Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Appraisal approved.
Loan submitted.
Hoping to sign documents Friday
(if all the stars align).
Monday "at the latest."
Plumbing repairs in the barn still have not been done.

And the horses? 
They're waiting too.
Waiting in paradise.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Almost Out of the Woods

Yesterday, we were very close to walking away from this house.  Brett had even set up time to go look at another property we thought had potential.  This morning, the seller agreed to meet us half way and to fix the plumbing in the barn (there is no water there now).  Now we just have to get the loan done.  This little house (seen from the barn) has been a heck of a journey.  -- and it isn't over yet.

The rest of the process should be a slam-dunk.  Should.  Don't uncross your fingers yet.  With any luck, the house will be in our hot little hands next week.

Winston is bored out of his mind.  He wants to be worked.  He follows me around the pasture trying to dump the muck cart when my back is turned.

Brett fills the water trough; Winston dumps it.  Brett gets hay to feed; Winston dumps the feeder.

Last weekend I hand walked him around the dressage court.  His energy came up and he marched along in a happy way.  I'm dying to ride him and he's dying to be ridden.

One of these days, Winston.  One of these days, real soon.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Living the Good Life

While Brett and I are hanging in limbo waiting for resolution on the purchase of Oak Creek Ranch, the horses are living the good life.

Even Jackson.  I wasn't sure if Jackson would survive the trip up here.  His health is fragile; he suffers from insulin resistance which has caused laminitis and he is prone to ulcers.  Our farrier didn't think his feet could handle the eleven hour trailer ride from Aspen Meadows to Oak Creek.  He doesn't like being away from home so I was afraid his ulcers would flare up.  Even in his safe and comfortable herd life at Aspen Meadows, he was on medication for the IR and his manure was always a bit sloppy.  His hind legs and tail were consistently gross.

Before leaving Aspen Meadows, Brett dosed him for a few days with GastroGuard for the ulcers.  He bedded the trailer extra deep with shavings and gave Jackson a few grams of bute (horse aspirin) before loading him up.

He unloaded from the trailer sound and has stayed that way ever since his arrival.  He is thriving on a diet of hay and dry grass.  He is refusing his meds but he doesn't seem to need them.  His poop has never looked so good.  And his hind legs?  Spotless!

Horses' digestive systems are not designed for three square meals.  They are designed to process little bits of food all day long.  Even though the grass is not nutritious at all, it is keeping something in his gut all day long.

This last photo is for Lori and Moon.  We saw this mini being driven through downtown Placerville yesterday.

Friday, July 26, 2013

We Are Not Alone

The appraisal came back -- waaaaay under the agreed upon selling price. Holy crap. Our choices are:
1) walk away from the property
2) pay the entire difference ($50K that we don't have)
3) split the difference with the seller
4) offer to pay the appraised price

On the face of it, number 4 seems like the most logical choice but it isn't. The property is worth the agreed upon price. We have asked the seller to split the difference with us. If all else fails, we will modify our loan. We want the property and if we walk the chances are good the same thing will happen again on the next property we find.

65% of escrows in California fail for this very reason.

In 2008 after the housing collapse, the rules were changed. Instead of lenders being able to use local appraisers with proven track records, the government mandated an arms length relationship (which makes sense). Implementation created a third party appraisal company. 25,000 qualified and experienced California appraisers were put out of work. The third party company staffed up with inexperienced (and cheap) appraisers.

Now, a lender sends a request for an appraisal to the company. They have a rotating list of appraisals and offer the job to the next name on the list, regardless of geography. This explains why the first appraisal was done by someone 50 miles away. The price of appraisals also went up (someone has to pay for that middleman). In rural areas, the price went up by more than 25%.

So, here we sit with lots of other folks at the mercy of inexperienced appraisers who don't understand rural properties. We are frustrated beyond belief; living in a hotel, the dogs in a kennel (yes, TexWisGirl, it is killing us), not able to ride, and not able to move forward with our lives.

And, not alone.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Holding Our Breath

Its not over yet. The appraisal was due to our lender yesterday. It hasn't arrived yet. We are concerned that the appraiser is having difficulty finding comparable properties. There were a number of "issues" with the last appraisal, we are worried that they will surface again. The appraisal is what the purchase of Oak Creek hinges upon and it is what derailed the last deal.

