Finding the (Nearly) Perfect Property

The very first showing of our house resulted in an offer.  We are under contract.  I love this little old house.  I am proud of what I have done with the yard and the sheer beauty of the space makes me smile.  I turned a barren driveway and dirt lot into an Eden in less than three growing seasons.  So, now it’s perfect, time to move, right?!

This will be the 28th time I have moved.  Doug’s parents lived in the same house for thirty years.  He’s made me promise that we stay ten years to forever in the next house!  Is the next house the sprawling adobe on a hundred acres that we envisioned as our next and forever home?  Does it have water rights and mineral rights?  Does it have a wood stove and solar?  No, nope, and not yet.

We live in Colorado.  We were both born and raised here.  A zillion and a half folks who love pot, mountains, or who are in the military have moved here and prices rival San Francisco and New York City now.  That baffles us both.  My first house in Denver was $36,000.  Those days are gone.  Pueblo kind of got stuck in a time warp thanks to an old reputation of crime and gangs, but the city has cleaned up a lot and since there is so little housing in Colorado Springs, military families are moving here.  Everything has gone up 50% in the past few years here in Pueblo, everywhere else we are talking a hundred grand more for everything from the suburbs to trailers.

When you are choosing a homestead, you have to choose your priorities.  For us, Doug’s job is a really good one that he enjoys.  Our children are here.  Our granddaughters are here.  And we were raised here; we like it here.  We found a small town 30 minutes south of Colorado Springs.  It puts us closer to his work and our kids by 15 minutes.  It looks like it was a back to the land beacon back in the seventies.  Driving down dirt roads one passes a large sprawling house and orchard next to a run down trailer next to a marijuana greenhouse, next to a house built in the 90’s.  Very eclectic.

There are no wells and almost all of the water in Colorado is city water or not owned by the property owner.  In Penrose, everything is on city water (more affordable than the other towns we have lived in thus far at least) and some properties have coveted ditch rights to water fields.  The only one we saw like that was snatched up in days.

So, the question one must ask themselves is, “What do we want?”  (Besides a sprawling adobe on a hundred irrigated acres…for $200,000…near Doug’s work and next door to the kids…)

For us, we have long given up the idea of commercial farming.  We just want a few goats, chickens, ducks, a ginormous garden, and a great view.  We can subsist on that easily.  Three bedrooms and two baths.  A wood stove.

Our realtor took us out Sunday and we went to the three places that were for sale under $300,000.  The first one looked like the makings of a horror movie, with slanting floors, a falling down manufactured home, with lots of junk on two acres.  The second one had five acres but we weren’t sure what we would do with five acres without water.  One would need a rather long hose.  The views were cut off by nearby houses and the ceiling of the manufactured home was falling in.  That one was $225,000.  Lord, help us.  So, off to the third house (which we had driven by and disregarded).

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All pictures were taken off of the listing on the internet.

It was humble on the outside.  The inside was completely redone.  Gorgeous wood floors, high ceilings, new kitchen, fresh carpet in the three bedrooms, all new paint.  Two bathrooms with new vanities.  A large master bedroom with a perfect view of the nearby mountain range.  No wood stove.

The house sits crooked on just over an acre of cactus and cedar with views all around.  A fenced in back yard is in place to keep our dog home before we can secure the mismatched fencing around rest of the property.  A large shed with electricity would make a fine chicken coop.  Neighbors are quite close.  “Sometimes it is nice to have neighbors near,” my daughter commented later.

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As we drove home discouraged and sure we’d have an offer on our house, I turned to Doug and asked, “If that house (and it was the only real house for sale) had six foot fencing around it and a wood stove, would we buy it?”  He replied, “In a second.”

Since those are things we can do over time, we put in an offer and it was accepted!  We move August 15th. I know it’s early and there are a million things that could go wonky from now to then (I am systematically going through over six and a half years of blog posts deleting irrelevant posts like when we thought we found a new rental or when I wanted to become a chef) but I wanted to share the news that we have found our homestead.  It may not be the elaborate dream we had, but it is perfect for us, because it will be ours.  I am beyond grateful.  To think four years ago this week on the blog we were losing everything we owned and moving into our friend’s guest bedroom.  And now we will have our own farm.

Farmgirl School adventures continue!  Happy Homesteading wherever you are!

Searching for Home

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It is just an ordinary old building from the outside.  It was a feed store and a liquor store among other things.  Its basement is flooded and water rushes around the old, old boiler standing proudly, its ankles wading in the rainwater misplaced.  The large main floor is open with high ceilings, windows, wood floors, and my eyes gaze around in wonder as if I were designing a loft for a popular television show.  The upstairs is a rounded loft that would make a lovely bedroom.  The back room is really the gem.  A rustic blank slate of old brick and cement, a kitchen it must be.  I dream as the owner shows me around.  Lord, I could decorate anything.  Unfortunately we have to rent a year before we can buy and she could not afford to allow us that being too far behind.  The bank will likely have this unspoken masterpiece, unappreciated in its barrenness but too expensive in its needs.  I wished her luck.  I could have had supper clubs there and art openings and karaoke nights!  But alas, it is not for us though if could buy we could get it for a song.  I could even turn the outside strip into a garden oasis with chickens.

