How Free Reign Farm Began


 Part 1 – The Farm House

 

I’m not sure anyone has ever walked up to a scarier looking property than ours used to be. If they have, I can promise you they left faster than cats run from water. The driveway was more weeds than blacktop. Nobody knows what color the house used to be, only parts of it were visible between the six foot high briars that had done their best to claim it. The front door was covered with poison ivy. If you made it past that you had to be careful not to slide across the floor of the landing. It sloped a good eight inches across six feet and if you started the slide you would land in the hole that dropped into the cellar. The ceiling was falling in most rooms. I counted six layers of carpet… which had apparently been laid AROUND  the pieces of furniture that used to call this place home, leaving a rather odd patchwork pattern on the floor.  Some very delirious individual with Easter egg purple and green paint on a sponge had decorated the walls, ceiling, and yes, even the bathtub with “artwork.”  A hole the size of a small pond graced the living room ceiling. No heating unit, pipes missing, windows that rattled in their frames as you walked across the floor, filth, dead “wild life”, a water heater-turned giant bee hive, and years of tobacco stain all added to the “charm” of the place.

Before we left, a neighbor felt the need to inform us of some of the home’s history. A string of drug users and their deaths (in the house of course) followed by a foreclosure, a bad storm and a giant tree knocking a hole in the roof. This hole remained open to wind and rain with the decaying tree on top of it for two years before the bank fixed it and slapped up the sale sign. Can you hear the cats running away yet?

Me? I signed a offer.

I’m sure whatever banker got that offer laughed so hard he fell off his chair when he signed that deal. I didn’t care. I saw home and a little piece of ground. Two days after closing I loaded a Volkswagen Beetle full of 5 dogs, 22 chickens (whom I’d been hiding in the storage shed in town) and two people and off we went. I can only imagine what the neighbors thought-but then anyone who would buy this place was bound to be a little crazy. There was a cinder block building on the property that had electricity and a complete roof with running water so we made the decision to live in that while we fixed the house. After all, it’s July and it won’t take THAT long to fix this place.

Six layers of carpet revealed what used to be hardwood floors… could have passed for driftwood now. Layers of paneling (4 to be exact) revealed cracked and crumbling plaster. It took three months of twelve hour days before the house went from looking like this:bathroom2

to looking like this: (note gaping holes in subfloor)bathroom

a couple more months of twelve hour days found it looking like this:thru2

Ok, so there’s still holes in the ceiling but at least you can walk without fear of paying the cellar an unexpected visit.

By November I was about fed up with living in the cinder block building. There was of course, no heat and concrete holds the chill quite well. (Why don’t they make freezers out of cinder blocks? Seriously!) The windows were… ahem, incomplete. (broken is such a harsh word) I can remember watching the first snow of the year blowing across my bed through the broken glass. I took to sleeping in a sleeping bag with my Carhartt on. (Ask hubby how much he liked THAT look!)  If ever a girl needed motivation to keep working on a house… the cold was it! By Dec the house looked like this:

DSC_0613

After the coldest winter and most grueling eight months of my life, we finally moved into a house that looked like this:DSC_0641

So what kind of fools live in a barn without heat, and take on projects that even the tax assessor says should be burnt down? The kind with a dream. A lifelong dream of farming on a little piece of land and living a simple, more natural lifestyle. This property, because it was “unlivable” gave us the opportunity to buy land outright and ultimately live completely debt-free. We practiced alot of reclaiming, recycling and doing-without (try cooking without counter tops for 6 months) to make the dream a reality.

However, the house was just the beginning… because you see, every farm needs a pasture and unfortunately it still looked like this: briars