And the road goes on forever...

Saturday, January 1, 2022

The End of an Era and New Beginnings


The close of 2021 saw the door closing on the Bend chapter of our lives; one we had a connection to for 32 years and the many important and fond memories that went along with it. My mother’s spirit still lingers in my hours and days and I think of her constantly, but nothing will change her being gone and now that my ties to Bend are totally severed, we can move on. Her property sold and finally closed escrow on December 30th. Despite her place being an old, run down 1985 manufactured home, it was on nearly nine acres, a gold mine in today’s Bend marketplace ‘cause as the saying goes “They ain’t making it anymore”, in terms of the land. We were astounded at its value. 

Her gift is going to allow Marc & I to follow dreams we could never have attained otherwise. One cannot live in Wisconsin, visit the Northwoods, and not pine for their own lakeside cabin! Even though Wisconsin is an affordable state compared to those in the West, waterfront is waterfront everywhere—generally much more expensive than the average lot. Once we had escrow opened on the Bend property, we started our search for our own waterfront property. For us, purchasing overpriced old homes of poor construction, bad layouts, obsolete fixtures and appliances, heating systems, etc. just isn’t in the cards, despite their magnificent locales or views. We were looking for bare land to do our own thing.

After many frustrating and long trips northward in often very cold weather, looking at numerous parcels each time, we made our final trip north to look at just one possibility because I just knew from the listing photos, description, and Google satellite that this could be the one! After our entrance up the circle drive to the bluff top through mature and large pines and gazing out at the view, it took me mere minutes to know it was the one! Marc soon followed as we tromped the property through snow and its wetlands. We made an offer on it that day, which was countered and we accepted. Closing is set to occur on January 10th

Here’s what we know right now. It is situated about a mile or two out of a small town of 1500, but which is a county seat and has a surprising number of well-known businesses headquartered. A dirt road comes off the paved road and this leads to a public boat ramp (small) and our property’s drive goes off that dirt road.

 The parcel is 14.75 acres, but most of it is in wetlands, excepting for about three to four acres of bluff which sit above, giving magnificent views and total privacy because nothing else can ever be built anywhere around this parcel. The bluff is buildable and basically has wide open zoning, which would even allow for permanent camping as long as one has either a septic system or privy installed. Even a tiny home would be allowed! This is so rare for Wisconsin; I can’t tell you how elated we were to find something with no CCRs.

We’ve been working on choosing a floorplan, which took awhile, because initially we thought in terms of just a seasonal cabin but are evolving more towards something large enough to be livable on a permanent basis. We found a good middle of the road at an unusual style for us to like (totally shed roof) of about 1380 s.f., three bedrooms. We are changing some of the internal layout but not by much and will have a wood stove in lieu of a see-through fireplace. We needed a plan that was short on depth to take best advantage of our view and this will do that, having the great room and two bedrooms on the lake side, along with the large patio area which will be eventually closed in as a sunroom. 

In addition, Marc plans on erecting his large shop/pole barn, which will house the RV off season, the boats, and vehicles. The Seller included two kayaks and a motorized canoe which were left on the property and we still have our two kayaks and aluminum fishing boat. The lake itself is 145 acres and because much of it is surrounded by wetlands and bog there are very few homes lining its shoreline. There is one cabin resort that is on the opposite shore. Our shoreline runs for approx. 1000 feet and already features a boardwalk across the bog to the lakeshore. We may later do a dock, which is allowed.

(Yes, there's an island, but it's privately owned!)

(What it looked like in ice the day we fell in love with it).

Soon, the hard work will begin as this property has no developed utilities at this point. It will require a septic, well, and electricity is about 400 feet away, as well as fiber optic cable, which we’re very excited to have! Marc intends to have the plan panelized for quick erection, meaning the wall framing, windows, and roof sheathing and trusses come out in panels which are put together on site, much as we did with our Waupaca house. We’ll be doing a metal roof—the simple lines ensure this is something Marc can probably handle on his own or with a friend. As much will be owner-built as our old bodies allow, but we have back-up in a good friend in that area who is a building contractor. 

The blog will take a different turn for awhile as I chronicle the building of yet another house for the Duskes! This could run a couple of years but we’ll be parking and living in the RV there all summer so should make good progress in getting the pole barn up and at least the house shell and utilities in. As always, stay tuned for future developments and thanks for following along! Happy New Year everyone! 

Friday, November 26, 2021

Starting a New Chapter


Our lives changed in the space of a couple of months and now has a new trajectory. The routine of having my mother in our lives, save for paying the last of her bills, is nearly over. Her property, after stalling out when first listed, suddenly had two offers within a day of each other so our agent put it back out for “highest and best” and we ended up a little above asking price. It is still subject to appraisal and loan approval but fingers crossed, should close on 12/31.

Marc has finally retired, for sure this time! It’s time to concentrate on what we want to see for ourselves, but so far, it’s been a difficult task. It boils down to whether we decide to keep our current home and now finish it out the way we originally planned or we turn our sights to moving elsewhere. We already made the decision after our Virginia trip early in the Spring, that we will be happiest remaining in Wisconsin so it’s only a question now of where in the northern part of the state. 

