Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tool Addiction

I has it.

Usually it's the husband with the tool addiction. Oh, Chris definitely has an addiction. Garage tools, woodworking tools, diagnostic equipment, musician's tools. If it has a purpose within his hobbies he either has it or wants it. I continually bust his balls about his addiction but in reality I have one of my own.

Don't give me jewelry, flowers, chocolats, knicknacks, or other pretties. All I ever want is more tools.

Cooking tools, cleaning tools, household tools, garage tools. If it has a motor, a heating element, an LCD, or a specific niche I either want it or have it.

I own more electric kitchen gadgets than pairs of shoes. Which is pretty impressive, considering that one of Chris's enjoyments in life is buying me designer heels (at very low prices of course. He's not stupid enough to pay retail shoe prices) because he "likes the way they make women's legs look". My closet is full of heels. The tops of my kitchen cabinets are full of gadgets (and the lower cabinets, and the guest closet... well you get the idea).

My dirty little secret? I never pay full price for something over $30, and I use ALL of them. If it cost over $50 it was most likely a present, a present I gleefully ripped open and used at the first opportunity.

I have (in no particular order, other than maybe sight):
  • A Cuisinart 7 quart stand mixer. Housewarming present from Chris. Can actually handle my bread recipes, which is impressive because I make 4lbs of bread dough at a time.
  • A Waring standalone electric burner, which became very necessary as our range SUCKS.
  • A cheap popcorn popper for popcorn and coffee beans. Well, we have two actually, one of them a gift.
  • A shaved ice machine for the kids for summer. Got the one that uses normal ice cubes of course.
  • An ice tea maker, $25, for the convenience factor back in AZ. Sun tea works really well here, since now we have GOOD water.
  • A Kenmore Elite blender, for Chris's smoothies, and my Margaritas and Daiquiris.
  • A Cuisinart food processor, 14 cup with 3 bowls and all the bells and whistles, my birthday present from Chris this year, on sale at Amazon. A really fun piece of machinery that can chop bacon like nobody's business (50/50 beef and bacon burgers yum).
  • A cheap waffle iron.
  • A Breville panini press, bought at a massive discount off of Somehow a ham and cheese sandwich is so much better hot and crispy.
  • A Cuisinart electric pressure cooker, my newest baby and Christmas present (I was there when Chris bought it, I think the whimpering clued him in). Bought at Costco for considerably off list. So much easier to use, and makes REALLY good roast beef. And carnitas. And stew. And...
  • A 10 quart Fagor pressure cooker... which we got for less than half price. Chris loves it, but I can't make anything in it without burning the bottom, thus the electric.
  • 5 crockpots, 5qt, 4qt, 2qt, 1qt, and 1/2qt. We decided it was cheaper, and more useful, to buy more crockpots than chafing dishes for entertaining.
  • A Cuisinart ice cream maker, 2 qt. Costco. I do actually use it a fair bit.
  • A Keurig coffee machine. Has made my life so much easier, being married to someone who wants coffee in the morning, in the afternoon. after dinner, after midnight... coffee pots do not work for us.
  • A Butterball indoor turkey fryer. Chris bought this for "me" last year, and I must admit I make it earn its keep. It's the only non-commercial deep fryer we've ever found that had enough power, and enough oil capacity, to deep fry properly without excessive temperature drop. It makes spectacular... everything really. Bought considerably off list at Amazon.
  • A Cuisinart countertop convection oven
  • 2 rice cookers, one 10 cup (for entertaining) and one 1 1/2 cup (for just us).
  • A T-Fal 4 slot, extra wide jumbo slot, toaster (which we actually got for free as a credit card reward).
  • A burr coffee grinder.
  • A Breville espresso machine. 15 bar pump machine with changeable portafilter. Bought considerably off list at $250
  • A Breville Juicer. Bought considerably off list, at $49 
  • A Wilton chocolate fountain. Yes seriously. A big party hit and I snagged it for $50.
  • A whip cream maker.
  • A seltzer maker.
  • An electric tea kettle, because it's so much faster than the stove.
  • The there's the knives. Oh the knives. Including, of course, an electric knife.
This is 5 years of accumulation, and doesn't even count the specialty bakeware collection (Chris's favorite is the "all edges" brownie pan).

It should be noted that a fair number of these items are for entertaining. We throw a party once a month because 1. we have kids and leaving the house for parties doesn't really work, and 2. we really like entertaining. The army of crockpots comes in handy when serving and the chocolate fountain tests the creativity of our guests, who are asked to bring something to dip (horseradish cheddar dipped in chocolate is actually REALLY GOOD).

The really scary thought is that out of 30 gadgets, I've used 28 in the past 3 months, 25 in the past 2 months, 21 in the past month, 14 in the past week, and 8 YESTERDAY. Everything gets used.

Do I really need all of these? No, not really. However, as a mother, wife, and hostess who often finds herself making 3 meals a day for (usually) 4 people and up to 26 people at times all of these gadgets make life much easier. I could make (and have made) dinner for 20 by myself with only my wits and what's in the kitchen.

Plus, everything I own is just nifty. That's reason enough for me.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Calmer Half

This could have been written by me:

This man is my rock. Sometimes this means he's as stubborn as a rock, immovable object to my unstoppable force. Always, this means he's my shelter against the storm, against the world. When I'm about ready to metaphorically tear my hair out and set the plane on fire after yet another setback, he calmly reminds me that he loves me, and that it's all okay. And then, it is.

That, much more eloquently than I could have said, is how I think and feel about Chris.

The last 4 months or so has been full of setbacks, frustrations, false hopes, and heartbreak. From the kids being gone, to several legal issues, to Chris's health it seems nothing is going right. That's why this particular blog has gone to the wayside; without the kids, what does the effort matter?

But Chris is all right, so I'm all right.

Friday, August 13, 2010

2 Days of Preserving

Yesterday I started out with 20 lbs of pickling cucumbers, 26 lbs of ripe peaches, and 2 lbs of banana peppers.  I also started out with one 2 gallon crock, one 1 gallon crock, and 19 quart mason jars.

Now, as of 11:42 pm, I have:
  • 1 quart of pickled banana peppers
  • 4 quarts of peach sections in light syrup
  • 6 quarts of peach pie filling
  • 1 7/8 quarts of peach topping
  • 2 quarts spicy dill refrigerator pickles
  • 2 quarts dill refrigerator pickles
  • 2 quarts bread and butter pickles
  • 2 gallons of fermenting full-sour dill pickles
  • 1 gallon of fermenting half-sour dill pickles
I have approximately 2 lbs of cucumbers and 2 1/2 lbs of peaches left.  I am completely out of mason jars.

