Flying over Charlotte, the pilots aiming our gorgeous, brand spanking new, big ass plane toward the landing strip, I looked out the window and saw beautiful swirling, roiling patterns and sighed. Until I realized what they were. Wormword-shaped neighborhoods. Mini McMansions all in little curly-q patterns. And I shuddered. I'm not being judgmental. I grew up yearning to live in a neighborhood like that. Funny that a few years of that living makes me wanna run for the countryside.
I feel seriously out of place sometimes here. Like I've forgotten the language. I mean, I HAVE forgotten the language. Not English, but the language of Nuance. I forget when I'm supposed to be reserved because everyone's so "friendly" here. The first day, it was like finally inhaling after a year-long swim underwater in France. I was so happy to see smiling faces and talkative people. Problem is, I'm like an amnesiac or something. I've forgotten how to be... cool... for lack of a better word. Someone asks me one question beyond "how you doin'?" and I plunge into a long ass story about my life before realizing they were just being polite and social. In France, in general, if someone actually takes the trouble to ask you a question, they really are interested in at least the Reader's Digest version of your answer. Here, you just never know. Sometimes they really wanna know, sometimes their eyes glaze over after the word, "Well,..."
But enough about culture. I could tell you how exhileratingly wonderful it is to be behind the wheel of a car going 60 down a winding rural highway, but I won't. Things like that should be written in a personal journal huh?
What you guys wanna know is, WHAT ABOUT THE FARM???!!!??? Right?
Well, (and don't fall asleep on me), after a quick couple of days of running around Charlotte, oohing and ahhhing over nostalgic places (and seeing our beloved and darling Anne who had just recently found she had a brain tumor and who since then has found out it is cancer... we LOVE you Anne... LOVE you, love you, love you and are glad to know you no matter WHAT happens)... After this runnin' around for a couple of days, we packed up the car and headed to Virginia. That was Friday.
Saturday, we went on a farm tour of The Mountain Run Farm near Big Island, VA. Driving out there, I was rolling-pasture-green with envy. The landscape was just gorgeous and way to freakin' far out of town for the kind of thing we need, but beautiful just the same. We missed the first tour, but it gave us the opportunity to play in a Hay Maze, chase after a few turkeys and a peacock and to teach the kids how to feed a horse without getting your fingers nipped. On the second tour, we learned A LOT (more than I could ever write here) about natural ways of growing your pasture grass, irrigation, fowl brooding, mobile chicken runs, home processing (ahem, slaughter), composting, etc. I mean, seriously, I learned more in a two-hour tour than I could have learned in a 400-page book. And Ben, one of the owners, gave us the scoop on how to do things cheaply and easily instead of buying all of the fancy schmancy shit farm places sell the newbies. Like, using cattle wire to make your chicken coops and using PVC pipe to make your troughs. I would have stayed there all day, but we ended up having to cut our part of the tour short (about the time he started on the cattle and pigs--we're not really looking at doing those anyway) because we hadn't put on sunscreen and were all five burnt to a crisp (it was overcast when we got there and we just didn't think about it until it was too late... the good news is we were having so much fun, it had slipped our minds).
I'm just going to insert here that I have never loved my children or husband more than when they were all running around playing in the grasses. GORGEOUS. I actually choked up a little.
Anyhoo, Sunday, we hopped in the car, armed with a stack of maps with addresses to properties we've been looking at on line for months. We weren't really planning on actually VISITING anything but we wanted to know what the neighborhoods and communities looked like. We went all OVER the four counties. We saw things that were really close to Charlotte (maybe too close) and places that were just way too far a commute for our tastes (we wanted to keep it within half an hour, including lights and speed limits, etc).
At the end of the day, we pulled in to this driveway in front of this beautiful 100+ year old house, with LOADS of standing outbuildings and the second we got there, I had my garden planted in my head. I had those pastures mowed. I had rocking chairs on the front porch. I lived there, dudes.
