Smoothies

Smoothies here have been the biggest disappointment. I’m guessing it’s something like when a USian goes to the UK and mistakenly orders a lemonade at a pub*, or a milkshake more or less anywhere else**.

In the UK smoothies were fabulous combos of fruit and either yoghurt or possibly tofu. Healthyish but also so insanely good.

Here most places smoothies are a revolting sugary goop that’s maybe seen a fruit. There are some smoothie stand things that do smoothies, but honestly, their flavours are a disappointing averageness and their prices do not match their bare adequacy.

Le sigh.

* For translation purpose, a lemonade in the UK is more-or-less equivalent to a US 7-UP. A freshly squeezed lemonade is what you USians are looking for in the UK.***

** A milkshake in the UK is generally milk with some flavouring. In the US it’s generally icecream smooshed up into a delicious goop.

*** If you want to throw people, in a US-pub ask for a lemonade. Oh they look so confused.

 

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.

Incidentally

This site (at in my web server)  has been under attack a lot recently. Tediously so. If anything super weird pops up on here I’m sorry, and I’ll fix it as soon as I know. 

I am sure that I am not the first

I am somewhat concerned that members of the Russian federation are going to use the fact they have a puppet / weak / blackmailable US president who has weakened western government cooperation, and the Brexit which has weakened and distracted Europe to commit mass genocide on LGBTQIA people. 

Each time it gets worse.

Animated image from 'Brazil' by Terry Gilliam.

So, it turns out that now our county planning technician is asking us to obtain a surveyor’s report to delineate the high groundwater risk for our property. Because the county think it’s at risk of flooding. Despite the fact that it’s almost the highest point for the entire street. But no, it’s at risk of flooding.

Today we went out because the hydrogeologist has put markers in the areas he would like us to identify the high groundwater risk, when we went out he strongly implied there was no significant problem. But left open the ‘We need to have an internal discussion before making a decision’ get out of jail free card.

And then we got our answer.

It’s a fucking disaster.

The county requirements would force us to move our house to chop down at least 1 of the beautiful old maples (at least 50 years old), and a large number of firs, cedars and assorted other trees. At least, that’s the only way we can interpret them.

The county is also asking for a permit that requires has a potential 128 day processing period (which probably means at least 2 years, given that our 8-12 week permit process is now running into it’s 6th month).

So the answer is, we can’t build.

We might be able to argue it. We’re considering legal options because the county told us, provisionally, that it would be an easy plot to build on.

So yay.