Wednesday, May 10, 2017

There's a First Time for Everything

Now that I've got you all singing that Little Texas song in your heads...

It's an age-old saying. There is a first time for everything. And it is true. It never matters how old you get or how wise you think you may be, there is always something new out there. Last May and June showed me all kinds of firsts. Some were great, some made my head spin and some I am still trying to figure out to be honest.

Our real estate agent warned us about the farm. But as I said in the last blog, when speaking to Byron and I sometimes a warning comes off to us as more of a dare. You see, the farm wasn't just one parcel of land. It was two, well...technically 3, and each had its very own set of issues, which explained why it had been on the market forever (kind of like our sweet house in Athens, I sense a theme here). The first parcel was the bulk of the land and the house, pictured below.

This looks easy enough, right? Well it was an estate deal that required about 14 signatures and 14 people agreeing on a price to sell their family land. I can say this now, this part went much easier than I had planned.

Well, remember that river that I fell head over for? This beauty right here (those other 3 I am head over for as well)...

Here's where this deal got interesting. The river frontage that lined up with the main property was owned by someone else. Someone that has a very vital role and is invested in the river itself. And it just so turns out that that person and the family that own the large parcel have bad blood. Cue Taylor Swift. So, these two parcels of river frontage pictured here

were a whole other ballgame. Owned by a man that had absolutely no interest in selling. This is when it all started to get very interesting. Byron and I went back and forth quite a few times as to what the best thing to do was. We would decide on not buying the river frontage (we had been given permission to use it by the owner) but then go back to wanting it all to make it easier. Back and forth, back and forth until one day in the OR someone mentioned to Byron that you cannot land-lock a property owner. Well, those 2 river parcels were exactly that, we did some digging and turns out there is an easement that runs all the way from the road on the main parcel down to the river. This sealed the deal for me, there was no way I wanted the main parcel with an easement running down the side of it for whomever owned the river frontage to use at will. With the current owner, I saw no issues...but you just never know down the road, especially with this being a river popular to kayakers.

Byron and I had our budget, but now we needed to squeeze 3 parcels of land into that number versus 1. Sadly for the main parcel owners, the value went down since the land was almost useless to us without the river frontage, and the owner of the river frontage knew that. He too, had a number in mind - and this man is no stranger to land deals. Well, we thought his number was a bit outrageous for the acreage until he brought out the big guns, showing us that instead of the 3 acres that showed on the tax record, it was instead 11 acres of frontage since when you have a "non-navigable" river, the owner owns up to the middle of the river. 

You still following me? I am leaving out numerous other issues that presented themselves during this trying time mostly so you don't question our sanity and honestly, I have blocked many as I just didn't have that much extra storage in my head for the nonsense that went down. Just thinking back I am wondering if I should be proud of us or maybe a bit afraid of our stubbornness determination. By now, our poor agent was probably banging his head against any and every wall he could find as we went back and forth, back and forth, back and forth with numbers. And then one Sunday the man that owned the river frontage invited us to his property to chat. While I am giggling just remembering this meeting, I feel I cannot share all of the crazy details...other than the thought that ran through both of our minds at one point that we may not be making it out of this alive. You know those moments in which you question what in the heck you've gotten yourself into? Now I know, that this was just part of this man's character (I've learned he is quite a character). That's who he is and how he is, but not knowing that day standing beside a roaring river in the middle of nowhere you kind of wonder. But at this meeting, this entire deal got thrown a curve ball. River-frontage-owner made us a deal. He had a piece of land he wanted, and had an agent working on a deal. If we bought that land and then signed it over to him at closing, he would sell us the river frontage for a price that we could manage. All I thought was, "Yay he wants to sell!" But, in my head the voices that weren't screaming "WHY are you still here??" started to laugh and then say louder, "NO MAM. This is now crazy and you are in way over your head." I then heard ones screaming, "Amy this is shady you need to get the heck out of dodge right now." 

I don't know about you, but I don't always listen to the voices inside of my head. Turns out this is totally legit, it is called a land swap and is done quite often, but this was all new to me. Another first.

Fast forward about 2 weeks of number-dealing and contract-signing and here we go again for a first time. (For all of you real estate agents out there thinking this is a nightmare, I will have you know I need to nominate ours for saint-status) I drove to Elberton, Ga. to sit at an attorney's table with a check to buy a piece of land I had never laid eyes on. I sat beside a real estate agent that I had never met before, but had already worked the deal for me. The sellers sat across the table from me with eyes big as saucers when I announced to them I had no idea what I was buying or where it was. I think I even made the attorney a bit uncomfortable. You know those shirts that say "I smile because I have no idea what's going on?" Exactly. To tell you all the truth, I was wondering what in the world I was doing. And then when the plat was shown to me, I really questioned my intelligence. I was sitting down to close on an island. In Elberton, Ga. Oh the irony.

