Sunday, January 5, 2014

A New Year, A New Home

December storm at home 2013

Life has been quite the roller coaster ride for several months and even now I sometimes feel like I’m on sitting on top, holding on tight, for the ride down.  I would be lying to say everything is going well as I know even with a new year, we still have old problems, problems that we as human beings will no longer be able to fix. I wonder how I manage to climb the next hill, and I’m humbled by my strength to keep climbing.

We’re now renters in our home of 13+ years thanks to some very nice buyers who didn’t need to occupy the property right away and have allowed us to stay in hopes of finding what they have found, a new beginning, a newer end or just a fresh chapter to an old tale.  We feel lucky to be turning this property over to those who are able to take it to the next level and the enthusiasm has been contagious.  This has been a welcomed relief with the stress of moving. 

We have often said that “communication” is the thread that we have available to us right now and we should be using it to the best of our ability.  For too long we have met those who are wanting something else out of life but they only end up saying more, communicating less and doing nothing to change the situation they are in.

Our home was listed by owner and we advertised on sites where we knew food was important.  We contacted sites like, and the local permaculture group. We knew it would be hard to find the right buyers but we were willing to risk not finding them as we knew the value was in the land and the infrastructure in place to move in and grow. 

We’ve worked with realtors before, this being our 13th home in 36 years and we know how impersonal they can keep the transaction between the buyers and the sellers. Our agreement was to advertise until the middle of November and if it didn’t sell by then, we would stay and downsize the garden space.

When realtors called saying they had buyers, they asked how much commission we were willing to pay.  Usually this was a stopgap as they always wanted more.  We had already dropped the price of the property 50k prior to their calls and didn’t feel a whole lot of wiggle room left. 

Then came a call from a realtor asking us if we were willing to work with one.  “Yes” we said, though it was never discussed until the offer was submitted what exactly that meant.  The realtor brought the buyers over and we did all of the work showing them the property as we expected to do.  Needless to say it was a horrible meeting and we didn’t expect to hear back, but we did.  The second meeting was a little better as we had more conversation amongst ourselves as buyers and sellers.  We even explained our future plans of having a small micro community to not only help with the work but share in the resources.  We spoke with compassion about the blood, sweat and tears.

When the offer was presented, the commission was set at 6% and mind you this was done online through an email.  Needless to say we declined the offer without a counter as we were so disgusted that her communication was so bad.  She then encouraged us to counter so she could at least present something to this young couple who were purchasing their first home together. We then wrote up a counter with a $3500 flat rate commission.
****side note both sales totaled $585,000 so if we were to have paid the going 6% commission, it would have totaled $35,100****

The commission we felt was fair as there were no advertising fees for the real estate firm, nor much of anything else except bringing a buyer over that saw our ad on Craigslist.  We couldn’t understand why this couple didn’t contact us directly to save us both some money, but later learned that they were out of state and thought it would be easier working with a realtor.

Hopefully this experience taught them the difference between having one or not, especially when buying rural property.  We’ve found in our transactions that most realtors would rather the buyer and the seller never meet.

I remember closing on our first home in the late 70’s when we sat across the table from the sellers with a stack of pens in the middle, passing the papers from one to another.  Even with both realtors present we were still able to look each other in the eyes and shake hands after.  Most of our recent sale was done online.  Had it not been for us contacting the buyer directly, we may of had a whole different experience.  Good communicating usually serves a purpose. 

After things went awry somewhere between the home inspection and the wood stove inspections, we decided to take things into our own hands (as they too had served us well) and call the buyer directly to see if we could sit and discuss some of the concerns each of us had together perhaps breaking bread, which has always been our specialty.
“Come on over, take your shoes off and lets talk.”

Well our phone call ended up binding the gaps and leaving all parties happy and content.  Who would of thought that two parties could come together and mutually agree to do their part in making this work?  We don’t have many examples in our two party government anymore and they won’t even begin to talk to the 3rd.  What would we do without realtors and where would all that money go if we didn’t have them?  Hmmm….

Fast forward to this past week, one of the buyers friends who lives in the area came over to dormant spray the fruit trees, using our sprayer.  We shared what worked for us including the product we used and he purchased it to do the job.  My husband spent a few hours going over the types and varieties of the trees, 39 in all.  This was just the natural thing to do for us, why wouldn’t we want the new owners to succeed after all our hard work, won’t be on us if they don’t!
One basket of apples during the harvest of 2013
Community building has always been a part of our lives, but now especially we recognize the importance of talking, sharing and working together whether it’s with our neighbors or joint owners on our own property.  Some we met early on in our endeavors have told us how hard it is to “go it alone” and we know what “burnout” feels like.  Our previous blogs have addressed these issues.  There will come a time before long when it will be necessary to “buddy up” in order to live, and while we wait for this time we’re learning and saving.  What could possibly be wrong with that?
Helping new occupants with dormant spray December 2013

In searching for properties, we have looked with the intent of trying again to find others to join us though our main focus this time was finding another property that could generate a small income as well as provide a comfortable shelter to take refuge in.

