The problem is that we set the bar too high.
Sometime in the summer of 2017, when we were bored and wishing for our farm and not (financially) ready to buy, we decided it would be a good idea to look at properties. We wanted a hobby farm, something big enough to get us close to self-sufficiency.
10 acres, said Blackwood Dad.
50 or more, I said.
The discussion summed up the difference between us perfectly. He, thinking practically, didn't want our horizons so wide that we'd never get there. I, thinking into the future, way into the future, imagined would be restrained by his 10 acres. What if we want to get into cattle? Into pigs? Into organic farming, to supply to great local restaurants? 50 acres would allow us to grow however we wanted. 50 acres would give us freedom. The more we talked about it, the more the numbers became abstract. What does 10 acres even look like?
I came up with the not-so-brilliant idea of looking around online and trying to see some properties to get an idea. We thought we could find a few properties with some cleared acres so we could get a good idea of what 10 acres felt like. How many paddocks would we get on 10 acres, how many gardens? How many barns, coops, places to play? It was a good instinct, I think, to try to look at a small property and figure out how to make it work.
But of course, the first property I decided we would be looking at was considerably more than 10 acres. 150 acres, give or take.
And of course, the first property we looked at was stunning. There was a greenhouse, and fields that had gone fallow but were ready to be whipped into shape. There were already apple trees behind the house, and so much forest.
Did I say a house?
There was a two-room cottage, which was allegedly suitable for our Canadian winters, but we weren't so sure. The 100-or-so-year-old original building was being used as a front porch. We could put our hands through the logs, all the mud having long since fallen away.
If it was only the two of us, we might have dived in, but Blackwood Mom and Blackwood Dad come with four Blackwood kids. We love each of those kids, but they are a job in themselves. And we couldn't imagine how we would live in the cottage, with two rooms and no plumbing, for a few years while we tried to put together enough money to build a real house. So, it was time to keep looking.
The next property had 140 acres. (10 fewer than before!) It had an ancient house, but it had plumbing! Electricity! It had two barns, which were in better shape than the house. The realtor showed us around, seeming rather depressed at all the unrealized potential. He'd sold it to the current owners some years before and was sad to see all the fields that were over grown and all the things that needed doing.
Did I mention there were horses?
There were four of them, in a paddock that was more forest than field, but so incredibly friendly. 3/4 of the children came to pet the horses with me, but Daughter #3, the City Slicker, was petrified of them and hung back with Dad. I joked with the Realtor. Do the horses come with the property? Oh probably, he said. I think they're planning on going back to the city. This was the place for us! Starter farm, already going, with fields aching to be planted, potential waiting to be found.
We told ourselves that it wouldn't sell any time soon. It was too rough around the edges. But of course we weren't the only people who could see potential and it was snapped up months before we were ready to put in our offer. I learned my lesson then, and we stopped looking.
Finally, sometime after Christmas, all our numbers fell into order and then we could really dive in, knowing exactly what kind of budget we had. We came to decide that bare land was better than something with a house that wouldn't fit us, although the right place with a crummy house that was in need of a demolishing would suit, too.
We even got ourselves a Realtor, our own Realtor, like grown-ups who know what they're doing. The first house we went to look at was rough, which fit the bill. But they were asking for a lot more than we thought it was worth and there was something very restrictive about the layout. The house and barns were up on the skinny top of a hill, all clustered together up there, crammed into as little space as possible because that's all there was. The rest of the acreage was at the bottom, in a flood plain - which made for great grazing, but not ideal for building our own house. It was charming, in its way, up there on the ridge, looking down at the fields from the kitchen window.
I started to think about it, really think about it, how there was no where for the kids to play, and how the house was in between the barn and the path down to the fields, so I'd be marching our sheep past the house every day. Blackwood Dad was concerned about how much work needed to be done in the house just for him to feel safe moving us in there. He's not generally the kind to be an alarmist, so I took his concerns seriously. Perhaps we could have worked with it all for the right price, but they were asking so much more than we could even imagine paying. It became clear that it wasn't the right place for us. Time to move on.
The next place was bare land, like we wanted, and we tried really hard to like it. It was a good size and under an hour to Blackwood Dad's work, and we could make the price work. It was in an area that we were familiar with and even rather fond of. And yet, it still fell short. A large portion of the land was swamp, and the frontage on a major highway meant there was an incessant hum. At some point, the owner had severed out a section of the land to sell, so we would have a neighbor right in the middle of our land. Still not quite right.
Discouraged, I asked Blackwood Dad if we would widen our net. We found four potential properties a little further away, but our Realtor found that three of them were unsuitable for various reasons and the fourth was sold a week before. A week! That was a bitter pill.
Before I had too much time to feel sorry for myself, Blackwood Dad found Lot 41 on Kijiji, of all places. And it just might be right.