Andrew and I knew something big was going to happen. We didn’t know what, and we didn’t know when or where…..it was such an exhilarating time. We were crazily in love, and talked incessantly about how fragile life is, and how you have to “go for it” while you still can, no regrets, we could die tomorrow. Carpe Diem. A Toca tu, a toca me. We wanted to use the ethereal-ness of life as an inspiration to get going NOW. The best way we could think to be proactive about combining this attitude with our desires to farm full time together, was to start working on a business plan. Our over-the-top farm business plan included workshops, permaculture practices, full circle fertility, animals and a vegetable CSA. We even worked our plan out into the next 3 years. On paper, the potential numbers looked very promising. Now what?
While all the media madness was going on, Andrew told me the farm website was getting a lot of hits. I decided I needed to quickly take advantage of it, while people were interested. I added a couple of “on-farm” workshops and an open house date, and had several signups immediately.
There was one particular soap-making workshop on my farm at the end of May, which I held on my front porch. There were about 10 people who attended, and as usual, I asked them to look around for natural materials as inspiration for the kind of soap we’d make. I introduced them to the goats, and as we walked with them in the pasture, the class decided to collect dandelion flower heads for their petals, to add to the batch of soap we were making.We all took turns stirring the soap as it began it’s process of tracing over the next hour, and as usual, we had a lot of time to fill. I had learned to just start rambling about all things farm during these periods of time. I talked about how I needed more land, couldn’t afford to grow, but couldn’t afford not to. Several of the students also wanted to start farming some day, so we commiserated as we shared our Farm Dream stories. It was a great experience together. Our soap batch set up perfectly, and the dandelion petals were stirred in at the end to make brilliant yellow flecks in the bars.
One of the students was a girl who worked at another co-op in the Cities. She emailed me the day after the class to tell me about a co-worker of hers who I might want to talk to. He had some land in Wisconsin and was trying to sell it. She and her friends had thought abut buying it, but couldn’t figure out a way to make it work. This was a great sacrifice of kindness on her part to share this opportunity. She passed on his number, and I called Andrew to let him know about it. He said he had a good feeling about this, and we agreed we should go check it out immediately.
I called the number and a man answered. He worked at a co-op, and yes, he had land and a house for sale. He described it as his private nature preserve, he’d used no chemicals on it for the last 20 years, and told me there were many fruit trees and cherry bushes. I could tell that he loved this land very much, and that he had been rather passive about selling it because he was nervous about what would happen to it when it wasn’t his anymore. But, time was of the essence- he and his wife had just bought their dream home in a warmer part of the country and were scheduled to move away in 3 months. I set up an appointment for us to go visit that very evening, and excitedly called Andrew back. We both had a nervously hopeful and super-charged electric feeling about this land, and we hadn’t even seen it yet.
My two younger sisters came with us as we drove out to see the place, which was about 45 minutes east of where my little farm was. As we followed the directions, using a gazetteer to help negotiate the crazy backwoods rural roads, things started looking a little familiar. Then, as we turned onto the road where his address was located, it all came swirling back to me- I had bought three of my La Mancha goats from a family on this very road 2 years previously! We passed their place and saw their goats grazing in the pasture by the road, this was surely a very good sign. As we drove up the hills, we found the address and in the driveway stood a sawhorse with a for-sale sign.
They were very warm and welcoming, and I could see that they were excited as we were. They showed us the land, and took us on a hike around the path they maintained around the perimeter of the property. We kept looking at each other with disbelief. It was 39 acres of paradise- rolling hills, some flat meadows, groves of majestic oak, birch, popple, willow and maple around the edges. There were multiple vistas which just took our breath away. After living on 1.8 acres surrounded by suburbia, this place was blowing my mind. It was very private, simply enormous, very diverse and still rather wild. Wildflowers dotted the grassy meadows, 2 ancient oaks rose up overlooking a steep, north facing gully. There were mature apple trees growing all over the place. We were told this parcel used to be a farm over 20 years ago before they had purchased it, with cattle pastured in the gully and the flat areas being cultivated for crops. We asked what he was looking for pricewise, and whether he was in a contract with a realtor. The price was reasonable, and he told us he had planned to call the realtor the very next day, right before I’d called him. It all seemed so serendipitous, and a little too good to be true. What was wrong with this place?
Well, we went into the house, and it was cramped, and pretty ramshackle, but not too bad. It’s hard to look at a house being lived in with open eyes, and they had several cats that added an rather undesireable odor to the indoor ambiance. The original part of the house had been built around 1910 as a tar-paper shack, and then added onto as the years went by. The whole house had a bit of a lean to it, and it was obvious house maintenance hadn’t been a priority. But the land, oh the land, was simply gorgeous. We went home to think about it.
A week later we returned to walk the land again, and they started us on the path going through a whole other area that we’d missed the first time- about an acre of dark green forest covered with 200 foot tall pines. They had been planted as a school project in the 1930’s by the children who’d lived in the house and went to school right next door. Pretty wild. We walked the perimeter path around the land again, this time on our own. We felt sure about our being led here, it was beyond our wildest dreams. Even though the house was kind of a downgrade, and there was no farmy infrastructure in place to use, this place was a beautiful blank slate that we could afford.
We had to talk with them a bit more about the details, and also we wanted to share with them our farm dreams for this magical land. As they looked through our business plan, the wife said she was getting goosebumps. We talked about the state of the house and when we might be able to schedule a home inspector’s visit before we made an official offer. He admitted there were some problems, and also that he’d not ever had the septic tank pumped out. In 20 years! So, he said, they’d decided that if we skipped the inspection, they would lower the price by $5,000. The total price, even for just the acreage, made this offer irresistible. We primarily loved the land, not the house, anyways. And at least we’d have somewhere to live, with a well and electric in place. We said we’d get in touch with a real estate attorney to start working through the process of buying our dream farm.