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The honeymoon

Tent in the woods(If you haven't already, you'll want to start with part 1, part 2, and part 3 from the very beginning of Growing Into a Farm.)

A few days before closing (October 25, 2003), I wrote in my journal:

"I already hauled my father up to look at the buildings—the house isn't worth fixing since the foundation would have had to be jacked up, among other things, but I can use the wood.  The barn is in good shape, just needs a new roof.  (That's really high up, but, penny-pincher that I am, I guess I'll learn to deal with heights.)

"I found a beautiful site for a 169-square-foot, underground, passive-solar-heated house.  (No, those last two aren't oxymorons.)  And some beautiful forest at least 50 years old.  My bedtime reading has mutated from fluffy fantasy to books on building your own home.  And I'm planning an orchard."


Creek crossingAt first, my love affair with the land seemed to be off to a good start.  Sure, everyone who I dragged out to look at the property warned me away from such a rough partner, but the price was right and she had such an engaging twinkle in her eye that I brushed off their concerns.  That first glorious autumn, I pitched a tent every chance I got and set to work tearing down the old house, carefully pulling out each nail to be straightened and reused, then setting the wood aside as building material.

During our honeymoon, I was cheerfully oblivious to the inevitable setbacks.  A month after closing, I wrote:

"Finished tearing down the southwest addition to the old farmhouse.  Destruction is so pleasant, especially since I know that I can use the wood that I tear off either to build with or for firewood (depending on its condition).  Too bad I broke my hammer, or I would have gotten all of the nails out of the salvaged wood.  Next time!"


Even discovering that the creek running along the edge of the property flows into a sinkhole that frequently clogs, causing the water to back up and flood the entire valley, felt like an adventure that first winter.  In early March 2004, I wrote:

"Flood!  Friday night, the sky opened up and rain pounded down on the tin roof of my current home.  In a short time period, we netted nearly an inch of water.  I suspect the Sinking Creek area got the same, because when we arrived on Saturday morning, the creek was raging and muddy.

House elevation"Daddy had come up from South Carolina to give the house one more look over.  I badly wanted to be able to salvage one room, to speed my moving in, and he had promised to look at the house more thoroughly.  All that stood in our way was the creek.  The creek—which was currently over five feet high, overflowing its banks, and racing along at an amazing clip.  I jumped into the water on the creek's edge, hoping to get across, but even clinging to a spicebush I nearly got swept away by the cold water.  Downhearted, we turned back (though the brownies I'd brought cheered people up considerably).

"I had been told that Sinking Creek rises quickly but falls just as quickly, so we made plans to come back the next day and try our luck again.  When we returned on Sunday, after a day of dry weather, the creek had gone down two or three feet.  At our usual ford, I could wade across with water only up to my knees.  We did so, and Daddy gave sentence on the house— tear it down, he told me.  I was saddened, but he said the wide oak planks were very good and that a good deal of the wood can be reused."


My plans for accommodations shifted with the wind that winter and spring.  At first, I dreamed of going underground, but soon learned that "the groundwater is very high and an underground house would be more of a boat in that location."  Next, I considered fixing up the best part of the old farmhouse, but Daddy shot that dream down, so I moved on to considering a small straw-bale house on two levels, with the framing lumber salvaged from the farmhouse.

Found chairUnfortunately, my physical strength and skills didn't live up to the grandiosity of my dreams.  Even though I didn't write about it in my journal (remember, I was thoroughly in love), the deconstruction work was already taking its toll.  I started waking up in the night with hands that had fallen asleep and tingled painfully, and I eventually discovered working in the cold was causing my wrists to develop carpal tunnel syndrome.  I didn't mind (much) when I camped out on a night so cold my water bottle froze solid beside me, but when I stopped being able to hold the crowbar, I knew I was in trouble.

Still, I wasn't willing to change my dream one iota.  Instead, I kept pain and suffering out of my journal and wrote:

"I've noticed that the property has suddenly started feeling like home.  Maybe because it's warmer, so I don't feel like I'm just trying to survive while I'm there.  Or maybe it's because I'm getting to know the neighbors.  But I really think it's because of that chair I hauled up from the floodplain.  I don't sit in it—I like sitting on the ground—but the chair makes it feel very homey."


(As a side note, I'm sitting in that chair I once hauled out of the floodplain as I type today.)

Stay tuned for the next installment tomorrow, or read the entire book here.


This post is part of our Growing into a Farm lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:


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You had me at the " I'm sitting in that chair I once hauled out of the floodplain as I type today" confession.

I had to buy the book, could not wait for tomorrow's piece.

This motivates me to start building on my land and be closer to my garden.

My respects and admiration to you and Mr. Mark.

Comment by Pedro Thu Oct 31 21:51:40 2013

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime