I shared my idea of returning to farm life with my sister Darcy. The original idea was to build something for retirement. Even back then I was not real sure our government was going to have money left in social security by the time I would need it. The thought was to be able to produce enough for us, family and friends – and then sell the extra to maintain the farm life.
Somewhere deep in our subconscious is still “the farm” and all its ways and means of being. Our project was to dig all that out again and put it to use. We had no clue where to start so we made a list (I’m great at making lists!). What were ALL the things we would “like” to have on our farm, and what were the things we “had to have” on our farm? That was how we began. The list was very long at first (couple of pages-but there were also plans in there for future use/ideas), and we broke it down to the basics. The following is our original list:
1. Must have water – pond, creek, river – whatever, as long as it was on our property or ran through it.
2. Must have animals – something that we would not have to kill to make a living off of (Looking back now – this was a “dream” idea!).Must have decent soil to grow our own food in. (This is also where we decided to buy a greenhouse – original idea: for our own use first, family/friends second, then sell any extras to locals.)
3. Things we would “like” to have, but don’t necessarily have to have:
a. A fireplace. (A backup heat source is always a good thing!)
b. Outbuildings. (Always easier to start a farm if there are structures already on the property – may need some repair work, but that’s ok!).
4. Trees. (This may seem silly but, since we grew up in Wisconsin, this was a must since it’s a childhood thing for us!)
Isn’t it funny how you can, at 40+ years old, still have big dreams? We sure had ours! We were lucky enough to find a good Real Estate Agent, who was more than happy to help us on our trek. Brian was his name, and we went to him every weekend to pickup a new MLS sheet (its their multi-listing of places for sale). We would pack drinks in a cooler, munchies for the road and take off. My daughter usually stayed with friends, but sometimes she would go with us. We would just start driving to all the spots he had on the list.
We got really good at reading Realtor-speak…Open Floor Plan – meant there was a huge hole in the roof, or no roof at all. Scenic View – meant you were out in the middle of no-where and the nearest store, town or neighbor was about 5+ miles away. And our favorite…Several Out Buildings…this one became our major source of great joy on our excursions, as it meant “several port-o-potties” either lined up in a row (yes, we actually did find this up in the middle of no-where in the Colorado mountains) or scattered about the property. Once in a while it actually meant derailed train boxcars (yep – they use those a lot out here for anything from storage units, to a barn for your goats), but usually it was the port-o-potties.
One of our trips took us up to Peetz, Colorado. It is way up in the northeast corner of the state, very close to the Nebraska boarder. If you have never been there, but want to see some very beautiful “old west type” countryside – check it out! The plateaus are outstanding and there are only about 10 buildings in the whole town. One bar, one post office and I think there was a quickie-mart of some kind? I vaguely remember seeing a gas pump, but I don’t remember if it even worked so I suggest filling up before you go out that way. I know for a fact there is nothing else until you get to Sterling or the Nebraska line.
We never did find the place listed on the MLS sheet but, since it was a beautiful day, we decided to take an alternate route back to Denver. We had driven straight out from Denver on highway 76 to Sterling, then went straight north to Peetz. We revisited the map, on the way back, and saw that a more scenic route would be to take highway 6 from Sterling to a little town called Brush. Here we could then pickup highway 76 again and get back to the city. Highway 6 also followed along the Platte River so we thought it would be a nice drive for us Wisconsiner’s.
It was a beautiful drive. We passed through several small towns, one even has a home for a carnival business. We picked up some squash and fresh sweet corn at a local farmers home (They had a sign out front – you just drive up, pick out what you want from their stand, put the money in a jar and leave – no sales people to haggle with. No people at all – love that feeling of rural trust!) and continued our drive.
Just as we came up on the highway 76 intersection, we spotted it! A for sale sign! We turned the car around and drove back and forth in front of it several times. Could we tell the property line? Was that pond in the back included? Is that creek running through it? What about those trees in the back? And it even had several “real” outbuildings – not port-o-potties – yea!!
This was it! The place we were looking for! Then began the fun process of arguing with mortgage lenders. Funny how they consider you a risk just because you are moving 2 hours away from your job! Oh, and really considering quitting your job to work on the farm, or at least be nearer to your home. Apparently Lenders are fussy like that!?! Well, after about 3 months of “we need more documents” from the Lender – we finally closed on our little piece of heaven!
Roughly 20 acres(17.9 split into 2 sections), a pond (when it feels like it), a creek (when the county farmers are not irrigating off of it), several real outbuildings (not port-o-potties) including 2 nice small barns (a vanishing breed), plenty of growing space (once the rope horse training pen is amended), and a house with a fireplace (not used in a decade)! Yep, this was now our home! Welcome to the 1st year of the worst drought Colorado had seen in over 100 years – perfect time to buy a farm!?!