Circular Plans

Within your heart
Keep one still, secret spot
Where dreams may go
And sheltered so,
May thrive and grow.
-L. Driscoll

In the past year I’ve been at a crossroads, and recently made my decision to go forth on the cautious but still productive path- Plan B.
This includes “resilience goals”. Goals which do not rely on keeping our home, but can at least help this place pay for itself, that add to my sense of security in these insecure times, whether we keep our house or not.

I divide the year Seasonally into Quarters – 4 Quarters @ 3 months to each Season:
Q1 Spring – starts March 20 (Mar Apr May)
Q2 Summer -  starts June 21 (Jun Jul Aug)
Q3 Fall – starts September 22  (Sep Oct Nov)
Q4 Winter – starts December 21 (Dec Jan Feb)
- however, we usually have an extended Winter, (and Spring) than that. I call it:
 Mud season.
Anything not done when snow is on the ground means sweat and calluses PLUS splinters and ant bites... we have these giant red ants spread over the closest acreage to the house (of course) that aggressively attack and attach- and don’t let go. If you step on one, then it attracts even more TO you!

When I start planning goals, I find myself trying to kill two birds with one stone kinds of things- not that I would be multi-tasking, but following the permaculture type rules where one thing builds upon some other thing like a circle.
I like circular ideas. One thing leads to another and another and they all interconnect at some point or help the other along.

* If I were to raise rabbits (for whatever purpose),I would look for the best way to contain/collect/use manure (readily used in garden or worm/vermiculture projects, no wait time needed). Some people have figured out that keeping redworms or nightcrawlers in boxes under the rabbitry 'kills one bird with two stones'. It keeps you from having to shovel or rake manure and move it somewhere else. Saves space too.
Some people keep rabbits in with their chickens- even if it would save space, I don’t really want rabbits mixed with my poultry... poultry droppings are ‘hot’ and need to be degraded before using/mixing in w/ garden soil. Separating them would be impossible. Also, I don’t want dirty rabbits, or having them eat the chicken feed. But as species, they get along ok, so they could in theory share housing and a run area; I’ve seen it done. It’s not a pretty sight, since rabbits will dig burrows - and I can’t imagine how I’d keep it clean. Clean is important with chickens for various reasons, not the least of which is aesthetic - #1 my chicken coop has to be well-kept!

I think about the artistic overall look to everything - I can’t help it! I crave beauty, and think about what I’ll plant in conjunction with an animal addition or out-building, etc. to soften the edges and beautify it.
For instance, I might plant some gooseneck gourds or birdhouse gourds on the fencing around a chicken run. I may build up a hill of dirt surrounded by rocks, and plant purple iris and ‘vanilla ice’ sunflowers on it...since everything here is so WILD, it’s nice to have spots of color- and near to where you’re going to be dumping old dirty water from the animal feeder/waterers anyway (creating a second use of it). 
The circular zone theory of Permaculture might say this ‘graywater’ use would be the edge between Zones 3 and 4. I just call it a practical extension.

I’m still studying on our property layout for possibilities, studying the concept diagrams of permaculture site planning.   

1) Should the one acre field be used for an orchard or pasture? Could the pasture then be the avenue toward amended soil for a future grain crop? (horse-drawn plow, or something bartered for the tilling). If so, we need to consider the water source (no ready irrigation).
2) In the most picturesque spot- a 40’x60’ rectangle surrounded on all sides by the nicest pines on the property (they stand tall without any junky trees between them)- and at the north end the possible location of a waterfall: should it be the future pond site or saved for a playhouse / yurt / teepee / handbuilt cabin or strawbale artist retreat?
3) Should I plan to put goats on the circular front yard (the driveway wraps around it). It's no good for gardening, it has a stand of oaks in it- though they could be bull-dozed up or something. Animals would help turn the dirt into something better over a couple of years (they wouldn't always STAY in there, since I would use goats to clear 10 acres of overgrowth and grasses, but for winter they would). Or, should I just let it 'go' as is? There are rows of purple iris to dig up if I put them there. And a shed to build.
   Hmm, will have to come back and edit the photo for clarity - that's  herd of mule deer, not goats!
Is this better? Can you see the circle? 

