Why do you want to live in the ass end of nowhere, anyway?

Sweet Zombie Jesus, I hardly even remember why, at this point.

Well, I say that, but then I do things like trip over the garbage can while trying to thread my way between my desk and the stack of HaldeCraft yarn without knocking the drying ceramics off onto the floor, and I’m all… SPACE. That’s why I want to live out in the ass end of nowhere. SPACE. And technically it’s not the ASS end. I’ve lived out in the ass end. This is more like… the elbow of nowhere.

Tim’s formative years were spent in a small town in the mountains of western North Carolina. The kind of town so small that when you say Cashiers, people just stare, so you say near Highlands, and they still just stare, so you say near Franklin, which it’s not really but maybe they’ve heard of it, but they STILL just stare, so you say southwest of Asheville and they nod, mostly to get you to stop talking. I don’t even want to show you on the map where it is, though, because it’s so breathtakingly beautiful up there I want to keep it to myself, like a secret jewel. It’s got one stoplight and even that seems a little excessive. Alton Brown says he’s had just about the best BBQ in his life there. The town is on the kind of road that hugs tight to the mountain as if it’s afraid of falling off the other side of itself, and the road curves so hard you wonder how anyone even gets a delivery truck up there, let alone an RV. Tim played in mountain waterfalls and went to school and had a part-time job and was close with his family and loved the land.

Close to the same stage of my life was spent on 40 acres here in Florida, halfway between Archer and Newberry out near Watermelon Pond (it’s ok, you can stare blankly). I both hated and loved it. Nobody wants to be 15 and stuck out in the middle of nowhere, unable to drive, with parents not willing to drive over an hour to let you walk around the mall with your friends on a Saturday. But the older I got, it felt less like a cage and more like a refuge. After I moved out, I would come back for weekends like some people go to the beach; for rest, for relaxation, for quiet reflection.

Tim and I have always wanted a bit of land. But things keep getting in the way of us making plans for that; me quitting a “real” job to open a yarn store, him getting laid off and not being able to find a job for a year, the yarn store closing and me becoming an artist/maker with HaldeCraft. I know, I know, as the man said, life is what happens when you’re making other plans. So last year we decided to go ahead and talk about exactly what we wanted. Then, on the last day of October, we went out to look at this place. Fifteen acres. A house that, while it is a mobile home, is a third larger than the house we live in now. And a finished workshop that’s surprisingly just a tad larger than the house. And as we’re walking around looking at it, I’m silently asking my dad, “did you send me to this? Because this place looks just like Tree Frog Farm.”

The pictures in this post? How each picture has two photos in it? One photo is from Tree Frog Farm; the other from the property we’re trying to buy. Getting closer to buying.

Compare4

I love the time
and in between
the calm inside me
In the space where I can breathe
I believe there is a distance I have wandered
To touch upon the years
of reaching out
and reaching in
Holding out, holding in

It seems like we’ve been trying to do this forever. I even gave up hope, really, in January, that it was ever going to happen. I wrote a bit about that yesterday. I had photos of the property as my desktop and laptop backgrounds, as the lock screen photo for my phone. I changed them all out for pictures of cats and dogs. I focused on work. I quit thinking about how I’d arrange a studio or where the couch would go or how nice it would be to look out the window and not see someone else’s house, someone else’s car, someone else’s barky dogs. I quit thinking how restful it would be to look out the window and just see… nature. As far as I could see.

Compare5

I believe
this is heaven to no one else but me
And I’ll defend it
long as I can be
Left here to linger
in silence
If I choose to
would you try to understand?

I’m not a big fan of mobile homes. Neither, it seems are lenders and insurance agents! I’m sure they have their own reasons, but my reasons have to do with AC/heater vents in the floor, where they dictate where you can put your furniture and where the cats and dogs will hog the airflow (turns out this mobile home has them in the ceiling – THANK GOODNESS). My reasons have to do with those damn ugly plastic faucet handles that I guess are supposed to look like fancy glass but just look like shitty plastic. I wonder if Tim would mind if I changed all those out? I can probably live inside one, for a few years, but I’d need a sweeping big porch to hide the front of it, make me think it’s not a mobile home. Guess who has already started planning a big sweeping porch? And we’re scouting out just where we’d like to build a new house, in a few years, after we’ve recovered from the drama of this.

Compare2

I know this love is passing time
passing through like liquid
I am drunk in my desire
But I love the way you smile at me
I love the way your hands reach out
and hold me near

Am I going to get lonely, living in the middle of nowhere? Fuck, I’m lonely now! We never have anyone over; our house is too crowded with stuff, with HaldeCraft things everywhere. We can sit exactly five people comfortably in the living room. More if they’re very, very good friends. We don’t have a dining room so we can’t have small intimate dinner parties… unless we only seat four and eat in front of the TV… then that shit is VERY intimate, because, crowded. What I found when I lived on Tree Frog Farm was that it was so far out there that when people came over, they stayed for the weekend. We always had people underfoot, and it was lovely. That’s what Tim and I want for this place. A place where our friends can come out for a night or two, play in Tim’s garden or in my art studio, have a bonfire, watch the dogs watch for foxes. Maybe get up early one morning and sit on the porch with cameras and coffee and wait for deer to walk by. Plus, we’ve given an extended invitation to Tim’s aunt and uncle, Cetty and Joe, to come and park their RV any time, for as long as they want. They live up in North Carolina, but Joe’s daughters live in South Florida — our area would be a nice place for them to winter, and take day or weekend trips down to see his daughters. And Cetty will love being able to be in my clay studio as much as possible. So, no. I don’t think we’ll be lonely.

