Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Trails

The decision has been made and in front of the Range House is a big For Sale sign. I've spent most of the last two weeks cleaning, and tending to the property, with some help on the big yard projects, as well as getting rid of years of clutter and smaller, older furniture I will not need as I downsize. It's not going to happen overnight, the house could easily take a year to sell, but the market is only going to get worse so now's the time.

I'm having fun pouring over plans for cabin type homes online with a family friend from Wyoming, Malamute Bill, who builds them, and has been a wealth of knowledge. I know the whole project, start to finish, paying cash as I go, may take a few years. I am as excited as a kid. I already have the kitchen I like in mind, one room for cooking and eating, compact, yet with enough room to create while those I love gather round. One living area, not 3, and 1 or two small bedrooms, not 4. Of course a basement to use for food storage and root cellar and a place to hang up a saddle. The shop? Well it will probably be bigger than the house :-) It may just be a weekend home for a while, as I will likely continue to live near the city for work, but it's a plan. Something I can hope for now. When it's done it will be paid for, no mortgage, modest taxes. No cows, but a garden and perhaps enough room to whitetail hunt without getting in the truck. I've only had the Range a few years and it's much bigger than I need, with a "mother in law" set up that I'd thought my Dad would live in, and a kitchen big enough to hold a Summit Meeting in. Yes, it definitely is too large for one person, but at the time it was what I needed. Big enough for Dad to live with me, close enough to the city to get to work in 45 minutes. Walls stripped and dry walled over many a long evening (and several bottles of Guinness), my favorite art on the walls; the big Bev Doolittle painting I spent a small fortune on in my family room. Many evenings in which I enjoyed the spacious rooms, the corners filled with little things I love from places I've flown or lived.

There's been some great times here while my friends gathered round while I cooked an extravaganza of food and we talked and laughed. Evenings walking through the cornfields behind this little burg, Barkley going full point on a undetected bread crust I'd tossed out for the ducks, the sky a perfect prayer of blue that mirrors the blue of the pond.

But I should have bought more land, or further out, as the suburbs are all around me now, more and more fields of corn now full of cookie cutter homes. Crime is going up as are the taxes and the thought of what it will cost to heat and pay taxes on this old place if Cap and Trade passes is frightening.

I thought I'd stay here for years, perhaps after Dad was gone, sharing the home someday with someone I loved. But it wasn't meant to happen and I realized that most big dream houses, especially the ones we build later in life, are built on wonderful ideals but often without the dreams to fill those 30 foot walls. People walk in and say "wow. . it looks like a magazine home" but I realized what they didn't, that my home could often feel as empty as it was beautiful.

Dad, then battling cancer, and having a stroke, has fully recovered and thankfully, everyone's plans changed. He's back walking, driving and doing battle with the salesmen from Lowe's where he bought me a new riding lawn mower. He doesn't look 90, he doesn't act 90. Adopting two kids 20 years after his first child was born didn't phase him, why should a small stroke? So the plans for him to live with me are done. He said that if his health takes a downturn again he wants to stay out West with my brother who has since retired. That will be good for him. But I have this big house now, empty.

My Dad still lives in the same small ranch home he bought after leaving the Air Force. I still visit regularly though it's a 5 hour flight and a three hour drive to get there. I love my visits even as I cherish my independence. Driving from the airport in the rental car, down a road we used to run up and down, playing secret agent or soldiers when we were kids, I pull into the driveway and it's like going back 30 years. The giant motion detector spotlights are still in the driveway (thanks Dad, that went over real well with my dates in high school), the fence that my brother knocked over while getting the feel of his drivers license, and the tree my Dad planted after my Mom died. Everything's still there, still the same, and the big picture window, ablaze with light, greets me with the smile of a trusted friend.

