Saturday, June 10, 2017

Slow and steady progress

Hello Everyone,

As always it has been a busy few weeks.  Trying to keep up with the speed of my husband and his multitasking is sometimes like hanging on to the tails of a hummingbird for dear life.  It seems these days that I am asking him for my to do list and I usually get one or two tasks and then he lists off his multitude of accomplishments for the day... not only his full time job, but also keeping track of decisions to make on the property.  This involves learning all that is needed to make a educated guess in a short amount of time (an hour) as to setting up our infrastructure for the next 20 years... and trying to plan out our stages of development without wasting 1000 feet of trenching and irrigation or conduit because we are going to need to change locations.... solar, water, driveways that can't be undone... 

At some point Chris and I thought... this is typical Tzortzis fashion... go in like a bull in a china shop and just get'er done... Maybe we should take a moment to really try to plan this out... it is just hard when you don't know enough about solar and how far you can run the lines before you get the amperage drop and then you have to increase your wire... but wait the conduit we ran now isn't big enough to hold the cable... so, again in typical Tzortzis style when you don't know just throw in the commercial grade size piping so you don't have to worry... unless of course it was all laid in the wrong spot... UGH!

So what we decided to do of course is to get the initial roads or driveways in for the well rigger and us to get our trailer set up... done!  The mose important thing was to first get water... We don't have septic yet... hopefully in August or September but for now we have made other arrangements.  We decided to get the portable toilet... and a pop up tent... 

 and then we made our camp site and finished off the fire pit with a few yards of gravel around the base... since the water wasn't done yet we just had a baby campfire in an enclosed ring....

We were able to have a wonderful weekend on the property and hanging out.  Oma came up and stayed with us and helped us do a bunch of work.  That woman I swear.  I always forget that she will be 80 next year.  I think she alone spread half of the 20 yards of sand on the beach volleyball/badminton court we were making.  Of course it was the first thing we tackled so after a hard days work we could enjoy a family sunset game... and we got the glow in the dark birdies with LED lights... so the game can go on... and on... and on... 

Kava and Rel were able to come up for the day and visit and check out the property.  It was so fun sharing it with him and being able to show him what we had in mind and where we wanted to put our wedding venue barn, orchards, ag barns, zip lines... driving green... you know the fun stuff.  He had fun driving tractor... and had some stow aways... but not the safest so won't do that again.... 

We also had some surprise visitors .... so fun.  Since we don't get cell reception up there we didn't know that our friends Katia/Andy and Joycie decided to make the 2 hour trek to come and sit in the creek with us for an hour and then drive home... it was a wonderful surprise.  Of course they were greeted with Amaia and her new found friend that stayed on her head for a few hours... She just loves the toads and lizards out there.  Katia made this little collage for us.

Super good news on the well.  We are so fortunate.  We struck water thanks to Hunt Drilling and our magic water finder guy from Oregon.  We decided to not use the switch witch guy to find the water but ended up using Tim from Oregon that carries more sophisticated water finding equipment.  We knew there was water below us but what we needed to find were the cracks in the granite in order to not have to drill through 400 feet of solid granite.  Also they say you need to find the split in the rock because that is where the water is forced through and you get more water pressure for your well.  

We hit the jackpot.  A typical good well is between 30 and 40 gallons a minute...  He was able to find the split and went 420' for 100 gallons a minute. We are so thrilled and excited for this.  With water our opportunities are endless.  

Allan with Epperson Excavating is up at the property now installing our 2600 gallon storage tank and running conduit and pvc to connect the well, tanks and make four running faucets for our trailer, 2 campsites and for the outdoor showers we are going to install.  We will buy an instaheat for hot water and connect with a propane tank.  He is also grading for footprints for our 2 10x12 bunk sheds (blue prints bought by we will build for the kids and guests.  We will put a queen and a twin on top in each to allow for a multitude of combinations... plus floor space.   We have received the materials list from the local lumber company and will have it all delivered the week prior to fourth of July.

Of course with the weather beginning to get hotter up there and the creek drying up because it is only seasonal.... I had to come up with another plan for the kids to cool off.  Sooooo I ordered the cowgirl pool.

What more could you ask for... that is until we figure out where to put our nature pool/pond.

So after the 4th week we should have a little bit better idea of a glamping site.

