This year we make the infamous step that propels us one step closer to actually becoming real grown-ups… renters to home owners. In our case this “step” has turned into more like a treacherous climb through uncharted territory. We have been looking for a home for over a year and a half. We knew when we moved into our rental home in St. Paul that our time here would be short lived, as it is being demolished by a developer in July along with two other houses next door to put up shiny new apartment buildings for college students to live in.
Once you begin your home search, there is an overwhelming realization that there are a LOT of factors to consider when buying a home. Size, number of bedrooms, price, location, distance from work, family, friends, parks, and stores that you frequent. Not to mention the lighting, layout, heating sources (gas, propane, wood burning stove), tree coverage, rules and covenant associated with certain neighborhoods (like can you have chickens? or keep bees?) and LAND. And oh how we dreamed of Land. Perhaps it was ingrained in us from watching Far and Away one to many times as kids. But Chuck and I just felt like out there somewhere was a little plot of land just waiting for us… and we were ready to race our horses and fist fight people in streams to stick our little stake in the ground. We had hobby farm dreams too and animals, beehives and a massive vegetable and flower garden.
But even through all those technical details, I could not help but shake the feeling that there was somewhere I was “supposed” to be. But where the heck was that. As a believer in a God, prayer was a large part of my process… and I was convinced that I would get some sort of magical warm feeling inside or get signs from heaven when I walked into the right house, and I would just know to stop freaking out about having a mortgage and buy the place.
Well… then there is the massive reality check called the housing market, and really there are not huge well priced little pieces of heaven close to the city just waiting for families to claim and call their own. Real estate close to the city is expensive… especially anything with decent sized land with outbuildings. Not to mention that it is currently a sellers market which means that you pretty much DO have to fight people in the stream to even be consider to purchase something. Those magical feelings I was searching for seemed non existent especially considering that we are first time buyers… and so many things were super confusing, namely trying to do negotiations when multiple offers were being considered. The buyer is completely in the dark and has absolutely no idea how much anyone else offered… all buyers just get asked to bring forth their final and best (EVEN if you already put forth the final and best). Not to mention there are all these people/ institutions involved in the process. Realtors, banks, lenders, appraiser, inspector… and they are talking about very large sums of money to our little family (Considering the largest purchases we have made in our 5 years of marriage has been a 10 year old used mini van and a queen sized mattress)
Over the course of our journey we probably toured over 20 properties (raw land and properties with homes). In each case there were multiple people looking at the same properties… even though some of them had only been on the market for a day or two. At one showing, there were fifteen other buyers there the same night. We put offers on 6 properties… and all 6 times we lost to other buyers. Except once… one time our offer was accepted but then after paying over $300.00 to have an inspection we learned that the house was not worth what we had offered and we backed out. Each time I would get my hopes up, something that people kept telling me not to do. “Don’t get excited until the keys to the front door are in your hand!” But how could I not dream? As one good friend pointed out to me, “how can you buy a house unless you can imagine yourself living there?” and that is what I did each and every time. I imagined myself in the garden planting vegetables, or sitting and looking out the kitchen sink window… and I dreamed about what kind of adventures my kids might have as they grew up there.
After losing in a bid war to someone who swooped in under our noses and offered cash on the spot, over a house I was convinced was the perfect place for my family…. I lamented. Where is the humanity in all of this? With all these people we were working with the seller/homeowner was completely absent from the equation. That was the person I wanted to talk to. I wanted to shake their hand and show off my cute kids and convince them that I was going to be the best damn person to live in their house! (I am sure that for some people that is exactly why they hire all these third party people, is because they don’t want to know who is going to live in their house or feel biased in any way… but I was feeling desperate. I felt like begging at people’s feet to just give me a house!)
It all felt unfair, and I felt like crying and tantruming like a 3 year old who was denied the candy bar placed conveniently at tiny arms reach in the check out line. (Dang it… not grown ups yet!)
It started to feel like despite our best efforts we COULD NOT buy a house. It felt like we would never win. It felt like my Far and Away Dreams were just dreams and maybe God did not care where we lived after all… Perhaps we would find our dreams a few years down the road and we would need to just live somewhere in the meantime. But I just kept praying.
Realizing that we would need to formulate a Plan B, C, and D. There was talk about moving the house we live in that is going to be torn down… but it is almost impossible to move a house this size through the city and would cost a small fortune. We also thought about perhaps building our own house, and started researching alternative building styles, cordwood being our current favorite. The owner of our rental said we could salvage things to use towards our building… so it seemed like an option (just neglecting the fact that we both have no construction experience… but I am convinced you can learn how to do just about anything in our day and age).
