Twelve years ago, when we were making our plans to leave the paradise of Maui and return home to Tennessee, we had a vision. We imagined creating a beautiful farm entity, well rounded and full of life. We imagined grazers eating grass, leaving their manure to make the pastures and gardens greener. We imagined fruit from trees and vines. We imagined clear running water and tall trees, abundant gardens and living soil. We saw children with room to roam and plenty to do in the living world.
And the place that came our way was this sweet little hollow land with a cozy red house with a blue tin roof. It was a perfect place to land, and the price was right. Our daughter was born here and we set to work clearing trees and making room for gardens.
As soon as our daughter took her first steps, we saw the need for more space, and so we built another room onto our house, but that wasn’t the whole picture and we knew it. There were many projects that we just couldn’t do in these four and a half deep, low acres. The ground was improving, but not much could stop it from being low and wet and unsuitable for orchards and large hooved critters.
We started looking around at land. We saw some pretty places. We learned a lot about what we were really looking for, and we learned that it was hard to find.
Here were some of our requirements:
1 – enough open high ground with good light and air circulation for animals, gardens, and housing.
2 – clean running water for home and farm use, and ideally enough to play in during summer’s heat.
3 – privacy. This usually means plenty of trees, but also implies LESS road frontage instead of more.
4 – some kind of structure in place – a live-able house would be nice but a barn would do.
5 – other details: dark nighttime skies, and good distance from nearby corn/soybean/tobacco fields.
Include the budgetary details in there, and suddenly it’s a lot of requirements.
We saw old, worn out farmsteads with rutted tobacco fields and eroded streams. We saw sweet, ancient farmhouses that made us sneeze. We saw beautiful places with hardly any trees. We saw beautiful places that sat right on a big busy road. We saw beautiful places with 3,000 square foot houses that we couldn’t afford and didn’t want to live in.
Then we had another baby. Both my Fellow Man and myself developed chronic respiratory sensitivities directly linked to the cold damp creek-bottom air. We knew that we needed to find higher ground. We adjusted pace, and we kept looking.
While we looked, we kept growing. We kept loving our little place, as it sheltered our children and provided our food and a good chunk of our livelihood. Our sense of urgency ebbed and flowed with seasons, but it never completely abated. Our dream kept changing, just like us, but the dream still included elements that just didn’t fit in this hollow.
It is difficult to write about this, because I believe in contentment and I don’t like to sound like I’m complaining. It isn’t easy for me to explain the reasons for wanting to leave our home of nearly twelve years. That’s why I’m only sharing it with you now, that we’re finally beginning to do it.
We just bought a new farm.
It is in our same county, nearer to the county seat, but still close enough to our “neighborhood”, so to speak. It’s 64 acres. A tiny bit of county road frontage. A big barn in need of repair and another old barn beyond repair. A large enough creek spanning a long border. About forty acres of woods, kinda cut over but there are still some giants on the steep hills and the deep hollows, and twenty-some acres of open land, ten in the bottom and the rest on the hilltop. The land is not lush and fertile. It’s a little over-used and neglected. Like almost all land here, it’s a rehab project. But there is life in the land, and it feels good. I’ve been surreptitiously posting pictures of it for the past few weeks, as we waded through this decision and the process of making it real.
It has been an eight year process, at least. Maybe it’s been a life long process. And just like so many living processes – this is surely not the end but just another beginning. Maybe that is why we don’t feel like popping a bottle of champagne or making a big to-do over it. It feels like a natural culmination of these years of searching, learning, and growing. It feels like it was just supposed to be this way, finally, now.
Extracting ourselves from this place will take awhile. There is no house on the new farm, so we will be building. That will take awhile too. The eight years of searching was just the beginning. There will be so much to share. I look forward to sharing it. I hope you’ll come along for the adventure!