This image doesn't do the scene justice, and today the sky was clear blue. Unfortunately, there are significant barriers to starting with either of these properties (no water readily available), and they wouldn't really accommodate our full plan to include private cottages. Also, there is a cemetery at the base of both of both properties, and it is named SODOM CEMETERY. What in the world? Both sites could be great for someone with $500k to spend on the land ($120k each) and a 3-story mansion to be built. But that's not us.
Here are the full URLs (17acres / 25acres) if you're interested.
After the viewing, we headed to Fall Creek Falls State Park to see the local attraction, and to have lunch at The Inn. We are interested to know what type of dining options are available in the area, specifically upscale options. Well, The Inn aint. Unless buffet is your thing, you'll get a BIG FONT menu (read elderly-friendly) and service from pleasant but garbed-in-hospital-scrubs staff. I know it was Halloween, but we think this is the norm. We ordered cheeseburgers (safe) with fries/onion rings, and 2 Dr. Peppers (note the hospital tie-in with Dr. Pepper). Food was good, but the vibe was convalescent. The lake view from the Inn was awesome, but the swarm of ladybugs kept us behind the glass. I should mention that the drive through the forests at this time of year is spectacularly colorful. Reds, yellows, browns, greens. I am realizing that I missed autumn leaves a lot. Remind me of this comment when it's cold and raining :/
Today I learned: Smart ninjas avoid wearing corduroy pants.
The second spot that Bob the Realtor took us to (yes, Bob is yet another realtor) was much better. This place was gorgeous, and it fit nearly all the requirements we have. Lots of trees, both for privacy and for firewood, plenty of space to spread out the cottages, a nice homesite with a pretty view (tho, not as expansive as we'd like) a small spring-fed pond on the property, We learned some of the history of that plot from Bob, too, which gives us an idea about how we might negotiate the price.
It's hard to explain, but it's still not quite right. The place has a LOT of potential, but it's probably going to need a lot of money put into it before we could even begin building. There's no driveway, just a gigantic, bumpy slope of open space, and we'd have to drop a whole lot of gravel on it. We'd also have to run water and electricity from the street, all underground, and all uphill. Other than the steep slope, i'd say it's just about perfect... but it's only the 2nd day we'd set out and looked at property in person, so it's even harder to say, YES, this will do.
This is the biggest decision we've ever made together, and truly, when it comes to putting money down on some property, we're only going to get one chance to make the right choice.
Today I learned: I made some French bread from scratch. Even thought the bread dough looked like a sticky batter, and I thought I'd botched it, I tinkered with it, and it turned out to be some pretty good bread.
There was a place in Shelbyville that goes up for auction in a couple weeks. This is the "plat", which is a map of the property as it's divided, and how it will be auctioned off. It was BEAUTIFUL. from the road, you get a gorgeous view of a nice expanse of land, a couple of small hills in the immediate area, then big rolling hills off in the distance. the drive there was simply stunning. As we were driving down the road to take us to the farm, we saw the driveway, and drove in. Quiet, calm, fresh, and ...perfect. We walked around for about 3 minutes, and got back in the car... but just as we were backing out, a big 4x4 pickup truck headed into the driveway. OOPS! Technically, I suppose we were trespassing, but Kelly said that since the land was for auction, they had to expect that someone would want to see it. Turns out, it was a neighbor, who saw a car drive in and was just looking out for the man who owned it. Wow. Neighbors who care about each other. What a concept. We decided we love it, and we'll be back for the auction in a couple of weeks.
The second place we went to was in Pulaski. Wikipedia identifies Pulaski as the birthplace of the KKK. How delightful.
The ad for this second plot of land mentioned that it was close to the Mi1ky W@y Farm. Yes, like the candy bar, because, in fact, it was built by that same Mr. M@rs. There is a management company handling the place right now, and they're developing the estate into a subdivision-type property. The main home, which will become the clubhouse and management office, was the TN residence of the M@rs family. The place was AWESOME. The agent told us that there used to be over 1000 people employed to maintain the 1200 acre farm. Also, there was a dining room table that supposedly seats 40, which he said was the largest dining room table in North America. It was a sight!