Let me take a moment to encourage you to look up strawbale /haybale homes if you aren’t familiar with that! The concept is truly fascinating once you research it.
Rammed earth is also an exciting concept.
Research can be so enlightening, captivating and motivating!

Soon I’ll be back with some sketches of preliminary renderings of my current ideas.
By the way, I’d love to see yours.
What we can learn from each other surpasses what we would ever learn on our own, right? I hope you're learning something from my ideas. Let me know, ok?

Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the cornfield. ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

So my question remains- what can you do toward your ultimate dreams considering ‘conditions on the ground’, where you are at this moment in time? Take the time you need to clarify the outcome you can realistically expect to achieve given current circumstances, (assessing your options and capabilities), and then make the best choice you can within the constraints of available resources, capabilities and practical realities.
Get back to me on that!

“In the spirit of what one of our great President’s said: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

The next step: Set performance goals, not goal outcomes.
Sometimes, it’s just time to move – to try, to make an effort. If you don’t get there, it’s ok. It’s all a learning experience. Performance goals get you off your bum and out the door. They are your accountability goals- each step in the process of steps to your goal(s) COUNTS!
But most especially the first one.

More words from the wise:

“If you always do what you’ve always done,
you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.”
~Mark Twain – and you know HE was SERIOUS! (snicker!)

Plan B

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” 
- Mary Anne Radmacher

As promised, (HERE), I've thought about my Plan A, B, and C...
In the most simple form, this is what I mean by planning ahead, different strategies for differing scenarios. Imagining the best possible outcome, the mid-range possibility, and the worst case scenario, coming up with how to deal with each one.

I've chosen to forge ahead with "Plan B" because housing LIMBO, living without projects and goals, and a sense of purpose really sucks. Living a month-to-month like renting situation is really what we're doing - until we know we are not. For my own purposes, because of our house situation, this is what I've come up with:

Plan A: This is a greenlight situation-
Planning to STAY, permanently, everything going well enough to accomplish that. Gung ho and “just do it” mentality.
Just keep on plugging away on one little project at a time. (As money allows).
Making this place a dream. Everything envisioned from the beginning.
Painting my way into a beautified cement floor, seeing my Chamber of Gold master bedroom scheme to fruition, landscaping...putting in berries and an orchard, raising goats and chickens, rabbits, and having a horse... well, the list is very long.

Plan B: This is within the bounds of a cautionary modus operandi-
living within the temporary and transitory mentality. The bare minimum, accomplishing things for myself rather than TO the property. Making sure it can come with me, thinking in terms of  transportable and  temporary, or solely for profit-- painting to sell, rather than painting for these walls (no murals, not the cement floor). NO sweat equity. No investments to the property or house. Just minimum maintenance.

For instance, I’ve gotten the go-ahead for using our shed (currently filled with CRAP – like the lawnmower, and tools and tires and wires and old box monitors, a couple of junked printers, and 5-gallon buckets of chemical stuff the previous owner left behind. And old paint cans). And a lot of it is heavy. But I’ve got a wheelbarrow now!
And the shed was build on ‘skids’ so that it can be moved around. So we’ll move it from the north side, to the south side of the house (where the horse was, where the sun makes all the difference in winter time).
As soon as I get it cleaned out. And find someone with a truck willing to tow it 100 feet.
I already sourced someone to get blue cochins from. I can’t wait! (These are docile and cold-resistant, light-brown egg layers)
(photo credit Meyer Hatchery):

Now, if we move, I can take chickens. It’s hard to find rentals around here, but ½ of them are rural properties. And last year the town legalized backyard chickens anyway.
Goats and a pony might be harder, so those are on a waiting list for now. Learning homesteading skills little by little and shopping for material to sew clothes for myself, planning a pantry. Small things to practice that don’t take big investment.
The deck needs a couple of coats of weather stain, and the front door needs sanding and refinishing... but I’ll let the weeds go.
This is my current plan. I’m working on it, it’s a go. 