I'm going to bed now.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Oh Won't You Be My Neighbor

One of the biggest differences between our life in North Idaho and our old life in Scottsdale are the neighbors.

Sure we had neighbors in Scottsdale, the kind that came with high fences and nods. We even knew a few names but we weren't really, well, friendly. Everybody had their own lives and not much in common and the entire neighborhood was transitory.

Not so here.

Our one set of true neighbors, the only ones who live here year round anyway, introduced themselves and gave phone numbers the day we moved in. They also noticed the AR, and said we should go shooting sometime.

4 months later, and they drop in on a fairly regular basis their (grown and almost grown) kids included. They ask to borrow tools and the canoe, I get the occasional technical help with the lawnmower, that kind of stuff. We live next to some really nice, well-armed ex-canucks.

So today the entire family is in Coeur D'Alene running an errand and Chris decides we need to go to a hobby shop. He wants to introduce the kids to model rocket building and wants a pre-made kit to gauge their real interest.

Fast forward a few hours and we've got a launch pad set up on our newly mowed lawn with the kids waiting anxiously. We have our acre and a half, the acre next door that consists of the community water access, and our neighbor's acre and a half, and lake right in front of us. Plenty of drop zone for the rocket.

The contractor who is rebuilding our stairs tomorrow comes by to drop off the materials so we invite him and his son to watch.

Then I call out to the neighbor. He still has guests left over from his family reunion this weekend (4 RVs camped out on his lawn, quite a sight) so he and his grab lawn chairs to watch the action. We warn him the rocket may land on his side; he's good with that.

13 people, 6 on our lawn and 7 across the fence, watch the rocket reach an estimated apex of 1000 ft, and watch it fall. The nose lands in our yard, the body in the community lot.

And everybody is well entertained.

This is what passes for entertainment out here, and I'm glad we get to share it with such great people.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Now That's a Change

So, we just received the first electric bill for this house in our name (the lease originally had our landlord receiving the bill and then billing us, but that was inconvenient, so now we're getting billed directly).

Wow what a change!

Last year our bill from SRP from June 14 to July 13 added up to $540.68. Our current bill from Avista for June 15 to July 14 is... $184.30.

Just a little bit different.

The breakdown:
Time Period July 2009 July 2010
kWh 4451 2264
Cost $488.87 $179.70
Cost Per kWh $.1098 $.0794
Monthly Basic Charge $12.00 $4.60
City Tax $8.26 none
County and State Tax $31.56 none
Total $540.68 $184.30

Yeah... the cost of living is a little lower here huh...

Oh, and though we don't have air conditioning in this house, the numbers here include the cost of running the hot tub 24/7 (1500 watt heater, plus pump).

And of course, without the ever increasing AC cost through the summer, our bill should be about the same for July (actually July 15th through August 14th), through September; vs. the $700 per month we paid last July, August, and last September (yes, our June-July bill was relatively LOW last year).

The savings from one summer month alone, is enough to buy heating oil and firewood for the whole winter.

Oh and now we have an idea of how much generator we need to buy for the inevitable winter blackouts (peak sustained usage looks like about 6kw).

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Local Food Movement

I am a member of the Local Food Movement.

Am I a card-carrying Organic Only soccer mom? Uh, no. The word "organic" means next to nothing to me, its overly squishy and variable. Oh, and comes with a horrendous price tag. As for the purported benefits that a whole post by itself.

Am I an eco-nut worried about the carbon that's being released into the air by those evil delivery trucks and contributing to "global warming"? Most definitely not.

Am I a free-range cruelty-free we're-evil-because-we-eat-animals PETArd? You're kidding, right?

I am a food snob.

Oh, not the imported prosciutto and wagyu beef kind of food snob. I don't care how much the food costs. I care how much the food tastes.

Maximum flavor in fruits, veggies, and grain is best achieved locally, as soon after harvesting as humanly possible. Veggies so tender they don't ship well? That's what I'm after. Fruit so soft you can't truck it? Count me in. Just-milled wheat? Oh baby.

This extends to animal products as well. Sure your average big-production beef doesn't taste very different from producer to producer, as well as eggs and chicken and pork. This is because *most* large meat and egg producers feed their animals the same wholesome-but-cheap diet. The taste of meat and eggs is all about the diet.

In order to get the tender grass-raised beef we crave we have to go local or pay through the nose. The beef tastes much, much better and cooks very differently. Same with eggs; the best eggs come from chickens with high-protein and varied diets and the absolute best come from chickens given the opportunity to hunt their own insects. It's disgusting but true. You can't get eggs like that anywhere but locally, at least without paying through the nose.

If the people selling raw milk from pastured cows around here weren't charging so damn much we'd be all over that too.

Do we pay more this way? Oh definitely, about 30% more for beef and eggs and 100% more for produce. Thus why we want to grow and raise our own.

Is it worth it? Definitely for foodies like us who make most meals from scratch. Also the kids go through fresh produce and boiled eggs like most kids go through fruit snacks and granola bars.

So no, I'm not into local food in order to "save the planet". I buy locally just because it tastes better.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Oddest Damn Dog That You Ever Did See

We love mutts.

All of our dogs are mutts. This is due to a mixture of not being breed fanatics, not being breeders, not wanting to keep uncut dogs, and a weakness for shelter dogs. More specifically a weakness for politically incorrect dogs.

We're familiar with the mixed bag mutts bring. Some of the best (and worst) qualities of each breed seem to be magnified with some interesting combinations. Jayne, our pitbull/Rottweiler mix, seems to have gotten a double dose of lapdog, teddy bear, and high pain tolerance. Zoe, our coonhound/Rottweiler mix, got a double dose of affectionate and trouble-making.

For weird qualities though, Wash takes the cake.

Wash is... we don't know. Obviously Doberman, some Rottweiler, and the double coat he's developing suggests German Shepherd like we always thought. His ears resemble a bat, his tail is a lethal weapon, and he's got incredible hearing. All wrapped in a 60 or so lb lapdog and companion.

This dog follows me everywhere. Whatever I'm doing, he's there. He sits and waits by the gate when I go get the mail. He's the first to show up when I get home from wherever.

That's normal, very attached pack behavior. Wash is not normal.

Wash is a pyro.


There's the typical "hound dog lying at the hearth" fireplace behavior. Then there's doggy pyro territory.

On the 4th we set off our fireworks in the yard. The kids were watching from the top deck, Chris was setting off the fireworks and sitting 10 feet away, and I was sitting 15 feet away on the bottom steps with the hose ready.

Jayne watched the fireworks with the kids. Wash watched the fireworks with me. Totally unafraid, tail wagging.

The louder the fireworks got, the closer to them he went. The brighter, the closer. The higher the keen of the sound, the closer he went. He was "investigating" with his tail wagging.

