Tuesday, September 20, 2011

#98 - I Want to be a Country Life Graduate

First of all, we got WONDERFUL rains yesterday and last night! Our ground is so thirsty. The drought in Texas has been devastating. This past week on the news it was reported how Houston has lost beautiful trees centuries old that are dying left and right because of the drought. These trees are irreplaceable...for generations. Foundations are cracking, livestock are dying, lakes are drying up and there is so much deadwood everywhere that it is staggering. And our water bills...don't even ask. Therefore, this burst of drenching rain is surely just what the weather-doctor ordered for many ailing plants to make it off the critical list.

So, yesterday, as we were running around to take care of a few tasks before the storms hit, I was staring at the storm drains whizzing by as we drove down the road, I was deep in thought about many details we will be forced to confront because we will be building a home in a rural will be taking place deep on our land, in a forest setting. Since a downpour was headed our way, I paid a bit more attention to the storm drains in our neighborhood here in the city...knowing these will not be included with our country property.

In the country, we do have culverts with ditches along the main road and these seem to work better than man-made drainage systems.

The first entrance to our acreage.
When you purchase a home in a developed neighborhood, you get to enjoy the freedom from having to think about every little detail that you must consider when building in the country. In the country, there is not a construction crew that enjoys connecting into city services for water, sewer, phone, cable, gas, and an engineering team has already taken care of stabilizing the soil, grading it and prepping it for foundation pours. Also, you have city police nearby to make sure the construction supplies and equipment won't be as likely to disappear in the middle of the night.

In the city, there are other things that are a given...nice roads to your paved driveway, fire hydrants located nearby, there is usually adequate street lighting and your fenced-in backyard provides a semblance of privacy.

A semblance.

Here in the city, we have a two-story with "beautiful" views...into our neighbor's backyards. We can't escape the view of neighbor's yards when gazing out a window unless we keep our eyes pasted to the sky. I like to look down at my chicken coop. Our yard may not be the prettiest yard, but we have the herbs and seasonal veggies (when not fighting a drought) and we now have daily fresh eggs.

Oh look...the single woman who lives behind our house just installed a hot-tub. Wow...won't that be cozy and sweet with a huge lack of privacy as she and her multiple boyfriends are surrounded by several two-story homes with bird's-eye views. She's a very nice lady, but she thoroughly enjoys her singlehood. Personally, it makes me hope that they continue with the construction and put up a hot-tub house. Plus, I sure am glad we're not raising teenage boys. City living can truly provide an education that you aren't necessarily ready to receive as you happen to see things you wished to have never seen.

The garden has been tilled and new seeds have been
sown and are sprouting for our Fall crops.
Of course, the bell pepper plants remain and a couple
of tomato plants are trying to rejuvenate.
I'm one of these people who protects my isn't a trash receptacle. As I always told my children, PROTECT your mind...use your good judgement as a first-line of defense and filter. Once disturbing images are there, you cannot hit "delete" and rid yourself of those mental flashbacks, they are permanent. How did I learn this? Well, in one weekend with friends, as a young adult, in New Orleans, I definitely joined the ranks of "I could've lived a good long life without seeing this kind of crap."

Another city problem...if we could only get the electric company to come out and do a proper job to raise the power box in the corner of our yard. It's been sinking for years. We've notified them repeatedly. One day, two men showed up and did a very poor job of trying to raise it while making comments about how these units EXPLODE because of being unlevel. Well then, level it, don't leave an explosion hazard in my backyard, please.

In the country, you don't have the same kind of problems as you do in the city. In the country you also won't have the expenses that come with those neighborhood association "perks." I'll water the trees at the entrance to my property myself, thank you very much.

The neighborhood we live in is full of city amenities. We are surrounded by parks, pools...even a wave pool a couple of miles down the road, the bay is within five minutes from our driveway and the metropolitan area is within a 25 minute drive into downtown. Everything is at our fingertips. But, we can't even find an empty picnic table at the park on weekends and the boat launch is covered in trash. Cities can have nice things to offer, but the population density can practically destroy it, especially if the population it attracts is not exactly mindful of trashing the place.

Considering everything that we need to be ready to confront, we realize that preparing to move to our land is not an easy task. Since our land has rolling hills, bluffs, creeks and plenty of wooded forested land, there are many construction challenges and concerns to address.

A major concern is to stabilize the main private road that runs through our property. We've had it leveled, had stabilizing material added, yet it still gets wet spots that can make you nearly run off the road or get fully stuck. So, first, we need to make sure our private road on the land is an all-weather, all-season road capable of handling the load of traffic with heavier equipment and daily use. If you live in the country, you already know that this is a tall order.

Our current road that is difficult to maintain, especially
since we're not living there full-time yet.
One big step that we'll finally be able to take by the end of October will be our appointment to meet officials with the Farm Service Agency and the Texas Forestry Department. Everyone will meet on our property. This coordinated effort will give us valuable details and educate us as to the resources available concerning our land. Supposedly, they will help draft a topographical map of our land, which will be a goldmine in helping us better understand the rolling, changing elevations in graphic detail. They will help us determine where to drill a well and how to best work around the spring fed creeks on our land.

