How it Started

Our house in 2010 when we bought it

There’s a few beginnings I could start at. I could start with our childhoods. I could start with this past winter preparing. I could start with when we met, our farm experiences, our first dog together, our respective experiences with farms.

In time.

But this time I’ll start with the simplest place:

Our house. Or should I say our homestead? Our microfarm?–I almost want to laugh at myself typing it, but that’s because I have trouble taking myself seriously until I do something serious.

By May 2010, we realized something had to change. Mike lived with his siblings in a house his grandparents paid for; I lived somewhere between his house, my parents’ house and my car (the closet). We had been together for two years, so commitment wasn’t a concern, but paying someone else’s mortgage was not high on our list. The next logical step was easy: buy a house.

We both worked in Washington, D.C. Commuting is a problem, so we couldn’t move too far–if our 15-mile commute took an hour and fifteen minutes, we didn’t want to see what a 60+ mile commute would take. Mike wouldn’t leave Maryland, so our search didn’t spread past Maryland. Back then, I swore up and down that I wanted to live by the bay and that heading towards the foothills of the mountains would be a disaster, but Mike’s reason won: we could always move towards the bay later, we had more options for houses in other areas and we had more options for commuting routes.

So Frederick it was.

We looked all over the county. We followed our realtor around unfamiliar bends and sped up and down hills while our stomachs dropped. When our realtor wasn’t wining and dining us or opening up houses for us to look at, we drove around with our friend to find houses with “For Sale” signs out front. We found many that were out of our price range; I was told I didn’t want to live on the same street as a river (in retrospect, this was a wise choice); we went into foreclosed houses with mold spread throughout the basement; we looked at a house that felt like murder.

One night in June, our realtor had to leave early. Before he left the house we were stumbling around, he gave us a slip of paper with four numbers on it. These were the numbers that would open the next house. No one would be with us. It was late in the evening and we were ready to get home. It was our third or fourth house of the night. We had work in the morning. We’d looked at countless houses, empty of promises. We’d already put an offer on a house and lost it.

So we didn’t expect much.

We followed the GPS right up to a row of mailboxes. The house number was on the first mailbox, but when we looked around, there were no “For Sale” signs. There was a house with five cars in a driveway, and a house overgrown with vines and garden ornaments, but no sign.

So we backed down the road and past–

What was that?

Was that a small section of forest? Someone’s backyard? No, that was a house for sale.

Hidden among 60-foot spruce trees, untrimmed, was a poorly kept gravel driveway and a “For Sale” sign on the corner.

We’d found our house.

We expected little, but were impressed with the inside. I left that house with a warm buzz in my veins; I didn’t want to look at the next house of the night. I knew we had found the house. It had a yard for the dogs; it had wood floors; it had a good feeling. I don’t know what made the house perfect. It’s a modestly sized house with one bathroom. The basement was unfinished and smelled like water. The spruce trees could take out the house with one stiff wind. But I wanted it.

I think within the next week we’d placed the offer. We spent one long Saturday negotiating through our realtor, then six long weeks of failed tests and questionable inspections, but we made it.
That was the beginning. A somewhat bedraggled canvas, ready to be worked.The first thing Mike did? Start to trim back the trees.

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