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Whirlwind Tour of the South

January 18, 2010

Since you cannot move to a farm until you own a farm, unless of course you plan to be squatters, which is hard to do with two vocal dogs, we continued our search. My sweet husband’s parents live in Arkansas, and so after decking the halls but before ringing in the new year we left the puppies with the parents-in-law and began our whirlwind tour of the south. Prior to the holiday we made three appointments in Tennessee and one in Kentucky to see properties that seemed promising after an exhaustive Internet search. Our criteria were fairly straightforward 1) The future farm of our dreams should be situated within the right climate zone (different maps have different names and descriptions for this zone, but no matter what you call it, the zone has four distinct seasons, manageable winters, and the wide array for flora and fauna associated with such conditions) 2) The farm should consist of somewhere between 50 and 200 acres 3) The farm must have a home and should have a barn, fencing, and other types of useful infrastructure 4) And, we should not have to win the lottery to purchase the farm.  We quickly discovered that when you do not have millions of dollars the number of properties that fits the above criteria shrinks dramatically, making our search all the more convenient. What we did not know until we actually set foot onto these properties is that if you don’t have a million dollars, then you cannot guarantee that you will be able to find properties without large mountains or valleys in the middle of them.

Naively, we set off on our road trip. I took it as an excellent sign that as we were crossing the Arkansas/Tennessee boarder, just past the mighty Mississippi I spotted a maroon mini-van with a personalized license plate that read, ”DOULA.” I instantly started squealing for joy and my sweet precious husband who was driving had absolutely no idea what I was screaming about.  Master of clarity that I am, I just kept pointing and screaming, “Woohoo! Woohoo!” Understandably confused SH (Sweet Husband) drove on.  —A quick side note, my darling husband who is wonderful with children and will make a great father is absolutely terrified that the babies, I am planning on having twins, will arrive today. He even got a little nauseous when our financial planner programmed digital babies into the module that predicted whether or not farming would lead to our financial demise. It is unfortunate then that he chose to marry someone who has been baby obsessed since she was six years old— As we passed the maroon van I noticed one of those magnetic signs on the side that people add to advertise their business. And what to my wandering eyes should appear on that magnetic sign but the statement, “Nashville Midwife Center, For More Information Call XXX-XXXX” Don’t mind if I do-la. Since the first two properties we were scheduled to look at were each just an hour outside of Nashville, I felt convinced that the Music City area would soon be our home. SH was not so sure.

Let me just say that I love Tennessee, what other state can boast being home to Graceland, the Grand ‘Ol Opry, and Dollywood. As if those claims to fame were not enough, physically, Tennessee is gorgeous—beautiful grassland, rolling hills, mountains, creeks, rivers, hollows, big blue sky.  And beyond all that every city we drove through, large or small, had an assortment of public parks, community centers, and libraries that made me proud to almost maybe be a future Tennessee-an. Although I would first have to learn if that is what people from Tennessee are really called.

After paying an exorbitant amount of money to see Avatar 3D in a shi-shi frou-frou West Nashville movie theater, we spent a restful night in the Comfort Inn and awoke early the next day to seek out our little piece of nowhere.  The first spot seemed promising because according to some of the information we had the property backed up to a national forest (we later found out it back up to a logging company owned forest, a slightly different animal). We felt energized driving through the small towns in route to the first property.  I still had the Music City/Midwife Buzz, and I could tell that SH’s excitement was growing with every inch we eked past civilization. And we did…pass civilization. We soon found ourselves on a narrow two-lane road bordered on both sides by forest. As we began approaching what seemed to be like nothing Carrie, the GPS we borrowed from my brother-in-law, alerted us that we would be turning right in two tenths of a mile. —Side note number two. We have a tradition in our family of naming GPSs.  The one we borrowed was named after her owner attended a Carrie Fisher one-woman show in Santa Fe.  When travelling by rental car through South Africa last summer we named the digital lady voice in the rented GPS Charlize. On our trip to N.C to look at the Eden place, Jolene, whose voice was an octave deeper than any other GPS I’ve ever heard, bossed us around. I think it was the fact that we rented her in tobacco country that accounted for her digital smokers cough and raspy voice.— Dutifully, we turned right onto a dirt road. Then Carrie said drive 2.5 miles until you reach the property. Perhaps it is my city girl naïveté, or perhaps it was the fact that the last time a GPS lady voice told me to turn onto a dirt road we ended up traveling 24 miles through a series of Zulu villages (Charlize loved the scenic routes), but I could not help but feel that we were somehow going the wrong way. As it turns out we were in fact meant to travel 2.5 miles down a dirt road, where we encountered the dirt driveway to the property and met up with the realtor who was going to show us around.  Despite having a very cute house, two-green houses, pre-existing fences, several gardens and a small orchard, this property had the unfortunate distinction of having a low-water creek crossing in the middle of the driveway and a mountain taking up over 50% of the useable land. It’s not that I don’t love mountains, it’s that I have bad balance and mountains will surely kill me. As much as we enjoyed the off-roading, I think we both left the property with the inkling that it was not to be.

