Thursday, May 5, 2016

Crunch Time

I really wish that "crunch time" meant that it was time to sit and eat a bunch of crunchy chocolate chip cookies, but that is not the case. Crunch time means that we have finally set a target date for getting into the RV: end of May.

Holy guacamole, that is only a few weeks away! Most of the repairs and remodeling have been completed in the RV, we have a realtor, and the house is almost ready to go on the market. All that's left to do on the RV is get new tires and have the windshield gasket repaired. Once those are complete, we will park it in a nearby RV park and start moving into it.

We hope to stay in the area for a little while to keep the property looking really nice while it is on the market. Eventually, though, we will have to head out for work. It's hard to think about that right now because we're having lots of fun with the birds of spring migration. If you want to read more about that, I've started a new blog focused just on birding.

Now I just need to get rid of everything in the house that won't fit in the RV!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Cleaning Frenzy

Holy moly! We've made an appointment to talk to a realtor Wednesday evening. That means we have three days, count 'em - only THREE days, to get this place ship-shape.

You would not believe the mess it is right now. It's not surprising given that we are in transition, but still... Considering how cluttered every room of the house is, it's hard to believe how much stuff we've already ditched. How can the house still be crowded when all of the following is gone? Chest freezer, exercise machines & equipment, Christmas tree & d├ęcor, about 30% of the furniture so far, loads of kitchen stuff including many of my beloved canning jars, clothes, linens - donated for doggie use at the shelter, and more. Even food has been donated, given away, and/or fed to the birds. The shed is still crowded, too, even though some bike stuff and tools have gone away.

The next three days will be devoted to organizing the clutter so it looks neat and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. We're mainly meeting with the realtor to get a sense of what we need to do besides empty the house in order to have it market-ready. But, we want him to have a positive impression when he comes in, not think, "OMG, these people think they're almost ready to sell?!" So, that means I cannot allow myself to be distracted by all the Spring birds coming through. Well, other than going out to bird the yard right now because there was a storm last night and something cool may have come in. And tomorrow morning when I'm meeting with a friend to help him identify birds on his large property. Other than that, no, I won't be distracted.

Okay, I will probably look out the window this evening to see if the cormorants fly by, but that's it. Really. I mean it.

(Checking e-mail.... What?! There's a Heermann's Gull just 8 miles away? Gotta go!)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Lack of Interest

I'm considering retiring this blog due to lack of interest; mostly mine, but also yours. One of my favorite parts of blogging has been the conversations that happen in the comments. Without comments, I don't know what my readers are thinking. It could be any of the following or maybe none of them.

"Hm, I never thought of it that way."
"What happened to the old, funny Chile we knew and loved?"
"Yikes, this is booooring!"
"Where are the recipes?!"
"OMG, not another recipe!"
"Where are the cute dog pictures?"

When I started blogging again, I wanted to write about how one downsizes to an RV, the transition process from home with garden to mobile RV, and then life on the road. As I struggle through deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, I wondered why nobody on the full-time RVer blogs really talked about the agony of this process. Well, now I know. They didn't have time! There is so much to do. Here are some of the things on our to-do list:

1. Clean and fix up the RV to make it livable.

Believe it or not, we are still not done with this phase. Almost all of the cleaning is done but I have yet to muster up the courage to tackle the microwave. I seriously considered just buying a new one, but at more than $200, that just isn't in the cards when the other one functions perfectly fine (as far as we can tell). The only other cleaning projects left are the windows and screens. Oh, and the Corian kitchen countertops. Don't forget the light fixtures. Yeah, not done yet.

Most of the modifications are finished. My husband has done all the necessary repairs, built in a couple of shelves for books and multimedia, and installed the solar panels. He still needs to build in a surplus water storage area so we are able to boondock longer. (Boondocking is RV-camping without hooking up to water, sewer, or electricity.)

2. Decide which personal belongings will go with us in the RV.

This obviously does not include furniture since everything is built into an RV. The only exception is my student desk and my small kitchen cart will fit in the living room/office/kitchen area. I've gone through everything we own and gotten rid of a tremendous amount already but as I look around the house at what remains, I know that more will have to be left behind. In the end, it will probably come down to trying to cram it all in and realizing most won't fit, requiring a last minute huge donation to the local charity thrift shop.

3. Clean and fix up the house to sell.

Every house we've ever lived in has looked its very best on the day we put it on the market to sell. We fix it up nicer for other people than for ourselves. We've been working on spackling holes in walls left by the previous owner(s) and doing a bit of painting. We've cleaned half the carpets and will clean the others when the rooms are emptied out. We're cleaning up the yard and my hubby just planted some flowers this past week. We think we already have a realtor lined up; he's just waiting for us to get to the point we can talk about listing it.

