We got it!

The Seller has accepted our offer, so as long as the perk test and pond water test are approved, and the utility district guarantees water, we own 10 acres of land; 7 wooded and 3 pasture.

The next 6 days are going to be difficult to sit idle.

I can't wait to get these 3 stipulations cleared and have this be final.

Many books to read about building dwellings, growing food, raising animals, fixing fences, etc.

The offer.

We drove to the listing agent's office in Lawrenceburg, TN and made an offer on the Stella property today. Our meeting started at 11am and we had the contract ready to present to the Seller by around 12:30pm.

We have 4 stipulations that will need to be resolved for this offer to be binding:

1. Seller pays 2008 property tax (estimated $168)
2. Water in pond passes testing for no contaminants
3. Soil passes septic field percolation requirements for multiple dwellings
4. Water utility district guarantees that water lines can be run to property

(Number 3 is vague, but it is basically our need for the soil to accommodate the dispersion of liquid effluent from a septic tank at a high enough rate for our planned restaurant business and cottages.)

The listing agent, N@th@n, tried to call the Seller to present our offer, but she could not be reached. So, he took us out to lunch at his standard lunch place. It was a good place. JoAnna and me done had ourselves cheeseburgers and N@th@n had the special - Beef stew and Corn Bread. N@th@n picked up the tab. Thanks.

We rode back to his office, and he tried calling the Seller again, and eventually got through. After a brief time away, he returned and said that our offer sounded good to her, but she wanted to check with her husband before officially accepting it. We have our fingers crossed that the husband is not a greedy man. From what we know, ours is the first offer received on their property. They should take what they can get, right? Also, we are offering cash, so that makes it easier for them, I think.

On our way back home, we swung by the property and tacked a paper sign on the wood pile in the barn that read, "Thou Shalt Not Steal". As I wrote before, there was evidence of some pilfering from the 2x4 pile, so seeing how that wood might end up "our wood" I figured a little guilt might slow the depletion.

Today I learned: stuff like 'at


We returned to a property in Prospect, TN today for a second look. I was there on Monday and thought it was good enough to show JoAnna.

First, though, was breakfast at the Bluebird Cafe in Pulaski, TN. We have been there twice before for dinner, each time a pleasant experience and good food. Friday nights they have fried catfish with white beans, hush puppies, cole slaw and fries. $7.49
We both ordered cheeseburgers the other time and they were excellent. Today was breakfast; eggs, bacon, home fries and biscuits. Great for $4.

We met with the listing agent, N@th@n Lee, and then drove to the location in separate cars. We walked the property and talked with N@th@an for a long time. He has lived in the area for a long time, so he had a lot of suggestions and recommendations for the work we would need done to set it up for building a house. JoAnna and I both agree that the property can work for our plans, and unless one of us does a 180 in the next couple days, I believe we will be making an offer.

Here are the details for the property:
MLS #995634, STELLA RD, Prospect, TN
Giles County
9 acres of Rolling Land. Fenced with pond and 2 small barns.
List price: $32,000
Here's an image, for historical purposes:

There will be a TON of work to do to make the place work, but that's expected. We want to make our life, not buy it.

Some items we will need to consider for this property:

City water is approximately 500' away, so we would have to pay about $1000 to have the line extended to our property, then pay $1050 for the water tap, then run the water line across the property at our expense.

A well could be dug which would probably run $2500, but we would never have a water bill. If the water is pure, we would just need a pump and the usual set up. If the water is yuck, we add filtering to the system. Unknown cost at this time. Also, there is no guarantee the well will reach water. My kind of gambling! If a well failed, we would bite the bullet and pay for the city water option. :(

Septic system: If we make an offer to buy, it will be contingent on approval by a soil scientist. The soil scientist digs into the dirt in an area close to the proposed home site and determines if the soil will percolate liquid enough for the proposed home size. The more bedrooms you have, the more liquid is expected to be running out of your house. We plan to route all gray-water to a separate drain path where it can be used to water plants or flush toilets. It's not the standard "easy" way to do it, but it seems logical. If we build cottages on the property, they, too, will require some sort of septic system. We might end up going with the INCINOLET for the cottages, and maybe even the house. "But what if the power goes out?", you ask. Well, if the power goes out, so do you. Go out. Outside. In the woods. Like a bear.

We would have to carve a more level drive along the length of the front part in order to reach the upper deck. There currently exists a general path that has been used in the past, but it would not be safe to traverse in a standard car. It's probably at most a 15 degree side-pitch (not steepness) which would make most drivers uneasy, though I don't think a sober driver would have any trouble. One bulldozer - four hours, tops. I'll have to find a place where I can rent a bulldozer.

There is a small pond on the property that looks like it just catches rain runoff, but we want to have the water tested to make sure it is safe for animals to drink. Though it might be cool to have some 6-legged goats at some point in time, it's probably better to have normal, healthy ones for now.

The property to the east is 6 acres, currently an open field used for goat pasture.

The property to the west is 35 acres and has a nice-looking hunting cabin that is viewable from parts of "our" property. If we buy this land, I'm planning to contact the owner to see if he'll consider renting the cabin to us while we build our house. It would be a win-win, I think.

