Friday, December 3, 2021

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

The wait is over, and I have so much to share with you!

We've finally got an internet connection, and I can stop inundating you with multiple postdated posts! Not only can we upload and download everything we need to do, but our daughter can also talk on Zoom, which means she can do her spring semester classes online. No eleven-hour drive to New Hampshire, just to have her secluded in her dorm room!

Can I get a WOOHOO?

Renovations are going well for the sewing room. We've painted it, and the color came out so pretty! It really brightened up the room. My husband also decided to take out the carpet and replace the flooring- and I got to choose the color! We also bought a ceiling fan to match the floor. Not everything is finished yet, but here are a couple of pictures of the walls and floor (and the beautiful new air vents too!)


Next up is new baseboards with a fresh coat of white paint. After that is the ceiling fan install and an area rug (for the rolling desk chairs), and we're done! 

Well, almost. My husband wants to build a few more bookshelves before moving everything in, but I can start creating and writing before those are installed. We plan to turn a small part of the space into a reading nook for the three of us since we became avid readers during our disconnection to the Web.

Not having internet has its benefits!

As for the propane issue, the guy never showed for the appointment. Again. After a very heated phone call (from my husband, whose fuse usually wraps the equator several times), we finally got propane the day before Thanksgiving. We were very thankful for fresh-baked bread and turkey!

We learned an important lesson concerning certain gas stations. Some fuel might be cheaper, but not good if it has enough water in it to freeze in the lines overnight. We also learned that the locals sometimes know better than the mechanics when figuring out what's wrong. Leaving the van in the garage and storing a few bottles of dry gas makes for better winter driving.

And speaking of driving, we had a sprinkling of snow the morning we went to pick up our son for the holiday week. And I get to try out the camera on my new phone!





It was the perfect snow- just enough to coat the grass and trees, but not the roads. So pretty!

Last but not least, we are now officially a company! We have our EIN number and can finally start becoming business owners. Grants, schematics, trademarking, and copyrighting- and that's before we do any renovations.

So many more changes happening; my head is spinning. In a good way!

God has taken us a mighty long way into a whole new world of business we only dreamed was possible. I can't wait to see what He does next!

I Reckon We're Wreckin'

(postdated Tuesday, November 16th, 2021)

Oh, so many changes since my last post!

First, we bought new phones instead of waiting for the chips that never came (and are probably still in the depths of Tennessee). The switch to the new phone service allowed us to drive two to three miles from home instead of seven to twelve.

Believe me, it makes a difference!

Second, I've finally broken my plateau in my weight loss journey! My body decided to clean house due to what we thought was me getting used to the water. After three days of sheer bliss, I realized I was probably still overeating during my eating windows and that smaller portions are warranted for further breakthroughs.

Third, we'll finally be able to cook and bake again! The old electric stove had an unusable oven, and though the burners worked, they were all tilted inward towards the center. We think the previous owner used all four burners for a giant canning pot that weighed a ton and bent the burners. My husband refused to cook anything but breakfast on it until the new propane range came in.

It came, but the propane to run it wasn't installed yet, due to a hiccup via the service order. So we were without any way to cook in the house for almost a week.

But we are now sturdy country folk, so my husband decided to make a few breakfasts and a giant pan of pepperoni cheesesteaks on the propane camping stove when we got tired of the pre-prepped fridge and freezer food.

The propane for the range comes in today- I hope!

Four, my sewing room/reading nook is getting renovated, so I can start sewing and writing again until the bakery is up and running. There was a makeshift wooden cabinet in the corner of the room, and let's just say we had a big fire last night that kept us warm outside, despite freezing temperatures. Next is spackling and painting from that insanely bright blue to a more calming periwinkle.

This is what it looked like when we first moved in:



And now:


After a fresh coat of paint, new flooring, and a few more bookshelves, we can finally move everything into the space, and I can begin working and creating! I miss making things so much, and I bought the supplies to make my first project- a giant Christmas wreath for our front door.

No, we still don't have internet, and according to the service, we won't have it until the end of this month. Apparently, they scheduled it for November 29th instead of October 29th by mistake. Thanks a lot, Service-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.

