You guys, I can’t believe I am writing this, but we are FINALLY heading out of the city, and if it’s up to me, we are never coming back.
It has been a big and very important week around here. We closed on a small, two-bedroom house right across from our 20 acres of farmland in the country. I’ll tell you all about it in a minute, but first, let me give you the background, so you can really understand how big of a deal this is for me…
My name is Lee, and I’ve figured out that I don’t belong in the city when I was 6 years old. My parents are the picture-perfect city people, so I was born in a city in Israel, where you can see your neighbor showers from your bedroom window.
I don’t remember anything before the first grade. First grade in public school was so horrible that I remember some of it. The bad parts, that is. Long story short, I wasn’t going back to that public school so my parents looked for an alternative. This was the first year the small kibbutz school I ended up in opened it’s doors to outsiders (kids whose parents didn’t live in the village).
A kibbutz is an agricultural commune, you can read more about it here, but in short, it’s a small village of a couple hundred families whose main business is agriculture. In the kibbutz, there is a petting zoo, a poultry house, a horse barn, an orchard, and many many acres of vegetable fields.
Our school was spread out, math class in this small building, music class in another small building… There was no fence, no concrete playground, no fancy plastic toys, we took naps on hay bales, we took a dip in the pool in the middle of the day and we had food fights in the communal dining room.
It felt right right away. I stayed there through my school years and later rented an apartment there but I was always the outsider. My parents didn’t live there, I wasn’t born there.
Then came the Navy. For a couple of years, I served mostly on base and when I went home on the weekends I used to spend most of my time in the kibbutz.
After the Navy, I managed a horseback riding school in the center of Israel (growing up, I spent most of my time in the barn. I was addicted to horses). I didn’t want to live in the city, so I found a tiny trailer in a village a short drive away.
Then I moved back to my kibbutz and met my husband who rented an apartment there at the time. He came from a small village in the mountains and the moment he slid out from under his antique purple Volvo, his hands full of black grease, I knew I found my guy.
A short time later we got married and came to the US, not knowing what, where, and how. We were kids, just looking around…
We moved from here to there for a while, working in all kinds of different jobs and making new friends. Then we decided that we would like to see the US, but we didn’t have much money, so we became truck drivers and drove around for a couple of years. The wide open spaces, the never ending roads, the small towns on the way… They were the fun part of this adventure. Driving an eighteen-wheeler in NY city or DC? No thanks, that was not fun.
So up until this moment in my life, I spent a lot of time in the country, but I was always on borrowed time. Until school ends, until my rent agreement ends, until we decide to stop driving the truck… I never had my place, I was the outsider, I was the renter, I was driving through…
Don’t get me wrong please. I am not complaining. I had a great childhood and some amazing time after that, but I always felt like I wasn’t completely in MY place.
When we decided to start a family, we got off the truck and settled here in NC. My husband found a job with a local locksmith company and became a locksmith. Very quickly we started our own company, and now, since most of his customers were in the city and he had to get to them fast (most of our work back then was emergency lockouts and such), we had to find a place in the city.
I bought the first house that had a dirt driveway. No kidding! I guess it gave me a bit of a country feel… I drove to the end of the paved street with the realtor, saw the dirt road between the mail boxes leading into the trees and told her we are buying this house. We went back to her office and I signed the papers without my husband ever seeing the house.
This was in 2008 and we are still here. You know the feeling of not belonging? Like everything is supposedly perfect but there is just something, something inside of you that is yearning for a different way of life.
The wide open spaces, the smell of a freshly tilled field, the old man in dirty jeans and straw hats, the cows, the horses, the breeze, the sound of tractors, the smell of horse poop (yup, I said it)… I am suffocating without them. Is it normal? Are you born with this disorder? Where is this gene came to me from, the girl whose parents have fake grass on their five feet “lawn”?
In 2011, it became too much and I had to do something. So I became addicted to real estate. I knew every piece of land anywhere within a 45 miles radius of our locksmith shop. How many acres, flat or hilly, wooded or cleared, soil type, shape, outbuildings, house on it or not, creek or pond or both or none, price per acre… I mean everything.
But we couldn’t afford any of the available land, until I found a piece of land that was too far, too messy, and too wild. It was also priced way too low and only God knows how no one snatched it before us. It was beautiful and we bought it. (you can read the story of the land in this post).
The land is an hour away from our house in town, but I couldn’t care less. I was going to start farming, I was going to do it on my own with three little kids if it killed me.
We got an old RV for $1500, worked on it for 6 months to bring it to where we can park it on the land and set up camp, bought a tractor with a gazillion attachments, built a small greenhouse, planting equipment from a closing down plant nursery, I mean, without the tractor we spent around $15,000 to get this thing going.
We were ready. We parked the RV on the land and I was going there a few days a week with the kids to work. Until a couple of weeks later we got a letter in the mail informing us that county laws prohibited you from placing an RV on land that doesn’t have a house on it.
We removed the RV, and I tried to keep going but when the real Southern summer heat came around and I saw my kids wasting away in the open field with an exhausted mama that had zero patient for them, I decided enough was enough. We had to find another way to do this.
I was on a mission. We needed to move. I needed to be out in the country or I would die of overpopulation poisoning or something of the sort.
But everything, EVERYTHING, fell through. We had a contract with a builder, it didn’t happen. We were thinking about a cheap doublewide, it didn’t work. I went to look at wooden cabins, too expensive. We wanted to build ourselves a house of mud or straw, no financing and no time.
I checked every possible way, called the bank every two weeks with question after question (those guys hate me, I am sure)… But, for the life of me, I couldn’t find a way to make it happen.
