If a self-sufficient lifestyle was the only goal for our next project, we could probably make do on a quarter acre of land just about anywhere. What we're really yearning for, however, is a quiet spot in the woods—a place where we can be intimately involved in the rhythms of nature, watching the seasons change as we pursue our passions in relative seclusion among the trees.
In order to turn our dream into a reality, we've been thinking about an obvious first step in this process: finding the perfect piece of land. Unfortunately, how in the world we'll find the place we're dreaming of has not been so obvious. Nor has the answer to the question, "WHERE IN THE HECK SHOULD WE START LOOKING?" Here are just a few of the things we've been fretting and waffling back and forth about as we attempt to carve a path towards our goal:
Should we move closer to the mountains and the ocean, like we've always wanted? We don't have much family outside of the Midwest—would we regret moving away if we left?
What if we pick a bad spot? What if it's not "The One"? Is there even such a thing?
Why can't we just be guided by a sword like Inigo Montoya in the Princess Bride?
How in the world will we find our dream property in a place where the local government just happens to have the relaxed building codes that will probably be required for us to build our home how we please?
Will our landscape support solar and wind power?
How will we find an area that will remain safe from destructive environmental practices like fracking? How can we be sure that some subdivision isn't eventually going to be built right next door?
How can we find a relatively stable part of the country, considering the uncertain environmental times ahead? Should we have multiple generations in mind as we hunt for a homestead? How can we be sure our land won't become inhospitably hot in the next few decades?
As our friend, Greta asked: "Would you be happy being the weirdos in the neighborhood, or do need to be around your kind of people?" If we do we decide we want to be in a like-minded community, where will we find it?
To make sense of all these daunting quandaries, as well as the vastness of the options available to us in our home country, Tyler had a brilliant idea: we'd get a map, and work by process of elimination. So, we purchased a simple, colorful, two-dollar diagram of the USA from a teacher's supply shop, propped it up against a wall, and got out a big, fat sharpie.
If we couldn't figure out where we wanted to live, we could at least begin eliminating places we knew we didn't want to be. So, we crossed out all of the Southernmost states (too hot), and we X-ed out several states we'd seen on our road trip. It was exciting to visit the "wild west", but it just didn't feel like home.
We also eliminated most of the Midwest, save for Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan. We can't justify moving away from our families and still being in the middle of the US, no closer to mountains or ocean.
The act of slashing away at the map with a permanent marker has caused some of our anxiousness to fall away, dwindling in tandem with the number of places left to choose from. Also, we've been comforted by the fact that we already know what it is like to be at the brink of something huge that feels insurmountable.
This isn't the first time (and probably won't be the last) that we've pored over maps and planned a daunting, enormous project, breaking it down step by step, all the while feeling like our lives were in a permanent state of complete and total upheaval. We've done it once before—we know we can do it again.
Now that we're armed with a map and a choice between a dozen states instead of fifty, we've started focusing more on what we actively want, as opposed to what we don't. So far, this is our vague list of criteria, one we hope will help guide us towards our ideal piece of land:
Between ten and fifty acres.
Equal parts wooded and open space.
Water of some kind: a pond? a stream?
Within a day's drive of the ocean.
Within a day's drive of the mountains.
Within an hour or two of a major city.
Four distinct seasons. It can't get too hot in the summer, and there has to be a snowy winter.
The trees have to look right. No California bays or Colorado spruces—Oaks and maples feel like home.
It has to feel right immediately.
A nice community of like-minded people in the near vicinity.
Lots of local organic farms, farm stands, and farmer's markets!
Let the hunt begin!