We decided that as we prepared to salvage and purchase raw land to build on we would temporarily relocate our selves to Chuck’s parents house. They graciously offered to take us in until we could find something. Considering that plan, I put my beehives up at their house and planted a big bee forage garden with lots of flower and vegetables. It felt like perhaps my land dreams would be fulfilled at my in-laws.
IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: (Lately I have been studying and learning everything I can about permaculture. Ever since I went to school for nutrition, I have had this growing fascination with agriculture, and wanting to grow and eat my own food. Not to mention feeling really inspired by all the documentaries about our food system and bee keeping over the last few years. I have felt so moved by the work of people like Bill Salatin (the Food Inc. Farmer), Geoff Lawton, Bill Mollison, Susan Brown from Mademoiselle Miel, and all my local farmer friends that we buy raw milk from, and help me learn about beehives and let my kids play with the animals. There is a growing movement of people realizing that we need to change the way we produce our food in this country and that giant, pesticide laden, GMO mono crop mega farms need to transform back into the small family farm of the past. I can go on about this forever… and will in another post… but wait
WHAT DOES ALL THIS HAVE TO DO WITH OUR HOUSE BUYING YOU ASK…well at one point during our searching I jokingly said to my husband, “why can’t there just be a really cool hippie couple who is like minded who has already started our hobby farm and permaculture dream but they just for some reason have to move? It seemed so convenient, and because it never hurts to ask, I said a prayer that night and asked God the same question.
So the search continued and we were in the midst of negotiations on a 10 acre piece of raw land that was formerly a corn and soybean field which we were again convinced was “The ONE”….
BUT WAIT (Que dramatic music)
During the middle of picking up the girls from school, and my awkward mommy moment of trying to get all 4 of my kids buckled in their car seats… Chuck calls.
He tells me that there is a craigslist ad for a hobby farm and that I am not going to believe it and I need to go and look at it right away. So I sped home and opened up the link in an e-mail… and just for dramatic effect, I want you to read just a taste of the craigslist ad too:
Hobby Farm 80 acres with Home, Barn & Outbuildings
This beautiful 80 acre Hobby Farm is located 45 min. North of the Twin Cities on the border of the towns of Cambridge and Harris, MN.
The land has about 50 farmable acres and 29 pristine wooded acres.
We ran an organic farm and CSA program for 3 years on the property. We had our organic animal feed greens growing in our biggest open field, along with our heirloom melons, organic vegetables & greens, and 3,000 strawberry plants also on it.
*the strawberry plants have been one year in the ground and will come back every year! They have begun to flower already, so sweet strawberries are on their way!
We have 2 separate fields, and 2 uncovered hoop house structuring for easy build, already carved out on virgin land that we also grew specialty heirloom vegetables, herbs, and culinary mushrooms.
Our home is a charming good sound structure that accompanies this amazing 80 acre property. We have also cleared a space on the top of our highest hill, which overlooks the entrance to our property, that is a perfect location for a dream home to build on the property.
Our 7 outbuildings are amazing! They are well built and sound and all in great condition!
Our Settlers Home is a historical gem. It was a rural home that nested one of the first families to settle this area in the late 17th century. It has been completely renovated with new floors and walls, and an exposed beam authentic ceiling that is truly stunning and authentic. We have a build in art studio room addition on the left side of the home that has served us as a true creative oasis! The right side is outdoors and has a lean roof great for parking ATVs, lawnmower etc. The main room is two stories. There is a standable attic with a built in shelf/closet. It was actually the shared bedroom for the family of six that lived in this rural home. It has power electricity.
Our 2nd building stores our property well and the pump in a small basement. Top level has space for organized storage, great for tools and houses our deep freezer.
Our 3rd structure is small but not in character! It is another historically gem build by the settlers. It stores wood for winter.
Our 4th structure is a shack house we used to house our pigs, they were happy to have a enclosed home instead of a lean. It does have electricity. It has an enclosed field with an existing electric fence ready to be plugged back in. It is adjacent to our forest with a nice wooded area of it included in our fenced in area which was great for our pigs to have a forest feel. They happily made a mud pit in a corner!
Our 5th building is our Barn. Wired with electricity it is a spacious and has a built in wood rack for seeding, we used it in a stage of our mushroom cultivation process.
We have customized the barn space and layout many times and according to season, and it has well separated spaces ready for its new layout. We have wonderful counter space and double sinks with running water. Great for processing produce and an outside cleaning space.
