Remember When I Quit My Job Last Year? What Happened Next?

It’s Saturday morning, still dark outside, and STILL snowing. I woke up just before six, not on purpose, and felt rested — or antsy enough — to actually get out of bed. The boys are still sleeping and the house is quiet, especially now that our stir-crazy indoor/outdoor cat, Turnip, AKA: The Stray-that-Came-to-Stay, has been put outside. So, sipping dandelion tea and listening to The Highwomen album (best. album. ever.), I figured it’s about time I write. I mean, the ambiance is perfect — time, quiet, and inspiration…

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Our goofy, adorable, feisty Cutie Cat, Turnip

So let’s ease into it, shall we? (It is early after all)

You may recall from my post last year, that I quit my job November 2018 with no known or determined plans for the future. Just faith that it was the best thing for my mental and emotional well-being and that our family would be just fine. And you know what? I was right on both accounts. It took time, but I’ve recovered to my same optimistic self and we’ve been thriving financially.

So what have I been doing since quitting my job?

The short answer is consulting. The longer answer is…

After leaving my long-time corporate gig November 2018, I took the rest of the year off to do farm business planning and just enjoy a bit of time off before jumping back into another gig. I cleaned my house and kept it clean — mostly. I volunteered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Barron County. I hosted 24 people for an entire weekend for Christmas. I finished our business plan. I hung with my kids. And most importantly, I gave myself a much needed mental and emotional reprieve. I had been operating under such a high-level of chronic stress for so long, I was suffering, in a way I’d never experienced before. And I needed to get better.

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Hosting 24 people Christmas 2018. My cousins and their children.

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Everybody using their new sleds on our super awesome sledding hill

During my time off, I reached out to a consulting agency December 2018 that I’ve hired from in the past and been courting for the last year. They had an opportunity for me within 10 days for after the New Year. A REMOTE opportunity. Friends, I had been looking for a remote gig for like two years with no luck, then this opportunity came to me after I let go –stopped worrying so much about the future and started trusting it instead. I interviewed and was hired for a four-month contract at a global healthcare tech company after just one, 30-minute interview.

Quick side note: one of my professional goals was to get experience in the tech industry. Check!

I started February 2019 and have been extended four times since. My current contract, with the same company, is set to end May 2020. They even let me work three days a week during the summer so I could help Nick with the farmers markets and sent me to Vegas to attend Adobe Summit.

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Here I’m eating gelato at the Venetian

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And here, I’m getting my serious face on with by bud, Bruce on the Vegas strip.

Friends, I want to restate something for you. I left a good-paying, great-benefits job trusting that I’d be okay, and I was. I got a contract gig that pays me more, lets me work remotely, let me work just three days a week in the summer, and is in tech. Where I come from, that’s practically unheard of.

So what’s next?

Now that my confidence has been restored and I’m in a much better mental and emotional state of well-being, Nick and I have actually been discussing the possibility of me going back to work as a full-time employee. Now, I feel a bit like a sell-out saying that, so let me explain the reason behind this possible course of action…

One word — STABILITY. Nick and I have been through so many changes these last two years with both quitting our jobs, selling our houses, moving to a new state, starting a business, and helping our twin 7-year-old boys manage their own feelings and emotions (on top of our’s) through all this change. A bit of stability might be in order.

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My sweet boys and me on my 37th birthday this December

Though, I still don’t consider myself a corporate girl, I am discovering there are jobs out there that can offer me the creative freedom, flexibility, salary, and intellectual stimulation I so desperately desire.

Our hopes is that by me moving to a consistent, decent-paying salary we can hire a part-time, temporary employee for the farm to help Nick out this season. ‘Cause let’s be honest, as much I don’t like to admit it, I’m not exactly the braun this operation needs. Plus, we’d like to throw as much money into this farm now so we can keep growing it to the scale we want.

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Testing our our new seeder the first year on the farm

Making a work transition takes time, so things could remain the same for awhile, or we could decide on a completely different direction. But in the meantime, I’m allowing myself to be open to exploring all that’s out there with a whole new perspective.

 

 

Our weekend building a yurt

A couple of weekends ago we were invited by our friends, Kayla and Eric from Turtle Hare Farm, to build an 18′ yurt at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais. Considering that I’m hoping to put a yurt or two on our own property, I was jumping up and down waving both arms at the chance. It also just happened to fall on the weekend prior to my birthday. So happy birthday to me – eek!
It was a four-day build, but we could only stay for the first two days. You know – kids, ducks, chickens, dog, and cat stuff.
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The North House Folk School

First things first, what’s a yurt?

I wasn’t sure of what this was myself until about a year or two ago. It’s basically a semi-permanent, year-round, circular tent. But there’s more history to it than that. Apparently felt-walled yurts were often used by a horse-riding nomadic people in Asia many, many, many, MANY moons ago. You can read more about it here if you’d like.

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The sample yurt the school had up for us to see. It also had a small heating stove in it.

Now, onto the yurt building with Turtle Hare Farm

We met our friends at Turtle Hare Farm when we lived in the Afton, MN area. They were our neighbors and they happened to move in, and consequently out, at the same time we did. They largely inspired us when they turned their entire front yard into a market garden (see my previous post for what a market garden is). Then, six months after we moved to 16 acres in Cumberland, WI, they moved to 16 acres in Two Harbors, MN. It does all feel a bit serendipitous doesn’t it? Like, we were totally supposed to meet when we did.

 

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A selfie of us with our instructor Ian (back left) and Eric and Kayla (foreground), taken by Eric

Day 1 – Saturday, December 1, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Nick and I left our house at 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning to make it to class in Grand Marais by 8:30 a.m. for check in. When we got there we met Ian from Creaking Tree Farm, our instructor and fellow market gardener. FYI, Ian and his wife lived in a yurt for nearly five years up North. Super cool, right?

Once introductions were made, we, along with Garrett (Kayla’s brother) and Hannah (Garrett’s girlfriend), and Eric, got to work (Kayla would be joining us later that day).

The first thing we did was drill/press holes into the wood that would become the lattice walls. We did that many, many times over.

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This is Eric using the drill press to measure and drill holes evenly through for the lattice. We would later tie rope through these holes.

From there we put the wood into a nice hot bath so that we could later bend it into a slight curve for the walls. The wood soaked for the day while we worked on the roof and skylight. Then we wove the wood in a frame to the get that slight round curve.

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Soaking the wood in a nice warm bath.

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The hot tub – so to speak.

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Bending the wood felt like a giant weaving. It was beautiful and really cool to do.                    Photo credit: Eric Elefson

Once we wove the wood lattice then we got to work preparing the wood that would be used to frame in the ceiling, AKA the rafters. This consisted of planing the four edges of the wood so they wouldn’t rub the fabric walls, cutting out notches in one end that would set into a cable, rounding the other end of the wood that would fit into the skylight, and sanding everything down.

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Here Eric and Kayla are planing/sanding all four edges of the wood.

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Garrett is cutting out the notches that will fit against the cable and Hannah is sanding them.

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Kayla using this thing-a-majig to create a rounded post of sorts.

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Time to sand all the rough edges down.

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What the rafter posts looked like when all was said and done. Ain’t they a beaut!

Now onto the skylight! This consisted of a lot of tracing patterns onto wood, cutting them out, gluing the pieces together, and team work. We even gathered in a circle for the chorus of kumbaya (haha, JK, but doesn’t it look like it?).

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Here we’re actually lining up, gluing, and clamping the cut wood together for the skylight.

Once the pieces for the skylight were glued together, we clamped them and left them for the night to dry.

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Now we leave it overnight to dry.

Day 2 – Sunday, December 2, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Day 2 started out with tying the lattice boards together to create the slightly curved walls. This consisted of tying, burning, and waxing approximately 700 knots. We had numb, worn fingers by the end. It was oddly satisfying and took most of the day.

We were coupled off and assigned a section of the wall. It felt a bit like couples’ therapy. I liked it.

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Nick tying the lattice wall together. Each knot probably took about 1-2 minutes to complete. Although we did get faster with each passing hour.

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Once all the knots were tied we went through with a blow torch and wax block to secure the knots. I also liked this part; you know…fire and stuff.

While we were tying 700 knots, Ian was busy finishing up the skylight by cutting off the points and rounding the outer edge. He also drilled large holes to fit the rafters we cut and sanded the previous day.

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The one in the foreground is after the edges were cut and rounded. The one in the background is what it looked like before.

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Ian is drilling the holes we’ll put the rafter posts into.

