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The House Next Door

The House Next Door

Short form: the deal fell through, and it is not ours.

Long form: the seller is convinced that the place is worth $75,000. we believe this conviction is partly the result of bad information from her retired friend-of-the-family realtor, who we recently learned was witholding documents & information from her, as well as telling her that anybody would pay that much for a place in that bad a condition in this (largely rather poor) neighborhood. he also told her that the place was worth more because it's right on Isleta Blvd (a noisy rural highway with a ton of traffic--i believe this to be the opposite of true), that it was zoned commercial (Bernalillo County says it's zoned Agricultural), and that the land value itself was 75k, even without the house.

alas, these things are untrue. comparable properties (1500 square foot houses on .3-.5 acres -- note the same acreage) in the area are selling for an average of 70k if they are 100% move-in ready, and about 42k if they are fixer-uppers -- and this place is a VERY serious fixer-upper. empty land sells for 80k per acre down here -- this is 1/3 acre, so purely as a field, no money-sink house involved, it's worth about 30k. the house does add something, as long as it doesn't have to be knocked down and rebuilt (a possibility). this is just data off MLS; we didn't make it up. we just looked. which apparently Jerry never did. so we offered less than she wants. though we're willing to be somewhat flexible on that, tens of thousands of dollars exceeds our tolerance for dropping our hard-earned money into a hole in the ground.

properties sell VERY VERY slowly down here. she wouldn't believe any of that from us, but we just cannot let ourselves be taken to the cleaners in the price of this place when it is going to take on the order of $40k to fix it into habitable condition. and we are watching how houses down here just don't sell. they sit and sit and sit and sit. same signs, same places, for years. even places with more land, nicer houses.

the home inspection revealed *significant* structural issues. we knew there were some, and the inspection was largely unsurprising, but it was worse than we thought, particularly in that he diagosed the house as having probable foundation problems. we knew the subfloor needed to be replaced, and probabyl some joists, but the foundation is another matter. the inspector suggested that the livingroom might have to be knocked down and rebuilt. eep. but we couldn't be sure before pulling up the floor and letting a contractor take a look at it. there's a crack you can see daylight through in that room. all that, and then Linda's realtor withheld the inspection from her.

and when we talked to her about it--she asked me to call her, so we did--she stuck fast to that 75k. she said, send me the paperwork and submit your new offer. so we did. she rejected it and terminated the sale.

we are collectively dismayed, but feeling like we made the right decision -- we can't allow ourselves to be beggared by someone who thinks she can get more than the market can bear for a place that is going to absorb tens of thousands more dollars from us. goddess knows we WANT the place. we want the land. we want the possiblities, the expansion. but we need it to be good for us. it needs to be fair. and that is not a fair price. i feel sad and defensive about it. and unwilling to be played for a fool.

and -- damn it, we're Witches. if this place is going to come to us, then it is going to come to us. the Universe will find the right way for it to happen. we have been acting as fairly and openly as we know how through this whole process. it seemed to want us to let go, so we are letting go.

my best hope for the property now, is that Linda will get a new realtor (we learned after the termination paperwork came through, who will do an actual market analysis for her (Jerry certainly never did, since the one our realtor-friend Beth did diverged so completely from his back-of-the-envelope, ten-years-ago expectation of housing prices -- dude, the market tanked, did you not notice? and this is the Valley, not the Heights, and certainly not Denver [which is what Linda's got in her head, we expect, that being her stomping grounds]. nobody wants to move down here; it's "far".) and give her a realistic expectation of what she can ask for. That she will then list the property with that realistic estimate in mind, and we can put in a new offer. Or, that she will simply call us back and say, hey, my new realtor says 50k is about all i can expect for it, given the inspection results. can we put this deal back together? and we buy it. that is what i am hoping for. touch wood.

so keep your fingers crossed, folks. positive energy this way would be very helpful and appreciated.

i certainly hope she reads that inspection. because Jerry was so shady in his dealings around it (he never forwarded it to her, nor did he send her our entire second wave of paperwork, which was his legal obligation as her realtor), we printed out the inspection and left a copy in the kitchen before returning the keys to the across-the-street neighbor, Julie. and of course i got my irrigation supplies out of the garage (and put some more cat food down for Furdre, who is an innocent bystander here -- though i am also feeding her in our barn, and continue to hope to lure her into permanent residence in said barn, as she is a mouser of unparalleled excellence).

so there's all that. i need to upload photographs and update the farm blog, which is like two months behind because the Witches' Ball ate my head. i hope it tasted good.
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photos on the verge of autumn

if anybody wants to see what autumn is like in the mountain country of Central New Mexico, check out my flickr set here, of Fourth of July Canyon. it's more exiting than you think. :) downright vivid, in fact.

autumn is fully underway in the mountains, and winter's coming on strong in Colorado, but here on the farm, autumn is only just beginning. we're blessed that although we do have to endure a real winter here, it's a short one.