In the meantime, my allotted time in corporate housing expired so yesterday Brett and I moved from the apartment in downtown Sacramento to a residence hotel in Folsom. It is midway between my office and the property. It is quiet at night -- no more trash trucks, emergency vehicles, banging trash cans and late night revelers outside the window. The hotel room kitchen consists of a microwave and a refrigerator so I won't be cooking much. We have maid service though so that more than evens things out in my mind. We will survive in our new temporary housing surrounded by boxes and bags of belongings until escrow closes.

Camille and I had a good time on our annual mother/daughter weekend.
We stayed in a tent, with real beds, in El Capitan Canyon north of Santa Barbara.

We hiked;

We played cards and roasted marshmallows for S'Mores;

We talked and laughed. We listened to rain tapping on our tent at night. Then we drove seven hours back to Oak Creek.

We had no Wi-Fi in our tent and the Wi-Fi in the apartment stopped working. --another benefit of hotel living: Wi-Fi that works so I can talk to all of you.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Close Encounters of the Unwelcome Kind

We are back on track and feeling optimistic about Oak Creek ranch. Our loan was submitted last week. Clean. The new appraisal is scheduled for Monday (fingers crossed) and the seller has scheduled the barn repairs to be completed next week.

While Camille and I are bonding in Santa Barbara; sleeping in a tent, hiking, roasting marshmallows and enjoying the coastal weather, poor Brett is roasting in a Sacramento heat wave, mucking, swatting at flies and sweating buckets. It's really not fair.

Today Brett told me that he did the morning chores and then moved some boxes from the apartment to storage. As he drove back up to Oak Creek he saw two unfamiliar cars and a boatload of people on the property. They had unlatched the gate, driven in, and closed it behind them. They were casually wandering around the property, swinging on the swing and generally making themselves at home. They asked Brett if he was the agent for the property. Brett said "no, I'm buying the property. We close next week." (Okay slight exaggeration). They didn't apologize for trespassing, as they wandered amongst our stuff. The property does not look vacant. The horse trailer, tractor and other equipment are there. They asked who owned the horses -- "the horses were so sweet when we were petting them." Grrrrrr.

They asked a million questions and said they wanted to make a back-up offer. They never did show the least concern about barging onto the property without an invitation or appointment. People!

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Just an Update

Monday, we received the final answer: "no, we will not underwrite your property with the big barn." So, I met with a new lender and ... here we go again, gathering documents and signing papers. The new lender read the appraisal report and didn't see why it was rejected. A new appraisal will be done, a new loan drafted and it will all hopefully be approved by the end of July. This lender writes loans for large equestrian properties in the Sacramento area. Our property is peanuts, easy-peasy to them.

In the meantime, the seller does not want to rent to us. I've rescheduled the delivery of our furniture for August. We may live in a hotel for while after my corporate housing time is up.

Keep your fingers crossed that it goes smoothly this time. The seller is, understandably, a bit pissy about the whole thing.

I'm feeling very tired.

I will be spending next weekend in Santa Barbara with Camille. Its our annual mother/daughter weekend. I'll take pictures to share but I'm not sure that there will be wi-fi in our tent. :)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, July 15, 2013

Finding The Arena

Sunday, we were back at Oak Creek Ranch.  Brett's friend Marty helped get the tractor unloaded and then he and Brett got the box scraper attached.  Even though the sun was high and blazing down without mercy, Marty and I knew that Brett was going to use the tractor for something.  He didn't haul it all the way up from Aspen Meadows to have it sit in the barn.

The warm up arena is full of weeds.

Brett went around and around, scraping up the weeds.  Marty and I threw the weeds into a cart and dumped them outside the arena.

After a few times around, the base sand made an appearance.  It started to look like an arena again.

Brett made good progress and I expect he'll keep working on it this week.  Having Marty up was great.  He kept Brett company and they took turns driving.  He helped load the tractor and its attachments.  He helped unload the tractor and the attachments.  Brett drove him to the airport Sunday afternoon while I finished up the chores.  Thanks Marty!!  You're the best!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Things Always Look Better in the Morning

Last Friday night, after hearing that the underwriter and appraiser couldn't reach agreement on the value of Oak Creek, I drove out to feed the horses in a fog.  Brett was down in LA to make the last trailer run -- picking up his tractor -- so I was alone in the apartment.  I had a few glasses of wine, a handful of pretzels, and then took my sorry body to bed.

Saturday morning, I drove out early to feed.  The sun was up but not yet hot.  I topped off the water troughs, threw hay into the donkey pasture for all of them, and then spent a couple hours picking up manure.

