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Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe. Musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Archive for August, 2010

Claire Wolfe

A pox on CenturyLink

Friday, August 27th, 2010

A small rant. About an inconsequential matter. But … well, “it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to.”

CenturyLink. The company formerly known as CenturyTel. CenturyTel was a very good company. OTOH, if you attempt to deal with CenturyLink (a metastasized version of C’Tel and something called Embarq) you may be taking your brains into your own hands. If you have any left after listening to the screaching music and shouted sales messages they have on their (I use the term lightly) customer service line.

The short version: On Monday I signed up for DSL Internet. No telephone. No cable. No nada. Just Internet. Service was supposed to begin, and a modem supposed to arrive yesterday via UPS.

No modem. No service. I call their 800 number. No worries. We don’t know why it wasn’t today, but for sure, tomorrow.

This morning bright and early a very nice installer shows up, activates the service and gives me a modem off his truck. Soon I’m managing to surf the ‘Net via a wired connection. But, among other things, I can’t do anything with the wireless function on the modem. Can’t get email. Can’t, can’t, can’t. Several calls to tech support over the next three hours. First one is odd: “Oh, they don’t show that you subscribed to DSL. They show only that you’ve subscribed to the phone service.” Uh … no, no way lady. Explicitly excluded phone. It’s DSL only. The sales rep and I had an extensive talk about modem options and all. Nobody could have mistaken my order. I’m tellin’ you.

She goes away. Comes back and says, “Oh, I was wrong. Everything’s properly set up for DSL.”

For several hours, I continue plugging away, attempting to configure the modem and get email. Finally call tech support again. “Oh,” says this one, “the reason you can surf the ‘Net but can’t do anything else is that you’re listed as a ‘provisional’ user. Your account hasn’t been activated yet. And won’t be until September 1.”

I attempt to remain polite. It’s not her fault. And I have to say that all the tech support people I’ve talked with have just been sterling. It’s the business office that seems screwed beyond belief. She goes off and checks again. Yep. “It does say the service should have been active yesterday, but now it’s September 1, and they say there’s nothing they can do about it.”

It occurs to me they may be operating in a time warp. Maybe they’re in some century where connections actually did take weeks — where they had to be made laboriously, by hand, in person. Not this century, where anybody can just type in a command to tell the electronics to make what should have happened yesterday happen today.

I tell her I want to cancel my account — that they sold me the service under false pretenses and that I’ve already wasted way too many hours. Cancel me, NOW, baby! Not her department (of course). Please hold.

After nearly 20 minutes of the above-mentioned screaching (which by now I’ve memorized, which is good because its volume has deafened me and I can’t actually hear it any more), I hang up, haul the modem, with cords dangling from the box, to the local office, where the kindly installer takes it back with clucks of sympathy and promises to make service-canceling calls in my behalf. I come to the library, send a blistering email to CenturyLink’s billing department duplicating his efforts — and now I try to figure out who can become my Plan B Internet provider.

In other words — sigh — keep on expecting “lite” blogging for another week or so. And if you chose to deal with the blob called CenturyLink … good luck to you.

It may be even later than September 1 before I’m connected now. But at least there’s hope it’ll be with a company that doesn’t merely blurt (via endlessly repeated electronic voice) how much it truly, truly, really, we-mean-it CARES about its customers.


Just to make the day even cheerier: government snooping “rights” expand. Again. The one good thing about government is that, no matter how crappy some private company is, government always makes it look good by comparison.

Claire Wolfe

On preparedness

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010


Claire Wolfe

Embracing the Chaos

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

A week without blogging! I’m sorry, guys. Between unpacking, scrubbing, trash hauling, and exhaustion (not to mention the library’s limited hours, which limit my wifi), I haven’t had it in me. I thought about blogging several times. But I figured you really wouldn’t be interested in my observations on greasy kitchen lamps or the incredibly strange mechanisms that open (or actually don’t open) old-fashioned garage doors. That’s about all that’s been on my mind the last week.

I’m starting to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel now. But this week is all about article deadlines, so don’t expect great things of me.

However … toward the end of this week, the articles should be done, home Internet service should be hooked up, and I hope to be brilliant again.

Well … adequate again. So thank you for your patience. In the meantime, I’ve managed to come up with one house-inspired thought that does manage to squeak above the mundane. Without further ado, here it is.


