Follow Your Dreams – Even if Only “Half-Way”

Aug 5, 2013 | From France to the Farm, Half Way Farm | 19 comments

I have owed a couple people this post for a long time.
My apologies.
I always have the best intentions and love to be available to people who take the time to email and ask questions.  Sadly – I have “yogurt brain” as a friend of ours calls your brain when you are pregnant and I’d… as my husband says, forget my butt if it wasn’t attached.

Precious hugh?

Has it, is it worth it to follow our dreams – if only Half-Way?

Many have been curious about our decision to leave our beautiful, historic home “in-town” to follow our dream of raising our kids in the country.  And if you followed along closely you know it was NOT a stress-free or ideal transition.  Personally, I suffered a lot last year.  More than I imagined would ever be involved.  Loss of pride.  Onset of panic attacks.  Stress, stress and more stress.

While Chicago is amazing (as far a culture goes, if you can afford it) – Chicagoland is horrendous.
The traffic alone is enough to make me forget who my Savior is.  I am NOT a “Christian driver”.
I’ve said it before – this area is NOT designed for a blue collar career and a stay-at-home Momma.  Ack.  Tres cher.

We want out.  Door County perhaps???  Or somewhere warmer?

If I had a farm in Door County with a rental cottage would you come a vacation with us??? 

We began our search about three years ago.  Every time Joel had a day off we would pile the family in the truck and drive and drive and drive.  With EVERY spare minute I had  I was scouring the internet for a farm for us.  We wanted an old house, at least two acres and outbuildings with the rights to dig a garden and have chickens.  High hopes.

Fat chance.

Then one day it happened.  I checked Zillow – a place I had never checked before.  And there, just 17 minutes from our home was a farm.  A dump.  For rent.  Overpriced.  But it was within driving distance of Joels job, ballet, our church and family.  And, as much as we were trying to get out of Illinois we had NO success finding anything just across the border in Wisconsin that met our criterea.  This farm is literally two minutes from the border.

Why would we work so hard on a place that wasn’t ours?
Was it worth it?

We wanted a place to feel like home.  What if it takes 5 years to save for this Door County dream?  There is NO WAY I wouldn’t hang a chandelier or picture just because I was renting.  There is no way I would go that long without a garden.

So yes, we did practically kill ourselves between October 15th and December 1st of last year.  (and managed to get pregnant!)  No, this is NOT our dream farm.  That’s why we call it “Half-Way Farm”  (it’s half-way down the road and half-way to our dreams).  Lot’s of you tease me that we will end up buying from our landlord, who taunts us to buy the place all the time – but no, we won’t.  The surrounding 224 acres if for sale, zoned as a sub-division AND with the garden disaster as mentioned on FB last week – no way. 

But yes, for those of you longing to be in the country, for those longing for more space, less keeping up with the Jones’ , more quiet, more eggs, more freedom for your kids – is it worth it to rent?  YOU BET IT IS!

Anything we have done has been an improvement.  When we leave we will put down grass seed in the garden (if the landlord wants us to), we’ll take down the chandies and put up his hideous old lights, we will disassble the chicken run and hire a company to haul the chicken coop to wherever we go.  (Every piece of the run and goat pen are numbered and there is a corresponding drawing – we will take it apart and re-build it wherever we go.  Not letting anything go to waste).

As far as why we would do the chickens, goats and our plans next year for pigs and bees… well, just like at our old house, we are trying to learn as much as possible about “homesteading”.  I learned so much in the last 5 years… reading, reading, reading, gardening, canning, keeping illegal chickens in-town…   The more I learn, the more I want just about NOTHING to do with storebought food for my family.  Though, I know, that is a HUGH statement and even bigger commitment when in action. We are “learning on the job” if you will.  Hubby wants the whole kit-n-kaboodle on the “big farm” – orchard, dairy cow, beef cow, CSA, etc.   So yes, for now, we are “faking it til we make it”  —  I am raising a turkey for the holidays and trying to sell his buddy, we are on local even though we really don’t have much to sell, we have an adorable web site, though thanks to our “toxic” soil the garden is a bit of a disaster… it’s all practice.  All the work –  It’s all brought our family together and it’s all been worth it.