This past year, we've had to continually postpone this appointment, mostly because of the severe drought. These services had had to make themselves completely available for last minute emergencies.

But, since we are getting some rain in The Big Thicket, we should be able to hold our meetings within the next few weeks. During our meeting, we will probably have soil samples taken from our land and these will be examined by Texas A&M so we can make the best choice for our cabin site.

These days, our preference is retro-camping style. Tent living
is pretty fun for the weekends. In good weather.
Since our land is surrounded by natural springs, there are certain areas where we sometimes have problems with water bubbling to the surface. We're not sure if this is due to the spring beneath the ground or due to a septic tank in the same area that is there for our RV. It will be interesting to find out where this excessive water is coming from.

Thankfully, the soil on our land is of the rich, loam variety from the years of raw acreage being allowed to naturally compost. But, this also means that our soil is very soft. There are layers of thick composted top soil. For construction to take place, I'd imagine that we'd need to dig down to reach the mineral layer of soil so that our structure will be solidly in place. Truly, I am eager to find out how our soil breaks down in the samples that will be taken for examination.

But, as we drove through our neighborhood in the city yesterday, I was snapping a few shots and feeling nostalgic about our plans to move. I glanced at all of the streets lined with huge houses nearly built on top of one another, smiled at the kids playing in their yards, then we turned onto our street.

As my husband angled the truck to back into our driveway, I looked around at all of the vehicles parked on every curb surrounding us and I remembered the reason for wanting to move. My niece can't even play in the front yard like I would do when growing up because the parking congestion on our street is horrendous after 3pm on weekdays and even worse on weekends.

Living in a city/suburb neighborhood was, at one time, awesome because the kids could play with each other; they could ride their bikes, skateboard and BE KIDS. In our current neighborhood, there is no possible way I'd let one of my kids ride a bike. I love going for a bike ride, but this neighborhood has two kinds of driveways...either a short-stumpy driveway or long single driveway...not adequate to hold parked vehicles for large families occupying these homes, so the cars of the teenagers and of visitors all end up in the street. Then, the RV's, boats and a jet ski in the driveways and pulled alongside the front curbs of houses take up much needed space. Then, you get the jerk who parks directly in front of your mailbox and prevents you from getting mail delivered. Yeah!

Neighborhood freedoms are dwindling. Front porches are pretty much gone. These days, we have front stoops. If you have plenty of space around your house to run and play, if you have room around your home that enables you to savor privacy and to be free from the neighbor's truck bumper blocking your ability to back out of your own driveway, then you are fortunate!

My moment of nostalgia quickly dissolved once we were parked in our driveway and I got to take a good look around at everyone crammed into their little yards, I again realized with strong feelings that this kind of life is no longer my heart's desire. I CRAVE the freedom that being on our land brings. Our house in the city is great for someone who loves living close to others and who enjoys all the crowded amenities that a city can offer, but our land beckons me to dare to enjoy a different way of life.

When on our land, we are blessed to be able to sit back and take in the scenery. We won't need a park because we'll have acres of front yard to enjoy. I won't have to leave my house to seek out a day in nature because my home will be tucked INSIDE the heart of nature. If we want to go fishing, we will only need to take a short walk to the back of our property to our private lake. And, our land in the country is situated in a County Seat, so there is still plenty to do city-wise, like eat, Deputy Dave and I love eating all kinds of food.

We city people dining at one of our favorite establishments.

What should we order?

Yes, I do eat leftovers on a regular basis.
Perhaps I am discontent with this Greater-Metropolitan type of life because I've already raised my kids. Then again, I often question the choice we made to raise our kids in the city. Truthfully, I wanted to consistently expose them to different cultures and the diversity of city living appealed to me greatly. I suppose it had its purpose in our lives, for a time. However, my focus has shifted...well, over the past decade it has indeed been shifting toward country living. It's not been an over-night shift. My entire life we've owned property in the country, but the past decade has found us making plans to get moved to the country full-time.

Since we're within approximately one year of leaving the city, we are finding ourselves experiencing the "senior itch" such as senior high-school and senior college students experience because they are in that last year with burn-out, but they are eager and nervous about beginning a new life. The "senior itch" comes with knowing the big change is coming; some days are sad, but most are full of elation.

With certainty, our land in the country has far more potential to meet our exact needs and desires at this time in our lives, more than any little plat of land in a development with cookie-cutter houses could offer. I've been glad to live in a cookie-cutter house for many years, I've been so thankful for my beautiful home, but I am ready to take the plunge and say "Adios" to the my city life so that I can again sit and enjoy front porch living.

Having a "senior itch" isn't always fun, but it will soon come to an end. Deputy Dave and I are working on our escape. It'll be awesome to finally graduate to country living full-time.


LindaG said...

You have a really great place to do it, too. Very lucky you were to land that perfect paradise. :)

I know this seems strange to say since most of Texas is still in a drought, but ask if there is any chance of flooding on your property. If there is, you may want to consider building your house up off the ground.

Hope your week is going well! :)

Mike said...

I was raised both city and country and experienced both lives as an adult. The city life is convenient but, no way out does the country. You are free. Free, I tell ya. You can do whatever your little heart desires out in it. I long for those days again. I hope I can re-establish myself out there before I leave. ;)

Karen said...
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