Fall down here in the Valley is mostly warm, and mostly yellow & green turning to brown, but there are some notable exceptions. this stunning virgina creeper on the back fence, for instance.
Virginia Creeper

curlycup gumweed in the field:
Curlycup Gumweed

Curlycup Gumweed

at summer's end, we get all these tiny yellow butterflies in all the alfalfa fields around here. this year, we started irrigating our own field, adn it came up all amaranth and bindweed of course -- but the butterflies don't seem to mind. nor the spiders. this Golden OrbWeaver is enjoying a butterfly for lunch.
Golden Orb with butterfly

the neighbor's beautiful horses:
neighbor horses

Thistle, also known as Miss Muddy Paws. she's sad because irrigation season is over for the year and she can't get muddy. that is, she was until yesterday's 1" rainstorm! she's all set on mud for the week now.
Miss Muddy Paws

autumn & harvest season incarnate: a bowl of fresh, crisp organic apples in the kitchen, from a friend's trees.

fall crops! my two raised beds of fall crops represent our first successful fall food-growing venture. most of the lettuce, all the broccoli & cauliflower, spinach & beets got eaten immediately upon sprouting by ravenous hordes of insects, but the radishes, kale, and carrots are doing great. i will replant the others as soon as i get lids built to turn these raised beds into cold frames for the winter -- in the next couple weeks, this will happen.
fall radishes

and the other two raised beds are full of strawberries, which are doing very well indeed!
fall strawberries

isis candy cherry tomatoes in the garden. they really are candy.
Isis Candy cherry tomato

Masala the wild Farm Cat, amid the corn.

i really love these Golden Orb Weavers; i think they are my favorite garden predator, huge and stunningly marked in vivid colours. I'm glad we have successfully re-created habitat for them -- in our first year here, there were dozens of them amid the 8' kochia plants, but the kochia had to go (smoetimes by way of a machete, it was so huge & tough), and then for a while it seemed the spiders vanished. they sure love an overgrown garden, though!
Golden Orb

a Bumble Bee in the maximillian daisies out front:


we did it. we now have a house among the sunflowers. :-D
Sunflower River

more images here:

if you're on flickr, feel free to add us!

we were going to go hiking today...

...but yesterday I got a phone call from Linda, our south neighbor Mr Hill's sole surviving relative, saying that he had passed away. He went quietly, Friday early afternoon, in good care. He had been having a good day, had even eaten breakfast, and died in his sleep. the service will be on Monday.

So Linda called to ask, are we still interested in the house. She got a resounding YES from us. We are clear on that point. The price is the next step, and that includes finding out how much work the place needs (lots, it appears). She had us come over and tour the as-yet-not-cleaned-out house this morning, to just see the layout and overall condition. We were expecting a jumble of objects, a general lack of air circulation, dust and dirt and disrepair. I mean, a 94-year-old man had been living alone in this house since 1979. We got exactly what we expected in that regard -- it's a mess. It desperately needs a good airing. She's cleaning today and tomorrow and into next week, finding all his papers to go through and/or shred, setting aside the bits and pieces she wants for memories, sorting things out. Her daughter is down to help her out, and her husband arrives tomorrow, and they are going to make a giant pile and call Goodwill, who will come pick up. They will leave any large furniture that they don't want, and the appliances (including a serious old classic gas stove that all of us immediately gravitated towards) for us to deal with and/or use.

The plaster is cracked and the place smells mildewy-- there is a layer of unappealing, possibly biohazardous, carpet through much of the house (it smells of urine; not overpoweringly, but definitely). That will have to come out, first thing. With any luck, that will be the source and sole location of the mildew and/or mold. I hope it's not in the walls. We are going to have a home inspection in the next couple weeks to determine all that sort of thing, after the place is cleaned out. The non-carpeted rooms have old-fashioned linoleum flooring, some of which is pretty cool. The subfloor does not seem to be in very good shape, though -- buckling, soft spots. I suspect a particle or ply subfloor immediately beneath the carpet/ linoleum, rather than a hardwood floor. So we may be redoing some or much of that, depending on the results of the inspection. The plumbing definitely needs repairs, though how major is hard to determine yet. The kitchen sink is calcified into a barely-moving object (the whole sink needs replaced), and Linda shut the water off in the bathroom because the toilet was leaking. The bathroom is comfortably large, close to twice the size of the one in our cottage. She says that the roof does not leak, which is good news. The exterior stucco is in bad shape and needs to be redone. The interior plaster is actual plaster over either cinderblock or concrete, and much or all of it also needs to be redone; that is going to be a big project. The heater is fairly new (and well-located, in that small central hallway where it can effectively heat everything, hopefully) and she thinks it probably works but she's not sure. The swamp cooler is not working. The windows are plentiful, but they are all the old-style single pane lattice windows, leaky as a sieve in the wind, and will need replacing. Depending on if they are standard or custom sizes, that could be a real big project, too.