We're not even sure if the signal will be strong enough to do essential things like uploading videos and Zoom calls. We need both to promote the bakery and allow our daughter to do college from home. At least we'll be able to make phone calls.

We've not even touched the stuff left in the store- including our moving boxes!

We learned more about starting this business. We registered, but it might take a few weeks before we get the tax number. We can't move forward with trademarking and copyrighting our business name without the tax number. We also can't apply for grants until we have our EIN number.

And we can't have the FDA in before everything is built. We must have them in after everything is renovated. If we decide to change anything after inspection (from a bakery to a bakery café, like we originally planned), we must have the FDA in all over again. So we get two inspections before they start charging big bucks.

That changes everything. We can't start as small as we intended. A lot more reckoning than we thought and a lot more wreckin' than we planned.

God got us here. He'll get us up and running. We're sowing the fields, expecting God to bring the rain. And as we wait, I'm going to be letting my muse off the leash and run free in my sewing/writing space.

Step back and watch the awesomeness!

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Country Roads, Take Me Home

So much to do...and see!

When we weren't fixing up the house or unpacking (which we are still doing, by the way), we went sightseeing and checked out the local scenery. Some of the views were spectacular! Unfortunately, I can't share some sights because stopping on a two-lane mountain road to take pictures when everyone is doing seventy is a big no-no.

Please forgive the windshield.



Though sometimes, the traffic was sparse, and we could.


That was the first two weeks. Then things started to get colorful. Unfortunately, our cameras don't capture the depth of the colors- but they were so pretty!








The sunsets were pretty too...





And then we had our first frost. As the sun rose, the trees protected some of the crystals- this was across our street...


It gets below freezing at night now, yet the days are surprisingly warm- in the sixties. 

Neighbors are already asking what we're doing with the store, and after we tell them, they ask when we plan to open the bakery cafe. Yikes-We haven't finished unpacking yet!

We still don't have internet or phone service. It's a blessing, not a hindrance, because we have more house repairs to do than expected. But, if we don't get connected soon, our daughter won't be able to do her college classes online come the spring semester, and we can't get our cooking videos out like we'd planned.

We're still hopeful and optimistic, though! God is good, and this could be just another lull before the last big push to get the store up and running. Whatever He has planned, we'll do. All we ask is that you keep us in prayer. If two or three pray, it's a powerful thing, so imagine if everyone who reads this prays- that's super powerful!

I hope you enjoyed some of our country roads!


Monday, November 1, 2021

City House, Country House

(post-dated on 10/21/21)

I knew life in the country would be different, but I didn't think the changes would be so drastic. I'm sure the lack of internet and phone connections (due to postal and service screw-ups) has a lot to do with it.

One of the biggest hardships so far is getting signals so we can communicate with the world. That's one of the reasons this blog post is post-dated. I had to write it minus the internet and insert it into my blog when we finally had a connection.

We got frustrated enough that we drove over an hour away to a Starbucks so we'd have wifi and could communicate with the world (this sentence was written today, 11/1/21.)

As for the phone? Until we get our new service, we have to drive a minimum of seven miles to the nearest business that offers a connective hot spot. We do this every day, so my husband can get his messages and do correspondence. It takes about an hour or so, sitting in the business's parking lot before opening hours (it doesn't open until the afternoon three days a week, another quirk which is common here), so we aren't taking up valuable money-earning space.

Imagine, if you will, a family of three huddled in their van, raptly transfixed on their mobile devices, sitting in an empty parking lot almost every day. Why? Just to make phone calls, connect to games, and update their downloadable library because their hard copy books are still packed.

Yep. That's us.

The entire week we've been living it, Country Life has been one challenge after another, most of them good, and some of them interesting. But, I still don't consider myself a homesteader. Still, as I write this, I'm making two enormous kettles of homemade tomato sauce because the farmers practically gave the last of their tomato crops away. And I still have more to make tomorrow.

Don't look at me like that. Tomatoes were on sale, and we had an empty trunk!

(Update: We wound up with five and a half gallons of tomato base!)

Ahem. Back to the comparisons.