 I am just looking forward to having the ability to have a shower on the property.  With all those new dusty roads and tractor driving you get a little dirty op there.  Then of course to go sit in my chair and watch another amazing sunset.

Hugs and love,


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Moving in.......

Hello Everyone,

Happy belated Mother's Day to all you fabulous, amazing, incredible mothers out there.  For our Mother's day we started off the morning with a wonderful 10 mile hike with Tristan's boy scout troop.  Tristan and his friend were in charge to lead the trek.  It is a wonderful beginning to the day.  Kava and Ariel were able to join us with their dog Ruby so Bula would have a friend to tag along with.  Kava and Rel hiked with the old woman the whole way.  Well I ended up peeling off a little early so that I could go get the trailer ready and buy lunches for our picnic.

I am having the best time and get the biggest kick out of all the new people we are meeting and how wonderful the community is up there.  I think I have mentioned in the past but I can't say enough how amazing it is to talk with the most random people up there and discover how interconnected and the history they all have with each other.  I know it is a small town but the people there have connections that span back to the gold rush days and their grandparents or as they say "relations" coming over on wagon trains and helping the settlers bring lumber down from the saw mills drawn by horse and cart...

It seems that we have stepped back in time.  If you have read Stephen Kings, 11/22/63, you will know how I feel.  Chris and I have been talking to a number of people about getting work done on the property, advice for development, insurance, and getting supplies delivered.  When I first started calling around I spoke to a farmers insurance agent out of Jackson, which is about 15 miles from our property.  We ended up talking about how his grandparents names are Veautaw and they came over with the gold rush and the road we are living on "Votaw" is named after them and they have relations all over the county.  Chris and I are looking to get gravel and sand delivered to the property for the volleyball court and to layer for the driveway to help prepare for the winter and keeping the dust down.  So I called Kenny at plymouth sand and gravel and was explaining where it would need to be delivered and he said, "Oh Herb's old place, the sheep shed.  I used to go up there and help with the sheep and repair fences and hang out with him."  Then he explained that he doesn't have road base and so I should call Mitch to get both delivered and that he knows Mitch will get the sand from him and then the road base gravel from someone else.  In talking to Mitch he also used to go up to the sheep shed and play in the creek and roam the property and help with the sheep.  I guess the Farnham's (who we bought the land from) used to own a ton of acres up in the Plymouth and Fiddletown area... Rob Farnham's Uncle used to own the saw mill up in Fiddletown and the road that they wagons would use to transport the lumber to the gold mines and connected Fiddletown to plymouth in the gold rush days went right past our property.   I am just loving talking to all these guys and finding the small connections they all have.

It is refreshing to hear the old fashioned good ole neighbor network and the systems they put in place to make sure everyone gets their share of the work.  Also, everyone operates by snail mail and either cash or check still.  I asked Mitch how can I pay you and he says, "Well I live right around the corner from you.  Just go on past the walnut grove, past the little vineyard, down the dip, cross the creek and then on the right will be a pipe fence painted white... go on down the driveway and my wife Donna will be there... just go on and hand her a check."  No street address needed.  I am sure I will find it. Hee Hee.

I have been looking forward to this day for awhile.  We were able to get our eye sore trailer out of the driveway here in Lafayette and moved up to the property.  I think she is really happy up there... I can't wait to join her over memorial day weekend.

We had a great time playing on the tractor,

getting the trailer all balanced and set up

Tristan exhausted or just bored.. not sure which.

and then playing a little imaginary volleyball and badminton on our new court.  I am having a bunch of sand delivered today so that we can spread it for some play time on memorial day weekend.

Alina loves playing in all the dirt mounds left behind when the roads were cut out and the volleyball court was made.

Gotta have a few swings to hang out in.   

Alexia and Tristan love driving the truck around the property....

One of the best spots on the property is on top of a little knoll with a large oak tree and some granite... It faces the west and overlooks the vineyard.  This particular spot grabbed my attention immediately.  I couldn't wait to put a bench and some adirondack chairs and a little table and sit there and watch the sunset.

And then Monday was the Boy scout Mother's Day tea where the boys bring you flowers and serve you tea and cookies and then stand up in front of everyone and say how much you mean to them and why they love you.... most of the boys say they love their mom's because they feed them excellent food, drive them everywhere and do their laundry.... Hmmm... sounds like we need to do less for these little treasures.  The things we do for all of our kids.

