Moving day – a time for tantrums

November 3, 2018

Closing was in Cumberland at 11 am. The final walk-through was at 10:30. All we had to do was get the cashier’s check for the 20% closing costs and then make the 1.5 hour drive to our new home. We were so close!

Nick, driving my dad’s truck towing a borrowed trailer and me in the van filled to the brim with all the stuff from the house that wasn’t in storage and didn’t fit in the trailer. Plus, two kids and a dog, who had to squeeze between the kids’ seats and all the stuff. We left our house in St. Paul at 8:30 am and headed to the bank. I had slight anxiety, but nothing too obnoxious. I was pretty darn confident that things would run as smoothly as could be. Boy was I wrong.

“Sorry, we can’t accept this check”

8: 40 am

We arrived at the bank. It was closed. I thought banks opened at 8 am during the week. Guess not. So we sat in the parking lot waiting. I texted my mortgage broker, “who do I make the cashier’s check out to?” “Yourself” she said. “Weird,” I thought. But she’s the expert.

9 am

I considered having the teller leave the cashier’s check blank in the “to” section, but didn’t. Mistake. Always go with your gut.

11:15 am

After a couple of detours and 15 minutes late, I met Nick at RE/MAX in Cumberland for our closing. He’d gone ahead for the final walk through.

12 pm

“Can we get your cash to close before we get started?”

“Yep! Here you go. The mortgage broker had me make it out to myself. Hope that’s okay.”

It wasn’t.

There weren’t any TCF banks in Wisconsin either. We called some local banks to see if they’d be willing to cash my check and reissue a new one.

They weren’t.

We called TCF to see if they could wire the money instead.

The couldn’t – at least not without me there in person.

12:15 pm

I loaded the kids back up in the car to make the 1.5 hour drive to the nearest TCF Bank in Stillwater, MN. Ryker (my 5-year-old son), at this point, was in tantrum mode. He’d already been in the car since 8:30 and the prospect of spending another 3 hours in the car sent him over the edge. I couldn’t blame him. I wasn’t far from a tantrum myself.

“The sellers aren’t moved out yet”

Right after arriving at the closing, Nick quietly informed me that the sellers, an 80-something-year-old couple, still had “a ton, and I mean a ton” of stuff at the house. What! What does that mean? Were we going to have to push off closing? Where would we go? We were already moved out of our old house.

While I headed back to the twin cities, Nick headed back to “our new” house and helped the sellers pack up and move out the rest of their stuff – sort of. They had to come back the next day for a few remaining things.

Thankfully, Ryker fell asleep almost immediately after leaving RE/MAX. I did throw my tantrum. It lasted about 10 minutes on the road on the phone with my parents.

fullsizeoutput_c1e-e1518966659313.jpeg

The third time’s a charm. Or is it the fourth?

2 pm

We arrived at TCF Bank at the Cub Foods in Stillwater. I woke up Ryker and hurried the boys out of the van and through the busy parking lot, rushed them inside (the closer needed us back around 3), got up to the teller – I forgot the slip of paper in the van that had the name I was supposed to make it out to. You’ve got to be kidding me!

I rushed back out with the kids and back through the busy parking lot, grabbed the slip of paper and ran, dragging Townes and Ryker behind me.

Back at the teller window I slipped the teller the slip of paper and he proceeded to create the cashier’s check.

1st attempt – he printed on the back of the cashier’s check.

2nd attempt – he spelled the name of the recipient wrong.

3rd attempt (and by now my fourth issued cashier’s check) – he got it right.

7 hours in the car

I sped through the winding roads to get back to REMAX before they closed.

3:30 pm

Arrived. We closed without anymore hitches.

4 pm

The sellers were all moved out. After spending 7 hours in the car that day going back and forth, we only had a 5-minute drive to our new home.

The rest is history, or I guess the future.