The water here is from a well and tastes fantastic! The city water always tasted like chlorine and rust- so much so that we had to filter it to make it taste right. The well water is pumped directly into the plumbing and is the best I've ever tasted, straight from the rocks. The locals even know where the spring origin is and are willing to show us once we get settled.

The water is free, but the electricity is expensive. So is the propane. And Kerosene. And oil. Choose your fuels wisely, folks. You can't keep this stuff in the garage because there's no natural gas in the boonies.

At least for the older folks, the internet isn't essential; many don't have or use it. Although it's still a bit funny to hear the Mennonite lady who runs a fabric store out of her home yell to us, "Check us out on Facebook!"

People 'make do,' and often, most of their repairs are DIY projects with some interesting results. Our house is full of them, and my husband puts a lot of effort into making the 'make do's' into 'fixed properlies.'

Let's just say that, around here, you don't need an electricians' degree to rewire your house. However, most people feel one outlet per room is enough. It isn't.

Carpeting is an option, but only downstairs. It's a must upstairs. Curtains are also optional and don't have to cover the entire window. Want a half-curtain? Just use scissors. It's one of them 'make-do' thangs.

Insect life teems here; if you don't like bugs, don't live here. Seriously. The good part is most of the bugs here are harmless and non-aggressive except for these little orangy-yellow school bus-colored ladybug-like beetles. They may be cute, but they bite.

We haven't seen a roach/waterbug yet, but there are enough of those tiny school bus beetles to choke a goat- or clog up every light fixture in the house.

And spiders. One visited our kitchen and did a DIY project overnight, using our ceiling fan chain.

Stinkbugs don't do much else other than scare the crap out of you as they buzz about the house like mini helicopters, but once they've landed, they will happily climb onto any spare paper you have so you can give them a nice whirlpool funeral. Just don't squish them, and you're good to go.

Even the bees are friendly here- they just give you a little once-over (as long as you don't scream and flail about like those attention-getting air-blown tube people) and fly off once they realize you're not some weirdly shaped flower.

You can burn paper trash in your yard- in fact, they encourage it. Why? Because the only way you'll get trash collection is to buy specially colored contractor bags at the local grocery store at five bucks a pop- then you have to have to pay the service to haul the bags away, and you can only have four bags at most a week.

So, once a week, we cook over a nice, big fire. Frugality is critical here.

(That's the garage in the background, not the house. 
My husband built the fire pit. I love it!)

Nearly everyone here is 75% or more self-reliant. Anything growing on their land, be it plant or animal, is considered a chance for profit or sustainability. Our property has a few chestnut trees, a cedar tree, a pear tree, and a small grape arbor. They are pretty to see, but now that we live here, we realize that what we used to see as decorative can also be used for profit. So now our thoughts are, what can we do to make something from the fruit and nuts they bear?  

Our neighbors hammered home this point when they came over, five-gallon bucket in hand, asking if they could pick some pears for canning. They do this each year, and since we just moved, we didn't have an issue- so we gave them permission, thinking they were taking all of the pears. Nope, they only wanted enough to fill up their bucket; but I heard my husband say he wanted to see what he could use them for next year. Like we need more to do!

Speaking of neighbors, most were friendly, and some (including the pear-canning people) offered us some of their homemade goods- including a few dozen fresh eggs and a jar of apple butter. Others have yet to introduce themselves, and some were a bit wary, asking what we planned to do with the store, then promptly telling us 'Well, that won't work here,' when we mentioned our plans. But most people are glad to see we're doing something useful with the building.

Just wait until they see what's coming to their old general store!

Here are a few other things we learned this week about country life:

Cows wake up at 4 am.

'Down the road a bit' could mean a mile or ten miles.

Directions are given by 'So-and-so's house' if you know the area or 'That house with the white sign and brown horse in the field' if you don't.

There are no franchises anywhere for at least a fifty-mile radius.

Major cable and internet companies don't build here- yet.

Conservatives are plentiful, and they love God, America, and Trump deeply- and they aren't afraid to speak their minds!

People here are patient and will wait in line without a fuss. But get them on the roads and watch a good ol' boy nearly run you over with his truck as he passes you.

