The century old pear tree in bloom.
There may be those few readers who have noted that my posts of late have been a bit sparse. There might have been a number of explanations if anyone cared to ponder my absence or the rather laconic nature of my offerings.
True, we went traveling for 4 days; I had to buy a new PC. Spring finally arrived bringing both seasonal chores and the urge to spend hours out of doors.
All of these things have been factors, but there has been another of which only our closest family and friends were aware.
I have a horror of 'counting chickens before they hatch.'
To broadcast a plan or a possibility before all is in place can leave one feeling a bit foolish if plans go awry.
Now, with phase one of the project completed I can 'announce' that yesterday [Thursday] we 'closed' on the purchase of another property.
About a month ago we made the decision to list our little farm with a realtor to sell.
Much as we have loved [and still do love] the 28 acres and its buildings which have been our home for 4 years, it has become evident that we are tending crops of hay and corn and grain with very little return for our investment. Haying is hot and labor intensive work, subject to the whims of weather. Frequently extra manpower is not available when needed. Similarly, the 'crop farmers' who lease up a patchwork of fields in this end of the county are often stretched too thin--working day and night at harvest when weather permits and inevitably unable to make the rounds to all the fields at the optimum time for harvest.
The alternative of neglecting the land, allowing fallow fields to grow up to weeds, isn't one we can justify.
Too many fields in the county have come to that--overgrown with scrubby brush and tangled undergrowth where crops once flourished.
We toyed with the idea of selling the crop land, retaining the small house, the barns, the gardens.
We've considered the possibilities for enlarging the little house a bit--[our living space seemed to shrink during the prolonged harsh cold of the winter past.] The configuration of the house and the 'lay of the land' surrounding it don't offer easy options for expansion.
Both Jim and I tend to keep an eye on local real estate listings. He has at times thought he might buy a place in need of renovation, refurbish it and offer for resale. Often we drive by those properties that catch our attention on the websites of the local agencies.
Early in December a listing caught our eyes: an already renovated farm-style house on the other side of town. We drove out and found it sitting tidily on 2 acres at the end of a lane. There was a large garage/workshop building, a welcoming front porch, a small front yard with a neat white fence around. The price was appealing. We phoned the listing realtor requesting an appointment to view. Several days went by while he tried to arrange a showing--meeting with a strange variety of excuses from the owners: sickness in the family; some faults with plumbing and septic system which must be modified. Finally, sometime after the New Year, the owners admitted that they had decided not to sell, although they refused to sign off so that the realtor could remove the listing.
Feeling a bit disgruntled we laid aside the idea of listing our farm for sale and looking for an alternative that would provide a bit more house and considerably less land to tend.
Early in March our realtor phoned and asked if we had decided whether to offer our farm for sale. A quick review of our thoughts and we agreed to list. We signed the contract and I began scrambling to tidy the house and take photos which would appear on the official listing.
[Remember the spurt of house cleaning and my 'house tour' photos?]
We began again to peruse area 'For Sale' properties. We drove by several that seemed promising in the listings--only to find that they were located at the far end of the county and/or were in neighborhoods that didn't appeal.
We viewed an older house that was utterly depressing. The roof had leaked and although that had been repaired the interior damage had not. We looked at the photos of an upscale log house, seemingly similar to those we built in Wyoming. On inspection, although the grounds were attractive and there was a huge garage, the house itself was carved up into small cramped spaces. The kitchen was so inadequate that I would have felt claustrophobic merely standing there to boil a kettle for tea!
We viewed a house with admirable space, although it had been bizarrely decorated. The neighborhood and location at the other end of the county left us uninspired.
Lastly, we viewed a 10 year old house of graceful proportions and layout located at this end of the county in an attractive rural neighborhood. There were no outbuildings. The price was at the very top of the range we felt we could manage. In spite of the inviting floor plan and copious amounts of storage we were troubled by the obviously poor quality of the interior work. The sheet vinyl floor covering in the kitchen lay in ripples. The kitchen work space was cramped and the cabinetry of mediocre construction. Chair rail moldings and window trim had been badly fitted. The floors creaked with every step.
We pondered this one for a matter of a week or more. We considered the cost and the time to upgrade inferior fittings and workmanship, to build a workshop.
