Farm-iversary 9 and a new project

Tomorrow marks 9 years since the farm became ours.

I’ve been trying to think about what I want to write for the anniversary, and I haven’t been sure what to say.

Looking back at previous farm-iversary posts, year 4 feels closest to what I’m feeling right now.

Four years ago, I started to live one of my dreams. It’s been a pretty amazing opportunity. Something I don’t take for granted and that is incredibly meaningful for me.

Obviously, life has changed a lot since I wrote those words. But they’re still true. This place is special. I feel Matt and my Dad here, and I see meaning all around us. I don’t take that for granted at all.

But rather than being sentimental today, what I really want to do is celebrate.

Because we are about to embark on a new project.

It’s big.

It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time.

It’s a… garage.

I’ve been planning this for years–9 to be exact. Our official planning process with a contractor and blueprints and permits started in the fall. Demo is underway (the old indoor pool is finally going away). Construction might start this month, depending on the weather.

Matt in the indoor pool

Nine years ago, during the home inspection.

I have so, so many more details to share. I think year 9 is going to be good. Stay tuned.

Do you celebrate your house’s anniversary? What projects are you tackling this year?

History

Thank you very much for your kindness after my last post. I appreciate all of the thoughts, prayers and support that have been sent our way over the last several years. They mean a lot.

Last weekend, on the anniversary of the day Matt came home, I felt like he sent a special gift for us.

A woman came to the farm who had been born here in 1936.

I have always wondered about the history of this property. Who lived here? What were their names? What happened to them? Where was the original house?

Well, now I know… at least a little bit.

Black and white picture of a two story farmhouse surrounded by open fields

The woman’s name is Lorraine. Her grandparents were the original owners of the property.

Black and white photo of a man and woman on their wedding day in 1897

Eventually her father and mother took over the farm, and this is where she spent the first six years of her life.

Lorraine

She talked about riding her tricycle down the barn ramp (just like Ellie likes to do in her little car), climbing trees and trying to keep up with her older brother.

Black and white photo of two children sitting on top of a wood gate

Her father worked the farm for awhile before he took a job in the city.

Black and white photo of a man and a horse working in a field

The driving shed (I always call it the drive shed, but she says “driving”) and the barn are the same as she recalls. She said that the original barn burned down when her father was young and was rebuilt.

Black and white photo of a child riding a tricycle in front of a small barn

The pond was not here when she was a child. It was just a stream that they crossed every day on their walk to and from school.

She says that the house burned down sometime in the 1950s. The property was always 129 acres.

Black and white picture of a two story farmhouse

Lorraine left the farm in 1942. She has returned few times since then, though the last time was about 20 years ago. Last weekend (with, I feel, a nudge from Matt), she got up her courage to come again and see who was living there now. I am so glad that she did. I feel like we connected right away.

Lorraine and I have talked on the phone several times and met twice more already. She came out to the farm again on Saturday and walked around a bit and shared more memories. She has given me so many stories and obviously some very special photos. I have so many more questions, but what I’ve learned already has meant so much.

The experience of connecting with the people and history of this special place is very precious.

Bright moments in dark times

Last week was Matt’s birthday. We pulled together as a family–by phone, Facetime and a few of us in person–to remember him, talk about him and celebrate him.

We had a particularly special celebration to take care of as well.

Matt and I had been given a bottle of champagne when we moved to the farm. We had been saving it for when we paid off the mortgage, and that is what I did a couple months ago. So Matt’s Dad opened the bottle, and we had a toast.

Glass of champagne on the patio

This is obviously not at all how we wanted to pay off the farm. While this milestone is usually a great accomplishment, for us it felt tragic. Today, I’m sharing something I wrote when I got home from making that last payment.

I hope you’ll read it because while there is great tragedy, there was also great beauty, and I think there are some lessons we can all take in these challenging days of COVID19.

The music was driving me crazy.

I was sitting at the credit union feeling like I was holding it together by the finest of threads. I was there to pay off the mortgage.

I had been anxious about this appointment for weeks.

Paying off the mortgage was super important to Matt and me. Especially Matt. We’d worked really hard and paid about half of it down in the 7 1/2 years we’d owned the farm.

Before he died, Matt and I talked about his life insurance. I said, “Well, I was thinking of paying off the mortgage.”

