Friday, December 26, 2008

Feeling grateful, yet guilty...

I've kept an eye on Murrieta's housing market over the past year, since we left, with an increasing sense of having just avoided a major train wreck, combined with a growing feeling of guilt about selling our house to someone who is now stuck with a 50 percent loss.

Thanks to all of the foreclosures that continue to flood the SoCal market, and especially the Inland Empire, as our corner of SoCal was known, our house is now worth approximately what we paid for it in 2001. I'm stunned that six years and a half years of appreciation could have evaporated that quickly, and from what I'm reading, it's not over yet.

I just ran across this article today, on GQs website, about the city just to the north of Murrieta, which it describes as ground zero of the foreclosure crisis.

I'm so glad we got out and yet I feel badly for our buyer....

Happy Yule, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!

What a strange, strange fall it's been. I confess that I haven't been posting these last two months because I have been spending my on-line time trying to understand what has been happening to the economy, and as I've begun to grok it, I haven't known how to write about the ordinary details of life without feeling like I'm ignoring the looming tsunami.

Trying to find the balance between understanding how things are changing and preparing oneself as best one can, while maintaining a sense of hope and gratitude for all that is well in this very moment, has been a challenge for me. I toggle back and forth between astonishment at the dramatic developments of the fall and the direction that those folks who accurately predicted this crisis six or eight years ago say we are likely to head next, and the attendant anxiety that accompanies thinking about such deep changes. I remind myself of the Buddhist insight that all this thinking and planning and worrying is truly just a story, the waking dream, and that in this moment, I have exactly what I need, joyfully enough.

So, with such crazy, careening thoughts and planning, can you blame me for not posting more and would you have wanted to read what I was thinking about anyway? (If you would have wanted to read it, I recommend the writings of Chris Martenson, Sharon Astyk, and John Michael Greer , though there's a whole blogosphere of writers out there, some that are really "out there" and some quite fascinating and compelling voices.)

On the home front, we are all well and thriving, and how wonderful is that!

Maddie is nearly 10 and I feel like I'm watching the early stages of her metamorphosis from child to adult -- she still plays freely, creatively and entirely in her imagination with her brother, spinning long and elaborate interactions between characters that they create, but she is also increasingly interested in becoming productive, in testing and expanding her abilities and competencies. We have set up an site for her art, and I'm sure she'll post about it once she's gotten her online store up and running.

Harry is a storyteller as well, and when he's not dialoging with Maddie in their long-running creations, he is telling his own stories, to himself and sometimes to us or other adults he knows and loves. Building, creating and battling are common themes in his play.

The kids continue their evolution into reading -- Maddie is a very fluent reader and Harry has quietly made the leap to early reading as well. Like Maddie, he was very quiet about his evolving skills, a trait I've always been fascinated by, as a primed-by-schooling-to-seek-outside-approval-and-validation sort of person. (Please, leave me positive comments on my blog so I can feel good about myself, okay?)

As I continue my exploration of mathematics and learning that I wrote about earlier this fall I am inspired by the ideas and activities presented by Pam Sorooshian and Sandra Dodd.

I find that even as I try to bring all sorts of new activities and games into our lives to explore particular skill sets, the kids are often quite thoroughly engrossed in their own skill building experiences, thank you very much -- from blogging to communicating with other kids in an online Legobuilding world to participating in the economy of the online World of Warcraft (We have a character for whom the kids would like to aquire an epic flying mount. But at a price of 5,000 gold, the kids are having to do a lot of farming for resources and selling them in the on-line auction house to other players, which involves determining low and average selling prices and pricing bundled resources at a proper per-item price.)

And just now, Steve and Maddie walked in the door with the three newest members of our household, two Auracana chicks and another Buff Orpington chick. We love our four girls, but we find that between the baking and the breakfasts, we're not self-sufficient on eggs yet. So our flock has increased to seven, and these three girls should start laying sometime in May. I imagine Maddie will post about them shortly, with photos from her new camera.

On the homefront, it's been pretty darned cold the last few weeks. I've been investigating and moving forward on various energy efficiencies. We've got plans to replace some of our old aluminum frame windows and sliders, I've bought insulating shades for some windows, we'll hang more curtains and I'm going to order a wood-burning stove (the local supplier is backordered through February, thanks to a steel shortage, apparently).

I've been pondering my lessons learned in the garden this year and am planning next year's changes and expansions. We're going to shift fencing to keep chickens out of the greens beds and we're planning to sheet compost and add a Three Sisters planting (I love Toby Hemenway's book, Gaia's Garden) to our backyard. I'm going to start earlier with row covers and hope to get a crop of melons and peppers this year. My grander ambitions include a glass and wood cold frame or two (the sheet plastic ones have been official blown to pieces by our periodic prairie winds) and a full-blown greenhouse, either attached to the south side of our house, or freestanding in the backyard with a northwall made of strawbale or cob construction (Maddie's been very interested in cob construction, so even if we don't do a greenhouse, Steve plans to do a backyard oven of cob this summer.)

And my secret, really crazy ambition is to get a dwarf dairy goat and make my own dairy products. I've found someone who'd like to board it at her mini-farm, though I'm contemplating at least part-time residency here. This may all wait a year or two to see if code enforcement officers go by the wayside as the economy gets worse, and to give our gardens and chickens time to produce enough to share with our closest neighbors.

The front yard will get more edible perennials -- a bed of blueberries, some hazlenut bushes, another asian pear, and the currants, gooseberry and service berries that are overwintering in our garage from a too-zealous plant-buying spree on my part this fall.

I don't know how self-sufficient we can really become on a quarter-acre in a cold winter climate, but I'm excited to explore the possibilities. I'm particularly inspired by the urban-homesteaders who have this blog.

We've had a wonderful month or so of visits to and from family and friends. Thanksgiving we spent at my folks where we got to reconnect with my Aunt Toby, Uncle David, and cousins Stacey, Siobhan and Eric.

Then in December, our inspiring friends, Karen, John, Saylor, Stone and Sage came for a visit as they started a grand adventure as a family on the road. As always, they both inspire me to be a calmer, kinder, more empowering parent, and that wonderful effect last for months after their visits (thank you and I know the kids thank you too!)

Lastly and wonderfully, we had a warm, fun and delightful Christmas week visiting with my folks and my sister and her family, down Boulder way.

Now, it's time to clean up the mess and remove a few carloads of stuff from the house to make up for the carloads that came in with the holiday. Oh, and feed the chicks. And keep the chickens warm (Steve built a great new run for them on the south end of the deck where they get sun but are protected somewhat from the winds and get some of the radiated warmth from the house as well). And walk the dog (before it gets cold again). And change the rat cage. And explain to the kids why a kitten is currently out of the question.

Monday, December 8, 2008


(Posted by maddie)

Today I went out to our chicken coop, gathered up the three eggs in one of our two nestboxes and left Ginny to lay in peace in the other.
Later that day my mom went out to check again, in the nest box I had emptied out were two eggs, and in the one Ginny had been sitting in, one.
This would have been completely normal if we had 6 laying chickens, but we have 4 laying chickens.
Even more amazing is that all the chicken owners we know have chickens laying 3-4 days in a week.
We're all very perplexed now.

(: Maybe it's because we give our chickens lots of love :)