I finally had to hold him back because he got too close.

I've seen dogs run away from fireworks. I've never see a dog run towards them though.

Oddest damn dog.


Low Sodium Levels Suck

Sometimes I am a complete and utter idiot.

I was born with natural low sodium levels. It's genetic. My renal-failure on-dialysis brother is, as far as I know, the only kidney patient who has ever been told to eat more salt.

To top that off, I'm on a nearly no processed food diet, since we cook almost everything from scratch. That means I don't get salt the way most Americans do, through excessive salt in food.

I'm also very sensitive to the taste of salt and don't like excessive amounts.

Salt is necessary for hydration, and necessary to keep dehydration at bay. Drinking enough water to keep hydrated is pointless without eating enough salt to keep the water in your cells.

I learned this lesson hard in Phoenix, where merely walking out the door was enough to make me dehydrated. Summer was intolerable, and to this day I'm the only person I know who took runner's salt tablets just to keep hydrated.

Ever try to find salt tablets in a health food or vitamin store? They look at you like you're nuts. Salt is bad for you, didn't you know?

So compared to constant dehydration in the desert the summer here so far has been a breeze.

Until it got up to 80 and severe clear that is, and I forgot that I needed salt with all that water. Water drunkenness is just as bad, if not worse, than dehydration itself. Sure feels worse.

So now I'm making myself some Southern Gatorade (sweetened iced tea with salt added), and I will be drinking at least a gallon a day of it until the temperature dips again.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Relocation Research

Currently up at the Guncounter Forum is a thread about buying rural land: land rights, water rights, searching from afar, etc. etc.

Today this question popped up:
I know I'm jumping on this thread a little late but would like a little info from Chris/Mel if possible.
You had mentioned that Idaho was a "right to farm" state and had other "leave me alone" qualities that pushed it to the top of your list. However you did mention looking at several other states as possibilities. What were any of the other more southern states(these old bones(sad being the same age as Chris and referring to myself as old) can't take the cold much any more) not including deserts that you looked at?
I can do the research of employment rates/income/cost of living, but don't know much about finding laws concerning property rights. I'm hoping to be out of jersey by 35(if my house sells and can find a palatable region). I liked Tennessee and southern Kentucky, the less humid areas of Georgia, the Carolinas(although hurricanes are a big issue in coastal states). And of course any state would need to be "shall issue"(not really a problem south of the mason/dixie).

I wrote up a basic answer at the forum, but we've been getting this question quite a bit lately.

We did look at some of the Southern states, particularly Tennessee and North Carolina because I have family there. However the combination of humidity, heat, and land prices would do us in.

The more important question here is more universal. How do you research important fit issues like property rights and politics?

There's tons of sites where you can compare demographics, climate, taxes, and even gun rights. I've found property rights comparison sites to be thin on the ground and not very comprehensive. If you're a prepper there's James Wesley Rawles' list but the question I think is bigger than that. How do you choose an area to live that fits your needs and politics?

Unfortunately there's no replacement for long, intensive, first-hand research. Months in our case.

If you ask most people, the level of government most capable of making life unbearable is Federal. Bureaucracy, taxes, military movements, "world opinion" all contribute to that outlook.

Let's get this straight right now: the FedGov has absolutely NOTHING on local government. This becomes abundantly clear to anyone thinking of raising livestock, especially dairy cows. The local regulations are numerous and sometimes contradictory.

On the state level are health regulations, minimum housing standards, livestock treatment laws, and even laws concerning how to market the milk.

County level concerns zoning laws and whether or not you can even keep livestock on your back forty.

City and township laws tackle nuisances and neighborhood spats over the smell of the manure.

So determining where you want to live has far more to do with the specific laws concerning that locale that anything the FedGov hands down.

Any serious research into living anywhere therefore requires three different levels of laws.

1. State statutes and the state's constitution.
2. County bylaws and zoning.
3. City codes, if applicable.

To give you an idea we'll start with two of the reasons we moved to Idaho, Right to Farm and water/mineral rights.

22-4503.Agricultural operation not a nuisance -- Exception. No agricultural operation or an appurtenance to it shall be or become a nuisance, private or public, by any changed conditions in or about the surrounding nonagricultural activities after the same has been in operation for more than one (1) year, when the operation was not a nuisance at the time the operation began; provided, that the provisions of this section shall not apply whenever a nuisance results from the improper or negligent operation of any agricultural operation or an appurtenance to it. In the event of an alleged nuisance resulting from agricultural operations pursuant to a federal or state environmental permit or caused by a violation of the permit(s), terms or conditions, the affected party shall seek enforcement of the terms of the permit.

No break law? No nuisance. This was passed in response to a ton of people from out of state moving in and suing the farm next door.


55-101.Real property defined. Real property or real estate consists of:
1. Lands, possessory rights to land, ditch and water rights, and mining claims, both lode and placer.
2. That which is affixed to land.
3. That which is appurtenant to land.

Comprehensive land rights, a necessity for us.

Oh, and there's always this little gem:



Section 11.Right to keep and bear arms.
The people have the right to keep and bear arms, which right shall not be abridged; but this provision shall not prevent the passage of laws to govern the carrying of weapons concealed on the person nor prevent passage of legislation providing minimum sentences for crimes committed while in possession of a firearm, nor prevent the passage of legislation providing penalties for the possession of firearms by a convicted felon, nor prevent the passage of any legislation punishing the use of a firearm. No law shall impose licensure, registration or special taxation on the ownership or possession of firearms or ammunition. Nor shall any law permit the confiscation of firearms, except those actually used in the commission of a felony.

If you can handle a little bit of legalese researching how a state feels about pretty well anything is pretty easy, if time consuming.

If the state passes your criteria, the next level is county.

We live in Bonner County because we want to be near Lake Pend Oreille. However, the tip of the lake is in Kootenai county, so why didn't we consider moving there?


We want to be able to use our land for agricultural purposes and personal purposes. One of these purposes is a personal rifle range.

Rifle ranges are incredibly sticky subjects for many, many counties. Not so for Bonner.

Personal rifle ranges are permitted in Agricultural, Forestry, and Rural zoning areas, provided that "Gun clubs and rifle ranges shall have a minimum area of 5 acres. Target areas shall be at least 600 feet from any existing dwelling, except that of the owner or caretaker."

The kicker is EVERY parcel zoned Agricultural, Forestry, or Rural is 5+ acres. That, and 90% of the private land is zoned for one of those uses. In fact, the state purpose behind Bonner County's land usage designations is to preserve those industries and the "rural character" of the county.

Yeah, we read a major "fuck you Californians" between the lines when we first looked at zoning too.