Looking back, perhaps it really wasn’t all that bad, but in the moment, it was a time for tantrums.

fullsizeoutput_c21.jpeg

 

Advertisements

Why Cumberland, WI?

That’s the most frequent question we get, at least from the locals here in Cumberland. How we ended up here was somewhat arbitrary. We’d actually never even heard of Cumberland, Wi before. But here we are.

Choosing Cumberland…

It fit our search criteria

When we decided we wanted to buy land and start a small-scale farm our dreams extended as far as Northern California, Oregon and Colorado, maybe even the Carolinas or Florida where the growing season was particularly long. But alas, what we value most, family and friends, became our main determinant for choosing land. And so we set our sights closer, MUCH closer, about 1.5 hours from the Twin Cities, because that’s where all our loved ones are.

Aside from being just 1.5 hours from the Twin Cities, we also wanted land that was affordable and beautiful to hike and explore, which ultimately meant, non-traditional farmland — hilly and full of trees.

So, although our land is zoned agriculture, it’s not ideal for farming, which presents its own challenges, but it also made it more affordable to attain. The fact that it’s farther North with a shorter growing season (another challenge to overcome) also made it more affordable.

IMG_0725

We fell in love

After seeing many properties in our price range that were, frankly, unlivable, unfarmable, and unbeautiful, we, to quote Alanis Morissette, “fell head over heels” for this property (yet to be named).

It was a warm and sunny September, Saturday afternoon and our now home was the third of three we looked at in Cumberland that day. It also happened to be the one we were least excited to see of the three (one reason why good pictures are so important). The first two properties we saw were, let’s just say, disappointing. The first was a clean and VERY small home, good farmland, not good for recreation — I wasn’t in love. The second was downright disgusting, and pretty much all marshland, but surrounded by a breathtaking view. By this point our expectations were low. We had already seen so many houses before these.

Maybe that was it, low expectations often equate to pleasant surprises. And so we were more than pleasantly surprised. It didn’t happen all at once but the excitement grew and grew with each step across the property, each new breathtaking view to behold: the pond, the apple orchard, the pine plantations, the rolling hills, and my absolute favorite, the butterfly garden (picture to come this spring).

Sliding hill

Let’s take a quick detour to the butterfly garden

Now, bare with me for a second. The butterfly garden was the most dreamy thing I’d ever seen. It was bursting with colorful flowering perennials overflowing a winding zen-like walking path that led to an old twisted tree — perfect for the most romantic tree fort. And then there was the screen house with a wooden swing in it overlooking it all. But it was the butterflies at the koi pond that got me most of all. That’s right, butterflies and a koi pond. Take that every Disney-princess-dream-land ever to exist!

I stood there at the point of combusting with the overwhelming beauty of it all. As I watched the tiny golden koi fish dart between Lilly pads, that’s when the magic really happened. No less than 15 Monarch butterflies flittered boldly all around me. I hadn’t seen so many butterflies at once in the natural world, maybe ever.

Still on that detour — Chasing butterflies

You see, Nick says this thing when I get distracted, along the lines of, “You’re chasing butterflies again.” This inspired my first ever published piece (as an adult) called “Chasing Butterflies.” It was published in Moon Magazine just barely two months earlier. It felt serendipitous. It was meant to be.

Chasing Butterflies

Now…back to our regular scheduled programming

We looked inside the house next and relief shuddered out of us. My excitement grew. I could actually live here! It wasn’t the prettiest, nor did it have the most character, but it wasn’t gross and I could do something with it. Yay!

Nick and I were positively jittery with excitement and fear. He turned to me and said, “I don’t know how I can farm here, but I don’t even care, I want to live here.” Me too. Me too.

And so began three days of trying to decide if we purchase on emotion. It didn’t work in the past for us and we definitely didn’t want to repeat past mistakes, but we felt that in the case of chasing your dreams, you must always lead with your heart, not your head. And so we brought my parents back three days later, explored the possibility of how we might farm here, checked out the town (which is adorbs, btw) and made an offer a few days later.

