Living Life On A Whim
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Bill and I bought our property in the Oregon wine country 10 ½ years ago. We still talk sometimes about why we would do such an impetuous thing, on a whim.
We’ve come to the conclusion that the “sudden” decision to move to the country wasn’t such a “sudden” thing, after all.
We were living in boring suburbia, outside of Portland. I have to tell you, it was one of the strangest places I have ever lived, and that’s saying something.
We had this very cool cat named Smokey. Well, Smokey had this long, long hair that was forever matted. Seriously, we should’ve named him lumpy, because of all his mats.
No matter what we did, he was all matted up. He would sit underneath all of the Doug firs and their sap would get stuck in his hair. I would cut off most of the mats, but couldn’t get them completely removed, unless I wanted to cut him, which I didn’t.
Across the street lived some very odd people. They had a renter who lived in a basement room, and she was really strange. Something about her just wasn’t right.
One time, Smokey went missing for about 2 nights. When he came home, we were shocked to discover that half of his body had been shaved. That’s weird enough, but the person had cut him! We were pretty sure it was the odd renter, but couldn’t prove it. I was livid.
Then there was the gal right next door. We lived on a hill, and she was situated higher than we were. Her bathroom overlooked our back yard and we could see her silhouette, listening to us. (One time, she even opened her bathroom window to listen, when I was talking to a realtor and a potential buyer out in the back yard!) The “buyer” looked up and said “okaaaaayyyyy.” Pretty sure Spy Woman cost us THAT sale!
Whenever I went out to either relax or work in the yard, she would start talking to me behind the arbor vitae that separated our two yards. Whenever I went out there, there she was. It was really creepy, so I finally started sitting out on the other side of the house. Which, unfortunately, overlooked the odd balls across the street. This guy would crank up the music and work in his garage in his wife-beater (hairy back – ugh!) at midnight. When Bill politely asked him to please turn down the music, he said something about “oh, you must go to bed early!” Uh, yeah, if midnight on a work night is early.
Spy Woman would wash her car, inside and out, EVERY TIME she came home from ANYWHERE. She spent hours and hours washing and re-washing it. It was very strange. I mean, how dirty can a car get after a short trip to Safeway?
I remember one Memorial Day weekend. It was one of the first sunny, warm weekends we had had since the previous summer, and Bill actually had 3 days off. We were really looking forward to a great weekend.
Spy Woman rented a power washer and started washing her driveway at 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning. She would quit at around 5:00, and then repeat the same thing on Sunday AND MONDAY. When she FINALLY turned it off on Monday night, I said “well, FINALLY.” To which she replied chirpily, “Thanks for your patience.”
Who said I’d been patient? She’d ruined our entire weekend and I’d been ready to strangle her.
One Sunday morning, we were sitting in our dining room, having brunch. My mouth dropped open as I looked out the window. There was Spy Woman, in our yard, pulling up ivy! Whoa, there! I know the stuff is invasive, but that is not cool. Our yard was manicured, like nobody’s business. We weren’t letting it get into her yard!
And then there was all the illness. I swear, our neighborhood must have been built on an ancient, cursed Indian burial ground or a toxic dump! Every single family on both sides of the street got cancer, including (I do feel bad about this) Spy Woman. Even the poor man from whom we bought our house had only weeks left to live.
Man, that neighborhood had some bad vibes.
On a “whim”, I started searching Craigslist for homes on an acre or more in this town, which we’d gone through often on our way to the coast. A realtor made us an appointment to see this place on 7 acres and we brought a picnic lunch.
Coming down the long, long massively tree-lined driveway, I was sold. Bill said, “I wonder what the house looks like,” to which I replied, “I don’t care what the house looks like.” We were instantly in love with the property. That afternoon, we drove home and put an offer in that evening. The minute it was accepted, we listed our own house. Unfortunately, our old house took 8 months to sell (the real estate market had just crashed) and Bill was stuck there during the week, making sure it was ready to show. The financial toll of two mortgages was pretty crippling.
It’s been a 10 year work in progress. We ignored the house while we planted about a dozen Red Maples, perennials, shrubs, bushes and a massive garden. I took a Master Gardener’s course, and the next year, we bought a greenhouse.
We’ve been growing lots and lots of veggies, herbs and flowers, ever since. Our beautiful back yard was originally just pasture. Now it’s a beautifully manicured yard (thanks to Bill) with lawn, trees, and gardens.
Since Bill still worked in Portland, he had to put up with the horrific commute. The drive takes him an hour and a half. If it were a matter of getting on a freeway and zooming along, that would be one thing. Oh, no, it’s one tiny town after another. The streets are lined with cops, since tickets are probably a huge source of their revenue. As the area’s population has exploded, the congestion has gotten worse and worse. Stop and go, stop and go, at 25 miles an hour. Awful.
We’ve been working on the house itself for years now, as well as the property. The list of things that needs fixing seems endless; we just haven’t had the time or the money to make the progress we’d like to see. Very likely we’ll be fretting about something or other until the day we die. Most of the time I’ve come to accept the length of our “to do” list. Other times, I want to tear my hair out.
All of Bill’s commuting comes to a final end next Wednesday. I’ve got the French Champagne our very generous friend gave us, chilling away. I don’t know how long it will take for us to realize that this will be the new normal, his semi-retirement.
There were other things going on in our lives back then that were propelling us toward the country. But the point is, many, many things led up to our buying this property “on a whim.” In hindsight, it wasn’t a whim, at all. It was one of the best decisions of our lives.
If you think back over why you made a certain decision, I’m pretty sure you’ll find your answer. There’s usually a good reason behind our choices!
In spite of the fact that trusting my instincts has led me to make some lousy choices in my life, I still believe in myself. We all learn from the repercussions of bad decisions, and come out a lot smarter. I never want to live my life paralyzed by indecision or fear.
Here’s to making your dreams come true!
If you have a similar dream of moving to the country, I have the best book ever for you! I read this for a couple of years when I got it, and I still consult it. Carla Emery wrote The Encyclopedia of Country Living back in 1974, but much of it is still relevant today. Click to see the link on Amazon; there are used copies available, too. This massive encyclopedia addresses every single issue you could imagine about homesteading or just building a garden or having chickens. Her life is an amazing tale of living in the country, having a ton of kids and travelling the country, trying to sell her books. It is a classic, now. It’s a great read! Promise!