So yeah, to say that the county has no issue with people setting up a range on their own land is an understatement. In fact, when asking our neighbor for recommendations for areas to test the long-range rifle, he told us to look up so-and-so who lets him shoot on his land all the time. "Just be prepared for them to want to come along and try out your guns."

Did we mention we love the people up here?

This is what Kootenai county has to say about rifle ranges:


A. Zones permitted:

1. Agricultural, agricultural suburban, rural:

a. Minimum area: Ten (10) acres.

b. Target areas shall be six hundred feet (600') from any existing dwelling and three hundred feet (300') from any property line.

c. All facilities shall be designed and located with full consideration to the safety factors involved with such a use.

d. Off street parking for all patrons will be provided.

e. A site plan shall be submitted with the application. (Ord. 393, 12-14-2006)"

Sure, those are all reasonable expectations. But note how Bonner County government assumes you're not an idiot, but Kootenai has to make sure your plans measure up.

This is not an isolated example either. Most of the two counties' codes follow the same form; Bonner County's minimalism vs. Kootenai's desire for extra regulation.

What the county you live in decides to codify tells you a lot about how that government feels about the county's residents.

However, state and county still can't compare with the sheer pettiness of city government. If the area you're looking at passes the state and county sniff test, take a look at the city.

We don't live in an incorporated area. The closest city is Sandpoint, and we did NOT want to live in Sandpoint.

The short of it is the city council. Long version? The controlling, hypocritical, arbitrary and capricious acts of the city council.

Take some hippies. Transplant them into paradise. Give them power.

The big issue right now is the BID. The BID is a tax on Sandpoint businesses that pays for marketing for all of Sandpoint.

The businesses think the funds are being misspent (over 60% of the revenue goes to "administration') and so ran a petition to get rid of the tax. If they got signatures from 51% of the business owners by square footage the BID would be gone.

Lets clarify that... Not 51% of the business owners, or 51% of the population... The amount of tax paid is assessed on a square footage basis, so they decided the vote would be allocated the same way. They added up all the business zoned square footage in the area the BID applied to, and gave each business owner vote proportional to their share of the square footage. This of course gave huge weight to the larger businesses, like the Safeway, which are not locally owned.

The accusations are still flying as many of the signatures were "disqualified" under dubious criteria. For example, if the business was a partnership or sole proprietorship, then only a single assignee, whose name was listed first on their business license, could certify their vote. If the other partner signed, then they disqualified their vote. They also disqualified local franchisees and business managers of local branches of national chains, because they weren't the ACTUAL business owners.

That ended up disqualifying more than half the vote.

The drama is truly massive for a small town. And yeah, starting a business in Sandpoint, home based or no, is not on the table for us.

Oh and how much does the tax amount to? $104,000 a year. Not a month... per year... for all of the businesses combined.

Pretty trivial amount right? Well not to the people of North Idaho. If it was being spent as it was chartered for; improving parking (parking in Sandpoint is horrible), making local improvements, and business development, they'd be OK with it. But because 60% of the funds are actually being used to (at least in part) pay the salaries of two low level bureaucrats... No Go.

Have I mentioned how much I love these people?

Pay really close attention to the local newspaper for your intended area. What the news can tell you about city government is really important. Read the city codes, see how the regulations and allowable fines stack up. Check out whether your city council is made up of people with lives outside of town hall, or whether they get their rocks off making other people miserable.

If you can wade through all of the information (and it is a lot) then you'll really know if the area you're looking at is a good fit for you, your lifestyle, and your values.

Cross-posted to the AnarchAngel

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Bucket Garden

So a couple weeks ago Backwoods Home Magazine started arriving at Chez Byrne.

I had no idea that somewhere out there existed a magazine just for me and what I want to do. I've NEVER found a magazine that I wanted to archive before and keep forever and ever, and now I have two: Backwoods Home and Hobby Farms.

Beside an article on the Appleseed Project, the May/June edition of BH held an article on tub gardening. We figured, "hey, why not at least we could bring it in out of the weather" and decided to go the tub route with our herbs.

Herbs are integral to our cooking and nothing beats fresh (and cheap!) when it comes to herbs.

Yesterday I picked up our weekly order from Six Rivers Market (our local farming cooperative) including 7 started herbs and a hanging cucumber basket (for Chris's cucumber addiction).

A note about Six Rivers: any organization that allows me to place an order for fresh eggs from Windrush Farms instead of praying he still has some eggs left come Farmer's Market time is my friend. These chickens must eat like kings because the yolk to white ratio is HUGE. Too bad the kids have decided to eat boiled eggs like they're candy, because one of these days I WILL make creme brulee...

Sorry, got off track. Anyway...

I'd managed to get an 18 gallon rope-handled bucket (Wal-Mart, $5) and 2 cu ft of potting soil already, so today became assembly day.

First I needed to give the bucket some drainage (given the rain, a ton of drainage). Drills can be very, very handy.

From Waterfront House

Then I took the bucket over to the garage, where it needed all 2 cu ft of potting soil.

From Waterfront House

Although the article said to put the soil in where you'd keep the bucket due to weight, I didn't have a problem lugging it back up the stairs to the main floor where my herbs were waiting.

From Waterfront House

I transplanted all the plants to the new soil, making sure the roots were nice and loose. I then watered the herbs with water spiked with transplant plant food. Then I moved the whole assembly to the upper deck where the rain would finish the watering job.

From Waterfront House

Planted today:

Greek Oregano
Kentucky Colonel Mint (gee, I wonder if that was developed for cocktails)
Sweet Basil (from Bear at the Old Ice House Pizzeria in Hope, which has an awesome view and just as awesome pizza)

Oh, and my peppers and tomatoes? The habaneros are starting to bloom...

From Waterfront House

and the tomatoes are ALL in bloom.

From Waterfront House

Turns out I don't have such a black thumb after all.

Oh Yay, Flooding!

So as y'all know we're currently renting a house on a protected inlet of Lake Pend Oreille.

We've been blessed with an excess of rain, to the point that the yard is completely sodden and squidgy. We've even been blessed with our own fairy ring.

From Waterfront House

This is how the water stands right now:

From Waterfront House

Our dock is completely afloat (yes that's my canoe)...

From Waterfront House

the water is right up to the fence of what we call the lower yard...

From Waterfront House

our path to the dock is in danger of getting swamped...

From Waterfront House

and the lower yard has standing water from all the rain.

So imagine our joy when we read we could expect another 12-24" of lake level (no link because our local newspaper does not get the concept of online readership).

Due to the massive amounts of rain in the area all the local rivers and lakes will reach flood stage within a week. Nothing to be done, other than wait for the levels to go down (well that or flood Washington). Since all structures are required to be built above the flood plain (and most are built well above, including our house) it's not an emergency per se.