A few months ago, I started going to the synagogue every Saturday (we are Jewish so it’s synagogue instead of church for us). I did it for the kids, you know… I am a believer, but I don’t come from a religious family. In fact, I don’t think I visited a synagogue in all my life in Israel. But I do believe in God (very much) and in simple biblical character values and I wanted my kids to be exposed to it more than I was, so I started taking them to the synagogue every Saturday morning.
At the beginning, it was hard for me. All this praising to God…. He is good, He is great, He is your God…. Yeah Yeah, I already know that… Why do I have to repeat this for two hours… How much someone else is great and amazing and all that. I mean, what good does this do for ME, right?
But then it dawned on me that I am a spoiled brat, who grew up in a school that cost her parents like a second mortgage every month, have a great husband that works hard, three beautiful and healthy kids and one on the way, a warm house with a dirt road and a cute yard with a few raised beds for vegetables, 6 hens that give us more eggs than we can handle, and I was still thinking about ME ME ME and what I want.
Well, maybe it’s not all about me and what I want, huh?
Now, this my friends was a hard realization. It took me a few months to surrender. I had one more wild idea of how to build a house on our land, but when this didn’t work either, I said, ok God, I am giving up. It’s not about me. You want me in the city, here I am in the city, and it doesn’t look like I am going anywhere anytime soon. I was exhausted of trying to find a way to make something that maybe wasn’t supposed to happen happen.
I gave up 4 months ago.
About a month and a half ago, I went to check my asparagus that I planted on the farm. I was getting ready for a month-long trip to Israel to visit family and I wanted to mulch it and weed the bed before I go.
I drove up to the farm the same way I always do. Our land starts at the turn you can see in the picture above. When I passed the dirt road you see in the picture a tiny red sign on the house there caught my eye, but I kept on going. It was an abandoned house we drove past for the past three years.
As I was mulching my beloved asparagus, I was thinking what the red sign can possibly be. It was too small, and I drove too fast to read it, but I decided to stop there on my way home to check it out.
You guessed it… It was a for sale sign written by hand.
An old man answered the phone. I am so pleased to say that since we got the land and I had to deal with some Southern country folks, I now can understand Redneck without much problem. But when I asked him how much and he said $36,000 I thought I must have misunderstood him.
We went to see the house the next day. Mr. H met us there to show us around the property and explained that he built the house with his son, for his son to live in. They worked on it for four years from 2003 to 2007 but in 2007 his son got sick. It was heartbreaking to hear that his son died, he didn’t even get to enjoy the house. Mr. H never rented it and it stood abandoned since 2007.
This is the view from the back deck. You walk into a big open room…
To the left, is one bedroom (they left this old bed that I started painting).
To the right is one big bathroom with a shower…
And room for a washer and dryer.
And right next to it is another big room.
The front of the house is pretty simple. One end is the living room…
And on the other end is the kitchen.
There is no central A/C here, just an ugly unit in the kitchen window.
The house sits on 1/2 acre and has a couple of old outbuildings that are full of garbage.
The yard is great. Flat and there are a few fruit trees but also piles of garbage everywhere. Our tractor and dump truck will come real handy in removing whatever we can’t recycle.
The house had the for sale sign for 3 weeks before I saw it. Only God knows how nobody snatched it before us. Mr. H said there were so many phone calls that he is getting too tired of it and that if we want it he is going to take the sign down right away.
YES! We want it. I practically jumped on the poor guy.
I had five days until my flight to Israel and I wasn’t going to leave without a contract signed.
Then I found out that it doesn’t matter how good is your credit, no bank will give you a mortgage for less than $50,000.
Good thing the banker who helped us get a loan for the land was on our side, or maybe he just really wanted to get rid of me already ;-). But a couple of days after I contacted him he got back to me with an idea…
We ended up combining the balance we had left on the land with the balance of the house. This put us just a bit over $50,000, and a day before I left to Israel we signed a purchase contract for $34,000.
I had a hard time concentrating in Israel, I have to admit. I was afraid that something will happen when I was gone. I was afraid that someone will change their minds and I won’t be there to strangle them into submission. I was afraid the house will disappear. I was afraid it was just a dream and there is no house across from our land at all.
But a month later we came back to the states and after a week of making sure everyone had the paperwork they needed to have we closed last Monday!
YES, WE DID!
So what’s the plan now?
First, we have to fix the White House as I started calling it, cause if you ask me, it’s the center of the world at the moment.
We need to install a new roof, we have to fix the bathroom floors, we have to paint, we have to add counter space and cabinets in the kitchen, and we have to clean clean clean.
Then we move. Then we fix our house in the city and put it on the market.
Meanwhile, this August we will till the front field of our land (it’s about 3.5 acres), and plant cover crops. We also are going to have the new baby arriving somewhere in August.
Early spring of next year, we till the cover crops under and start planting.
The plan for the next few years is to build a house on our land and turn this house into a rental property. We would love to do it ourselves and pay cash for the new house on the land, since we will be closer and have a smaller house payment, it should be possible.
Hopefully. As I’ve learned, a plan can change about 3 million times, but it’s good to have something to go by.
I know many people don’t get me (my own family included). But I hope for a debt free lifestyle (I am determined for this to be the last loan we ever sign!). For a slower lifestyle. A farming lifestyle where my kids can play between fields of vegetables.
We are a family of 6 moving to a 1000sqft, two bedroom house. Some people think that it’s way too small, I think it’s perfect. Less house to pay for, less space to clean, more time to be working outside and spend time with family.
What the future brings, only God knows… But for now, this is where we’re heading.
My name is Lee. I am 34 years old and I FINALLY have MY place in the country!