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Archive for January, 2011

So the ‘hitch’ that we had come across turned out to be quite a bit bigger than just a questionable sewer placement.  The surveyors, who would normally be able to complete the final survey in a matter of days, are now out of town for a month, possibly quite a bit more.  Consultation with mortgage brokers, realtors, and lawyers reached the conclusion that it is impossible to get the mortgage without a title document, and that a title document cannot be created without that final survey.  Which means, in effect, that possession would be pushed back by a month or two.  Ugh.

 

I spent one night fuming and worrying about it, then one night getting a good night’s sleep.  This morning, it hit me that maybe somebody else could finish the survey.  The lawyer indicated there is only one gig in town, as far as surveyors go.  However, I decided it was worth calling the folks who had dealt with the subdivision on the farm, as they are less than 2 hours’ drive from here.  I was impressed with the expertise and level of service I had received from them, and thought they might be able to shed some light on the matter.

 

The chief of the company listened to my sob story, thought for a moment, then told me that he could and would complete the process, as long as the seller settled up with the original survey company, so that he could get the completed initial survey from them.  Apparently, once Community Planning has approved a subdivision, the approval is, in fact, transferrable.  Bingo.  Thinking outside the box pays off again!

 

I conveyed this information to my realtor, who passed it along to the seller’s realtor, who went to the original survey company to settle up and get the necessary documents.  Less than an hour later, my realtor called me back to notify me that the original surveyors found a crew who would be available to finish the job within one week.

 

Amazing how fast things can go from “completely impossible” to “right away. ma’am”…

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Drama and Suspense

It has been a bit of a roller coaster the last few weeks.  Saying goodbye in Alberta was harder than I expected, especially with so many ‘work friends’ who I really enjoy, but have never gotten around to hanging out with outside the workplace.  Then, leaving  Hubby and driving out here to Saskatchewan, and the stress of starting at a new place.  So far, so good, but as kind as the new roommates are, they’re not Hubby, and it’s not my bed, and I miss the critters.

 

I got a call from my amazing mortgage broker this afternoon, saying that everything is basically good to go.  She mentioned, however, that she had spoken to our amazing realtor, and it had sounded like there might be a hitch.  With our proposed Feb 11 possession date bearing down on us, “hitch” is a dirty, dirty word.  I checked my email when I got home, and sure enough, there was one from the realtor, indicating that the sewer (septic) system is not up to code.  Apparently, it can remain in use as is, but if any neighbours complain, we will be forced to fix (replace) it.  He wanted me to call, but I have not gotten ahold of him yet, so it is not clear just exactly how big a hitch this really is.  Aah, well, I’m sure things will work out somehow…

 

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Great News!

My realtor called me this afternoon to share great news:  the subdivision of the acreage (out of the home quarter) has been approved by community planning.  That means we could get possession as early as the middle of February…which is fantastic.  I was dreading going out to Saskatchewan and not seeing my Hubby for three to six months, which is what we expected to happen – the expected possession date was more like May or June.  Now, it’s just three weeks.  And, we’ll be in the place and settled early enough to start seeds, plant trees, and put in a big garden.

WOO HOO!!!

Now I’m off to pack…

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Hubby and I went to a dinner theatre, last night, as a last-chance date before I go out to Saskatchewan (he is staying behind until we get possession of the acreage).  Hubby got the last two tickets available, and we wound up sitting with another couple at a four-seat table.  There was quite a stretch of time between dinner being finished and the play beginning, so we struck up a conversation with our table mates.

 

Turns out, they were farmers, and had driven an hour into town to get a little culture.  I mentioned that we were moving on to an acreage soon, and that eventually we’d be moving out to a farm, ourselves.  They have been farming grain and cattle for 30 or 40 years, and seemed like real salt-of-the-earth folks.   The conversation revolved around water wells, cisterns, cows, and Mexico vs. Cuba for vacation destinations.

 

After, as we were pulling out of the parking lot, Hubby commented that our table mates were probably sitting in their truck right now, shaking their heads at us.  He commented that they probably think we’re completely crazy.  I mean, who would want to get into farming?  It is hard work, and the pay is the pits.  Around here, most farmers are in debt up to their eyeballs, and the vast majority of farmers I know have an off-farm job.

