We picked the right time of year to move to Central Oregon!
The last time I moved, it was 2010 and I was merely moving 10 minutes away from my previous home. My then-boyfriend (now husband) and I took less than a week to pack up the pugs, a few pieces of furniture, and our respective work studios, and only two weeks to fully unpack in our new house. As I remember it, the process was tiring but far from tedious.
Fast-forward to 2017 where it’s now been a month since our move from Southern California to Central Oregon, and we’re still trying to get our garage and office in order. If you’d seen what we started with, however, it’s rather astonishing what we’ve managed to finish in spite of some setbacks.
I’ve yet to unearth my good camera (which has been packed since early September), so you’ll have to excuse these far-from-glamorous phone snaps. (And the super long update! Seriously, pull up a seat and pour yourself another cup of coffee.)
Let’s rewind to August. Knowing that things moved much more slowly with a toddler in tow, I wanted to give myself two full months to purge, organize, and pack. Every day or so, I cleaned out a small portion of the house and tried to pack a box or two. I started stacking the boxes in the living room, then the sunroom, then the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and office until navigating our house felt like going through a labyrinth. And we were still only in September!
Will had a good laugh at what he called my “over-preparedness,” but as time started ticking down, the list of chores around the house — and especially out of the house — started adding up quickly!
Mayhem in the garden.
When you factor in vegetable beds, fruit trees, compost piles, and chickens, there’s a lot to check off the list besides the usual move-out chores. We had to prune the trees, trim the borders, rake the leaves, mulch the paths, repair the beds, clean the coop, wrangle the drip lines, and organize/inventory/disassemble/toss/donate a multitude of planters, pots, trays, stakes, and trellises collected over the last seven years. By the time we moved out, I think our yard was the neatest it had ever been since the day we moved in!
As an urban homesteader who also blogs about urban homesteading (and an avid cook who also wrote and styled two cookbooks), I probably have a disproportionately large amount of tools and supplies compared to other gardeners, canners, and cooks, and I live with an Eagle Scout (whose mother was a Depression baby), so we tend to hoard things we might need or want one day. We scored a hundred free boxes from two families who’d just moved in to the neighborhood, and we used every single one plus all the Amazon boxes we’d saved.
On moving day, we had five distinct groupings of items: boxes, furniture, adventure gear, gardening gear, and plants. Moving companies won’t transport live plants long distances, so our plan was to tow a cargo trailer from Los Angeles to Bend (with all our plants) and then ship the rest of our belongings.
We went with U-Haul’s U-Boxes as they were the most economical option, but the day they arrived at our house, there was a moment of panic when we realized we vastly underestimated their size! One of them barely contained our bedroom and closets. We had to call for more U-Boxes than originally planned and it was a not-so-fun way to spend money (which I guess is to be expected of any major move). Loading them required quite a bit of Tetris mastery but three days later, we were so relieved when the last U-Box was picked up.
Moving day was rough.
In hindsight, we would not use the U-Boxes again for our next move… Sure, we still managed to save some money, but for a move the size of ours, I think a full-service moving company would’ve been worth every penny (plus our sanity).
Since our house was pretty much empty by that point, we made one last trip down to Baja to unwind from a hectic summer, clean out our surf shack, and visit the national park that we’d been wanting to see for some years now.
Our last trip to The Boat Ranch as residents.
Soaking in my favorite view from our surf shack.
Dog days of summer in Baja.
I never picture pine forests, granite boulders, and high peaks when I think of Baja, but Sierra de San Pedro Mártir National Park — just a half-hour drive from The Boat Ranch — was all of that. It reminded me so much of the Eastern Sierra in California, and the crisp, high desert environment, with scents of sage and pine lingering in the air, brought me back to summers spent hiking and camping in some of my favorite wildernesses like Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon.
Are we in the Eastern Sierra?
Hiking through pine trees and granite boulders in Baja.
Baja was a wonderful low-tech diversion for Gemma, who was perfectly content playing in the dirt with sticks and rocks (and a whale skeleton!), stargazing with her dad, and ooh-ing at her first yucca-fueled bonfire.
This whale skull was her playground.
Experiencing her first yucca-fueled bonfire.
We retrieved a few things from our boat but left most of it intact for the next set of wanderers to inhabit and pour their hearts into. We’d had five amazing years at The Boat Ranch and it was bittersweet to leave it behind.
We’ll miss our little spot, for sure, but what we’ll miss most are all the people we’ve come to meet in and through that community, from our neighbors at The Boat Ranch and the owners of our favorite birria stand to the itinerant surfers who passed through and the crew from Powder Magazine we partied with one wild weekend. The types of people who find themselves there, in search of waves or solace or solitude, are truly special — truly salt-of-the-earth folks — and we feel incredibly lucky to have had that time down there.
As for why we decided to leave, Oregon is simply too far of a drive for regular jaunts down to Baja. But, we hope to come back every couple of years so Gemma can grow to love it as much as we do. (Now that we’re in the Pacific Northwest, Canada will have to satisfy our cross-border cravings, but it’s not quite the same as being in a place where the language, culture, and food are so different.)