Let's just talk about how badly my armpits sweated the next few weeks. I was now the owner of an island in Elberton (this one really was land-locked at the time as no easement had been made) that was only accessible by the river on a canoe or kayak. Or tube, depends on how much of my sanity I had left. I was sitting on land that was absolutely useless to me. And I sat on it for 2 weeks, and then another week as the closing for the other parcels was pushed back. By now the voices in my head had stopped trying to talk sense into me and instead had comfy seats and bottomless bowls of popcorn watching this all unfold in front of them. 

The next time I sat down at an attorney's closing table, I had Byron with me, but my nerves were not any better. Due to the bad blood between the landowners, we thankfully learned that the river-frontage-owner had already visited the office that day and had signed his paperwork and all that was left was me signing over my Elberton island to him. Buckets dripped from my underarms with that signature. And the sweat didn't stop until all signatures were done. I was the long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

But we walked out of the attorney's office the new owners of a farm. 103 acres of beauty on the river. I couldn't hardly contain my excitement as I realized again, this was a first. We just bought a whole lot of land in the middle of nowhere and I quickly realized that I had no clue what I was in for. One glance in Byron's direction to see his ear to ear grin that I don't often get to see reassured me. We've got this. We think... (cue the voices in my head to get refills on drinks and popcorn)

And you know what, if not, it's the farm. ;)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

An Unusual Valentine Love Story

Hello and welcome. It's been a very long time since I've blogged and I cannot promise I will be consistent here. I feel if I am honest upfront, there will be no expectations and therefore no disappointments. On our journey through this adventure and renovation, Byron and I have come up with our own sort of motto to label any sort of shortcoming we face. "It's the farm." We've even gotten fancy and shortened it to ITF. If we get really fancy (duh, sounds right up my alley) we can even hashtag it. #ITF. There you go. I fully plan to employ that motto with this blog as well. So, if I go missing for weeks, months without a know, #ITF.

For those that know me through my other neglected blogs you can skip on down a few paragraphs. For those that are new, here we go.

I am Amy and I am married to Byron and we have 2 kids, 1 dog and a cat (not pictured, we all wanted to live through that photo session). Most of the blogging will be done by me. I am not an English major. I love to read, but writing is not my specialty so don't expect perfection here. Remember...ITF. I do however love to tell a story so get comfortable as I am also very detail-oriented. I am a pediatric nurse by trade, although I am not currently practicing (with the exception of what my children get themselves into). I am also a pattern designer for children's clothing. I love to sew and have recently found an addiction for quilting. Byron is an otorhinolaryngologist (or ENT for short), clearly the over-acheiver of the family. 

With that background, it is totally obvious why we bought acres upon acres of land in the middle of nowhere for a farm. Right? 

Totally obvious. Especially when I add in the part that I grew up in the city (well, one of the islands of Savannah) have only ever had animals as pets and have no clue how to cut grass. Clearly I am experienced and this is just the sort of thing I should undertake. (insert sarcasm here)

But what if I told you my husband grew up in the country? What if I told you he's been wanting a big piece of property for as long as I've known him? Maybe even add in the fact that he loves to hunt? Combine that with my hermit heart and my constant dreams of wanting to sort of fall off the grid. Add in two old-timer parents who want their children playing outside getting dirty and growing up knowing the woods and all the treasures they may hold. Maybe the last factor to consider is that both Byron and I love nothing more than looking a project that is way over our heads dead in the eye and saying, "We've got this. We can do this." If you think about those aspects, then maybe, just maybe it becomes a little more obvious of why we are all here.

Let's back this train up over a year. I cannot tell you how much time Byron spent looking online for the perfect piece of property. Unlike house hunting, we didn't have too many "must haves" so one would think it would have been a lot easier than it was. Since I knew nothing of land over an acre, Byron was in the driver's seat this time. He wanted acreage with forest, some source of water that was located near by and not too expensive. All I wanted was a structure that we could live in (my sanity cannot handle building a house) and some water (and lots and lots and lots of cows and goats and maybe a donkey or two that would become my friends). Easy as pie, right? Wrong. The biggest factor we faced was location and price. The counties surrounding our home have gold built into the dirt and therefore prices are out of control. Too many times we found ourselves getting excited about a prospect only to learn it wouldn't work or we may have to draw straws to see which child we had to sell to buy it. So, honestly (don't tell Byron) I had kind of given up. And after some time, Byron was about to as well. Until one Sunday night...

The kids were already in bed and I was laying in mine reading a book with a glass of wine. Byron was in the den watching one of his "shoot 'em up" shows (I am a total ninny and cannot watch or listen to any sort of show or movie that has violence since I became a mother) and he came into the bedroom lit up like a Christmas tree and told me he found it. He was so excited he could hardly speak. It was literally the last property he was allowing himself to look at before shutting down his Safari and just being done with it all forever. The very last property he ever laid eyes on in a search just so happens to be the very property we now call our happy place. Was it fate? Who knows, but I have to believe it was at some point meant to be after all of the hoops we jumped through to get there.  He handed me his phone with sparkling eyes and a smile so big I was almost afraid of what I may see. Well, I saw acreage.

