Thursday, November 3, 2011

the beginning...

The purpose of this blog is to document for all eternity the adventure that my husband (Jay) and I (Mitsy) have embarked on in the form of buying a rural homestead and turning our dreams of self-sufficiency into reality.

Our we-wanna-be-homesteaders aspirations began some time ago.
I built that chicken coop myself. Clyde Dog was not much help.

We searched for and investigated property in many shapes and forms for several years and finally closed on our little homestead in the Ridge and Valley Region of rural Appalachia on July 20, 2011. Our requirements seemed simple enough, but finding the perfect piece of dirt proved to be quite challenging.

Number one was that it had to be in the mountains - any mountains really. We both grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, and finding another beautiful mountainous area was imperative. We be mountain folk to the core, ya'll. We had already lived in Central Oregon for some time and were not interested in the Pacific Northwest - too cold and wet and we had already been there, done that. Southern California was out because, well, Southern California totally sucks. We wanted to get out of state anyway. The Southwest was appealing, but it's hard to find property that is ON a mountain, not just next to one. And as much as I love the desert, creating the infrastructure to become self-sufficient in such an arid climate seemed a bit daunting. We looked at NW Arkansas and Southern Missouri, and while very pretty, just couldn't find anything we liked there, and the mountains were rather piddly in size anyway. New Hampshire/Vermont/Maine had beautiful mountains and the coast to boot, but it's really fucking cold there, and I just don't know that I'd survive very long blanketed in snow for six months of the year.

My search focused on East Tennessee, SW Virginia, and SE Kentucky. We wanted at least 20 acres, total privacy, a reliable water source, full sun year-round, plenty of mountainside and woods, and within reasonable driving distance of basic shopping. It needed some sort of habitable structure, but it didn't need to be fancy. We almost bought a turn-of-the-century farmhouse in SE Tennessee, but the transaction was fraught with red flags, and needless to say, we're really glad it didn't materialize.

Finally I came across a listing in NE Tennessee that included wintertime images of the property, which I considered a bonus because it's easy to fall in love with land at the peak of summer when everything is lush and green, blooming, and full of life. I want to know whether I will thrive somewhere when the garden is a dead, frozen mass, my fingers almost fall off feeding animals when it's butt-fuck cold out, and I'm wearing a thousand layers of thermals because I'm really a cold-blooded lizard and unable to function until I warm up.

The property spanned a south-facing hollow (or box canyon) all the way to the top of the mountain. It was at the end of a county maintained road and had a rustic but solid 2/1 built in 1999 and an even more rustic 1/1 that was built in 2006. Bonus for the in-laws and any visitors that trudge out to see us!

Cold but sunny. Totally workable.

60 acres? Yes, please.

A guest cabin so people don't have to
wake up to our ugly mugs when visiting.

Definitely needs color. But solid and secure.
And it has reliable heat. And the roof doesn't leak.
And, and...

I showed the listing to Jay on May 17, 2011, and we booked his flight to see it the next day. (Okay, slight exaggeration, but you get my drift. We were excited!)

I won't bore you with the transaction details, but after getting a survey and jumping through many hoops, we were finally able to get our loan and closed on it the day I flew out to finally visit it with my MiL. Jay and I finally got to see it together for the first time at the end of September.


My BiL came out to enjoy the scenery with us, as did my parental units. They totally get it. Family compound? Maybe not, but we'll keep that idea on the back burner.

So for now, the hollow (aka, "the holler") is our refuge and we remain in California until we can figure out what to do with our current house. Although the idea of just packing up and moving away without taking any responsibility for our current mortgage holds some appeal, we both know this is not practical (or ethical for that matter), and fulfilling our mountainsteading (yea, you heard that term here first, people) dreams will take some planning. And we have to figure out what to do for income in the poorest and second least-populated county in the state of Tennessee. Hey, that means minuscule property taxes and fewer social services I have to pay for, and I am A-OK with that. Onward!

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