Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Twenty-Four Months In

Everything's a trade-off. Lovely new bedroom under construction = decimated lawn and yard.

This afternoon I sat on the couch, looking out the window of our living room, watching the stillness of our yard, thinking how peaceful everything seemed. There was no sound except the hum of our wine fridge. With eye closed and ears open, one would never guess that there's still chaos and mess strewn from one edge of the property to another.

I hit my two-year anniversary of living here sometime last week (Mr. W is about 8 months behind me), and I have to say it still feels strange to call this place home. In fact, I still regularly refer to LA as "home." Considering that I lived mostly in the same 25-mile radius for the first 37 years of my life, this home adoption lag seems pretty natural. But I do wonder when the Santa Ynez Valley will really, truly feel like my own. I wonder if I'll ever really, truly feel like we fit in here.

Compared to when we lived LA, it sometimes feels like we're the misfits in town. We're the liberals among the conservatives. The childless among the families. The Prius owners among the SUVs. It's nearly impossible to be a misfit in LA. Especially if you grew up there and still have an army of friends who accepted you years ago for the wackadoodle you are. It's funny how normal it can make a person feel to spend time with pals who carry healing crystals in their pockets and take their dogs to acupuncture. I miss that.

We moved here on a mission to create our dream life—and I think we're trying very hard to do it—but it's equally hard not to miss the old way of living.

That's not to say we don't have plenty of moments and days where I feel like "This is IT! We're finally living the dream!" But those usually end up making me think about when I learned to water-ski. I was so determined behind my brother's boat, hanging onto the tow bar for dear life, fighting to get my balance, finally standing—and just when I'd start to think I had it, I'd inevitably hit a bump and fall back into the water.

The past two years have certainly left me feeling emotionally water-logged.

But I'm not sure that big changes and big challenges ever go any other way. I think trying to raise this house and this life is a lot like trying to raise a kid. Those first couple of years are hell, right? Sleepless, delirious nights, "tools" and mess everywhere, a million decisions that will impact the future.

I'd even compare my lamentations about how hard this process has been to those of a new parent. When I complain, I certainly don't want anyone to respond with, "Well why'd you move there, then?" —just like a new parent wouldn't want me to say "Well why'd you have the baby?"

Deep down both I and the new parents know that ultimately the pains of the first few years—or maybe every year—will pay off when you get to sit back and enjoy the amazing thing you created. I think with each passing year, the moments of proud admiration grow a little longer until finally they far outweigh the moments of struggle and worry and wondering what you were thinking signing up for such a big responsibility.

So, I guess, happy 2nd birthday to our baby. She's a disaster a lot of the time, but I think she's going to turn out to be something really lovely. And the new life and surroundings that came with her are sure to feel homier and homier as time passes. And hopefully when she finally grows up, she'll take very good care of us.

At least she better after the blood, sweat and tears we've invested in her.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Most Romantic Deck in the Santa Ynez Valley

Over the last week or so, Mr. W has been working like a boss to build the deck outside our bedroom. County regulations said we had to add a deck, but I think Mr. W also wanted to do it so that he and I would be able to stand out there together, romantically gazing at the stars...or the scrap wood and rubble heaps in our backyard. He'll stand behind me with his arms around my waist. Just like Leo and Kate in Titanic. I'll feel like queen of the world on my shiny deck built for two. It'll be magical.

I'm actually most excited because having the deck means I can put a doormat outside and that means we'll both stop tracking dirt into the master bedroom when we go out to visit the chickens or pick kale.

Because I know every blog reader loves a good before and after, here's a little recap of how the process went down:

I could hardly wait for the polyurethane to dry so I could throw some accessories out there. I'm sure I'll rearrange everything a hundred times. I do dig the funky little table we got at Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, though. It was black when we found it, and I gussied it all up in gold.

Look how cool its shadow is!

We have a lot of clean-up work to do in the backyard to get things to where I want them. We have at least a couple dump runs to make. We have a fence to build from the edge of the house to the chicken yard. We have decomposed gravel to lay down. A pizza oven to build.

But for now I'm going to just enjoy our pretty deck and try to turn Mr. W's head in the direction of our unfinished master bathroom...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Check-In with the Chickens

We've had quite a few visitors over the last few months, and the first thing that just about everyone wants to do is meet the chickens. Unfortunately, the chickens vacillate between completely ignoring our guests and climbing all over them like jungle gyms. Samantha has a thing about getting to the highest spot possible, so she's very partial to jumping and clawing her way up to people's shoulders.

Sammy all up in my business.
Whether they play it cool or lightly maul people, everyone seems to love them. Well, except maybe my 7-year old niece who grabbed my hand during a visit and said very seriously, "Every time you walk away, the chickens SURROUND ME." I didn't want to tell her that she'd be eating them long before they'd ever eat her...

Don't worry, we're never going to eat them. But we haven't stopped eating their extended relatives. I think that's probably the #1 question everyone has been asking us since we got them—"Is it weird to eat chicken now?"

It would be weird to eat one of ours. Wait, beyond weird—horrifying and unfathomable. Like eating one of your kids. It is not, however, weird to eat others. Hopefully that doesn't make us bad people...

The girls are 16 months old now and we learned the hard way that their first molt (and maybe the warm temperatures) can send them into egg-laying hiatus. I think Carrie has maybe laid one wimpy egg since June.

On top of sporadic laying, they have been sneaking out of their yard every chance they get, foraging on the dead back lawn until we herd them back to where they're supposed to be. I swear they poop on purpose while we're walking behind them just to try to make us step in it...

In spite of their questionable behavior, we love them madly. Both Mr. W and I get a huge kick out of hanging out in their yard and watching their chicky hijinks. The chicken hop is one of our favorite moves. Here's a little video clip:

Now if only we could figure out how to keep them out of our planter boxes so they stop eating our strawberries...