Dealing with disappointment

We found a perfect piece of land. We loved it. My exact words were “I lovey dovey love it.” We put in an offer, and although the land had been on the market nearly two years, the sellers got another offer at the same time and accepted the other offer. That was quite an unpleasant surprise.

This whole thing relates to something I believe about marriage. You don’t marry your soulmate. I believe you marry someone who fits you pretty well, and then over years and decades of self-sacrificing love, you become each other’s soulmate. I think the same is true of whatever land becomes our farm. We have certain guidelines for the land we will purchase. But it won’t be perfect when we buy it. After years of hard labor, it will probably get better, and look a lot more like our dream land. It definitely won’t start off looking like that though.

So, off we go again to look at a few more properties!

Red-letter day

Does it ever feel to you that you trudge along for a while and then all of a sudden you have one glorious, terrific, everything-comes-together kind of day? Today was that kind of day.

It didn’t really start out great. For the last couple of weeks Andrew has had very little paying work. We are learning to trust, one day at a time, and this was definitely an exercise in faith. March was one of our best months yet, and February was just about $100 better than March, so we were hoping and praying April would be another of the same. One-third of the way through the month, though, and there wasn’t much. And then last night something was acting weird, and this morning two clients called and said things were broken, so Andrew was kind of flustered on his way out the door.

Then, like, every one of his major clients had things for him to do today. He got his minimum number of hours for the week TODAY. He figured out the weird thing, and the broken things, and got a call from a minor client who wants to do a major building project. Like next week. They’re meeting to talk about Andrew’s proposal tomorrow.

And then, our wonderful CPA has been working on our taxes for a LONG time. GOD BLESS CPAS. All of them, but ours especially. Andrew has been a beast about saving money this year. He saved over 30% of our income for taxes. And today, after waiting on pins and needles to see how much we would owe in taxes, we owe about 12% of our income. Not 30.

Twelve.

We totally sent our CPA a nice gift basket as a thank you.

So, y’all, do the math; we have a lot more money for our down payment than we thought we would. It doesn’t mean we need to spend it all, but we are going to pursue an incredibly gorgeous piece of land we found, that we can now nearly certainly afford to buy. (Ag loans require at least 20% down; we would have no trouble with the monthly payment, but that big cash outlay has taken a long time to save up.)

And THEN, on top of all this business, and finding us in possession of more cash than we thought we had, we decided to max out my 2014 contribution to my IRA. We were saying it was a little disappointing to take money from the down payment fund to put towards retirement, but we agreed it was better for us in the long term. In the next hour, Andrew sold a super specific and random camera part on eBay. When he looked at his PayPal account, he saw that it was, within $100, the amount we needed to complete my full IRA contribution.

Plus the girls and I got to climb trees and play in the rain.   

I just have to say, prayer works. We had a thunderstorm last night which woke up most of the family. Since I was awake already, I prayed. I prayed as a daughter talking to her dad. I told God that although I would follow his lead in wherever we ended up, I love this certain property that we are pursuing. So please, if it’s the right one, could we have it. That was it. Then today when Andrew was having trouble, I prayed for him. I don’t spend hours on my knees entreating someone to listen. I just calm myself, say what needs to be said, say thank you, and I’m done.

So, thank you God. Thank you for this red-letter day, and thank you for teaching us to believe.

Learning about money 

Our Ellie girl is 4 years old, and has never really shown interest in money. However, recently, she and her daddy were at Sam’s club, and she spotted something.   

 “DADDY! LET’S GET THAT CLUBHOUSE! I LOVE IT!”

Never one to miss an opportunity for teaching, Andrew offered her a deal. If she worked to earn money for the clubhouse, we would match it. The one they saw was only about $600, so if she earned a dollar a day, she’d have it in a year. 

Ever since then, we have been offering her opportunities to earn money by doing chores around the house. We never pressure her to do the work, but we always say that she can choose whether she wants to play, or do the chore and earn a money for her clubhouse. We have a big glass container for the cash, and Andrew taped a picture of the wooden play structure to the outside. Every time Ellie chooses to clean up, or help with the laundry, or volunteers to help with something, we reward her with some money. Then we talk about what the money is going to buy! It’s a fun way for us to help teach her many different lessons, like delayed gratification, working toward a goal, and the concept of intrinsic motivation.