We stayed there for an hour, Ryan and I running around in the fields and woods and buildings. I wanted it. And I wanted it NOW.
"We can't" of course was Sam's response, and it hurt my guts. We went back to the hotel and swam at the pool and came back in and had our turkey sandwiches. And I dipped back on-line to see the pictures of it just one more time. Looking over my shoulder, Sam said, "No way!"
He pointed at the screen. "There was an open house today. Now. It just ended."
Sure as shit. An open house from 2-4 and it was 4:30. I grabbed my TracFone and called the agent on the paper.
"Are you leaving there right now?"
"I am. I would stay and show it to you but I have to be at another property at 5. I could come back out and show it to you tomorrow afternoon if you want."
We agreed to meet there at noon.
We got there early.
For one, we were measuring how long a commute it would be from the Areva office and for another, I just wanted to be there again. The whole time, Sam's telling me, "now remember, we can't buy it so don't go getting your hopes up... we're just here to look and then we'll see what we can do in the spring." I nodded, but my heart said, "whatever." I wanted that farm.
When he pulled up, Sam and I were already walking around the yards, having left the kids all three sleeping in the running car (something I would NEVER do in town). After a quick tour of the house--which admittedly was smaller and a little more rundown than I had hoped... it was over a century old, so I was willing to cut it some slack, but Sam was really biting his nails over the state of the ceiling and slanting floors--we strapped the girls up into the carriers and headed out for a walking tour of some of the property.
It was SWELTERING hot. Sam and I were literally melting, dripping with sweat and I was a little worried about the kids since we had only brought a small water bottle. But the walk was good. The land trail was a little hilly, but there were good flat pastures and nice thick woods around them--just what I wanted. The thick woods would hopefully keep my bees from wanting to stray any further into other farms with their GMO corn and whatnot. Okay, I'll admit here that I didn't LOOOOOVE the lower fields. Something in my gut felt uncomfortable back there. But the house, the surrounding lawns, the adjoing pastures, THOSE were what I fell in love with right away. The rest of the land tould wait a little to be developed.
When we got back the house, the agent asked us our plans and took down our numbers. We munched grapes from the vines in the garden as we discussed hippie projects--all of which he approved--and raising families, etc. He said he'd give our number to a financial guy and let us work out possibilities. I kept hearing Sam's voice in my head... and well... in my EAR... saying "we can't."
The financial guy called before we were even in the room. Sam called him back from our hotel phone and after a brief conversation, my husband hung up the phone and said, "Huh."
He tried to hide his smile when I said, "We CAN, can't we?" It wasn't really a question. I knew that with our excellent credit records and our income, we could pull it off. It would mean putting down a low down payment and maybe encountering some sticky times of scraping together some cash, but in the long run, we'd be able to do it by the skin of our teeth.
We got the kids ready for bed and then my husband, Lord love 'im, started filling out paperwork to buy my farm. *heart pitter pattering* I went to bed because I was EXHAUSTED and finally happy. HAPPY.
Midnight. Sam woke me up. "Joj, wake up. I just can't wait until morning to tell you. The forms I'm filling out suggested we take a look at the sex offender registry and on a whim, I did."
This woke me up.
Turns out, there's a sex offender right.next.door. Let me explain several things 1) one family owns all the land--our tract and all the SURROUNDING tracts... Like ours was an ISLAND in the middle of their tracts, 2) the sex offender is a member of said family, 3)I grew up the victim (god I hate that word) of repeated sexual molestation by more than one person, 4) I have three kids and plan to have two more, 5) my children would have to walk past this dude's house to catch the school bus, 6) I'm moving into the country so that my kids can run wild and free, not so I can be constantly worried about them.
Yes, I know there are sickos everywhere. Yes, I know there are LOTS of people on those registries who got in trouble for consentual things. YES, I KNOW that people change. I myself have made LOADS of mistakes and have grown out of them (*cough*sluttiness*cough*). But I can NOT take that kind of risk with my kids. I just can't.
