Things may get less quiet around here.

Or more quiet. Who can say.

We’re looking at a house. We’ve had an offer accepted, but the survey (inspection) revealed some significant concerns. Well, really one significant concern that breaks down into a number of significant minor concerns.

Tomorrow, or possibly Tuesday, we go back to the sellers with our “fix these things” offer – and we’ll see if they’re happy to accept it.

If we get it, there’s actually a fair bit of work there. The electrics need updating, although that wasn’t obvious before hand, there’s some decorative work, and it needs a new bathroom. This is certainly no-where near the level we were at with the Bristol house, but it should be enough to keep me entertained through the summer.

The other news is that I’m planning to change job. Back to nursing again. Not full time though.

Hopefully I’ll get back to feeling a bit more like myself, and a bit less like I’m wanting to weep through each day. I clearly am feeling a bit more like myself, because we went into a bookshop today (just B&N), and I ended up walking out with books and feeling pretty excited about some other ones that I didn’t end up getting.

This is a feeling that I’ve really missed. Excitement about things.

I’m not exactly sure what our future holds at the moment. We’re both pretty wrung out. But at least I’m feeling more like there is some future.

Plodding along

Life continues to trundle along, and we keep hunting houses. We’ve been to see virtually every house in our price range, I think. There’s one that has some potential but is insanely overpriced. There are a bunch we’ve discounted for a variety of reasons. I’m still sad that we didn’t get the one we offered on first, or the one that we visited before we were in a position to make an offer… because everything since then has felt like much more of a compromise.

Today we looked at an entertaining one which we were quite excited about until we discovered that the pricing seems to be for an imaginary third bedroom. We were thinking maybe the area was worth more than we’d realised, but looking at prices of things sold around there, no, the price is for a 3 bedroom house. It does have a 3/4ths height finished attic space above the garage – which is, I we think, what they’re calling the third bedroom.

But it’s not permitted, nor is the forced air heating system with the slightly suspect ‘furnace in a cupboard in the lounge’ design. Which is a shame, because the lot is really lovely, and there’s quite a lot of potential there.

The house hunt has been painfully depressing, really. Possibly would be less so if work wasn’t quite so tough. But work has continued to be a real struggle for me. I’m hoping that things might change on that front, but that’s really a fingers crossed affair, rather than a definite at the moment. So, well, that’s where we’re at.

Hence the quiescence on the blogging front.

So…

So what might be a perfect house for us has come up. Our realtor is out of town for the weekend.

An adequate car to replace the insight has come up.

I can’t get it inspected in time.

Bother.

Be vewy vewy quite, I’m hunting houses.

Before I start this, I think I should address something that’s been bothering me. I realise that me whining on here about how we can’t build a house and own a house is laughably privileged of me. Many people can’t even afford shelter, and here I am whining about how we own a chunk of land and can’t build on it, and we’re not sure we have enough money to buy a house. It’s crazy.

And it is incredibly privileged of me, but this position came at a very high price. The vast majority of that money came from my dad’s death. And frankly, I’d deal with rented accommodation and slowly saving cash up for years rather than have lost my dad to a painful, horrendous death from cancer. That also is part of the reason I end up so frustrated by it. When anything bad happens involving ‘that money’ then I feel like I’ve let him, and my mother down. She gave me the money from my dad’s life insurance with the intention that I would be able to get a house and not worry near so much about money.

And here I am near tears fairly frequently because we’re engaged in a battle to the death with the county, who (it seems to me) are just trying to make as much money out of the planning process as they can. Perhaps that’s not what they’re trying to do, but it certainly doesn’t feel like they’re actually trying to protect the land. If they were, the process would more based around what’s actually on the land.

Anyhow. That rant (which everyone’s heard before) over with, let’s talk about the dismal house situation. So the ant situation in the rental continues unabated (although there is bait). Our landlord’s arranged for a pest control person to inject the walls with poison, which is good because it turns out we now have three varieties of ant in the house. Working down in size, we have carpenter ants, what I think are possibly yellow ants, and little black ants. Hopefully this situation will resolve soon – and I’m hoping the injected poison will kill them quicker than the stuff the pest guy put down – which has left drunken, wandery ants that make me feel very guilty.

And while that can’t be said to be the main driving force for us wanting to move, it’s certainly an encouragement. Having our own stuff out of storage – given that we’re now looking at it being at least another year before we might be able to build – is something we’d both like. Both of us are missing the ability to do anything hobby-like to reduce stress. It’s not like we can’t here, we could, but storing any more stuff here is hard, and we can’t leave anything out without it becoming very oppressive in here.