The property to the south is part of a really big tract, and drops off steeply. The steepness is good for us because it is not likely that anyone will build back there.

There are mostly pine trees up on the upper deck, with some hardwoods and lots of scrubby trees. The pines and hardwoods are 30 - 40 feet tall.

*BONUS* - There are two outbuildings on the property, each containing a pile of usable lumber. I don't know how usable it really is, but it would definitely work for new sheds or chicken coops, maybe more. I can tell that someone has been helping himself to some of the 2x4s by the lack of dust on the 2x4 pile. The other piles are coated in many years of gray dirt. I plan to post a sign there that says "You are being watched" next time we go there.

We dug a few shallow holes around the property to see what the earth is like, and it is mostly clay, with random small rocks. We'll probably need to add topsoil if we want a garden to be bountiful right away, but we can experiment with the dirt as-is at the same time. There's probably 40 years of decayed leaf matter and pine needles all over the upper 7 acres, so we'll have to collect what we can for organic garden matter - if we buy the place, of course.

We visited Heritage House in Pulaski, TN for a late lunch, and it was good. I had the Special Sandwich (named The Rose or something) and JoAnna had a Reuben. Yum. Hazelnut coffee for both which was quite good for 3:30pm.

Today I yearned: to buy some land.

Almost, but not quite.

As I'm writing this in Leoma, here we are at another property, which, as pretty as it is, also fails in many ways.

The charming chirping of a million crickets doesn't quite block out the low roar of freeway traffic. The gorgeous line of trees along the road, turned magenta and gold by the chill of autumn, aren't on the plot that we're looking at. Finally, the landscape slopes down to a creek and then goes straight up, with a hill covered with dense trees.

And so it goes. We've been looking seriously for only a month, and it's been a good learning experience so far, but Kelly and I are getting impatient. We REALLY want to get started.

Another thing that's kind of 'eating' at me is trying to save money. We've put away as much as we could for as long as we could. We don't live extravagantly by any means... in fact, some people might consider us downright cheap. We don't spend money the way i think most people do. I'm content wearing old clothes and sensible shoes and eating beans (as long as there's a little bacon in there!) and Kelly's the same way. He's been driving the same car for 7 years, which has been paid off for quite some time, and I'm driving the same honda element I bought for work, to replace my adorable mazda miata which was fun, cute, zippy...and useless for catering. It's nearly paid off, too. All that's left is my college loans from culinary school.

Luckily we agree on being frugal. Kelly thinks it's because we both grew up in families where there were a few kids (5 in my case, 3 in his) and we both had dads with blue-collar jobs. We didn't get what we wanted just because we asked for it, but we always had what we needed. We both earned the money we needed to buy what we wanted, and appreciated those things we bought that much more.

So now, as we keep looking for land, we are still of the same frame of mind as when we were growing up. Have the money first, THEN spend it. We can either go into debt to buy the land of our dreams, or change the dreams a little so that we don't have to worry about coming up with a huge sum of money every month. Our credit score is great, and we could probably get a decent loan (except for that I'm self-employed and Kelly's UN-employed) but we don't want that obligation.

If the land is fully paid for, free and clear, then we can be pretty independent. Of course, we'll need money to buy gasoline, propane, electricity, Internet, cellular service and (sadly) pay taxes. Seeds, baby chicks & goats, and stuff we can't grow will require money to be bought, too. I'm probably not going to be sewing up the tanned skins of deer that Kelly shot for our shoes (probably!) but they biggest chunk of money that most people spend - the mortgage or rent - won't be an issue if we stick to our plan.

Today I learned: a lot covered with amazing quartz geodes is PROBABLY not going to be good for farming.

3 Dog Day

I spent today driving around to see 3 properties. I did not buy any of them.

1. The Balancing Act
MLS #978652 122 JIM HOLLOW RD, Woodbury, TN


List price: $35,500

You see how the house looks like someone stacked a log cabin on top of a shack? Well, it was just that. Now I understand why some counties have building codes. This place was not well engineered. I think it would make a great set for a reality show.

2. I saw it up close.
Mountain-Top Retreat. 15 acres of woods and open homesite with mountain stream. Great secluded property with electricity and water. Perfect location for that mountain home.

This place was up on a mountain in a farming community. What was not mentioned in the real estate ads is that is also a logging and sawing community. The property was located 50 feet from a major sawmill operation with loud saws and heavy trucks. Sad. Drive on.

3. Bring rope


List price: $70,900
Acres: 11.28

Many of the properties I have seen look great in the pictures, or at least show some promise. But when you get to the site, you find that the land climbs steeply up behind whatever is in the picture. This place was no exception. While land like this might work OK if you are raising mountain goats, it will not work for me. Drive home.

Today it was confirmed: Tennessee is a beautiful place, especially when the trees are in their full technicolor glory.

Don't go there - 3900 BOOKER FARM RD, Mount Pleasant, TN

Today I drove out to a property (MLS #967220) and it was great except for the Natural Gas Factory just down the road. It is a loud factory, kinda not part of the peace and quiet I'm looking for. Oh, well.

Today I learned: Real estate people are not inclined to tell you about negative aspects of properties.