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Posts Tagged ‘caretaking’

Bobby on the zero turn

I’m not opposed to change.  I think I have by this time figured out that it’s part of life, and not always predictable.  I’ve learned to willingly adapt to change, to shift my priorities and efforts towards whatever new direction lies ahead as a result.  But doing so takes time, me being a plodder and all, and I prefer not to be interrupted by more change before I’ve finished responding to the first wave.

 So the latest news from the farm is actually a blessing, but it left me shaking my head for a couple of days, amazed how things can shift so quickly.

The folks called Friday last week, a month since they’d first dropped the bombshell about wanting to move to Norman, Oklahoma where their daughters and grandchildren live, to ask if it would be ok for them to stay put, instead.  They have changed their minds, and decided they wouldn’t be happy there.  At least for the time being.

We could have told them that, but it wasn’t our place.  They figured it out themselves, at their own pace.

All the reasons why we thought it would be unworkable for them came tumbling out as they talked over each other on the phone:  they can’t find the kind of place they are looking to buy in that area; the dogs, used to roaming the mountain, would have to live in a tiny back yard; they don’t like the kind of people there, there’s not enough open, “country” space, and Bobby would get bored not having anything to do outside; and they like their Kentucky doctors, like living in Kentucky.  Dear old Bobby must have said “I just wouldn’t be happy there” at least 10 times during the fifteen-minute call.

Well hello, McFly.  After driving 13 hours back from their Oklahoma visit, Bobby toted the luggage in the house then hopped onto the Toro mower for a couple of hours to mow the grass, which wasn’t overgrown by any means.  He just couldn’t sit still.

Precipitating this latest change, as it turns out, was the renewed possibility of their buying the little property down the road, since the property line issue that had derailed the purchase has finally been resolved and the current owner still needs to sell it to finance the new house he’s already broken ground for.  Now that the property isn’t listed, he and Bobby are discussing terms between themselves, and if he’ll let it go at the same price (he had to buy back the front yard from the state road department as a result of the survey), Bobby and Alene want to go ahead with their plans to buy the place and fix it up a bit at a time while living in the little farmhouse at Bear and Thistle.

They were worried we’d already made arrangements to have someone move in immediately, and wouldn’t be able to accomodate their request.  But we hadn’t, so it was easy to say yes of course, you’re more than welcome to stay on.  They were relieved to hear that and of course we’re relieved, too.  It’s much better to have them there.

We will go ahead with installing the alarm system and a few motion-activated security lights, and I will gate and fence the driveways and as much of the road edge as possible on our September visit.  We don’t need to make it Fort Knox, but I’ve put too much planning and resources into that initiative to turn it off at this point, and it will make the place more secure even with them there.  So they’ll not see the woodstove installed for their benefit this winter, and perhaps not the next, for having zig-zagged course and forcing me to change our working plans to adapt to the possibility of having to leave the place unoccupied. 

But they are lucky to have had the flexibility to try their idea on and, finding it not fitting, go back to the original arrangement.  And we’re fortunate they changed their minds, though I have no idea how long they’ll want to stay, or if they’ll change their minds again soon, or if their plan to buy the little house down the road will work out.  

I hope it does.

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Farm gates and fences

farm gate

The place might sit empty for awhile. 

I am in favor of this idea, because it’s my farmhouse when I’m there, several times a year, but not for leisure purposes:  I need a homebase to work hard out of, to be able to get up at the crack of dawn and be outside by 7 am, work until dark and stop to make dinner only after projects are buttoned up for the night. 

I do not want to camp out at some hotel room 12 miles away and have to wait until my late-sleeping travel partner gets rolling so we can drive to the farm, starting my workday before 10 am if I’m really lucky and with nowhere to take a break and prepare a meal to eat, while some stranger lives in our house.  Silly, impossible idea, that.  I tried the sock on several times and it never fit. 

(This is actually my mental image of how I approach the difficult task of choosing between possible scenarios like this, I see it like trying on a sock.  Pulled it on and the damned thing was too tight, and scratchy, and would have caused me unending distress.  No kidding.)