For Matt there was no question. “You’d better pay off the mortgage!”

Now I was here, and I was paying off the mortgage. We were achieving something we’d worked so hard for and dreamed about for so long. But I was alone. Matt was paying it off, but in the worst way possible.

I was trying not to cry, not to scream, not to lose my mind. And the music was about to send me off a cliff.

A speaker in the ceiling of the office was playing a local radio station.

I haven’t been able to listen to music for a long time, and this felt so noisy.

Then the words started to make it through.

I’ll be there for the highs and lows… By your side, when you’re all alone. I will be there. (Walk Off The Earth)

 

Then the next song.

I’ll carry the weight. I’ll do anything for you. My bones may break. But I’ll never be untrue. (Serena Ryder)

 

Tears were rolling down my face. I looked up at the ceiling at that terrible speaker and said, “Thank you for being here. I love you.”

That afternoon, I came home to the farm. I let Baxter out and we walked out over the fields. I talked to Matt. “We finally did it. You did it. You worked so hard for this. Thank you. It’s ours.”

I know a lot of people are facing really hard situations right now and there is a lot of fear about COVID-19. Reach out to family and friends. Look around you for those moments of love and joy–like a song on the radio that you don’t hear at first. Know that you are not alone. Even in the hardest hard there is good. You will get through this.

How to find your dream farm – Farm-iversary 8

Today is marks eight years since farm became ours. This year, our farm-iversary obviously feels different because Matt is not here in person. It’s really because of him that we are here in this place that means so much to us both.

Finding our perfect farm took a lot of work, persistence, patience and guts–most of which I credit to Matt.

How to find your dream farm

I know a lot of people share our dream of country living, so today I thought I’d share my advice for how to find your dream country property. Fittingly, there are eight.

1. Make this a shared dream

Fortunately, Matt and I were on the same page right from the start about moving to the country. We perhaps had different reasons for wanting a farm, but we were working towards the same goal. This teamwork is very important. The search for your dream country property and then the actual living there are both hard. Fun and wonderful, but hard. If you’re a couple or a family, this decision needs to be made jointly.

I am more aware than ever that not everyone is a couple. You may be single and want the country lifestyle–and you absolutely can achieve it. Find a friend, family member (children count), someone who can encourage you and believes in your dream.

Matt and Ellie on the tractor

Even though Matt and I don’t get to do this together anymore, I’m so happy that I get to do it with Ellie. She loves the animals, the barns, the tractor, the outdoors, and her joy makes me happy.

2. Know what you’re looking for

It’s great to talk about moving to the country, but to actually make it happen and find the perfect property, you need to know what matters most to you. Farms come in all different shapes and sizes.

Think carefully about what you want and be as specific as possible.

Things like property size, style of house and any features on the property like woods or water all influence how you live on a farm. If you’re planning to work the land or raise animals, those are also important factors to consider.

Maple sapling alongside the driveway

For us, I was happy with anything over 10 acres. Matt wanted at least 50. I wanted water, and initially thought either a creek or pond would work. As our search progressed, I realized the pond was really important to me, so our criteria became more specific.

We wanted a fixer-upper house, and we certainly go that. While major renovations are not everyone’s choice, I will say that you can change a lot about a house, but the property is harder to change.

As you develop your wish list, balance being narrow and broad. You want to be specific about what you want, but open-minded enough that you can actually find a farm that works for you. For both our house and property, we had 17 items on our wish list. Here are our lists for the property and the house.

3. Pick your area

Search area is part of knowing what you want. This will determine the type of land you buy–whether it’s rolling hills, flat fields, woods, marshy. It will also determine the price you pay. Prices vary greatly depending on where you look. If you’re willing to move, you might find a more affordable property.

Big field

For us, we wanted to stay close to our families, so we decided that our search area would be within 45 minutes of our hometowns.

4. Get pre-approved for your mortgage

While moving to the country and buying a farm usually begin as emotional decisions, there are a lot of practical considerations, like your finances. You likely will need a mortgage to buy a farm (and if you don’t, good for you). Visit a few banks or credit unions or other lenders before you begin your search to get pre-approved for a mortgage.