Hope all is well and hugs to everyone,


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Hello Everyone,

It is funny how when you start a new adventure, you get so consumed with learning as much as you can in as little time as you can.  The property is set to close tomorrow and officially be in our name.  Chris and I have been in so many discussions regarding planning the layout of the land, solar vs. PGE, researching trucks, tractors and trailers.  So with all the research Chris has down in the last 48 hours... this weekend we bought a truck and a trailer.  We have been toying with the ideas of tents vs. modern conveniences of building our Ag Shed/Apt... then we decided to look last minute at the travel trailers.

We found a Ford F250 1997 with 112,000 miles on it and grabbed it.  It came with a lot of accessories that we thought we could use like the 4x4, lumber rack, bed liner, 2 tool cases and best of all... a winch to help move the trees around for us...

We were going to try to build some sleep sheds so that we could enjoy the property but realized that the most convenient and the fastest route is to get a little travel trailer to park up there and then we would have a bed and a kitchen and a place for the kids to sleep.  We still want to build some 10x12 sleeping sheds with bunks for the kids but for now this will do until we can get them done.  Alexia is excited to throw a tarp over the back of the truck and make a make shift tent in the back and sleep in the bed of it... we will see.

So the fun story about the camper is the couple we bought it from... Stacy and Mike from Alaska.  Chris came across the camper literally last night.  It had only been posted for 2 hours and they were leaving today to move back to Alaska.  They had actually sold the camper the day before and the family that was coming down to pick it up got in an accident and totaled their truck and they didn't have insurance and now couldn't afford to buy the camper.  Everyone is okay...  but now they still needed to sell it in a day.

Mike came down here to work as a lineman (electrical, not football) and bought the trailer from the original owner in December and then recently he got called back to a job in Alaska.  This is a 1998 Wonderer by Thor and all systems work, brakes just done, new tires and full of propane.  They have been living in it for 6 months and this is what especially appealed to us because things have to work when you live on board.

Not only have they been living in it but they are from Alaska and are used to living off the grid and they know how to take care of the campers systems.  I felt like we were talking to our cruising couples but instead of talking about pelagic fishing they are talking about ice fishing.  Instead of talking about lobster hunting they were in a rush to get back home because it is bear hunting season.  We had such a good time talking to them.  The first time we stepped into the trailer she apologized to us for the smell because she had just cooked MOOSE BACON... Now she is talking my language.  It was soooooo good!

Mike is a pilot up there and has his own plane and a harley and he and his son often fly the plane into the remote locations to go bear or moose hunting then pack up their goods and return to the plane and fly home.  We are looking forward to an alaskan road trip to go visit them... and have more of that Moose Bacon.  They did part with a jar of canned wild Alaskan salmon and a jar of canned Moose Meat... Anyone, Anyone?

 The trailer has a 12' slide out area so it allows for us all to have a place to hang and then the couches and tables fold down to beds... or the floor.  At least we can fit most of the kids until we get the sleeping sheds built.  I just love all the gold trim... and it has a cassette player.  Does anyone have any cassettes laying around... so cool!  It also has a solar panel to help keep the batteries charged and run the lights.

Now the only problem is we need to be able to get it up into the property.  Right now the property has only one drive entrance into a small holding pen for the cows... release the cows.

This picture was from today from Denise our real estate agent that lives up there.  She went to check on things and was greeted with a number of happy faces... We just aren't sure who they belong too.  She is looking into that.  In the mean time I hope they eat as much grass as they possibly can to keep the fire hazard down.  and frankly I love it.  It looks like by the picture that we need to run some new fencing... we need 2,000 Linear Feet of 7' Deer Fencing... and that is only the back, the front of the property has this old fence so for now we will have to install in stages.  The vinyard and the people on both sides of us have installed deer fencing so we just need to back up to what they have already have up...