 

I told Hubby that we have a couple of advantages.  We don’t know what’s impossible.  And I already have a good off-farm job.

 

We’re never going to be wheat farmers.  The equipment costs so much, we would never be able to afford it, and still compete with the huge grain farms in our area.  But I think there is a market for local tree foods – the 100 mile diet is in the popular lexicon, and we’re within 100 miles of a couple of decent sized cities.  Wheat and chicken and potatoes and beef and lentils are easy – these are major Prairie crops, so they are common, and relatively cheap.  I bet folks would really love to be able to get their hands on 100-mile hazelnuts, though, or 100-mile apricots, and I would additionally bet that they would pay a premium in order to do so.   Especially if they were also organic.  There are lots of niche-market options, and we’ve half a mind to try several.   Planting and watering a few dozen trees is a far cry from farming wheat.  These are crops that don’t need a lot of space or machinery or money to get into…just some foresight and time.

 

Now, we’re never going to get rich selling locavore hazelnuts at the farmer’s market.  I do think, though, if we plan and market and manage well, we can make our income exceed our outgo.  And have our ideal lifestyle while we’re at it, with space to roam, good food that we grow ourselves, and a job for hubby that does not involve selling his soul to someone else for 40 hours a week.  If we can manage that, by our own accounting, we’ve won.

 

Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re not actually crazy, either…

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We live (for now) in a very small town.  So small, that I work for the only real employer in 15 miles – and so does everyone else.  The lady at the post office, the gunsmith, the small engine repair guy, the fellow who runs the bar, the ice rink manager – I have relationships with a lot of folks in town, because I either work with them, or with their spouses, or parents, or siblings…

The Fire Chief (I work with him) posted an angry plea on facebook this morning:

“Is a hockey game in blizzard conditions worth your child’s life, or yours? If you think so, maybe you should come & help the Fire & EMS scrape the parents that think like that off of the highway. While you are thinking about that, remember you are also putting emergency workers & RCMP lives at risk for having to come out on treacherous roads & white-out conditions to rescue you & your loved ones. IS IT REALLY WORTH IT??”

We seem to be a society that does not stay still.  Maybe cannot stay still.  Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night shall keep us from our hockey games, our grocery stores, and our malls.  Is it really worth it for a quart of milk?  A pack of smokes?  A hockey game?  Some recreational shopping?  I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to need to be constantly moving, and constantly entertained. I don’t know if it’s the TV, the 24-hour-everything, the video games, or what, but it really seems like even semi-rural Canadian culture has ADD.

Whatever happened to staying home? Spending time by yourself, or with your spouse and kids?  Snuggling up with a blanket and a book? On a day like today, with howling wind, snow, ice, and zero visibility, there is really no excuse.  Keep a few extra groceries and a few other sundries kicking around, and you really never have to go out unless you want to.

Today, we’re taking a snow day.  We’d had some plans to go visit family, but when the dogs we reluctant to go outside and pee, and I realized I can’t see our neighbor’s house across the street, we decided it probably wasn’t really worth it.  Instead, we’re staying home, making cookies (no milk?  no problem!  Good thing I have that backup stash of powdered…), doing laundry, listening to music, blogging, and, later, probably playing Stock Ticker (a favorite board game).  If the power goes out (a likely thing, in an Alberta blizzard), we’ll light the oil lamps and keep on playing.   There’s nowhere we have to be so badly that we’re willing to risk our lives for it.

Once we’re on the farm, or even the acreage, this will likely become a more frequent event.  Luckily, we like snow days…

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I read a quote, once (and I cannot remember who to attribute it to, unfortunately):

“Those who believe they can, and those who believe they can’t, are both right.”

 

I went for lunch today with a lady from work.  We were talking about stubbornness, and I commented that being stubborn was my worst flaw and my best asset.  She replied that she wished she was as stubborn, and could only dream of doing the things I have done, like traveling and buying a farm.

Huh?  Really?

 

She makes as much money as I do.  She is very intelligent.  She is quite organized.   I don’t see any reason why she couldn’t do whatever the heck she wanted.