This process will help to guide your search as it may set the budget for you. As well, it can make things easier and quicker once you find your dream farm to have financing already set up… though be prepared that financing a farm will still be more complicated than a regular house. Here are my tips for financing a farm.

The house on June 1, 2017

5. Run your numbers

While the bank is a good start, it shouldn’t be the only step in your financial planning process. Try to project your monthly expenses on a farm. Consider mortgage payments, utilities (which may be higher in the country), property taxes (which may be lower because you pay a rural rate) and other costs of living. Also consider vehicle costs, as you will likely be driving more once you move to the country.

Figuring out how much you are comfortable spending will help to determine the budget for your dream country property. It might also help you to avoid sticker shock once you get your first country electricity bill.

Fieldstone fireplace with barn beam mantel

 

 

6. Be prepared to stretch your budget

I completely agree with the strategy of buying less house than you can afford in most circumstances. But for the farm of your dreams, I’ve learned that it can work out if you stretch your budget.

I’m not saying spend beyond your means. All of the work you went through in #4 and #5 still apply. But you may end up going to the max of what you can afford.

For Matt and me, once we saw this farm, our budget jumped by nearly $100,000. That’s a huge leap (even though we were still within what we could afford), and one that caused me a sleepless night before we put in our offer.

If you’ve run your numbers, understand your finances, know what you can comfortably spend and have your mortgage approval, there isn’t a huge risk to upping your budget. It may make you uncomfortable, but you can do it.

7. DIY property search

We worked with a realtor throughout our search for the perfect farm. I think realtors are a helpful resource for finding, evaluating and buying properties. However, we–mainly Matt–also looked. All. The. Time.

We developed a technique of find a property on MLS (or one our realtor sent to us), look it up on Google Earth and Google Street View, look up the municipal or tax record to see the actual property boundaries. Then, if it was still ticking our boxes, we would do a drive-by. Only then would we book a viewing with our realtor.

This is obviously a lot of work, but it saved us from seeing farms that didn’t meet our criteria.

Matt and I in front of the farm

For this farm, Matt found it online on Jan. 1. It had just been listed and we were able to jump on it quickly because we were looking when a lot of other people–including our realtor–weren’t.

8. Persist

Our search for the perfect farm took a year and a half. Over that time, we saw a lot of farms. We even put in a few offers, which were outbid. We got frustrated. We argued. We debated settling for something less than what we wanted. We despaired that we would never find the right farm.

If you know what you want, don’t settle (too much). Keep searching. Keep working. Keep thinking and talking about your dream to encourage yourself to keep going. Eventually, you will find what works for you and hopefully it will be everything you dream and more.

Country living is not for everyone. But when it’s a dream you’ve held for a long time, as with Matt and me, it can be the absolute perfect fit for you.

When Matt and I moved to the farm, I immediately saw a huge change in him. He seemed more relaxed and comfortable. He loved it here. I am so, so glad that we made this move and that he got the time here that he did.

Matt mans the wheel of the Kioti CS2410

Matt is still a huge presence at the farm, and I feel him here every day.

I am grateful for all of the work that he did to get us here and set us up so well, and that Ellie and I get to continue to live this dream.

Farm-iversary 7

Over the weekend, we marked 7 years of farm ownership. Seven years of sunrises and sunsets, snow and grass, rain and sun, hikes, renovations, work and all kinds of joy.

Our project pace has slowed down over the years. But our love for this property has grown.

On Saturday morning I bundled Ellie into her snowsuit, plopped her in her sled, clipped Baxter onto his long leash and headed across the fields. Fat snowflakes were falling. Baxter ran everywhere sniffing. Ellie chattered about everything.

Ellie in her sleigh

How amazing that these are our surroundings. How amazing that I can give these experiences to our daughter and our dog. How amazing that I have this for myself.

I listened to a podcast last week that talked about the fulfillment we get from our surroundings and the benefits of seeing beauty every day.

That is what we have found in the farm.

I feel so fortunate in the life that we’re making.

Snow on the farm

Our quest to add to the beauty of the farm is continuous. Looking back over the past 7 years, here are 7 favourite projects.

