There’s no going back now.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I shed my final two anchors: Suby Snowflake and my job.

Last Sunday the most adorable couple came to look at my car – they were the epitome of the “Missoulian”: hippie, outdoorsy, young, and friendly as can be. Good kids. We chatted for a while, played with my dog, and then took the Subaru for a test drive. I knew they fell in love with it immediately. I really liked that car; I just didn’t like the payment plan attached to it. And I honestly won’t need it in Wisconsin. I did my best to take good care of it, and apparently it showed. They said they’d go home and talk about it, and later that evening I had a written offer in my inbox. Unfortunately they couldn’t offer me what I was asking, but did offer me something of significant value to add to the pot: the loan of their car until I leave on January 1. That, coupled with the next two payments that I won’t have to make between now and my transition, and the cash they gave me, it actually came out to about $100 more than I was asking to begin with. Score! So on Wednesday we met at the bank, made the transition, and traded cars.

I’m Free!

Yesterday I called the President of our Board of Directors. He was sitting in a tree stand hunting deer on the day after Thanksgiving. Yet, he answered his phone. We had a candid conversation about why I thought my time with the organization was done, and shared that I would be working toward my long term goals and something I truly believe in. I also discussed an individual on our Executive Committee who has been a thorn in my side for some unknown reason. I hate to say it, but I honestly think he’s sexist. But being a lawyer, he would never admit to it. Clearly he doesn’t respect anything I do or have to say, and makes everything I do about 1000% more difficult than it needs to be. Watching his interactions with most other women, sexism is the only logical conclusion I can come to. Either way, in 37 days I’ll never have to deal with him again. After talking to the Board Prez, I emailed him my letter of resignation. The light at the end of the tunnel is brighter now than it ever has been.

I’m Free!

I try to be consistently conscious of the things in my life that I’m grateful for. This past year I’ve had some problem with that as I let myself get bogged down with stress. But with this early Christmas gift of freedom, I’m beginning to once again let my mind come out of the clouds and appreciate so much around me. It feels good to be back on track.

Yes. I’m Free!

Categories: Debt, The Journey | Leave a comment

Formulating a plan…

Wow. Where on earth did the last five months go? Yikes. My apologies, dear readers, for my extended absence.

When last I saw you I was leaving northern Wisconsin after a visit with my Dad. Something happened when I got home that apparently sent me into oblivion for months on end.

It’s been a really good summer for me – I hope it has been for you, too. I took up with a new beau (post-lovely logger man, who continues to contact me every once in a while. Damn that man! But this isn’t a blog about relationships…) The new beau took me outside of my comfort level and put me on the back of a Harley Davidson motorcycle. I’d never been on a motorcycle before. Once I stopped being terrified, I started really enjoying it! So most weekends will find me, hair whipping in the wind, holding on tight, and flying along the roads of western Montana. I even went to Sturgis!  😮

Unfortunately my garden suffered as a result of this new found freedom a-la motorcycle. I managed to salvage a few potatoes, a bunch of peppermint and some peppers. All else was lost.

C’est la vie.  There are bigger things to worry about in life right now… which brings me to the point of this post:

Formulating a plan. A plan for the future.

I spent three weeks back up in Alaska, starting on Labor Day weekend through much of September. I lived out of an RV. I hiked in the snow. I contemplated applying for a job running a sled dog yard. I longingly looked out at the fall colors that had swept through the land and wished for a simpler life. I bought a two-volume set of Dick Proenneke’s writings, boarded a ferry and spent five days traveling by ship between Whittier, Alaska and Bellingham, Washington, reading, contemplating and wondering what I could *honestly* do different to begin the processes of making a life, not just accumulating a living.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. And a lot of thinking. And a lot of math. And a lot of writing (although, just in notebooks and not on this blog!).

It’s no secret that I’m extremely dissatisfied with my job. I often say that I never have regrets, only lessons learned. And boy, have I learned a lot of lessons since becoming director of this organization. So I’ve made up my mind to leave. I’ve been trolling the help wanted ads nearly daily and submitting resumes when something of interest shows itself. Missoula, unfortunately, doesn’t have a plethora of high paying jobs, so what that means is that I need to minimize my expenses and fit into the circumstances that are available to me right here. I like Missoula, and I’m not really looking to leave right now.

