We’re on four acres in south-central Texas. Last year (2011) was the worst drought and heat wave in recorded Texas history, bringing a loss of crops and animals in the billions of dollars. Human lives were lost due to the heat and wildfires. We were smack-dab in the middle of the worst of it, with daily fire warnings and burn-bans, heat advisories and water rationing. It almost killed our dream of being land-owners, but not quite.
Another factor that almost killed this was the sheer hell we went through both in finding our dream property, and securing the financing for this place. We started looking at “homesteads” over a year and a half ago, decided on this place seven months ago, and have fought tooth and nail to get it ever since. The property was exactly what we wanted, it’s an 80 year-old (awesome!!) farmhouse, and the price was exactly right. I feel like it was all worth it now, but my faith was shaken at least twice a day for seven whole months. I won’t go into details here yet (maybe never) because we’re not quite out of the entanglements yet, but it has been ugly and draining.
We are situated on a piece of land shaped roughly like a spoon, where the handle is a quarter mile-long, tree-lined driveway. We are surrounded on all sides by huge ranching concerns, and there is an awesome abandoned farmhouse of the same vintage as ours right in the next field. I know it’s haunted; my partner’s not convinced. We’re up on a rise and can see our town’s lights at night (about four miles away). We’re roughly a mile away from train tracks, and rumbling and train horns are part of our rural reality. We can see the main highway way, way down our County Road, and occasionally get some street noise from surrounding Farm-to-Market roads. Our closest neighbor is half a mile away (but not visible).
This place was built in 1930, and remodeled in roughly 1990. It is a pier-and-beam house, with a second floor addition (circa 1950) with two bedrooms (and 6′ ceilings). There are two bathrooms, only one of which has functioning appliances. It has uneven floors and desperately needs leveling (none of the doors hang true). The walls are an abomination of wood paneling (in the kitchen, living room, and bathroom and great room…come on!). The staircase to upstairs is so steep that I have to crawl up the steps. We have dealt with a scorpion infestation, and I recently discovered carpenter ants in the bathroom. The kitchen appliances are super-sad, with a dishwasher door that falls open, a stove that starts only when it wants to, and heating that is one half propane shop heater and one half wood-burning stove (outside) that is force-fed to vents under the house (which terrifies us).
The to-do list is daunting.
On the (extreme) plus side: The property contains six outbuildings, all of which are totally usable. They are as old as the house. There is deer fencing surrounding the property, with extensive deer cross-fencing. Almost all fences are reinforced at the bottoms against predators. We have already converted an old goat barn into a chicken coop. There is a relatively new, huge above-ground pool with a deck. There’s a hundred year-old upright piano. There is original woodwork in the dog run, original leaded glass, doorways and doors, and a really interesting footprint. We have four bedrooms and two bathrooms, which is more than enough room for us and our pets. The kitchen is HUGE and has a ton of storage. There are lots of windows on all four sides of the home. We are on a well (self-sustainability!!!) and are able to get satellite cable and Internet.
It’s relatively warm and comfortable this winter, and it will be relatively cool and comfortable this summer. I’m working now towards spring, and will be working my ASS off then and through fall of this and every year to come. I feel incredibly lucky to be here, no matter what challenges lie ahead.