Laundry room

The laundry room was my first One Room Challenge. It was such a simple makeover. We kept the cabinets and the layout, and simply updated them with trim and paint. I decorated the walls with vintage enamel basins, DIYed a clothespin light fixture, pipe drying rack and an Ikea-hack rug. This project shows that you don’t need to do much to completely transform a room.

Basement TV area

On the other hand, the basement was a huge renovation. We went back to the concrete and rebuilt from there. The result of all of our work is a beautiful, functional space that works and looks exactly as we want. We use the basement every single day and the TV area is our favourite. With our comfy sectional, video game-TV stand, homemade Monopoly art, and lots of other fun little features, this space is casual, personal and comfortable.

Nursery

Ellie’s room was our most recent makeover, and it had to make my list of favourite projects. We coupled the deep turquoise walls with wood, white and neutral furnishings. Then we mixed in family and farm accents for a fun, personal space.

Basement bathroom

Part of our big basement makeover, the bathroom was the most dramatic transformation we’ve had here at the farm. We started with a shower that looked like it could have served as a set in Psycho, And we ended with clean white tile, marble, chrome, a giant mirror, storage, a dramatic black wall… and a bit of barnboard.

Living room fireplace

A farmhouse needs a fireplace. And making it out of stone that looks like it could have come from the fields outside makes it a perfect fit for our little country home. The fireplace is the feature in the living room, and nothing beats a cozy afternoon in front of the crackling flames.

Garden

Vegetable garden

Another necessary feature of a farm? A vegetable garden. I will say that our garden is definitely still a work in progress. We added to the fencing, built raised beds, hung a gate, made trellises, installed a waterline and planted grapes, raspberries and other perennials. We haven’t yet figured out how to stay on top of the weeds and we’re always adding more plants, but simply having this space feels like success.

Kitchen island

The kitchen has a long way to go and will see a major renovation… someday. In the meantime, the addition of our island made such a difference in this room. It’s given us both storage and counter space, and like everything we do around here, we did it simply and relatively inexpensively. We found the doors at the Habitat for Humanity Restore and we DIYed a wood countertop. The island has made it possible for me to tolerate the kitchen until we can redo it entirely.

Whether it’s the house or the 129 acres outside, we have more to go–and probably always will–but we’re also super proud and pleased with what we’ve done so far. And we make sure to enjoy and appreciate the life we have here. Thank you all for following along.

Farm-iversary 5

This week marks five years since we’ve owned the farm.

Five years feels like a major milestone to me, even though we know this is our forever home. We’ve always looked at the farm as a long term commitment. And we knew the process of renovating the house and property would take awhile.

Sometimes, the “unfinished” parts of the house bug me a bit–I want a kitchen where the cabinets aren’t falling apart, a garage where I can park my car and walk right into the house, a bathroom that isn’t falling apart.

But I know those will come.

Mostly, I’m proud of what we’ve built here–what we’re building here–and how we’re doing it together. Over the past five years, we’ve accomplished a lot! We’ve put in a lot of work and money and time. With every project we’re making the farm our own and building the life that we want.

To mark five years, I’m looking back at some of the major projects we’ve completed:

The infrastructure

I don’t know what the exact title for this section should be. I think it’s clear that we bought a fixer-upper house. Before we got started on any of the more cosmetic renovations, we had to focus on the basic systems that run the house.

The basement

The basement was where our renovations started. One of the things that drew us to this house was its usable basement–many old farmhouses that we looked at had dirt cellars. But what initially appeared to be a nicely finished space turned out to be pretty much a disaster. So we gutted it back to the concrete and started fresh. It was still going to be usable. It was just going to take a little while–and an afternoon spent hauling a woodstove up the stairs by a rope attached to the back of my Dad’s truck.

We redid everything. We adjusted the floorplan slightly and then reframed, rewired, reinsulated, redrywalled, repainted, refloored, refurnished. Our first Christmas at the farm, the best gift was finally having carpet and a couch in the basement.

Matt and me after sanding drywall

Drywall was not the best of times either.

As I’ve mentioned, we still have a few finishing details that are hanging around, but I am so proud of the basement. The spaces that we created–new bathroom, laundry room, office, storage, family room, games area, reading nook and ping pong room–are so perfect for our family. And I feel like the way we organized the different spaces is the way the basement was meant to be.