I worked myself into an anxious state of mind. I considered the possibility of a buyer for our farm appearing, expecting immediate occupancy--and we, with our elderly horse and our retinue of felines--to say nothing of our goods and chattles--being homeless!
I began to fervently wish that we had never considered selling!
It was at this point that J. began to consider a house which we had driven past several times, noting the 'For Sale" sign. It is in the country, surrounded by farm land, about 4 miles from the center of town.
I protested: the crop land extends to the very edges of the long narrow acre where the house sits.
Our realtor made an appointment for a showing. I decided not to go.
J. and our realtor went at the appointed time, only to make a hasty exit from the house when they realized someone was asleep in one of the bedrooms! J. had seen just enough of the property to declare it appealing.
Another appointment was made for the next day and with G. in tow [she loves house tours] we made the 15 minute drive to the location.
Homeowners are not advised to be present when potential buyers come to view. The owners were there--an older couple who invited us in as graciously as though we were guests expected for tea. We explored the semi-finished basement area [half bath, potential bedroom, a 'family room' a large laundry room with an outside exit, a tidy storage room] While J. went to acquaint himself with the land and the large garages, G. and I were shown about by the lady of the house.
G. by then was hissing in my ear, "This is a darling house! I can see you living here!"
I fell in love with the kitchen. The cabinetry was custom made locally several years ago. The details of the kitchen were planned by a woman who loves to bake and to put up food from the garden. The window above the deep sink looks out into the back yard, the garden area, the surrounding fields.The adjoining dining area could accommodate a family gathering. There are three bedrooms--not large--but adequate.
In the garden we discovered a pecan tree, a pear tree, clumps of iris, grassy areas, pockets of landscaped plantings, a large veg garden, room for our elderly horse to live out her days. J. was intrigued by the large sturdy shed divided into three bays.
The price was astonishingly reasonable. We came away with a good feeling, a sense that we could 'fit' there very well.
It belongs to us now. The sellers have 30 days occupancy in which to pack and remove to their other property in Indiana.
The dated wallpaper needs to come down. I've chosen paint colors for each room, not unlike the decorating with which we revived this house.
It is a bit daunting to own two properties, but not burdensome as long as a buyer for our farm appears prior to another winter. I can only pray that will happen, as the expense of heating two houses could mount up. The finishing of the basement area will need to await funds from the sale of the farm. The price of paint to refurbish the upstairs living area is not prohibitive. I can still do a good job of painting--it merely takes me about three times as long and engenders a good deal more creaking and groaning than formerly.
With such a short distance we should be able to accomplish much of the move in reasonable increments.
Meanwhile, I've been spending time in my gardens here, dividing perennials which have outgrown their space, but potting them up to move rather then relocating them within the existing gardens.
I disinterred the peonies I set in the strip beyond the clothesline: It was never a good choice for a garden; hard rains send a torrent of water down the ditch in the back field to swamp the struggling plants and create a depressing wallow of mud.
Four blueberry plants set out mid-summer are now in large pots, as are 3 straggling roses which had not settled in happily.
Some plants in the perennial strips appear to have succumbed to the freeze of January--likewise a number of things in the herb plot.
I've pruned and poked, felt daunted by the hardy growth of weeds already flourishing.
The daylilies that line the front porch are sturdy things, spreading apace.
Other plants can be divided to fill out the bare patches where plants have been lost.
I am assisted in my outdoor work by the boy cats who charge through any bit of soil which I spade up.
As I dig and gently lift roots, fill pots with soil, I hear the mockingbird rehearsing his latest repertoire.
Robins chirp, the cardinal utters his sweet call.
Overhead the dark crimson buds of the crab apple swell in the heat of afternoon.
Silvery green returns to the winter-faded stems of lavender.
I absorb each familiar element of my home with that too familiar sense of impending departure, even as I sit with a mug of tea, paint sample cards fanned out on the table, plotting where to position my rocking chair--my Grampa Mac's favorite chair that has traveled with me so far from his New England home.
I fret over the perils of acclimating the cats to a new environment.
I wonder about the patterns of sunlight that will fall across the floors on a space new to me; I dread the exhaustion of sorting and packing my bits and pieces.
I feel already the wrench of leaving the loved and the familiar to move even a few miles away from the dooryard which has been a refuge and a delight.
I can do this!
I can do this--I think--one more time!