We're planning to buy the place as-is, and get the repairs done ourselves. We have several ideas for how we want to use the space, but in any case, we would not need to inhabit it immediately, so we have time to futz through a series of major and minor repairs. It's a three bedroom house, bigger on the inside than on the outside (it totally looks small from the street, but it's a mary poppins house), with a huge livingroom with an old fireplace we can restore, a really good-size kitchen adjacent to the livingroom (with nice cabinets), two good-size bedrooms that face each other across a small hallway, and a third, smaller, bedroom in back of the north room -- probably a good space for a child's bedroom. The garage opens off that room, and the garage turns out to have an open storage-shed space (jammed full of stuff, like every other room of the house), and then an enclosed concrete-floored back space, usefully. That space has a door to the backyard, which includes a truly magnificent cottonwood tree. (i know you were wondering whether or not we really just wanted even more cottonwood trees). And then the field.

the place is zoned A-1, which is spectacular for our purposes, and the county plat info says it's a third of an acre, though it feels like more than that. it'll bring us almost up to 4 acres; our current property is 3.45, and this place is .35. So we'll have 3.80 acres. We're planning to take down the front fence between the two properties; Linda even pointed out where a gate used to be in the fence that we could re-open with very little effort.

We are moving forward with purchase agreements and suchlike, including contacting our assorted good-friends-who-are-realtors; she has one and we have one. :)

whooo. just when i could see the end of my insanely high stress level, we buy a house.

when were done backing and forthing, discussing and meeting this morning, i came back into my yurt and did something i've been meaning to do all summer: i cleaned the hearth. the hearth is the center of the home -- literally, in this circular little space, as well as figuratively. but that figurative meaning is there, too. i have been borrowing bricks from the hearth to use in the wall construction process (they hold barbed wire down while you get the bags filled), so i had a messy stack of bricks, with dirt and dust and cat hair and ash and old nails, going on in the center there. yeah, it's been like that; untended, messy, aching. so just now i removed all the bricks, vaccuumed them and the space beneath them, got all the everything out, and put them all back very nicely in their pattern.

i'm only missing one brick. that's my afternoon project today: find and place that one brick. then i'm taking it easy, dang it, for the rest of the day. who would have thought that was possible?

and tomorrow? we're going hiking.

photo update

Tatter-kitty in the twilight:
twilight cat

we did more work on the wall this weekend. first, re-construction, resulting in this:


then, Ryan limewashed all the exposed bags, and threw a few batches of plaster to round out the day's work. here he is, throwing plaster in a blur of motion as the sun sinks:

in the morning, that all turned out to look like this:

i'm really happy to have those gaps patched up.

and last night i spotted our two known toads in the herb garden. first the baby toad:

and the parent toad:

these two are responsible for keeping our night-roaming insect population down to something manageable; we have seen almost no cockroaches this year, thanks to these stalwart eaters of nocturnal insects. i love toads.

harvest festival, wall project, autumn on the way

here it comes. the air is suddenly cold in the mornings, slightly damp. i can't stay warm enough at night, and pile on the bedding. a few leaves drift across the patio, a few more each day, though when i look up at the glorious canopy of cottonwood boughs, they are all dark green and shining in the low sunlight.

autumn on the way. i lose something every year in the incoming fall, as summer turns her back and begins to ebb, to release us, as we slide ever so slowly towards the darkness and the long cold.

we celebrate the turning season every year with a big harvest festival. this year, something like 70 people came out over the course of a long afternoon in the shade of the greenbelt, west of our field, to enjoy homemade food, eat pie, make music, play games and enjoy each other's company.

a few weeks ago, we flood irrigated our field for the first time. we did this rather experimentally, not having lowered the field yet. about half of it flooded before the water ran down the paths to either direction. since then, we have bermed the run-off areas on each side, so next time, more of the water should run where we want it to, to the south, rather than the east & west.