Compare1

I believe, I, I believe
this is heaven to no one else but me
And I’ll defend it as long as I can be
Left here to linger
in silence
If I choose to
would you try to understand?

Something I do struggle with is trying not to overly defend the land as beautiful. The types of vistas that the average person considers beautiful, sweeping, are mountains, oceans, mountains near oceans. Florida beauty is… it’s a small beauty. You have to look close to see it. Personally I think Mother Nature does a pretty good job everywhere she goes, but the places I think are the most amazing are the untouched ones, or the ones reclaimed to original beauty. This 15 acres is probably at least 10 acres of pretty untouched Sandhill ecosystem. Amy is already talking about when we (well, the Division of Forestry) can do controlled burns out there, to work out the underbrush, cut back the oaks, set free the flower seeds and wire grass. For some reason, though, even though I see this type of land as a miracle, I often think other people won’t — like, it’s not a waterfall on a North Carolina mountainside, so you might be disappointed! So I was over the moon the other week when Tim’s parents were in town and we got to bring them, Amy, and Ranger Baby out to the property to show it off… and Tim’s parents loved the property for exactly what it is. And the two or three hours we spent out there… it was funny. Then we came back into Gainesville to go to Satchel’s, and driving into our neighborhood, that I see every day, I was thinking “this place is so ugly. The houses are so close together, and stubby.” The 15 acres already feels like home, in my heart.

Compare3

Oh the quiet child awaits the day when she can break free
The mold that clings like desperation
Mother can’t you see I’ve got to live my life the way I feel is right for me
Might not be right for you
but it’s right for me, oh

I always wondered what had possessed my parents to buy Tree Frog Farm. They never talked about looking for it; they just came home one Friday afternoon and said to pack everything I wanted to take (she was notorious for leaving boxes of stuff behind in attics or garages) because we were moving on Monday. And move we did… to 40 acres, five miles down the end of a limerock road. You could’t drive fast down that thing… it might take fifteen to twenty minutes just to get from the end of our property to a paved road… then another ten to fifteen to Archer… then another twenty to thirty to Gainesville. I forget which came first, the chickens or the cows. The chickens were, of course, for eggs. Somehow they got ducks, too… I’m not sure why, because they housed them near the chickens, not near the pond that was on the property. The pond was for the cows. Who always broke down or escaped the fence, but that’s another story. I’d read Watership Down three or four times already, and was allowed to get some rabbits. They got dogs – refused to get them fixed, which meant that we also had puppies. And we got some cats, which were fixed (well, up until those polydactyls), but we were always taking in strays so the cat population climbed slowly but surely. After the polydactyls the cat population tripled with kittens. Oh, and how could I forget to mention the sheep? And the two acres of apples, two acres of grapes, and two acres of blueberries? And the garden, which also took up about an acre? Again, I don’t know why they wanted to move out there.

Anyway. Why did they buy it? Was it to live more off the land? I can grok that, although I don’t think they realized (or maybe refused to realize?) how much time it takes to live off the land. You can’t hold down a full-time job in Gainesville and run a fully functional farm at the same time. It was a good thing Bill and Doris were often close, to help. And after I left, I would come and take care of things if they decided to go away for a convention weekend, or to travel.

I think it was the times I was there alone that I got to love the place even more, even though I felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of all those animals. It would have been perfect, but for all the livestock.

I’ve never seen stars like I have out at Tree Frog Farm. To take a blanket and go down to the orchard, lie back in the middle open area and watch the Milky Way spin above you? No lights from nearby houses (no nearby houses!). No streetlights. Just starlight, shining, twinkling. And the sounds of nature. Crickets. Tree frogs. Cicadas. Gopher Tortoises inching their way through the leaves. Quiet, alive sounds; no car doors, no sirens, no neighbors with loud parties.

Now I want to live in a place just like it, so I can see those stars again, and have that sense of calm, that feeling of living with the land instead of in a city.
Compare6

I believe
this is heaven to no one else but me
And I’ll defend it as long as I can be
Left here to linger in silence
If I choose to
would you try to understand it?

I want to be able to live somewhere I love. I want to make a new home with my husband — after all, right now we live in the house I bought with my first husband, that I got in the divorce, that I didn’t love in the first place but we needed a place to live and were tired of apartments and it just sort of fell into our laps. I want a place to sit with my husband, my partner, my best friend, on our porch that we built together, watching the sunset through trees rather than on someone else’s house, a place that we chose together and both love.

