So in February, we finally got an offer! The news sent us through the roof! Not only would I be able to have a garden with my sister this year, but we can actually get started on our own plans to build the homestead. Wow! Well then, what’s the plan?
#1 Pack up everything and get it to storage.
This is a real ‘shot in the dark’. In the past, we’ve never made a move without having a little foreknowledge of the outcome. This time we really have no idea what we’re doing, if it will work and if we are making the right choices to make it work. But we’re flexible and ready for an adventure. We kinda feel like pioneers and everything we do is being played out in an old western movie. A Uhaul truck may as well be our covered wagon, carrying every possession we own across the Great Divide while we look for that perfect piece of land to defend until death. Yeah, it’s just like that. So we already have two storage units and I’ll be renting yet another one for the last bit of stuff. We expect to buy a small fixer which means that we may have way too much anyway. (Look! Over yonder! I think there’s a ‘garage sale’ headed our way!) Oh boy, one more thing to deal with before we head out of town for good. It doesn’t matter though. What really matters is the land itself – will it do what we need it to do? It is the only non-flexible issue at hand.
This is one of THREE, if you can believe it. And the hubby rented a contractors’ yard to store large equipment and vehicles. We have too much stuff folks…
It’s the end of February and the contingencies on the sale have been lifted. (The buyers called for several inspections. And we passed them all. Yay!) And so we have now gone from dreaming to full-on action – the real work can now begin. By mid-April we will embark on a journey with great expectations of self-sufficiency.
#2 Simultaneously look for property and a temporary place to live.
The new frontier. A vast and unpredictable place. Our journey begins, well, online actually. Not only have we been researching the ins and outs of homesteading, but we’ve been looking on the MLS just about everyday. As things come and go (or go up in price) we know that this is the time to get moving on it. Although, I think the hubby is now in exhale-mode. He’s worked so hard all his life that now all he can think about is how it will finally pay off. He also is looking forward to being in reset-mode and plans to take the RV up to his parents’ place to visit for a while. Sounds like fun. Something we haven’t had for years now. We’ve forgotten about the word “vacation” where we used to take one or two trips every year, we don’t even leave town anymore. Unless it has to do with work or moving or buying something off Craig’s List. (sigh)
Like the old west, there is no road map telling us where to go. There is no guarantee that we won’t meet opposition and have to fight for our place in the promised land. There is no way of knowing if this will all be worth it. We changed our minds about looking for an apartment (or other temporary housing) and plan on staying in the RV (boondocking if necessary) if we end up without a home for a while. I keep telling myself that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and to stay focused on it. “We’ll look back and tell great tales about it someday.” That is the picture I have in my head where I am telling my grandchildren the fabulous story about how we came to have a homestead – it’s been a regular daydream of mine. And also a reminder of the good to come when we start to feel a little down. I can see the life we want. I know how rewarded we’ll feel after a hard days’ work in the garden. I look forward to being prepared, off-the-grid, green, responsible, in charge. I can see it. By the end of March we will have all our things out of the house and get it prepared for the new owners. We hope to have an offer on a new place by then.
But now I have a multitude of questions about what is to come. The most pressing is whether or not we’ll find a neighborhood that won’t hate us. Not everyone wants a homestead you know. And I suspect that most will think we’re just plain crazy.
#3 Placing an offer… on something.
When fighting for what you want, you have to have a quick-draw or you’ll get shot down. And just like that, the market starts to pick up again. While we thought we’d have lots of time to pick the perfect property, we learned that there are vultures (i.e. investors) out there and things are getting snatched up fast. So now that we are gone from that side of California for good, we can be quicker about making an offer here. And it looks like we may be closer to the light than I thought. Two properties are looking really good right now, and the thing is that no one seems to want them. They will take a lot of work which is just what the hubby wants. (Did I mention that he loves a fixer?)
And then it happens. In May, we bought a 3 bedroom fixer on 5 acres (yeah, 5 acres!) and it comes with a small walnut grove, a barn and a pool. We still think it’s a dream. The house is trashed, the yard is like a garbage dump and the land is dry as the desert. Perfect! I know this might not work for most people, but you can save a lot of money if you do the work; then that’s more money that can go into your garden or animals, etc. So here we are, happy as can be… and waiting for the real work to begin.