 

Today they asked to help with the laundry, so they each got a nickel when all the laundry was in the dryer!

Plus, now when Andrew and I go to work, we can explain to Ellie that we are also working so that we can save up and buy things that we are excited about, like chickens or a tractor. Or a septic system. Maybe not as glamourous or fun as a clubhouse, but another step on the way to our dream!  

Full time trailer living

Welllll….remember how I said I didn’t want to live in a travel trailer?

We are going to live in a fifth wheel travel trailer. (and build the steel building too)

And now the Reasons! So, right now we live in an apartment. We moved here in September 2014 knowing it was temporary, so we signed a 10 month lease, figuring we would know better what our financial situation was by July 2015, and when we could buy land. Here we are in March and we know that we can afford payments on the kind of property we’d like to have, and we’re also reallllly close to having 20% down. However, we knew we couldn’t afford both the monthly payments on our new land and our current apartment. We needed a place to live while building the house, a place that wasn’t in an expensive area, was close to the land so Andrew could build the house, etc. Lots of requirements. Andrew brought up the idea of the travel trailer again, and this time I wasn’t so resistant to the idea. Mainly because we would be building the house during our trailer stay, and the trailer would not be permanent.

Where will the trailer live? Excellent question. Don’t know exactly. If we have our land by July, and if the land has electric and water, and if we can get a septic system installed quickly, we will put the trailer on the land. If the land isn’t ready when the trailer is done, we will probably live in a nearby RV park.

I’m glad we decided this now, because we are buying the trailer new and ordering it custom built, which takes 8-12 weeks. Not everything in the trailer will be customized, but we have some options. We are getting double pane windows, for instance, and a bigger refrigerator rather than an extra cupboard. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Want to see some pictures?

Above is the floor plan. Starting on the left, there is a full second bathroom with a tiny tub to wash small people. It has a door to the outside, which I think will be great for messy little girls who need to run in to use the toilet in the midst of their outdoor adventures. Then there is the girls’ room. It’s a bunkhouse. Ellie will have the bunk above the outdoor kitchen. On the opposite side, we will put a bed for Emily where the optional sofabed is pictured. Above that there is an additional bunk which we will turn into toy and clothing storage.

Then you have the kitchen/dining room/living area. We’ll get a table with four chairs and a love seat with storage underneath.

The master bath has a nice size shower, and we will get the king bed in the master bedroom. There are laundry hookups in the master closet. We already have a full size washer and dryer, so we will probably not be buying a smaller washer to fit the space; we have a couple different options we would like to pursue before buying an appliance we already have.

The kitchen, with the optional bigger refrigerator, which we will get. It’s tiny! But it’s awfully nice for a trailer! We won’t have a TV in the trailer at all; that space above the cupboards would be much better used as pantry space than for a TV. And we have plenty of mobile devices for whatever TV watching we will want to do out in the country. Which will probably not be much!

Living area. Our sofa will have the storage under as pictured here. There’s also that little bench for sitting and reading. We’ll get the same swirly design in the upholstery, but lighter leather.

Master bedroom! My favorite part, besides the king bed, is the little windows on either side of the bed.

Ellie’s side of the bunk room. We won’t have a TV there. You can see the wardrobe to the left; that’ll be nice to have for their clothing.

Here’s the full bunk room; Emily’s bed will be where the sofabed currently is, and above will be storage of toys. The door leads to the bathroom.

Lots of light! And it looks huge with the wide-angle lens!

Regarding paying for it: We will be financing this for 15 years, and paying a very small monthly payment on it. If we get to the end of our lease and need to live in an RV park, the cost of the loan plus the cost of the RV park is far less what we pay for the apartment. This option is really the best one all around. It’s going to be weird living in about 600 square feet, but it will be SO worth it to take the next step toward our dream!

Now I have four months to purge a whole LOT of our belongings!!!

The right time

For so long we’ve been dreaming about buying land and becoming country people. We are so close. So, so close.

