craziness happening with the sale of our house. I enjoyed more giving the pies away to friends. It moved me further along in the continuum of getting ready to leave behind our home of over 20 years. Getting rid of the items in my freezer allowed me to mentally start to move forward into the next phase of our lives and journies. Our larder is not bare, but I can see and hope that by the time our last day comes that there isn’t much left I will have to find a new home for.

Water – Not as simple as it seems

As RangerSir and I interview places we are considering for our retirement move, one of the things is on our list is water.  I remember the day our dry creek bed first ran with water.   Even if it is only a short spell each year I was thrilled to see water run in the small drawl that ran across our property for the first time.   I called RangerSir at work with my news.    I told him to guess what I had discovered that day on our property.   Of course, he asked for a hint.   My hint was people fight and get shot over this.   His first guess was water.  Not sure how that happened but it was one of those moments when we both knew we were on the same page about that resource.

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It may seem kind of an odd thought in a country where we seem to have plenty of water that it is a blog-worthy topic.  Yet it is not that simple, no matter if you have your own well or are on a “public” system.   Here are some things to think about when you talk water.

There are many cities where your water does not come from a city-owned municipal utility.   There are cities where you get your water from a publicly-owned for-profit company.   Think about that for a minute.   You are getting an essential commodity from a company who is charged with making money for the stockholders.   The people who own your water don’t live in your community or have any care about your water system other than what economic return there is.   There are two communities in Montana that are poster children for the disaster that this can be.    Butte’s mining companies owned the water system from the beginning of the town’s history (prior to 1900) and for years they put no money into the system infrastructure. It was in such bad shape that the water was still in most cases flowing through the original redwood pipes.   The city had over 800 bursts pipes annually.   Splinters, rust and more came through the city water system into homes.  Finally,  in the 1990’s there was a transfer of ownership of the water company from the mining company to the city.  The system was in a bad state.   Bonds and mill levies were passed and millions were spent to bring the system back up to snuff.   It wasn’t cheap, but the community can once again use the water that comes out of their tap. Another Montana city, Missoula, recently purchased its water system back after being sold and resold by public companies because its aged system was starting to need capital investments.    The public companies liked the income but weren’t so crazy about investing in infrastructure.  It cost the city a lot of money to buy their system, but they did it  saying they wanted to ensure the people of the city had “access to clean, affordable and reliable water.” Similar things have happened elsewhere.   It isn’t cheap for a municipality to own and maintain a water system but from what I have seen, the other option isn’t so great either.  So as I look at cities one of the questions I ask about is their utilities.   I assume nothing.

 

Here in the country, we have a well.  We are lucky in that our well is exceptional.  What I mean by that is, water is clean, plentiful, not full of minerals, and it doesn’t  have a nasty odor or taste.   We have it tested regularly and say a prayer of thanks for our results each time.   That said, I think about what will happen if our well runs dry?   Just a couple of miles away as the crow flies the houses are on a different aquifer.  Those wells don’t supply enough water out of the ground on demand for basic household needs.   In order to support their water needs, those folks have large holding tanks in their basement to ensure they have the pressure and quantity of water for a normal household.  Pretty strong wake-up call when you know it is just geography and luck that I can turn on my spigot without a worry.

There are other stories around the word about water shortages for people and agriculture.   It is something that we don’t often think about until it doesn’t work.

Timing is Everything

We have traveled all over with the Forest Service.   We have been some pretty amazing places.   Just recently one of our most coveted places, Grand Marais, MN,  had an opening for exactly what my husband does here in Montana.    It would have been a lateral move, not all bad.   Unfortunately when you are in high gear for those last ten years before retirement, your dream location takes a back seat to smart financial moves.   Together we looked at all the pros and cons of taking this move.

The lighthouse at Grand Marais.

Reasons for Going to Grand Marais

  • At the end of the Gunflint Trail, need I say more
  • Mr Ranger would have to to spend time in the BWCA as part of his job.  The BWCA inspired him to have the job he has today.
  • Being right on Lake Superior, my favorite Great lake
  • Being back in the hardwood forests.  If you’ve been there you know there is no place like the Northshore.
  • They have an established art colony to nurture my creative soul.   It started back in 1947, so they have a long history of supporting folks teaching and exploring all sorts of creative mediums.
  • We would be less than 4 hours from Mr. Ranger’s family, both his & my best friends and only 12 hours from my family.
  • Over 100 inches of snow!
  • Lots of cross country at our back door.
  • BWCA at our “backdoor” so we could access it during  the shoulder season when “everyone” has gone home.
  • It has a longer growing season, but then almost every place could say that.
  • Access to lots and lots of hiking and biking trails.
  • Voyaguers National park and Quetico Provincial Park are just a short jaunt away.

You never get too old to cross country sky. You just need snow.

Reasons for not throwing our name in the hat to go to Grand Marais.

  • Retirement – It is much less expensive to live here, so we are mega saving for retirement.
  • Our house payment is tiny and we can see the end of our mortgage
  • Limited amount of affordable housing in Grand Marais, and we would have to start over with a mortgage.
  • Few job opportunities for me, even fewer that would replace my current salary.
  • An economy skewed by tourists and second homes.
  • No mountains

I’ve been to New England in the fall and it has nothing on the Northshore.

There are no better sunsets or sun rises than those on a lake, big or little.

We spent hours talking about it.   Our wants, dreams, wishes and what retirement meant to both of us together and individually.   When it was all said and done we without a doubt knew this was a matter of timing being everything.   Something is perfect only if the timing is right.   It must be a balance of financial and emotional desires.  This was not that.     So we passed.  We know when it is the right move the stars will align it will feel right in every way.   Enough said time to let it go, but it was sure fun to play with the idea.