Monday, October 7, 2013

Kill Bill, Vol. 2

Don't feel bad if you missed Kill Bill Volume 1. So did we. We found someone claiming to be a mobile goat butcher on Craigslist. She responded to this ad in the "gigs offered" section:

I bought a goat a few weeks ago, and he is really starting to smell. I can't even open my windows any more. Speaking of windows, I think it is only a matter of time before he breaks through them. He scares my children and tries to rub his disgusting urine crusted face all over us anytime we are outside. I don't know anything about goats, clearly. Maybe you do? I prefer butchery, but if by chance there is a mobile goat castrator reading this, please do respond. You must be mobile because there is no way I am letting him in my car. Payment is negotiable. Now if the castration turns into butchery, I am not paying for both. Serious inquiries only. 

We planned our whole Sunday around it including trading off the kids with my parents to go to different Masses to be sure we didn't miss her 10am scheduled arrival. Turns out she was lying the whole time and never planned to come. What kind of person does that? A person with the phone number 479-never mind I won't do that. It felt like middle school all over again. Let this be a lesson, folks. When you start a homestead and get in over your head, and try to hire a mobile goat butcher/castrator on Craigslist, bad people will try to exploit your vulnerability for their own sick pleasure. I could see this being a country song or YouTube video.

So then began Kill Bill Volume 2. We posted a free goat ad:

Special offer today only. Good brush goat, tether-broke, no horns, great pet or great dinner. Pick up today only. Will not hold because I am tired of Craigslist flakes. 

The Perez family did not disappoint. God bless the Perez family. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ten Things I Learned About Goats...

1.)  The terms “billy goat” and “nanny goat” are now considered offensive. Buck and Doe, minus the word “goat” are now the politically correct terms. This makes it hard for someone like me to buy a goat on Craiglist. I kept thinking, “Why are so many people trying to sell deer? Is no one selling goats?”
2.)  Goat hooves need to be trimmed (despite what the Craigslist seller tells you).
3.)  Horse Farriers (people who trim horse hooves for a living) are offended when you ask them to trim a goat’s hooves. Apparently goats are at the absolute bottom of the farm animal pecking order. Who knew? Certainly not me.
4.)  Bucks intentionally try to urinate all over their faces. Why? Because Lady Goats, excuse, me, "Does" really dig it. You probably don’t need to be told this, but it is very gross and smells horrible. 
5.)  Watching a goat eat through your brush is more entertaining than television for at least 10 minutes. Then the wind changes direction, and you all have to go inside.
6.)  After you realize that you never should have bought a Buck and seriously need to castrate him, Google searches only bring results that tell you how to do it yourself. Yes, Google tells me to do this myself. Google has obviously never met me. I can't even trim the thing's hooves. The last thing I need to be trimming know. 
7.)  When we got married back on October 11th, 2008, I had no idea one day we would be discussing who should be the one that holds the goat and who should be the one who does the castration. And more importantly, which of these two should be holding the gun, or as we like to call it, “back up anesthesia.”
8.)  It probably is not a good idea to buy a goat on Craigslist. It is probably an even worse idea to find a mobile goat castrator on Craigslist. 
      UPDATE: It is impossible to find any sort of goat castrator on Craigslist. I just had to put this out there in case you were thinking of trying. Don’t waste your time. Endless searching on Craigslist through multiple states = no goat castrator.
9.)  Once you own a Buck, all the literary references you know where a woman calls a man an “old goat” really start to come into context. No details here. Just trust me.
10.)  When looking up alternatives to do-it-yourself goat castration, you can find some enticing goat taco recipes.

So now we have plan A: amateur goat castration. Plan B: Goat tacos. Personally, I am much more confident about the tacos. We will keep you up to date.

Here is Bill in the mean time:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Pear Storm

Now that we are mostly unpacked, we are really starting to make progress on the homestead front. We have at least 4 pear trees that we have found so far. They are pretty big and have produced a lot of fruit. From what I have learned through Googling, you are supposed to pick them before they are ripe, when they pull easily from the tree. Then you let them sit a week in a cool place. Then they are ready for eating.