We are now trying to figure out how to get it onto the property.  The incline is to steep and the ground is a bit mushy still.  We will need to have a driveway graded and installed so that we have a level spot to set up.  Once we have the driveway and jogging path graded around the property by Allan (Denise's brother-in-law) we are hoping to get a bush mower to help clear more of the grass.  The cows are great but we need a shorter lawn to help us see the rattlesnakes.  The property has not been used in a very long time, so it seems every local person that comes up to give us a quote or a bid is asking us if we have a shotgun to kill the rattlers.  "There is going to be a lot of them, hee hee".  Okay not so funny.  I have woken up in panic attacks about these little guys.  So let the learning begin.  I have found out that the owls (we need to build lots of owl boxes), red tail hawks, and our new flock of Guinea Fowl... I just have to raise them hear first so the hawks and owls don't get the babies.

Guinea fowl will eat snakes, okay maybe just peck at them or because they are loud and scratch will chase them away.  Either way I will try it.  I am going to get a few of these beautiful birds.  They eat all the bad insects like ticks in your garden without ruining any of your plants.  I love it.  I just bought a book about gardening with guineas.  Sounds fun and they are really cute, but they are supposedly loud.  We will see. Some more research is needed and then we may place an order.  
We have to keep the cut the grass short in the areas that we are in and teach the kids not to climb on the rocks.  Most often the rattlers bite because they are stepped on or a hand is put down on them.  They don't always rattle for a warning especially if you step on them.  You can put a snake fencing around a small area just to have a safe spot... UGH.. I didn't buy the property to fence it all up... so I have to figure this out.  Maybe a little rattlesnake stew.... Yum.  

The good news is they aren't aggressive and don't come looking for us... we just need to be able to see them and stay away.  They are usually out in the early morning or dusk till dawn especially when it is really hot.  They like wood piles and hay bales and shady spots and long grass... They react defensively not offensive, typically, so we need to educate the kids and ourselves on awareness and sounds....  I also have to get Bula with a local dog trainer that teaches the dogs to stay away from them... Snakes are NOT FOOD.  

Again, I feel that this consumes all of our time.  It becomes overwhelming with what we need to learn.  So we write our lists and cross them off and then add to them... we try to stay on track with goals of what we need to prioritize and what is reasonable.  Then we get back on track and start our list over again.  Our goals for this week are to get the trailer up to plymouth and out of our driveway, figure out the grading options for the property driveway, finalize the well details and put down a deposit to lock in a date and then the fun stuff... to look at a tractor that Chris has found in Lincoln.  

Hugs and love to everyone and hope you had a wonderful weekend.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

A new beginning....California Dream'in

Hello Everyone,

It has been awhile since we have thought about the blog.  It is funny how your life can be so dependent on writing for the blog and how it felt like a long lost friend that you needed to visit to keep your sanity and to feel at least remotely connected to your friends, family and your old life.  On the boat I constantly dreamed about coming home and the simplicity of living with luxuries.  Now that we are here back in the throws of life in the burbs we are dreaming of our quiet place back out at anchor living in screen saver land.  It has been amazing coming to the realization of how much we loved our simple life on the boat and the connection we felt as a family.  Life rapidly becomes a whirlwind that I feel swirls around me and I am just trying to hang on to the events as they pass by.

All the kids are re-acclimated and back to the routine of things.  Mykaela is going to school and pretty much working full time.  Kava and Ariel are moving back to the neighborhood (or really close by) and in the thick of wedding plans.  We are soooo excited for them and crossing our fingers that jobs come through sooner than later.  Tristan just got back from a trip to Ecuador with the GSE program and loved it.  He is already looking forward to next years trip with them to Nicaragua.  Alexia just returned from Washington DC with the History teacher and about 80 of her closest classmates.  She was so moved and touched by all she saw there.  They toured museums, cemeteries, historical battlefields... everything.  It was a whirlwind but now she wants to take the family back so that we all can see it together.  The little girls are shining and more imaginative than I remember.  Amaia is still obsessed with greek mythology, reading and now architecture and flipping homes.  I think she has decided to do that when she grows up.  Alina is playing a different part/character every minute of the day.  She rolls through the house singing and twirling, she cracks us up.  I see her on stage one day.

We have been running around trying to see family as much as our schedules allow.  I really missed them on the trip and it has been wonderful to just be able to load up the kids in the car and take a drive to visit.