The people who sold me this house are, by all testimony, the sweetest people in several universes. The furniture they left has been a godsend, making me feel at home even before I’m fully unpacked. And of course I get a kick out of the little reminders that they’re Backwoods Home people, gun owners, preppers, and Bill of Rights supporters, just like me.

But there’s one way in which they and I couldn’t be more different. Here’s one example of it:

Yes, that’s a tennis shoe. Hanging on a fence. In fact, it’s a tennis shoe filled with dirt hanging on a fence. It’s a planter, although nothing’s growing in it at the moment.

The house, and more especially the yard, are a wonderland of little make-dos and oddball creativity. Here’s more:

Tea pots are a big feature of the backyard decor. So are air filters from some humongous piece of equipment. The filters are everywhere — used as tea pot stands, waste baskets, and flower pots. The yard was also filled with plastic toy boats until (sorry, sellers), I put them into the haul-away heap. And yes, that’s an old bathtub, there on the right. It’s filled with garlic.

Here’s one of the quieter corners of the yard after I cleared it of much of its stuff.

Though the yard is small to begin with, it’s divided into even more intimate spaces, each with its own quirky personality. There are ponds, giant bird cages, wind chimes, fishing nets, floats, tall plant stands made out of cast-iron industrial piping, miniature lighthouses, birdhouses, baskets, shells, sand dollars, a gazing ball, three wishing wells (that I’ve found so far), and a complete veggie garden (albeit one so small that it has only one or two or at most three or four plants of any given type).

But really, this isn’t about the house and yard. I promise. It’s about chaos. And embracing it. Or not.

I love this yard — especially now that I’ve denuded it of some of its broken and faded gee-gaws. It enchants me. I like sitting in it and wandering around it. But never in the world would I do a yard like this. I’d be more into a yard that was a vast expanse of well-groomed emptiness, with perhaps one lawn chair and a firepit. Same with the house interior. I’ve always admired the classical Japanese look from all those Kurosawa films, with basically no furniture, a few mats, nothing on the walls, and everything tucked away behind sliding doors.

I read once — it may be complete BS, but it makes sense — that people with chaotic minds crave that kind of simplicity, while people with calm minds can enjoy an environment of happy chaos — just like my new backyard. I think there’s plenty of reason to believe that the folks who owned this house before I did were more easy-going and happy than I. Not that they had better lives; several people have hinted that they were sometimes taken cruel advantage of. Just that they had a different, and more peaceful, outlook on life.

Also, while I’m “officially” creative, being a writer and all, they’re the kind of people who could envision an old shoe as a planter and an ornament, while I’d never see it as more than … and old shoe. They’d see possibilities. I’d see only a bit of trash, to be disposed of as quickly as possible.

My point in all this (and yes, there really is one) is that I think people who can embrace chaos — and even make it their own — are generally happier, and certainly better survivors, than people like me. People who envision a shoe as a planter, an elderly tea pot as a garden ornament, or an air filter as a table, are more likely to be able to turn lemons into lemonade in hard times. Not to mention turn old scrap into machinery or trade goods if TSHTF. Besides, the world is filled with chaos, like it or not. Saner to embrace it than to fight or deny it.

Me, I’m second-rate. But I could learn from these people.

Here’s a sort of a backyard shrine they created:

I don’t know what was originally at the center of this odd domestic altar. Maybe a little pirate ship; that would be a good guess. Whatever it was, they took it with them. So this time I added the tea pot. Why? Because it was there …

Claire Wolfe

What every well-equipped home should have

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Greetings from the Pacific North(very)Wet! And thanks for being patient. As Joel has been posting, I made it to my destination, but am currently sans Internet. So what little blogging I can do (between hauling trash, unpacking, and painting the insides of kitchen cabinets before putting my stuff away) will be sporadic for a while. Stick with me, please …

Thanks for all the good wishes and offers of help. You have no idea how great it felt, after the crappy start of my journey, to know I had friends waiting along the road. As it turned out, the final three days were completely uneventful (except for the runaway horse galloping down the highway at the top of a winding 10,000-foot pass, but that’s a tale for another time). A couple of the days were very long, as I made up lost time. But no complaints. I’m here!