I was pretty sure we were wasting our time picking them and bringing them into the house because they were so hard, the tree had not been watered, thinned, or cared for in any way, and I seriously doubt my abilities to preserve such a large amount of food. Despite my timidness, we had a fun time harvesting them. It was great to work together as a family. Here are the kids just before heading out:

We figured out that with only one tall person, it is better to have the tall person shake the branches while the two short people pick them up off the ground. We also learned that spinning in circles under the tree and shouting, "It's raining pears! It's raining pears!" while the pears fell all around us, though a wonderful experience initially, is a really bad idea. A better idea would have been to watch from the shed and shout, "Wow! We are so glad to watch this pear storm from a safe 20 feet away and under the protection of a metal roof!" I somehow did not think to question why Richard put on a hard hat while we were dancing beneath him in straw hats. Instead I thought, "Why does Richard have his hard hat on? It is so hot out here." I guess everyone but me knows that fruit falling from trees is painful. Now I know.
These are what they look like in my laundry basket right now.

They were very hard when we picked them. I don't know exactly how much we got, but it was about a laundry basket full. There were lots more, but it was really hot, and we just didn't feel like picking any more. And I only have 2 laundry baskets. Now it has been almost a week, and I am quite surprised that they are indeed getting softer, though they are still very firm. They may be a canning pear variety in which case they won't ever really be good for eating. I tried a sliver of one today. I couldn't swallow it. It was just too dry and grainy. I am going to give them another week. Then I will try to make pear sauce (like apple sauce) and try to can it.

If it doesn't come out right, I will make wine out of it. If the wine doesn't come out right, well... we can still find a use for it.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Why Did You Move HERE?

Why Did You Move Here?

It is never good when this is your greeting from locals. Truly though, it is what everyone has said to us. This question tends to get asked of us after Mass, and I struggle to answer in the 3-second window that would be polite in such circumstances. I usually say something like, “Well, we can live anywhere.” That only causes more bewilderment and more awkwardness. So here is the truth, and from now on I will just direct people to my blog. Surely that will go over more smoothly.

The primary reason we bought this house in this location is the affordability. When we lived in California and Little Rock, prices were high and particularly burdensome for a single-income family. It isn’t that we could not afford it, and it isn’t that we were struggling, but it did create an uneasy level of stress about maintaining our income. If we had family in the area, I would have considered the prices worth it, but we didn’t. We decided to quit renting (in Little Rock) and buy a home because with our growing family, rent was getting ridiculously high.

We didn’t go the normal route that HGTV showcases. On HGTV, you go to a mortgage broker, find out how big of a mortgage you qualify for, then look for houses in that range. Inevitably you end up liking the most expensive one because that is how desire works. You make an offer for slightly less than the asking price because of course you want a good deal, but you don’t want to offend or appear unreasonable. Then the seller counters with a higher offer. Then your realtor tells you to make your best and final offer. Then you commit yourselves to pay the max you can afford for 30 years.

Our approach was different. Instead of looking to advice from people whose pay was directly tied to how much money we spent (real estate agents and mortgage brokers), we talked to each other about what we really wanted and what was really important. We decided that more than anything, we wanted freedom. We wanted freedom to work and live as we please and enjoy life. We did not want a mortgage that enslaves us to a high-paying job for 30 years. I think we are finally learning that wealth is not what you make; it is what you don’t spend.

So we started at the bottom. We found the cheapest areas that were reasonable for work that were safe. Beauty of the land was also important to us. Once we narrowed it down to a general area, we drove all over it together. We went to parks, grocery stores, and restaurants. We talked to strangers.  We tried to get a feel for the community. After considering all these things, we narrowed it down to a county.

Once we had a county, we started looking at the bottom again -- at the cheapest houses available. We didn’t use an agent because our price range was the absolute lowest, and we didn’t feel right asking someone to invest a lot of time in us. Also, we liked the freedom of just driving to see a house when it was convenient for us. If we really liked a house, we would call to have the selling agent show it to us. So many agents tried to tell us we needed an agent, and it was sometimes obvious our unusual approach made them uncomfortable. 

We often found that we were more familiar with the low end of housing than the agents were. We mostly used Zillow and Craigslist to get an idea of pricing and to see what was available. We would find a few houses and drive out to see the outside of them and more importantly the neighborhood. We did this for over a year. We put in a few low-ball offers; they didn’t pan out. That didn’t matter to us. We didn’t fall in love with a house. We were not searching for “the one.”  We were just searching for something that would work for us and not against us. Eventually we found it, and it happened to be in this town. That is why we moved here.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Moving In and Moving On

We are now living in the house, and the FEMA trailer is gone. We are still unpacking, but hoping to get started on our pathetic attempt at homesteading soon. Here is where we stand right now:

1.        I read Square Foot Gardening on the recommendation of a friend, and I am pretty optimistic about it. I hope to get started soon.

2.       Our bees left us. We are still sad about this, but we have made a new priest friend at the local monastery that used to manage 400 hives. He says he can hook us up.

