Monday, March 12, 2007

Sunday's Land Search Update

Yesterday we

1. Drove to the lot we'd like to sell/exchange and did some calling around to see recent sales activity on nearby lots in order to have a comparison. The lot would have sold for about twice what it will right now, which was what we expected, but you still don't like to hear it. The other bit of news is that although those lots, being waterfront, will one day be prime, since they're not very developed out in that area right now (I'd call that a plus!), they're not really selling quickly. About four lots on the same street have been sitting there for sale for a year and a half.

Another property has been built on, and the house is nearing completion. We walked his property line back to the waterfront, and it's simply beautiful. It's still wild out there, and it's like something out of National Geographic. It has Gulf access, but can't accomodate tall boats, since there's only 6' clearance, a small bridge, I believe. I'd LOVE to live there, but there are already restrictions, such as no agriculture or livestock. It's going to be posh there someday. We need to sell it so we can get some useable land...that was still our conclusion.

2. I was bummed because it doesn't appear we'll be able to sell the lot quickly or for the best price...yet. I'm trying to get over being bummed about this.

3. We drove to some of the further outlying areas to check out some of the properties the realtor had sent us MLS print-outs about. We noodled around one property a good bit of the afternoon, since it was an adventure! The MLS listing had the road name with three question marks following it...heheh...and the directions were something along the lines of "turn down so-and-so road and follow the paved road X amount of miles till it becomes a dirt road. Continue on the dirt road X miles until you come to so-and-so, and it will be on your left." It described the property as being an old orchard (realtor-speak for "what's left of an old dead orange grove") on 10 acres.

What we could find of it had its pluses and minuses. A plus was the progression of signs, handmade, announcing the proximity to a Goat Farm. As we passed the Goat Farm, it was plastered with For Sale signs, and was located under (exactly underneath) a series of unavoidably predominant high voltage power lines. These sort are on realllllly tall concrete poles rather than those Eiffel tower sort, but they're huge and incongruent with the pleasant country views.

We drove down the road, ticking off the mileage count, and ended up road anywhere. (FUN...I was having more fun by the minute, lol...I love getting lost on back roads!) There were active orange groves all along our route driving in, to the left. In fact, some of the orange tree limbs were brushing the sides of our truck, and we literally reached out the window and nabbed a couple for a sweet treat. We ended up in a barren field with a single tree and a bunch of bee hives. We sat there for a bit with the windows rolled down, listening to the bees and watching their orchard patrol. I love bees!

The only place remotely fitting the pictures and descriptions on our MLS sheet was straight ahead through the bare field. There was one path, and we eased the truck down it. It didnt take long to realize there were sheer dropoffs on either side, to what appeared to be Pure D Swamp. Eeek! We backed out by J getting out of the truck every so often, gauging where the tires should go, and easing it in reverse all the way back. We got out and walked it, and decided it did NOT fit the was a hidden wetland with birds that were exquisite. We heard a lot of bigger animal sort of rustlings in the brush, and since we'd seen two huge wild boars off the main road on the way in, we decided that the truck was a safer conveyance at that point.

We nearly gave up on finding the right place at all, but then again, that adds to the fun even more! On our way out, back to the highway again, we passed a man riding a four wheeler just in front of the goat farm. We asked him a few questions and he scratched his head at our directions, and then had a lightbulb moment and said "Oh! you mean that back property. Well, where the dirt road ends, you have to just drive straight between the power line poles all the way back till you get to a gate and you'll see the property right THERE."

And so tomorrow, we'll do just that (or at least TRY) ;-) (I can't wait!)

4. We have no idea how we'll manage to get from having a few non agricultural lots to having any sort of agricultural property, since in most of our tooling around today, with the exception of the orange grove adventure, all the for sale signs we called about were for properties with enormously-out-of-range prices. Ridiculous, in fact. If I had that much money, I'd be buying an entire county somewhere in the Deep South or Midwest. Ah well... We did conversational gymnastics brainstorming for all sorts of ideas. We still havent come up with much yet.

But hope burns (and burns and burns) eternal...

5. I came home and had a little weep. Yes, it sounds like I'm a complete wimp, but I'm not, at least not completely. Only a few years ago, I'd put money down on 10 acres in Missouri outside of a small town I loved, and it was a fraction of what it costs here just to breathe air. Then I met my hubby, and here we Florida, and I didnt buy the Missouri land. I love so many things about this state, most especially my husband (who has to stay here) but I simply hate the inflated prices of so many things, especially land. In the areas rural to where we live, you're incredibly lucky if you can find 5 acres for $125,000 way out in the boonies, and not very desirable land. You contend with disclosure issues such as whether a property is in a flood zone or has environmental restrictions, blah blah blah.

Yeah, I know, wah wah wah...grow up already :) I do get homesick for those rolling hills, creeks, woods, and Tennessee sights...that's just normal after having lived there most of my life :) so I had my little pity party and then got over myself...

6. Oh yes, and we took pictures of something we saw on our drive yesterday...something J wants to build if we ever have need of it. A large covered pole-type shed (the sort with no sides, but just columns and a huge roof to cover everything.) Except he has nurtured the idea of having the poles be concrete rather than wood or metal.