Now … as to “what every well-equipped home should have” … I mentioned previously that the folks I bought the house from had an unexpected lot in common with me (and probably with you). Well, the above photo shows just a few of the items I’ve found so far in my house-cleaning: A wall-mounted copy of the Bill of Rights, a postcard from Pacific Yurts, old copies of The American Survival Guide, and — last but not least! — back issues of Backwoods Home. There are also gun publications galore and even a catalog from the Militia of Montana.

Yep, I guess I’m home. :-)

More when my body and brain have recovered and when I have better access and more time to get on the ‘Net.

Claire Wolfe

Oh lord, stuck in Lodi again

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Have I mentioned that I dislike travel?

Yes, I do believe I’ve said that I dislike all forms of travel. Or at least all forms available to people who don’t flit around in private jets and have mechanics on call for their fleet of vintage Bentleys.

I may have even used words like “hate” and “loathe,” even though, properly, terms like those should be reserved for politicians, puppy-torturers, and people who dump truckloads of litter in the woods.

To wit: Here I am, a whole, whopping 150 miles from my departure point. The last last 40 of it my truck traveled on a flatbed and the U-Haul trailer brought up the rear while I enjoyed the company of a young driver who felt he was having a worse day than mine.

Before I made his acquaintance, I had already waited two hours in the sun for a tow, not only because I was 40 miles from nowhere but because the first tow truck driver assigned to the case had a diabetic episode (now there’s a man who probably really is having a worse day) and the second got the wrong directions.

BUT … all is not lost. Young Mr. Charm brought me to a friendly auto shop that’s open seven days a week, where the people have been super-accommodating and there’s a dog-friendly motel within walking distance.

So … one new radiator and $900 later (including the tow and motel room), I’ll have a good shot at being on the road again tomorrow morning.


I also see that my sweet friend Joel blogged about my departure and before he knew I was in trouble requested help from any willing readers along my route — even as he stated that, thanks to my damnable secrecy, nobody knows what that route is. (He knows more than he was saying, but then, he’s very discreet.)

And some of you kind friends-I’ve-never-met already responded.

Well, I’ll tell you, since things seem not to be going so auspiciously. If you live somewhere near US. 89 in northern Arizona or southern Utah or US 93 in Nevada or southern Idaho and you’d be willing to be on call in case a certain damsel gets in distress again while in your area, I’ll gladly take you up on your offer.

Since I’ll have limited communications on the road, just let Joel know how to reach you, if you’re comfortable with that. Or leave me a comment tonight or early tomorrow with your real email address (not published, of course) and I’ll email you so we can swap contact info.

Been a tough day. But it’s also been a (much appreciated) exercise in patience. And another especially warm time for friendship.

Claire Wolfe

Ready to go

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Well, tomorrow’s the day I hit the road. Friday the 13th. That should be auspicious.

Boy, from all the comments on yesterday’s “Stuff!” post, this topic of moving possessions really resonates. And some of you put my little trailer-stuff problem in perspective. Man … all that talk of 55-foot semis and reducing a life-long heritage to a few square feet of keepers. That’s depressing. Makes me glad I don’t have much more than one small trailer’s worth.

As you can see, we loaded that puppy and then some. Neighbor Joel was invaluable, both in helping me shift stuff and in keeping me well grounded. I am really, really going to miss having him as my fellow hermit.

Oh yeah, most of the packing was much neater than what you see in the rear of the trailer. Wedging in those last items wasn’t pretty. That thing that looks like an explosion in a bicycle factory is one of my three items of furniture — a two-seater lawn glider than had to be taken all the way down to its seat slats and tubing to fit in (also Joel’s work).

Quite a lot of stuff didn’t make the cut, including all of my bulk storage foods. What you see in the photo are (among other things) the three buckets we’d hopefully loaded on the trailer then had to pull off. The rest never even left the barn. Ah well, all that wheat isn’t on my primal diet, anyhow, right? The wheat, beans, sugar, salt, and TVP will serve the Last-Chance Gulch community well in an emergency. And Joel will make fine use out of all the regular canned foods I left behind. In a couple of months, I’ll hit the fall canned-goods sales and begin stocking up again.

Joel threatened to put that rocking chair in the background on top of my vehicle just like Ma Clampett, but I declined. I figured dog crates were rednecky enough without having to hum the Beverly Hillbillies theme song all the way across country.

Now … on the road tomorrow!