Kelly wanted to go in there to see what kind of people it would attract as residents. The plots (the largest was under 2 acres) went from $200,000 to $450,000. A handful of the 45 plots were sold, but only one house was built so far. It has amenities for keeping horses, and a full golf course onsite, and owners would have to pay yearly assessments and fees to maintain and use those areas. It reminds me of that John Ritter movie where a corporation created a planned community where everything was perfect, but at some point the corporation bad guy swiped Ritter's family's dog, and later returned it, but its vocal cords had been cut because it was barking too much. Creepy, huh?
We checked out the property in question, that is, the one that we saw on the Internet that led us to Mi1ky W@y Farms, and immediately decided it was awful. By now it was 6:30 and we'd only had breakfast, so we headed into the downtown area of Pulaski to find dinner. It looked pretty dead for the early evening on a Friday night... but we did come across ONE restaurant that had an open sign in the window, the Bluebird. The place was pretty full, so we gave it a shot.
YAY! What a pleasant surprise! The cheeseburgers were fresh and juicy, not pre-made commissary-packaged pucks. The fries were crisp and even the ketchup tasted right. (believe me, we've had some horrible ketchup over the past month). They even had Fried Pickles! The menu said "chips" but they came to the table as spears, and they were GOOOOOOOOOOD! And of course, we had sweet tea. It was their fish special night, and as a rule, I'm leery of fish in restaurants I'm unfamiliar with, but if we ever go there on a Friday again, I'll certainly try the fish.
I am absolutely certain that we were the only people in that restaurant who didn't know all the other patrons. EVERY single person who came in went to greet someone at another table before they sat down. It was so charming... but then again, I suppose they all knew each others business, like that Norman Rockwell painting.
I'm typing this in the car on the way home from there. This an the old iBook 4, and the keyboard doesn't light up, so I'm only glancing at the screen every so often so I don't get carsick. Being a touch-typist definitely has its advantages. (I've never been very good with the numbers, tho, so it's hard to hunt and peck in the dark!)
Today I learned: Just because a cafe isn't cute, doesn't mean the food they serve isn't going to be good. Except for the bun, I can't say I'd make a burger any better than the one at Bluebird.
Kelly and I have been expecting the pod for a little over a week. He went to the apartment complex management and asked them which garage space we'd be able to get. they told him 9B. so when before the POD delivery guy arrived this morning, Kelly moved our cars to block off the parking spaces directly across from 9B. The truck arrived at about 8:30AM (before the management arrived) and Kelly moved his car and had the POD truck driver put the POD in that space. at 10AM, when the office opened, he went in to the office to get the remote. WHOOPS! They forgot they had already given 9B to someone else, so they had to give us 5B instead. GRRRRR... so now, instead of taking an object out of the pod, turning around 180 degrees, taking 10 steps and setting it down, we've got to load up a dolly, secure everything, and walk 111 steps to another garage, unload the dolly, and walk back to the pod. BLECCH. even though we planned all the details to make it as easy as possible, the management screwed things up for us by not keeping accurate books. (btw, since you're thinking, DUH, just move the pod... it's a giant container that's 8ft by 8ft by 16ft, and it's full [FULL!] of all of our worldly posessions. you have to have the big machine to move it. it costs $400 for them to come out and move it. PHOOEY. OK, enough bitching. :-)
I also met a Murfreesboro twitter-friend, Kristen, for a frozen custard at Ritter's, (which is dangerously close to my apartment). Turns out, Kristen lives off the same road as I do, `just about a mile past my apartment complex. We were chatting for almost 2 hours before either of us noticed the time! She's fun, and I look forward to hanging out with her more often.
Today I learned: Don't base your plans on the promises of others. If we'd insisted on getting the remote in our hands the day before the pod was to arrive. we'd have known that the garage promised wasn't the garage we'd get, and we wouldn't have to keep walking those 222 steps for each load of stuff.
The city of Spencer didn't have much in the way of commercial development, but the surrounding landscape is quite beautiful, and many sites we passed looked ideal for a farm-based bed-and-bistro. We visited the City Hall and were treated to a good deal of information about the area by the 2 friendly employees there. Lots of information about buying land with city water as a requirement - some wells have gone dry in the area, they say.