4. Do the admin prep to change from a permanent home to full-time RVing.

There's a bit of work involved in setting up your life to live on the road. We're working on figuring all that out.

5. Have fun and not work ourselves to exhaustion.

Part of the reason for doing this whole RV thing in the first place is to enjoy our lives more. Pushing ourselves now to the point of exhaustion defeats the purpose of making these changes. What this means is that we regularly take time off to go birding, get out for a hike, or watch a movie. This is slowing down the schedule for leaving, but is important for our personal well-being.

In the midst of all this work, all the regular chores are still there needing to be completed. Dinner has to be prepared, laundry has to be washed and dried, and the dog has to be fed and walked. It sometimes feels like we are never going to get out of here!

Let me know if you are interested in reading about any of this. I may decide to just ditch all of this if nobody's interested and go start a new blog devoted to my birding adventures!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Litter Clean-up

I live along a rural road that gets quite a bit of vehicle, foot, and even horse traffic. This area tends to be windy at certain times of year, too. Consequently, there ends up being occasional litter along my property edge. For the past six years, I have picked up the litter at least once a month. When I am being diligent, I pick it up more often. It's relatively easy to get out there and clean up so I do.

Surprisingly in all that time, only two people have thanked me. I am thrilled that at least a couple of people appreciate my efforts. Sometimes I fantasize about how nice the whole area could look if everyone took a few minutes a month to clean up litter along the edges of their property. Sadly, I know that will never happen.

But, I can still do my part to keep my little corner of the planet clean. One problem I have had, though, is that some trash ends up under very prickly plants. It's the desert here, after all. Usually I don't mind crashing through a little brush to get trash but not when it means getting cut up by thorns or impaled by cactus! So, some trash stayed put, month after month, year after year, aggravating me every time I saw it.

I did not have any poles long enough to reach under some patches of the catclaw acacia. This plant's thorns are small but they are recurved like a cat's claws and so sharp that even slightly brushing against one results in a small painful slice in the skin that immediately wells up with blood. Today, my husband came up with a tool for me. He'd recently purchased a professional extendable paint pole to reach the eaves of the house that needed a little touch-up. It was a whole lot easier on his knees than going up and down an extension ladder a zillion times. Well, with the paint roller holder on this pole, I was able to reach and extract every bit of trash that has eluded me for years!

I had to extend the pole fully - to twice the length shown here - for some of the trash.

As you can see, some of the trash had been there for a very long time!

It looks great out there and now I have a tool to keep it that way!

Monday, February 22, 2016

I'm a Little ... What ...?

I had an odd encounter at the store today. I'd parked some way from the doors and as I walked towards the store an old man was heading to his car. I smiled, as I often do when encountering other people, and he smiled back a little. As I got closer, he spoke but I wasn't sure that it was to me because it didn't make any sense. It sounded like he said, "Aren't you a little ____ today?"

Like I said, the word he used did not make sense so I obviously looked puzzled. He said again, clearly to me - not to himself, someone behind me, or about a window display or something else - "You're a little princess!"

What an odd thing to say to a grown woman. Maybe not if it was Halloween and I was dressed up as a princess, or if we were at a Renaissance Fair or Fantasy Con event, but that was not the case. I'm obviously not a young woman, not with white sprinkled through my straight (no princess-y updos today!) hair. No make-up. Not even fancy clothes; in fact, I'm wearing a drab gray sweatshirt on a warm day because the tees are all in the wash. And I'm certainly not "little."

Maybe my shoes confused him. They have a smidge of pink in them. Princesses wear pink, right?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Wonders of the Internet

I am old enough to remember thumbing through piles of cookbooks looking for just the right recipe to try for dinner. Sometimes it meant going to the library, although in more recent years, it meant buying and storing far too many cookbooks on my shelves. Nowadays, though, I can get online to look for recipes. I often find what I'm looking for in minutes, although sometimes I end up having to combine elements from two or three recipes to create what I want. (When you've been cooking for decades like I have, you tend to know what ingredients, flavors, and textures you like. This lead to a lot of fiddling when it comes to other people's recipes.)

Today's search was a splendid example of finding precisely what I wanted very quickly. I have several fresh ingredients that need to be used up soon: a third of a head of cauliflower and some young kale from the medium Aerogarden. I'd been thinking about making a couple of Indian dishes but when I glanced at my spice rack, I noticed the jar of Ethiopian Berbere spice. Mmmm, that smells nice! I set the spice jar on the kitchen table to remind me to use it this evening.

As my mind mulled over the possibilities for dinner, I realized that I didn't want to make multiple dishes. Making basmati rice, a saag dish using kale, and a curried cauliflower dish sounded like too much work, especially when I realized that I'd really enjoy having some red lentil dal on the side. Besides, if I was using the berbere spice, I wouldn't be using the specific Indian spices for those various dishes anyway. Well, maybe I could just throw everything in together in one pot. Surely I could find a recipe for something like that.