Some practical advice (that you probably already know already!)
*About renting — if you see a house that is for sale and it’s been for sale for a long time – by all means, get aggressive.  Give a call – see if they’d like to rent it.
*DON’T be afraid to ask for a discount on the rent.
*If the property that you like is agent represented (and for rent) be sure to have a plan.  When we saw this place it was clear that it had been rented to… and you’ll pardon me… white trash for years and years.  And, it had been empty and for rent for months already – that is income LOST to a landlord.  AND keep in mind, the landlord has to pay that real estate agent a commission when it’s rented out – most likely the equivilant to one month’s rent.   So here is what we did – we put a proposal together… full color, photos of our family, our story, what we were looking for.  We set out to impress the landlord and show that we were NOT hillbillies (as clearly his previous tenants had been).  We offered to sign a three-year lease (saving him that yearly agent commission output) and clean the place up in exchange for a discount on the rent.  We low-balled him.  BIG TIME.  I think we offered $500 less a month and he ended up coming down $100 on paper and $100 verbal ($200 total) in exchange for the receipts so he could have the tax right off on the work done.   Not bad.  We worked for 6 weeks and got it cleaned up and we will live here for at least 3 years with it looking decent – I’d say that’s worth it.  After all, each year the place had gone empty when the lease was up, sat for a couple months and then he would have to pay the commission again to the agent.  That’s THOUSANDS out of his pocket.  He’s getting a great deal – and I am getting the white plank floors I have always wanted.

Now – we have a great rapport with our landlord.  He says yes to just about every request (like goats) – at first he thought we were a bit nuts but after 8 months of on-time rent and no one shooting shot gun shells into his junkie pontoon parked out back I think I really respects us!  (The last guy for example used the cistern as a BURN PIT!  We have it as a small decorative pond!) 

When I walk these three acres, it’s all been worth it.
When I can park my truck in the grass under the tree away from the scorching sun, without looking like the white trash of the neighborhood – it’s all been worth it.
When I can gather eggs in my nightgown – it’s all been worth it.
When I consider being out from under a huge, Chicagoland mortgage – it’s all been worth it.
When I see my kids running free, instead of begging to ride their bikes “around the block” without me – it’s all been worth it.
When I see them growing in responsibility as they care for animals I NEVER thought we would have (24-60 chickens at any given time, two baby goats, three kittens and a cistern full of goldfish) it’s all been worth it.
When I see my husband building, mowing, growing and playing with the kids in the farm yard – it’s all been worth it.

So, buying or renting – should you take the plunge and get out of the city?  As fast as you can girl.  There is no day where you will walk out to gather those fresh eggs, dew on the grass, that country smell in the air and regret your decision.


If you’ve got more questions I will answer them in the comment box.
Hope this was what some of you had in mind when you requested this post.

Fondly, from the farm!
-Angela, Parisienne Farmgirl


  1. Christi

    Angela – this is just AWESOME!! You are SUCH an inspiration to me – not in the “move out to the country way” because we made that decision years ago. But in the “following your dreams” kind of way. I’m usually the kind of gal who waits for everything to be “perfect” before doing anything, and as we know that never happens. So you are an inspiration to do what we can now & quit waiting around for the life of our dreams!

    Glad to hear how this has worked out for you & sending prayers for a safe delivery & easy as can be adjustment for all! xo

  2. My Casa Bella

    I know some people just can’t spend money on a place that isn’t “theirs” but I agree with you. If you’re living in it then it is yours in a way. My mom fixes up any rental she’s lived in, when she removes light fixtures, hardware or anything that came with the place, she packs it up and puts it away so when they move, she takes down what she paid for and puts back the original stuff unless the landlord pays for anything new then it stays, you’ve done a beautiful job and it sounds like you landlord is very nice, yes he benefits in the end, but he lets you do whatever you want and that’s the best kind. MCB

  3. Sue@CountryPleasures

    I’m in such agreement with you here and I’ve been following you for years, this half way farm of yours will someday be a forever farm for someone else, with most of the work done, that will be your mark on this spot of earth, and don’t give up on the garden! There’s always next year, check into a winter cover crop for it and I’ll check on FB because I must of missed that post! lol

  4. Christi

    I do have a question, though – what happened with the soil? I haven’t been on FB lately so I must have missed that!!

    Also, almost exactly 2 years ago, I emailed you to ask about the rocks you used in the original oh-so-lovely potager. And finally, FINALLY I have completed mine. Like I said, inspiration! I will send pictures soon! xo

  5. Mandy

    you wrote this for me , right? because it totally is for me! the area we live in is actually higher priced for rent than pay a mortgage though. right now we’re working on seeing if we can get another loan on our measly income, keep our historic in town home as a rental income {which we still owe on} and move to the country. you’re my favorite blog now, i’ve always loved yours, but now it is the best, because i live through you. love to see what your doing…keep it up. And get that baby out 😉

  6. ~Sheri~

    I agree totally! We started out renting a double wide on the ranch where we boarded our horses….and I was able to live in the country and have my chickens…..a lil over a year later..we live on 2 acres with a fabulous horse set up…..still have our chickens and we may add a goat or two. WE rent….to realize our dream…we too…our half way there….my kids are grown…I want a place for my grandkids to run free…Grandkids that do not exist yet, I might add but hopefully by the time they do…we will have reached our goal…in the meantime..we live in a home..I have named “Green Acres”….I am happy and we have no regrets!