I saw tons of forest and I saw water (a stream, not pictured). 

And then I saw what pulled me in...a river. 

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that would be an option! The summer before we kayaked as a family down 2 of the rivers in the area and I fell head over and even told Byron what I would give for a place on one of the rivers one day. As my heart began to pitter-patter, I continued to click through images of this place. And then another that made me pause...and old house. It is no secret my affair with an old house. I am hopeless and powerless when it comes to anything built before 1950. Granted, this little country house had me at hello, but hadn't completely knocked my socks off yet with it's crumbling siding and aluminum storm door.

 At this point, I started to come down from that 9th cloud and scrolled down in the description waiting to read that this perfect spot was a/ too far away and b/ too expensive. But all I found was a price. And while on the top end, it was doable with all the other items this piece of land had going for it. But there was no mention of address, only this aerial. 

There was no way to tell where in the world this happy place was located after hours on a Sunday night. I don't think either of us slept very well that night. We had too much excitement in our heads. One would think a call to the agent would have been Byron's first task early Monday morning but I mentioned before he is the overachiever and instead he had some tonsils to work on and some parotid glands to wrestle. Later that night, I joined him on the couch in the den and got to work with google and the few details I had of this place. After about 45 minutes of searching/stalking, I hit the jackpot. I found an address. I told Byron and after he admitted how afraid he was of my internet sleuthing skills he told me to map it. I almost didn't want to see the results. I had allowed myself to fall in love with this place on the internet almost with the knowledge that it was going to be too far away. But, it wasn't. It was 30 miles from our house. Things got serious then...

And crazy. And then even when we thought it couldn't possibly get any crazier, it did. Spoiler alert: we got the property and we have closed and it is now ours, but boy oh boy at what it took to get there. A few times down the road I honestly thought it wasn't going to happen. Never say never, but never in my life have I been involved in more of an ordeal of a real estate transaction. But before I get into all of that (some of which I feel I have stored in an area of my brain better left to being locked up) let me tell you about a love story. Here is when you learn about the title of this post. Neither Byron or I are much for Valentine's Day. But this is the first year to me that the 14th of February has meant a little more than red hearts and chocolates.

Byron contacted the agent and the agent told him all about the property and how wonderful it was and how beautiful it was and all of that jive. Byron was all but frothing at the mouth. But then the agent dropped what he thought would probably be the deal-breaking bomb. He said, "I have had this property listed for almost 4 years and no one has wanted to even get close to it as a purchase because of what a nightmare of a deal it is going to be." Little did he know who he was talking to. Dearest agent, while most people would run the other way with tails tucked...those few words to Byron and I are music to our ears. Doing things the easy way is so very uncharacteristic of us both. Give us a challenge, then give us the magic probably can't/don't want to do this. And just like that...we have our Type A pants pulled up and are ready to go. 

We set a date to meet the agent at the property. It was Valentine's Day and at the time the irony was lost on me because I was too busy making googly eyes at the river. Walking through the woods, finding a beautiful, bubbling stream with small waterfall that we didn't know existed, listening to the river run over the shoals and just being out in open air in the middle of nowhere with nothing but the sound of nature. We walked and walked and walked for what seemed like days in the woods. When we finished up the walk of the property (although I seriously don't even think we have covered half of it still) we met on the drive in front of that little country house and honestly, I don't remember what Byron and the agent talked about. All I heard was the wind and the birds. All I saw were future family baseball and kickball games in the pastures, afternoons spent doing nothing but watching the birds while swinging on a swing hung in one of the two pecan trees by the house. I was a goner. Who knew, a girl that had never lived on more than an acre was head over on Valentine's Day with a place down in the boondocks. Looking at Byron I quickly realized he was a goner too. 

But then, the deal was sealed upon walking inside. From the looks of this, you may wonder why in the world I didn't just walk back out and say forget it.

I can tell you why. An old house gets me. An old house with a story puts me over the edge. And this sweet little place had a story and I am so very fortunate to be able to have spoken with the man that built the house with his brothers and dad and lived in it his entire life. Those stories are a whole other post in itself set for a day I can share it all and have you fall head over for a little old country house too. 

I think that's about it for today, a small little intro into our new adventure and a look at the beginning of our love story with the farm. In some ways it feels like an eternity since we drove up to this place just a year ago today. In others it feels like yesterday. I know this for sure, I can honestly say I have enjoyed this sweet little place in the middle of nowhere so much more than I could have ever imagined. Byron always jokes that one day he's going to come home from work and find that I've moved all of our stuff to the farm. While I am so very tempted, I am also head over for my sweet little old house in Athens so I think he is safe for quite a while.