The little house on the hill in Gradyville
Nearly a week ago, on Thursday morning, I loaded photos, typed in a post title, thought about how I could condense the happenings of the past week or two into a coherent story.
I was pressed for time, with my second cataract removal scheduled for late in the afternoon.
I scurried about, doing laundry, putting fresh sheets on the bed, trundling the vacuum cleaner through the house.
[The cataract removal is done by laser, a brief and nearly painless procedure, but one is left with blurred vision for several days and the recommendation is for rather limited physical activity.]
My post -op appointment was early on Friday morning. The eye doctor pronounced that all is well.
It was a day of glowing sunshine--I would have liked to spend it outside tidying the garden, but knew that I needed to stay inside out of bright light.
Jim had a flurry of errands, so I stayed at home and made apple pies. [It is quite possible to peel apples and roll pastry with one 'good eye'--and only a bit awkward!]
The Bedford Stone house in Cane Valley
I am still bemused by recent happenings,
Here then, an attempt to update this journal and put my loyal readers in the picture.
Those who have been 'with me' for a number of years will perhaps recall our exodus from Wyoming after 12 very busy years in which Jim first built custom houses and then began to purchase land, subdivide and design/build homes for resale.
In 2010 we 'retired' and chose Kentucky as a place of milder winters and reasonably
priced real estate.
We had spent months researching properties online, had contacted an agency, and arrived with a list of properties to view.
We hoped to find a small acreage with a farmhouse in decent condition--a house which we could renovate as needed.
We quickly learned that 'farmhouses' on offer in our price range were usually neglected buildings that had stood empty for a number of years, with leaking roofs and sagging floors.
Often we learned they had been given up by families who opted to build a tidy brick bungalow or vinyl sided 'ranch house' nearby, and as an afterthought had put up the old house with an acre or two for sale.
Disillusioned we arranged to view a 5 year old log home on five acres.
It was beautifully done, very like what we had been building in Wyoming.
The kitchen was fitted with the very line of cabinetry we preferred; the landscaping was tidy, there was a neat small barn on the property. It was situated a little too near a busy highway for comfort.
We headed back to our motel room that afternoon, tired, minds boggled by the whirlwind trip of nearly 2000 miles, the several days of being whisked from one property to another.
Our home in Wyoming was sold, our worldly goods packed into two trailers awaiting the move.
We needed to find a home!
Jim had driven the old Dodge truck to Kentucky, pulling our car on a trailer, planning to find a storage lot where we could safely leave the car until we made our move.
Strangely, the truck, serviced a few days prior to our journey, developed a need for a new alternator.
We left it at a repair shop conveniently located down the street from the motel.
Jim stopped at the repair shop to settle the bill while I drove the car up the hill, parked and let myself into the motel room.
Jim breezed in a moment later waving a business card.
It transpired that a local farmer coming into the repair shop noted our truck with out of state license tags and inquired of the shop owner what he knew of us.
'Folks looking to buy a small farm and retire here,' was the answer.
'Give them my card and tell them I have a farm to sell!'
I was tired, a bit down-cast, aching from too many miles.
Jim called the number on the card, was given directions to meet the gentleman in half an hour [when he would be finished with feeding his cattle.]
I declared that I wouldn't go. I was sure it would be another disappointing venture.
Jim coaxed, I got a grip on myself, put my shoes on again and followed him out to the car.
We collected the man, J.M. at his tidy home place.
He was friendly, comfortable, out-going.
He had bought the place a few months earlier when it came up for auction, had done some tidying of the grounds, some cleaning in the house.
As we approached the property, he had Jim drive slowly along the country road, pointing out the boundaries--28 acres of gently sloping fields and pasture, two weathered barns, a bit shabby but straight and sturdy.
A cautious excitement began to stir within us.
No woods, but a fine garden spot, an ancient pear tree in the north field, a dirt-floored 'garage'--smaller than Jim needed as a shop--and the house--a 30 year old 'ranch'--small, but nicely situated at the top of the drive.
I will always believe that we were meant to find that property.
By the end of the month we had taken possession.
I chose paint, we ordered cabinetry and appliances.
Jim ripped up 30 year old carpet, put down hardwood floors.
He tilled a garden plot, laid out my flower strips.
While I planted vegetables and perennials, he spread fertilizer on neglected fields, sowed the mixed seed for a hay crop.
I discovered old plantings of peonies, clematis; I disinterred and divided clumps of iris.
Outdoors in the warmth of a Kentucky springtime we weeded, pruned, planted.
Inside we painted, unpacked, tried to find room in the little house for the belongings which had so recently been arranged in a bigger space.
From time to time we pondered how we could enlarge our living space: close in the front porch? Build a room off the dining area?
We couldn't quite commit to such a project--there was too much else going on!
It became clear after the second year that putting up the hay as a cash crop wasn't viable.
Much as Jim likes to 'make hay' it is a labor intensive process when done on a small scale, and the return didn't justify the effort.
We kept an eye on area real estate--simply because we are interested, sometimes combining errands with a drive-by of some place offered for sale.
It is difficult even now to trace the progression of restlessness which gripped us at the
start of the past winter.
We had discovered in the listing of a local realtor a property which appeared to be what we had looked for 4 years earlier.
A farmhouse, tastefully restored, with a few acres located at the end of a dead end lane.
We drove by, liked what we saw, called for an appointment.
The holidays were barely past and the owners when contacted by our agent declared that they were in some disruption and couldn't show the house.