We left the City Hall office and headed in the direction of some potential commercial establishments. In the strip mall with the Family Dollar store there is a real estate office for H&H Real Estate. We entered and met Hugh Hale, a long-time resident of Spencer. The office was obviously "smoking-friendly", something that we had not encountered much until recently. With his gentle southern accent, Hugh asked what type of property we are looking for and then looked through a bunch of papers and plat diagrams on his desk. Why is it that we automatically feel a trust in a slow-speaking southern gentleman? After a few rejected recommendations, he convinced us to take a drive out to see a series of tracts that has yet to be developed. At one point, Hugh said "I don't care to go out with you to show you the property", - translating in our lingo to "I don't mind to go out with you..." It's funny getting to know local expressions. We followed him 8 miles east on twisty section of Hwy 30, eventually reaching the plot of land. The land had previously been a pine tree farm for lumber production, so the land was rough and not the rolling hills we are hoping to find. With time and a lot of work, I suppose the land could develop into something better, but without experience dealing with transforming land, we can't take any chances. So, after walking about the property, (JoAnna made me pull my socks out and over my pants legs to keep bugs from getting me, and - no surprise - I looked totally cool like that) we leash-released the dogs for a short walk and headed back home. We planned to check out another property that Hugh suggested, but we missed the street along the way and were running out of daylight anyway. We will definitely return to Spencer if any promising properties are presented. Meeting Hugh was yet another among many great Tennessee people meetings. I think the friendliness here is either contagious or a state requirement for residency.
Today I learned: I shouldn't expect a Dairy Queen to make good french fries. The chicken strips were OK, though.
coming, as soon as i find the camera cable!
Note: When you buy butter beans, you need to buy a lot more than you think you do: the pods are big but the yield is misleading!
I made a ratatouille with the eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper and tomato, and added some garlic and onion, of course. We ate it before I remembered to take a photo.
Also, I had my first try at Fried Okra. Not only was it my first try at making it, but my first time eating it too. I guess that's probably not how you should do it, because how would I know if I'd done it right? The woman at the farmer's market, who sold me the okra, just said, "wash it, trim it, toss it in cornmeal and deep-fry it." but I didn't see how the cornmeal would stick to the okra. (to all you other yankees, okra is a fuzzy little pod thing, and from what I've read, it should be picked before it's as thick or as long as your index finger. When you cook it for long periods of time, like in a stew or a soup, then you get a great deal of this odd liquidy substance. It's not gelatinous, it's more like egg white. but stickier and slimier. ) To get it to stick, I beat an egg with a bit of salt & pepper, tossed all the okra bits in it (cut to one-half to three-quarters of an inch) until they were all nicely coated, then I sprinkled a layer of white cornmeal over it, tossed again, more cornmeal, and repeat, until it all seemed to get a fairly nice even coating. I had a 3-cup saucepan with about an inch and a half of sunflower oil, heated to about 350ºF, and put the okra in a coule pieces at a time. The first batch always takes forever to turn brown, but once it did, I fished them out and drained them on a paper towel, then I put a few more in. Once they were all done, I squeezed some lime juice into some mayonnaise and served that as a dipping sauce. It was ... okay. It had a fresh, "green" flavor, kind of like green bean tempura made with cornmeal instead of rice flour. Kelly said he'd eat it again if I made it, but he probably wouldn't ask for it. and as for me, I probably wouldn't make it again if that was all I could do with it. I felt like I could have done more with it but since it was my first experience with okra, I didn't want to mess with it too much. Maybe I could figure out how to get a pepper-jack cheese thing going, like a jalapeño popper or something, but there isn't much room inside them, what with the seeds inside. I also make the butter beans, which were also fresh and green, but they were a bit starchy. Maybe they're something you have to eat when they're freshly picked. There was just enough for a small side dish portion for each of us, but we just ate it straight from the bowl, with a bit of salt and butter, so there wasn't anything to compare or contrast it with.
Today I learned: how to cook okra ... from the woman who grew it!
I feel weird when I talk about the stuff I've been doing, I can't remember if I'd already told that particular person that story. And I *SO* dislike people telling ME the same anecdotes over and over, so I'm self conscious about it.
Another thing that's weird is being out of my element and getting lost just about every time I go drive somewhere. We are buying a few things we need: a rug for the front door, a bag of dirt so I can plan some herbs again, and a bunch of other knicknacks and necessities.