meanwhile, all the amaranth in the world, along with some purslane, goatheads, and sticky gum weed, have sprouted and leapt into growth where we irrigated. this field has never been this green, and from here, it will only get greener!
that dome shape back there is our chicken tractor, mid-field. we are pasturing our meat birds in it on the new growth, which they love.

you can see the path where we've recently moved the tractor. we move this thing every night; each day they eat all that greenery down to nothing. fortunately, it comes back.

the sign on the path says, Welcome to Sunflower River.

our Harvest Festival includes a pie contest, which anyone can enter. our friend Sandy Bryan, locally renowed for her amazing pies (and for winning the state fair pie contest many times) graciously judges the contest for us.

everyone gathered aroudn the pies:

Sandy explains the properties of this pie

to a circle of interested onlookers.


meanwhile, a circle of musicians jam together a few feet away among the elm trees, and the sweet lilting melodies wind through the shade to wrap around our hearts.

Beth, of Saddaquah, grooving on kanun (a middle-eastern dulcimer)

Rev, Phrank and Dave join in on drums & dulcimer:

Brian enjoys the music

Phrank and Rev:

Rev & Tristan:

i got to connect with old friends and new, and had several really wonderful conversations. it was altogether a beautiful and rejuvenating day.

this is good also because i spent the entire three days up until the Harvest Fest up to my eyeballs in manual labor. the joys of farm life. first project: cleaning up the mess of last winter's woodpile, to prepare for laying in this year's supply. both Alan's and my yurts are wood-heated, so this issue rises to the top of the importance list every autumn. it may not be more than a month before i need a fire at night to keep my space habitable.

i wish i'd taken a "before" shot of the pile of sticks, scraps, leaves & trash that had built up here over the summer, but i didn't. so all you get is this nice, tidy end result of 6 hours sorting, moving, organizing and chopping up kindling.
firewood, first step

once that was out of the way, i was free to devote two eight-hour days to throwing earthen plaster at the north wall. we have to reconstruct parts of this wall, and have focused our rencent efforts on finishing the east(front) wall instead, so we let this part sit overly long. this allowed the bags to degrade more than they ever should have, unfortunately. which makes plastering urgent, critical, and difficult. alas for procrastination and overwork. two days later, though, myself, Ryan, and our current intern, Amber, had accomplished this:

and from the other direction,

and a curve hidden in the elms, the nearest to the street:

at the same time, Rev installed our beautiful new talavera address tiles out front on the recently-plastered mailbox. you can see that this plastering process is much farther along. the brown mud on the north wall is just a base coat, to protect the bags from further weather. from there we can sculpt a second layer, or overlay it with more cementacious plaster which gets smoothed with a wooden float to create a look more like this. after the smooth coat goes on, then we apply a layer or three of limewash to protect it from the elements, and the final coat of limewash will have a colorant in it so that the end result of the whole wall is not grey, but a mild warm brown.

for the moment, things are starting to look really nice out there on the road. it's a gift and a relief, fter the sheer length of this project.

and of course, we couldn't finish without showing you the baby. did i ever get a proper birth announcement on here? Jenny and Tristan's boy, Gawain Patrick, was born on July 25th. everybody's doing well. here he is during house meeting last night:

you also get a gratitous kitty picture. here's my darling:

this blog is about to relocate. meanwhile, garden photos.

we're migrating the SR livejournal over to wordpress. i don't have it ready enough to post the address yet, but you are hereby warned! in the next month or so, we will move this journal. LJ is just too ad-ridden and spammy these days, and no longer the community hot-spot that it was four years ago when it made sense to blog here as a community. i'm keeping my personal LJ, this one, but sunflowerriver is on the move. not this week, but soon. as it will be a wordpress blog, it will be easier to read from an RSS reader.

meanwhile, here is our new photo site:

there's a bunch of stuff over there that i did not post here just now. i believe you can add flickr updates to your RSS, those of you that use those. i'll continue to make photo posts for SR, on the new site, and then link them back here and on facebook, as soon as we get it moved. Flickr is getting regular updates meanwhile, as i photograph stuff. if you're on flickr, feel free to add us!


for today: radiance in the garden.
August 167

best recent comment on the garden: "it's so Alice in Wonderland." it really is. the corn is 12' tall, the sunflowers even taller, beans to the top of both and interwoven crazily everywhere in a wild maze of spiderwebs, hanging cucumbers, bean flowers and deep heart-shaped leaves.

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Summer Slaughter

Last weekend we slaughtered our spring flock of meat chickens and a two rabbits.

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So at the end of the day, which was really only 1pm or so after clean up and freezing meat, we have 19 more chickens in the freezer, 2 rabbits, and we continue our journey of inter-dependency with ourselves, our tribe, our environment and Gaia.