Walking into the house I see the marks of our lives there; a lipstick "art" piece I drew on the inside of a cupboard when I was 3. The old tire that used to hang in the huge apple tree in the backyard, now in the flower bed, my Dad unable to throw it away. Walking through rooms full of so many mornings getting ready for school, shadows lingering on the walls from many a family dinner. I meet my brother R. at the house when I can, remembering the secret clubhouse we built in his big closet, the elaborate train landscapes we'd set up in the garage on a rainy day. We share the memories without even speaking of them, as they are woven into the fabric of our lives. I look at my Dad's dresser now on which lives a small well loved stuffed dog that was mine as a child, and I smile. Those things we loved as children remain in the domain of our memory, and will, until we cease to breathe. Wherever we are, wherever we live, our souls somehow always hover around the places where we remember mostly happiness.
I have a hard time picturing my Dad leaving his house, where he's lived since the 50's, yet leaving my own home? I can picture it. It may not have turned out to be the home I envisioned, but there is still a real satisfaction in it, certain things may never be realized but so all the more reason to try for them. I don't regret the hard work I put into this place, for trying to provide a place where my family could be cared for, any more than I will regret leaving it for reasons that are also now very important to me.

I'll remember with fondness the changing leaves against the tall Irish Cream colored walls, the animals that shared the cornfields, evenings with my best friends. The smell of homemade lasagna fresh from the oven while we laugh with stories from the shooting range and life. I really like this place. Yet I rattle around in it alone, looking out north towards the pond and beyond, up into the sky at the smoke trail of a plane that leads off to the open land of the north, searching for things I can not see. A life of self sufficiency. A life where I don't have to say "I shouldn't buy that revolver" because I have a $500 heating bill. A life honed down to just what is important to me and those around me. Beyond the horizon is another home, a smaller cozy little home, a new dream, or a contrail of a dream, leaving to a further defined life.

And in that life will come laughter and family and shadows on the wall of those that I love. Wherever they are, there I am at home.


  1. Your posts always bring me back to the things that are important. They remind me of what I am really aiming for, and help me to refocus on my goals if I am a bit

  2. I truly hope you find the dream home and the dreams that you pursue.
    If I live long enough I hope to end up living in a small cabin in the bush

  3. Brigid,
    May I suggest at least a 2 bedroom? One can double as office as needed and still be hospitable for guests. A separate shop can be wired, insulated and climate controlled specific for it's purpose. A basement can be pantry, reloading area and gun-safe all in one.
    What I mean to say is "You go, girl!!" The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. (Which you have plenty of). I'll be looking forward to the next adventures.

  4. Given the beauty of your home, do you have a plan if you sell far more quickly than expected, as well as one for selling far more slowly?

    If you have an agent, I recommend getting the sold comps list for the area. That's the non-subjective way to see what people have paid, and for what sized properties - allowing you to get a feel for not only what your house will bring on the market, but how the market is moving for your type of property.

    The cabin sounds wonderful for all your needs and wants, and looks like it'll be beautiful, by the examples!

    As for hunting without driving - as a friend put it, "Always leave a clear line of fire between your house and your garden, so it'll grow your vegetables and your meat. Moose really like snow peas, by the way."

  5. Now the decision is made I am sure you will find peace of mind. It seemed inevitable you would sell based on your expressed thoughts. May I suggest building the shop first on the new land so you have a space to store things during building and the transition move? You can always wall off part of the shop to live in or put a house trailer in the shop while you build. Put running water in the shop. Later you will be glad you did.
    Buy as much land as you can afford. You will be glad you did. Distance makes good neighbors.

  6. I've been in a few full log places, and they're quite nice. I've also done some work on some of them, and that's not so nice.

    The nicest place I ever saw, was built by pouring concrete walls, and then putting log siding on the outside, pine paneling on the inside. It was not only gorgeous and incredibly easy/cheap to heat/cool, it would take a direct mortar hit. The log siding was echoed in the barn, which had CONCRETE log siding, which was not only nice to look at, but fireproof. Looking forward to seeing your plans unfold!

  7. Down-sizing your Life isn't a bad idea at all. Find an area where you want to spend the rest of your life, then think small-be small. You'd be surprized just how well that will work out in the end.

    Small spaces can magnify the power of the love they contain. My parents-in-law lived in a two-room cottage that my dad-in-law built with his own hands. He and his bride of over sixty years heated the place with one wood stove fueled with scrap ends from a local lumber mill that he picked up for free. They grew their own fruits and veggies, always more than they could use, and canned the excess.

    One day I asked my dad-in-law how he managed to stay married for as long as he did, he told me that it's hard to fight with or hide from someone in a small house, so they'd fight fast and settle up quick.

    Maybe someday you might get the chance to learn this for yourself. Good luck on your move.

  8. May you get everything you want. I admire you, you have a plan and the means to execute it.

    I'll send some positive energy your way.

