by Laura Crum
As some of you may know, my husband died recently of a rare and aggressive form of cancer. We were together for seventeen years and had a very happy marriage and a good life and I will always be grateful for that. But this is a time of overwhelming grief for me.
I've decided to try to keep going with the series of posts about how I developed my little property, because one of the few things that still engages me a bit and brings me some small comfort is tending this place, which Andy and I both loved and which bears everywhere the signs of our devotion to it and our fondness for the process of creating the kind of home that we both wanted.
I wrote the following installment awhile ago, and have not really finished it or polished it, but I'm putting it up today just as a way to get started again. I appreciate any kind thoughts and prayers sent my way, but have not got much heart for interacting on the internet (or anywhere else) right now, so forgive me if I don't respond.
The Next Step
Those of you who have purchased real estate will know how convoluted the next step of my process was. I called the number on the old and crooked real estate sign outside the gate of the place I’d stumbled upon. It was not a local office. I described the property I had seen and they said they had no record of it. I said their sign was there. They said they would call me back. They did not. I called them again. This went on for days.
But eventually they “remembered” that oh yes, they had listed this property for a client. It had been on the market for a year and no one had shown any interest in it. They had just forgotten about it.
At this point I chose myself a pleasant guy for a real estate agent, and I had him contact the other office. Things went quicker after that. We got permission to walk the property lines and my agent looked up the title. A few problems presented themselves.
There are always problems when it comes to buying real estate, it seems. I am not going to go into the particular problems we had here, because they are, quite frankly, not very interesting to write or read about. I will just say that it took time to work through them, but we did. I never wavered in my conviction that this was the property I wanted. The price was reasonable. It was also all the money I could possibly come up with. There would be nothing left over for building a house.
I know that some people would have taken out a loan, built a house, and still be paying off their mortgage, twenty years later. I am not those people. I never wanted to be in that kind of debt. Instead I sat down and thought about what I really wanted to do with the property. I spent time with this. Almost a year.
I owned my property and I visited it almost every day. Mostly I just sat and stared at it from various vantage points. Should the barn go here? Or here? Where could I have a riding ring? Where should the house go?
The property was not a blank slate. It was only two and a half acres of land, but there was plenty of topography to it. There was much to consider when siting the house, barn, corrals and riding ring—to name my original primary objectives. A year was not too much time to think this through.
There is so much that seems to be ignored when many people develop a property. Where will the sun come from at different times of day, what exactly can be seen from this spot or this spot? I paid attention. After a year I understood many things about the land I had bought.
I knew that I wanted the house site to be at the back of the little cup-shaped bowl that formed the rear acre of the property. This was the most private spot. From here one could not see another house—from any angle. And this privacy was what I wanted. The little round hollow in the hills faced south and would get good mid-day sun and winter sunshine. I knew that the only practical spot for a riding ring was in the middle of the bowl. Thus the barn and horse corrals would be built on the lower slope of the property, in the grove of liveoaks.
After sorting these things out, the next step was to bring in the bulldozer. Because there was no level ground—just a gentle, constant slope. And houses, as well as riding rings, benefit from some level ground. Not to mention the driveway petered out about halfway up the hill. So the bulldozer was employed to create a house site and a level riding ring, as well as to finish the driveway. Thus we embarked on the creation of my small horse property.