Black and white shaker cabinets with chrome hardware in the laundry room

Main floor

The main floor has not seen quite the same level of transformation as the basement. Long term, it will be the focus of a major renovation. But in the meantime, we’re doing smaller fixes to make it ours.

Simple bright country mudroom

  • We painted the living room, built the wood-burning fireplace and added bookshelves. I have a plan to plank the ceiling in this room and dramatically improve the lighting someday.
  • The dining room is untouched except for our furniture.
  • The main bathroom is untouched except for a new toilet, exhaust fan and new/old light fixture.
  • The indoor pool room remains untouched except for removing solar blanket (why for an indoor pool?) and some garbage.

Fieldstone fireplace with barn beam mantel

Outside

I can’t think about the farm without thinking about the land. Our 129 acres with its forests, marshes, fields and trails is magical. We’re still figuring out how to take care of the property and how much we can handle.

We do not have a beautifully manicured farm–and honestly I’m not sure that’s the type of farm I want. However, there are enough weeds and brush and rocks and piles of junk that property clean up continues to be on our to-do list every year. We’re getting closer and closer to the maintenance point, rather than the clean-up point, I think.

  • We installed our low-tech security system, the gate, at the bottom of the driveway.
  • We planted trees along the driveway–talk about a long-term commitment. It’s a good thing this is our forever house, or else I would never see my vision of large branches arching over the driveway.
  • We are ever so slowly reclaiming the farm from the rocks, lumber, brush, trash and what have you that are strewn around. I cannot begin to think of how many loads of rocks we’ve hauled to the pile behind the barn.
  • The flower gardens we built around the front of the house are now fairly well-established. It’s been amazing to see them fill out every year.
  • Last year I feel like we finally crossed the line between having a vegetable patch and having a vegetable garden. I’m so excited to have this for the rest of our lives here at the farm.

Evolution of the turnaround flower garden

I think it’s clear that I love our life here. I love what we’re building together–from the home to the land to the gardens. It truly has become the best of times.

How to renew your mortgage

The saga of renewing our mortgage is over. Thank goodness. This is one of the less fun parts of farm ownership.

But, it’s important.

It’s because of careful financial planning that Matt and I were able to buy the farm in the first place. We stay on top of our finances and prioritize our mortgage to ensure we’re able to maintain the lifestyle that’s so important to us.

Farmhouse

Today I wanted to share a bit of our experience renewing our mortgage. Hopefully, there are a few lessons in here that might help others as well.

Start early

We were eligible to renew as of six months before the end of our mortgage term. It’s important to take advantage of this long lead time and not wait until the last minute.

Matt was watching the interest rate forecasts and suspected that the rates were going to go up, so he wanted to lock in as soon as possible. We also knew we would likely need time to negotiate the best deal.

Give yourself as much time as you can so that you’re not scrambling–and potentially paying more than you need to–at the end. I’ve also learned that rates are often lowest in the summer, so if you can work that into your timing you could have an advantage.

Organize your records

To renew, our lender needed up-to-date paperwork for our property taxes and insurance.

The credit union that holds our mortgage had gone through a merger in the last five years and changed its name as a result. We had to update our insurance to reflect their new name, which took time (much more time than it should have, but that’s just the one of the joys of home ownership).

Most cities will issue a tax certificate which shows the status of your property tax payments. Our city does this for a fee of about $60. For our credit union, our most recent tax bill showing it had been paid was sufficient.

If you’re going to transfer your mortgage to a different lender, you’ll likely need additional paperwork regarding your house, employment and income tax.

Negotiate for yourself

At our first renewal meeting at the credit union, they had little cards all around the office promoting a 2.69% interest rate. And then sitting in the meeting they offered us 2.99%. Ummm… what?

Even Baxter agreed that didn’t sound right.

Baxter at the bank

It turned out that the 2.69% was for new customers only. Matt, who knew I was about to lose my mind, was very careful not to look at me. Why do you not reward loyal, reliable customers?

After a conversation, our agent offered to put in a request to “head office” for 2.79%. I still wasn’t happy, but it was better than nothing.

Guess what rate was approved. 2.89%.

Matt’s reaction was, “Well, it’s better than what we’re paying now. And what if rates go up?”

I said, “Give me a week.”