In our years of trying, we haven’t met many we felt we could live with.  Either work ethic, different philosophies and/or communication along with trust, honesty, and dependability prevented us from making it work.  We realize we’re asking a lot, but it’s no more than what we expect from ourselves. 

With time running out to find a place, we were packing one night to make another trip south to look at one last possibility as well as some rentals, when we received a phone call from a couple we met online.   

We’ve known each other for over two years and have met face to face twice.  They said that it was just a wild card they were throwing out, and voiced their interest in sharing property with us as they knew we were looking.  We always felt like they would be a good match considering all of our skills and they had already lived a life of frugality (mostly out of the system) and amazingly grew lots of food in a very harsh climate.

After getting their phone call we left with enthusiasm and new energy thinking of the possibilities.  We came home with a property in mind for all of us and worked out the details of the purchase.
Beautiful oak trees on our new property 2013
Since it is also a FSBO, “for sale by owner” we have managed to type up our own purchase agreement/offer and negotiate closing as the owners also need to find a new home.  Most of these forms can be found online or picked up at your local title company.

Last week we made a quick day trip south to sit down with the sellers and go over important property information that only a homeowner would know.  It was great to sit down and have lunch together listening to them sharing memories and what worked well for them.

Looking each other in the eyes when talking has been the greatest asset; that wonderful thing called trust and so far it’s worked for all of us.  Maybe it’s the fact that we’re all good stewards of the land and believe in what we’ve done and are looking forward to doing.  Torches have been passed without the flame ever flickering.

No, we were not able to accomplish what we planned for this property, but the new owners have wonderful ideas and lots of enthusiasm as well as help.  We on the other hand, have discovered a new world in a place we once knew and have met those who may help us accomplish what we were unable to do here, who knows?

Recently a dear friend said, (paraphrasing), “you’ve both been pushing that huge rock up that steep slope for so long and it keeps coming back on you, sometimes when one stops forcing it the stones just tumble in place”.  Thank you Zoe for listening all these years and trying to help in whatever way you can, you too are a bright spot in our journey.
Always looking for the "bright spot" 
Speaking of good people, we met Olivia and Michael from, while visiting potential properties.  The amount of work that’s been done on their farm in just a couple of years shows they know how to take action and are committed to changing our food web.  We look forward to a new found friendship and helping each other grow into a bigger vision of what that may look like.

Just because our vision didn’t work here, there is nothing to say that it can’t work somewhere else, it’s the relationships of people working together that will make or break it.

Recently we had a taste of our Rattlesnake Pole beans in a wonderful pasta salad that we shared with the owners of our new property.  Not only did we grow them but the seeds came from more good people in Alabama that we had the great opportunity to meet online.  Thank you Kathy C. for sharing in our meal.

We only go forward into this New Year because that’s all we know how to do, go forward.  Still trying, still searching for a new something or should I say an old style of life that others before us knew.  We thought we had a new world order but come to find out, it didn’t include 99.5% of us.  Just a new year with the same old shit.

When I’m sad, crying or angry, I know I can go outside and walk in nature to gather my thoughts and put things back in perspective.  I watched the turkeys and peacocks the other day eyeballing the fresh straw that covers the new garlic bed just planted.  We bartered with the new owners so we’ll have garlic next year for all of us to split.
New garlic bed planted December 2013

Roughly 10-12#’s were planted in two beds (one in the main garden and one up front).  This should roughly yield 120+ pounds next summer.  Browsing through the new Territorial seed catalog that just came, I realize once again the amount of money saved from growing your own.  Garlic seed is priced between $14-28 a lb.  Anyone can do that kind of math.  We haven’t had to pay for garlic seed in ten years.

It is hard leaving our food supply and lately I’ve cried a lot.  It’s not like other moves we’ve made.  I’m not looking at where the sofa will go or if the kitchen has enough room for my dishes.  No, this move is about finding some level property which at our age is easier to work, good water and a shelter that is comfortable enough where I can spend the last of my days enjoying our time left. 

However sad it is leaving, we rejoice in the little things that count.  These things we cherish, whether it’s building foundations of a relationship or passing on real wealth to those who aren’t kings and queens, but just worker bees doing a good job of preserving what we have left.

Well here we are nearing the end of our relationship/friendship/kinship with the property that has cared for us, as we it.  A mutual understanding from the beginning and both sides know that it wasn’t because we didn’t try or it didn’t give back.

We know the New Year will bring more hardships with economic pressures as well as climate chaos, but as always one foot goes in front of the other enjoying what we can and doing everything possible to protect the nature in our own backyard, happy new year.
Felted slippers made from homespun, one foot in front of the other

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