  9. Another good thing about log homes, it's easy to cut notches, perhaps the size of Claymores, in the logs in the entry way areas.

    At the very least the entry way areas should be visible from the interior without opening the doors.

    Oh yeah, don't be mislead, gun ports have never really gone out of style.

  10. I helped my Dad build our first log home way back in the early 70's (that's 1970, not 1870) when I was a wee lad. They've lived in three of them, over the years, and loved each of them. They are in the third now. We built the first from the ground up, and the last one they had the shell put up and we finished the inside.

    I think you're definitely on the right track with your gameplan.

    Here's to making your dreams real..

  11. Thanks. It will be a while in the works but it's fun to plan.

  12. Most everything I was going to add having been covered already, all I've got is, I like the new banner, too.


  13. I used to spend summers at an aunt and uncle's home. There was a pretty picture on the wall with this saying: Happiness is found along the way, not at the end of the road.

    Be happy. And thanks for your dedication to this blog.

  14. I know you'll do well, Brigid.
    Your post about going back to see your Dad, and the memories it brings, really struck me. During my recent move, I found a lot of things I'd "stored" during the last few years of living alone. Actually, my GF "found" them, and was amazed at the things I'd saved, considering the type of person most people think I am.
    I know you'll keep *your* important things, and find a proper place for them in your new home. I just hope you'll keep us all posted as to how the construction goes. I'm sure your new place will be a stunner. Modest, yes, but a stunner none the less.

  15. Looking forward to watching the progress miss - Dori and I have discussed building our own cabin-style for years, we just have to find the right time and location... hopefully we'll be able to learn some from your example for when it's our turn.

  16. You go girl. I knew you were ready. Good luck.

    See Ya

  17. +1 for Og's plan. Put the old school charm on some modern efficiency. Heat with a candle, cool just by opening the fridge for a drink.

    As for the other... I knew more adults than kids around me growing up, first as an army brat and then after Dad retired to the country. Whenever I go back, inevitably one of the grizzled faces of my youth would be missing. I always take time to reflect and ponder their contributions to nation, community and my own never ending development. Thoughts and experiences passed to me will certainly influence how I lead my own.

    It is an immortality of a sort.

  18. Well, wow!

    Wonderful memories and exciting plans.

  19. Turk - there have been some great times in this house. A lot of laughter, and some tears. Memories both sweet and poignant. There will be more someday soon, we'll just be a little more crowded in the old kitchen. :-).

    Again, it will probably take a while to sell, the guest room still has your name on it if you get out this way for the holidays. (eggnog pancakes!)

  20. Beauty and truth as always. I hope your pursuit yields happiness and contentment.


  21. "Plan your work, and work your plan". Sounds exciting!

    The old home place came up for sale a few years ago, at a price we could easily afford. Many fond memories of the riverfront property and friends just down the street.

    But the place was much changed by subsequent owners, with a hunk sold out of the middle of one side. Old friends were long gone, and the area much changed, sadly much for the worst. This was one of those times that proved the old saying, you can't go home again.

    But, you can go home someplace else........

  22. Best of luck! You're describing pretty much what I did. I have four small bedrooms: mine, a guest room, an office, and a "gun room." Works for me.

    Sounds like you have a great plan. Go for it!

  23. Oops! Forgot to mention: my shop building is just about twice the size of my house! Great minds!

  24. Good luck, I hope your house sells soon and you can start on collecting good memories in your new place.

  25. Have an upstairs door so you can enter and egress if the snow is up to the eaves. I could not help but entertain a hidden passageway or two in a bit of new construction, or some means to pop-up away at a distance in a copse of trees behind a berm or something.

  26. I'm sorry to hear you have to give up a home you so obviously love. I'm in the middle of building a new home myself (in Wooster, Ohio). It's a lot more work than I first imagined it would be, even though I hired a home builder to coordinate everything! If you're interested, here's some photos:

    Good luck! You're going to need it.

  27. Greyhawk - I don't HAVE to give it up. Taxes or not I have a six figure income. I could keep it and ramble around in it. I'm just tired of the time and expense for a lot of space I don't use. I'm looking forward to no mortgage and more time for things other than upkeep.

    Wooster is a beautiful area. I know it well.

  28. I am very happy for you. A log home is something that I have always wanted to have.

    Good luck and please do keep us posted on your way.