I’m waiting things out a bit, to see if we can go plan A.
Or if plan C comes to fruition. Give me 2 years to decide the perils of that one.

Plan C: This is where all hell breaks loose in our global economy, Yellowstone volcano blows up, or Russia starts a war with us...assuming any of those are survivable. In other words a “S**T Hits The Fan” scenario. Seriously, stocking up on ammo and seeds, and getting a guard dog and even horses... plural. 
We won’t talk about this one. It’s too harsh for now. But learning survival skills like canning, and getting canning supplies, those would be (are) at the top of the list. And a manual hand-pump for the water well – in case we would be ‘bugging out in place’ (rather than moved off property like in what happened during the Great Depression).

Of course there could be a plan D in which case everything I ever said means nothing at all. There's no reason to think about that one. 
Asteroid hitting earth, or global warming turning our atmosphere toxic with methane gas... or perhaps alien invasion, Armeggedon (and the Rapture), right? 
Like I've said, if it comes to this, then it's in God's hands. All of us would be in disbelief or shock anyway, so a plan D is really silly to contemplate. 
Unless you have a different perspective? (Please share!)

I think plans need to be practical and applicable, or they aren't plans. 
Goals need to be practical - and motivating. They need to be strong enough to cause you to follow through the one step at a time to accomplish them.
Visions will call up your passion(s) and should bring a smile to your face.

“We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities
-brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.”
~John W. Gardner

Anyone else out there got a Plan B? 


Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. ~Author Unknown

The dream: instead of buying into a pre-made Paradise, we will be creating a Paradise of our own.
That is true of us, even if by some miracle we keep this place.
*I have posted some photos of what we’re dealing with here, so you can SEE for yourself really how unfit this 10-acre property is for many kinds of production schemes. They are kind of scattered within various posts. 

In the past, well, I collected ideas for years and years (about 5 years) of what I wanted to add to this place. You know, using the old “house equity as credit card” mentality. Just in case we ever could. Because, well, we did that before, and things worked out perfectly fine. I had such plans for this place!

~Enclosing under the deck where there is currently a completely useless porch, so that it would become a small rustic wine room of sorts. Half-barrel tables, rich old-world colors, a wall mural surround, wines to taste with various cheese plates, music piped in... a place to play at sophistication and learn things, while feeling a bit decadent in a casual way.

~Adding a room addition for an indoor exercise pool. Or at least a gazebo room on the deck for mid-winter soaks in the hot tub (now not functioning and taking up the space under the deck, the cover of it sagging with each load of ice that develops when the snow melts thru the deck.)

~Finishing the attic so I’d have a space to spread out my paints and canvases.

But this is a different world with new normals. And these are faded dreams – like a rose bud that has begun to wrinkle, getting dry, crispy, edges before it ever bloomed. I'm having to make myself stick to them, or else I'll curl up on the couch in front of the mind-deadening TV all day (give up on everything).

Things are different now and I see things in a new light; It’s no way to live, just living to work, existing to pay off a loan you can never pay down. Paradise no longer means the same thing. But maybe that's a good thing too.
Rather than feel I live in an increasingly better house, I would prefer to see what I can do in increasingly better ways, seeing what I can produce from -what seems like nothing.
I would prefer to see the literal fruits of my labor in a bowl on my table, and my own hand-dipped candles gracing it, than to sit at a grand table with store-bought linen and candelabra...
That’s the difference. 

If we stay, the property will be made to help pay for itself, somehow. If we must leave, then a new head will be on my shoulders – one that says ‘pull yourself up by those boot straps!’ There is a certain freedom with starting over, too. I will remember the world is full of opportunities for the grasping – I will remember the brass ring on this carousel (of life)!

