Monday, January 25, 2010

rainy day

This seems to happen every January here. We get hit with a warm spell and all the snow melts and the rain comes pouring down and outside what used to be a winter wonderland looks like the spine of a dead rotting chicken. Everything is bare and ugly and black and brown. High winds and the roaring creek outside make it feel like a spring is coming. I know better. This is just a big gulp of selfish warm air before the next heavy snowfall. Still, it makes a girl wish she hadn't sold her banjo. Warm nights like this, with dripping rain, were meant for a dozen little candles and a banjo playing waltzes on the porch.

The warm weather also makes me a little nervous, mostly because while things are falling into place, I still have no home come May. I have some money saved and some offers to rent, but the goal of moving into my own place is still floating in the Battenkill down the road. I can tell you that I had an auspicious meeting with a local bank. After so many visits with firm handshakes and apologies for not being able to offer me a loan, this recent bank didn't tell me no. They told me, come back in one month. They said I should be in a position to lend if my credit score hops up thirty points. Since I recently paid off the Subaru and a few credit cards—I'm praying the debts repaid can hike it up. If they don't, well, then I just have to eat some crow and make other plans.

I am still hoping that I can make a home out of the Foothold (the small, rustic cabin I've been writing about). I just have to be realistic about it. It feels so perfect, and I want it so much, but I found out from all the lenders I've been talking to that no one will approve a loan for a house that isn't winterized. The cabin needs to be made ready for cold weather and I'm not sure I can afford the work. But I am also guessing. I haven't given up yet. I have a number of a local guy who can tell me exactly what the place needs, so who knows? I did find out from the owners they might consider a rent-to-own option on the property, which would be a godsend. I walked around the property this weekend (with the owner's permission) and stood between the fireplace and the small stream bubbling through the snow into the Green River. I could almost see the goat pen and the chicken coop if I squinted my eyes...

Trying to become a farmer, while still being a homesteader, while still working a day job I love = high stress. I'm blessed to have friends, music, and animals around me to alleviate some of it. Last night I went to Abi and Greg's for dinner and got to visit Finn. He's a little bigger and his coat's a little fluffier, but he still runs to me when I call his name. He's really growing attached to his alpaca friends though. I'm worried about moving him away. Will he go into some sort of caprine depression? All I know is he won't be alone ever again. When he comes home to me he'll have a friend waiting for him. Another kid or something. But that day seems eons from tonight. Tonight is just rain, uncertainty, and no banjo.

I have some exciting news to round off our night. A popular dog magazine called the Bark will be publishing the mushing excerpt from Made From Scratch in their next issue, which comes out in early February. If you find a copy you'll see our Jazz and Annie smiling inside. The magazine also inviting me to become a columnist for 2010. I'll be writing about rural living with dogs all year. So if you want to keep up with the canine side of things around here, pick up a subscription.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"outside... looks like the spine of a dead rotting chicken. Everything is bare and ugly and black and brown."

Great, thanks for so eloquently and viscerally describing the way my home (Vancouver Island off the west coast of British Columbia, Canada) looks like from October to March, since it doesn't really snow here and just pisses rain all "winter"... "spine of a dead rotting chicken" indeed. I'm approximately half-sarcastic about the thanks ;P

I don't know if I've ever posted before, but I found your blog some way or another a while ago, immediately fell in love with it, have been catching up on the archives, and just finished reading the book. Love your writing, especially the marvelous sense of *place* you invoke, and am eagerly following your life story... just like the 1000s of others reading this. Sorry that I'm not saying anything original, and mayhaps I'll comment more, if I don't feel that I'd just add clutter to all the comment-heavy posts!


January 25, 2010 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

So you DO live near the Battenkill, AND you have your own little trout stream too :>) If everything works out ;>) CAF Trout Stock and fall photography2010!!!

January 25, 2010 at 10:18 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

"looks like the spine of a dead rotting chicken. Everything is bare and ugly and black and brown."

Much like Anon, my place here in Texas looks like that ALL WINTER too. It's really awful. It truly looks like hell for months.

Maybe you can rent the Foothold for awhile whilst doing the winterizing, and then buy? That might help to spread out the expense. Or, if they really want to sell, perhaps they'd be willing to make some sort of concessions for the work?

January 25, 2010 at 10:36 PM  
Blogger Denise said...

Be sure you get something in writing if you do the rent to own thing. They could always kick you out after you have done all the work for them. Not saying they would but they could. And actually if they are determined to sell it then THEY would have to winterize it in order for you to buy it not you and the bank is not going to lend you money to fix a house legally belonging to someone else.

Glad to hear you got another writing job! Good luck!

January 25, 2010 at 11:32 PM  
Blogger Joleen said...

The writing job is another small step toward the total self-sustainability and independence you're striving for and dreaming of. You'll make it. I know it.

January 26, 2010 at 12:08 AM  
Blogger Rachel B. said...

Yeah, where I live, yesterday seemed like a child that wandered away from his mother; miserable and lonely. There was a reason why I didn't want to get up and do anything. today day seems like a more promising day. What shall I do? Fix my lamp, paint my ceiling, fix my closet, finish getting my room organized yet again? The possibilities are endless.
Foothold seems like a wonderful place. Maybe Foothold might not be your forever home. Perhaps the meaning of Foothold to you is gaining a foothold in the area. Either way, you're meant to stay. Don't loose hope!

January 26, 2010 at 7:51 AM  
Blogger Debbie said...

It was rainy here, OH, too. But the snow is back and will be here all week. Although I'm not one for cold, anymore, if it's going to be cold, it may as well be white.
Praying for a home for you and the animals real soon.

January 26, 2010 at 8:03 AM  
Blogger RayMan said...