The phone company guy showed up to turn on our phone service.  We can't get in the house, but there is a phone in the barn.  I called Brett, as he and his friend Marty drove up, and it worked.  Hot dog!  Cell service is hit and miss at the property so having a reliable phone is a good news.

I worked on taking the hot wire off of the goat area.  There is hot wire everywhere.  Everywhere.  We are not into hot wire so we are gradually taking it down.  So far, Brett has taken it off of the donkey pasture and I've taken it off of the goat area and part of the clover pasture.

After eating my tomato and cucumber sandwich and downing another bottle of water, I decided to put the horses in the clover pasture.  The horses and donkeys have eaten most of the weeds in the donkey pasture.  The clover pasture is about twice the size of the donkey pasture and gets some afternoon shade.

The pasture is bordered on one side by the driveway (above) and on another by the road.  I knew Brett would see the horses when he drove in around 5:00.

When Brett and Marty turned up the driveway, we were all there to meet them.  The horses ambled over to the fence and I ambled down the driveway.  Brett's eyes looked suspiciously misty.

Tomorrow, we will do what needs to be done.  We may need a new lender and this process may take a lot longer than we expected.  We are going to approach the owner about renting until escrow closes.  He's been very generous with giving us access.  It seems only fair that we pay him for using the property since its going to take more than a day or two to close.  It would also be nice to have access to the house (and the toilet).

Friday, July 12, 2013

Crash and Smolder

I don't burn hot. I smolder and smoke, throwing up an occasional piece of ash. As a teenager, I had quite a bit of fire but over the years I've learned to tamp it down. Right now, I feel like cold ashes in the fire pit. All week I've kept a steady burn, pushing the lender to make a decision so we could close escrow.

This morning, Mr. Bill (the lender) called me and said that he was still having trouble with the appraiser and underwriter. The underwriter questioned the appraisal; specifically the value of the barn and the lack of local comparisons. The appraiser was offended and defensive. A battle of egos evolved with neither one willing to give ground. Mr. Bill scheduled a conference call with the two of them in another attempt to resolve the issue.

As I was driving out to the property after work to feed, he called with an update. The call did not go well. The egos refused to give. The details are pretty silly. We've lost a week and a half trying to negotiate a path to reasonable. It looks like we will be getting a new lender Monday. Some of the file can be transferred but much of the process, including getting another appraisal, will be repeated.

On a brighter note, thanks to my followers who helped me identify the mystery flowering shrub. It goes by two common names, depending on where you call home: St. John's Wort or Rose of Sharon. I'm partial to the second name. I'd rather picture a smiling Sharon with a cheerful yellow flower in her hair than a stern St. John with a wart on his nose.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Oak Creek Flowers

There is a dense hedge of yellow flowers spilling out of a planter along the sides of the house. I have no idea what they are but I like them a lot. Can any of you help me with identification?

There are also roses growing up out of the yellow and green mound; hugging the front steps. Again, I don't know the variety but they are very fragrant which is the most important trait (for me) in a rose.

We're still waiting to hear from the lender. They appear to be okay with the residential delineation and are now focused on finding comparable properties, close by, to determine its value. Sheesh. And, there is no ETA on when they will finish. I had to laugh at all of the comments about me being calm. Camille called me today to see how I was doing. We talked the other day and she said she had never, NEVER heard me so stressed -- which stressed her out in turn. I think I'll be bald when this is over. I don't jump up and down screaming or crying. I glare at my computer screen and get migraines.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hail, Hail, The Gangs All Here

Tuesday Brett hauled the horses up from Aspen Meadows.  I had an appointment with the surgeon to discuss my gallbladder (surgery in August) and then headed out to Oak Creek to help Brett unload the horses.  He didn't really need my help, but I didn't want to miss the happy herd reunion.  The horses loaded up easily for him and he was on the road before 5am.

While I was waiting, I heard from our realtor that Sedona and Kersey had barked all night long and the neighbors complained.  We weren't really surprised.  The dogs are used to sleeping in our room at night and when they are outside, in a strange place, they bark.  I called the local vet clinic and got the name of a kennel.  The dogs can't stay with us in the apartment and they can't keep disturbing the neighbors.  The kennel required proof of up-to-date vaccinations, rabies and kennel cough.  The records for the dogs are packed and gone with the moving truck.  They were due for shots so I went ahead and made an appointment for later that afternoon.

After making reservations at the boarding school for dogs, I opened my Kindle.  Before I finished the chapter, I heard a truck pull up the driveway.