So, yes, we’re looking. The problem is, everyone seems to have realised that living in Thurston County is a frigging nightmare. This I am presuming based on the fact that one street to the next, similar houses, similar looking streets, the houses on county land will be waaaay cheaper. I’m guessing the hassle of trying to get permits to renovate, fix, improve those houses from Thurston County puts off people – like us – who enjoy the challenge of renovation. There may be other reasons; I don’t know if there’s some cultural or civic difference between ‘county’ and ‘city’ land. It’s not like you can easily tell from the address (although I suppose if you look at google maps, you can see the boundary).

It is insane though. It’s also insane how the boundary will wiggle to exclude or include one development, or one street, or something random. I really don’t understand how it works – how that distinction is made – it doesn’t seem to have any relation to the density of housing.

But it means that I look at the list of posted houses and go “oh yay, some new ones we might consider” (because the one we were debating sold…the weekend we looked at it) and then click through them an conclude that they’re all in the f’kin county. Which instantly excludes them. So yay for that. Hopefully we can (a) get a mortgage and (b) get a house and (c) our financial adviser won’t tell us this is an act of deep insanity. Which it might be.

Well, hrm

So today we looked at houses. I’d say we looked at 3 houses, but one of them was in such poor condition that it was more a stack of rotting timber with bits of rust holding them together. I kind of wanted to see inside, but sadly the code didn’t work on the door. It was built, I think, in the 1930s, and built appaulingly. No foundations, just wood directly onto brick / concrete piers. No obvious dampproofing to protect the wood. Just plonked atop. The whole thing looked like sneezing wrong might cause it to fall over. Indeed, I was slightly concerned that opening the front door, had the code worked, might have made it so structurally unsound it fell.

House 3, now that wasn’t great either. It’s been on the market for a long time – and when we went in it was apparent why. It is a dingy, smelly house. It had some things that we thought might be worth looking at in the photos – mainly hardwood floors. However, when we got there the overwhelming smell of smoke, and the fact they’d clearly had pets, and pets had clearly had incidents involving the floors… that wasn’t so great.

Now, house number 2. House number 2 is upsetting. It’s possibly slightly overpriced, in an optimistic way. It’s a 1950’s rambler, but manages to be a rambler that we actually like. It has underfloor heating in the main areas of the house… which is pretty f’kin nifty. And it’s in a not unpleasant area. Rather closer to I-5 than we’d like, but actually by the time we’d been there half an hour, the white-noise of the cars had disappeared (to us).

It’s clean and very out of date, which is the kind of thing we do. Irritatingly, had we seen it before we bought the land, and intended to buy a house (rather than land) this all would have been insanely easy.

As it is we have the complexity of: Well, we can afford it with a mortgage, but then what do we do about the land, because if we buy a house and use all of our money to reno’ it, we’re unable to develop the land. And we’re certainly unable to build on the land. And well, we might be able to get a construction loan, but the county have encouraged us to get a well on the land as soon as possible, because the well-rules are going to change…

…only that means getting a permit, and we have no timeline for permitting.

…which leads us back into a circle.

Part of the problem is at some point Rebecca will be returning to the fold*, and we have nowhere to store another car. Which means that our rental situation which has up until now been really quite pleasant (although currently seeming to be an entirely ant-related insanity place), won’t work out in the long term. Also, we’re paying someone else’s mortgage and that always makes me feel a bit grumpy. Even when the person is nice.

Of course, there is no good solution to this, which is part of what’s so pissy. The county have left us in an impossibly shit place, and seem unwilling to concede any wrongdoing. And here we are trying to work out what’s for the best. And I have no clue.

*hopefully, although I every time I ring, the person trying to source me a diff in England despairs slightly more, because he’s paid for 2 diffs, neither of which has arrived.

Thurston County Planning Saga

So it turns out there is an amount of time after which Thurston county start billing for their time. It states on the application that there is a process for billing, but as with every other part of the process it’s incredibly opaque. There is no indication as to what is include or excluded in their billable process.

Apparently (we have worked out from the bill) they allow 2 hours of time for a site planning application. Working back from this we think we know what application type they’ve grouped us under, which we don’t understand because it doesn’t relate to the fee we paid, but from that we can apparently get 2 hours of resource stewardship time. After that they bill over $180/hr – for, it seems, any activity. Breathing may be included.

At no point did they tell us that we’d run out of ‘included’ time. We discovered this last night when our landlord brought over the mail. In it was bill for hundreds of ‘billable’ dollars, that we had no idea they were charging us. Most of this is answering e-mails with questions attempting to work out what the hell they want from us, one e-mail alone is over $90. This is insanity.

