Angelia McLean : Country Mouse City Mouse 3-14-11
Farm, ranch, farmette, hobby farm, gentleman’s farm, farmstead or urban farm: Not everyone considers this nomenclature as an accurate description of “Land for producing crops and raising animals.”
Then the myriad of images one conjures when seeing each designation of farm: Fields of rolling crops, a classic red barn with a quintessential silo, prairie of swaying grass up to the knees of livestock, plows pulled by draft horses with an Amish farmer in a straw hat behind. Popular culture has given its share of stereotyped farm sets: Green Acres, Holiday Inn, Dallas (hey, they were ranchers), “Dukes of Hazard,” George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” Paris Hilton in “The Simple Life” (sorry), “Anne of Green Gables” (my favorite) and even “the Beverly Hillbillies” had a few animals roaming their mansion.
Having grown up with farming friends, graduating with farming classmates and having lived near farmers I get the basic idea of what a farm is, albeit second hand. I have my own idea of the perfect farm and I plead guilty when it comes to romanticizing the perfect homestead that I want to own.
We’ve been searching many years now, researching land bulletins, want ads and online sources. We’ve been to Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Wisconsin. We’ve considered Nebraska, Wyoming and Utah. Why do I get suckered in every time when I read the shameless, exaggerated and detail-impaired descriptions of the Realtor listings? That’s a rhetorical question; I know the answer. Because I want that perfect dream farm I’ve seen in magazines and I fill in the missing pieces the way I want it to read. (Realtors are still shamelessly sneaky though). I am guilty as charged. Unfortunately, throughout our searches, we’ve seen our share of farm derelicts.
Early in our country property hunt, we thought about just some land: A few acres to call our own, build a quaint house, keep a few pets and get a way from it all. Turns out that piece of property must h ave a 2,000 square foot house, your dog on-leash and forget about any mineral rights; oil underground? So sad, your kitchen will feature an oil rig.
We toured 40 acres south of Pueblo but with no water you might as well open it up for remote airport parking. (And water rights are a whole other kettle of fish). Kansas? Sorry need I say more? Searching for land to get away from it all and there’s a subdivision across the road. In Iowa, there are signs that say “Keep Urban Sprawl Out of Our Farm Land” or something to this effect. My thought is if the farmer didn’t sell the land in the first place, there wouldn’t be any sprawl. I don’t think there is free land just laying around for a developer.
Then we started looking at acreage with a house. Where to start? We’ve seen some doozers. What is it with farms, barns and junk? We’re talking piles upon piles of junk – toilet seats, chairs with out, wait for this … seats, carriages, mud, machinery, mud, empty food containers, manure, cans, mud, sporting goods, manure, lumber, tools, wheels, manure, cars without wheels. Get the picture?
I think the homeowners didn’t get the memo on “clutter” before listing. Nor did they get the yellow post-it on cleaning up after household pets. One house had so many ferrets we couldn’t make it out fast enough. And then there was the farmhouse with cats. Well, I didn’t actually see any cats but let’s just say we knew they were there.
The list is endless: Never-been-pumped septic systems, broken windows, rusted water heaters, convoluted heating systems (when there is one), land plots so divided up that you’d play hopscotch just to stay on your own side, basements with dead bodies (okay, not really but close), and everything and anything in between. Having seen some Amish farms for sale, the family will be eating their main meal, as you look around, silent, just staring at you. The Amish basements are full of self-sustaining foods and preserves. Beautifully hand-crafted floors, cabinets and the whole house but unfortunately no electricity or plumbing. Or, if it was a house with utilities (before Amish), they’re torn out by the Elders and cost quite a pretty penny to reinstall.
It is out there: I know it is. The perfect 40 acres with the picturesque pond with ducks, a yellow house and a picket fence, wild raspberries bordering the road and a big dumpster to throw all the junk that I know is still in the barn.