I have been away for a week, at a show/Convention in San Jose that was a new venue for my jewelry. That is not what I was referring to, with the "exciting/frustrating" comment -- I didn't sell enough to pay the expenses of the trip, and that is just a bummer. First shows are always a risk -- it takes time for me to build a clientele. But that's not what I want to write about here. It is only intended to explain why I did not post something right away about what has us excited and frustrated.
Before I left for San Jose, we went to see a piece of land for sale, and it looks very promising in many ways as a potential home for Haven. It is a little over 23 acres, and within the range of prices we are considering. That combination by itself is hard to come by -- we are not rich, and want to buy in such a way as to serve our goal of getting out of debt as quickly as possible, rather than "buying up", as some people call it. The property is not perfect -- no property will be. But it has some significant pluses in addition to its imperfections.
It is a combination of cleared/cultivated and forested land, with a very good stream (for our purposes) running through it. Much of the land is steep, with a hogback rising up in it. Steep has both disadvantages and advantages:
-- its hard to climb, but it will give us exercise when we do so
-- it limits the area available for flat-land pursuits, like much building, gardening etc., but it also brings down the price of the property.
-- It provides a high place suitable for a temple and such, and a woods in which to retreat and commune with nature
-- it and the stream valley is covered in forest which limits the uses to which we can put that land, but reduces the property taxes
-- it is a home for wildlife and for many species of useful and beautiful trees and plants, and may be managed in such a way as to expand its potential as an edible forest garden, pasturage and fodder for animals, etc.
Unfortunately, the high parts of the land are along the south and west, and severely limit available southern exposure -- a very important need for passive solar heating and cooling of buildings. There is some southern exposure available in the roughly three acres of cleared, built and cultivated land, but not as much as I would like. If we buy this land, we will need to be very careful and thoughtful regarding what we site in the places that do have a southern exposure. Priority should be given to buildings requiring inner heat (e.g. homes) and food gardens/vines/trees.
Despite the fact that there are 23+ acres, we will need to consider seriously whether there is enough land suitable for the uses we all want to make of it.
Another somewhat dangerous advantage is that this piece of property actually has some "development" already done, unlike most pieces of land we have looked at so far. There is an old house, built in the early 1900's, midway through an extensive remodel, but habitable at a pinch. It could provide shelter while we build in cob to replace it, and ultimately serve as a Common House for gatherings, workshops, shared tasks, an outlet for products such as Shannon's "fluffy stuff" (various fleeces such as Alpaca, angora, etc), Lee's forged items, my jewelry... and such.
There are also outbuildings -- tool sheds, a chicken house, and a well house -- and a well! The later is a major plus, assuming the water is good and sufficient. I need to check that out with the county, as well as the state of the current septic system. Even the stream has already seen some development, some of which may serve us very well in setting up a microhydro electrical generation system. It has already been developed to provide irrigation to gardens, orchards, berries, grapes and other plantings. The owners started many, many projects, and seemed to have finished almost none of them -- but much of the work that they started is very compatible with what we have had in mind for Haven, and seems to be a good quality.
A major challenge and drawback may be zoning issues regarding allowed number of residences. I have obtained and carefully read through the applicable zoning regulations and limitations, and they do not allow for two official residences. It is time for me to carefully approach the county officials with a series of polite but persistent "What would it take...?" questions, given that our friends, (another couple, maybe two), and we have wanted to share the land, Haven, but not share the same house, long-term.
In fact, there is a lot of research to be done, and I was able to begin the process before I left for San Jose. Some of my findings so far are the source of some frustration, but the real frustration is that we almost certainly must sell Berkana House before we can even make an offer on this place.
In a way, it is good for us that there are so many disadvantages to this piece of property, in the eyes of most potential buyers -- much work to be done, and much steep land. That may allow us some hope that it will still be available when we are ready to buy. But the market is very slow right now, and I want to start building Haven NOW!!!
It can be so hard to be an Aries sometimes....
I need to do some number-crunching to determine whether it might be possible to make our move before Berkana House sells. A major part of that is getting pre-qualified for a loan, and that requires prepping some tax returns and such. Unfortunately, what may make buying possible before selling, from our perspective (monetary input from our friends toward costs), may not be something that loan officers will be willing to consider. I guess I have my work cut out for me.
We need to avoid getting our hearts set irrevocably on this particular piece of land, but damn! It is exciting.