While finishing touches were being made to the skylight and lattice walls, Kayla and I started to cut the Velcro and fabric that would be used for the walls.

Then we got to assemble the frame!

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The lattice walls are up!

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Now to string the cable.

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Eric and Kayla fitting the rafter posts onto the cable. The notched end slid over the cable and the post end fit into the skylight.

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They skylight and rafters once assembled.

Once the frame was assembled the work day was over and it was time for us to jet and start the nearly 4-hour trek home. The whole way home we talked about what an amazing experience the weekend had been with some really cool people and how we’d be back soon to hopefully build our own yurt.

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Enjoying all the day’s efforts inside the yurt.

Kayla and Eric would stay another two days to finish the yurt, then they’d disassemble it, load it in their truck, and bring it home to reassemble in the spring in time to open their farm stay. To see the final product, follow along with Eric and Kayla on Instagram at @ericeire and @turtleharefarm

Peace!

 

When a pile of junk becomes inspiration

I guess it really is true what they say. “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure,” or in today’s case, it’s another man’s business.

Today, I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting a local kid who brought so much inspiration to me, and I don’t think he has any idea that he did. No, I didn’t ask permission to write about him, so in the off and unlikely chance he comes across this post, I hope he likes it.

Hidden junk

So far on this blog, I’ve only told you about the beauties and wonders of our dream-like property. But now stuff’s about to get real, real fast.

You see, like perhaps most large areas of personal land, it would appear that a portion of ours was used as a personal dump. Somewhat hard to see at first glance, and hidden off behind some trees on the west side of our pond, you’ll find rusty metal galore. Junk for us, treasure for some. Everything from an ancient pontoon, riding lawn mower, multiple push lawn mowers, barrels of some sort, an old metal mattress spring, and a slew of other unidentifiable metal objects. Many of it partially buried from its 60+ years of being there.

Hidden treasure

Today, when I got home from picking up the kids from school, an unidentifiable young person was at our house with a truck and large trailer.

Turns out it was the “kid” Nick told me about a week ago. He met this “kid” at the brush dump while dropping off crap wood from the many trees he cut down for the garden. The “kid” asked Nick if he could have the wood. Nick was like, “you want to come haul thousands of pounds of wood off my property so I don’t have to? YES PLEASE!” And so he came, and with a broken hand, hefted large tree stumps and branches into his mini van. The “kid” made an impression on Nick that day. This was a kid not afraid of hard work.

Today, he made an impression on me. He showed up and started clearing out our dump pile of metal scraps. He was going to recycle it for cash. This is what he did for money. Not a job, neigh, he doesn’t call it that. What I call it is business, and good business. It’s good for the environment, great for our property, and he just made our lives a heck of a lot easier, all at no cost to us.

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The scrap metal loaded up on his trailer. He’s coming back to pick up the rest tomorrow. (Ryker thinks he’s helping.)

Awestruck

There was a brief moment as I was watching this “kid” heft incredibly heavy and sharp rusty objects, without gloves, into his trailer, that I thought, “wow, he works really hard not to have a job.” The thought sounded like judgement, but felt like awe. Here was this junior in high school working his butt off and making good money without getting stuck in the grind of what many jobs offer. Security? Yes. Freedom? No. He told Nick that he makes more money doing this than his brother ever did with “real” jobs. I was, am, impressed.

He saw a unique problem, that likely no one else was solving, and went for it. Now he even has special permission from his school to do pick-ups during the day, and they give him their leftover scraps from their auto shop.

This “kid” at 17 years old knows more about running a successful business and working his butt off than I do, a 35-year old with a masters degree in business. And the clincher of it all, I don’t think he even knows that’s what he’s doing.

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Here he is stopping to pick up some of the wood on his way out. (This is a glimpse of where the garden will be, well, at least part of it. Nick took out about 20+ trees)

Inspired

Although I am always a proponent of learning, no classroom can come close to life experience. This kid taught me more about business in the 15 minutes of chatting with him than my six years of business classes. What he taught me was, like Nike, you just do it. Don’t worry about the perfect business plan, like I have been, finding the right audience first, like I have been, doing all the right marketing, like I’ve been trying to do, but just do it already.

Now, that’s a lot easier said than done. I have 35 years of fear I’m facing, a family I’m supporting, and a lot of self-doubt I’m trying to overcome. But I really want to be like that “kid.”

 

 

Every house has its quirks. Mine is no exception.

