Finding the Farm


The Old Farmhouse and the Gothic Elm Tree

We spied the farm that wasn’t for sale in February when we were looking at another piece of property. We found the land for sale was way over priced and quite over developed. The sixty-acre parcel already had a pine plantation, three homes, and a large out building.

We came to the end of the seller’s property line, and beyond the taut deer fence I saw a broad, long meadow filled with tall grasses. “Is that part of this property,” I asked? Unfortunately it was not.  The meadow did not appear to have been planted with a crop.  Instead the vegetation was wild and unkempt as though the grasses could easily hide pheasant, quail, and other small animals.  Behind the realtor’s back I caught Bruce’s eye and gestured toward the meadow. The way he smiled let me know he’d already seen it.

The Meadow

We followed the realtor back through the pine plantation, past the cabin on the creek, past the mobile home, and the upper cabin to the portion of the parcel closest to the road. From this vantage we could see the top of the “not for sale” property.

A lonely dirt road wove its way one half mile back to a small dark farmhouse standing idly behind a huge elm tree and a tall, thin fir. The elm’s limbs flailed in every direction giving the homestead a gothic flare. West of the house I could see the top of an old barn that stood between the house and the lovely lower meadow. I heard the realtor saying, “the seller is really motivated to sell, and might accept a lower offer, if you decide you are interested.” I nodded my head all the while thinking about the other place and wondering who owned it.

Road into Mule Springs Farm

This is how we discovered the farm. We found out who owned the land and called him to see if he might be interested in selling. We left our message but didn’t hear back for two weeks, and by then we  had just about lost hope. John Carter, a cherry orchardist, was on vacation in Kona when we called. He and his wife were in the middle of an evacuation because of a tsunami, so he didn’t have time to return our call.

“No he had not thought of selling,” but “he’d think about it.”

Another week passed, and we waited expectantly. We had been looking for a place to buy near The Dalles, Oregon, near Bruce’s family, and close to the hospital where he worked, but each place we saw already had a house, barn, outbuildings and lots of farm animal damage.  This house was ready to fall down and ripe for replacement, and other than the barn, there were no other out buildings.  A group of twelve mules grazed on the rolling pastures leading to the old house, but they did not seem to have done much damage to the property overall. The place looked as close to wilderness as could be expected ten minutes from a city, and to us the abandoned farm seemed perfect.

John Carter called again while we were driving along a high road that passed through The Dalles Mountain Ranch, a massive historic cattle ranch. Yes he would sell, and he set a fair price. But, could the land be built on? The planning commission said only if it was a farm. Even a part-time farm, but the land needed to show at least 500.00 annual income.  Turns out the mules were there on a lease, and they brought an income of 1000.00 annually, so if we kept the mules, we could build the house.  Is anything ever this easy? No. The planning commission has a 160 acre requirement to build a house, and John Carter’s land was 157 acres, because in the 1960s the previous owner had sold several acres to the county road department for the new road. To make this deal work, John had to buy back those three acres. Plus John had to return water rights, because he had transferred some of this property’s water rights to his orchards below. So, the land deal was complicated, and we both had to hire an attorney, plus get consultants to give their opinion on soil, well and water rights, and have an agricultural survey done before we could close, which we finally did on June 15th. We call it Mule Springs Farm, and we have a barn to restore, a road and a house to build, and a farm to start. It’s a big project filled with loops and turns and possible set backs, but it provides us with a focus and a softening from the sting of leaving our long time home in Southeast Alaska.

So, as my good friend in Germany often says at the beginning of her day –“let’s get started.”

Pioneer Rose and the 1860s Farmhouse

10 thoughts on “Finding the Farm

  1. Congratulations, Sher. I hope you will find much happiness in making this very special place your own! I will be following your posts! 🙂

  2. The countryside is SO GREEN! because I live in a pretty hot & dry part of the world, to my eye, this Oregon landscape is brilliantly green. Love the yellow roses outside the farmhouse. To me, this wooden building is quintessentially American – wooden houses are a rarity here, due to tradition, hungry termites & fire hazards.

    1. Oh my goodness when I think green, I think of Southeast Alaska–to my eye this place is rather dry–such a difference depending on one’s perspective. 🙂 If not wood–what are your houses in South Africa mostly made of?

  3. I was introduced to your blog via my South-African penfriend. I loved reading about your hunt for a new home, and GOSH! What a lovely place it is going to be! It looks so beautiful there; green and lots of open space. Love that old farmhouse, just thinking about the history… I’m following your blog, and I’m wishing you all the very best for the future on your farm!

  4. hi sher omg your so lucky well if you decide you need extra free labour during building im sure i could pitch a tent lol, its almost like youve gone from one extreme (the cold) to the other( your pictures give me a feeling of lush sunny days with just the buzz of bees and the sway of trees for company)

    1. It truly is a different extreme, though it is a cool summer in Oregon, and we are slowly breaking into the heat. Yesterday was in the upper 90s though- here’s what i wrote before going into town today…
      The doe steadily grazes in the meadow while thunder cracks; the heat will break today.

      And so it did, we had a terrific rain; somewhat like a squall tearing through Southeast Alaska. And the temperatures have come down again–saving me from heat that I am truly not used too yet. 🙂

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