Brett pulled in front of the barn.  The horses all had their noses to the grill, taking in the ranch.  They were loaded in herd order: Flash, Winston, Mufasa and Jackson.

We thought they might misbehave when they were unloaded.  Eleven hours is a long time to be in a trailer.  Jackson came off first.  He walked off calmly and then dropped his head to sample the dry grass.  As I lead him to the pasture, Tuffy charged the fence with his big ears happy and excited.  Jackson startled and then smiled.  I put him in the pasture and he got to work on that grass.

Mufasa was a bit high headed when he came off the trailer next.  But, he's the newest member of the herd and he's been moved around a lot in the last few years.  He probably wondered if he'd been sold yet again.  Winston and Flash walked calmly to the pasture.  They headed out to the shade of the big oak tree.

Flash decided that they all needed to do a victory lap.  Or two.  Look at Jackson (the grey) getting into the action despite his laminitis.  He traveled really well.  I am so relieved.

We left the horses to settle while we took the dogs to the vet and then to the kennel.  They have a big area to share and, since they have good social skills, will spend the day playing with the rest of the dogs in a big play area.  Back at the ranch, Brett got the horses hay and I topped off everyone's water.  The goats have created a nice area in one corner of their area.  Slowly they are eating all the weeds.  It already looks much better in their area - this corner especially.

Please keep your fingers crossed for us on completing the purchase of the house.  We have hit a snafu -- the lender is convinced that the property is commercial, not residential, because there was a riding school there at one time and because the barn is so nice.  We are having a heck of a time convincing them that we are not going to run a business and that the property is in a rural residential area.  This bank only underwrites residential loans, in cookie cutter suburbs, and doesn't understand rural at all.  Had we known that, we wouldn't have gone with them but its too late now.  So we are hoping that they don't say "no" - forcing us to start the process all over again. We were supposed to close Tuesday.  Didn't happen.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Checking Out the Neighborhood

Sunday morning, Brett and I drove from my apartment in downtown Sacramento out to Oak Creek Ranch to feed the donkeys, goats and dogs.  It's a good hour from the apartment to the ranch.  Brett was leaving in the afternoon to go back to Aspen Meadows.  The moving truck was coming Monday and he needed to be there for that.  Today, he drove back up with the horses.  The new owners take possession of Aspen Meadows today as well.  I hope they enjoy it there as much as we have.  Yesterday and today, I've been driving out to the ranch before work to feed and then back out again after work.  It makes for long days, but I'm not complaining.

Sunday morning, we fed and then worked on the place until Brett decided to hit the road.  We won't own the ranch until sometime this week so we just have access to the barn.  Brett fixed the goat fence and weed whacked a path to their gate.  I swept the barn aisle and set up the feed room.  Passage looked out the window at her new world.  So many varmits to hunt!

In a few days, we'll let her start exploring the rest of the barn.  We want her to feel comfortable and safe in her new feed room first.

The dogs did a thorough check of the property line in the morning.

Sedona takes her patrol seriously.  Kersey follows her, happy to be doing anything, smiling at the world with all her might.

After Brett left, I ran some errands and then read my Kindle on the porch swing.  I let the dogs back out to run around while I read.  They blew past the porch a few times, checked out the dry creek bed, and then it got very quiet.  Too quiet.  I looked up from my book and there was a dog the same color and size as Sedona, walking down the lane toward our driveway.  I walked down to the road and she walked over to me.  Following behind, a good distance back, was Kersey and a grey haired woman.  Sedona rested at my feet, hot and tired, while the neighbor told me she had found Kersey swimming in her pool.  Kersey was drenched -- and happy.  I put the dogs back in their dog run and found a gate that someone had opened in one of the pastures.  I latched it back shut, topped off everyone's water, fed the dogs and headed back to the apartment.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Little Bear's Adventure

Once we had the donkeys loaded on Saturday morning, we closed the partition and set up the back half of the trailer for the goats.  We put hay in their feeder (strapped in front of the partition) and put down a thick layer of shavings.  We loaded Bear and Thistle first since, as usual, they were mobbing us for attention.  Whiskey went in next and then I chased Cowboy around for a good little while before cornering him in the goat shed.  We tumbled him into the trailer with the others, closed the door and Brett headed out the gate.

I climbed into the Subaru with the cat, in her carrier, next to me on the passenger seat and the dogs in the very back.  Sedona was relaxing on the bed we put back there while Kersey took in the sights.  Sedona is eleven so she's been there, done that.  Kersey is three going on one.  She actually growled at a semi that got too close to us at one point.  The rabbits went to a new home at the last minute with some little kids who are excited to have them so they did not make the journey with us afterall.