Speed limits are optional.

People are more sociable, and everyone waves back, even if they don't know you.

Sit out on your porch, and the local dogs will come over for a visit. One is named Benny. He's the mayor of our four-tenths-of-a-mile village, and he arrives daily for a pet and a cuddle when we're outside. He even smiles!

Chickens, oddly enough, won't cross when they see a car coming. So I guess that answers that old joke- He crossed the road because there wasn't any traffic!

Ducks, however, don't give a crap what speed you're going and will cross the road to either be run over or glare at you indignantly if you stop and yell at them.

The sun rises late and sets early due to the mountains. And nighttime is dark, like black-hole dark. It's pretty common to hit deer and other smaller mammals out here because there aren't many street lights if any.

The stars are like glitter on black velvet when the sky is clear. I had no idea there were that many stars in the sky! It really does look like those space scenes in Star Trek

It still feels a bit surreal to us, like we're here on a working vacation and will have to go back to Philly soon. Actually, we have to go back, but it's only because we have to get the rest of our stuff out of storage. So after this weekend, we'll be at the new place for two straight weeks. Sometimes it feels like we just got here, but most times, it feels like we've been here for years.

Maybe it just took time for our bodies to catch up with our hearts.

(Update: we moved the rest of our things last weekend. So now we just have to find spots for most of it. We're planning a huge yard sale when we're done because all of our stuff just isn't going to fit!)

The sun and birds greet us every morning. Sometimes the cows do too. Even on cloudy days, it's bright outside, and the air is crisp and fresh with a touch of winters' chill. The trees are just turning to flame colors, and migrating birds point the way south.

(the backyard)

It's peaceful.

It's comforting.

It's home.

 

Monday, September 20, 2021

Lifes' Roller Coaster- The Uphill Climb

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

Starting a Bakery Cafe has been a dream twenty years in the making. If you asked us several weeks ago if we'd ever be where we are now, we might've said in a few years at the minimum, but not anytime soon. But here I sit, in a nearly empty room, hearing the echo of each tap on my keyboard.

It's actually happening!

It all started in July. First, we had a woman renting a room. The original plan was to help her get back on her feet and teach her what she needed to know to be independent within two years. But, instead, she's been with us for almost a year when she announced she'd found an apartment and would move out in a few weeks. 

The first pebble in the avalanche of blessings. We just didn't know it yet!

My husband and I were surprised but delighted to see she was ready to live on her own. But that left us with a few problems. First, we counted on the rent to pay down debts faster, and now we had an empty room. It was time to think seriously about what we wanted to do because she was our only obligation concerning leaving the city.

God had been nudging us to leave Philadelphia for at least two years. We've lived here our entire lives- in fact, in nearly the same area, spanning Olney and all around Northeast Philadelphia.

At first, we started looking in areas outside the city, but close enough that my husband could still work at the mill. Would we sell this house? Would we rent it out? If we did rent, would we rent rooms or the entire house? What would we do concerning the kids? It was a conundrum we were having trouble deciphering.

One bright morning, I was sitting where I am now and decided to have a heart-to-heart with the Big Guy. I'd been holding back, not giving everything up to Him completely. I knew it, and so did He. So I sat back, closed my eyes, spread my arms, and repeated over and over, "I give everything to You, Lord. I'm tired of figuring out what to do. Anything You say, I will follow. Just tell me what to do, and I'll do it. Give me the strength to do it, and I'll do whatever You want."

I said it over and over until I was smiling. Then, I felt a massive weight off my soul- I knew He heard me.

I swear I felt God sigh with relief and say to Himself, Finally

There's one small thing I'd forgotten about when you give God the reins. When He wants to move, He moves. We were about to take the roller coaster ride of our lives.

Within the first few days, my husband found a house in the mountains with a store attached. 

Two days later, we got a call from a family friend, pastor, and real estate agent asking us if we were interested in selling our house. He had no idea we were looking.

My husband told him about the house we were looking at, and we went to see it that week. 

We bid on the house and got it, but the sale depended on us selling ours.