I’ve watched listing activity in northern WI and as everywhere else the prices have escalated rapidly, but then, so has our home. It really is prohibitive to try and find a home already built that suits us at an affordable price so that puts us to square one: look for land, develop it, build it, then live in it! It’s a lot to consider at our age but Marc feels he may be able to eke out another project if he has help with the harder/higher things, like framing and roofing. Fortunately, he has a good and trusted contractor friend, who has indicated he has a small crew of young guys at the ready should we decide to move forward. 

Initially, we were thinking of just building a small cabin and an RV hookup with perhaps a garage for boat storage. That has the downside of supporting two places on fixed income and needing to travel back and forth and needing to return home to keep up with mowing and watering in the summer. Hum, that doesn’t seem so appealing when really, what is holding us to Waupaca? 

More and more we are looking for larger parcels now where we can build a permanent home. We took a drive north last week and found two pieces that were interesting, but both turned out not to have suitable covenants. Ideally, we want none; we’ve always been free-spirited people who don’t like being told what we can build or do on our own property. This nice two lot six-acre piece, which was level and totally usable and on a quiet cul d sac which ended at a small lake, was first on our list until we read the restrictions. To mention just a few: the number of pets were limited to three; no burn barrels or burn piles; no outside lights excepting shinning downward on a pole not taller than seven feet; no hunting or shooting (this land is the middle of a forest) and the developer had to have first chance of bidding on a home build, no owner-builder.

A two-acre lakefront parcel I loved had an adorable shed and dock, great privacy with no other homes in sight, but just did not have enough level land for what we wanted to be able to build on it. In addition, it was in an HOA which added to the tax burden by $350 a year and we found out that the shed, despite being set up as a guest cottage, could not be used for any overnight stays.


We’ll keep looking and eventually find our new home place I’m sure. 

Sunday, November 14, 2021

The Rest of the Story: Rest in Peace Mom


My mother finally passed away quietly in a moment when she had to herself on Friday, September 26th. My son and his wife had diligently stayed by her bedside for most of the time as they took off work, but had gone home for a break. An aide had come in to wipe her face and check on her and had stepped out for a few minutes to check on another patient and when she came back, mom was gone.

 It turns out a Do Not Resuscitate Order is a terrible thing to live through. We usually think of death as happening fairly quickly but the truth is a horrible thing to witness. The body is not given anything beyond comfort care, which can include drugs, but no fluids or sustenance, so what happens is that it slowly dehydrates and finally starts collapsing the organs. The skin falls away from the bones, the extremities become ice blue and cold. They don’t even allow the patient to wear an oximeter excepting by request occasionally. In my mother’s case, with strong lungs and heart, her oxygen levels, which typically signal oncoming death by precipitously dropping, remained stubbornly high so she continued to breathe on in her mysterious death sleep.

She died before I had a chance to leave WI. Marc returned from New Mexico, unpacked and then packed the RV and we left for the long drive West. It was a tedious and tense trip; my daughter-in-law graciously handled the cremation duties for my mother as my son had to return to work. The trip across the northern tier states was without incident excepting when we broke a trailer wheel in Bozeman, MT and had to take time to buy another and change that out at a Big O. It went from being 99 degrees in eastern Montana to a low of 18 the morning we woke up in a cow camp boondock in northern Idaho. We finally arrived in Bend, got parked and settled and started in on the madness that was the clearing out and sorting of all my mother’s possessions.

(fishing access camp on Yellowstone River, MT)

She was a child of the Depression and thus had never been able to break the “habit” that every single thing should be used, well used, used up and then maybe even saved for its parts or potential usefulness later down the line. I can’t begin to describe how much shit we threw out. Thankfully, years ago, my father had built a huge hydraulic dump trailer out of an old dump truck and without that we would have been screwed. As a frugal person, my mother would be turning over in her grave to know how much we spent on dump fees as Marc and my brother made trip after trip for days. They became on a first name basis with the dump fee gal at the kiosk. In addition to her house, there was also a lot of debris and junk scattered around the property.

After a couple of weeks, we finally were to the point where we tried to hold a garage sale but it was not a roaring success. Many of her most treasured possessions, like her china set, were thrown out. No one wants that stuff anymore; we couldn’t even get thrift stores to take it. Her stuff was old and she had gotten most of the use out of the items and even though many were perfectly serviceable (particularly the old USA made appliances that go forever) they didn’t seem to be desired. Having come out in the RV, our storage capacity was extremely limited in what we could end up taking back with us. Old photos and memorabilia alone ended up filling many boxes.

The hardest part for me was sorting through her sewing room. My mother took up quilting with a church group after my father’s death 11 years ago and she became prolific. One bedroom was dedicated with many sewing tables, four sewing machines and stacks upon stacks of fabrics. We ended up donating all of that to her sewing group the “Sew n Sews”, and they were so grateful as they had loved her dearly. The church had a celebration of life for her on October 30th and we are so thankful for their presence in her life in her last years.