And I’m tired of tripping over HaldeCraft in every room, of not being able to get to things without moving six other things first. I need a studio that’s not composed of three different rooms in my house. I love what I do with all my heart, but part of treating my art like a job is having the ability to step away from it, close the door on it and take a day off now and then. The beauty of working at home is that you can’t beat the commute. The down side is that you never leave work. It’s harder and harder to shut down my work brain at the end of the day when there’s something of HaldeCraft in every room. Buying land with a studio – a studio so large that I can grow in it for years to come – is vital to both the upkeep and flourishing of my work.

And what plans do we have for the studio! It’s going to be big enough to hold classes in, should I want to do that… or get guest lectures in for, should I be able to build up a community around the studio. We’re talking about a second electric kiln… and a wood-fire kiln… and a raku area… and a salt and a soda kiln… SO MANY PLANS. At least one more wheel, so Cetty and I can both throw at the same time. Then maybe a third, if Cetty expresses an interest in teaching. A few years ago we looked into hosting what we were calling HaldeCamp; a weekend-long arts & craft gathering. At that point we were looking at a State Park, and I just got overwhelmed with how much work was going to go into it, and backed down. But to have weekends like that, once or twice a year, at our home? Or monthly Saturday gatherings? As I said; such plans. Much wow.

Compare7

I would like to linger here in silence
If I choose to, would you understand it?
Would you try to understand?
Would you try to understand?
— Elsewhere; Sarah McLachlan

Lastly, I’m kind of surprised by the number of people who haven’t tried to warn me of the dangers of living in the middle of nowhere. Or, I shouldn’t say dangers as much as inconveniences. But here’s the beauty of the place we’re trying to buy: it’s deceptively in the middle of nowhere. It’s on an unpaved portion of a county-owned road that’s paved on both ends. Its not on city water – there’s a well and a septic tank – but it has all the modern conveniences of things like house mail delivery, curbside trash pickup, electricity, and phone service. Well, OK, phone service might actually be different than what we have now. But I’ve researched phone/cable/internet (especially Internet since my shop is almost entirely online) and it looks like if we get the loan and move, we will have a choice between AT&T doing phone and cable but not Internet; Dish Network doing cable and Internet but not phone; and Comcast, Excede, and Verizon doing all three (internet/phone/cable). I can tell you right now we won’t be going with Comcast – I’ve never heard anything good about them (in fact, what I’ve heard is so negative as to be the stuff of campfire ghost stories). We probably won’t have pizza delivery, and I know we’re going to have to put a cooler in the car and buy ice at the grocery so our ice cream doesn’t melt… and we’ll have to pay better attention to running out of things like toilet paper and paper towels because it’ll be a pain to run out and get them… but also, the place we’re trying to buy is no farther away from a post office than the house we live in now. And the city park is at the other end of our road. We’re halfway in between two veterinary clinics (one of which also has a mobile vet attached to it, thank goodness – I haven’t used a vets office traditionally in probably fifteen years). There are three mom-and-pop style grocery stores within about ten miles. And Tim will still be driving into Gainesville every day for work, so it’s not like he can’t stop by Publix on his way home.

Gah. Why is this taking so long? Does the universe think I’ll appreciate this more if I really have to wait for it? If it’s dragged out until I can’t take it? Because I assure you, universe, I WILL APPRECIATE THIS PROPERTY. I am ready for it. Please to be selling it to me now, and thank you.

17 Comments

  1. Colette

    Hmm I could not at first find this place to comment so my comments are on a prior post. Wanted to add that we have used verizon for years, and now in the rv we still have phones and air card verizon, great internet and connectivity we use dish for our tv. And all of this travels with us.

    • Verizon is who I’m leaning towards – mostly because my cell service is already with them, and I’ve checked all over the property and the least I get out there on my phone is three bars… so I think Verizon might be where it’s at.

  2. I still do so hope things work out for you guys! So frustrating that it’s taking so long and leaving you so uncertain.

    By the way, off topic but I am so looking forward to seeing Sarah McLachlan at the end of the month! (Your lyrics reminded me it’s FINALLY coming up. Since I bought the tickets back in like November, it too has been awhile. LOL)

      • This will be my third time seeing her. First was about 20 years ago I saw her in Orlando. Barenaked Ladies opened for her and that was the first time I heard of them. They put on a great show!

        Next was probably 10 years ago or so when she came to the stadium in Tampa.

        Now, she’s playing in a much smaller setting called Ruth Eckerd Hall. It’s like 2,000 seat instead of 20,000 seat. I’m so excited!!

    • OMG. I saw Sarah live years ago when I lived in Atlanta… this was before Emily was born, so it would be… twenty years ago? She was touring with The Chieftains and I had never heard of her but fell in love with her immediately.

  3. Quinn

    I love the ideas you have for the current house that is there, the one you want to build, and the studio and land. I love that this place gives you so many ideas of what you can do, versus the what you can’t do where you are.

  4. nakhira

    Stars … I could live on bread and water, a pit toilet and fire for heat, as long as I have stars.

    Well, for a while, at least. Lucky you, to have running water and electricity.

    • Anne, we will have a guest room with your name on it!

      No, really — instead of a guest book, we’re going to make signs to hang on the door with our guests names, and then woodburn onto the back the dates they’ve stayed with us. <3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.