Claire Wolfe


Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

You guys are making me nervous.

No, not you guys who’ve wished me well on my upcoming move to the Northwest. Not you guys who’ve given much-appreciated advice on pellet stoves and wood stoves. Not you guys (this means you, Jake MacGregor) who’ve even offered unloading assistance, hammer swinging, or spare furniture. Not you who’ve commiserated about fatal rattlesnakes, near-fatal winds, and death-defying doggies. Not you who’ve offered tips on cool NW bookstores and other places to go. You … I thank you all.

But you guys (and wimmins) — you know who you are — you who’ve warned me that the mere possession of a house with rooms (and especially an attic and a basement) could lead me to suffer the fate of the Collyer brothers, dying of accumulation — you make me nervous.

I tell myself, No, I’m not a hoarder. Anything but. I’m somebody who has shed possessions happily and moved on. So when the first warning came — from Oliver, the webmaster of this very website — I laughed it off. After all, I’m no Oliver, a man who lives in a giant old house and will probably stay there forever.

I’ve been a gypsy without inclination for so much baggage.

I didn’t really begin to worry until someone named John left this truly ominous comment at the end of one of my blog posts. Said John:

I moved from a fifth wheel to a house in 1999, it was a good change.

Stuff has followed me in the door a couple things at a time and the place has just filled up. Beware, “stuff” multiplies when you are sleeping.

Now, as I finish boxing up all the things that are to go into the U-Haul trailer tomorrow, I begin to wonder. Stuff sneaks in and breeds when you are sleeping …?

I’m moving from a fifth-wheel. And before that I moved from a one-room house. Yet … there’s stuff all over the place. Stuff in every cranny, every drawer, every shelf of the pantry. It’s in the barn. In the workshop. In the power shed. It overwhelms every box that neighbor Joel and I dumpster-dived from behind the supermarket or scrounged from the saw shop.

I note as I vainly attempt to keep ahead of the ever-emerging stuff that most of it falls into two categories. The biggest category by far: Tools. Shop tools, art tools, jewelry-making tools, cooking tools, firearms and ammo, and all kinds of other tools. And related materials. The second killer category is food. Well, ya gotta be prepared, don’tcha?

I own only three pieces of furniture — and pieces is the operative term, as all three break down into small bits for easy transport.

So even though I possess all this stuff — this clearly multiplying stuff — I can still tell myself I won’t fall prey to the sort of stuff-collecting that fills homes with tottering heaps of 50-year-old Life magazines and giant balls of string or aluminum foil — let alone 14 assorted pianos and the chassis of a Model-T Ford. After all, my stuff is all very practical. Useful. And none of it was impulsively acquired or is compulsively kept.

Of course, there is that marvelous occasional table in the form of a glass circle resting on the heads of three giant brass geese (“like pink flamingos, only with class,” as Joel aptly described it). Which I bought just last weekend. Even as I had doubts about fitting everything into the trailer.

But well … anyone could see that that was an absolute must-have purchase. After all, my new house needs furnishings. And any devotee of estate sales would have realized in an instant — and totally understood! — that one simply doesn’t pass up an item like that. I mean, how many other opportunities will I have to buy three larger-than-lifesize geese with a tabletop on their craniums? Very few — as any reasonable person must acknowledge.

No, forget what I said about you making me nervous. You’re all completely wrong. Obviously, outrageously wrong. I’m in no danger of stuff accumulating around me, awake or asleep. I am ever vigilant against the gathering of things for the sake of things.

To the simple life — forever!

Claire Wolfe

Things I’m looking forward to

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Things I’m looking forward to in a house in a small town in the Northwest.