What do you know, there in the middle of nowhere today was just such a shed, and the man had constructed the poles from column forms into which you pour concrete. It was about 17 1/2 feet high from the concrete poured pad foundation to the bottom edge of the trusses, which were anchored (or whatever you call those metal plate thingies that steady everything) about every 18 inches. J had his moment, and he was gleeful when the owner, who was relaxing nearby, engaged him in an enthusiastic conversation all about the details. I was shown every exciting detail, and I enjoyed watching the two men talking about this so animately, which was the actual fun part for me. Yes, we took snapshots.

7. Oh yes...and Pole Shed Dude asked what we'd like to do with acreage if we were able to buy any (after he regaled us with tales of how expensive they all are). We said we'd like to put some small animals on it and have an organic garden. He tried to discourage us from having any sort of livestock, and cited examples of farmers overgrazing small properties with too many cattle, and then went on to describe out expensive it would be for us to grain feed the cattle. I told him we wanted to do only organic, and he said "where do you think you'll get organic feed or hay around HERE? I don't know of ANYwhere in Florida you can get THAT."

Well, hmmm. Note to self to research that, too. If we kept things very small as far as numbers of animals, and did a really healthy soil and cover crop/grass management/rotation, would we really be that dependent on additional feeds?

When we told him we're not sure what types of animals we want, but we know we'd like chicken, and any other animals would have to be smaller variety livestock, he poo poohed the idea of grass fed anything, and told us grass fed animals have awful tasting meat, especially cows. I told him that if we got 5 acres, surely that would be enough to have two or three Dexter cattle, or perhaps a few sheep or goats, he then described to my husband how he used to process his own animals "back in the day" and it grossed him out so badly that he doesn't even have animals any more.

We were all chuckling...he was a nice man. We teased him and mentioned you don't have to eat chickens to eat their eggs, and goats and cows give great milk. I told him I'm fainthearted about chopping off chicken heads (and I may just keep hens for the eggs, I don't know yet), but if any processing gets done, J gets to be the henchman, and I'm the cook. His eyes were already glazed over with disinterest in Anything Agriculture, and he sat there happily admiring his powerboat. I'll have to agree with him that in the absence of anything to farm, fishing is an awful lot of fun :)

8. Then I came home and looked up the pros and con arguments online about power line proximity, orange grove soil acidity and cover crops (couldnt find anything about whether animals can forage old groves or if the acidity would be bad for them?). I still need to do research about the retention of sprayed chemicals in soil and water tables in those areas, but I'm not sure where to find real facts on that. We want to do only organic, but would be be getting constantly contaminated from surrounding orchard spraying and runoff, not to mention the years of accumulated chemicals in the soil and water? Even if it doesnt apply to our situation and this grove, judging from the MLS listings, some old defunct groves are more affordable finds financially than standard acreage, probably because they need a lot of work. Any facts we find out now will only help us down the road with making better-informed decisions and having fewer regrets, hopefully.

8. I need to research the possibility of straight property exchanges. I nothing whatsoever about them. If anyone's had experience, good or bad, with that, I'd love to hear your advice on this...and on any of the above issues!

OK, must rest so we can gallavant one more day (later this morning). R doesnt have school and is going to the beach with friends. Yesterday she laid out for a bit, mowed a bit of the yard (her weekly contribution), worked a half day, and went bowling during the evening with her gang of friends (all of whom are really great and I like). Today she gets to play...I think they're all going to the beach together. And THAT is surely one of the perks of living in Florida! :)

Nuff for now...update after another day's outing! Let's see if we can find that'll be fun trying again. And there are a ton of other listings we want to peek at. We need to get to know the area and see what's what, and somehow just seeing it on a map isnt quite the same.

More later!


e4 said...

If you're researching grazing animals, see if you can get a copy of "All Flesh is Grass" or "The Contrary Farmer" from Gene Logsdon.

Here in Ohio where he farms, the ideas he wrote about 15 years ago are now actually being taught and advocated (more or less) by the county extension agencies.

Not everything he writes will translate directly to Florida, but the overriding concepts are fairly universal.

Robbyn said...

I need to get both of those books, since I see references to them so often. My husband is more or less leaving some of the direction of what animals to choose up to me, since he's fascinated by the technical and building end of things, in which he really excels...and which he loves. We're considering a 3 acre property that has half pasture and half virgin Floridian woods, if God works out the details so we can get this. If so, I was thinking of really hardy smaller animals with multiple uses, that would not be as hard on the land. Your suggestion is timely...I need to go find these at the library right away as we're in the planning stages. Some of our initial thoughts on animals include heritage breed chickens, a lowline breed milk cow (or two so it's not lonely), rabbits in hutches (for fertilizer production, not for eating) and Soay sheep, a seemingly hardy primitive breed that might be well-suited for a small property. I don't know if that's too many animals, or the right sort. I don't know how to transport animals long distances if we hone in on a breed the farmers around here don't usually raise...

Time to go find those books...thanks!