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I’ve wanted to have a piece of land to call my own for a dozen years or more. At first, my desires were grandiose. A full blown homestead, at least 10 acres with plenty of room for goats, llamas, maybe a milk cow, chickens, a huge garden and a big wild area to support wildlife.
As I grew wiser and a little more self-aware, I realized that I needed to downsize this dream. I’m single, no longer in the first flush of youth, and have no practical skills. Most importantly, I have a full time job that I love, which gives me meaning and is quite demanding of both time and energy. So over time, I honed my dream down to 2-3 acres, on a paved road, not too far from town, enough room for a decent-sized garden, fruit trees, some chickens and a little wildness.
And then about 3 years ago, I gave up on that dream. Acreages in my neck of the woods are relatively affordable but even so, saving $30,000 for a down payment wasn’t feasible and squatting in my current property, like I didn’t belong there, was getting tiresome.
If you’ve read my ABOUT page, you know that everything changed in the fall of 2019. I saw my acreage in a facebook ad and 3 months later I was moving in. It was miraculous…and scary as hell.
Hopefully, you are much more responsible and together than I am and you either a) saved for years so you could put 20% down AND have a nice hefty sum leftover to do projects OR b) sold your previous house for enough that you are sitting on a nice little nest egg to help you get started. If however, you are more similar to me, you spent every last dime you had just getting the acreage and you are now scrambling to cover the higher mortgage and bills.
On top of my reckless following of dreams, I also have a streak of impatience and a distinct lack of discipline at times. Not a good combo. Oh, and hammering nails into walls is all the handy skills I have. And is also about as high tech as my tools go. But I am determined to do this right and NOT add to my debt and that means I have to proceed thoughtfully. And patiently. Dang it!
Whether you’re like me (sorry) or like those amazing and prepared people who came into acreage ownership Prepared with a capital P. Or even if you are somewhere in between, hopefully you will get something out of how I’ve managed my first 8 months.
When I moved into the house, I had all these plans for both the house and the land. However, until you’ve lived in a place for a bit, it’s hard to know if those are the best configurations or solutions. Sitting with my space and getting to know it and its personality has been rewarding. And useful! I’ve already changed the configuration of the fencing at LEAST a dozen times and I moved my bedroom.
The point is, buying a house is STRESSFUL, and you don’t always get to spend a lot of time in the house before moving in. Give yourself a couple of months or three to just sink in and live. I tackled some minor obvious issues (eg. I got the broken garage door fixed), but I don’t plan to take on anything truly major for the first 10-12 months.
For me this initial step was important, because I also needed a few months to figure out how my new monthly budget was going to shake out. So, consider taking some time initially just to get to know your new place.
Write down everything you want to do to or buy for the property. Not dishrags and laundry detergent but all the major tools or furniture and projects of which you can think. I follow David Allen’s (Getting Things Done) excellent advice and get it all out of my head and onto paper…or virtual paper.
I don’t have a recommended system or program for how to do this. Choose a recording and tracking method that feels right for you. I’ve kept the list in an excel spreadsheet which is handy but excel is not terribly portable. I always have my best ideas when walking the dogs or on long drives. Nevertheless, I get most of my ideas recorded.
Data fields I like to have (I am a bit of a database nerd): the task, an index of cost, what project it falls under (garden, woodland, fence etc…), frequency (recurring or one-time), a general idea of when it needs done (now, soon, whenever), date added and date done, then notes.
Next, and this is a really crucial step, I took the list from step 2 and thought about a) what I wanted to get done in the next 3-6 months and b) what I would shoot for in the first 12-18 months. Looking at the pared down list, I examined the price tags for all these tasks, eyed my bank balance and then started renegotiating with myself. Time to get creative.
For example, instead of getting the 20 plus raised beds installed and filled and the garden fence built by next spring, I compromised and am biting of some smaller chunks. In the end this is what these two lists looked like:
I spent the first 3-4 months on my new acreage feeling anxious. Asking myself what had I done and thinking of all the projects and how I had no money to do any of them. It was winter. Then a wonderful thing happened! Spring popped up! As the weather improved, I started exploring more, seeing more wildlife, noticing the stars, how awesome my deck is etc….
I still have moments of doubt and things are still evolving but I’ve started to love this place. It’s Keeper’s Croft and it’s my own piece of land. I hope you also find that little corner of the world that speaks to you!
For every post I try to recommend a relevant book to go with it. I love reading and think there is a book for all occasions. For this post, I want to recommend The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith. I think it’s pretty well recognized that happiness does not really make a good life, but it is meaning that does that. Smith walks through 4 precepts that have been shown to bring people meaning. It’s a fascinating, engrossing read with a lot of wisdom. I got a lot out of it.
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