A few weeks later, we were mostly packed, made renovations, and we were ready to have buyers see the house. It wasn't even on the market, and he had four families lined up!

We went from this:

To this:

...in three weeks. Not just this room- the entire house

One family came in, loved it, and bid. We happily accepted. The settlement should be within two weeks. 

Now, we wait. When we settle, and the money is deposited, we'll go up and settle on the new place.

And then, the move begins. The tentative moving date is October 9th.

Some of you who know us are celebrating with us. Others are worried. How can we do this so fast? Are we making sound decisions?

We're doing this at Godspeed. As for the decisions, we feel God is putting us right where He wants us. So allow me to alleviate your fears and share the wonderfulness that is God.

The air is clean and fresh. Whenever we've camped near here, my husbands' hacking cough stops. It's a debilitating cough caused by the chemicals he works with at his job- he can't laugh too hard, or he has trouble breathing. But not up there. 

There's no bread bakery in a fifty-mile radius. 

We are surrounded by farms (potential suppliers), campgrounds (potential customers), and a few stores and small diners (potential commercial customers). 

But wait, I hear you say. There are diners near you. Aren't they competition?

'Near' means twelve miles away, in each direction. The campgrounds are about three miles away. The house is on the main thoroughfare between two larger towns and gets traffic from construction workers, truckers, campers, hunters, and fishermen when their seasons start. So naturally, the diners want fresh bread, and most of their menus differ significantly from what's on ours.

And no one there makes good coffee or bakes fresh bread. Any bread is store-bought, including bagels.

Have you ever eaten a toasted bagel breakfast sandwich with a fresh cup of steaming hot coffee while watching the trees change color on a cool, misty morning in a campground? Don't you want to?

That's where we come in. 

There's even a community meeting place right down the road. We've been involved in our community meetings for years and did many things to help support the neighborhood. And now, God put us right where we need to be to do it again.

The store even has a second floor with one room perfect for a video studio test kitchen. Everything we've ever talked about doing is coming to fruition on a one-third acre patch in the mountains of East Waterford, PA. 

And we couldn't be happier.

Yes, we know things will get more challenging, especially concerning licenses, inspections, permits, and zone changes. There's a lot to do, and we plan to be up and running the actual bakery by spring. In the meantime, we'll be making videos, taking pictures, and blogging about our journey into a small business. 

I promise to keep you posted!


Monday, August 23, 2021

Mountain Moving

Just when you think God is content with you where you are, He decides to move you.

In this case, literally.

Within two weeks, God has merrily turned our entire world upside down. The person we were helping get back on her feet found an apartment. We thought she was going to be with us for another year. That was the pebble that released the avalanche. I believe all my husband had to do was decide what he really wanted out of life, and when we started talking about the possibilities, God chose to take over.

You don't want to get in Gods' way when He has a plan in mind!

The house would be too big for the two of us once our son moved out and our daughter returned to college. So we talked about the possibility of renting out the rooms or renting the house entirely. Should we start that dream business of a cafe bakery? Where would we start the business if that was what God wanted? Would we keep the house and rent it out or sell it? 

The possibilities were unfathomable. There were too many choices to make.

Then we gave it to God. I think He breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, these people were giving Him complete control over their lives. It was about time!

Brace yourself when God takes the wheel.

My husband not only found a house, but it also had a storefront attached. It had a four-car garage and a giant cedar open-air workshop on a third-acre plot of land, right between two mountain ranges, near the top of a vast hill. However, the store had been shut down five years ago, and the owner retired. 

But was it for us?

A few days later, a realtor friend called (without knowing we were looking for a place) and asked if we were interested in selling our home. After talking to him about the possibility, we took a day trip to see the mountain property, and though there's a lot of clearing out and renovating to do, it would serve our needs perfectly. It even had an arbor loaded with grapes for making jams and jellies, a pear tree, and a chestnut tree. Roasting over an open fire, anyone?

The store used to sell gas, but they removed the tanks and pumps and dug a new well before putting the property up for sale. Farmers were all around us. One farmer has beef cattle, another has milk, cream, and cream cheese, and there's corn everywhere you look. 

