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April 2013

Today we held the first yard sale to start cleaning out the house preparatory to our move to New Mexico.  Sold a little, donated a lot of leftovers!  It’s hard to decide what to keep, what to sell and what to donate.  Some things that could come in handy out at our new home are just not practical to move.  Some things have sentimental value that far exceeds their actual value or usefulness.  And, of course, I always have big dreams of refinishing or crafting with lots of things that are currently just junk.  Knowing that our son is out NM cleaning out the barn will make the move easier.  We will move some our stuff into the trailer and the rest can be stored in the barn during the construction period.  No need to rent a storage unit.

May 2013

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently using a combination of the historical information on Google and the phenomenal maps and aerial images of Google Earth to start developing itineraries for future New Mexico tours that will be offered by Star Ranch Tours.  I will be visiting New Mexico next month and will visit many sites that will eventually be included in our tours.  I have also been in touch with our architect, Beverley Spears of Santa Fe, regarding the initial drawings for the buildings and grounds at Star Ranch.  She will be visiting the property while I am in New Mexico so we can get started on the formal design work

June 2013

I spent two weeks in New Mexico in June.  Jordan has his trailer fully set up and functional, so it was great to have a home away from home.  I met with the architect again and together we hammered out some of the basic details of the main house.  We decided that straw bale exterior walls with adobe interior walls would be the most cost effective construction method.  The roof will be pitched and made of tin (a type of tin roofing that develops a patina over time.)  Some of the rooms will have vaulted ceilings.  The footprint of the home will be a simple rectangle.  We will also incorporate some rammed earth, cordwood and cob walls as features inside the home or in exterior fences.  The guest bunkhouse will be a combination of rammed earth and frame construction.  We will be seeking out either previously used lumber or sustainably harvested lumber for the frame portions of the building.  Ms. Spears visited the property and requested that we get a topographic survey of the building site.  That has now been done, and she will proceed with rough drawings.  We will be applying for our building permits approximately a year from now.

 September 2013

The countryside has greened up in an amazing way all over New Mexico, as the summer monsoon rains drenched the state.  Our plans to move and build are accelerating and I am working hard to de-junkify our home so it will be easier to pack.  Joe and I have decided that I will move to NM next fall to start construction planning and he will stay behind in Virginia to sell our current home.  Jordan and his girlfriend are not so sure about me moving in with them, so we are considering fixing up my dad’s old house for either me or them to live in.  It will need a new septic system, paint, carpet, heating, a new swamp cooler, and newer appliances in the kitchen.  Joe and I are thinking about green ways we can retrofit the home to be livable.  One thought for a heating system is to dig a good sized hole beside the house, fill it with rocks and cover it with a clear lid.  The sunlight will heat the rocks and then air would be circulated through the rock hole into the house.  The rocks would retain heat from the day to provide warm air to circulate at night.  In the summer, the clear hole cover could be replaced with an opaque, insulated cover and then cool air could circulate through the hole to help cool. Another approach would be to put a new corn/pellet burning stove in the spot where my dad’s old woodburning stove used to be, and then surround the stove with a ton or so of rocks as a heat sink.  We’ve decided on taking up the carpets and just painting the subflooring with durable non-toxic Benjamin Moore’s Super Spec Exoxy Paint for Floors.  For the walls, we’ll paint with Benjamin Moore’s Natura Zero VOC paint.  New appliances will be Energy Star rated. 
Well, nothing is more constant in this world than change.  My whole last posting was about how we were going to rennovate my dad’s old house to use as a temporary home while we build the big straw bale home.  After much soul searching, we have decided that tearing it down and salvaging the materials is going to be more cost-effective than remodeling.  Our next plan was to tear the old house down and rebuild with SIPs (preconstructed panels) or concrete.  This launched another round of research and left us wondering if we really wanted to do two separate house building projects in two consecutive years.  (Especially since we are in charge of fixing up my mom’s home to sell here in Virginia at the same time.) Now, our son is talking about moving with his girlfriend to another state so she can get her Master’s degree.  This move will free up his trailer for me and Joe to live in during the construction of the large house.  This was the original plan, but my son said he didn’t want us moving in with the two of them for a full year, and I can get that! So, for now, things are settled again.  We will go ahead and get the electrical work done to get the power turned back on at the meter box, to the well pump, and power into the barn.  My dad’s old wiring is all out of code.  We’ll tear the old house down this spring.  My son and his girlfriend are going to do as much of that work as they can safely.  We’ll leave the 12’ x 50’ concrete slab in place to be a porch on an office building later or just a patio area for grilling and the like.  I think we’re also just going to salvage all we can from an RV that someone abandoned on the property and get rid of it. I am planning to move out to NM in the fall of 2014 and start lining up sub-contractors for a ground breaking in the early spring of 2015.  Joe will stay here in Virginia until he can get our house prepped and sold and will join me around the time we break ground. This all beginning to seem very real and somewhat scary.  But without a dream and a plan life comes nothing more than repeating the same old stuff day after day.

 New Year’s Eve 2013

June 11, 2014

Just a brief update.  Our son has left New Mexico and we are renting the trailer temporarily. I am still planning to move out to NM this fall.  We have purchased a used Chevy Silverado diesel pickup truck to be our ranch vehicle.  We will drive it out from VA to NM this fall pulling a UHaul trailer with my stuff in it.  Joe and I will shop for property or an existing green home to purchase.  Joe will then fly back to VA to sell our house here and I will begin rounding up materials and subcontractors for either our build or our remodel. I am now in the process of winnowing down my possessions to a manageable level.  No easy task, I can assure you!  I have completed the business plan - 30 pages of vision, imagination, and tedious, tedious numbers. I’m starting to have that pre-nostalgia for places I visit here in Northern Virginia...”I may never see or do this again” sort of thoughts.  It’s bitter sweet.  Vienna, Virginia has been my home for all of my adult life.  It’s a daunting thought that it will no longer be home.  Especially when both of our kids now live here and we will be leaving them very far behind.  As silly as it sounds, I’m pre-missing all my favorite restaurants...there will never be any crispy beef as good as the huge container I get at Oriental Cafe.  Sigh...

June 11, 2014

Wow, it is finally happening!  I am at 2 weeks and counting before I actually move permanently to New Mexico.  I will be living in the trailer that we set up on my father’s homestead land a few years ago.  We’ve had a renter in there this year keeping it up and useable.  My son and his girlfriend are moving back out to NM with me, so I will have company and a free work force at my disposal! Joe will drive out with us.  Our caravan will include the “new” diesel truck pulling the biggest trailer U-Haul makes and my PT Cruiser which will become my son’s car out in NM.  His old Cadillac will be sold for parts, sadly. Joe will spend 3 weeks in NM with us so that he and I can scout out prospective building lots and already constructed green homes to purchase.  Our daughter, who is remaining in Virginia has graciously agreed to house sit.  Joe will return to VA and prep our house here for sale, while I start rounding up subcontractors and materials for either a build or a substantial remodel to fit our exact needs. Now comes the bittersweet process of saying goodbye to Virginia and my friends and family here.  I undoubtedly will be back often to visit, but it will never be the same as living here where almost everything I am familiar with and love is within a few minutes drive. I’ve made up little gift bags with a piece of my handmade jewelry and my business cards for Star Ranch and also for my jewelry business and will be giving those away.  I hope this will both promote both businesses and help everyone keep in touch with me at a distance!
My blog from April 2013 to June 2014 is on this page.  Future blog entries are being posted at the Star Ranch, NM Facebook Page..