I spent the rest of the night sobbing. I got up and looked for other properties but just couldn't handle the disappointment and finally went to bed around 2am devastated and broken. I just wanted to go back to France. I wanted to move way out into the woods and build a house in the middle of them and put 8-foot electrified razor-wire around my land to keep out the bad guys.
But the next morning, we got up, ate breakfast and with a heavy heart, but a hopeful mind, headed out with another stack of maps to look at other properties. I wrote a quick email to the agent to let him know what we had found and thanked him for his time and we jumped into the car.
What I can say is that we have seen a LOT of the area. We went through nearly two tanks of gas in the first four days we were here!
Sam kept harping about this one A-Frame house. I hate A-Frames. I don't know why. I guess cuz most A-Frames have big decks and I'm scared of decks and kids. My kids love to run and I'm just... well... scared. But I went to see it anyway.
I never EVER thought I'd fall head over heels for an A-Frame. But there it was. It wasn't the same as with the farm we had "lost" but it was close. I mean, this was the only other property I could see myself tending and caring for. I found myself already planting the garden, clearing the brush, making flower beds. I got out and walked around the property, not wanting to fall in love with it. Not wanting to admit that it was exactly what I had said I had wanted all along... a house in the middle of the woods... woods I could clear myself and decide the perimeters of my growing fields... woods which would keep my bees in... 32 ACRES OF WOODS within driving distance of Sam's work.
I wanted it.
We visited some other properties but we went back to that one three times throughout the day. We called the agent on the MLS listing and made an appointment. We stood under the deck in the pouring rain, waiting out a thunderstorm for her to get there, and when TWO OTHER PARTIES showed up at the same time to see the place (and we had already seen another agent showing it earlier that day to someone else), my heart sank. I kept saying, "Those people are going to buy this thing right out from under me." I prepared myself for heartache. The property was already $60K more than the other one. There was going to be no way we could get into a bidding war with the other parties.
We told the agent that we'd call her and probably put in an offer the next day.
The next morning, we went to Davis Creek Farm, a little chicken and cattle farm way back in the rolling pastures of Lovingston, VA. First of all, the farmers have three little boys. So, within minutes, Ryan had disappeared. And he stayed gone out running around in the grass and woods with the boys. After a delicious cup of strong (YAY) coffee, we strapped the girls into the carriers and went walking around the farm. The kids LOVED holding the chicks, petting the dogs and just being outside! Farmer Elizabeth showed us some cool stuff on the farm and we even got to see a five-foot black snake slither across our path!
We hadn't planned on staying for lunch but when we went inside to get a glass of water, we took her up on her offer of nibbling on the apples from their orchard with local goat cheese (from the nearby farmer's market) spread on them. DELICIOUS!!! And tomatoes straight from her garden that bled like a human when she cut them open. Red, red, red. Not like the nasty meely tomatoes we had been eating in our room that Sam had bought from Kroger. The only thing I could say is "these tomatoes taste like France."
After the farm visit, we went back to the hotel and called the agent. We went to her office and put in an offer on the property.
Okay, I'm sure you can tell the tone has changed since I started this entry. That's because I left and did the laundry (and spent the morning with my college friend Travis who now lives in VA!!!!!!!!!!! SOOOO good to catch up!!!!) and then went to breakfast at the hotel. And THEN, I got a call from the agent telling us that the guy selling the property wants $8K more than we offered and he wants it a month earlier than we offered. So, there's still a big maybe on the property.
So, I started out the post happy and hopeful and right now, I'm just mad. I'm not going to go into it. Instead, I'm going to close here and take a deep breath and prepare my kids for our last farm tour in VA.
I'll try to keep you posted, but I don't get very much time alone. It's hard to blog when four kids keep bothering you.
Cross those fingers, though!!! I need it! And don't worry, I'll come back on here and bitch about everything later!!!