    Keepn the dreams alive….in CA!

  7. Dawn Dutton

    Well said.
    We left Houston Texas 20 years ago for the very same reason. We wanted out! We moved to Wisconsin.
    You should look up here in western Wisconsin for a small farm. Prices are reasonable. And great farming land. Matter of fact there’s a farm right down the road that needs a family and lots of work. Let me know if you ever come this way to look you could always stay with us. We would make room for your brood! We love kids!

  8. Dawn Dutton

    We left Houston Texas 20 years ago for the very same reason! We wanted out! Fresh air, gardens, fruit trees and a decent place to raise kids and animals. We moved to western Wisconsin and have never regretted it. Our family and friends Still think we’re crazy. Oh well…..
    Western Wisconsin has great farm land and some of the best land prices around. A farm right down the road is for sale. If you ever want to look around the area you are welcome to stay with us. We’ll make room for your brood. We love kids and have lots of room for them to roam. Email me if you want more info on our area.

  9. Burlap Luxe

    Hi Angela,
    You my girl are living my dream, I hate to say I have 2 dreams, living in and old farmhouse or converted barn, or a beach cottage.
    I visited your last post and wanted to get back to you before you wrote a new one but, as for that red sink; not being one who cares that much for red I really do not think it looks bad at all in the mix of your beautifully rustic decor. I also love how you covered it with marble…genius!!!

    Love your energy to create the home that temporarily feeds your soul. I am wonder if you have created the master bedroom you had in your last home? I am sure with this new move you have let the room inspire the best from you.

    Love your outlook on country life and your search to keep looking for the next home.
    I am not sure if you ever said in your older postings if you are having a boy or girl or what name you have chosen but, I am sure to find out.

    many blessings to you and your beautiful journey.



  10. Noël McNeil

    Love this post! I’ve been keeping up with you on Facebook, but missed the garden disaster. What happened? Toxic?

  11. shirlgirl

    I agree. You have to set out and begin a thing or you end up never getting it done. All of the stuff that happens along the way is part of the process and if enjoyed as you go it is as good as it gets.

  12. Ggomez

    You are an inspiration!!
    You make me tired just reading all you do at 9 months(and counting) pregnant !

  13. Mrs.H

    Yes, I would totally vacation in a rental cottage on your farm or land in Door County! 🙂

    I’m of the same mindset as you and other ladies commenting…I would fix up and repaint a rental too. My husband doens’t agree as much with that, so I have to wait until I have a job to buy paint for our rental.

  14. Mandy

    I’m writing again…I blame YOU for the fact that I stayed up til midnight looking at properties in Door County! I can not believe how CHEAP and what wonderful old houses there are! You can only find a mobile on 2 + acres here for under 200,000. I’ve never been to wisconsin { or anywhere close} but at this point if my hubby could find a job I’d move in a heartbeat!

  15. Gabi's Angels

    Hi, I am not sure if this will show up. It is my 2nd message, and I think the other one got lost in space…:)LOL! Ok, I love your blog, I just found it, it is awesome, you are an inspiration in so many ways. The pictures are sooo beautiful, thank you! I noticed you have lovely chandeliers, several, not sure how many, but where did you get them? I would love to buy at least 1 for the dining room. Also, is there an email address I could send you an email. And it seems that you have a magazine as well, is it sold online? Or maybe I am wrong, not sure…
    You are blessed with such a beautiful family 🙂 Thanks.

  16. sweetvintageofmine

    A BIG DITTO!! I agree with you totally….no one could have said it better! Blessings~~~Roxie

  17. Sara

    We moved from north of Houston to the Hill Country 18 years ago. We had to rent an older home. I hated it! But, they let us do what we wanted. We pulled up carpet (and found pine floors), took out sliding glass doors for a wall with a door and window, painted over the paneling in every room, closed a doorway, etc, etc. The two acres allowed us to have dairy goats, horses, a garden, and bees. When they said the house would be sold, we assumed the payments and bought it. It will never be my dream home and still has old house problems, but we got our kids out of the city! Now they are grown and our grandkids love to come out here.

  18. At Rivercrest Cottage

    You are such a fantastic young woman! I love the idea of a half-way dream home. My generation was taught you could do it all right now — and of course you can’t! Being open to making the best of a “for now” situation while you work towards your dream is so much better for the little ones in the family. I look forward to sharing your progress.

  19. Christy

    “If I had a farm in Door County with a rental cottage would you come a vacation with us??? ” Almost 10 years later and just look what God’s blessed you with. So fun to see the adventure He has guided you through!


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