However, 12" will flood our lower yard, and 24" will reach the greenhouse.

So much for getting the lower yard mowed (for the billionth time in a row).

That being said, we don't begrudge the rain. For one thing, the plants are adoring the extra rain.

From Waterfront House

From Waterfront House

(I have no idea what these are, other than they're now as tall as me)

From Waterfront House

Plus we'll be planting corn next week and you know what they say about corn and rain.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Self-Determination Project

So what brings a family of four 1400 miles, 15 degrees latitude and 3 degrees longitude to suffer culture and climate shock?

The REAL question is why we left.

Friends and family remain in AZ. Only our immediate family and income source made the move, and the income source is portable. So why leave (almost) everything behind?

Independence, self-determination, over-reliance, terrorists, and the horrible death trap that is Metro Phoenix.

Let's start with terrorists and the horrible death trap.

Imagine a bustling metropolis with 5 million people. These people live on mostly infertile, unforgiving ground. Fresh water is almost non-existent locally, and is brought in via a canal from a river on the state border. A river whose water rights are bitterly disputed by no less than 7! states.

Now imagine summers so hot that temps regularly reach and exceed 120 Fahrenheit, and people often die during the summer when their ac goes out. Imagine the electrical load needed for 5 million people to run their ac at the same time, and the inability of those with solar panels to keep up with their usage.

Imagine the lack of farmland, and the need to truck in almost every bit of food from neighboring states.

Now imagine the water grid, electrical grid, or transportation grid failing. 5 million people either trying to make do, or desperately trying to get out of town.

If someone wanted to make a REALLY big statement against the U.S., Phoenix makes a damn good choice. God forbid a natural disaster, or Palo Verde going down, or, or, or...

Like I said, death trap.

This came home to me about a year and a half ago while taking Chris's mom grocery shopping.

She bought only enough food to last a week, all of it processed. That's not particularly surprising for her. Then I started paying attention to everyone else in the store and what they were buying. Boxed meals. Prepackaged meals. Convenience foods. Not in large quantity either.

I never particularly paid attention before. We could easily eat for a month off of our pantry from the basic staples I keep on hand. But these people... what would happen if the grocery store just didn't get stocked? What would happen if no trucks came? How long could they live out of their kitchen cabinets? Do they even know how to cook from scratch if need be?

What if the water stopped flowing? How much did they have on hand? Could they even survive a full day if the faucet didn't work?

What if all 5 million of us got stuck in such a situation? Mass rioting is far too mild a term...

So we decided we needed to leave the death trap.

But where would we move?

It would make no sense just to move to another metropolis. All big cities have the same problem; lots of people dependent on lots of infrastructure in order to function. Over-reliance on systems they don't understand and no concept of what to do when systems fail. Also, city-dwellers deal with huge portions of their lives and livelihoods being controlled by city officials through public utilities, codes, property taxes, and police.

When there's a police officer on every corner, people forget that they need to defend themselves, and settle their own differences. When there's a police officer on every corner, sometimes the officers forget that people CAN be trusted to defend themselves, and settle their own differences.

Speaking of settling differences... that job has been taken over by the compliance police.

Code enforcers. HOAs. Byzantine zoning restrictions. All there to make sure you fit in and *gasp* don't cause home values to drop.

Scottsdale has the weed nazis. Code enforcers who come around after every rain checking for weeds in "desert landscaping". Code enforcers with the authority to fine.

Other cities want complete control over what type of buildings go up, to the point of dictating historical districts and to what level a homeowner can restore their own building. Some cities have ridiculous parking statutes.

Many, many people use these mechanisms in order to "encourage" their neighbors to fit in.

"Independent" becomes a very bad word... an insult in fact.

We didn't want to live in that environment anymore. We didn't need to live in the city anymore, so why were we still there?

But if not the cities, where? There's 50 states to choose from, how do you make a choice?

Now was the time for research, and some basic exclusionary analysis.

We started with the basics: gun rights. If a state didn't have shall-issue, or Vermont-style carry they got dropped off the list.

Then analyzed based on climate. We wanted a climate where the summer wouldn't be too humid. Pretty much everywhere east of the Mississippi, except New Hampshire, got taken off the list. We also wanted a climate that wasn't too Fridgid. Wyoming and Montana went into the iffy list.

We wanted mountains, with varied scenery. No Plains states. Besides, the weather on the plains leaves something to be desired.

Politics. Anywhere run by a hugely liberal capital got taken off the list. This killed otherwise suitable states, like Washington and Oregon, and made once strong like New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Nevada iffy.

Ideally, we wanted a low tax, no income tax state; but we didn't exclude based on it... Just not enough choices without income tax.

Fresh water, preferably with large lakes and lots of rivers; and a good, accessible water table. New Mexico got taken off the list entirely, and most of the rest of the west got iffy (leaving only small pockets of suitable territory in most of the Rocky mountain west states).

That left us with parts of Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Montana, and Idaho.... Eastern Oregon or eastern Washington would have been good, but for the government in either state.

That is, until we decided we wanted to farm and ranch on a small scale.

 Fertile land became very important to us, as well as a suitable growing season. Climate became more important, and so we decided we wanted a certain temperature range, and erred on the side of heating in the winter rather than cooling in the summer.

One factor remained; Chris needed to be within 2 hours of a major regional airport.

This became a huge issue. Lakes, affordable land, and proximity to an airport? Good bloody luck...

Then one day while looking at maps, I saw it. Tucked in the northern portion of Idaho, one of the deepest lakes in the U.S., and the biggest lake in the Northwest. Lake Pend Oreille. 75% of the shoreline Federal land, and the land prices made us drool. National forest all over the place and some of the most fertile ground in the Northwest. Plus, the mountain ranges funnel warmer air through the area so the climate is more mild than we expected.

Oh, and an hour and a half from Spokanes airport.

And no one else seemed to notice it was there. And if they did, they dismissed it out of hand.

"Idaho? All those redneck nutjobs? Why the hell would you want to move there?"

"Aren't there all those white supremacists there?"

"Isn't that WAY in the boondocks?"

(some of these are direct quotes from Chris's family).

Well, we knew better than to believe the stereotypes, so we started asking around and researching.

Redneck nutjobs? Some, but a very small minority. Plus redneck isn't necessarily an insult in our minds.

White supremacists? Yeah, there's still a few around, universally hated and scorned.

Boondocks? Well, that is kind of the point.

We wanted independence. We wanted to be able to take care of our own needs. We wanted as much self-determination as we could manage without ending up on a terrorist watch list.

Oddly enough, most of north Idaho feels the same way. The county north of us is where Ruby Ridge happened, and most residents rallied behind Randy Weaver not because they agreed with him, but because they were so pissed the Feds crossed that line...

