Archive for June, 2011


Naturally, our idea of a transition to Vancouver did not stop with a simple move: Melissa and I never do things by halves when we put our heads together! We began thinking of our net house as a “forever” home–a place where we will quite possibly remain for the rest of our lives or until old age forces a more assisted living scenario. We are now thinking of “buying the farm” in a near-literal sense! We want a place that has the space and flexibility to grow with us and be shaped by us, a place where the girls will build strong memories and want to visit after they’re on their own. Chicago does not seem to be that place, even though we enjoy our current home.

So that idea led to creating a home that has what we want (more on that list of specifics later). Then I ran across the concept of cordwood masonry, a kind of building that uses debarked lengths of round or split wood (like firewood) set into mortar and set end-on to the wall, rather than lengthwise as in a traditional log cabin. It creates a very beautiful, very insulated and very low-cost structure and, apparently, with a little bit of training, can be self-done by the homeowner. It uses wood that is otherwise unsuitable as milled lumber, and depending on the land, may be harvested from trees right on the the property.

Melissa and I purchased one of Rob Roy’s books on the subject, and are ordering Richard Flatau’s book and the plans for his chalet. After reading up,, we are convinced that cordwood is what we want to do, and have set on the idea of a custom, self-built cordwood masonry home. Most of the cordwood masons tend to name their homes, such as “Earthwood,” “Daycreek,” “Stonewood,” etc. For now, we are calling our dream home “Barewood,” and have named this journal to match.

At the end of this summer, in August, the family is driving out to Washington to visit my sister and seriously look around the area in preparations for putting our house on the market and starting the next phase of our lives.


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A New Chapter

A new chapter of life calls for a new journal to record it. As I write this first entry, Melissa and I have all but decided to move from Chicago to Washington state near Vancouver. This momentous decision had a very small beginning, like a tiny seed dropped into fertile soil. Now, it has grown into action. I want this journal to record the excitement, headaches, fears, and joys of this move for our future memory, so that someday our family or others can look back on the event and attach it to real people, not just names and addresses on a genealogy.

First, a little background is in order about how we came to this decision. Melissa and I have lived in Chicago for nearly sixteen years now. For the last eleven, our home has been 2735 West Jerome Street, a two-story Georgian in the neighborhood of West Rogers Park. It is a small but comfortable home, and the only one that Eleanor (7) and Amelia (4) have ever known. We are happy here, but though Melissa and I both work, money is tight and saving is nearly non-existent. We hardly live extravagantly, but we have a sizable mortgage, some credit card debt, a home equity loan, and other bills that keep us treading water rather than getting ahead. Although we have trimmed the fat from our budget, we are only surviving, and we know that one financial disaster could put us in dire straits. We know that only a radical change can substantially alter our situation for the better, too.

Last fall, my niece Lisa and her husband Ken visited. Like my sister Sherry, they live north of Vancouver in the Yacolt area, and Ken mentioned that his neighbors’ property was for sale–a four-bedroom house on acreage for about $170,000–a ridiculously low price by Chicago standards! out of curiosity, we browsed other properties and found that the going rate in Washington was so low that with the difference between what we owe on our house and the price we paid for it, we could nearly buy a house and property outright or have a monthly mortgage drastically lower than what we are paying now. Obviously, this was an attractive prospect, but we knew that there would be no work for our skill sets out there, so Vancouver was a moot point.

The very next week after Lisa’s visit, i was talking to another interpreter, when out of the blue she mentioned that her friend recently moved back to Chicago to be with his family–a friend who was also an interpreter who had been living in Vancouver and said that was plenty of work for us out there! It seems that the Washington School for the Deaf is in Vancouver, and Sorenson has a center in Portland, and there’s plenty of college and freelance work. That seemed too good to be true, so I wanted to check pay ratesĀ  between the two cities. I used a salary comparison calculator from Monster.com and learned that the average for interpreters in Vancouver was exactly the same as Chicago!

So, Melissa and I began considering a move in earnest. Besides the advantages I’ve listed above, we would be close to family, compared to zero family here. We would practically be at the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, where hiking, camping, and outdoor recreation abounds–and there’d be plenty of place to feed Melissa’s love of kayaking. Plus, we’ve been getting more into environmentally-conscious living, and gardening has become a major hobby for me. In Vancouver, we could have a garden the size of our entire Chicago lot, and go a long way toward feeding our family from it. And–at the risk of sounding doomsday alarmist–the predictions by the climatologists for the next forty years are not especially rosy, and the more self-sufficient-ish we become, the better.

Of course, the downside of moving is disconnecting from the roots and support systems we’ve developed here, but I’m sure that will be the topic of several future entries.

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