And right smack in the middle of the property was a newly refurbished outhouse. We had a good laugh over that, and we're glad the house itself had two bathrooms. We figured the outhouse was for customers and would be a novelty for tourists. And there would be tourists. The town has a whopping population of twenty residents, and the house/store was on the main thoroughfare between two more prominent cities. We'd be the only rest stop for fifteen to thirty miles in any direction. The only places nearby were RV parks and campgrounds- perfect for our business- with a few tweaks.

Was there a catch? A little one. We'd have to sell our house because we had too much tied into debt and the remaining mortgage. However, if we sold our house, we could buy the new property outright and be out of debt completely, with no mortgage. We'd have to sell, buy and move within a few weeks.

Yikes!

The paperwork had been signed, sealed, and almost delivered. Unfortunately, the purchase of that property is contingent on selling our house. We need to fix this place up a bit to make it ready for sale, and I'm packing like a madwoman so we can move as much as possible into temporary storage so the handyman can pretty up the place. It's all for looks because the main repairs were done years ago- Thank God.

We've had this dream for decades. And now it's coming true.

Instead of us moving mountains, God's moving us to the mountains!

Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay 

What are those tweaks, you ask?

We talked with a few locals, and they told us the old store was the hub for the locals who needed basic supplies. It was a variety store that sold gas. However, we planned a bakery cafe and decided to have a section for basic needs for the locals. We don't have everything worked out yet, but I take notes when the ideas hit me.

To be honest, this was all going to be my husbands' baby. I was there to work the store and do what I could to get it going. God wants me to be a writer, and that won't change. He also made me creative, and after talking with the locals and the owners' son, I realized God also wanted me to be an integral part of this business. Fishing season is in the spring, and hunting season is in the fall. I can create items to sell in the store for the locals, sportsmen, and campers alike.

Above the store is a second floor, with a small room and a large one. Both are filled with natural light. We're considering using the small space to build a mini test kitchen and create an online TV cooking show. The big room might be used for my sewing and writing space and store storage- we'll know better when we move there.

I can't tell you how excited we are!

We've lived in the city our entire lives. We'll miss everyone terribly, but God has been weaning us away from here for a while now, and we both realize God wants us to move on. 

You'd think I'd be panicking. I thought I would be! But the second we both saw that house and store, we knew it was for us. God is paving the way, and as the handyman finishes, there's a line of buyers waiting.

My husband will finally be able to breathe the fresh air his lungs crave. My body and brain will be getting a lot of exercise. We even have friends close by if you consider forty-plus miles close. I guess, when you think of mountain roads, that is close!

God is amazingly good!

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Through Me

People do it all the time. I know I've done it. We claim aspects of God without claiming the power behind those aspects.

All. The. Time.

I guess I don't know my own strength.

I've gotten through this before; I can do it again.

If I can do it, you can too!

People marvel at our triumphs from adversity, but we often forget to give the Big Guy credit. Maybe we're too afraid to sound 'religious.' Maybe the person we're talking to is a known atheist or unbeliever. Perhaps we're scared of persecution in the middle of being praised.

Maybe it's a mix of all of those things.

I inwardly cringe when I find myself doing it. I cringe after I've done it. I had an opportunity to praise God, and I dropped the ball. It's so easy to drop it. Persecution is prevalent nowadays.

But when I ask for spiritual, physical, or mental strength, He still gives it when I genuinely need it. All things go through Him. All things. Nothing comes from me; everything comes from God. Believers often forget that. I should know- I've probably done it more than most. 

Image by Colin Behrens from Pixabay 

Through Him.

We are His light bulbs. We shine, but only when we plug into Him. We might think we shine when we aren't- we're a bulb with no power to make us glow. 

We need power from an outside resource. Oh sure, we can hook up to a car battery, but we might explode. We can wire ourselves to a 9-volt battery, but the glow would be dim and not last very long. We were meant to shine with the power of God, the everlasting source of steady, reliable energy. 

Not only does He make us shine, but we also illuminate others through Him. And the more we praise Him, the more we shine. Isn't that fantastic?

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine! 

I love that song. Hmm...I wonder if God sings that about us?