The search for land has become an emotional roller coaster. We recently found a property that I knew before even seeing it in person would be ideal for us. We visited a few weeks ago, and W, although reluctant to admit it, felt quite the same as I did. It's a total of 25 acres (more than we'd ever imagined owning) with an adorable 1940s farmhouse. The house has been well taken care of, and needs very little in terms of updating. It has belonged to one family since it was built, and in the past 5 years or so they replaced windows, some flooring, and added insulation. There is currently no HVAC system and they have been using window air units & propane heaters when necessary. W & I talked about trying to renovate it a bit and put in radiant floor heating, solar hot water, and possibly panels. It would be wonderful to live in such an old house and yet still be able to keep our carbon footprint small.
The property belongs to a family who currently owns 45 acres with two houses and because of a divorce would like to sell off 1/2 of the land and the smaller home. We offered low in hopes that they were interested in selling as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, we were unable to come to a mutually beneficial agreeement. W & I are waiting it out to see if the property sells in the next 6 months. If not, we'll make another offer.
In the meantime I've become addicted to real estate ads for farms, and we both have taken to driving around the country seeking for sale signs. In our expedition on Saturday, we came upon a 10 acre tract with a modular home and an asking price well within our range. The drive to work will be a bit longer for W, but he's willing to do it if it means we're taking steps toward farming. Because of the lowered cost, we would be in a position to begin building an environmentally-friendly home on the land and, once complete, we would sell the modular.
On one of our drives I spotted a house that looked almost like an earthship. We pulled over to take a look and (impeccable timing!) the owner just happened to be standing in the driveway. I waved and asked if he might be able to answer some questions for us and the next thing I knew we were wandering around his garage becoming acquainted with his solar hot water system. : ) He had never heard of an earthship, but the concept he followed was similar. Basically he built an earth-bermed house with a solarium on the front and an 18" brick wall behind the solarium for thermal mass. According to the owner, there are two other houses like his in the surrounding area. He was kind enough to share his story with us and the frustrations of trying to build an environmentally-friendly home 10 year ago. I hope our experience will be a bit easier.
The self-described "goat-herder" Doug Fine serves as an ongoing inspiration for me. Farewell My Subaru, the book that began his journey, is amazing and every post he writes reminds me of the what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how possible it really is.
My mind is of course wandering 10 steps ahead of reality and I've already placed us on our ideal property. I'm imagining an entire acre of lavender, a few acres of fruit trees, endless places for the dogs to run, and our steps (leaps?) along the way toward self-sustainability.