Not least because they’ve asked for things it turned out they didn’t need – so, in fact, they’re billing us for doing stuff that’s wrong. That said, the woman who is in charge of our application is under the impression that if she understands what she wrote, everyone should get her interpretation of the words. So she would no doubt claim that when it said in a letter we needed to submit this thing, but ten subsections later there was the word “but” in parentheses, it is clear to everyone that the thing it looked like she was requesting (which incidentally costs $thousands) was only required in a specific set of circumstances.

The whole process is a nightmare. It’s enough of a nightmare that it makes me miss British planning departments who are arcane and crazy restrictive, but at least have the basic fucking decency to tell you up front that they are, and post the incredible, crazy, restrictive stuff where you can see it.

The end result of this is we’ve been billed hundreds of dollars – and may get more bills, because we don’t know which bits they’re going to bill for because they won’t fucking tell us.

So that is very, very depressing.

So today we got an answer, of sorts, from the county.

They can’t give us a timeline. They disagree with our wetland biologist’s assessment of the water that was on our site on the day that we visited.

And clearly any complaints we send are passed directly to the person we’re complaining about, because when we ask questions in our complaints, the answers come from the person we’re complaining about. So that feels highly professional.

As it stands we have 2, maybe 3 weeks before we won’t be able to build this year, with no sign of a permit, and in fact an increasing feeling that we’ve bought a lemon, and lost about $80,000 on land that’s not worth shit. And that makes me feel like I’ve let my dad down, because the majority of that money came from inheritance when my dad died. And I feel like I’ve squandered it.

Tonight also brought the bonus realisation that if we can’t build this year, we may not be able to do it at all. At least, not in the foreseeable future.

Which is all fucking depressing.

So really, fuck them.

So that was my day.

If we don’t…

…get some kind of answer from the county saying that our permit is approved in approximately the next 3 weeks, it is highly likely we’ll have to delay our house build for an entire year.

This is extremely distressing and frustrating and expensive. It will probably cost us in the region of $6000 dollars to do that, assuming our rent doesn’t change, and also ignoring the fact we’re hoping that our house will be cheaper to heat.

Also, instead of the rent going on repaying a mortgage, it’s going on paying someone else. I like I landlord, and the place we live is nice, but I’d rather have the money be paying for the wood that builds our house than paying someone else for stuff.

So that’s not….fun.

Still, I suppose it would take the stress off in some way. Feh.

Our odyssey continues unabated

So, as I’m sure you’re all dying to know how our Bokashi odyssey is progressing. Given the state of the world, our ability to compost left over veg trimmings and off food is clearly something of vital importance.

So, one of the things with Bokashi is that the veg left overs need to be chopped up. There are devices like this:

Hand-cranked-veg-chopper

Which you can use to chop up the veg – but I* didn’t want to fork out the extra for one of them so at the moment we’re manually chopping up all the veg off-cuts. Normally our recipes have a fair bit of veg in – this about 2/3rd of the off-cuts from one of our larger dishes…

IMG_20170114_194326

As you might imagine this adds some time to our preparation. However, although the little compost bin – the countertop one we use to hold veg so we have sufficient to “make a layer” does smell sometimes (with the lid off, it’s fine with the lid on – it has a charcoal filter :) ) – the other bin so far is fine. When you take the lid off it smells a bit fermenty, but with the lid on nary a thing. And the fermenty smell isn’t bad. I wouldn’t want the entire house to smell of it, but it’s fine for a few minutes while we chuck the veg in and squidge it down.

These are the Bokashi bins:

IMG_20170116_175017

We have two, because you seal one up to ferment for two weeks or so, once it’s full. We’ve about 2/3rds filled one of them – in about a week and a half. So it should work okay for us…

Addressing the state of the world issue – I’m feeling more and more pressing need to do every-single-thing we can to reduce our impact. We’ve realised that we can compost the paper towel we use (I have tedious allergies, still, so finding something to do with all those tissues is handy), composting has reduced our ‘landfill’ waste by about half. And I’m continuing my quest to work out a way to substitute our insight for a fully electric vehicle.

We keep trying for some political engagement, but at times it’s insanely overwhelming. On top of which, work still demands nearly all the time that exists. So self care has become of significant importance… so well, yes, that’s where we are.

* This was my idea and it was meant to arrive around Christmas, as a sort of “I’ve got this for both of us” gift – but…it arrived late. To be fair, I ordered it very late.