Things are complicated today, and I have no heart left for the politics of it all, but I can tell you the fence I’m on right now feels like this:

‘Will you have moonflowers or morning glories'?
 It seems you can’t have both... and, you may not choose.
[Whatever happens, will happen because Fate has taken the choice from your hand.] But both are nice in their own ways. 

So whatever ends up to be- 'you will move into it gracefully and work with it until you  like it, you will make something of it that surpasses what it would have been alone, without you’.

(The old lemons from lemonade trick!)

No, no one can take everything away from you. 
Whatever you relinquish, it isn’t you, you don’t lose you. You can always remake yourself anyway. It's your life and your vision, your passion, your sweat.
There are always new dreams to dream, and no one can take your dreams away, if you keep a dream tucked down deep in your heart.

Even at a crossroads, a heartsong remains a dream you must chase. 
For me, the question still remains as to what act on now, what to pursue, and in what order. 

What stands in your way?

Walking Forward Thru Challenges

"Breathe in, breathe out, move on..."  ~singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett

Walking forward, taking one step at a time, a day and a week, and a month at a looking back.

Forward from my position or point of view, is often so scary, so insecure and unsure that I near the edge of despair.
I know I promised not to this year – “no despair” was a resolution that I continue to fight to keep. Some days it’s very hard.

Some days I have no fight and no faith, and no hope left in me.
*I found this tiny nest just outside the fence, under pine trees- it has a FLAT backside, like it was up against a tree trunk, and ONE black Cherihuka hair woven into it. Precious to find yet one more nest with his hair... yet like a slap in the face too. Cherihuka is still out on pasture near Flagstaff.

Thank you God for such a good natured spouse, who says we’ll be ok no matter what happens; I know that's true, but he helps me keep things in perspective.

This is not a rant. But it might be full of details and angst. It's PERSONAL and you may choose not to read it. (It's not that personal - I'm sure to mirror another few million other Americans these days!)

It’s an explanation of why I am not getting far on those farmy-related things I speak so passionately of. I want you to know it’s “not me”. Of course it is, to some extent. 
I AM holding back some, but I want you to know there’s a reason.

They keep saying the economy is getting back on track, and that may be so, but we’re just scraping by like everyone else we know. But here’s what’s been happening:

In order to keep our home we had to do a Chapter 13 (house lost so much value that it wouldn’t sustain a second mortgage), but the 1st, being part of the same institution as the 2nd, is apparently doing all it can in revenge (after so many swaps of ownership it’s hard to keep track of which bank really has the note). 
They are really, really, doing their best to force us into a Chapter 7.
Every time we re-file a new ‘plan’ to pay them back, they bring up some tiny argument – and that paper says:

 “wherefore, the Bank of --- F/K/A The Bank of ----, as Trustee for the Holders of the Certificates, First --- Mortgage Pass-through Certificates Series  (some numbers), By First --- Master Servicer, in its Capacity As Agent for the Trustee Under the Pooling and Servicing Agreement respectfully requests that this Court deny confirmation and either convert this case to a Chapter 7 proceeding or dismiss this case pursuant to the provisions of ...... some kind of relevant legal provision.
(Is it STRANGE, that this list of banks and servicers and trustees for, et al, has changed over 3 months? Before, it was also listing MERS electronic systems- which is now (I read) under investigation- and myseriously missing from these papers).
Yes, I’m highly suspicious, but what can we do?

Give up the house, means giving up all our investments (and dreams) in this place... which adds up to a whole lot, especially since the 1st was an interest only loan, and the equity on the 2nd evaporated. [We had qualified for a better loan, and had a huge down payment, and a better than average credit score. Our only bills were utilities (and cell phones) and a student loan, so no high debt to income. We should have been suspicious of the loan terms but were told that was all we could get- and we didn’t know enough to question that. Now we know. But, you can't go back and change things!]