After saying our goodbyes in Baja, and having spent a blissful and relaxing week in paraíso, we returned to reality: an empty house that no longer felt like home, full of nails and screws in the walls, covered in dust bunnies, and in need of last-minute maintenance before our final walk-through.
There were still several loose ends to tie up, but on the surface, they seemed manageable. A couple days of work, tops. (You can probably imagine what ended up happening…)
After one last going-away party at my best friend’s house, Gemma and I flew to Las Vegas to spend time with my parents, who were sad that their grandbaby was no longer going to be a quick drive away. That first flight out of LA filled me with a rollercoaster of emotions: sad, excited, nervous, optimistic. Leaving behind a place that I’d called home for the last 16 years felt like leaving behind a piece of my heart — but I know it’ll still be a big part of our lives.
So long, South Bay. Thank you for everything.
Meanwhile, Will stayed behind to wrap things up in California. We would reunite in Bend the following weekend, hopefully timing his arrival by car and ours by plane the same afternoon. Easy peasy, right?
In between intense house cleaning and yard work, Will managed to climb Mount San Gorgonio, the highest peak in Southern California and one of the Three Saints (one of which we’d summited together).
Standing on the highest peak in Southern California.
But, we hadn’t anticipated how much work was left to get the house in tip-top shape, and the “couple days of work” turned into a mad dash for the finish line. Our amazing friends stepped in the last day to help wipe down the kitchen, disassemble the last pieces of furniture, and dig up, divide, and repot an assortment of plants. Moving us out of that house was a serious team effort! We’re beyond grateful for all the extra hands and smiles extended so willingly and generously to us, even when we asked things like, “Will you please climb onto the roof and remove the satellite dish that had been abandoned four years ago after we cut the cable cord?”
The morning I left for Oregon, I texted Will while waiting for my flight to Bend and he was still loading up the trailer in LA! He ended up leaving a day later than planned and didn’t cross the Oregon border until sunrise (with a lovely view of Mount Shasta at daybreak).
Mount Shasta in the rear view at dawn.
For the first night in our new home, Gemma and I had to make an impromptu Target run for an air mattress, blanket, and other essentials that had been left behind with Will. Ah, always an adventure!
Will and our dear friend (who made the grueling 18-hour drive with him) arrived the next morning with trailer, pug, chickens, and canoe in tow! We ended up inheriting another friend’s old canoe, a project canoe that Will wants to spruce up in time for spring. I only found out about this when they pulled up to the house with an enormous red canoe strapped to the roof!
The chickens survived their first (and hopefully last) big road trip!
Reunited in our new home in Bend.
All four chickens survived the long road trip in good spirits, and one even laid an egg en route to Bend. We transported them in wire dog kennels lined with straw, in the back of our SUV, and they were well-behaved the whole way up with food and water breaks at the gas stops.
Cozy and comfortable in their mobile accommodations.
We built them a rudimentary run in the backyard of our new house the day after we moved here (using bamboo fencing left over from a previous project) and up until a week ago, they were sleeping in our garage in their kennels.
Building a chicken run in our new backyard.
The new chicken coop finally arrived and with some minor repairs (which I’ll detail in another post), they just spent their first Oregon night outside, and were cozy as can be! We have a few ideas in mind as far as winterizing and accessorizing the coop in the weeks to come, but for now, we’re just happy they have a new home to call their own.
Wheeling the new chicken coop into place.
Aaaaand that brings us up to the present time — five weeks into our relocation, and loving every second of being in Bend. We had a chance to check out Fall Fest our first week here, took Gemma to a pumpkin patch at DD Ranch near Smith Rock, and just cheered on a friend who was racing in the annual Cross Crusade cyclocross series.
Gemma at the pumpkin patch.
Fitting right in with the Bend folk at her first Cross Crusade (just spectating, not racing… yet).
With our house starting to feel like a home, we’re excited to get out and explore more of the neighborhood. You know that feeling of being someplace new and wanting to try all the restaurants, stroll the shops and check out the local events? That’s where we’re at right now — the honeymoon phase — and from what we hear, there’s always some kind of festival or fun event happening each week.
We’ve visited quite a few breweries already, and now I know why people in Bend are so active and outdoorsy — it’s far too easy to take down two or three beers a day, every day, when you live here! Beer is like water in this town. Our local gas station offers growler refills (how cool is that?), and one of our favorite breweries, Crux Fermentation Project, is a family-friendly spot that just begs for lazy afternoons on the lawn playing corn hole and drinking IPAs — on a weekday, friends.
Safe to say we’re fitting right in, and loving our new home base. We’re making good progress with organizing our home office (the last room to be unpacked) and as soon as that’s done, I have a load of blog posts to unload on you! Thanks for hanging in there this past month while I got settled in. I’m looking forward to sharing more from our new digs from an entirely new climate zone!
(If you missed my previous post on how and why we decided to make the move, you can read it here.)