I have owed a couple people this post for a long time.
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.
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.
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 harvest.org 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