Our silou is picturesque to our property.
Our 6th building is our Chicken Coop. It is a great structure and we housed our laying hens here. It is fenced in with a great hill in the front for them to happily graze.
Our property is ideal for grazing with rolling hills, and in addition we will be leaving our chicken tractor we have built and used effectively! It has a hook up to be transported by whatever is convenient, and it houses up to 100 birds who may be moved around the property happily and safely for happy grazing.
We have a small fruit orchard with two apples and a plum tree, along with multiple large enclosed fenced areas great for grazing livestock.
Our 7th building is two buildings in one! One side houses a great space for storage, equipment, and daily animal feeding grains. It has a small enclosed chicken coop inside with an access door to a fenced in outside area for birds. The outside fenced in area has a space with a wired top enclosure, great for young chicks safety, and a open top fenced in area to be weaned safely.
The other side is our main garage and storage shed. Spacious with a big sliding door for great visible access. It has a small space for attic storage as well.
We have 3 ponds in total scattered throughout our 80 acre property, along with a carved out farmers road scenically cut out through a beautiful wooded area that serves as a perfect connector of our 2 adjacent 40 acre plots. Our biggest pond is visible right off this beautiful farmers road.
Our 29 wooded acres are just simply AMAZING! It truly distinguishes our property!
We have multiple forest trails blooming with wildlife, and local flora and fauna. We have a seasonal spring that runs through our property with the most beautiful black soil and prized natural peat moss decadently spread throughout our forest. We have inoculated wood logs with culinary mushrooms ready to bloom throughout the property and also composted in our woods! We have an array of local mushrooms varieties naturally growing throughout our forests, including the highly prized morel mushroom which welcomes wonderful mushroom hunting adventures!
Deers and turkeys also run abound out here so if you are a hunting enthusiast you will have a happy hunting season on this property!
Detailed pics will be posted by tomorrow morning.
Serious inquiries only please.
PICTURES you ask? I am sure you all want to see the pictures. NO PICTURES not a one, but I did not need to see. I knew that this was my personal heaven, I had just read my dream. I immediately called the number to the AD in tears… yes I was crying like a giant baby.
I said, “Hello my name is Tacy and I am a little nervous, sorry I am crying, but I just read your craigslist AD and you just described my personal heaven and I really need to come and see it right away.”
Because I was so super anxious, I sent my brother and sister in law over to the house because they were only 7 minutes down the road. Luckily for my nerves sake, the homeowner was there and took them on an incredible tour. She told them she had got my message and was excited to meet me. My brother and sister in law told her all about me and Chuck and how perfect this place would be for our family…
My sister in law called me after the tour and said, “I am pretty sure once you meet Lucy it will be a done deal, she is just the most beautiful Hippie women, your age who started this farm 3 years ago but is from Miami and can’t stand the cold Minnesota winters and wants to go back to Florida.”
I got off that phone call… and my knees buckled and tears filled my eyes.
Could this really be happening? God really did hear my super random half joking prayer from months ago. It felt like the entire Universe was shifting just to make the humble dream of some obscure housewife in Minnesota. How can I even put into words the feeling I had in that moment. It was like heaven opened up for just a minute and I could see God sitting up there smiling and giving me the thumbs up…
This was it. No Mistaking. There was so much magic.
We had to wait a few days to actually go and see it. The longest couple days of my life. In my anxiety I wrote the home owner an e-mail, just telling her that I could not let this house go by without telling her a little bit about our story. The letter basically said that no one on this green earth would love that farm more than we would.
When we met Lucy and toured the farm it was everything that I thought it would be… not perfect by any means… but this incredible haven of endless agricultural possibilities. Oh the things I would grow… and learn, and the adventures my kids will have and the hard work and the love and the vegetables. Not to mention that it would bless so many families.
We toured it on our Anniversary, the first day of our 7th year of marriage… and it just so happened that this was the 7th house we had tried to purchase. In numerology the number 7 symbolizes perfection and completion… it just could not have been any more perfect and complete to us.
At the end of the tour we all hugged, and we told her that we wanted to pay her what she had asked for it. And she said, “perfect, you are my perfect buyers. You won me over with your e-mail. I wanted someone who would continue our work here. I don’t want to negotiate any more we will take it off the market.” She also told me that she had been praying for the right people to find it. Pretty cool huh!?
And there are lots and lots of other things that were so incredibly amazing. But somethings I just hold in my heart about it all.
So, My wildest dream came true. I am going to be an Organic Farmer. Many more stories to come.