The End  Beginning.

 

Our 7 steps to “here” — finding courage, fighting fear

I remember exactly one year ago when Nick and I started seriously discussing buying land to farm and homestead, we had no idea how to do it.

We heard about other people doing it, but they had money – capital if you will – to get started. Their land was given to them. They had a job they could do from home. They knew how to farm or knew people who knew how to farm. They were different from us. They had it easier.

So, for nearly a year we talked and brainstormed about how we could make this work. How could we purchase land, have jobs that allowed us to live in a rural location, and afford to fund a small business? And on top of it all, where in the heck would we find the time to do it all?

These are the seven steps we took to get here. There are a million paths to any destination, this is our path.

1. Getting started — where there’s a will there’s a way

What we eventually discovered was, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” And so we started to set things into motion, having faith that we’d be okay. But what to do first? Find a new job? Sell our house? Pay off school loans? Save up more money? What we eventually learned is you just have to start somewhere. So somewhere is where we started.

2. Living on half as much

A year-in-a-half ago Nick quit his full-time job as an MRI technologist to take care of the twins and run the house. He took this time while at home to discover what he wanted to do next. It was a year of growth and discovery for him, and an important year for our family. Through this decision we were brought to this dream of where we are today. And, although our household income was nearly cut in half, we barely noticed a difference. This, we discovered, would set the stage that would allow our family of four to live on one income and enable Nick to work full time on the farm.

fullsizeoutput_b31

3. Liquifying assets — selling two houses

It’s amazing how the universe will accommodate you when you start putting things into motion.

We were currently living in a beautiful home in a rural suburb on the eastern border of Minnesota (Afton, MN). We also owned a starter home in St. Paul that we had been renting out the last four years. (This was the first house we purchased as a married couple and hadn’t been able to sell it since buying it during the housing boom in 2004.)

We sold our house in Afton first. It sold in 24 hours at nearly $20k over the asking price with 4 bids. We were gobsmacked.

Next step, move into our rental property and get that ready to sell.

We lived in our St. Paul home from August to November. We spent August and September repainting everything, updating the kitchen, gutting the bathroom, and carpeting the attic. Then we listed that house. It sold in three days at $7k over the asking price with three offers . Again, we were shocked and incredibly grateful. Things seemed to be working in our favor.

4. Paying off debt

This section deserves even more of a focus because this is where we get into how we funded our soon-to-be farm/homestead/business. For that reason, I’ll provide a brief overview in this post and do a follow-up post later with all the financial details.

We haven’t yet decided if paying off all of our school loans was truly the best financial approach (instead of keeping a majority of cash earned form the sale of two houses to fund the business), but I have no regrets — at least not yet. We wanted to enter this dream with zero debt so we would have the flexibility we’d need in our jobs and our new, courageous and adventure-filled lives.

We made a substantial amount of money from selling our home in Afton, which I’ll share in a follow-up post. We used this money to pay off our school loans, credit card balance, and our 20% down payment on our new house. The money we made from the sale of our rental property is what we’re using to fund most of the start-up costs for the farm.

5. Working from home — you don’t get what you don’t ask for

That was probably one of my most valuable lessons learned in 2017.

I worked at a fairly traditional 9-5 job managing a small team in marketing at a large corporation. Though we had lots of workplace flexibility on the team, working from home full-time hadn’t yet been explored. So, assuming this wasn’t an option, I was too scared to ask. It took me months to muster up the courage. When I finally did, though it wasn’t an enthusiastic, immediate yes, it was definitely a supportive “I’m going to do everything I can to help you do this,” which did eventually turn into a “yes.”

I now work from home four days a week and make the two-hour commute into the office one day a week. Though it’s been a bit of an adjustment, it’s also been a dream come true for this desperately-needs-to-be-free girl.

