Wednesday, February 15, 2012

We Bought the Farm

Well, we bought a farm. Sort of a farm. It's definitely farmish--sheds, a pole building, barbed wire fences, a heated cattle watering dealio, and some kind of animal feeding station that looks like a playground carousel. We are as surprised as anyone.

We had been planning a move to the country for some time, but until last November Plan A involved building a house on the Bide-A-Wee land. We had a hilltop site in mind, we had talked to a house designer, then an architect. Things seemed to be coming together until.... Until all of a sudden they didn't seem to be coming together. We weren't thrilled with the designs, we couldn't see the whole picture--it was a vision thing, and a practical thing, a philosophical thing, a money thing. From heights of elation and anticipating ground-breaking in the spring, we were back to zero, or maybe sub-zero. We were bummed.

But late last summer a house had come up for sale, literally a mile down the road from Bide-A-Wee. An old house, several times added-on, with some attractively rustic outbuildings, at the foot of a steep hill. The lower part of the hill was planted in corn or soybeans; higher up it turned to mature hardwood forest. On the west side of the house were tall cottonwood trees, so the place was shaded on hot summer afternoons. The whole set-up seemed extremely pleasant; I had often admired it as we drove by.

On the deck, evidence of internal destruction, which began the day we bought the house.

Still, we resisted looking at it. Our goal was to build our own house at Bide-A-Wee, we said; why waste our time, the realtor's time, looking at some house we knew we weren't going to buy. Well, in fact, at one point we made an appointment to see it, then cancelled it. Then a couple of weeks later the realtor--the sister of one of the owners--called us back. If we had any interest in the house, she said, why didn't we just go have a look. By this time all the coming-together-ness had come un-together. We went to see the house the day after Thanksgiving.

The outbuildings: I see a brick oven in the pole building at right, and gardens adjacent.

It wasn't love at first sight, but it was definitely like. The main floor rooms--kitchen, living room, bedroom--were spacious (though the decor needed some updating). The upper level was a warren of cozy rooms with slanted walls, dormer windows, painted plank floors--a seaside cottage feel in rural Dunn County. And there were those sheds. Red ones. Two deer stands. A black walnut tree. Plus 33 more acres, 20-plus of mature hardwood forest--oak, maple, cherry.

Who doesn't love a red shed with a corrugated roof?

Maybe the clincher was the fact that when we stood on the Bide-A-Wee hill and looked down the valley, what we saw at the end of the valley, that was this property, what I've come to think of as Harlson Hill.

Cutting to the chase: We made an offer in early December, went through a little back and forth, reached a deal. Went through various inspections--for a while there, no one could find the septic tank; troubling. We got it all sorted out on a pretty short timeline, and closed on the place on January 30.

Griffon heaven.

We've still got some work to do on the "new" place before moving in. We had a new maple floor laid in the kitchen there, and existing wood floors refinished, this week; at the same time, we were having stairs refinished in Saint Paul--all of which left me exiled, dog-sitting, at Bide-A-Wee, as griffon hair and wet polyurethane are best kept well apart. Not such a dismal fate, but I was eager to get on with...everything. We're still hoping to be installed at the new country estate by the end of this month. There will still be a fair amount of work to do inside the house, and then garden planning, the anticipation of foraging in our new woods--a brave new world, all round!

So now you know why communications in these pages have been a bit sparse of late, and likely will be so for a while. Once things are a bit more settled, there will be much to report.


Susan Berkson said...

Wow! Congratulations.

el said...

So jealous of all those outbuildings. I wouldn't be able to contain my goat-purchasing if I had such (so I suppose it's good I don't, eh?)

Get Catharine to help you build your brick oven.

and congratulations!

Laurie Jesch-Kulseth @ Relishing It said...

Congratulatuons! I'm sure it's going to be beautiful when it's complete. Oh, and enjoy the heck out of that walnut tree!

Jeff said...

Fantastic! It's nice to see things come together for you. Congratulations.

Charles Leck said...

Congratulations! Talk to Anne in the Spring. I'll bet our storage sheds are full of stuff that might be helpful to you on the old farm. Charlie

s said...

Congratulations! Those red outbuildings are very sweet. Does that mean you're going to be full-time Wisconsinites? (Ahem, we might need a few extra voters, ha ha).

Nancy @ rivertreekitchen said...

Congratulations! Will you keep Bide-a-Wee, at least for now? Will you raise any livestock, since you have the trappings now?

Trout Caviar said...

First, I should say that the house isn't as crooked as it looks in the picture. It was the photographer that was off kilter, I'm afraid.

Thanks to all for the good wishes. It's exciting, and scary, and lots and LOTS of work! We moved into the current place 15 years ago. Time flies, eh?

We're keeping Bide-A-Wee, of course. I mean, we can see one property from the other, so at the very least we've got to protect our view(s). The cabin will likely be my writer's retreat, guest house, etc.

Livestock is (are?) not in the immediate plans, but we're thinking we'll have a hay field this summer, about which I am inordinately delighted.

And, yes, Sara, we're pretty stoked about the idea of participating in Wisconsonian democracy some time this summer.

Cheers, all~ Brett

Anonymous said...

Brett - Congratulations to you and Mary, and best wishes for your new endeavor! Who could resist such beautiful sheds indeed? Outbuildings are indispensable to rural life and I envy you that you are buying a property equipped with sheds! that is one thing missing here and it is harder than I thought to remedy the lack. And then you have guests quarters at Bide-A-Wee -- maybe even the beginning of a rustic B&B or vacation rental! and your guests can come on foraging hikes with you!

I have not be around the blogosphere much either recently and never took the time to properly thank you for your wonderful boos. I have several pages bookmarked to try things out and it's been fun learning more about you (and I totally understand planning a trip around a farmers' market: we bought our prior city-house not in small part because if was within walking distance of a good farmers market!

All the best

Sylvie in Rappahannock said...

mmmm... the Anonymous comment before was me... just going too fast...

angie said...

This is so excellent Brett! We'll be becoming WI residents within weeks of each other! Looking forward to following your progress.

Trout Caviar said...

Hi Sylvie: Yes, the possibilities are many, and very exciting--can make your head spin! We're in the big melt-down now, but will be digging in to the soil and foraging the hills in no time.

Angie, hope your move goes well. I'll look forward to your reports, too.

Best~ Brett

Rodger Ciliberto said...

I’m almost a year late, but all the same, ‘Congratulations’! Using the term ‘farm’ gave me the notion of something really big. I actually thought at first that it’s kind of an exaggeration. But after I read everything, I think ‘the farm’ would be the best term, as nothing is bigger once you get what you really hoped for from the start. :)

Darren Lanphere said...

I’m browsing the internet because I wanted to expand my farm business. For some reason, I stumbled on your blog. Upon reading it I become fascinated, and the deeper I got, the more I connected with it. This is a wonderful post! Now, I have more desire to expand my livestock business.