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Merry Yuletide!

It is another brilliantly sunny day down here at Flood Central in Vernonia. Lee and I had a quiet Christmas, just the two of us, in the little RV by the river, and are settling in for another such day. It is cold enough that the water in the hose to the RV has frozen (again), so we are running off the water in our reserve tank. That's okay -- we got used to that during the couple of weeks of arctic temperatures we had earlier, so we have bottled water to drink and cook with. (Dealing with a frozen holding tank was more problematic -- thank goodness that has finally thawed and been successfully emptied! That experience has contributed to the piece on home sanitation that I plan to post here, hopefully in the not-to-distant future.)

One could hardly ask for a more beautiful day. There was hoarfrost all around earlier, although that has melted now. We had a light dusting of snow a few days ago -- gorgeous in the sun!

We decided we needed to stay here and work on things we need to do to buy our new home, rather than venture out to visit family and friends on Christmas. Requirements for getting a mortgage loan are much stiffer and more complicated than they used to be, and we need to do the onerous but necessary hoop-jumping. We don't anticipate any problems, but it is a fair amount of work.

We did our all night Yule Vigil at Scott's and Shannon's home this year. We had hoped to spend part of the night Vigiling with Ross and Diane at Amity House, but when the time came, it didn't work out. We missed seeing Ross and Diane -- they are good friends, and valued confidantes.

This is the first time we have not done our Vigil in our own home, inviting friends over. Less work, I must admit! And fun, with plenty of home-made eggnog for all, candles, decking the halls, letting go the old and greeting the new, exchanging gifts, sharing, and finding ways to help each other stay awake through the night until we could mid-wife the birth of the new Solstice Sun at sunrise. After which, we slept like corpses, as usual.

I look forward to being able to celebrate Yule at Haven. (This reminds me of the importance of tradition-building to community-building, another good topic for a post.)

This Sunday (unless we hear otherwise from our realtor) we will be taking Scott and Shannon to view a property just 3 or so miles south of here. Scott and Shannon, as previously noted, are our friends who will likely be sharing land with us, at least temporarily and perhaps permanently. The property is one of the two current top choices. It is an 11 acre place officially composed of three tax lots, with a manufactured home and a nice, if small A-frame cottage on it, along with several outbuildings. Beaver Creek runs through it -- a beautiful, all-season stream that is designated a winter steelhead stream by the county. The Banks-Vernonia Trail Linear State Park also runs through the northeast corner of the property and forms the boundary along the rest of the eastern border. The property is lightly wooded with some clearing in the south, where the buildings and more developed parts are, and more wild toward the north. It is beautiful. The woman who owns it has been there for 23 years, but has had a couple of head injuries related to falls due to conjestive heart failure, so she can no longer take care of the place.

The other property we are considering is a 9-acre place just south of Gaston in Yamhill county. It is more open, being cultivated farmland with a 1920's farmhouse, a barn, a chicken coop that Lee would like to convert to a smithy, and an old fruit and vegetable stand. According to at least one map, there is a small stream crossing the south corner of the property, but we have not yet been able to find it, and so suspect it is only an occasional stream. There are stands of Douglas Fir and a beautiful Redwood by the house, with oaks in the ravine where the creek is supposed to be. The lot is roughly triangular, with the curve of Hwy 47 on the east border, and a winery as next door neighbor to the northwest. The ravine is along the south side. The property slopes upward from Hwy 47 to a high point where the south and northwest borders come together in a copse of fir trees. The territorial view is wonderful. This property is bank-owned, and vacant. It has been for sale for a long time, and rumor has it that it may go to auction in January.

Each of these properties has different advantages and disadvantages, and more to investigate. We are in the process of putting together all the documentation we need to get pre-qualified for a loan, so we are not able to make a realistic offer on any property as yet -- frustrating! (Of course, upon hearing of the auction, the fantasy arose of bidding what we have already in cash down payment... Buying a property outright without a loan is such a lovely fantasy!)

There are so many things to consider when choosing land for Haven -- the place where we intend to build increasingly self-sufficient, energy efficient, sustainable, fulfilling and community-connected lives in this changing world. Each property that might successfully grow Haven, will grow a Haven with a somewhat different face. It can be hard to choose between those different, beautiful faces.


In the meantime, we are coping with limited space in the Itasca (yes, it is possible for two adults and a Scottish Deerhound to live together in a 1984 21' Itasca Phasar RV!) And we are enjoying the small town of Vernonia. Vernonia has had two 100-year floods in the past decade and can properly be described as a "volunteer town". People here volunteer, and pull together wonderfully to get through the climate challenges nature throws their way. I love their attitude -- the local hardware store sports a large sign saying:

"MOTHER NATURE

ARE YOU READY TO RUMBLE?

VERNONIA 2009"


They have a disaster response team, and shelters and such all tested and ready to go. We are told that we will have at least five hours warning of a flood, which will give us time to get out of the park to higher ground.

In 2008, during the last flood, the Red Cross came in from outside, walked into the town shelter and disaster response control center, and declared that they were taking over. The townspeople and their disaster team begged to differ, and the Red Cross officials told them they had no choice, that the Red Cross was in charge from now on.

The Vernonians showed them the door, and escorted them out -- and proceeded to do a fine job dealing with the situation themselves. I approve. Sometimes big organizations just get to be too big (and arrogant!) for their britches!

The folk of Vernonia also have a long-term plan to mitigate the impact of floods (moving homes out of flood plains, making changes to the course of the flood waters, etc.) that is far-sighted and practical. Just dealing with the immediate emergency would not be sufficient.

Of course, Lee and I (despite the fact that we have chosen to locate the RV in Flood Central temporarily) are being very careful to avoid buying land that is likely to flood. Flooding is just not a good situation for any home -- including cob homes.

Vernonia certainly shows promise as a town to live near. We have just barely begun to investigate Gaston -- so far we know Gaston has a quite acceptable grocery market, with good beer, among other things.

It will be very good to finally get our new home and begin building Haven and settling in. Thank goodness we have this little RV for the interim! But we are both eager for the next step.

In the meantime, tax prep continues, and several new posts are planned or partially written.

May your holy days be bright and blessed!

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