People here like to be left alone. People here like to do what they wish. People here also like the stereotypes, because it means fewer of those damn Californians moving in and trying to take over...

...They REALLY hate Californians...

Moreover, while everyone we talked to is more than happy to live here; they'd rather keep the area a secret, so it doesn't get ruined. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm going to get flak for posting this, and letting the rest of you know what you're missing.

So we looked at local ordinances, distances, travel times... We weighed all of the data and decided on Bonner, or the southern portion of Boundary counties (just because of distance and travel time. The northern part of Boundary county doesn't have much in the way of improved roads.)

Bonner county has figured out that if they zoned just right, the Californians would stay away. Thus, the vast majority of Bonner County is zoned some variant of rural, with various minimum lot sizes (outside of an incorporated area, it's a minimum of five acres per dwelling unit), very few restrictions on land usage, and most importantly, the "right to farm" (oh and Idaho is right to hunt, fish, and trap state too). Their idea of water, mineral, and timber rights? If it's on your property, it's yours. If you can drill it, catch it, cut it... you can drink it, use it, sell it, whatever

As for government interference, here's a snippet from the "Buying Land" page from the OFFICIAL web page of Boundary County, the county to the north of us:
Another consideration is the economy of Boundary County, which is based predominantly on timber and agriculture production. Idaho is a "right to farm" state, meaning anyone who owns property has the right to use or lease that land for agricultural production; there is nothing the county can do to prevent a neighbor from going into the hog business should they so choose, even if the breeze blows your way. Much of the county is timbered, with over 75 percent of the total land base of Boundary County owned and managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the Idaho Department of Lands and the Bureau of Land Management. If you purchase a parcel because the trees on the hillside across the road make for a beautiful view, you shouldn't be disappointed should loggers move in later to harvest that timber.
Life in Boundary County is wonderful; the people here retain a strong pioneer spirit of hard work and of helping their neighbors ... most who call this community home would agree that you'll not find a more neighborly place anywhere else. But the rugged beauty and often harsh conditions mean that many of the amenities you may be used to are not available, and if you're used to relying on strict ordinances and regulations to help you resolve neighborly disputes, you'll be disappointed. It is the belief of the county that people who buy and build here have the right to build the home that best suits them; if the roof collapses under the weight of the snow, they'll know better next time. Conversely, you may build a beautiful home that meets the most stringent building codes while your neighbor may not; the county will not intercede on your behalf to make that neighbor live up to your standards.
I will admit that little snippet played a role in getting us to move here.

So now we live in unincorporated Bonner County on Lake Pend Oreille. We're surrounded by wildlife, farmland, and good neighbors (though, frankly, the neighbors are too close... But it's a rental. We can live with 1.6 acres and neighbors 100 feet away, in exchange for the lake and the dock... at least for now, until we can find a good piece of property)

But our plan wasn't simply to "get away from it all" and change locales. We're making a major life change in almost every way possible. We are going to push the envelope to see just how much of our own needs we can manage ourselves.

What does that mean? Simply, we're taking over our own electric, our own heat, our own water, our own defense, and as much of our own food as we can manage. We're taking over almost everything we need to live from the ground up. No more being at the end of the fragile "production to shipping to store to consumer" chain; we are going to BE the chain.

Our ultimate plan, is to be as independent as a family can be, and as self-reliant as a family can be. This is an exercise in seeing if one modern family can pull themselves out of modern dependence, stop being cogs in a really huge wheel, and make a go at (mostly) sustainable living.

This is not survivalism, or disaster preparation (though it doesn't hurt). We just got really bloody tired of not having enough control over our own lives, or responsibility for our own lives.

Renting in the area is just step one. The next major phase in our plan will be buying land; a large parcel with good soil, reasonable access, and a good water table (wells here average 40 to 80 ft, with a good rate of flow).

We'll be drilling a well, developing a spring (if we have one, we have 3 on our rental property), and setting up a water catchment system. The goal is to use the well as little as possible, as 34 inches annual rainfall (and 72 inches of snowfall) is more than enough for our uses.

We're going to be setting up off grid power (and hopefully getting grid tie with sellback), most likely a combination of solar, microhydro (if possible), wind, and backup generator. If small biodiesel converters become more suitable for farm use, we WILL be making our own diesel.

We'll be planting some crops, tending a garden, growing an orchard, and planting various berries and brambles. We may not be able to supply all of our own food (salt not being a crop) but we'll see how much we can manage.

Livestock will be entering the equation eventually. We have no qualms about raising our own meat (they are not pets) and we're pretty damn sure we can raise some good beef on the incredible pasture around here. We're also thinking of running domestic elk, both as meat for ourselves and meat to sell.

We want to know everything we use and ingest, and where exactly it came from. We want control of our water, food, and utilities.

We want to take care of ourselves... We want INDEPENDENCE.

This is the beginning of the Self-Determination Project.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

You Might Be a Survivalist If...

I'm sure y'all have seen the lists:

You might be a survivalist if:

You have a cookbook all about Spam.

You consider your extra large ham radio antenna as “broadband”.

You know how to cook leather.

You’ve ever been on a Soviet “Potential Threat” list.

SWAT has ever asked to borrow a few of your guns.

Your new girlfriend comes over for the first time, and when she walks into the living room, the first thing she sees is your CHL regulation Man sized target with 50 holes in the chest area.

Your dog has more Emergency Rations than 95% of the U.S. population.

You’re the first person at the gun range on Dec 26th to try out your new toys, and the clerk knows you by your first name

The local supermarket manager knows to go ahead and open up the back dock doors when he sees you on a shopping trip.

Your home and property are more secure and better lit than Fort Knox or Area 51.

All the local restaurants know to save you all their 5-gallon buckets on Mondays and Thursdays.

None of your vehicles have electronic ignition or pollution control.

You know the tail numbers of all the helicopters in your area.

The magazines on your coffee table include American Survival Guide, Guns and Ammo, Soldier of Fortune, American Rifleman, Shotgun News and 4 -Wheeler.

You welcome a “mild” El Nino storm because you know its going to fill your cistern.

The power fails in your local movie theater, and you pull your flashlight from your belt and show yourself the way out.

You use your Gerber Tool to cut your steak at a fine dining establishment.

Your knife collection has its own footlocker.
Etc., etc., etc.

We had our own prepper moments.

You might be a survivalist if:

* You've discussed how many rain barrels you need and where to build the water tower with your spouse.

* You receive a shipment of sea salt from Amazon, are thrilled to find it comes in a food-grade bucket and make plans to buy more.

* Your UPS guy, FedEx guy, and mail carrier all show up in the same day with various packages of tools and supplies.

Yes, this all happened today, why do you ask...