  29. Brigid,
    Take a good look at the insulative value of wood.It's not great.On the other hand if the new place is small and draft free the heating costs may be acceptable

    Glenn Kelley

  30. I've no doubt that wherever you wind up, it'll be a home. You do need a really big reloading room.

  31. Zdog - yes. A friend got me set up with the initial equipment, for which I will always be grateful. But I've added bigger, and more, and am hoping to become much better at it. I've had great teachers, and am still learning.

    A gun expert I will never be, but I am always happy to learn and pass on what others have taught me.

  32. Best of luck with your latest adventure, +1 to the shop first idea, and also to putting running water in it. My ideal shop would have a small range in it for the days when I wanted to shoot, but the weather was uncooperative.

  33. On the question of efficiency of a log home (R value of wood):

    Basically the thermal mass effect of the logs storing and absorbing/releasing energy showed the log wall structures to be virtually equivalent to a wood frame structure insulated to R-12

  34. Mercy sakes, your writing magic makes even moving seem...well, moving. I say "even" because I hate so, so much to pack, uproot, move, unpack and re-root. Your writing magic is so powerful I'm even enjoying your moving thoughts and plans vicariously. Yhis worries me. But at least part of the enjoyment comes, I'm sure, from knowing that it's you who will be moving, not me. I still have many boxes yet unpacked from our last move, three-and-a-half years ago, "last" being the most important word in that thought. Ugh.

  35. Good luck on the house, and the adventure.

  36. Wonderful! Just adhere to Heinlein's rule for happiness: separate desks. LOL

    Seriously, a Man Room is worth the space for the future happiness of the most fortunate soul who wins your own...

    I'm so happy for you! But do make alternate plans for a faster than expected sale - well kept homes will always sell quickly as they are rare these days.

  37. I am excited for you, and curious about how all of the things you are trying to create, develop, and change turn out. I see some of the shadows which haunt you, I know them too. You certainly find a place in my prayers. It would be good to see you home, and soon, in many ways.

  38. Wasn't sure my earlier post got thru, what with the storm cover's ruthless toying with our fickle satellite server all day.

    I wanted to add that I, too, like your new banner. Liked your old one, too.

    Congrats, as well, on your decision. I'm sure it's a relief to have that part of it out of the way.

  39. One more thought, and I'll shut the hell up: Your keen-eyed photos are a double bonus delight. These images of your homestead make it clear beyond words how tuff your decision must have been. And with you it's hard to imagine anything being "beyond" your exquisite concert of words.

  40. As I told Holly in Seattle. An RV, the open road, and a companion who doesn't mind being too close at times.

  41. Dr. B:

    Mrs IH and I have always said that a house is just a place - a material thing - a commodity. We are beginning to see that now that the youngest is almost graduated and will be away for college. I think you've made the right decision - good luck on the move.


    H the IH

  42. Brigid,
    Enjoy your log home! We live in one in Pinedale, WY and its lots of fun. All of the ceilings have exposed beams and tongue & groove knotty pine. It is also the perfect setting for displaying our antiques.

    We have baseboard electric heat, but we generally heat with a natural gas stove in the living room. We're at 7100 ft elevation and it does get cold, but a log home is very tight. They're also cooler in the summer.

    Don't suppose we could convince you to move to Wyoming...? We're pretty short of your expertise.

  43. How many acres do you think you will buy? I am looking for land to build a house and a self-sufficient homestead for a family of ten, and I have gotten all kinds of answers from 2 acres (um, really?) to 40 ("so you can grow into it").

  44. Good Luck, Brigid. I'd suggest, like others to build the shop first. Include indoor plumbing and connection to the septic system. Things change and it might need to be used for housing at some point. My parents built the shop first in several different places and lived inside until the house was finished. Also build the shop far enough away from the house so if one burns the other doesn't go with it.

  45. Sounds like you made the right decision for you. I think simplicity is generally the way to go and much less stressful.

  46. Heh. We just moved Number One Daughter over the weekend. She was forced out of her old place because the landlord defaulted on the mortgage and -- apparently -- Ohio tenant/landlord law doesn't apply to banks.

    Your way -- having the time to plan ahead -- is better. Trust me. You're being smart. But you know that.