In the Google search box, I typed in "berbere spice red lentils cauliflower kale". The top search result was for an Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew with Cauliflower, Baby Kale, Peas and Potatoes. Perfect! I have peas somewhere in the freezer and I've got dehydrated potatoes in the pantry. Karen, I'm hoping your recipe is good because I'm making it for dinner tonight.

The nice thing about being able to find millions of recipes online is that I don't have to own a boatload of cookbooks anymore. That is a definite perk when trying to downsize to live in an RV. From an all-time high of over 1,000 cookbooks,* I am down to less than 20 and that is including the Vitamix recipe manual and a notebook filled with favorite recipes of my own creation and out of cookbooks. The cookbooks I've kept are the ones with recipes I make frequently and food preservation books for canning, pickling, and fermentation (kimchi!) I suspect I may let go of a few more when it comes time to move into the RV full-time. After all, we have to meet the weight limit of 2,000 pounds for everything we keep!

*While I did have over 1,000 cookbooks in the house at one time, they weren't actually cookbooks that I'd gotten specifically for my own use. I bought 945 cookbooks from an estate sale years ago at the bargain price of $100 with the hopes of re-selling them for big profits. Well, it didn't work out that way but I did have fun sorting through them all and doing loads of research. I ended up trading some at a local used bookstore for store credit and then donating boxes and boxes of them to the local library for their semi-annual book sale. Hopefully many other home cooks are now enjoying those cookbooks.

Update: Turns out I don't particularly care for Ethiopian flavors...

Friday, February 5, 2016

Chile's Got an RV!

As you know from my previous post, we spent the first half of 2015 taking care of my husband’s mother in our home. After she passed away in early July, we decided to proceed with our original plan for 2015 which included getting an RV and leaving this area.

We are currently in the process of fixing up the used RV we purchased, emptying out our house, and fixing up the property to put it on the market. The challenge has been that there are far more problems with the RV than we suspected, resulting in it taking months longer to get it road-ready than planned.

My husband has essentially been working full-time (and unpaid) on the RV since last fall. We are very grateful for his wide range of skills that enable him to do most of the work himself. Every system in the RV has needed some kind of repair: the engine, wiring, plumbing, air and ventilation, and structural. In addition to the repairs, we have had to do a very intensive deep-cleaning of the entire rig, something that appears to never have been done since its manufacture in 2003.

The idea of staying in crowded RV parks with hook-ups all the time does not really appeal to either of us so we are setting it up to allow more boondocking. That means we can be self-reliant and camp in a wider range of locations. We switched to a composting toilet which allowed us to remove the black water (sewage) tank. The plan is to install a second fresh water tank in its place to give us more water storage capacity - with new plumbing, of course! We have also installed a solar system so that we aren’t reliant on a noisy generator anytime we use power.

There are still some small upgrades he is working on for the RV, mostly to do with the solar system, but it is getting closer to completion. I still need to deep clean the kitchen area and he still needs to build in a couple of shelves for books, music, and movies. After he installs a new fresh water tank, we will then take it in for new tires and to have the windshield gasket replaced.

In the meantime, I am trying to sort through our house to determine what will fit in the RV. There are, of course, space limitations in a 38 foot RV but there are also weight limitations. All of our personal belongings, from kitchenware and clothing to tools and books, must weigh no more than 2,000 pounds. That sounds like a lot until you start paying attention to the weight of what you own. For instance, my stack of mixing bowls weighs an amazing 4 ½ pounds! Books, which we love, are also heavy.

It has been brutal making the decisions about what to keep and what to let go of, even though it really is all just “stuff.” We humans tend to attach so much importance to our belongings, in addition to the emotions and memories associated with them. I continue to pare down to what we truly need and want in our new adventure. The many books I’ve read over the years on de-cluttering and minimalism are helping me through the process. Ironically, I had just begun to work through Marie Kondo’s bestseller, “The Magic of Tidying Up,” before my mother-in-law had her health crisis and we ended up as her caregivers.

We don’t intend to keep a storage unit as we’ve read the accounts of many RV full-timers that regret doing so. Instead, we are taking a huge leap of faith that we will like this lifestyle. We recognize, however, that if we don’t, we are not stuck with it. We can find a new place to live and sell the RV if we find it does not suit us.

While we don’t have a deadline, we do hope to get out of here before summer. We need to get the house on the market and my husband will need to find paid employment somewhere. We hope he can find a contract position in his field somewhere we wouldn’t mind staying for a while. We do want to travel, but we don’t intend to be on the road changing locations frequently. We’d like to spend several months at a time in each new place to really explore and get to know an area. Getting to bird in new locations is, of course, something we’re looking forward to doing. Who knows; we might end up in your neck of the woods!