Like every rose has its thorns, every house has its quirks. And my house is definitely no exception.

Purchased from a frugal elderly couple in their mid 80’s, our house, though from the 40s, was remarkably clean. And remarkably weird. Not at first glance, but within our first few days in our new home we got acquainted rather quickly with our house’s quirky ways.

The house

My beautifully quirky home

When hot is cold and cold is hot

My first shower in the new house was a plethora of surprises. Aside from the petal wilting, nose scrunching, eye tearing rotten egg smell (see this post for why) that overloaded my senses, I also got showered in cold water, EVEN THOUGH the faucet knob was clearly on HOT. So I did the only rational thing, I turned the knob to COLD. Yes! Hot stinky water!

Nearly five months later and we still haven’t fixed the faucet. I’m getting quite used to it now.

Bath of horrors

You already saw the sludge water bath experienced by more poor boys in this post, but there’s more.

You see, we have this decent sized jet tub in our basement. This absolutely thrilled my mom. So, moving weekend she took the liberty of being the first to try it out. All was relatively normal during the bath itself, but when she drained the tub it all drained out onto the floor. Was that supposed to happen? Maybe it was like a two for one kinda thing. Clean yourself and wash the floors all in one go.

This did get fixed. Now everything drains beautifully, but we did have several terrifying experiences of either sludge water or sewage back up into our downstairs bathroom. Ew!

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Playing in the frozen pond. Looks a bit like the bath sludge water.

1940s septic, grey water system, and dirty toilet paper

Prior to moving into the new house we knew one thing for sure, we’d have to replace the septic. The septic was original to the house. We had no idea how the heck it lasted so long. Well, we soon found out.

  1. The former owner had redirected all the water from the house, except the toilet water (thank God) out into the front yard. Now, this can be kind of a cool thing if it’s done appropriately as a grey water system. Unfortunately it was running directly into the front yard without any filter. Not cool.
  2. We discovered several plastic bags of dirty toilet paper in the garage. And now we get to the heart of it. THEY DIDN’T FLUSH THEIR TOILET PAPER. Turns out they burned it but didn’t get around to burning the last dozen or so bags. We uneccessarily go through a roll of toilet paper a day in my household. The septic simply couldn’t handle that and it’s nastiness started seeping up through the ground while we waited the three weeks to have our septic replaced. Life can be so cool sometimes.

I’m happy to say that we got a brand new septic and Nick was able to redirect the plumbing into it.

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Digging for the new septic

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Placement of the new septic

Mildew and mazes

As if the rotten egg smell coming from our water wasn’t enough, but now all of our “clean” clothes were smelling like mildew. Nick thought maybe it was his deer clothes causing the smell (he had picked up a deer processing job at our local meat market and came home covered in deer blood each night, which meant those bloody clothes ended up in the wash every night). It wasn’t. It was the washer.

It also didn’t help that an 80-minute cycle in our dryer wasn’t getting our clothes dry. At first we thought that was because of the whacky dryer duct work. It coursed through our downstairs ceiling like a maze twisting at 90 degree angles every few feet. It wasn’t. It just needed a new hose.

So, we got a new washer and a new hose for our dryer and no more stinky clothes. Yay!

There were other quirky discoveries upon moving in, like the three foot pile of saw dust in the basement workshop, but, although they caused loads of stress at the time, they also make for good story telling, and that I can appreciate.

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Easter family photo. For your enjoyment 🙂

 

 

Snowed in, sludge water, and rotten eggs

Moving to the country has definitely been an adventure, to say the least. And there have been, well, adjustments to learning how to live out here. It definitely hasn’t been easy, but it is kind of fun, even when it’s not, and even when it makes you want to puke.

Snowed in

Let’s talk snow for a minute. Snow in the city is a nuisance, snow out here is, “OMG! I’m totally, no, seriously, I’m trapped in my house!”

With 600+ ft of driveway roughly 9-12″ inches deep in heavy wet snow last week, shoveling the driveway was out of the question. So how have we been handling the ridiculous amount of snow we’ve been getting? By hiring a legit snow plow to plow us out. But what happens when your hired snow plow is broken? You wait until another can come plow you out. And in the case of last week, we waited two days. Which means, unless you’re going to walk to town in 3 ft of snow, you’re S.T.U.C.K. A big bummer when you’re out of groceries. Let’s just say we got real creative in our meals.

