2016 January 31: Looking at more land

We are just too picky. We want a mostly flat piece of land, bigger than one acre, within 30 minutes drive time of my job, but outside the city (so we can have animals), and under $30,000, or, if no septic system, under $24,000.

We’ve looked at land with one-half acre of flat land, and 5+ acres of cliffs; another one where it was the bottom of the road for all water runoff (complete with a sinkhole full of couches, fence parts, and a broken down riding lawnmower thrown in for fun), land where no neighbors could agree on who actually owned the road they put in, much less where the property lines were. There was another one – almost 7 acres- cliff-side, and the city just passed an ordinance stating that they would no longer supply water to any new houses being built on that road. Ok. And then there is the flooded land. Lots of flooded land.

There was one that said something like “$24,000, 2.4 acres, 3 bed/2 ba home”. We went to check it out. We drove up a dirt road off the small highway, passing a couple of houses on the way, and thinking, “This is great- off the main road, 5 minutes to Walmart and the richest part of town.”  We saw a sign, but there was nowhere to turn around, so we pulled into a driveway to call the Realtor. Meanwhile, a lady got in her car and drove up behind us. Then she got out and starts talking to my wife: “Who are you? What are you doing here? Why you parked here?” My wife starts explaining we’re looking at the property for sale. Then the lady says, “yeah, my family owns all of this- we’re the ones selling it. And there’s no house for sale- just the land.” (But the sign says 3 bed….). She continues, “We have to be careful because there’s been a lot of break-ins and a lot of stuff has been stolen in this area.”  Bells, red flags. “Thank you for your time, Ma’am.” Start car. back out of driveway. Leave.

This one was perfect- if I worked in Tennessee- it’s about 45 minutes from downtown Huntsville. The house is not usable, and would have to be torn down. Same with the barn. and probably the driveway. And the neighbors looked so poor- trailers with dogs on chains, and lots of junk in the yard- front and back. But very picturesque. And four acres with a creek on the south side. Just too far away.

We looked at two to


day- one not so promising, the other- pretty promising.

First, the not-so-promising, and I’ll start with the positives: Awesome privacy. Quite a few pine trees. It slopes, but not too bad. One side has a creek on it. And the bad- very narrow- not much room to put a house on except in the wide area at the bottom. Lots of scrubby little trees, brambles, piles of last year’s manure from the neighbor’s horses. Some weird little 6×6 shed with 5 keep out signs next door.  The neighbor’s horses standing in hackle-deep mud in a too-small pen with an electric fence to help keep them from greener pastures. And there was some old guy in a power wheelchair that came out to the edge of his sidewalk and looked at me while I was talking to the realtor on the phone while looking at the property. Down near the wide part, we fought our way through brambles, crossed the stream, and walked up somebody’s 1-mile long gravel driveway after getting lost. The sum of the parts? Creepy. Julie swore she could hear dueling banjos from the movie “Deliverance”- You can’t even see their house on the map -even all the way zoomed in. Perfect place to make meth. Maybe “awesome privacy” isn’t actually a selling feature. Maybe we should tone our search back to “okay privacy”, or just “privacy”.

On to Property #2 for the day: Out in a tiny town south of here. It’s about 10 minutes from the TN river, and 5 minutes from the Flint River).  There were 3 properties on this road for sale: 4 acres, 6 acres, and 3.5 acres. The 4 acres must have sold because the sign is gone. Can’t afford the 6 acres (at $55,000), so that leaves the 3.5 acres (at $28,000). That price is a little steep, but I talked to the realtor who says that the owner would do some financing with 20% down. Saves on bank fees. It’s also within city limits, so we can hook up to city sewer (saves us about $2k-5k for a septic system). The land is flat. Very, very flat. There was some standing water on some of maple_rd-acresthe low parts of it today, but I’m hoping that can be drained with an improved ditch and perforated pipe. Pine trees are great, but too short for construction use (although they might be okay for lumber). However, there is a forest of them bordering the property. Doesn’t look to be in a flood zone- all the other houses are on the ground, and there’s no creek nearby. There’s a sort-of swamp or very wet area way back behind the property, but it’s probably because of all the historic rain we’ve had in the last few weeks- the trees surrounding the “swamp” are not swamp trees- they are hardwoods and pines. The downside? 30 minute drive to church and other places, and the neighborhood mini-Walmart was shut down this week, so now there’s only a Piggly-Wiggly (which isn’t a bad thing), and I thought there was a Winn-Dixie further into town.  The nearest Walmart is about 15 minutes up the road.  It’s such a beautiful piece of property, though- the area is one that we’ve lived in before when we rented. It’d be a shame to miss out and not find another one like it. But if we buy this one, we can’t just buy another one later- we get one shot at this.

Overall, the second property is the best one we’ve seen, so with the class coming up in two weeks, tax return on it’s way (and it’s a big one this year), it looks like something might be about to happen….

2016 January 01: More on the Log Home Philosophy

log yard.jpg

Log home owners are a different breed. Mavericks, square heads, stubborn, romantic, dreamers.

A look back in history at the log home: according to Wikipedia, the first log homes were built in 3500 B.C., although Scandinavia is the traditional home of log buildings.  As Scandinavians and other Europeans migrated to North America, they brought the traditions with them. The peak of complexity was reached with the Adirondack style. Each region of the country had its own tweaks, depending on what kind of wood was available, and the skill of the builder.  Abraham Lincoln is probably the most famous log home owner, and the trend since then has been either pride in the fact that you were born in a log cabin, or derision about the fact that you were born in a log cabin. Since I was not born in a log cabin, I guess neither applies.

But the appeal of a log home doesn’t attract everyone. Here in the South, there are a few hewn oak cabins in museums…..My wife didn’t even think anyone still lived in them. Out West, where I’m from, if you own a vacation home, it’s probably a cabin, because there aren’t very many resort towns with anything else in them. Even if it is made out of brick and is on the side of a golf course, you call it a cabin.

But back to the main point- that log home owners are a different breed: according to the Chicago Tribune:

Owners “tend to be individualists, people who want something a little different.”  The houses are certainly not for everyone, but their owners love the rustic atmosphere, with the overtones of self-reliance and natural living.

That’s it for me: self-reliance and natural living. I have a theory that everything civilization needed for survival and comfort was invented by the mid-1930’s. Everything after that is just, well-, “fluff”. But what about computers? Meh- they are nice, and speed things up- but I don’t think they are “necessary”. We sent a couple of guys to the moon using slide rules, for the most part…..

But I think the biggest turning point for me was a book on my great-aunt’s shelf in Escalante, Utah, that I was bored enough to read one day while a teenager on summer vacation.  I don’t remember the title, but the point of the book was that you could grow or raise everything you needed on 1 acre of land. I was completely fascinated. I’ve always felt like I was born 150 years too late. My great-ancestors pulled handcarts across the plains with Brigham Young, and some of them settled the harsher climates of Utah- St. George, Escalante, and Leeds, Nevada. John D. Lee, the owner of Lee’s Ferry (which is still one of the only places you can cross the Colorado River in Utah), is among my ancestors.

Building a log cabin is about as close as you can get to settling the West these days. And as I just saw on Facebook:


I’m scared….and a little excited.  Happy New Year!