When I pointed that out, she said

“Oh, but I can’t

“I’m too old”

“I can’t afford it”

“I’m not adventurous enough”

 

Well of course you can’t, honey.  Look at what you’re telling yourself.  All those lovely excuses you’ve made…

 

I got this a lot when I took a year off work and backpacked through Europe and North Africa.  Colleagues, all of whom make comparable wages, went on and on about how jealous they were.  I told them to stop being envious and start planning to do it for themselves.  That did not make me very popular, but they could do it just as easily as I did.

 

This is not to say that it was easy.  I paid off all my debt, scrimped and saved for years, lived in older rental places, worked overtime, lived below my means, drove an old, crappy car, and, in general, worked really really hard to be able to do that.  But I wanted it badly enough, and I accomplished my goal.   I’m not all that special.  There was no magic trick.  Just planning and time and a few sacrifices and some hard work.  I was 29 years old.

 

Now, people are commenting on how we could afford our farm (and acreage).  In fact, my father commented to my sister “I don’t know how your sister plans to pay for all this stuff”.  Of course, Dad lives in a brand-new house in a nice subdivision, got a new car last year, and just spent thousands of dollars remodeling his kitchen with oak cupboards and marble countertops.  I’m not sure he has grasped that we bought an old, run down place that is going to need a lot of work.  I also don’t think he has any understanding of how cheap land is in Saskatchewan, if you get far enough out of town.  The farm costs us about as much as an average car payment.   The acreage, being run down and needing work, will cost us less than renting in that city would.

 

So, how can we afford all this stuff?  Easy.  We drive old cars.  Like 20 year old cars, that we buy for cash.  We don’t have cable or rent movies (no TV).  We play board games instead of going shopping.  We don’t eat out a restaurants very often.  We cook our food from scratch.  We don’t buy brand-name clothes.  Our dogs and cats are mutts that we rescued, not $2,500 purebreds. We ‘redecorate’ by buying some new fabric and making different pillow cases for the throw pillows.  We mostly buy our books second hand.   Every year, when I get a raise, I put it into savings, so that we continue to live below our means, and have a safety cushion if we need one.

 

Does this make us somehow less cool?  I mean, a lot of my colleagues drive Hummers, or at least new Jettas.   They wear True Religion jeans ($250-300), and lululemon hoodies ($100).

 

Well, it depends on your definition of cool.  My vintage Corolla gets me to work just as reliably as my buddy’s Hummer, and costs me about 1/10th as much in gas, let alone insurance.  My $30 jeans still keep my butt from hanging out.  My $20 Costco hoodie keeps me warm, and I like the color.  I think our trip to Cuba this winter was pretty cool, and we paid for it out of cash we saved by not buying that other crap – stuff we don’t really need or actually even want.  You can be a trendsetter, or you can be unique just like everyone else.

 

Or, you can quit fussing about what everyone else thinks, and just go do whatever makes you happy.   Do you believe you can?  Or will you tell yourself you’re too young, too old, too dumb, too broke, or not adventurous enough?  Either way, you’re sure to prove yourself right…

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Some ladies buy shoes.  Or purses.

I buy trees.  And flowers.  And garden seeds.

With tentative possession on the acreage being early enough to plant both fruit trees and a garden, I indulged myself with orders from two of my favorite online catalogs:  Prairie hardy fruit trees from T&T Seeds and heirloom garden seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

These people love me.

I was just going to get a couple of basic trees for the acreage – an apple, maybe a hedge of Nanking cherry bushes or Saskatoons for the lane, and some raspberries.  Oh, yeah, and another Honeycrisp apple to replace the one in the farm orchard that managed to winterkill last year.  But look!  Prairie hardy blackberries!  And apricots!  And kiwi!  Really?  Really!

Hubby came over to see what all my exclamations were about, and saw the pretty pictures, and started making helpful comments like:

“Mmmm…plums…I really like plums…” and “You can grow hazelnuts in Saskatchewan?”

It went straight downhill from there.

I figured that, after the damage to the budget from all those trees, a quick peek at Baker Creek couldn’t possibly do any harm.  Right?  Riiight.

Let’s just say I’m not quite sure where we are going to fit ten shrubs and six trees, all those raspberries, plus six kinds of melon and four types of squash.  And the carrots, turnips, beets, beans, peas, spinach, corn…you get the picture.  I mean, sure, we have ten acres, but it’s going to take a little while to clear out all those caraganas, plus we still have to take possession.

Aah, well…I guess a little optimism never hurt anyone…

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