Inquires the next week brought the excuse that they had discovered the need for repairs to the septic system--didn't wish to have a viewing with the dooryard torn up.
Jim was away with his family for over a week. Upon returning he called our realtor who stated that when he tried to pin down the sellers of the property in question they declared they had decided
not to sell!
We put the property out of our minds, but meanwhile, the longest and coldest winter since our arrival kept us cooped up; we got in each other's way, the house seemed crowded with furniture and heavy coats; we tripped over the boots ranged by the kitchen door. The wood for the fireplace seemed to take up half the living room!
I was working with Jim in the shop on a February morning, carefully 'masking off' a tractor he intended to paint, when the phone rang.
It was our realtor, wondering if we had decided to continue our search for a bigger house and
list our property.
We asked for five minutes to talk it over.
We decided to put the little farm on the market and within a month had purchased the Bedford stone house with its mere acre of land located 10 miles away.
We spent much of the summer renovating, planted and tended a garden, moved our belongings over in a rather desultory fashion--whatever fit in the van on any given trip.
We spent our first night in the house September 16.
Front view of the 'big house.'
A few days before our move, a dilapidated pickup pulled into the yard--a 'driver' bringing an Amish gentleman, M. Miller, on a quest.
Several of his sons had recently located in the Gradyville neighborhood and he was interested in purchasing our property.
He had land for sale at the eastern end of the county and a prospective buyer who would know in a week if he could arrange financing.
The morning after my first cataract surgery, our son [staying at the Gradyville house] phoned to relay the message that Mr and Mrs M. were coming down in an hour to view the place.
We hurried over--to find the Millers already there, strolling about in the garden.
They had knocked at the door but H. hadn't appeared.
I went in, heard the roar of the vacuum cleaner drifting up from the basement. Going downstairs I bellowed at H. He was, in his persnickety way, hoovering cobwebs from the floor joists overhead!
Informed that the Millers had arrived, he replied crossly that people hadn't ought to arrive earlier than anticipated.
Mr. Miller informed us that the sale of his land had fallen through, but that he still would like to own our property.
He asked that we visit him at home on the following day to 'see what might be worked out.'
The 'big house' on the Amish property, with carriage shed and barn in the back.
I was skeptical of what might be suggested, Jim more optimistic [that's the way our personalities react!] Howard declared that he was merely along for the ride.
We followed directions to the dead-end lane and turned in past the house in the above photo.
I took this photo as we approached the upper house.
Miller's Harness Shop
Mr. Miller gave us a tour of his harness shop [remember that post?]
then invited us to cross the drive and go inside his home.
It was plainly furnished according to Old Order Amish sensibilities, but all was immaculate and tidy.
A gleaming wood range presides over the vast kitchen.
The Amish don't use built-in cabinetry--the kitchen is furnished with dressers and hutches--which move when the family moves.
Plain white curtains hung at every window, upstairs and down.
Sunlight gleamed on hardwood floors and shimmered against the gloss paint which the Amish use to play up both natural light and the glow of their kerosene lamps.
I was immediately seized with 'pantry-envy!'
Paths are graveled, and plantings mulched with gravel.
From a tour of this house we went down the hill to view the large house where the Millers raised their family [15 children!] now occupied by a son, his wife and three young children.
We then drove with Mr. Miller around the boundaries of his property which are on the road--some 60 acres, with 40 acres leased out to a corn crop.
Convened again in the harness shop, Mr. Miller came to the point.
He wondered if Jim would be interested in some sort of a 'trade.'
Jim had an inkling that some sort of 'deal' would be suggested but assumed that we would need to put in cash.
"What are you proposing?" he asked quietly.
"Would you swap your property for mine--straight across?"
A moment of astonished silence, then Jim offered his hand, Mose Miller grasped it with a firm clasp.
"If you will make the arrangements for the title search, then come back for my deed, and we'll go from there," he suggested.
We drove home in stunned silence, punctuated only by Howard's skeptical comment that the task of retro-fitting plumbing and electric to 2 large houses would be daunting.
From that day, events have moved with incredible speed.
Our lawyer had time to do the title searches immediately, so we were back at the Miller's next morning to pick up the deed. I asked hesitantly if I might take photos of the home's interior, a request graciously granted.
We knew already that this was not going to be an 'investment property.'
We knew we had found the 'farmhouse' for which we had searched in vain 4 years earlier.
At this writing the deeds have been exchanged and recorded.
We have listed the Bedford stone house with our realtor.
'How could you not accept this trade!' he exclaimed.
He is well acquainted with the large extended Miller family, and does considerable business with the Amish community.
So--have we gone quite mad?
We have reminded ourselves of all the 'reasonable' motives for down-sizing--getting rid of acreage, refurbishing a sensible [if rather uninteresting] house--near to town--closer to church, suitable for drifting into our 'dotage!'
We are elated, excited, energized!
In a way that cannot be mere coincidence, things have come together.
Jim has been put in touch with the septic inspector and has the necessary certificate of approval.
The permit for temporary electrical power is in process.
Jim is supplying truck and trailer to move his own tools and such to our new property and on the return trip the Miller's tools and machinery of the harness making trade are hauled to Gradyville.
The Miller sons lift and load and unload at either end of the journey.
I will not be finishing the task of 'settling in' to the Bedford stone house--a task for which I have been strangely lacking in enthusiasm.
I am sorting--anything not needed for comfortable interim living, will be packed up to the Amish house--or given away--all the sorting that should have been done before this piece-meal move!
As I journal this adventure, it is possible that my readers may tire of the details!