Going Chapter 7 means we would give them the house and walk away.
They have now used 8 attorneys to do this! Sometimes up to 7 names are listed on one paper. Why??
Of course they added all their attorney fees and foreclosure filing fees and who knows what else to their payback demands. After we filed 3 different payback plans. Of course they have never sent any kind of breakdown of any charges to us, at all. We’re flying blind into this snowstorm of papers. 

They can say what they want to and we have to pay it!

The feelings of helplessness, the feelings of LIMBO... just go on and on and on!

[This is after their offer to help us, telling us to apply for a modification - then pretending they never got the paperwork requested (which was sent via Fax by the HUD approved housing counselor’s office). Of course when confronted with a witness who had proof of those transactions, the bank/servicer said “oh our fax machines automatically send a false positive ‘transaction successfully received’ whenever a fax is over 17 pages”.
Although they received some of our ‘packets’ of requested papers because they asked us for “updates” on our income several times.
I suppose you could set a fax machine to reject any number of pages you want to (or all 3,000+ of them in your bank servicing business)  - but if you request someone’s past 3 years of taxes plus all their current bills, and proof of income, you gotta expect it might go to 20 pages. So you might warn them to send the info by mail perhaps. Or to break up the fax into 2 parts. Right?
Or maybe your servicing company could just reset those machines?

Now the problem with this is layered. Of course they offered to help if we were behind, so we skipped a payment - and then they refused to put our payment toward the mortgage , instead suddenly putting payments toward some mystery ‘reserve’ fund, to pay themselves their late fees out of it, which shorted it for the mortgage payment. And in ’09 it was really hard  to come up with extra - and then when you’re 2 months behind they refuse to take any payments at all- so we never could catch up.] 

So you’re then made DESPERATE to get a modification.

Now, who can pay 2x their normal house payment plus stay current on taxes and pay an attorney and a trustee (middleman who tracks payments), and all your other bills that you need to keep a business running? (Thankfully we own a service business that doesn’t need large equipment or investments/loans for product). But we had to lose 2 employees and raise our rates to do it.

 Now THAT’S a double-edged sword.

Of course, hardly anyone can do that- and I’m sure that’s really why the banks make sure to wait a long time before sending foreclosure notices. That puts you between a rock and a hard place after having been led along on that wild goose chase for modification.

Actually, we’re lucky we didn’t get one- I keep reading how folks end up getting tricked into even worse loan conditions on those! OH can you imagine something worse than an interest only loan? Scary!

And, in Colorado, there are really few rights for homeowners to take advantage of, like “show me the note”.

Even when there are 'red flags' in your loan. [We found this out when the insurance company that the mortgage bank hired to pay them off "if" we defaulted (for some ‘unforeseen mysterious reason’) did an AUDIT and red-flagged our loan! (They currently refuse to respond to our attorney). We don't know what happened with the audit and we can't find out! (The insurance company called us after the auditor did- and asked if we intended to keep our house). Geez, why won't they help us keep our house? Would they rather pay out to the bank? 

Even if you could afford another attorney who specializes in property stuff, and subpoena such evidence... it would make no difference. No one is winning these lawsuits.

So after all that, it was almost 2 years and they denied us and started foreclosure (although we were getting letters of intent all the time anyway). Simply because we “didn’t respond to their request” for updated info. Which of course, we did. But the court doesn’t care because Colorado law doesn’t care, and the White House apparently doesn’t care... and our attorney is double booked for Chapter 7 filings now, and has to do our court appointments by phone through his stand-in assistant person. That's how bad it is out there.

Whew! Sometimes I actually feel half crazy too. Or like having a cold beer or something.
         Maybe a view out into this, which immediately takes your breath away again- but in a good way.

Anyway, it’s hard living in a place you bought to retire in, knowing any sweat equity on improvements or anything you do to make a house a home, might any month - due to someone not paying us or enough work not coming in - be taken away.

So I watch the economy signs like a hawk! I read and read and read...’cuz you can’t get anywhere near the truth on TV news. And it’s so scary, and so much anger is out there in the internet news. And you read about one investigation after another and nothing ever happens to change anything. 

