Sunday, April 19, 2015. Spring has sprung, as they say, in all its fine glory. And, it’s a very welcome time of refreshing, renewal and change.
One spectacularly nice sign of renewal has come in the form of an owl nest in our yard. As my husband climbed up a ladder to the top of our electric service pole, to install a new disk-to-dawn light, a small burrowing or elf owl (I think) suddenly emerged from a hollow at the top of the pole, and flew into a nearby tree. My husband looked into the top of the pole and saw a nest with a white ball of fluff (an owlet) and three eggs about the size of dove or quail eggs. He called me outside from my rocking chair, where I was hunched intently over my iPad, and I grabbed my iPhone to capture a picture or two of the wonderful phenomenon.
By the time I had warily climbed to the top of the pole, stretched myself precariously over the protruding light fixture, and peek inside the hollow at the top of the pole, there was a second pure white owlet, with now two remaining eggs.
I glanced over at the nearby tree, to see the mother owl appearing to stare calmly back at me, as I nervously clutched the rim of the hollowed-out utility pole with one hand, trying to get a shot of the nest and its occupants with the other. That was a total fail (too dark). As I slowly climbed down the wobbling ladder, the small mother owl flew back to the top of the pole and proceeded to preen one of her wings. She stayed in place as my husband went back up the pole to finish his work, while I began shooting additional photos with my phone.
The little owl continued to observe the goings-on calmly, as my husband went on working, and I snapped picture after picture. After the job was finished, my husband removed the ladder & we have resisted the urge to climb back up there and spy on the welcome little family.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015. One big change that we are making this year is that we are finally going to tear down the huge, three-story 60+ year old harvester barn that’s been blocking our view for ages. We are replacing that 20′ x 30′ monstrosity, covered by a roof that looks like Swiss cheese (after two hurricanes, a hail storm, a tornado, and an attempt at theft/vandalism), with a modest 10′ x 20′ portable building.
My work-a-holic husband is really exhibiting remarkable patience, waiting for me to coat the bare floor with some Thompson’s Waterseal, before he fills it up, but it’s been raining, or threatening to rain, for days now.
Here in southern Louisiana, it hasn’t been all work. We have also been enjoying a succession of colorful flowering plant displays. This is not merely happenstance, because for a number of years, I made it a point to collect plants that would begin their showy displays immediately after whatever I had purchased the previous year.
The earliest to bloom in our yard in the Spring typically begin to show off in late February. However, this year, our normally December-blooming camellia chose to wait until January and early February to produce a shrub full of blooms.
Two or three weeks later, come the next beautiful arrivals.
If you’ll notice, in that last picture, you can barely see the faint purple blooms of a transplanted wisteria in the upper right corner. These enchanting plants produce masses of blooms, and grow wild by the side of the roadways, all around my area. Yet, this small, but greatly-treasured plant, gifted to me three years ago by one of my two stepsons, only produced three clusters this year and one last year. Since many mass-producers can take many years to mature, I suppose mine will be no exception. (I might mention here that I only sporadically fertilize some of my flowering plants with used coffee grounds. So, my plants must largely survive on their own!)
Next, comes a variety of later-blooming Spring flowers, in a wonderful assortment of colors.
Thursday, April 23, 2015. One very significant change that we are making this year is that we will soon be joining the ranks of the “empty-nesters.” Our third grown child, a recent college graduate, is in the process of moving four states away, to South Carolina, to be near friends and to pursue her career.
So, being the compulsive planner and list-maker that I am, I produced an exhaustively meticulous list of the myriad contacts, intricate steps, and pure minutiae involved in making a long-distance move. (Rather stilted language, I must confess, but my excitement Somehow kicked the wheels of my mind into high gear.)
I was very methodical in my planning, beginning with a very simple outline, much to my rather suspicious delight. (I say suspicious, because I rarely do things simply.)
Long-Distance Move Procedural Steps (ver. 1.0) (NOTE: ALL moving expenses for a job are deductible, so KEEP ALL RECEIPTS IN A LARGE MANILLA ENVELOPE!!!)
1) Apply online for the apartment. My daughter had just returned from a visit to southern North Carolina, scoping out several neighborhoods and apartments in the surrounding suburbs, and had selected a nice one-bedroom across the state line, but, selected no alternates. Not a good idea. (Just sayin.’)
2.) Make an itemized list of the steps and materials needed “Before,” “During,” & “After” the move. Check the list twice, and overestimate everything!
3.) Research prices for professional movers vs rental trucks. Pick the cheapest online quote. (However, there are no online quotes. You have to speak with someone directly.)
4.) Purchase: a) cardboard boxes (Lowe’s 20 heavy-duty med. 16″ x 16″ $2.47 ea.) b) bubble wrap (Lowe’s 175′ roll $19.97) c) packing tape (Lowe’s or Walmart 2 double-roll packs) d) furniture dolly (Lowe’s small $29.97)
5.) Pack up the few belongings that one bedroom and an extra closet contain.(Honestly, how much could that be?)
6.) With all the spare time you have after packing, wait patiently for the call from the apartment manager saying that your past rental history and criminal background have been checked, and that you’ve been approved.