 So, a shift in project plans for the September working visit, from installing the wood stove to: 

1) Building good sturdy gates across both driveways (one to the shop, one to the house, separated by the creek).

2) Fencing the road boundary between and past the gates to prevent access to the buildings. 

3) Having a monitored alarm system installed in house and shop (I would want this when I move there by myself anyway, working up on the hill all day, out of earshot of the house by the road). 

4) Installing an inexpensive x10 lighting control system inside house, to turn lights and radio on and off, simulating occupancy. 

5) Installing solar-powered security lighting on house side of creek, and in back of shop. 

6) Putting deadbolts on all doors.

I contacted the realtor that sold us the place, who’s been working in the area for several decades and lives just a few miles down the road – wanted to know what her experience was with folks renting places out vs. leaving them buttoned up and whether there was any such thing as property management in the area.   She related a couple of horror stories about clients who ended up having to sell a secondary residence after getting tromped on by unsavory renters who trashed the place and were difficult to evict; just too few good people needing a place to live that will take care of it like you’d want them to.  

Her recommendation was to implement the above security measures and she even offered to make frequent checks on our place as she drives by there weekly, and call us if anything appeared amiss.

It’s a risk I think I’ll take.

There is a possibility that my sister in Colorado will move out to the farm and caretake the place, after the next ski season is over.  A fortuitous opportunity for her to change location and jobs and get something of a fresh start.  But nothing etched in stone yet, just a possibility.  So we’ll proceed with the security measures, plan for the worst and hope for the best.

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farmhouse front door

We’ve been very fortunate to have Bobby and Alene stay on and take care of the place after they sold the farm to us in January 2006.  They were comfortable in the little double-wide mobile home they’d put on a foundation down by the road; they liked the area and the climate and hadn’t decided if they would move back to Florida, where Bobby’s grown children live, or Oklahoma, where Alene’s daughters and their families have settled.  Bobby enjoyed working outside, mowing the yard area around the house and cutting the pastures, and keeping an eye out for fallen branches on fences and that sort of thing.

But he’s nearly 73, with arthritis and diabetes and now a newly-rebuilt knee, and the work has become too much.  Last winter when he wanted to cut those two hickory trees down for firewood, that he really didn’t need, I should have told him no.  I thought he knew his own limits and the work of it would make him happy.  But it was too much.

They’d made an offer on a little place just down the road, but the survey turned up a boundary snarl that couldn’t be resolved – the property line ran right through the living room and though the state road department said they’d transferred rights to the little slice long ago, no one could be certain, and the survey remains in dispute.  So that hope was dashed, a pity, since they were looking forward to fixing up the place a little at a time while living at the Farm.  They like their doctors there in Campbellsville and didn’t really want to leave, but time is running out for them to find a smaller place to build their last nest.

So the trip they made to Oklahoma to visit grandkids and great-grandchildren while we were working at the farm resulted in a change of plans for them.  They’ve decided to move in with her daughter there while they look for a place, but will stay on at the farm through September, when we were planning to return to install the wood stove, to give us time to make other arrangements.

We’re very grateful for the three years of caretaking they gave us.  Of course we covered all expenses and paid Bobby extra for the pasture mowing, and did everything we could to keep them comfortable and happy.  Installing the wood stove was to ease their worries about losing power in the winter; the place is all-electric and they had no way to heat or cook during long power outages.  They hadn’t had any yet, but it worried them.  And building the back porch took priority because of Alene’s falls.  Both improvements would have been done eventually anyway, but the point was to meet their immediate needs first. 

I’m a bit relieved to be able to postpone the wood stove installation this Fall.  I’ll focus my time on giving the pastures a final mowing, get the corral panels painted and stacked under cover, and the place ready for winter. 

We’re not sure what the plan will be now.  It was good to have someone living in the house, but we stay there on our frequent visits and renting it out would make that impossible.  Keeping the house and shop secure is the main concern; the yard area will need regular mowing next summer but I can hire that out.  And I can keep up with the pastures as well as Bobby has, we’ll plan our trips around that. 

This may be a good opportunity to see what kind of neighbors we have.  I’ll keep an open mind.

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