We stopped a few times on the way up and the animals were all doing great: calm, quiet, and relaxed.  At the last stop we made for gas, I noticed that Little Bear was laying down, wedged between the feeder and the partition.  His head was under the feeder and he wasn't moving.  I climbed into the back and checked on him -- he was fine, just taking a nap.

We pulled into Oak Creek Ranch at dusk and parked.  We opened the back door to get the goats out and there were only three.  I peeked over the top of the partition and there was Little Bear on the donkey side.  He had pushed himself into a corner, behind the donkey's hay bag, and was shaking.  The donkeys were looking at him with mild interest.  Fortunately, he was laying against the trailer escape door so we opened that and slid him out.  Brett walked him to the goat area and I followed with Thistle.  Bear, who adores Brett, was walking with his shoulder at Brett's leg.  Every few steps he would lean into Brett's leg and then wag his tail.

The goats, like the donkeys, are loving their new pasture.  It is full of grass and weeds and berry bushes.  A real goat parardise.

Sunday morning, I discovered Bear outside the goat area.  He had copied the deer who push on a weak part of the fence and slip under.  Bear followed me to the gate and happily went back inside with the rest of the herd.  I dragged Brett over to see if he could reinforce the fence (of course he could).  Bear saw Brett, made a bee-line for the weak spot, and in a blink of an eye was back out loving all over Brett.

We made a visit to the hardware store down the street and Brett fixed the fence.  No more jail breaks for Bear.  I wasn't able to get any pictures of the rascal.  He was constantly in my face, nibbling on my elbow, or otherwise too close to the camera.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Donkey in Paradise

Living in Paradise is easy;
It's the getting there that's hard.

We parked the trailer in the pasture the evening before we left
so the donkeys could get used to it.
They haven't been in a trailer since they were babies;
a long time ago.

Saturday morning dawned cloudy and sticky warm.

Winston wasn't sure what the trailer was doing in the pasture.

I put halters on the donkeys and fetched their lead ropes.

We loaded Tuffy first.  He's the spitfire, in your face donkey.
If you've seen the movie Shrek, you've met Tuffy.
To our amazement, he went right in.
Finessa, our sweet, docile, shy donkey who is addressed most often with "darling" or "sweetheart,"
wasn't having anything to do with the trailer.
We tried pushing,
we tried pulling,
we tried smacking her on the butt, 
and we tried a rope looped around her haunches.
She weighs close to 300 pounds so we couldn't lift her in.
I sat on the edge of the trailer floor with Tuffy behind me,
in the trailer,
and Finessa in front of me with a sweet look on her face
and her feet planted.
Two hours later, she was loaded.
I think she got tired of the battle.

We closed the partition 
and the donkeys traveled first class
with a deep bed of shavings and hay,
and plenty of room to move around. 
The goats were in the area behind them.

Because Finessa took so long to load,
we didn't leave until almost 10am.
We arrived at Oak Creek Ranch at 7:30 pm.
I snapped their lead ropes on and walked them to the back of the trailer.
They looked over the ledge and jumped down.
Finessa took a giant leap forward and out.
Then they walked calmly to their new pasture
and dug in.
This morning when we got there to feed,
Tuffy and Finessa were hanging out at the back of the pasture,
under the big oak tree.
Can you see them way out there?

They are loving life.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Goats and Donkeys, Oh My!

As you are reading this, we are driving up from Aspen Meadows to Oak Creek Ranch with the first load of critters.  Brett is pulling the horse trailer with the donkeys in the front half and the goats in the back.  We parked the trailer in the pasture last night with the donkeys and I scattered hay inside.  Hopefully, that made loading in the morning easier.  I'll let you know how it went.  Behind Brett, I'll be driving the Subaru.  In the back are the dogs, Kersey and Sedona.  On the front seat in her cozy cat carrier is Passage.  On the floor, Sage and Basil in their rabbit carriers.

Thursday, I checked the goat area to make sure the fence was secure.  The goats are going to have plenty of shrubby growth to nibble on.

The goats have a way cool shelter.  We will be putting dog house igloos inside so they have a cozy place to sleep, but isn't this a great set up for them?

The donkeys will go into their own large pasture.  In the winter and spring a creek runs through it and there is a pond.  I've heard that the pond is popular with geese.  The horses will go in the same pasture until the fences in their pasture have been mended.

We're on our way!