  • Rooms. This will be the first time in 10 years I’ll be able to walk through a doorway and not end up outside (or in a bathroom).
  • Room. Being able to move through my living space without bumping into things, knocking objects over, or having to leapfrog assorted dogs.
  • Tap water that doesn’t destroy everything it touches.
  • Filling a glass of water right from the spigot and being able to drink it (instead of hauling 55-gallon barrels of drinkable water from town and 5-gallon jugs from the power shed).
  • Green.
  • A notable dearth of rattlesnakes.
  • Power that comes at the flip of a switch without any personal prayer or engineering involved. (Yes, I know; it’s major coolness living off-grid, and we preparedness types are supposed to be able to generate our own power by rubbing two sticks together or something and it’s fashionable for us to scorn “the grid.” But solar power is really not ready for prime time.)
  • Not being 12 miles from town. (Yes, it’s also been cool telling “civilized” people that I have to drive through five desert washes just to get to the grocery store, and when it rains I can’t leave the property because the flash floods might carry my SUV away. But enough’s enough. Those floods have been impressive, though.)
  • Having a real library within a mile of me again. Whoohoo!!!
  • Green.
  • Trees taller than my kneecaps.
  • Being near the ocean even if I don’t go there all that often, and even if it’s always 50 degrees and foggy when I do.
  • Having a generator be a backup device and not a regular part of living.
  • Fecundity. Wild mushrooms in the fall. Fiddlehead ferns. Streams teaming with fish. Blackberries, huckleberries, and salmonberries growing everywhere. All kinds of stuff growing everywhere.
  • A toilet. That flushes.
  • A bathtub. Withactual hot water.
  • Being able to run a hair dryer, a microwave, or a fan without a) paroxysms of guilt or b) hitting the low-battery cut-off point.
  • Green.
  • Green.
  • Green.

Final packing day tomorrow. Trailer loading on Thursday. Hit the road on Friday.

I’m taking backroads most of the way and making a leisurely trip of it. I expect I’ll be able to blog a bit at truck stops or motels-with-wifi.

Claire Wolfe

Beginnings of creative disregard

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Long time back, I proposed that “creative disregard” was more important (and better for personal happiness) than “civil disobedience.”

Civil disobedience can be a powerful political tool. But its inherent flaw is that it assumes that government is both necessary and potentially good. Civil disobedience merely aims to change certain actions or forms of government.

Creative disregard, on the other hand, gives government a big “ho hum” (or in some cases, a big “eff off”). Creative disregard says, “I’m going to live as I please among fellow peaceable human beings.” It acknowledges government (if at all) as a potential nuisance to be worked around — that’s the creative part of creative disregard.

I’ve been thinking more about this lately after running across a pair of blog entries last week: Kevin Carson’s “In Praise of Bad Attitudes” and part of a series Arthur Silber’s writing on Wikileaks, resistance, and “the obedience culture.” Silber quotes Hannah Arendt:

If I obey the laws of the land, I actually support its constitution, as becomes glaringly obvious in the case of revolutionaries and rebels who disobey because they have withdrawn this tacit consent.

In these terms, the nonparticipators in public life under a dictatorship are those who have refused their support by shunning those places of “responsibility” where such support, under the name of obedience, is required. And we have only for a moment to imagine what would happen to any of these forms of government if enough people would act “irresponsibly” and refuse support, even without active resistance and rebellion, to see how effective a weapon this could be. …

And here’s the key part:

Hence the question addressed to those who participated and obeyed orders should never be, “Why did you obey?” but “Why did you support?” This change of words is no semantic irrelevancy for those who know the strange and powerful influence mere “words” have over the minds of men who, first of all, are speaking animals. Much would be gained if we could eliminate this pernicious word “obedience” from our vocabulary of moral and political thought. If we think these matters through, we might regain some measure of self-confidence and even pride, that is, regain what former times called the dignity or the honor of man: not perhaps of mankind but of the status of being human.

Amen, Sister Hannah. The word “obey” implies passivity, compliance under force. You obey because you feel you have to — and therefore you have an excuse: “I was only following orders,” “I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t.”

But to “support” implies an active choice. Those who support become pillars — and therefore can’t evade responsibility for holding up a system that does evil.

I don’t knock those who commit active civil disobedience. They’re often people of tremendous courage. They say a loud and public NO and often succeed brilliantly in getting their message across to those who might otherwise never hear it. (Ironically, the worse government treats them, the more loudly they’re heard.)

On the other hand, civil disobedience sometimes plays right into the hands of the very power it aims to oppose: “See, these dirty, disruptive radicals are causing chaos. For your safety, for the sake of law and order, we must crack down.”

I think we could go a lot further if more people understood that we are just as responsible for our compliance as we are for our non-compliance — that in either case, we choose our own actions. And when it comes to moral choices, “the choice not to choose” — but just to go along — lays just as much on our shoulders as “the choice to choose” — and go our own way in creative disregard of authority.


