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Last winter we had quite a problem with lighting in the living/dining room. There is no overhead lighting in the space and the table lamps we had were inadequate to the task. There were small spots of light within large areas of dark. And I hated the table we were using. An antique oval piece, we couldn’t use it lengthwise along the windows, as seemed the most natural position, because the space between the legs was so narrow that we ended up bruising our knees repeatedly. It got so that every time we sat down I was cursing the hated table.  I finally turned it perpendicular to the center window (which looked stupid) and we used it that way all through our 10.5 month winter.

I set myself a goal back in about April to make sure I had a new table and appropriate lighting by “Fall”.  I found this table at World Market a few weeks ago. And yes, you can still bang your knees on the legs, except it’s now a possibility rather than a probability. I really, absolutely fell in love with a table at Restoration Hardware, but this one was similar and 1/5 the price. So I settled on this piece.

After several misguided tries at creating my own pendant lamp (ignore the cord hanging from the ceiling) I discovered the perfect wall lamps last week and ordered them. I hung them today, on what was very clearly our first blustery, slightly rainy day of “Fall”. (I think I’ll order those cord channel thingies that make sconce cords look nice and neat.) Mission accomplished.


It’s a good day for clam chowder.

September Garden

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Earth Sanctuary

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One Year on Whidbey

I’ve been trying to write and post this forever and a day, so I’m just going to call it done. Our 1 yr anniversary on the island was on 8/23/2011:

I suppose this happens everywhere, but it seems so much more common here in the Seattle area than anywhere I’ve lived before. I meet someone new and they ask me where I live. Seattle is broken up into neighborhoods and people think they can understand a great deal about you if they know which neighborhood you call home. Belltown? Capitol Hill? Ravenna? the U District? Greenlake? Ballard?

Since we moved to the island, I get the very same reaction I used to get when I told people I lived on a boat. First there’s a hush over the room…like those old “when E.F Hutton speaks” commercials (who the hell was E. F. Hutton, anyway?). Then everyone has a flurry of questions. What’s it like? Do you love it? (the assumption is that I do (and I do)) Do you take the ferry every day? What’s that like? Is it impossible?

There’s a wistfulness behind the questioning that makes me feel most people would like to do the same thing, but they have jobs or partners or budgets that they think would prevent them from doing so.

Everyone seems to think that it is really expensive to live on an island, and they share that surreptitious look amongst themselves that says something like “oh, this one has family money”. I saw that look over and over when we told people that we lived on a boat, and I recognize it now as well.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

When we first moved to Seattle, the Mad Scientist and I were married. Between the two of us, we’d been either underemployed or unemployed for at least six months. By some sort of miracle we each found jobs we were interested in within 40 miles of Seattle and both potential employers flew us out here during the same week for interviews — and we each got the jobs we wanted. And they paid for us to move. We’d be making less money than we had been making in RI, but because there was no state income tax in WA, we’d be pocketing more. Then the Mad Scientist got it in his head to live on a boat instead of in an apartment, condo, or house and he found exactly the right boat to entice me into agreeing with him. There’s a lot more to that story and someday I may tell it, but here’s my point today: it was a lot cheaper to buy a boat and live aboard than it would have been to rent an apartment, condo, or house. (Or, well, it would have been if we had just lived in the boat “as-is” and not spent all our time and money restoring it. Again, another story.)

So, the island. In the interim we got divorced and lived apart for 7 years. We owned two houses and all the things it takes to live in a house of your own — times two. It’s substantially less expensive for us to share a house here than it was to own two houses in Seattle. The house and yard here on the island are pretty huge but still we pay less for mortgage and taxes. We have a well, so we don’t pay a bazillion dollars a month for water/sewer any more. We have one phone/internet bill instead of two and we don’t bother with cable. Power and heat are substantially more expensive than we anticipated, but they are balanced by the rest.

I’d like to say that there are about 3 restaurants on the entire south end of island, but I’d be exaggerating the scarcity. There are a dozen or so in our area. Between my impossible schedule and the Mad Scientist not feeling up to leaving the house, we almost never (3-4-5 times in a year now?) go out to eat.  We have located local farmers and purchased meat in bulk, at prices substantially lower than grocery store prices.

In one year we:

1) Had the entire yard fenced for the dogs — and to keep deer and rabbits out

2) Had a sort of huge chicken coop built

3) My brother came to visit for my birthday! The weather was fabulous. 85 degrees and sunny the first weekend of October.

4) Moved the fence we’d just had built to change the pattern of the dogs’ behaviors and stop driving the Mad Scientist even more Mad. (I’m taking this opportunity to say “I told you so” — because I did tell him so and he insisted I was wrong.)

5) Spent about 3 weeks in constant angry-confrontational mode. (Establishing territory??)

6) Found a “handyman” who did a lot of gorgeous work, but irritated us to near death.

7) Then found a house cleaner

8) Stephen built and hung about 300 bird houses — then moved on to bird feeders

9) Had a dog door installed. A life saver.

10) Realized exactly how much mud four dogs can track into a house

11) Ordered a mountain of cedar chips to counteract the mud

12) Had all the gutters cleaned out

13) Had a wall of moldy cedar shingles replaced (where a gutter was misaligned and was splashing onto the wall)

14) Bought a generator

15) Had a transfer switch for the generator installed

16) Fixed multiple small electrical problems…discovered more

17) Had wood delivered and stacked for winter and used most of it

18) Were appalled by the amount of money it cost to heat this house in winter

19) Had disagreements and misunderstandings about the importance and traditions surrounding Christmas and the New Year

20) Discovered that some sort of rodent was getting into the chicken coop. Worked hard to keep it/them out.

21) Bought a bazillion tools and supplies for yard and house maintenance

22) Unpacked two houses — I add this so far down the list because it took a really long time

23) Located local farmers and ordered beef, chicken, and pork for the freezer

24) Despaired of ever seeing sunshine again

25) Got ten baby chicks

26) Had a new dishwasher installed (to great fanfare!)

27) Moved the raspberry canes

28) Got really behind in the gardening because the rain and cold were unrelenting

29) I went to visit kiddo and Miss C in NC

30) Hired gardeners to help us catch up — it took weeks, but they did an incredible job

31) Were *so* relieved to have the yard looking better as a result of the gardeners’ hard work

32) Planted tomatoes

33) Created new garden spaces

34) Took out weeds and planted many many dollars worth of plants

35) Were furious when slugs ate the new plants (and dogs trampled them)

36) Built compost bins from free pallets

37) Endured 10.5 months of winter

38) Had the balcony re-sized (smaller) and re-built to replace rot and discourage the woodpeckers that were attacking us

39) Finally fired (or just stopped calling) the handyman who did great work but was driving us crazy

40) Pulled out the tomato garden due to blight

41) Officially created a guest room

42) Had guests

Soaking up the sun

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