It's also WONDERFUL that I'm able to find great international/ethnic ingredients. Kelly found a little asian market that sells fresh kaffir lime leaves and fresh galangal and fresh lemongrass. I was so excited I nearly forgot my purse after I paid for my stuff. (Oriental Food Market, 520 South Church St. 37130 615-890-6964) I went straight home and made a green curry. There weren't any leftovers! We also passed by a market advertising African foods, but we were nearly late for an appointment with a realtor so we didn't have time to go in.
Ah, the realtors. UGH. The first woman we met (let's call her "G") with was introduced by one of the owners of a Bed & Breakfast we stayed at during our visit in May. "G" and her partner, "B", sat down with us for about an hour to discuss what we wanted. They asked a lot of questions, talked about our wishlist and compared it with our budget, and said it would be difficult to find a property. This is troublesome for 2 reasons:
First, Kelly and I have been looking at property costs and we know that what we want is out there. Not only the size of lot we want, but also at the price we want. Second, both Kelly and I felt that they never really convinced us that they were that familiar with what we were looking for, or that they were all that motivated to find it.
The next realtor we met with, introduced to us by a dear friend I've known for over a decade who lives in Burbank, was "F": an absolutely awesome guy. He spent about 90 minutes explaining the ins-and-outs of developing neighborhoods, regional demographics, and shared information that probably wasn't public. Unfortunately, he wasn't in touch with the type of real estate we were looking for. He specializes in commercial real estate, mostly urban, or else very high-end stuff. He indicated that a nice choice might be to find a spot with some river frontage, which goes for $100,000 an acre. (insert eyes bugging out video with Ahhh-OOOO-Gah and old-timey cash register sound effects here.)
He also didn't seem to 'get' what we planned to do with the land:
HIM "Values are certainly going to go up in this area in the next 5 years or so. If the land gets incorporated to a city you'll see a lot of development."Later on, he gave Kelly a call on his cell and through that conversation, Kelly got the impression that a budget in the low-6-figures wasn't his cup of tea.
US "Uh, we don't exactly anticipate selling the property...ever. And we are trying to get AWAY from developed property."
So, once again, we learned a lot, and Kelly's got the land & farm websites on-screen during most of his waking hours.
*I*, on the other hand, have been rocking and rolling. I went to Barcamp Nashville on Saturday and had a blast. What awesome people. I felt welcomed from the very start. Since I know that Los Angeles folks and Nashville folks will be reading this (er... I hope someone's reading this) here's a little comparison:
|VENUE||sponsor-donated space, sometimes suboptimal||convention center conference rooms, toilets that always functioned properly|
|FOOD||breakfast, lunch & dinner all provided, plus snacks, and booze. all free||free breakfast, but no lunch - actually there wasn't even time scheduled for lunch. beer-only bar (cash? IDK, I didn't drink)|
|SESSION TOPICS||5+ tracks, free-for-all, wide open subjects||4 tracks, pre-scheduled (selected by votes), plus 1 open track 1|
|SESSION SETUP||very MacGuyver; scrounged projectors, slapped-together Internet access, borrowed mic & amp, rented chairs, etc.||Took full advantage of the Sommet Center facility's equipment and utilities. (hey, why didn't anyone tell me it's pronounced SOME-MAY?)|
|SESSION TIMES||50 minutes, I think?||25 mins for individual sessions, longer for panels|
|SESSION SCHEDULE||All sessions run on concurrent schedules||Session start times staggered, such as room 1 started on the hour, but room 2 started at quarter past.|
|OVERNIGHT "CAMP"||used to, but the two latest venues didn't permit it.||never even brought it up|
|INTERNET ACCESS||score: 7 of 10||score: 10 of 10|
Even though I had such a great time, and met so many wonderful people at BCN, I'd still say that some things had room for improvement... but I accept that the volunteers in Nashville, the same as in Los Angeles, had jobs and commitments and [GASP!] lives that have nothing to do with barcamp. You simply can't please all of the people all of the time. Also, I believe that any person who complains but didn't volunteer to help needs to put up or shut up, and I'm glad that those I've spoken with about BarCamp have been open-minded and receptive.
Tomorrow will be our first local farmer's market expedition, so I'll write more about that tomorrow.
Today I learned: People who go to BarCamp are awesome, no matter where you are.