It’s late. I’m tired. Just returned this afternoon from a weekend getaway and am packing for a cross-country move that will begin in a few days. Not sure if I’m up to the “brilliance” I promised the other day. But at least, dear readers, I owe you something other than postings about house roofs and pellet stoves.

Claire Wolfe

Thursday miscellany

Thursday, August 5th, 2010
  • You know you have waaaaay too much government at every level when you repeatedly read stories like this one.
  • And remember those no-down, 1-percent interest mortgages I goggled about a couple of weeks ago? Well, the USDA isn’t the only government outfit that has a darned weird idea of how mortgages should be handled in the post-bubble world. Sheesh!
  • Via Project Vigilant. Do you get the feeling that the patriotic rhetoric — and the allegedly private financing — are just a smoke-screen?

  • Via Joel and a whole lot of other places as the news spreads: Such a surprise! The feds were lying about not storing all those porno-scans. Just like they lied about precisely how pornographic the scans actually are. Imagine that. Your government lying to you. Who would ever have thunk it?

  • The economy sucks — but corporations are sitting on mountains of healthy cash, right? Hoarding cash, as the financial press tells us. Uh … no. Money quote: “A look at the facts shows that companies only have ‘record amounts of cash’ in the way that Subprime Suzy was flush with cash after that big refi back in 2005.”
  • Okay, on the brighter side. There are all kinds of dog stories. Funny. Inspiring. Heartbreaking. Heartwarming. Some are inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time. But this one? This one is downright bizarrito.
Claire Wolfe

From the “It’s a small world” department

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Big thanks to everybody who posted their experiences and observations on pellet stoves. Good links, too. That was helpful & informative — and very nice to see so many new people commenting.

Also thanks to everybody who congratulated me on the new house and wished me (and it) well. I almost had to post to say the well wishes were premature. Just when it looked as if things were going really great, I got the first roofing bid.

… After the dogs administered some quick CPR, I took a deep breath and hoped the bid for my roof work had merely been mixed up somehow with the bid for a sports stadium or one of Nicholas Cage’s European palaces. (That was at 4:00 a.m. yesterday; I advise you never to open construction bids until you’re well fortified with the caffeinated and/or alcoholic beverage of your choice.)

A few hours later I got the home inspection report. Leslie’s verbal report on the scene had been cheery and positive. But do you know what it’s like to read 41 pages about all the bad features of the 100-year-old house you’re about to invest your life in? Century-old houses have a lot of bad features. The dogs stood by with defibrillator paddles in case I needed help again. Fortunately, I had been warned about the dangers of reading inspection reports. I survived.

Then the second roofing estimate came in. From the guy known for doing the lowest-cost quality work. It was higher than the first. I vaguely recall something about rising out of my body and seeing a luminous figure at the end of a tunnel, but then the dogs were licking my face again and I was back in the real world.

Anyhow, if I’ve been quiet since yesterday morning it’s because I’ve been scrambling to figure out some work-arounds.

But I think I got it now. Part of the roof, which is cedar shake, can probably be rehabilitated for the time being, rather than completely replaced. There will be a roofly reckoning to come, but the worst of it might be delayed for a few years. In the meantime, I just have to fix about half of the roof/gutter/fascia problems to keep an insurance company happy.

Tonight I emailed the real estate broker to say go ahead, accept the inspection report, and head straight on to closing. So I can safely accept all those good wishes.


Now the part about the small-world department (as promised all the way up there at the top).

Turns out that the people I’m buying the house from are Backwoods Home subscribers. Since there are only about 50,000 of those, that’s quite a coincidence. When the broker told them who I was (and even, embarrassingly, showed them my Wikipedia entry), they knew me.

But it gets better. Leslie, the blessed friend who found the house and has been functioning as my eyes, ears, legs, and brain on the scene, ran into the sellers while supervising one of the roofing bidders yesterday. The husband beamingly told her he owns several of my books. (And I can assure you there are a lot fewer than 50,000 of those people in the world. So how big a coincidence is that?)

I’m not only blessed in my friend Leslie, who has made out-of-state-sight-unseen home buying almost fun (well, sometimes). I feel exceptionally blessed with these sellers — and not just because they think kind thoughts of me. Both Leslie and the broker have told me they’re delightful people. And I know that from my own experience by all that they’ve already given me.

