Thursday, January 31, 2013

In Escrow

I know better than to say anything is official when it comes to selling a house but we’re getting very close.  We received an offer we liked and the potential buyer was okay with our counter offer so we’re plowing forward with the sale.  Officially we are in escrow.  Of course, several things could still happen that would put us all back at square one.  One of those things is the pest inspection scheduled for this weekend.  I am grateful that dandelions and palm seedlings don’t qualify as pests in this case.  Another hurdle is the appraisal.  If the house doesn’t appraise for the amount we accepted the buyer would not be able to secure the full funding. 

Columbines from last March

As part of the negotiations the buyers asked that we leave our wall mounts for our TVs.  At first I thought that was a strange request but it makes sense.  If we were to take those with us there would be gaping holes in the walls that would need to be patched and repainted.  And really, taking a TV mount would be tantamount (see what I did there?) to taking your curtain rods.  Curiosity drove me to Google which revealed that this request is actually pretty common.  In fact, I got off pretty easy.  In some cases, if your flat-screen TV is attached to the wall mount and requires a tool to remove it, the buyer may have the right to your TV too.

Our weeping cherry was in bloom at the end of March in 2012.  I hope it is again this year.

On our end of the negotiations we asked for an extra month to rent back our house.  This will serve a couple purposes: it will give us a little breathing room and allow us more time to find a house we like that isn’t in foreclosure or isn’t an active short sale (because those can take 6 months give or take).  It will also give me a chance to enjoy one more spring in my garden.  We estimate that we will be fully moved out before April 1st.  Spring in Sacramento generally arrives in early March.  I am thankful for this because right now the garden looks pretty bleak and I’d prefer to leave it on a good note.

An Iris on April 1st

It also gives me some time to figure out how I’m going to move all my potted plants.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

In Limbo

I'm such a cliche. I am composing this post from a chair inside a Starbucks on my iPad. You see, I have been forced out of my house once again while potential buyers walk through it. It's better without me there because they don't need me watching them any more than I want to hear what they have to say about our house.

In the meantime, my gardening life is more or less on hold. There are a few things I've been doing outside just to keep things looking good. I finally ripped out the petunias that were still in bloom and and replanted a couple matching boxes flanking our front door with a type of heavenly bamboo called 'Moon Bay'. But that took less than 20 minutes last weekend and just left me wishing I could do more.

But what's the point in spending more money on plants that I won't get to watch grow this year?

On the other hand, as we scan the internet and go to open houses that are kicking other people out of their homes, I find myself wondering what I could do if I ended up with that big back yard with the funky tree or the small backyard with the covered patio. It is at once a pleasure to dream about and a pain that dreaming is all I can do.

I'm sure it is a feeling that anyone that has ever received a seed catalogue in the middle of winter can relate to. Especially if you are not an indoor seed-starter. But right now I don't even know which seeds I could order. Will I have a full sun backyard with raised beds already built and ready to go? Or will I end up with a shady respite from Sacramento's brutal summer sun?

No matter where we end up (or when we end up there) I trust that it will be a place where I will learn new things about gardening, where I will be forced to get creative to find solutions, and where I will remember, once again, that all gardening is local - even when you move just a few miles away.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Four Cars and a Chainsaw

I have sold four cars in my life.  Each time I sold the car it was because my life had changed and I needed something different.

My first car was terrible.  Only one of the four doors opened from the outside (and it wasn’t the driver’s door).  It burned through a quart of oil every 80 miles so I always had an entire case of Penzoil in the trunk.  Within six months of owning it the alternator went out and the battery died and along with the battery my resolve to keep the car on life support died with it.  Besides, I was enrolling in college and I would be working three jobs and I needed a more reliable car to get me around – preferably one that friends wouldn’t have to slide through open windows in order to get into. 

My second car was a stick shift.  I bought it even though I didn’t know how to drive a stick because it was so much cooler than my last car.  After a couple herky-jerky hours of practice in a parking lot I thought I was ready to go.  Turns out, you don’t really know if you can drive a stick shift until you get stopped at a red light on a steep hill.  Also, as it turns out, that’s a terrible time to learn that you can’t drive a stick shift.  I kept that car all through college and after I mastered the clutch I fell in love with that car.  I took it on road trips, smoked cigars in it, discovered great music in it, had talks about Life and Love in it.  As far as cars go, it was definitely my first true love.  But then I got married and we had decided to move to my wife’s hometown in California and a car without air conditioning just wasn’t going to cut it.  So I traded that car in and almost made enough money on it to cover the cost of the new snow tires I wouldn’t need any more and the stereo I had loved so much. 

Big enough for two people.  Not quite big enough for two people, a dog, and a baby.

My third car was a pretty normal young adult car.  It was a nearly perfect compromise for that time in our life.  It was sporty looking but reliable, got respectable gas mileage but had a few unnecessary frills and it had A/C and a manual transmission (I did say I learned to love driving a stick shift).  That car served us well for several years and the air conditioning definitely helped me get used to the California heat.  But we sold that car when we found out that we were expecting a child.  You just can’t get a baby in and out of a car seat when you’re driving a low-to-the-ground 2-door.  So we bought an SUV for my wife and I got the truck I had always wanted.

Years later I’m now the one driving the SUV and my wife has a new-to-us car.  We sold the truck last weekend.  True to the pattern, life has changed again.  We have decided it is time to pack up 10-years’ worth of junk and move to a new neighborhood in a better school district because our daughter will (impossibly it seems) start school next fall.  And, frankly we never thought we’d stay in our current house as long as we have.  Now you might be wondering why on Earth I would sell a truck before moving.  I know I am.  I already miss having that thing.  The plain truth is that we didn’t need three vehicles but we did need some extra cash for down payments and real estate fees and all those other expenses that come with moving.  So I let go of the truck I drove for nearly a decade.

A small truck is a great thing for a gardener.

We are feeling cautiously optimistic.  We don’t know if our house will sell or when it might.  We don’t know if we’ll find the perfect house for the rest of our lives.  But we feel like we’re in a good position.  We don’t absolutely have to move.  We can take our time and make the right decisions for our family.  But tempering that optimism is a bit of melancholy.  This was, after all, our first house.  This is where our dog achieved his ultimate goal of becoming an inside dog.  This is where Santa has found our daughter every Christmas of her life.  This is the house we managed to furnish to our mutual liking in spite of my wife’s “denim furniture” phase.  This is the house where we figuratively and literally sank our roots.  I have cut down a bunch of burdensome trees and planted new ones that I was excited to see grow.  I have planted boxwood hedges that haven’t had a chance to fill in yet.  Just a few weeks ago I planted a hundred white tulips that might not bloom before we leave.  So, yeah, I’m a little sad to say goodbye before I’ve seen the culmination of all that effort.

One of several trees that fell under my reign here.

But if there’s one thing that selling cars and cutting down trees has taught me about life it’s that letting go of something old is the only way you can grab onto something new.