It took me a long time to  adjust coming back and get back into the swing of things.  I may have been depressed and overwhelmed but in the end I am so glad that we took this journey together as a family and have all those memories tied.  It has been wonderful reminiscing with the kids and often they will bring up the remember when stories... thank god for that since Chris and I both feel like we are quickly forgetting much of the detailed memories of the trip.  After I got home one of my favorite gifts to myself was to print out my blog so that we can grab a book and read a chapter of our life and start the remember whens all over again.

Now it is time to start again.  I feel that some of my sadness when I got back was the feeling of being lost and not knowing what I was going to do when I grew up.  I felt really detached here and just couldn't get in the groove and getting my roots planted.  I guess after taking 10 years to plan, think and obsess about a trip I was feeling like I was stalled in a time warp.  It is really hard to explain except for really feeling like I didn't care to be home but didn't have anywhere else to go.

Soooooo Chris and I started to dream again.  It is funny since the beginning of our relationship we had a common dream of wanting to have a vineyard with alpacas and some lavender.   Lately we have been trying to plan out our retirement and how we would want that to look like and what would make us happy.  We both know that we love the sea and the beach but we also love nature and getting our hands in the soil and watching something grow.  For us there is nothing like the loud sounds of nature in silence...   Amaia calls it ocean grass when you hear the wind whispering through the blades, the birds in the trees, the oaks creaking from swaying back and forth in the wind... woodpeckers busy on the old dead trees... you get the picture.  The absence of city sound is music to my ears.

We are buying 40 acres outside of Sacramento in the Shenandoah Valley.  We are super excited.  It is in the heart of the wine country, rolling meadows, lots of oaks, granite boulders, a seasonal creek and plenty of areas to choose from to build our house (houses) for the family compound.  It is nestled between an 80 acre vineyard to the south, and empty ridge line to the north, on the east is 160 acres of grazing land and then we have our closest neighbors are on the west with 40 acre spot and one diagonal.  It is pretty quiet and surreal.  When we are there on the land you can't see a house or a building in a 360 degree view... I love it and hope it stays that way for a long time.  We would like to have some orchards, lavender, olives, honey, vines (for lexi) and a possible wedding venue for down the road... we do have 4 girls in the family!....

We will be the 3rd owners of this property since 1885.  The gentleman we are buying it from, his grandfather bought it in 1954 from the original owner that received the land from the government during/after the gold rush.  We are in the heart of the gold rush area next to Sutter Creek and Jackson.  This area is rich in history and often you can still hear the stories from the 3rd generation of original settlers of the area.  We have learned what a small community it is and in a way it feels like the sailing community.  They are all super helpful and love to share their knowledge with us.  Now if only we could break into that good ole (boy)neighbor network.  I know that takes time (often years) but hopefully eventually (soon) we will be accepted and will show them how we love the land and just want to be a part of it.

Of course .... we didn't pick land that was already developed, it is completely bare. No well, septic and the nearest power pole is 2000ft away from where we need to pull power from and that isn't even getting it onto our property yet.  We like a challenge.... and thought it would be fun to come up with our own plan.  Funny thing is that we actually had only been to this area one weekend and that is the weekend we found this spot and put an offer in.  It was definitely love at first sight and we just knew it was right for us. (crossing fingers)

We have brought the kids up to the property and they are so excited and can't wait till we can start building on it.  Of course their list of priorities is a zip line over the creek, the gold panning sluice, bocce ball court, art studio, mountain bike path, remote control car racing venue, golf range, pond to swim in with a dock and frogs, swings, and it goes on and on... it is fun to see them dreaming along with us.

We are currently in the process of meeting with all the septic, well, grading, power, etc.. county officials, planning department etc... we are learning about soil tests, climate zones, frost patterns, tractors, 4x4 mules, trucks, barns, sheds, garages, old title records (some so old they are in pencil and nobody can read them anymore) property lines, easements, grazing animals, lavender, olive trees, bees, vines, and the list goes on.  I keep hearing Chris giggle and say "It's a whole nother world out thar"... hee hee.

Every time Chris and I return to the property it just verifies what we already know.  WE LOVE IT THERE!  We are so at peace and can breathe.  We are looking forward to developing this spot over the next 10 years and then we will see where we end up.  I believe it will be there but of course Chris is already mentioning a boat fund.  Did I mention that the property has money trees... yep it just falls from the sky.  Hee Hee.

Hugs and love to all,