IMG_6505.JPG

6. Downsizing — spending less on the next house

We know that starting a new business in farming is going to be financially straining and physically exhausting. We know it will take a lot of time and money. Which is why we decided that the next house we purchase would cost even less than our previous house. This would continue to allow us flexibility in our jobs, but also in our lives. So, we bought a smaller home on a few less acres than we originally anticipated but that cost less than our last house. (Again, I’ll go in more detail about the financials in a subsequent post.)

7. Letting go

The summer of 2017 was probably one of the hardest, scariest, most stressful times of mine and Nick’s life. Moving three times in less than four months (and with a new puppy and two five-year olds) challenged us like never before. But we learned another really important lesson last summer — let go.

Let go of fear. Let go of desire. Let go of how we think things ought to be and instead follow our hearts and let the universe take it from there. Continuously letting go, or at least being present and aware of our fears, desires, and insecurities, got us through one of the most challenging times of our lives and it gave us the courage to get to here.

 

IMG_1923

 

 

What exactly are we doing here anyway?

A question I ask myself every day. And each day into this adventure I find myself facing paralyzing fear and doubt (more to come on this later).

The thing is, we don’t know 100% really what it is we’re doing. We may not even know 10% of what it is we’re doing. What we do know is we’re chasing a dream and conquering our fears.

The light between the trees

The dream we’re chasing

Joy. Freedom. Connection. Sustainability. We’re seeking a way of living that is adventurous, courageous, and authentic — a life that nurtures the land along with our creativity and passion. A life that allows us to be present more as a family and more engaged with nature.

Homestead. Market garden. Hobby farm. Business. These are many of the names we’ve called this dream, to ourselves, our neighbors, our friends, and our family.Family w/the Christmas tree

The fears we’re conquering

Failure. Poverty. Inability. Complacency. We have no idea what we’re doing and we’ve just uprooted our lives completely. We’ve only ever lived in the cities or suburbs. We have no background nor personal connection whatsoever in farming or homesteading. We’d never heard of permaculture until a year ago nor did we know what a market garden was, and I didn’t even know homesteading was a thing. But here we are on our own 16 acres of land in rural Wisconsin preparing to make our dreams a reality. Gulp…Fearless Townes

 

City girl gone country

November 3, 2017, I moved to 16 acres in a tiny town I’ve never heard of before in the middle of nowhere, Cumberland, Wi.

Born and raised in St. Paul, I was never more than 10 minutes from, well, really anything, except for maybe a farm. As an extrovert, the constant commotion of the lights, movement and noise energized and awakened me. I was happy in the city and I liked it — still do. It’s all I’ve ever really known. But there’s something I’ve always liked, perhaps even more than the city — the country. Maybe because, until now, it’s been a novelty to me. Nevertheless, I was enamored with it and it inspired me.

Fog

Every summer as a girl I’d spend two weeks on a bee farm (not sure that’s really the technical term for it) located 30 minutes outside of Alexandria, MN*. Over 360 acres of rolling hills, woods, prairie and a pond. It truly was, and still is, heaven on earth. Those two weeks each summer were what dreams were made of (minus the ticks, I hate ticks).

I spent hours on end outdoors with my little cousins making forts in the tall prairie grasses, racing through the woods on ATVs, catching gardener snakes for a local pet shop, and then frogs to feed the gardener snakes, exploring an old dilapidated barn that defied all safety regulations, and seeing how close we could get to the pond before our feet would get sucked into the mud.

Christmas lipstick

I grew up, and spent significantly less time in the country, but the magic and wonder of the outdoors never left me.

This blog is the story about how I left all I knew in the city to start something I knew nothing about, a small scale farm and homestead in the country.

I hope this blog will inspire you, not to move to the country, unless of course that’s what you want to do, but to live out your childhood dreams and further explore your passions.

Enjoy!

*The bee farm I spent my summers at is actually the Reece family farm. It’s owned by my mom’s cousins and they make local raw honey. It’s delicious.