Cross-posted at the AnarchAngel

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Our Nightly Show

Chris and I have somewhat of a daily ritual.

Coffee first thing in the morning. Work until lunch. Lunch at noon. Work until after the kids eat dinner. Sit down on the couch until its time to make our dinner.

Watch our resident bald eagle fish at dusk.

The "front" of the house is classic log home prow, complete with huge windows for the view. Our living room, kitchen, daylight basement, and loft bedroom all have views of the water.

Every evening, around dusk and without fail, a lone male bald eagle flies over our house, dives into the water, pulls out a fish, and disappears back over the house. It's an awesome sight.

Last night our bald eagle went through his motions, then did it again, and again, and again... a total of four fish made its way... somewhere.

So we looked up the typical breeding times, egg-laying times, egg-hatching times...

We don't just have a male bald eagle. We have a breeding pair, with eaglets. The nest is somewhere in the huge evergreens on the neighbor's property.

There are no pictures because 1. the trees are at least 90 ft tall, 2. it's someone else's property, 3. if the eagles are disturbed they're likely to nest elsewhere, and 4. we don't have a camera lens with quite that amount of zoom.

We're quite content though, with our nightly show.

Cross-posted at the AnarchAngel

Monday, May 24, 2010

Hard Freeze

So, the big news around here for the last few days, has been the huge north pacific storm beating us up (we got some wind gusts as high as 70mph), followed by four nights of hard freezes below 30 degrees.

Yeah, we're a few days from June, and it hit 26 in my yard last night. I got up and looked out at my yard, and it was entirely frost. Looked like I'd sprinkled the thing with white pepper.

Of course it's still mid-high 70s during the day, and it should be in the 80s in a week or two; it's not unpleasant at all during the day... but that doesnt stop people from complaining.

Oh and YAY it's not 105 here today... I DON'T miss Arizona whatsoever. 

The farmers and gardners, I'll grant, have a valid complaint. This is going to be a bad year for crops in north Idaho. But everybody else...

You know what a good hard freeze a few nights in a row means? All those bugs that lay eggs in standing water will be DRAMATICALLY reduced this summer.

I can live with a few cold nights, if it means way less skeeters in July and August.

Cross posted to AnarchAngel

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Adventures in Transplanting

I've never had what you could call a "green thumb".

Granted, I've never really tried either.

Desert Arizona is not the most amenable growing climate after all. My brother Tim was/is able to coax anything out of the soil, but I never really tried. Well, other than that one time after I moved back in with my parents when, fresh with knowledge from my job at the arboretum, I planted quite a few transplants in the back yard.

Tim took it over shortly after and my desert penstemons and Tombstone roses were replaced with melons and grape vines. I'd only been gone three days, on a custody change trip to Vancouver.

Yes I'm still pissed, why do you ask?

Anyway, just because opportunity never really knocked doesn't mean I don't drool over seed catalogs and seedlings. If anything really stopped me before, it was the fact that most of what I wanted to grow doesn't really do well in Zone 9.

When we originally started our search for a new place to live (long story, we'll eventually get around to it) one of my primary criteria involved being able to grow what I wanted to grow. Apples. Berries. Nuts. Grains. Peaches. Cherries.

Every time I pass the nursery on Hwy 95 that sells huckleberry plants I want to pull in and buy a dozen. Even though we're renting and I can't really plant ANYTHING that involves marring the gorgeous lawn.

However, the property has a greenhouse and the greenhouse is all mine.

After 2 1/2 weeks of farmer's markets, I've finally gotten all the seedlings I want for the greenhouse. All started locally, all cheap as hell, all free from sales tax. All easily transplantable when we move, and all more than happy to be in the greenhouse.

The girls and I spent part of this afternoon weeding and planting and we're all excited to see what comes of our plants.

We ended up with 2 each of:

Brandywine Tomato

Tommy Toe Tomato

Glacier Tomato

Giant Thai Pepper

Cyklon Pepper

Fish Pepper

Habanero Pepper

Hopefully this summer we'll end up with plenty of ripe tomatoes and hot peppers.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Notes From the Weekend

The girls and I visited the Farmer's Market for opening day on Saturday. The weather's been a little wonky, so no produce quite yet. However, we discovered "free-range, all-natural eggs". I couldn't care less about the free-range part, but I'm all over grain and insect fed eggs, especially for only slightly more than grocery store prices. They're wonderful! The kids have already run us out of our first batch of hard boiled eggs.

We received our first cord of firewood Saturday as well. Bargained for and delivered by a 17 year old with an old Chevy truck (that he bought himself no less) who'd spent the night before splitting the seasoned wood. Tamarack, white pine, white birch. Chris spent quite a bit of time talking with the kid, as he is considering entering the Air Force. Good-hearted, well-spoken, intelligent kid. Oh, and evidently splitting wood is REALLY good for forming muscle. That kid will have no problem passing PT.

This weekend we also discovered that Tamarack does indeed burn very hot, hot enough to raise the temperature of the house 40 degrees above outside temp without really trying. Oh, and loft master bedrooms are really efficient at trapping that heat, for good or ill.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

That's Why We Moved Here

(although we're in a far more mountainous portion of the state)

From Oleg:
Of Idaho
These rolling hills are Irish-Green
But those who herein dwell
Have rifles that reach a mile
To send Cromwell's hosts to hell

To them Ruby Ridge was a warning
An alert to the fair and free
Like other, more recent incursions
Against them and you and me

Enjoy rolling hills of Idaho
They look Irish but hold more lead
In case someday reason fails
And the living might envy the dead

The Federal hydra seldom
Comes into these rolling hills
To it the climate is noisome
Though the locals are dressed to kill

Plain are natives of green and beauty
Simple and rough their talk
But they have enough math to know
How far long-range bullets drop

These rolling hills are Irish-Green
But those who herein dwell
Though wishing for peace and quiet
In war would do rather well

To them you are valued visitor
By whom they strive to do right
Those who come in friendship
Need not fear the rifles' might

These rolling hills aren't Ireland
But a more formidable land
And despite all the Pharaoh's armies
These people will win in the end

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Importance of Good Design

In the last 6 weeks I've fallen down our stairs twice.


Not the outside stairs. Not the stairs to the basement. The loft stairs that lead from the main floor to the master suite.

They're fully enclosed, carpeted, and of spec but of bad design.

They are completely lacking in handrails and the carpet is a bit too plush. There's a reason we don't let the kids up to the loft.

The first time I slipped just a few feet. This morning I slid from the 3rd stair all the way to the bottom on my thigh. It looks like I've been caned, without all the fun.

I am unhappy.

We're installing goddamn handrails, the kind that should have been installed in the first place.

Were they required by code? No, because the stairs are walled on both sides.