I’ll be bringing one 5 x 8 trailer with my possessions — and not one stick of furniture for this great big house. These people have a lot of stuff (as I could see in the photos Leslie took), and are making a terribly big multi-trip move to another state. So early on, I offered, via the broker, to haul away any of their unwanted junk if they would leave a few useful items for me in exchange — garden tools, area rugs, shop tools, and the like. I figured we’d benefit on both sides. I didn’t ask for any big items.

Yet they’re leaving me, in addition to many of the things I requested, a beautiful sofa with a lounger, a bed, a roll-top desk, and a dining-room set. Yes, perhaps it benefits them not to have to move so many large things. But it benefits me more to have them. Since even half a roofing job will take all my furniture budget, an unexpectedly furnished house is a huge deal.

The husband also told Leslie he was leaving a selection of things that he thought “Claire Wolfe would appreciate.”

Can’t wait to see what those might be. :-)

And I really do have to meet these nice people one of these days. Being that it’s such a small world, I expect I’ll have that opportunity even though they’re already living a state or two away and told Leslie they hoped they were making their last moving trip.


I hope I haven’t tried your patience with so much house stuff this week. Here’s a promise. I’m going away for the weekend to enjoy a couple of de-stressing days. I’ll come back with Something Brilliant to Say. Or as close to brilliant as I can get.

Anyway, it won’t be about roofs or pellet stoves. :-

Claire Wolfe

Tell me about pellet stoves

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Erm .. I’m thinking we may have more than usual of very practical type posts in the next few weeks as I get ready to move to my new home.

And yes, it’s looking more and more as if it will be my home. WhooHoo! The inspector came today, and what a pro. He poked and prodded the place for 3-1/2 hours, and while I probably won’t have his report until tomorrow, my friend Leslie (she who found the place) stayed with him the entire time and gave me updates by phone.

I think I’m starting to owe Leslie more lunches than I can count.

No big surprises on the inspection. Except a couple of very pleasant ones. The house has a real basement — with concrete floor, workbench, beaucoup shelving, and no evidence of chronic water problems. (Basements are unusual in the NorthWet; probably for many reasons, but not least because the always-high water table tends to drown them. I knew there was an accessible area under the house, but at best I supposed it would be a spider-ridden, dirt-floored storage cellar.)

And that big dormer room upstairs? The one I already extolled as gigantic (not to mention a wonderful artist’s garret)? There’s another room behind it I didn’t know about. An attic room. Unfinished. Doesn’t even have a proper floor. But — so Leslie tells me — huge. Good heavens. After 10 years of living in less than 400 square feet, currently much less, whatever am I going to do with so much space? Several of the single rooms in the new house appear to be larger than the entire dwellings I’m used to.

Ah well. That’ll be a nice “problem” to adjust to. (A friend who has a gigantic old house tells me I’ll automatically begin collecting more stuff than I ever knew existed. And I’ll never be able to bring myself to get rid of a stick of it.)

Anyway … all the negative news from the inspection was small, and pending the roofers’ estimates, it’s looking as if I’ll be headed north within two weeks!

But one of the little negatives — or is it? — is that the supposed wood stove in the living room turns out to be a pellet stove.

I have no experience with pellet stoves. I know they’re very efficient burners. That they burn inexpensive, recycled materials. That they produce very little ash or other waste. And that they’re pretty to watch. (I hear that when the pellets drop from the hopper it’s like viewing fireflies.)

But the reason I have no experience is that pellet stoves have always struck me as being useless as an alternative heat source because a) they require electricity to operate and b) they use a material that has to be manufactured and can get scarce. Even though the northwest is wood-products wonderland, I recall a time a few years back when none of the locals in my area could get pellets for a month or two — and that was without any S hitting any Fs.

So tell me, ye who are more experienced with these stoves, will a pellet stove be a good thing to have? And is there any good way to operate one if the power goes out (without running a generator, I mean)? Is it true that many of them can burn — or be jury-rigged to burn — wood chips, corn, or other materials? How about evergreen needles? (No shortage of those in the area …)

I should add that the house’s main heat source is baseboard electric, and that the northwest has historically had the lowest electric rates in the nation, thanks to abundant hydro. But as with all things government-connected, those super-low rates have been gradually rising.

So … what can you more experienced types tell me about that pellet stove? Your wise advice much appreciated.

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