As much as I adore my little homestead on the ranch, it’s time to shore up my possessions, get rid of the clutter, and move back into town. I’m considering really shaking things up with the ultimate goal of no longer having to work for a company or an organization.

This is what I’m considering:

  • Moving back into town, into the smallest, least expensive place I can find for me and Bella-Boo. This means I need to cull all of my possessions. I currently live in a 900+ square foot house on endless acres. But I’m considering finding a place half that size and starting to live my life on a more human level. Well, human and dog level. As it is, my lovely pastoral life puts me nearly 20 miles out of Missoula… It’s hard to simplify when you have to drive nearly 40 miles round trip to do or get anything in town.
  • Selling Suby Snowflake. Between car payments, insurance, and the ever-increasing price of gas, I spend over $600 per month for the joy of having a car. The Subaru has got to go. Plus, it’s Debt. I’ve written in the past about my views on debt. I don’t like debt. It makes me very uncomfortable knowing that I owe anyone anything. I will get another vehicle (my dream truck: a old 1970s Ford pick-up, if God’s willing!) for when the need arises. But my thought process is to get back on the bike and use that as my main mode of transportation around town.
  • Minimizing all expenses. Cutting my expenses down to the quick. As I mentioned, I’ve been doing a lot of math, among other things, lately. I don’t spend a lot on extraneous things. I don’t have a TV, so cable is a non-issue. I use minimal electric, so my bill is pretty darn low. But there are definitely things I can hone down. Including my phone/internet charges. Right now they’re $60/month. That’s $60 I probably don’t need to be spending. In town I can find alternative and cheaper ways to get online…  I may also be eating my way through my food storage in the coming year. Partly to roll it over, partly to save room, partly to minimize my outlay of cash.
  • Quitting my job. It’s become a source of great unhappiness for me. Stress. Bad attitude. Anger. It’s not worth the paycheck to feel this way. It’s funny how the more money I make, the more complicated my life becomes. I can’t live without a paycheck, but I’m hoping some of these other steps will help minimize my need for a big one. So for the time being I’m hoping to find a job a little lower on the totem pole. I’ve often said that my current position makes me be more professional, responsible and grown-up than I care to be. It’s quickly boring holes through my soul. Time to grab the bull by the horns and start taking control of my life again.
  • Experimenting with alternative income streams. It’s my ultimate dream to not have to rely on anyone else for a paycheck. Never before have I considered trying to work for myself, but now I’m starting to wonder about it more and more. I’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming (along with my reading, contemplating, math and writing), and I’m beginning to come up with some ideas about how to start doing this. The more I can do for myself, the less I have to rely on the traditional job market.

I had considered starting a new blog because I was concentrating less and less on formally ditching the grid. Not that I had lost that desire, I guess I just lost focus. But when the blocks started falling away recently, I realize more and more that all this contributes to that ultimate dream of living outside the normal “grid” of society. So rather than start over, I’ll be continuing the writing on this blog, and sharing my steps along the way.

Stay Tuned!

Categories: Debt, The Journey | 6 Comments

Okay – so where to I start???

Where on earth did this summer go???  My brain seems to have gotten away from me since May 1 – I’m not sure where to begin with the various updates…

Well.  I suppose I’ll start with the story of a Hero.

Once upon a time, my Mom’s sister Mary gave birth to a bouncing baby boy that she named Christopher.  Christopher, or Chris as most people called him, grew up to be a dashing, brave and selfless man.  A modern day knight in shining armor.  Chris became a Chicago firefighter.

My cousin Chris was killed in a restaurant fire on Chicago’s west side in the early morning hours of August 9th.  He was 31 years old.  To say he was an inspirational person is a grave understatement.  Being that this particular side of my extended family is quite large….  (A-hem.  Extensive to say the least…)  I can’t say I was as close to Chris and Kim as we should or could have been growing up – but I wish I had been.  What I’ve learned about my cousin in the past couple of weeks is nothing short of astounding.  Eye opening.  Inspirational.  Amazing.  He was a paramedic, a fireman; he taught emergency medical response at the University of Chicago hospital; worked with neighborhood kids to get them off drugs; he traveled around the country to teach at other fire stations and hospitals.  He was light-hearted, but full-hearted; with a smile so many people commented on throughout the events of those long, hot and heart wrenching days.  Firemen – and in this case, Chris – put their lives on the line every single day.  They sacrifice their own lives for the lives of others.  Unfortunately, sometimes accidents happen – and unfortunately, this time the accident involved my cousin, Chris Wheatley.