Walls give absolutely nothing to grip. Any idiot could see handrails were a good idea.

As a bonus, the studs in the walls are offset since the construction crew didn't start the framing for the walls at the same point, as we discovered installing the doggie gate at the bottom of the stairs. Installing the hand rails is going to be fun.


Little stuff like this just pisses me off.

I've got a running list of this stuff saved for the house we're building.

Speaking of the house we're building...

My best friend (since we were 15) is pursuing a degree in Urban Design and Planning.

As part of that she needs to get her CAD certificate, which she's in the middle of classes for.

She's decided to help design our house as her project.

She also wants to know all of these little irritating things for her own use in her career, in order to design better.

So I'm keeping her a list of what works, what doesn't, what would be nice...

It's nice to know not all of my irritation will be in vain.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Dogs Won the Battles, but We Won the War

Ever since we've moved up here, we've had dog issues.

Where we lived in Scottsdale we had a 6 ft wood fence around the entire yard. The dogs would occasionally push past us going through the front door, or even jump out a window, but mostly they respected the fence.

That changed when we arrived in Idaho. Here we have a 4 ft chain link fence, and acres and acres of wonderful sounds and smells around us.

Zoe (our coonhound/Rottweiler mix) and Wash (our Doberman/Rott/Pit/Shepherd mix) became little escape artists. Zoe escaped for the thrill, but would come right back. Wash escaped to go explore, and go visiting.

They found tons of holes under the (poorly done) fence to get out through. For weeks we had a routine: let the dogs out, watch the dogs escape, plug the holes.

That got old.

Then we decided to chicken wire the holes. We made it through a few, until I did some more advanced brush clearing and discovered 300 ft of possible hole spots. Pretty much half of our fence was so poorly done that the 5 inches of clearance needed for Zoe to get the idea to dig existed through half the fence.

We decided to install an electrified fence.

Not one of the "buried wire" invisible dog fences with collars. Those are unreliable, and our dogs are large and pain tolerant.

We picked up an electric livestock fence kit.

We now have two lines of visible wire surrounding the yard, 4-6 inches inside the chain link fence and 6 and 14 inches above the ground.

When we initially hooked it up the controller to test it, and the charge was weak and barely noticeable to me and Chris. Yesterday I spend most of the day finishing running the fence and clearing any brush that was interfering with the fence.

The felt charge tripled, though I didn't think it felt like much.

I am not a 45 lb coonhound mix, though, so we turned the dogs out yesterday afternoon.

Jayne (our 110 lb Rott/Pit mix) was the first to discover the fence. The fence doesn't shock until it has a second or so of contact, so he nudged it a few times to make sure it was there without any effect.

Then he touched his nose to it for long enough.

He yelped and ran 3 of his own lengths away.

Zoe did essentially the same thing a few minutes later, with the same effect.

Wash took longer. He nudged more than a few times, very tentatively, testing the new object. For a bit I thought he may be tougher that Jayne.

Then he tried to go through the fence.

He yelped and ran back to the house and up the stairs, yelping the entire way.


Later yesterday Jayne decided to test the fence again, just to make sure.

The shock still worked. He yelped and ran again.

I think we may finally have a solution.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Shopping on the Side of the Road

One of the reasons we moved to rural America is the high availability of good food, particularly good meat.

We couldn't care less about "organic" but "grass-fed" or "grain-fed" is our holy grail, right next to "vine-ripened" and "picked this morning".

We also love a wide variety of red meat, including venison, elk, and buffalo.

On the 95 between Coeur D'Alene and Sandpoint is a series of signs. "Fresh Jerky", "Elk Jerky", "Buffalo Jerky".

For 4 damn weeks we drove past those signs waiting for the jerky to go on sale.

One Friday the trailer finally showed up and I noticed it on my way to CdA with Daughter the Older.

On the way home we stopped at the stand with cash.

On the same sign with all the jerky prices was an item that caught my eye.

"Grass-finished beef. Steaks $6 a pound."


So I ask, and turns out I need to ask jerky-man's wife as the meat is at their house in the freezer. She will be there any moment.

So we wait a bit and the wife shows up. We talk a bit, and she just says, "well, come by the house and pick out what you want."

Her hubby tells her just to take us, it would be faster.

So the kiddo and I climb into her car and off we go with a strange woman.

An absolute treasure trove of farming info. She shows me her cows, her steers, her prize bull, her crops, her raspberries (you can have as many starts as you want, dear) and her chickens.

Oh my dear god those were fat cows.

So half an hour later or so we're climbing back in her car with 4 lbs of strip and a lb of tenderloin. For $6 a lb.

I've made some new contacts, learned a lot, and I'm coming home with unexpected steak and jerky.

As we're leaving the couple say that my husband's going to tease me for doing my grocery shopping on the side of the road.

Turns out he was too busy eating phenomenal beef to comment.

We Few, We Happy Few...

This blog is being written to chronicle one family's transition from suburban megalopolis America to independent rural living in the Rocky Mountain West.

We've already begun our adventure, and in the next little while, we'll be writing about how we got to this point, why, and what we've done to get where we want to be... and where exactly that is for that matter.

So... where we stand right now...

We moved exactly 6 weeks ago from the megalopolis known as Phoenix. Phoenix and all its attached suburbs is currently 80 miles wide and 50 miles high.

Phoenix is situated in Maricopa County, which is is 9200 sq miles with 21 sq miles of water and a population of 4 million, 97% urban and 3% rural. The population density is 420 people per sq mile with cities with literally five times that in Phoenix.

We lived in Scottsdale, which has a population of 235K, an area of 184.2 sq miles, and a population density of 1278 per sq mile.

We now live in an unincoporated area of Bonner County, Idaho which is 1738 sq miles with 182 sq miles of water and a population of 40K, 23% urban and 77% rural. Population density is 24 per sq mile.

Crime rate in Scottsdale: 7.17 violent crimes per 100,000

Crime rate in Sandpoint: 1.76 per 100,000.

We lived in the desert with next to no water, and now we live in the forest next to a huge lake.

It's a helluva change, and a badly needed one at that.

We're currently renting a house. A house with twice the square footage on 5 times the land than our Scottsdale house, at $300 less a month.

Our landscape is no longer rocks, but lawn. Lawn we don't have to water, only mow. A lot.

Our 4 wheel drive is now a necessity. We're probably going to get rid of our actual car, for at least a four wheel drive sedan (maybe an Audi or something similar).

There's no longer an illegal safe house 4 houses down, just a bunch of friendly people.

That's not the end of the road though. Within the next few years we'll be buying a large parcel of land and establishing (or taking over) a ranch.

Crispin Ranch, our forever home.

This blog is our journal of that process.