  47. Brigid,

    While I'm a fan of all wood home's I'm not to keen on log home's as they can be a bit of a bother with settling and other pesky matter's. Of course all home's have upkeep and repair issue's as well so choose your material's and builder's with the same care you seem to do in all other matter's. I wish you luck and joy as well as many more adventure's and discovery's in your journey.

  48. Beautiful writing; thought provoking as always. This really hits home as the Mrs. and I contemplate letting our own "range" out west go, and finally purchasing locally. We hate to stab our westward aspirations in the heart, but there is practicality to consider, given the state of the world. I'm afraid our Wyoming home may be a decade out, at this rate- so I hope your Range sells in a record-breaking bidding war, and that you get to build your dream.

  49. I've downsized, and never looked back. Good choice! I concur on the two-bedroom comment. If not for guests, at least it will effectively hold all of your stores.

  50. Just a suggestion: around here, people are tradingnhouses ninstead of financing nthem out right. check with your realytor if it works in your area. Just a suggestion. Greg, ke5ldo

  51. Good on ya! After years overseas Bride and I have found OUR place. You've known what you need to do and these instincts will serve you well. As before "listen to Brigid".
    We've found we need one guest room/bath with "expansion" possibilities, an office/library and "hobby" (reloading) space.
    Vaya con Dios. Hope you wind up in our neck of the woods.

  52. Brigid,

    You always write the most elegantly beautiful and moving things...even your description of selling a house and building another is a pleasurable journey of wonder, nostalgia, and anticipation.

    Thanks for all you do. And this article is linked today at The Liberty Sphere in the Roundup.

    I wish you well in this next phase of your life's journey.


  53. I understand your want for a house but my neighbor built his shop first. He built quite large with floor heat in sections, then walled off a portion and built the "house" inside it. It's not as scenic as a log home but it will be what I do if I ever get to build. With his geothermal heating it's quite energy efficient as well.

  54. A new home and a new look for the blog as well? Nice!

  55. Hi there, Brigid;

    It's good to see the decision point's been reached ... and passed. Your plans talk to many of our own dreams ... a possible difference being that you will achieve those dreams. It doesn't matter where you go ... as long as Rx keeps the 'Net working from her substation.

    I should point out that your straightforward declaration of your plans has evoked as large a response as I've seen. You do know that ... sometimes ... your writing doesn't overwhelm us to the point we can't possibly think of intruding.

    The brightness, beauty and love that you exemplify shines through your words so strongly. Thank you for gifting us with this latest post.


  56. Wishing you the best in navigating this market, and your dreams for the future. Adaptability IS the hallmark of our species.

    And your father is as cute as a bug in a rug, but I bet he's still tough as nails. Enjoy all the moments.

    Thanks for letting us dream with you along the way, too. That's what friends do.

  57. PS Keep us on the inside with this log home research? Will be neat AND helpful to read your interpretation of what's out there for those of us crafting our future alongside of you.

  58. I'd go with the shop first, with a "mother in law" apartment above the shop. Kitchen, bedroom, "office" and a sleeping loft above the kitchen. That'll serve for the early stage, while you commute and plan the house. You may even decide against the house.

    Be careful w/ the log home, both for the R-value and to make sure and run any electric/cable/etc before you finish. I lived in a 200 year old brick house for awhile (real brick, not brick veneer). Almost impossible to run electric wiring and make it look good. I'd suspect you'd have the same problem w/ the log home if you try to add it after the interior is finished.

    Best of luck -- I love your blog and your attitude!

  59. Change is hard, congrats on the impending move.

    IF you want really to change and decrease the costs that kill you in a home, look at structural insulated panel construction. I have built some that require no additional heat in the winter, ambient heat from lights etc, heat the home. Its worth looking at.

  60. Reading your blog I realize how little I have done in my life. Playing it safe isn't always the most satisfying in the long run. Good luck in your new place.

  61. TJ - it's never too late. I still have lots of things I'd like to do or try. I may fall flat on my face but I still try.

  62. I am so happy for you - sounds like a great dream cabin, setting and all within reach! If you need a lamp to write/read by down the road let me know - I'll make one for you.

  63. I just went through a similar thing. I had to sell my dream property because we just never managed to build our house and the taxes doubled this year so we were forced to finally sell after ten years of dreaming about somedays.
    Now I can't make up my mind about where I want to live...way out and big or close in and smaller.
    I figure we are blessed just to have choices!


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