1. Established a TN bank account
2. Got library cards
3. Purchased some simple furniture
4. Scouted around town for grocery stores
5. Contacted real estate people with our list of demands
What's left to do:
1. Register Kelly's car in TN - requires emissions test
2. Convert both driver's licenses to TN
3. Buy land and build a house...
I'm planning to pursue unconventional methods of finding a place to live, without the use of real estate experts. I have no idea if my plan will be fruitful, but I can't stay home waiting to be shown properties. I'm planning to visit the county clerk's office in each of the prospective counties to find out about auctions or land sales or whatever will help me know more about the area. I am also planning to visit the offices of the building department for these counties to learn about code requirements regarding building new structures. It may end up being a confusing experience, but I'm counting on the kindness of others to help me get through it.
Today, we are planning to drive to Woodbury, TN to check out a property that is slated for auction in 2 weeks. If it looks reasonable, we will contact the auctioning company for details regarding land use restrictions, utilities and such.
We went to an auction last Saturday and it was quite an interesting experience. The 50-acre property was divided into 5 tracts, one of which contained the farm house. The first phase involved auctioning the tract with the house with bids for the total price, followed by a series of auctions where the bidding was based on a per-acre price. Once the bidding was over, the bidder chose the tract they wanted. Then, a new round of bidding began again in the same method until all tracts were done. The next phase was called regrouping, where bidding was offered on groups of tracts, starting at the combined final bid price of those tracts. In this case, the only regrouping that was pursued was a regroup of the entire property, which was won by a man who looked like a farmer. He got the 50 acres with house (old but liveable) and barn for $300,000. The final result was that the bidding on the individual tracts helped run up the price by people who could afford to buy smaller plots. Otherwise, only a select few would be present who could afford to make bids as high as the end result.
I'm hoping a perfect piece of property for us goes up for auction, just so we can experience the thrill of bidding - and maybe winning the auction and getting the property at a big discount.
then we've entered Phase 3, where the hero and heroine of the story, along with their two trusty pound rescues, find an apartment to get settled in TN.
For those readers who are interested in keeping track:
Phase 4 is going to be finding land, which we'll enter into quite rapidly
Phase 5 will be planning and making the property livable (electricity, water, etc.)
Phase 6 entails building the restaurant and adjoining temporary residence
which i suppose that phase 6.5 will be putting in a garden
Phase 7 is building the cottages and finishing out the farm
It all looks so simple when it's laid out like that, doesn't it? :-)
Kelly and I both wanted to keep a good diary of our transition from living the fast-paced, "big-city" life in L.A. to the rural life of middle Tennessee, but it's more difficult than I'd expected. A whole bunch of firsts keep happening and I've been too busy to take note of them, so here's a shotgun blast of everything.
We chose Murfreesboro because of it's location: It's close enough to nashville and it's neighboring cities of Franklin and Brentwood, (which I'm told compare to West L.A. and Beverly Hills, respectively) but still not too far from where we ultimately decide to buy land. This city is a lot like Orland Park, IL, where Kelly grew up, which is not what I expected at all. Shopping mall after shopping center, with strip-malls and mini-malls in between... and a 24-hour SuperWallmart. Think of a store. It's probably here. There's no Whole Foods, and there's no Ikea, but there's everything else. Every mall-based store is here in Murfreesboro. It's also this weird place where you can find BOTH jack in the box AND white castle AND sonic. TOO weird.
We found an apartment on Wednesday: a one-bedroom unit in a complex of about 200 We signed the lease on Thursday, and immediately emptied our cars of all the stuff that had been packed from floor to ceiling in each of them. I may have mentioned already that I brought my entire mobile kitchen -- the tools, spice kit, ingredients and pots & pans that I take with me whenever I go to work -- but there's also a box of day-to-day plates and a few cups & glasses we can eat from. The kitchen is a wreck still, but at least everything's here and it's organized in the carts & containers I'm used to, so I can find everything.
I made my first dinner in our new apartment, a veggie stir fry with brown rice. It felt great to get in the rhythm of peeling and chopping and cooking. It tasted wonderful, even though I didn't go through the motions of doing it 'just right'. I was so excited to be eating a vegetable that wasn't a French fry that I wasn't very concerned.
It's funny how time is so relative: It feels like 100 years since I cooked anything, and it felt like we'd been on the road for weeks, but it feels like I just packed my stuff a couple days ago.