I booked appointments at two other banks, gathered all of our paperwork (including extra paperwork about our personal financial situation) and went to work. In the end, I managed to secure two offers at 2.64%.

Because these companies weren’t familiar with the farm, we would have to go through an appraisal again. But both banks waived the fee.

Matt shared the emails with the new offers with the credit union—the written evidence was important. And… they matched the rate. Thank goodness.

Biggest lesson from this renewal process. Do not accept the first offer you receive. Work with your current lender. Engage a mortgage broker. Shop around to other lenders. Do everything you can to get the best deal for yourself.

While a quarter of a percent may not seem like a huge decrease, on hundreds of thousands of dollars over five years (or longer) every percent makes a difference.

Read your mortgage policy

Before you sign anything, read the paperwork—even the dense, legalese, policy parts. Understand what is expected of you and what flexibility exists for payments.

For Matt and me, being able to adjust our payments if needed and being able to make lump sum payments against the principle are important.

There have been some changes to our credit union’s policies, so it was important to understand how that would impact how we usually manage our mortgage.

Pay attention to your payments

Thanks to our lower interest rate, our new payments are much lower than they were before–or they could be. Matt and I have chosen to keep our payments at the same level, which means we’re putting more towards the principle than before–$63.80 every single week. That’s more than $3,300 extra that we’re taking off the principle every year, which means the farm will be completely ours that much sooner.

Consider your situation

Five years is a long time. Things may have changed since you first signed your mortgage. When renewing your mortgage think about where you’re at now in your life as well as what’s ahead and what you need.

Maybe interest rate isn’t most important to you. Maybe you want to change your payment amounts or timing. Maybe you’re ready to renovate and want to set aside money for that. Over the last five years, Matt and I have changed jobs, renovated, bought a new car. And who knows what’s ahead.

We’re confident that we’ve done our best to set up the new mortgage in the way that works the best for us and that we have the flexibility to adjust if we need to.

Anyone else have a mortgage story to share? What are your tips for negotiating with a financial institution? How do you balance lifestyle and finances?

Five years ago

Hello everyone. Happy New Year. I hope that you had a great Christmas.

Today marks five years since we saw the farm for the very first time.

By the start of 2012, we had been looking for our farm for nearly a year and a half. When Matt hopped online on Jan. 1, he saw a new listing. We made an appointment to see it with our realtor the next day. Jan. 2 was a freezing cold day. The farm was abandoned except for Ralph. The house was a mess.

Despite all that, the farm felt like ours, and soon it became ours for real.

It’s hard to believe it’s already been five years. At the same time, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Looking over the hayfield towards the barn

Living here has touched me in ways that are hard to describe. When people ask what made us want to buy a farm, I usually say something about peace and quiet, the idealistic idea of what country living is all about. All of that’s true, but it’s something deeper.

I find a lot of people have the dream of moving to the country. I feel very strongly that it’s a wonderful dream, and I’m so grateful that Matt and I have been able to make ours come true. However, I also feel that there’s no way to know if the dream is right for you until you live it. Country living is very hard to describe, and it’s not right for everyone.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned about country living.

1. A large property is a lot of work

This might sound like a negative, and I don’t mean it to. Even though we’re not farmers and don’t make our living off our land, choosing to live on a 129-acre property is a big deal.

Take a suburban home with trees, flowers, gardens, lawn, driveway, shed and multiply it by 129. That’s a lot of time, sweat, muscle and energy. For Matt and me, we’re usually okay with spending our time in this way. In fact, working outside is something I enjoy.

Pushing the wheelbarrow over the forest catwalk

2. Choose your farm wisely

Matt and I (mostly I) were very picky when we were looking for our farm. Despite spending less than an hour here before deciding to buy it, we made a good choice.

The property has pretty much everything that was on our original wishlist. Things like the pond, long driveway, woods, big barn and proximity to our families mean more to me than I realized they would. Things that weren’t on our original list, like having a second small barn with the driveshed, the layout of the property with the fields, meadow, marshes, different clumps of forest have all been huge bonuses.

Rainbow over a green hayfield

In real estate you often hear that you can’t change the property but you can change the house. I firmly believe this and was always looking for a fixer-upper that I could make what I wanted. We ran into a lot of issues with this house and have a lot more that we want to do. But fundamentally it’s a good house and the floorplan gives us lots of options.

