Dreams that are not flexible become burdens.
The snow has melted, the ground is drying up, and spring is starting again at the Gatherhaus Farm!
Our last fall stay in 2016 involved friends around the campfire, tractor rides and a lot of destruction. Chopping down wayward telephone polls, pulling up more refuse, and starting to tear down the summer kitchen. A huge storm had whipped through the area, and made the slightly unstable building completely unsalvageable. So, we pulled it down and harvested the best wood from the structure. We now need to finish the job this summer and decide if we’ll rebuild there or not…the goal would be a pizza oven and sheltered canning kitchen mostly open to the elements.
We are one step closer to off grid living with the installation of a new hand pump for the well. A & T Pump Services did an excellent job (and was on time and responsive which is VERY rare for this neck of the woods!) installing this cast iron pump. We can now grab clean water for all the trees we’ll be planting this spring and we won’t have to rely on buying gallons of water from the store.
So our big update is that we had our dream tested for a bit in the fall. We were approached by a group of guys that wanted to buy the farm. Until this point, we had always assumed we would buy the place, make a retreat compound on it and create a business where it was self sufficient and we would enjoy it for decades. Suddenly, we were met with the realization that getting rid of the main house and cleaning the space up made the land much more valuable.
At first I was at a resounding NO. We had a dream, we’re working towards it, it would be failure to give up now. But as John and I talked, I realized that we had to be flexible with our dreams…otherwise we could be shutting other possibilities off before we even had a chance to explore them. So we set a happy price, one we promised we wouldn’t go below, and put it on the market. A funny thing happened while we did this…as I listed all the selling points of the farm, it solidified why we chose this place….
The close location to the cities
The huge acreage with big sky and views
The prairie, woods and creek
The ability to have a space others could enjoy and utilize
We photographed the space in its best light and kind of saw it with fresh eyes again. Remembered the reason we were drawn to buying it after two years of searching. John journeyed farther into the woods this time and came back with gorgeous images of huge trees and little meadows, places we haven’t even explored yet!
This exercise of putting the farm up for sale and reviewing why we loved it helped solidify in me the desire to keep it. I went from, “you know what, fuck it, lets ditch this farm that doesn’t even WANT to be helped” to “I’m going to miss that big sky”. The kids being bummed at the idea of selling also helped pull me back to the optimistic side, thinking of all those days where they played in the tall grass, and built a treehouse with John with the pup running around, the pride we’ve felt from all the work we have done…we have had so many adventures already. We had three almost purchases before the deadline we set for ourselves, and then decided to pull it off the market.
The experience of emotionally detaching from a dream and looking at it with a wider perspective helped us become more flexible. Rather than continue to butt heads with contractors not showing up and the city and county being infuriating to work with, we are going back to the drawing board and DIY options. We have teamed up with a group of hunters that will hopefully give us some person power so it isn’t just mostly John doing all the labor. Plans for the spring are to get a bridge in so we can start building trails…the woods are our biggest asset, we need to focus on creating a way to get back there to enjoy them. We have drawn up plans for a bunkhouse that is more manageable to build. Less rentable, so less potential income, but that is ok as the goal is still to just try and break even.
I finally, FINALLY found a person at the Pine County office willing to help me figure out how to reduce our property taxes and work towards getting the farm into a program where we are paid to not cut down our trees. That will be a HUGE help as the tax payments were over $2000 a year and one of our biggest burdens. So if we pull back from having this be a huge community involved shared space that creates an income, and instead pare it down to manageable, smaller scale with an emphasis on getting into the woods, a lot of the frustration lifts. I mean…don’t you want to go for a walk here?!?!? I sure do. Time for some Forest Bathing.
After the last entry I wrote that was more on the side of finding a silver lining for our farm, I got a couple notes from friends asking me to be a bit more honest about our experience with this farm. I mean, that is the point, right? And while every word I write is 100% truth, I definitely do keep from going down the dark side of this adventure…because every adventure has its dark side, it is just about whether you overcome it or not.
It helps to blog our journey, to keep perspective…to see how much we’ve done in just a short period of time. We HAVE done a lot. But it still feels so slow, and though I wrote last time about feeling a little animosity from the neighbors, that is the part that I haven’t been fully open about.
While we have a couple neighbors who are cordial, and a couple who have really helped us out, most of the town is not welcoming. We have tried going to town events, talk to locals, and are met with either confusion as to why we are there to flat out turning their back to us as we wave hi. It isn’t openly hostile, but there seems to be an ownership issue of our land, where people used to have free reign on this abandoned property, and now, they can’t. Along with our neighbors, we’ve said no to putting a snowmobile trail through our land and we have told others they can’t be on our property. Yet each time we go up, there are fresh tracks. And we are still being pressured to allow the trail. We were so proud of purchasing the land before another person did who was going to turn it into a mudding pit, but apparently that caused tension, too. And to be honest, we’re sick of it.
Maybe we did come to this part of the state with a bit of an idealist attitude of helping out. We are cleaning up the worst place in town, we were going to build a retreat center that would bring business. I think that rosy attitude has been beaten out of us a bit. But what John and I do well, is dream big and adapt. So adapt we will. In the words of the amazing Lily Tomlin, “and that’s the truth”.