Lessons learned:

  1. We need a truck with a plow
  2. Stay stocked up on food in the winter
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Part of our 600+ ft driveway

Sludge water

Now this is my favorite least favorite longstanding issues since moving to the country. We have well water. NEVER have I experience well water like this before. And before I continue, yes we did have the well inspected, and yes it passed inspection.

Two weeks into our new home, our perfectly clear water turned yellow and started tasting like a bloody mouth (e.g. iron) — just trying to paint a picture with your senses here — you’re welcome. Then, sludge water happened. Ew!

Here’s how it all went down. The boys needed a bath. As the tub filled up with yellowish water, the boys started blaming each other for peeing in it (hey, it definitely wouldn’t have been the first time). Then something really gnarly happened. It turned into murky brown water that can only best be described as diarrhea water. Are you gagging yet? I even have photographic evidence, if you dare to take a peek.

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Sludge water

The water did the same thing to my whites in the laundry, turning them all a disgusting brown. More grossness.

Lessons learned:

  1. The water filters we were having changed out twice a month weren’t cutting it
  2. We need a more permanent solution for our water – which we’re still trying to fix
  3. The rust will clog up the drip lines for the garden, so unless we can get the rust out, we can’t use our well water for the garden

Rotten eggs

Yep, you guessed it, or maybe you haven’t, but this is another paragraph on our well water.

Don’t you just love the way you smell right after stepping out of the shower? Like lavender soap, rosemary shampoo, and maybe even rain. But definitely not rotten eggs, right?

Well, that’s how WE smell when we get out of the shower. Like rotten eggs. In fact, that’s how our entire house smells when we shower. Which doesn’t bode well for the girl with the sensitive smeller (e.g. me).

Now imagine you’re about to take a big gulp of ice cold water and just as you do you catch a big whiff of, what was that, oh yeah, rotten eggs. Yum!

That’s my life people. And I’m okay with it, for now, but gosh darn we better get this water thing figured out soon.

Lesson learned:

  1. The water softener we got just ain’t cutting it

This is just the start of all the fun things we’re adjusting to out here in the country. Stay tuned for more.

To Be Continued…

 

“What have you done so far?”

Asked the host at a local happy hour event I was attending. This question was enough to send me into a mini tailspin of panic. What have we done so far? And has it been enough?

As I share this adventure we’re on with others, I get all sorts of questions. Some, like the question above, are out of excitement and genuine interest. While other questions are asked with an undertone of “are you sure you know what you’re doing?” which in response I assure them, “I have absolutely no idea what we’re doing.”

In either case, I appreciate the interest and the opportunity to tell people about this adventure. But holy crap am I scared.

Paralyzed by indecision – what we haven’t done so far

  • A name – we still haven’t picked a name. Turns out it’s super hard. Plus, pretty much this whole shebang hinges on a name. You know, important stuff like a website, an LLC, a business checking account, marketing, and this very important thing called branding.
  • Tools – a UTV, ATV, walk-behind tractor, truck, plow, riding lawn mower. Do we need it all?
  • Infrastructure – a hoop house, green house, wash house, propagation house, chicken house, walk-in cooler, fencing, water, garden plot. What do we start with and where do we put it?

Seriously! How’s a person supposed to know which to get, how much to spend, and when to get it? That’s the thing. We don’t know. And we don’t know anyone who can tell us. So, at some point very soon, we’re just going to have to take a leap and make a decision.

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Building momentum – what we have done so far

  • Bought seeds – see the complete seed list here: Seed plots & schedule – Seed order
  • Got nearly all of our smaller garden tools
  • Started four flats of micro greens
  • Cleaned out our entire back shed to be used as either a propagation house or wash house or both
  • Measured and remeasured and then measured again about two more times where the garden will go (the sun is our biggest determinant and as the days get longer it keeps changing direction, meaning what once had sun has shade and vice versa)
  • Started lots of spreadsheets for seed plots and harvest time tables, etc.
  • Research, lots of research

So, have we done enough at this point? Probably not, but we’re learning. And through that, we’re also learning to have patience with ourselves and to not be afraid to fail, which clearly we are since we can’t make a frick’n decision.

But we’re getting really close to jumping – or at the least, pushing each other off the edge into the unknown and the scary world of decision making.

 

 

 

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.

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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).

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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.