Buying the Farm
The patron saint of would-be farmers is Oliver Wendall Douglas, Esq. Any Green Acres fan knows that Oliver, a successful Manhattan lawyer, chucked it all to drag his wife to Hootersville and bought a farm. Watch one episode of this show and you will automatically fall into one of two camps:
Camp 1: I want a farm
Camp 2: Get me as far away from anything manure-related as I can possible get.
Suffice to say that my ex-wife landed squarely in Camp 1.
The rule of thumb is actually a simple one: If you grow up on a farm, you want nothing to do with farming. If you grow up in a town, you might fancy yourself a modern-day Oliver.
We already lived in an acceptably rural setting by my reckoning. We had an acre of land with 30 fruit trees, three 75-ft grape arbors, and a 50 ft by 30 ft vegetable garden. I had a riding lawn tractor. How cool is that? There was a small convenience store a brisk walk away and a park across the street and through the neighbors yard for the kids to play in. I was 3 miles from work. Life was good. But slowly, the ex-wife embarked on behavior that would one day make her my ex-wife. Namely, she started hating other people. It was only a matter of time before she figured out that I, too, was a people and….. But at this time, she really only hated the neighbors. It was 1990, and we came this close to getting transferred to South Carolina for work. We put the house up for sale, gave away the dog, and they had a going away party for me. Then, at the last minute, the transfer fell through. She saw her chance to get out, and the hunt for a new place was on.
I didn’t care to leave. The house we had was excellent AND close to work. But we were both glad our kids wouldn’t grow up with southern accents, so I was willing to look. We asked the real estate agent who was selling our house to start looking. My only hope was that I would remain close to work, but I think that the days of the 10 minute commute were coming to an end. For her part, the real estate agent had big dollar signs in her eyes. We were both working full-time as an engineer and a registered nurse, so this was going to be a big score. But all the places she took us had neighbors, so none of them passed muster.
In the end, it was me who doomed us to the farm. After seeing 10 or so places, miles and miles away from work, I happened to spy a small “For Sale” sign when I was out for my lunchtime jog. It was about 1.5 miles from work, and it looked like it hadn’t been lived in for a while. I committed the phone number to memory and called her when I got back to work.
The house was a two-story concrete block construction with a small porch. There was a spring house next to the house with good water. Best of all, it came complete with 12 acres of cleared land with a small creek in one corner. There was a pine woods behind the property home to a wild turkey flock. The next place over had a bass pond with so many large mouth bass and bluegills that you could seriously catch them with your hands. And it was 1.5 miles from work! I could get in my truck, turn on the radio, and the same song would be playing when I got to work. Four eastern bluebirds flew out of boxes to greet us as we walked around the place. Clouds parted, angels sang. God had spoken.
We asked our agent to arrange a viewing. She was inconsolable.
The place was owned by the neighbors, an elderly couple who took care of her mom who had passed away a few years back when the house was last occupied. When she saw that we were a young couple with young children who really wanted to live in and not tear down the house she grew up in, we were in. We offered a relatively low $50,000 (sorry California readers) for the four bedroom house and 12 acres, and our offer was accepted. Our agent’s commission on the sale was $1500. She hasn’t talked to us since.
There was only one neighbor, and they were old and hard of hearing, so the ex-wife got her anti-social wish. The kids were too young to complain, so in we moved.
There was something to standing out in a field and looking at your land. For the first few years, I allowed a real farmer to come by in the fall and take the hay. Sooner or later, though, I was going to farm.