3. We are capable of more than we realize

Going back to point #1 and our DIY lifestyle, there are lots of times where I think that I can’t or don’t know how to do something. Most of the time, I can hunker down, figure it out and muscle through.

I think that this is a good lesson for all of my life, whether it applies to the farm or not.

For me, I’m so thankful to be sharing my life with Matt. Most of the time, it’s easier when the two of us are hunkering down, figuring it out and muscling through. This farm is a dream that we share, and I’m not sure that I’d want to do it alone.

Matt and me after sanding drywall

4. Being connected with nature

I admit that my environmentalist side has influenced me with this farm. I am preserving 129 acres. We are generating electricity, using a low impact geothermal system, drawing water from our own well. I like that we are trying to minimize our impact on the environment.

Living so close to nature, I’m very aware of the cycles of the season and how we influence and change those patterns. Watching the crops grow in our fields, following the trails animals make through the forest, monitoring birds and bugs, keeping track of the weather–I feel like I’m more aware of the world around me since moving to the farm.

Pussy willow

5. This is where I’m meant to be

Country living is not for everyone, but it’s definitely for Matt and me.

Walking in the hayfield

The best words I can think of to describe this feeling are comfort, pride and gratitude.

I’m so grateful for the experience of the past five years. When I think about the 50 years–or hopefully longer–that are yet to come, gratitude is what I feel. I’m grateful to look ahead through my life and know that whatever comes, I will have the experience of being here at this farm.

Advice wanted: Mortgage renewal

Consumer mortgage application

Anyone have any tips for renewing a mortgage?

Most of the time, I feel like Matt and I have always lived here at the farm. However, we’re actually just coming up on five years–a fact that has been brought home to us ’cause our mortgage is almost at the end of its term, and it’s time to renew.

We’ve never gone through a mortgage renewal before (you may recall we were able to pay our first house off in 4 and a half years), so we’re a little uncertain about the process.

You also might remember that getting the mortgage the first time around was complicated because a farm is outside of the norm when it comes to financing.

I’m looking for any and all tips you have for getting the best deal during a mortgage renewal.

Interest rate is our most important consideration. We are working hard to pay off the farm quickly, so we want to pay as little interest as possible.

We’ve met with the credit union that currently holds our mortgage and with a bank. I have one more meeting lined up next week with a different bank. All of the rates we’ve been offered so far are lower than we’re currently paying, which is great, but I don’t feel like I’ve found the best deal yet.

Any advice to help us through our mortgage renewal?

 

 

Farm-iversary 4

As I write this the dog is asleep beside the fire. The cat is in the barn. The house is cozy. I look through the window and in the glow from the barn lights I can see the snow covering the ground. Beyond that there are trees, trails, fields, ponds, creeks. Together, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted when I thought of home.

Sunrise over the farm

Today is the fourth anniversary of the day the farm became ours.

Four years ago–actually long before that–we knew this is what we wanted. But the idea of a farm was abstract. We had no idea what it was to have a farm. Nor did we have any idea how much it was right for us.

So many people seem to share that dream of moving to the country. And it’s a beautiful dream.

The reality is also beautiful. In many ways it’s our dream come true. But in many ways it’s also more than we ever dreamed of.

While the reality is beautiful, it’s also hard–and we’re not farmers. This life, this type of property, this atmosphere isn’t for everyone. I think often that I’m so glad we’ve been able to hack it. We can handle the work. We can handle the drive to get anywhere. We can handle the winter… and the mosquitoes (summer) and the mud (spring) and the clean-up (fall). We can handle the complications and the scope and the challenges.

I don’t know how to describe quite what this farm means to me or what it’s like being here.

Matt and I in front of the farm

Matt and me on home inspection day 4 years ago

I’m grateful that Matt and I have been able to make this happen. That it’s turned out to be right for us. That we’ve made our dreams come true.

This is not the post I planned to write for our farm-iversary. And I want to add disclaimers about more work to do and renovations and landscaping. But tonight those don’t seem to matter. Four years ago, I started to live one of my dreams. It’s been a pretty amazing opportunity. Something I don’t take for granted and that is incredibly meaningful for me. And I guess I wanted to say that here.