Pay attinetion to the post by "Denise"!
BEFORE you agree to rent, rent with option to buy, lease or buy --have the place inspected by a certified and proffesional real estate inspector. Then, LISTEN to their appraisal (as to the worthiness) of the property. Take into consideration their recommendatiions as well as the cost of completing things like: heating system that can withstand a New England 100 year winter; heating cost?; quantity of wall and ceiling insulation?; indoor plumbing?; sewrage/septic?; size/strenghth/age of electrical service?; drainage on lot; water damages?
Then, determine who will be responsible for making these "improvements" (in writting, of course).
Then determine if you can afford the financial responsibility for the whole-kit-and-kaboodle.
If the answers are ALL "yes", close your eyes, sign all of the paperwork in a gazillion places, take a deep breath and take the (congratulatiions) keys!

January 26, 2010 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger Lynnanne said...

Congrats on the new writing gig!!

January 26, 2010 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

We've had lots of rain here, too, and now sun today. I prefer winter to be winter, but soaking in some sun amidst cold breezes is also welcome. Congratulation on your new writing opportunity. Good luck with all the other details -- I really hope things work out for the best.

January 26, 2010 at 11:55 AM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

I would think it's the responsibility of the seller to make any changes needed for a sale.

January 26, 2010 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Congratulations on the writing job! That's gotta help.

Don't forget about the FHA's 203(k) loan program. It allows buyer's to buy homes that need fixing up by backing the loan for regular mortgage companies to lend you money for the purchase of the property and to fix it up. It also allows for financing ninety-seven percent of the loan, which would help you get in. I bought my first house with a 203(k) loan, Jenna. I paid $70K for the house, mortgaged it for $85, and sold it nine years later for $235K. I got very lucky, both in terms of finding a house for that price and selling it before the bubble burst, but it does illustrate that you can buy this house even if it needs fixing up with an FHA-underwritten loan. There are lots of FHA lenders out there- you can ask your local bank if they do them, or you can find a lender online. Here is a link for the information from

Good luck!!

January 26, 2010 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Yep, that's about as beautiful as it gets mid-winter. It's exactly what happened in Minnesota last week. Rain and mud and blech. The worst of it? That tease of spring in the 38-degree air. Makes today's 2-degree high and -30 windchill even harder to bear.

Take up thy fiddle, my child. It may not be a banjo, but its music will soothe what the weather cannot.

January 26, 2010 at 2:43 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

Our weather conditions exactly Jenna. It does give you a little rest from the continual lugging of wood in ashes out and filling the stove at 3AM. Also gave my frozen pipes a chance to let go too!
Am rooting for you - and checking back in often to see what comes next. Being in the final stages of becoming debtfree, as a very low and fixed income pensioner, I know how hard it is but how good it feels too.Best wishes.
Janet in beautiful rural Nova Scotia

January 26, 2010 at 5:20 PM  
Blogger Penny said...

Another wtiting job + more $$$ = a big Yay!!
Good for you!!

From gray IN where it has stopped raining and is snowing instead.

January 26, 2010 at 5:43 PM  
Anonymous louis c said...

Good to hear you paid off your credit cards, but I hope you didn't close the accounts. That could actually hurt your credit score. Having credit capacity which you are not using boosts your score, so if you have accounts in good standing, don't close them.

Your other goal should be to accumulate as much cash as possible. Therefore, you have to get the landlord to make the winterizing improvements, even if that would raise the purchase price of the house. For example, it would be better to have 20K to put down on a 110K house, than only 10K on a 100K house. Rent-to-own if the owner makes improvements could work, but the devil is in the details! Be careful!

January 26, 2010 at 8:22 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Don't rule out using a credit union that does "in-house" mortgages or an independent underwriter like Churchill Mortgage. They don't base their loans solely on credit scores.

We used a credit union when we purchased our first home after FHA turned us down (husband self-employed, low credit score). FHA turning us down was a blessing in disguise. The credit union loan was at a lower interest rate and was for 12 years. Loan was only $100 more a month and when we sold it 8-years later it was nearly paid off.

January 26, 2010 at 8:30 PM  
Anonymous Annie said...

I think the most important advice I could give you as someone who has bought a few pieces of real estate in my time is this: Be willing to walk away from it.

Even if it seems great, if there are too many things to do that are too expensive, it is better to pass. One thing you will find is that there will always be another property along in a week or a month or so.

The sad state of the economy can work in your favor as there are likely to be more places coming on the market at affordable prices in the coming year. While moving is a bitch, you'd be better off to rent for a while and get a great place down the road than a white elephant now that will weigh you down for years.

January 27, 2010 at 6:33 AM  
Anonymous Morgan G said...

Ah! Jenna! The Bark is tops when it comes to dog magazines. We love it in our house and I am really looking forward to enjoying more of your writing in it throughout 2010. Congratulations!

January 27, 2010 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Keep the faith, you are so close, maybe not exactly as you can see from your present vantage point, but maybe something beyond your dreams! Keep working hard, you'll doing fine.

January 28, 2010 at 2:59 AM  
Blogger LoKel Arts said...

Hi Jenna, have you ever thought about buying some land and putting a yurt in? Just a thought, I know they are a temporary home but at least it would get you into some land. I know to buy a house with land can be a daunting amount of money but if you bought the land and then placed a yurt down it wouldn't be so bad. Just think, a winterized yurt, new is about $30k (and that is maxing out on every option possible)... just an idea... Good luck!

January 29, 2010 at 6:05 PM  
Blogger Erika said...

Keep your hopes up about buying! We had one hell of a hard time last year and I was so stubborn and just knew it could be done, so I didn't give up. I ended up finding the perfect house for us, and the stars aligned and we got it. Literally, every month when I pay my mortgage I thank the universe because for many months I was convinced we'd be renters for a very, very long time.

January 29, 2010 at 9:47 PM  

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