Tonight I was pondering this whole process and it reminded me of wondering, when I was hugely pregnant and antsy to go into labor, when the right time was to leave the house and go to the birth center. It’s not a perfect analogy, but in both cases, you don’t know when it’s time to go until it’s time to go. Then you know. But you have to be ready to go for a good long time before it’s time to go, so that when it’s time to go you’re not caught unawares.

To that end, we are both finding ways every day to improve ourselves. My current category of Improve Thyself is in physical fitness. I’m a pretty strong person, but I can be stronger. And I like having visible muscles. Now my girls and I have weights we work out with (well, ok, the girls make the kettlebells race around the floor making zooming car noises). Ellie tells me that we are getting stronger so we can have a farm.

Oh I have to write this down. For the longest time, Andrew and I have talked and talked about our farm. We have made a game of mentioning something awesome, and then saying, “Can we have that on our farm?” When Andrew and I did it to each other, it was mostly to introduce the girls to the things we plan to have on our farm. Things like a playhouse for the girls, chickens, a tractor, cows, a big garden, etc. Ellie’s taken this to a new level. One day we were driving and went past a construction site. I heard the cutest little voice from the back seat. “Can we have a construction site at our farm??” And, well, the answer was yes! Of course! We will be building a house, so yes! Now when she thinks of fun things, she asks if we can have them on our farm. Some things I can think of are: a train, a school bus, a roller coaster, kitties, lots of dogs, and probably many more I can’t remember now. Ah, this is fun. I’m so glad the girls will grow up as country kids. What a full life it will be.

Farm home

For the longest time, Andrew and I were at odds about what kind of home to build on our farm land. The main thing that is important to us is being able to build it quickly. We are in an apartment right now in a fairly expensive part of the DFW metroplex. We LOVE this area and feel very privileged to be able to live here, but paying rent and paying on the loan for the property at the same time is a lot. So once we have the property, we want to be able to settle there quickly.

We were aware of two options: mobile homes and travel trailers. I leaned more toward a mobile home. They are bigger for the price you pay, they’re pretty easy to get set up, and you can settle in one for a while. I shared a mobile home with a roommate when I was in grad school and it was a really good experience. Andrew wasn’t as big a fan of a mobile home, mainly because they’re badly built and require a lot of maintenance. And buying a new one isn’t too far off building a small, decent home in terms of price.

Andrew liked the idea of buying and living in a travel trailer. To him, you could get something pretty nice for the money, and have it to use for travel once you’re done living in it. I was pretty firmly opposed to the idea because two small children plus me in a travel trailer all day sounds awful. And the kitchens are just terrible. They’re designed for temporary living, and the idea was to keep us uncomfortable in the living space so that we would be motivated to build ourselves a farm home. It definitely would have worked! I would have been awfully uncomfortable in such a small space.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Andrew and I had different opinions about the matter, but we are that couple that just never fights. We disagreed on which kind of house we’d want to put on the land, but we weren’t putting a lot of energy into it. Just kind of waiting for the right compromise to show itself. And it did! We are putting a steel building on our land.

You’re probably familiar with steel buildings, but in the commercial sector more than the residential. Businesses use them as sheds, farms use them as barns, and churches will sometimes use them for their services. We’d thrown around the idea of getting a pretty big one to use as a tractor shed/shop/storage barn. Then Andrew found this picture:

Steel house

Awfully pretty for a steel building, eh? And, even better, steel buildings are fairly cheap. And really well made. And can be very well insulated – super important for Texas. Through some research, bargaining, and a Black Friday special, we have put our deposit down on a 40×32 steel building that we will end up getting for nearly half price. We will get the building envelope; that is, the walls and roof, and the engineering specs to use for building inspections. Andrew is doing most of the legwork for this portion of the farm project. He got the awesome deal and has been working hard on drafting the plans for the house while, you know, building a small business, being a great daddy, and being all around awesome. He has been learning so much about building a home, specifically in Texas, and has lots of great thoughts about windows and doors and spray foam insulation and basements. I love that our dream is one significant step closer to reality!