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So, Doug and I decided to head out to the building that holds the company that he is interviewing with tomorrow.  We are confident and hopeful.  We backtracked from the building to various neighborhoods, many with pristine grass and home owner’s associations written all over them as well as mighty confident price tags.  Because his work, should he get the job, is on the far north side of Colorado Springs we would be a mere ten minutes from the first bit of country.  A life Doug would like to hold onto.  Truth be told, so do I.  We still want the large gardens and chickens.  The views, the stars, the quiet, that life.

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We drove past the trees that were scarred by the fire I wrote about a few years ago.  The area is regrowing and beautiful.  To live in the trees would be magical even though the fire risk is always a possibility.  A few minutes further we get into the prairielands we know and adore.

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Oh where will our new home be?  And can it be somewhere we can stay?  To put down roots and apple trees without fear of being forced to move?  Can we find someone to help us get the house then buy it from them?  Or a place that we can rent then purchase later?  A place that we can call our own?  Dreaming of home is a bittersweet ordeal when you know not where home is.

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Home is by a hearth and fire, surrounded by our cats, and visited by our beloved ones.  It is where we find each other at the end of the day and at early dawn.  Where the rooster will crow and the pumpkins will grow.  We are searching.

Our Homesteading Journey (what we have learned, what we still need to learn!)

We always called this our practice farm.  The place we would learn valuable homesteading skills while still living in town so that when our homestead came forth we would know a great deal before diving in head first into a cold winter with a wood stove.

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Things we have learned on our Practice Farm:

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1. We learned that chickens are not as scary to take care of as previously expected.  In fact they are easier than cats and dogs to care for.  They also add amazing amounts of entertainment to the yard and many a good meal of delicious eggs.

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2. We are able to farm anywhere.  Even in a sandy, weed covered plot in town with extremely expensive water.  A piece of land that sits at over 6500 feet above sea level and where not many folks are crazy enough to farm.  Those of us that do around here hold a remarkable bond.

3.  We can survive running our own business.  If we are passionate, glean bills like mad people, and keep a simple lifestyle, we can live on quite a little sum.

4. We can provide almost all of our own food with a little help from our friends.  We now can over five hundred items to eat over the winter.  We pay half the price of the health food store and support local farmers and ranchers by purchasing humanely raised meats.We can buy from local farms what we do not produce.  This year we produced a good portion of our food supplying all vegetables for summer and into fall and some to can for winter.  In the summer we also dine on fresh eggs and homemade cheese from our own goat’s milk.

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5. We learned that we have an addiction to goats.  They are like outdoor puppies, full of fun and lots of affection.  And they give delicious milk for heavenly cheese.

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6. We are no longer afraid of hoards of bees.  10,000 bees is actually quite quaint and awfully fun to watch work.

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7. Ducks are a hoot.  Perhaps not very practical though.

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8.  We are able to sustain tremendous loss.  Losses and deaths of friends, financial losses, losses of beloved animals.  Losses of bits of ourselves and somehow come out a bit stronger, if not weepier, and hold them close in our hearts.

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9.  Grandchildren are the best healing agent.  They simply make life brighter and more colorful (particularly when they write on the walls).  Graduations, weddings, and family make life very rich.

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10. We could never go back to the city.  We actually exhale as we enter the open prairie.

11.  The most important thing we have learned on this journey is that if you write out and put out to the world your desires, the universe conspires to put everything in place so that you may have it.  Be careful what you wish for but prepare to be blessed!

Things we will be learning on our new Homestead:

I cannot believe that everything we asked for came true.  A small, old house (1905) with the square footage we requested (850 square feet).  A wood cook stove, a well, a pantry, two bedrooms, a chicken coop, goat pens, places to walk with the goats, a view (of Pikes Peak was my exact request and I am quite close to it).  A large fenced garden, close to a small town but not terribly far from the city (in case of momentary lapses in judgment whereupon we find ourselves gorging on fondue and seeing a mediocre movie) and a great library district.  Doug wants to be near a place to shoot pool and a good breakfast joint (I guess I can’t say that in Colorado anymore; I mean restaurant).

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1. First and foremost we better figure out the wood cook stove.  It takes wood and coal.  Where does one get coal?  How much do we need?  What the heck is a damper?  Am I going to freeze to death?

2. Doug will be mastering the art of chopping wood (hello lumber jack!) and hauling mass amounts of water.

3.  Many skills I do not know I need that I will inevitably need and which you, my dear reader, shall be the first to learn along with me.  What a journey we are heading on!  So glad you are with us.  We will be moving our name and sign to our new homestead.

Welcome to The Cottage at Pumpkin Hollow Farm…

Self Fulfilled Prophesy (homestead dreams)

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This time next year we will be on our next homestead.

I do not know where.

I do not know how.

We have enjoyed our practice farm and are very grateful.  We are ready for a more complete homestead now.

Not a bigger house.

A bigger homestead.

A well for water.

More off grid.

A greenhouse.

A larger plot of beautiful earth to grow all our own food in.

A chicken coop.  A barn.

An orchard.

Trees.

Places to walk the goats, their bells ringing in a cacophony of chimes through the pine scented air.

A front porch for settin’.

Somewhere near the children.  Hidden away a bit.  Friends come a callin’.

Affordable.  A long term lease.

An old house with character and stories.

A wood stove to heat and cook.

Peaceful.  Birds singing.  Air sweet.

This time next year we will be on our next homestead.

I do not know where.

I do not know how.

But it will be.