The weather in Bend continued to turn ever nastier and we knew we had to make an escape as quickly as we could to beat any major storms crossing the country. Marc drove my mom’s ashes to the pioneer cemetery in northern Ca where she would be interred next to my father and managed to work in seeing his sister along the way. The property was photographed and listed and despite our initial expectations and high hopes, it appears to be languishing on a slowing Bend market. My brother will continue to live there in his trailer while we await its sale, which may not happen until next Spring given the time of year. 

The trip back to WI was again mostly without incident excepting for being blown off the interstate near Laramie, WY when they closed I80 to high profile vehicles. We sat out the day and night in a wide spot with other semis and a magnificent view. We slid into home just before snow flurries started the next day and are still in the process of unpacking everything. 

I miss my mother and am still processing her death. The looming Thanksgiving holiday will bring it home even more keenly as I dwell on so many family gatherings over that holiday. Mom had a good, long life though, she was 94. She was viable, vibrant, all there mentally and mostly physically, right up until the moment she wasn’t. No one can ask for more. Goodnight, sweet, sweet lady; you’re finally back with Dad now.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Personal Tragedy

On Monday afternoon I got the horrifying phone call from my brother that he had arrived home from work to find my mother sitting in her chair, awake and unaware, and not able to move. I had spoken with her via phone the day before and everything was normal. Of course, we suspected the verdict--stroke--and it was confirmed by the emergency room. My mother still lives alone on her large property in Bend but my brother lives on her property for any oversight and help she needs. At 94 she was still packing wood and building her fire, cooking huge dinners for him and doing all her housework on her own. The only thing she had recently given up last Spring was driving. 

The afternoon and evening were a blur of tests, scans, doctor talks and consultations, but the prognosis was extremely grim. My brother and I knew she had a do not resuscitate order and living will made out but we still had to make the extremely painful decision of whether they should pursue any medical interventions. Following her wishes, we told them to allow nature to take it's course and only provide pain relief and palliative care, but nothing life-prolonging. I felt as though I was signing her death warrant, but it is of some comfort knowing she wouldn't want to live forever hooked up to tubes, unable to speak or move. That's not living.

Many might question my still being in Wisconsin, but all along there has been little indication that she has been capable of knowing, understanding, or even hearing what is being said to her. At first possibly, but since the second day as she sinks deeper and deeper into the morphine sleep, not so much. So little is known about the true conscious thoughts of a heavily damaged brain, excepting that hearing is the last sense to go, so everyone is loving and encouraging that it is now her time to join her dear husband whom she's missed so much.

As of this morning she is still clinging to life in Hospice but is a very wasted shell.  My son and daughter-in-law stand death vigil since I sit with three cats waiting for Marc to arrive with his truck and trailer from New Mexico. Once here, we will pack up the RV and head for Bend, not expecting to be able to do anything beyond take care of the elements of her life in shedding her worldly possessions, her death business details, clean and market her property and get her ashes interred next to my father's at the small pioneer cemetery in Northern California, her final stop on a long, long life. 

We figure we could be there for at least a couple of months so it certainly changes up what we thought would be transpiring with our plans. My heart right now is jagged and raw, but I try and keep the thought that she lived a long life and was healthy, fit and doing it on her terms, with independence--right up until the moment she wasn't. That's something to be thankful for and the kind of old age and death all of us would wish for and crave.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Two Decisions


(My hungry cats!)

It’s been five months with Marc gone and I must say it has not gone well for either one of us. We’re just missing each other too much and missing our “retired” life together. Add in the frustration Marc has experienced with this project and it all came down to figuring out what would make us happiest is to just pull the plug.

Marc’s last day of employment will be the 21st and to that end he is already mostly packed up to leave immediately afterwards. Barring the old Dodge breaking down somewhere along the route, I should see him no later than the 27th I hope.

Once he’s unpacked and has rested, our second decision involves staying relatively close to home for the rest of the year. We had given much thought to heading out west for a family visit in October but have nixed that for now. The journey is just too far and with covid rampant, it didn’t thrill us to be around those not vaccinated, which includes many in my family. 

Instead, we’re still going to try and get out and enjoy Wisconsin’s most beautiful month of the year, hopefully wandering up north and sightseeing regions we’ve never seen before and relaxing next to water. I will plan only a loose itinerary and I’d like to pack light and not take the kayaks so we can easily move along to the next campsite when the urge strikes. Our kayaks are very heavy and not something to easily be loaded and unloaded daily. 

Summer is waning down here locally; I pulled the garden the other day and the shelter’s main fundraising event, the annual rummage sale, was accomplished to a record-breaking amount in late August thanks to all our volunteers’ efforts. 

Coming this weekend is Waupaca’s Fall O’Rama where we have a booth filled with home baked goodies, including my 21 loaves of bread, which I’ve spent the last month baking. They always sell out, at $5/loaf!

As to the future, we’ll be keeping a close eye on building material costs as we plan to build some type of pole barn for storage of our RV, the Chevy and Freightliner, and our future boat. It won’t be as fancy as we initially planned given that Marc’s income was cut short but it will at least finally be somewhere to put the vehicles away out of Wisconsin’s winters and weather. We have plenty of space for it on our other, buildable acre lot. So, watch for that in future updates; maybe we can even get started before snow flies!