3.       There is way too much lawn mowing required on four acres. Getting a goat has been moved to the top of the list of homesteading tasks to accomplish.

4.       I took a winemaking class, bought the supplies, and plan to start that next month so that I can have wine in time for the holidays. Guess what we will be giving out for Christmas. We will probably require signing of a legal waiver. I want to print labels for it that say “Casa DeLuca” or whatever is Latin for “Not Responsible for Blindess”. I will have to look that up.

That is about it as far as homesteading goes. For now the main focus is unpacking, figuring out how to arrange furniture, and relishing the small victories like getting dinner on the table, getting the kids to bed, and actually sweeping the floor. Every time I move, I swear I will never do it again. This time actually looks pretty hopeful. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

FEMA Trailer Life

Well, the end of June has come and gone some time ago. With August fast approaching, we are going on our fifth week of living in a FEMA trailer. No, contrary to rumor, we have not been the victim of any natural disaster, just the victim of optimism. We actually bought the FEMA trailer as soon as we bought the house from a local dealer who buys them from auction. We intended it to be guest quarters since the house is fairly small, but now that we have been living in it ourselves, we are not sure it will fit the bill.

The primary problem with it is that FEMA trailers have seen way more hard living than your average 7-year-old private family-owned trailer. So the couch, booth seats, and table are way more unlevel, uncomfortable, and warped than any I have experienced. Whereas a similarly aged trailer would have been used a few weekends a year, this one has been used non-stop for several years.

Second, in an effort to make them very quickly and very cheaply, and knowing the government was the buyer, and knowing the person receiving them was incredibly desperate with very little avenue for complaint, they were made with very little storage. I have been in many different travel trailers; I know where the cabinets and drawers are supposed to be. Honestly, I would say at least 50% of them were never installed in FEMA trailers, and I understand why. There are no cabinets above the bed, no drawers underneath the closet, no cabinet above the toilet, no cabinets above the couch, no cabinet to hold your television, etc.

For example, here is a picture of the kitchen cabinetry:

Notice that the frame was clearly intended to hold more doors and drawers, yet a recessed flat piece was put in many places to cover otherwise useful, now empty space. I imagine this saved GulfStream a lot of money and the government a lot of time. I somehow missed this when I bought it.

Another cost saving measure: I have exactly one linear foot of counter space. So not cool since I live here. Also, there are not near enough electrical outlets. There are four, and two of them are located so that your cords have to be over a sink.

All that being said, there are 2 really awesome things about FEMA trailers. First, they have full-size, real refrigerators with freezers. For a family who actually cooks most meals in their trailer, this is indispensable for us. Second, it has a real full-size porcelain toilet. Most travel trailers have small plastic "toilets" that are really somewhere between an outhouse and chamber pot in terms of civility.

Anyway there is my answer is someone asks me if they should buy a FEMA trailer. If it is like $1000 I say go for it, but here they are selling in the 4K range, so I think I overpaid. Live and learn, but it has given us a place to live for a while. Speaking of which, the contractor is saying the house will be done by August 1st. We will see.

Oh, and the bees left us. I have no idea why. They seemed happy at first and then every day there were less and less of them. At least they are not dead. Or at least we can't find the bodies.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Demolition Begins

Today was the first day of ripping down falling ceilings, peeling wallpaper from paneling, removing soffits, removing brick "fireplaces," and removing ceiling fans. Several things were discovered:

1. Most of the paneling is not salvageable due to the wallpaper removal not going very well. I consider this great news. Sheetrock here we come.

2. A meth head got into the attic and removed all the wiring. I am pretty sure they were on drugs while removing it because there was no copper in the wiring. They left the expensive whole house fan unit. They ripped the socket for the stove right out of the wall. We have to re-do the electrical anyway, so this isn't the huge loss it would be other wise.

3. Two of the bedrooms do have the original wood ceiling under the tiles that we ripped down. We plan to just re-paint the wood in there and in the living room.

4. The coolest discovery is that we found an old, original stone fireplace behind the yellow brick facade that was behind the 1960s electric heater in the living room. It looks really awesome. We will have it inspected to see if it needs repair, but regardless we are keeping it for looks if for nothing else. It is surrounded by a raw wood wall made of flat horizontal pieces. We are considering keeping this as the wall in the living room, but frankly I am a little scared to do this. I am afraid it will look too rough and that kids will get splinters...but I can't decide.

5. The bees are alive! And Richard successfully fed them without getting stung. And without a bee suit! I am so proud of him.

The contractor still thinks he can have all the work done by the end of June. I still have major doubts, but we did get a travel trailer on the property already, so we may just have to live in there a while.