Undaunted, we stopped at a local Hardees for a company meeting and debrief and then hit the road for our next appointment. Driving across the beautiful rural expanses of Tennessee I began to wish that I were a millionaire. It was clear that any property that did not contain at lease fifty-percent mountain could only be acquired in the seven figures. Second, I began to hope that we would see Tim McGraw and Faith Hill because I love them and feel that if they were my neighbors then rural life would be magnificent. Since we did not find a million dollars or Tim and Faith, we pressed on under Carrie’s totalitarian guidance.

The second property we visited was in a gorgeous community–tons of nearby farms, paved roads, and majestic old southern houses. As soon as I saw the community I was sure we were home. And then I saw the driveway. The owners had forewarned us that the driveway was steep. What they had failed to inform us about was the fact that the driveway was the grade and width of an Olympic louge course. As soon as I saw it I was certain we would die. Fortunately we lived, but I took a pretty good chunk out of SH’s arm as I grasped it and held my breath through our descent in to death valley. The farm was actually very charming, and the couple selling it were very nice, not to mention the fact that they had four of the most adorable children I have ever seen. Each one more golden haired and blue eyed than the next. And there was another on the way, who I am sure is the most cherubic fetus since you know who. We road in a truck back up the driveway of my demise and entered the property from another angle as a part of the guided tour the owners took us on.  The entire area was gorgeous beyond words and the top of the ridgeline was carpeted with moss so green and soft you wanted to roll around naked in it, which might explain the proliferation of youngin’s on the property. But herein lies the problem, we were walking along a narrow ridgeline. All of the rest of the property under consideration was vertical, and aiming straight down. Until I learn to fly, I don’t feel completely comfortable living in that sort of environment. If we lived in a zero gravity situation, or if I had more than an invalid’s acquaintance with my own vestibular system then it might be a different story.  But alas, we still live in a world where the acceleration due to gravity is 9.8 meters per second squared, and I don’t want to die.

After bidding the driveway of death adieu, we pressed on under Carrie’s steadfast instruction toward Knoxville.

After a blissfully restful sleep at La Quinta, we made our way to meet the realtor who would show us the property. In her words, “I live just right across the street. Why don’t y’all meet me at my house and I’ll take you over there.” In the country, “right across the street” does not have the literal translation it does in the city. Nonetheless, the farm was not too far off.

This property had interesting prospects because the previous owner had operated it as an organic CSA farm for the past three years.  The previous owner definitely made the most of the land, which was situated in a valley. The property was only 53 acres in total and most of that acreage was steep. Another drawback was that the property was in clear view of its neighbors. The nearest neighbor could see in your kitchen window and tell what you were having for breakfast.  I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to move to the boonies, I reserve the right to walk around in my undie-pants and not have to worry about neighbors sneaking a peek.  In spite of the drawback, though, this property was a strong contender compared to the others we had seen because it was the cheapest, and already had irrigation and electrical fencing.  Which in the business of farming are more valuable than the ability to walk around freely in ones undie-pants.

Still uncertain after days of searching, we fired up Carrie and let her point us toward Kentucky.

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