So, of course, we spent our first night here, too. we were looking for a sofabed (which here is called a sleeper - a couple of confused salespeople set us straight on that after a bit!) but instead found a cute brown loveseat, a milk-chocolate color that's really comfy. So for the two weeks that we're here without our POD, we have no bed. Kelly bought an airmattress last night, but no pump, so he spread the thing out and started trying to blow up a queen-sized air mattress. WITH HIS MOUTH. I think he was grateful when I ordered him to go back out and buy the electric pump. He plugged it in and flipped it on, and the mattress was inflated in about a minute. This airmattress was just the $20 model, not the $60 model, so if you're a side sleeper, it throws your back completely out of line. I just piled a few pillows on the floor and slept there. He said it just needs more air, so I'll give it another shot tonight, but otherwise, there's a milk-chocolate loveseat with my name on it. I'm only 5'4" so I can curl up on it and be okay.
This morning, I woke up to Noodles crying to be let out. When noodles wakes me up, though, *I* have to go potty FIRST, and since I was not only semi-comatose from sleeping on the floor, but also rather disoriented from it being my first night in the new apartment, it took a minute for me to remember where the bathroom was. So, once I answered nature's call, I passed the phone to Noodles and took her outside. This place is VERY dog friendly, and there are poopy-bag stations all over the place. Also, since every apartment has its own door to the outside, it's only about 10 yards to a grassy area. Everyone seems to be pretty responsible for their dogs, too.
We've got a lot to do today, again. Lots of calls to make, dealing with electricity, water & cable (no gas, b/c it's an electric stove <sob> ) and Kelly's got to register his car. My registration is valid until February, but his expired. Also, we can get our drivers' licenses and library cards, too. We also have a week's worth of laundry, and I have to do some REAL grocery shopping. Buying produce at Walmart has much to be desired.
So, as usual, a novella from me... with more to come later... but for now, time to get moving!
Today I learned: nothing yet... it's too early!
If you need investment advice, here's some...
Buy stock in Motel 6.
We have been staying in Motel 6 establishments for the entire trip, and I expect their profits will be up this quarter. Tonight is our last night in a motel for a while, after signing up for an apartment here in Murfreesboro. I'm looking forward to some home-cooked meals for a change.
Overall, the trip was uneventful. We stopped in:
Flagstaff, AZ (2 nights - we needed a day off)
West Memphis, AR
Murfreesboro, TN (2 nights)
Every hotel room shared the same glamorous decor.
We drove through some heavy rain storms in Oklahoma and Arkansas, and were awakened in West Memphis at 6am from some serious thunder. A welcome to weather again.
We decided to sign up for a 7-month lease with Carrington Park, an apartment community just off the Interstate in Murfreesboro, TN. Now that that task has been settled, we will be working on setting up a local bank account, transferring our auto insurance to Tennessee and adding some basic home furnishings that won't be provided when the POD arrives. This town has every imaginable store / franchise available. Just in the immediate area we drove through today, we saw many familiar shops and restaurants. I think this will be a good place to start our transition to the rural life. The most pleasant aspect of this new community is that the people are friendly and glad to talk with you - with eye contact even! It is a real change from life in the big city. JoAnna has already said that she feels at home, and it is only our first full day here. I'm very happy and I can't wait to find and build our home.
Yesterday was our last day living in Los Angeles. We finished packing the cars, cleaning the house and then ran through the house inspection with the property manager. At 3pm, we finally drove away from our home for the past 2 years - which feels more like 5 years. A lot went on while we lived there. JoAnna's business was refined to where she was working jobs that she really enjoyed, and I stepped up into a management role in my job. For the past 4 months we have been planning this get-away to a new lifestyle, and that time has really flown by.
Last night we slept in the Motel6 in Barstow, CA. I know, I know, "why did you stop so soon?" Well, we were a bit tired from all the hub-bub involved with moving. We also spent our last night in LA sleeping on the floor of the living room since all forms of bed had been packed or donated. Since we plan to continue with the Motel6 theme for the rest of the drive (pet-friendly!) we are hoping they are all this nice. Clean, newly remodeled, and WiFi for $2.99.
That's all for now, must get on the road before temps reach 100+ again here in Barstow.
East to Winslow, AZ or beyond.