Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The Hundred (ok, really only 15) Acre Woods
Many years ago, we made a good decision for possibly bad, or at least very unrealistic, reasons. We bought 15 acres of wooded land, about 25 miles from where we now live in town, from a good friend of ours who is a land developer. He buys land in huge portions, breaks it up, and resells it in smaller sizes. At the time that we bought it, we had grand illusions of building a HUGGGGGE house, (it was only approximately 5,500 or 6,500 square feet; you know, no big deal or anything. Three stories, room for each kid, walk- in finished basement, a "cedar log home," etc. etc. ) The friend we purchased our land from gave us a screaming deal we couldn't refuse, and they also were planning to keep an adjoining few acres themselves to build THEIR home on. Friends AND neighbors. That would have been awesome. Truly. Well, when reality hit, as it has a way of doing when one is raising 4 small children, as we were back then, although the amount space that sized house would have offered us could have been put to good use, we couldn't afford to build it. And then, our friends' plans changed, and they sold off their lot in the woods, leaving our 15 acres sandwiched in between two "hunting camps," owned by people from the city. Over the years, as our land got little "use" (we did go over to pitch a tent and camp there occasionally, and have campfires, and our sons' boy scout troup used it for overnights as well), and things would get tight, financially, I would beg and plead that the reasonable solution to our latest crisis was to sell that land. Obviously since our friends gave us such a great deal when we bought the land, we could have made a decent amount of money by selling it at the going rate for good, wooded, hunting land. And then, too, there are the school and property taxes we pay every year on land that we are, essentially, not using. It just made sense to me. And frankly, HAD we sold it, my life really wouldn't be terribly different or any the less at this point. But every time I brought it up, it was steadfastly shot down and flat out refused. Owning land has some sort of power I guess that I neer really understood. Still don't, really, I guess. However, also knowing what I know now, with 20 years + experience at "looking back," I don't think selling our land would have solved any long term issues here for us, financially. Yeah, it might have paid a few bills faster, might have paid off a car sooner, but I have no doubt we would STILL be trying to borrow from Peter to pay Paul, still be struggling to pay two college tuitions at once (soon to be three at once - ergh), still never quite making ends meet, living paycheck to paycheck, because financial management is just not a strength in this household. SO, having acknowledged that, I can NOW say, I'm GLAD we still have our land. We don't go there really any more often now than any other time, but finally, FINALLY, there is actual progress being made in turning our piece of woods into something more user-friendly. I have a friend at work whose husband runs a sawmill just down the road and around the corner from our land. He's been in cutting down all the larch, soft pine, and other wood that is NOT useful to us to have growing there, thinning it out as is good for the woods, letting more sunlight for the hardwoods that need a few more years before cutting to reach their full potential value. So., he's thinning out our woods, getting wood for himself to use for his sawmill business, and in return, instead of paying us in cash for the wood he is taking, he is putting in a driveway for us, clearing the area where our cabin, the first building we will put up, will go, and then, we will be able to get some wood back from him with which to put up a small cabin. Once a cabin goes us, THEN the land becomes FAR more useful to us. If we had had a cabin there all these years, it would have gotten constant weekend and summer use. But to get a cabin back in where we want to build it meant having to have a driveway put in to get the materials back there. Now, we will have one. And putting up even a cabin when you're trying to pay for raising 4 kids (not complaining - just stating a fact - raising kids is expensive!) is out of the question - but this? This is win-win for both of us. I like to think of it as bartering at it's best. I just wonder, what took us so long to think of it? And my someday goal now? A house. But, not with 5,500 square feet. Not even close. Who on earth would want to clean a house THAT big? Now? Now I just want a small, comfortable, snug little house in the woods to retire to, and the cabin that will hopefully go up soon can eventually become my "guesthouse" where my kids and grandkids can sleep when they come to visit. Funny how our dreams change over time, yet remain, at their core, very much the same.