Wrong. Wrong! W.R.O.N.G. !!!
Long-Distance Move Procedural Steps (ver. 1.2)
1a) “Oh, need co-guarantor? No problem!” Mom…er, I mean the “co-guarantor,” applies online. (After all, what are moms for?)
2a) Google “moving companies.”
Ah, here we go: “Moving.com. Up to 4 free quotes.” Sounds like that’s exactly what I need, so I sign up.
In less than a minute, the phone begins ringing off the hook. Great! I can ask for a quote to move one set of bedroom furniture, and a few belongings; then, choose the lowest estimate. Easy peasy!
Nope! The first move sounds warm and friendly, like someone’s momma or favorite auntie. She proceeds to ask some really detailed questions, including bed size, bed frame description, and the specific dimensions of an armoire, a night stand, 2 bookshelves, and an overstuffed chair with a hassock. I stretch my arms out into the air for each furniture item, trying to give my best guess on the measurements.
“Is there any other furniture?” She asks. And suddenly, a question begins to gnaw its way into my consciousness, a question that will repeat itself relentlessly, over and over and over again, throughout this adventurous undertaking.
“Am I forgetting anything?” Surely, I am forgetting something!
The moving company representative next helps me to decide that 20 medium boxes will be about right for a one-bedroom move. Reasonable, I guess. (I remember thinking that it felt reassuring to know they were being so thorough. That way, there wouldn’t be any surprises.)
This professional moving company’s quote was for $1257, including disassembling & reassembling on-site. High, but not unreasonable, I guessed. Estimate binding for 1 week. Sounds fair. (But…maybe I can do even better.)
A number of calls had beeped persistently in the background, the entire time I was on the phone. Up to 4 free quotes? Hah! I had the sinking feeling that I’d be getting calls and emails from moving companies for days, or even weeks!
Next call. The rather brusque lady on this call and I go through a similarly-detailed inventory check, and I’m able to give her a more efficient accounting of the items to be moved, thinking that I was now able to come acrosslike an experienced “movee.”
My reveries are quicly interrupted when the lady suddenly asks if I can hold a minute. When she gets bac on the phone, she announces, “We can do it all for you for only $1581.”
Me: “Oh. I have a lower bid.”
Mover: “Can I ask what that was?”
After I tell her, she proceeds to give me horror stories about disreputable moving companies, who do everything from ransack and steal your goods, to taking weeks to deliver, then, coming up with extra charges not in the original estimate, while holding your goods hostage. She then pulls the car dealer routine. “Let me check something.”
I’m put on suspenseful hold for about a minute, as call after call beeps in the background, presumably from other movers pouncing on their hot lead. When she comes back, she tells me they can knock off $60, because they have a truck going from Houston to South Carolina in a day or so, & the dispatcher told her they have room for one more load on the truck. If I wait to commit, May is National Moving Month, and rates will surely be going up—and that’s if I can even find a mover who isn’t booked up for weeks by then.
Some inner voice warns me that, even though what she’s telling me sounds reasonable, such high pressure tactics are not a good sign. After I ask how long the estimate is binding, I give her a polite “Thank you,” explaining that her figure is not within my budget. ” She reiterates her warning about the looming time crunch, and we hang up.
Plan B (or is it C?): I Google ” moving truck rentals” (and stay up all night checking facts & figures.)
Penske – Low rate: $500-something, but:
mileage is extra (1000 x $.52/ mile = $520),
fuel is extra (1000 miles / 15 mpg, hopefully, overestimated = 67 gals needed @ $3.00 per gal = $210), plus,
airfare for a cousin ($333) who offers to drive the truck for us.
Total: $1560+ (Along with all the stresses of packing & driving an unfamiliar vehicle 1,000 miles.).
Nope, too high, considering that the first professional mover’s quote was cheaper, and THEY do all the work. (But, what if they are cheap because they are unethical?)
Thus, begins a frantic online investigation of moving truck regulations.
“Goods held hostage for fees.”
Ok, that’s settled. Professional mover not an option. Too much chance for fraud.
Plan C (D?): I heard that round trips are cheaper rate. 1800 miles, round trip. No. No. No. Rounding up, 2,000 times ANY mileage and fuel charges would be astronomical. So, back to the one-way option—only this time, the mileage rate quote is higher $.79/mi. (So, THAT’S why they make you register to get a quote.) i guess I’ll go to bed and make a decision when I wake up this afternoon.
3a) Packing materials purchased without a hitch. (Note to myself: Be sure to get those receipts into that big manilla envelope. Now, where did I put it?)
4a) Meanwhile, actual packing is underway. Yay! (Boxes are being filled, but piles and piles of belongings keep mysteriously appearing from under the bed, closet recesses, and items long-forgotten have appeared in the spare room. Will 20 boxes be enough? Will everything fit into a 10′ truck?)
5a) No call from the apartment complex. It’s ok. It’s only been one day! (Phone and email are not idle, however, since moving companies are still calling and emailing offers right and left.)
(See next month’s blog post for a continuation of this “moving saga.”)