Chris was the first fireman to die in the line of duty since 2007.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with such a public funeral – but what took place was something I could have never envisioned.

They buried my cousin with full honors.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor by the International Association of Fire Fighters.  The mayor of Chicago spoke at his funeral, and the governor of Illinois came to his wake.  Chris’s casket was saluted by literally thousands of firefighters in a final farewell.  Military jets flew overhead at the cemetery, falling into the missing man formation. Bag pipes played solemnly at every stop in the funerary procession. Citizens of Chicago’s south side lined the streets from the funeral home to the church, then again from the church to the cemetery.  They held flags and signs.  Saluted or put their hands over their hearts.  Children wore their toy fire helmets and sat on the curb in toy fire engines.

You don’t know how hard it is to listen to bag pipes when you’re burying the family member they’re playing for.  Lord have mercy. I think this was the most difficult funeral I’ve ever been to.

For some amazing photos from Chris’s wake and funeral, see this link here *and* this link here.

I drove from western Montana to Chicago for Chris’s funeral.  I drove there to support my Aunt, my cousin Kim (his sister), and my uncle Danny.  I drove to Chicago to be with my (extremely large) extended family to lay to rest one of the most amazing souls to have graced this earth.

I drove because I had a brand new car that would make it the 3500 miles round trip.  I drove because I needed a break from reality.  I drove because airplane tickets were $1200!

I drove The Suby:


This is the replacement for my old squeaky, creeky Jeep Cherokee.  It’s a 2008 Subaru Outback PZEV (which stands for Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle).  I haven’t owned a nice, relatively new vehicle in many, many years.  The last new vehicle I had was a Dodge Dakota that I crashed into the front end of an oncoming 18-wheeler, while skidding on black ice with.  Needless to say the truck was totaled.

But the squeaky, creeky Jeep finally gave up the ghost after hauling a pile of people fly fishing about three weeks ago.  I got it for free about 5 years ago – so I can’t complain.  It was a good little Jeep.  And luckily my fly fishing visitors and I made it back to town without incident – but it was clear the Jeep’s days were numbered.  So on a bright and sunny Saturday morning, I walked into the local Subaru dealer and signed up for indentured servitude.

I am now, officially, in debt.

Not wild about the indentured servitude, but I am happy that I have a safe, reliable car that will hopefully be with me for many years.  The Jeep was 15 when it was put out to pasture.  So I should be able to keep Suby Snowflake for a good 13 years or more.

So let’s see…  what else?

Well, LLM sold the homestead.  It’s still “The Sanctuary” until May 1st when he turns over possession of the place to the new owners.  He somehow worked this deal where they closed on the place a few weeks ago – the new owners are paying the mortgage – but they don’t take official possession of the house and land until May 1, 2011.  So LLM gets about 8 months of free rent before he has to figure out what to do with himself.

But he’s been logging up in NW Montana – chopper logging and cutting some really big wood – so he’s been in a much better mood lately.  I’m very grateful for that.  His mind is free.

Since he’s been logging out of town (aka: timber tramping), the chickens were fostered out to a guy LLM knows.  So they’re living the high life, squirting out eggs, eating watermelon…  It’s like a “chicken bed and breakfast” over there.  We went to visit the chickens on Sunday.

Summer’s been awfully mild.  It’ll get hot for a couple of days, then cool off for a few.  We’ve received intermittent rain all summer long, which has helped tremendously with the fire season… or lack there of.

Looks like I’ll be doing quite a bit of traveling over the next few months.  I just got back from Chicago – and while I was there I visited friends and family, went to my favorite neighborhood in the City for dinner, toured a Hindu temple in the suburbs.

Next I’ll be heading off to Salt Lake City and Snowbird Ski Resort in about four weeks, then off to Maine and northern New York in October.  December will have me back in Chicago for a holiday visit (since I stayed home last year), and January I’ll be traveling to Tennessee for work.  In between those trips I’ll be continuing to can veggies and chicken, grinding flour for home baked bread, and following LLM over hill and over dale in search of the elusive Wapati later this Fall.  Then crossing my fingers for a good local ski season and copious piles of snow until Spring peaks out in early May.  Once January hits, my schedule seems to slow down tremendously.

Well…  This post is getting pretty long, so I’ll cover the summer gardening update and food preservation news in a separate post in the next day or two.

