Thursday, July 21, 2011

A new possibility

Tomorrow will be four months since we lost our farmhouse in Mankato to fire. Moving forward has definitely been a process. Initially we had to manage just the loss and the sadness of the whole thing: of losing a home that meant so much to us. We moved there in 1987 from California. Our kids were 12, 12, 7, 5 and 4. There were many years of challenges, especially financially as one would except with a household with five kids. Those lean years beget more years without the struggle of finances and as time moved on that place became a center for our family. There was just so much life that happened at the farm. Our life as a family, but, also the wonder of the wildlife and the diversity of life represented in the prairie/river valley acreage. Here are some pictures from my last visit a couple of days ago.
The dirt that you see and the bricks in the foreground
are the remains of the house
Brick pile that we will use for something like a brick terrace eventually

Some of the wildflowers
I think Jan planted at least a 1000 trees over our 24 years there. We lost probably half of them to wildlife, winter and other weather elements over the years. Everywhere you look on that property you can see the gentle hand of Jan in those trees, the lilac bushes, the ginella maples and the arbor vitaes that are planted all over the property. We had this idea that we would eventually plant almost every tree that is native to Minnesota on our property. We also hoped to restore at least two acres to a native prairie. That was to be this fall’s project. It is funny how life turns in ways that you do not expect. That is certainly the case with the fire and us. We are moving forward now. We have made a decision that feels right for us.

After exploring many options, including rebuilding, we have made a decision to not rebuild on the property and that we will eventually, maybe next year, sell the property. As I wrote before on this blog, we were shocked at the cost to rebuild. Rebuilding something similar to what we had before would cost more than it would ever be worth in the Mankato market. At our age, we cannot take that kind of a risk. After our trip to the Netherlands, Jan and I began thinking about other options and started looking in Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin for a lake type property. The recreational housing market has been hit hard by the down turn in the economy. For us, this means that there are many properties to choose from with acreage, woods, and various types of cabins.

We did a great deal of research on the geology, water quality, biomass, and population of both Northern Minnesota and North Western Wisconsin. After doing more research online of various properties, we narrowed our choices down to about 20 properties and went out to see all of those twenty properties over several long weekends. One place stood out for us above all the rest. After much thought and consideration we made an offer to purchase that place that stood out for us last week and our offer was accepted. We will close on August 12.

This place is situated on a small and quiet lake in the beautiful hilly countryside near Danbury, Wisconsin. This cabin is totally different than the farm. First of all it is in a coniferous/deciduous biome rather than the prairie/deciduous biome of Mankato. It will be a new place for our family to gather and to celebrate. I know that for certain. There are three bedrooms, all large so we can accommodate many people. It has a great room type kitchen, living and dining room combo with a large fireplace. Surrounding us are many hilly blacktop roads that will make for great biking for me as I continue to improve at cycling. Most of the furnishings were part of the deal, so we will not have to buy hardly anything. It is in a very, very quiet area of Northern Wisconsin. Did I say quiet???

Most of all, there is little maintenance to do on this property. This is a rest and recreation property that will finally allow my husband to do just that. I know he will fool around with trees and yes, we will plant some more, but there is little else that needs to be done. We can put in a garden and other things, but compared to our farm property: little effort.

We never would have looked for a lake property if the farm had not burned down. Of that we are also certain. Through the ashes of our farm came the vision for something very, very different for Jan and I and for our family. My DIL had an artist create a watercolor picture of our farmhouse. She gave it to me for mother’s day. It is beautiful. It will be the first thing we hang in the entryway. As we pass through the door of our new cabin we will always know what we passed through to get there. So, my friends that is what we have done. We are moving in a different direction than we ever thought possible. We both are planning for our retirements, too. We have a ways to go still, but it (retirement) is in sight. Enjoy a peek at our cabin location.
The lane down to our cabin
Hardwood trees in the woods. These lead down to the lake.
The steps down to our small lake
The dock
The porch
So, there you have it my friends. A new possibility for us and our family.
Thanks for stopping by. TTFN, Michele

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Balancing possibilities

How am I doing on my 2011 themes and my 5r’s of sabbatical? Today I will report on rest and recreation and others, along with some updates.

Rest and recreation:
Life in general and my year of sabbatical continue to be good and full of rest and relaxation. Summer is so short where I live in the Upper Midwest that I find myself enjoying every possible minute of outdoor time I can get. Lately I have been doing a good 10 miles or so a day of bike riding for exercise and fitness, with many days two or even three more rides that are more leisurely as I go fetch grandbabies or run some errands. I spend almost a part of every day with one or more of the grandbabies, too.

I think most people who know me will say that I am more balanced than I was before sabbatical. But, how can you help but not be more balanced when you do not have to report to your office and have the luxury to set your own hours? What I would say is that I am better at chunking off parts of each day for things that I enjoy, including my professional work and being okay with leaving something not as complete as I would like for the next time. I am one of those people who easily is drawn into the things that I enjoy. I definitely have flow. I am better at shutting it off.

But there is more to balance that I would like to share here. Maybe balance is not the right word. But, I will stick with it since it is one of my major themes for the 2011 year. Most of you reading this post know that we lost our hobby farmhouse to fire on March 22. Thankfully no one was injured. Neither us nor the firefighters that went in. I have written here before about the process of it all: first the grief, than the acceptance, and than the what’s next. I do not think one moves seamlessly through each of these stages. I know this because there are times when I think, or even dream, about being at the farm and I can feel the tears and emotions welling up. Like thinking about standing at the kitchen island with the grandbabies making some cookies and cutting them out, or looking out the window in the kitchen and seeing some of my favorite song birds right there in front of me or … well, you get the picture.

We are currently exploring our options as to what is next. We researched rebuilding and met with a contractor. Honestly, we were shocked at the cost to rebuild. Rebuilding something similar to what we had before will cost more than it would ever be worth in the Mankato market. We are exploring other options, now.

Over the last couple of weeks we have explored purchasing a different kind of property all together for us: a lake property in the north woods of Wisconsin and or Minnesota. The recreational housing market has been hit hard by the down turn in the economy. For us, this means that there are many properties to choose from with acreage, woods, and various types of cabins. In many ways it is an adventure for us, something we never, ever dreamed we would be doing. But because of the loss of our farm, something we can choose, if we so desire.

That choice in our minds is all about balance. We are in our late middle fifties. The loss of the farm has pushed to the surface many options, including retirement. Retirement was always something fuzzy in the horizon. Now it is tangible and nearer. I am not really ready to retire, now. But being on sabbatical has helped me to see, even though I for the most part enjoy the work I do tremendously, that retiring from the work I do will be a wonderful opportunity to explore other kinds of work that I have enjoyed this year, like writing and consulting. We are trying to figure out that balance of just how many more years we need or should work to be secure. Purchasing a possible recreational property is part of that balanced retirement equation for us. What I mean to say is that the fire, although horrible and sad, has opened a door of different possibilities for us. Out of the charred remnants some different vision for us is emerging. We will continue to explore our options and re-imagine the next years of our lives.

You can be sure there will be more to come. Thanks for reading and TTFN,