But we keep waiting for one of these myriad of investigations going on to end up to be something that would make the bank stop and listen, and somehow allow us to just get back to the point of asking for a modification- all we wanted was a conventional loan (instead of interest only).
Where’s that beer?!

Because the chipmunks and lizards are out now, I’ve had to take the dogs out for daily property walks - which makes them happy dogs. They are toad/lizard/mouse hunters. And chattering chipmunks make them crazy too. Half a dozen (at least) baby chipmunks poured out of the beehives when Tikki convinced me to take a peek.

                                  I've been informed corrected - these are FULL GROWN chipmunks!

I have to walk around carefully, because of cactus and tree stumps and rocks... and am amazed that we missed all the problems with this property- the deadwood and felled trees, and random 2" to 2’ high tree stumps, and spiny clumps of cactus, and rocks (they are mostly sharp-edge rock that often splinters into layers, so is not good for building with). Although I still try.
               (Oh you don't want to see THOSE ugly pictures, do you??) Here's a teaser- useless rocks, dead trees, and spiny clumps of cactus (you'll have to zoom in I guess). There are worse pictures, but I didn't go that far yesterday...

We have a resident BADGER somewhere too- with several dens well within 100 feet of the house. I saw it once, and that was enough!  It was about 200 yards away at the time, facing off our littlest Pomeranian. I thought at first it was a skunk.  I almost wish it had been.
We used some firecrackers down it’s hole, thinking to chase it away... but, it only managed to come closer. I would take a picture, but I'm too scared to get that close. 

Oh, and I forgot about the water. It’s really bad sulphur. We have put 4 different kinds of filtrations systems on it and still need to replace the broken Chlorine pellet-dropper on the well head. (that's $750 plus the chlorine tablets). Either way, the plants don't really like it! Oh you should experience brushing your teeth with rotten eggs... gag!

So, sometimes I really wonder why we fight so hard.
Of course most of the reason now is simply not to let the bank(s) WIN. But to do that, your blood pressure has to go up.

I guess the real reason we love this place, this house, is because of the Eagle that rests in the tall pine outside our living room window for 6 months of the year, and that although the trees are about ½ scrub oak, they do form a barrier against the world. No one can see our junk and we can’t see theirs. 
And the little herds of mule deer wander through all the time. You can’t go 10 feet without seeing deer droppings, or go 15 feet anywhere on the property without stepping onto a clear deer trail (it’s often the best way to get around and between all the tree branches). 
Some of the deer are not that scared of you, you can get within 4 feet of them- if you dare! And the bucks are just too cool. They’re much more rare, usually only see them during fall, although I do see them chasing does during rut season, just underneath our kitchen window in November. They make all kinds of funny noises. And the babies with their spots come out just after Father’s Day.

And we can watch the light change on the mountain... and the monsoon clouds towering up over them before they spread out all around us. In our little microclimate here between mountain ranges, we get to see much more weather than we get. For instance, half the snow of surrounding areas and phenomenal silent lightening shows around us over the mountains all summer. 

And the house, well it’s rustic. It’s open and airy, but rustic. We're casual people in a casual town... and it fits us perfectly. (All of our furnishings matched when we moved in, even our cars matched the house trim). Of course it’s true that I can’t reach some of the ceilings, even with a ladder and holding the tip of a broom. That makes it fun at 3am when the fire alarm batteries go out.

So this is my life these days while I carry on trying to keep my eyes on the prize, the future. Trying desperately not to cave in to despair, and trying to find ways of being productive that I could take with me, if I have to leave.

Because it’s just as likely that I will as won’t.

So please understand why there are so few updates to speak of, so few projects to show off, or progress made. But know that I'm not giving up, wherever I happen to be/end up.

And thanks for your company on this journey!
It helps to get feedback and learn things from others about what it is to pursue the dream. If you want to share your current challenges, please feel free!