In the meantime, there’s a spectacular sunset that’s calling my name.  The evening sun is glowing orange on the trees.

Categories: Chickens, Debt, Food Storage, Misc Musings, Property Hunt | 3 Comments

Success and changes

I’m proud of my pantry project.  Below is the progression of the transformation, beginning with one of my impossibly small cabinets:

Ta-Daaaa!  Most of my canned goods re-organized and housed in my new sort-of pantry.  I still have some canned fruit and homemade jams and jarred fruit that I have to re-organize.  But those can remain in the cabinets – I think I can manage those a little better than the whole mass of canned veggies and what-not.  But that’s one project that d-o-n-e, done!

After work I also re-planted the other tomato and basil plants, so everything’s been transplanted just in time for the sun to shine again in western Montana.

On a rather sad note, LLM sold the homestead today.  I’m crushed, really.  But there’s a stipulation that he’ll be closing on it in mid-July, but doesn’t have to move out until May 1 of 2011.  How sweet is that?  So the house will still be “home” for a while longer, but he won’t be burdened with the debt.  He’ll be looking for another plot of land soon – but it may be back in Alaska…but then again, it may not be.  So I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.  The good thing is that he’ll be out of debt, with an additional $86k to put toward a new piece of property and a new cabin.  So hopefully that will mean that he can set up a new homestead without need to borrow any more money.  Debt makes LLM a cranky boy…so even though this homestead will be a thing of the past by next summer, he’ll be easier to get along with.  So it’s a toss up.  It’s not like he’ll be moving into town or anything.  So one homestead will be gone, but another is on the horizon.  Let’s just hope it’s here in Montana so I don’t loose my cranky, yet lovely logger man.

Categories: Debt, Food Storage, Property Hunt, The Journey | Leave a comment

Back to that fear of Debt…

Yes, it’s true.  I fear debt.  I’ve written about it before, and it’s this fear of debt that’s the main reason I don’t own a house.  The very thought of owing anyone money – beyond next month’s rent – gives me the creeps.

But I may be facing some debt in the near future.  Ye Olde Jeep isn’t doing so good these days.  She’s leaking some oil, and has a slight lifter knock under the hood.  *sigh*  Since I only have about $2500 in the savings account, I think I’m going to have to take on some debt in the form of a car payment.

I’ve been online looking at some vehicles the past few days, since I noticed the distinct droplets on the pavement under the carriage.  Good god, cars are expensive these days!  I haven’t purchased a vehicle in about ten years.  The last Jeep I paid for was purchased outright with insurance funds because I totaled the truck I had been driving on the front end of an 18-wheeler.  Damn black ice.  So I bought the Jeep and my savings account and budget never knew the difference.  Then I sold that Jeep when I was living in the city because I had no need for a vehicle – and it was getting old and probably needed more work on it than it was worth.  When I needed another vehicle, permanently, my Dad gave me the Jeep I have now.  It’s a 1995 Grand Cherokee, with 150,000 miles.  It’s been a good truck for the past five years – but it’s time has come.  *sniff, sniff*

I would love to have a Subaru Outback wagon, but lord in heaven, I can’t afford something like that.  Do you know they want like $30 grand for those?  Sheesh!  But the local Suby dealer has a 2006 Jeep Liberty on their lot for about $13,000.  It’s only got 55,000 miles – which isn’t too bad.  And it’s blue.  🙂  So I dunno.  I may clean up the Jeepers in the next few days and take a ride over there to see what they have to say.  I might wait until it’s raining, since it’s leaking some oil.  (I know, bad Car-ma…but oh well. They’ll figure it out after I leave.)

My budget can easily afford a car payment, but I just don’t want to do it.  I don’t owe anything to anyone at this point (with the exception of rent and utilities) – so I’m pretty wide open.  But the thought of having debt gives me a heavy feeling in my gut.  Unfortunately, I don’t think the Jeep will last much longer, I’m afraid.  All told, I drive close to 375 miles a week.  Maybe a little more.  So I need something reliable that won’t strand me on the side of a dark and lonely Montana highway.  And living up here in the mountains, I need 4wd, too – which adds big bucks to the price tag.  *sigh*

So we’ll see what the next couple weeks brings.  Maybe I’ll have myself a new Jeep for Christmas this year.

Categories: Debt | 7 Comments

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