Bring it on!
This pool has seen better days. We never considered having one but it really sounds like fun. So this is the ‘before’ picture and I’ll post a link to the ‘after’ at some point in time…
#4 Getting acquainted: Neighbor, house, land.
In keeping with the old west theme, this neighborhood isn’t unlike an old western town, quiet and almost deserted in the way it feels. Maybe we’re being watched. People are just waiting to see what we have up the sleeve; whether or not we’ll fit in. I am real curious to know which one is the sheriff of the block..? Let’s face it, there is always a sheriff. Well, this town can’t stay quiet forever. Someone has to give.
It’s a good thing the hubby is a general contractor. Boy! The house needs help – big time! 1300 sq. ft. of cat pee and mouse poop. It has really good bones though. And I’ve already begun working on a remodeling plan.
Here is the picture that our realtor took for the MLS… it even looks great on a cloudy day.
The barn-soon-to-be-shop. The hubby can’t wait to pour the concrete.
But that’s secondary to getting started on the land. THE LAND! What an amazing space it is. All we have to do is clean up and dive in. To have my own garden again is like coming home. I can’t tell you how grateful we are to have this second opportunity to live a better life. And guess what? At least one of our kids is on board to help with some farming. Jackpot!
Another pic from the realtor. It’s the prettiest sight I’ve seen in a long, long time. It goes all the way back to that wind-break you see. We can certainly do a lot with this… a lot.
#5 The land will tell you what to do, not the other way around.
So now we’re looking on Craig’s List for tractors, and we plan to go to our first auction to see what they may have there. I know we need a tiller and a mower for the unused areas. And thanks to the good neighbors, we’ll start looking for a ‘moldboard’ or plow attachment, which will make the initial ground-breaking easier. Another good suggestion was to hire someone to do plowing work, since you will only need to do it once.
But then it happened. That perfect, once-in-a-while deal that comes along when you are just about to give up. We did a double-take in disbelief…
This thing of beauty is our most triumphant Craig’s List purchase. It has a motor that runs like a dream, came with three attachments and runs on diesel; perfect for switching over to biofuel when the hubby is ready. From the moment he taught me how, I began to mow and didn’t stop until the sun went down. I’m sure my new neighbors think I’m nuts. But what I’ve noticed is quite unexpected… the ground in the front of the house is extremely hard. Much worse than the acreage in the back. So do we spend time amending the ground for my much anticipated ‘neighborhood’ garden, or come up with new ideas based on what we actually ended up with? Thinking..
..and remembering. I remember that we did that already. We had an idea in mind of what our previous home would look like and spent way too much time and money making that exact image come to be. In the end, it just wasn’t worth it. We should have worked with the land and not against it. Many times you’ll find border lines between the states that are based on the terrain and nothing else. Even if there is a war over it, the natural and obvious choice for dividing up land is usually staring the two opposing sides in the face. Yep, this property is demanding an entirely new layout plan. Will do.
#6 Work it baby!
This is the most fun I’ve had since riding my first bike. Try to get me off ‘er… I dare ya. I (along with all the other tractors I hear each day, toting the neighborhood dads) have an agenda: Tame that land. I began to rework the plan for the market garden. It involves cutting out two rows of walnut trees. Sounds really sad, but the two rows I’ve chosen have trees that have been taken over by the ‘black walnut’ base they were grafted on. We think they’re too far gone anyway, and it’s good firewood so it isn’t a total loss. That will open up a huge area that we can get started on. The personal garden (that will mostly have raised beds) will be behind the ‘backyard’ area near the coop. These will be close to the house and just makes sense.
We’ll start building the market garden a little at a time. 4 x 50 ft rows were suggested by a good neighbor as a way to project profit and seems easy enough to work by hand. Anything else will be decided as it comes.
Yes, we thought we’d ride in and lay down the law on this place, fight off a few weeds, and build what we wanted where we wanted. As we uncover more and more of it’s beauty, we can see that it knows just a little bit more than we do; it’s just a little bit smarter. It tells us where, what and why with each step we take. The land wears the badge around here.
The next post in this series is about land investment and flexibility! Please continue the journey with us…