Thursday, January 28, 2010

The House Hunt is Back on

I know, you are all saying that you didn't know it was on in the first place, let alone that it was off.

Jim was indulging my favorite form of free entertainment - going to open houses. We were doing investigational shopping, just to get a feel for the market here, what neighborhoods are like, that sort of thing. We figured that we would sell the condo and move to a single family home.

It turns out that we have negative equity in the condo. Unfortunately, Jim bought at the top of the housing bubble and we all know what happened to the bubble. So, we figured we were stuck and the search was off. Plus, we were seeing places that we really liked and weren't ready to make an offer yet and that was just depressing.

So, we quit looking for a few weeks while we did more research. We concluded that I would see what sort of mortgage I would qualify for on my own (the condo is in Jim's name only). So, I am meeting with some bankers to see a) if I qualify for anything and b) what price point I should be looking for. If I get good news back from the bank, we'll go back to looking. We plan to keep the condo as a rental property until the market recovers enough that we can sell and break even.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fresh Veggies without the Work

Today I bought a share of a garden.

Bull Run Mountain Vegetable Farm
is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, providing fresh, subscription vegetables grown on a family farm without chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers.

A CSA is not for everyone. Most Americans plan their meals then buy their food. A CSA is the other way around - you get the food that is ripe and then plan your meals around what is available. This means no tomatoes in June or October but all the tomatoes you can eat in late July through early September. It means no salad in August but plenty of greens in June and October.

In other words, with a CSA you are getting vegetables and fruit as they are locally in season. You are getting vegetables, herbs and fruits that grow in this climate and you are getting them when they come ripe in this area.

This a radical departure from the international food distribution system that most Americans have become accustomed too. The average distance that the food in your grocery store has traveled is well over 2000 miles. With the CSA, the vegetables travel less than 40 miles from the farm to my table.

For 19 weeks, from June to October, I will get a box of whatever veggies and herbs are in season that week. The farm is out near Manassas and they will bring the produce to a pick up location near DuPont Circle. I ordered a peck, which Bull Run says is enough for 1 or two people, and it averages out to about $22 a week, which is about what I normally spend at the farmers market in the summer. For an extra fee, you can also get fruit (which in Virginia means peaches and a million varieties of apples) and fresh eggs.

Some of the items from last year's crop were broccoli, cabbage, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, okra, tons of peppers, potato, pumpkin, salad greens, squash, string beans, sweet potatoes, tons of tomatoes, radish and zucchini. Herbs included garlic, basil, chives, oregano, lavender, parsley and sage. A couple of weeks, they even had local honey.

It will be bit of a cooking adventure, too, since I won't know what is in the box until I get.