15 years in the same home in Germantown. A year or two in various houses in Madison. Less than a year in each of several houses in Boulder. A night here, a few days there, in the Old World and the Orient. Hours here and there, in my truck and tent in the American West. A permanent home, to a lease, to a hostel, to just a backpack and boots. And now, I have come back full circle. Wisconsin-home, and, specifically, home at The Farm. Here, very briefly, are the recent chapters in life as I transition from a living associated with 30 pounds of stuff on my back to a living rooted in people, 90 acres and a farmhouse.
In 2020 I bought a house in West Bend – a rental property with 1 retail unit, plus 3 residential units. Having been somewhat neglected for a decade and beat up by careless tenants, the house needed a good chunk of work. But, between Investment Advisor work, Summertime Play and the Garden, I only gave a half-focused effort to my new duties as a landlord/renovator. At the start of 2021, with Investment Advisor work wrapped up in retirement and the garden locked up in ice, I went all-in to the renovation of my West Bend property. To facilitate the “all-in” focus, I started living at the house. It was a somewhat spartan style of living, with a cot as my bed, a bin full of t-shirts and socks, no internet, no tv, 2 pots, 1 spork and no plates. The heat was set low and it was a perfect situation to work. And it was great fun. Many small exterior projects, new floors, new doors, new fixtures, new paint and shades and screens and appliances and trim – then the house was breathing new life and was turned into a place that I would be pleased to live (or own). If you want to buy it and gross $30,900 rent per year, it is available for sale right now :) https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/414-S-Main-St-West-Bend-WI-53095/2079880527_zpid/
The same day that I finished taking photos and listed the West Bend rental property on the MLS, I closed on the purchase of The Farm – 92 acres in Plymouth, WI. Farmcraft, our new business and home.
The Farm is the greatest and most worthwhile of adventures. So far, it continues the “all-in” focus mentality and spartan living style of the rental property renovation. It’s kind of like camping. “Glamping”, I guess. Glitter camping. I have my cot and sleeping bags. A bin full of clothes. A “house garage”, with tables, a propane burner, a sink, a mini-hot water heater, and, most recently and of great enjoyment, an outdoor plumbed-in hot water shower. Every day I wake up with the sun, check on the babies (the laying hens, the meat chickens, the garden and orchard and other plants), I foam roll on the driveway, and I get to work. Work means cleaning up the farm, building farm infrastructure, and “building-in” the house. The house is the most important and urgent focus. Building a high-quality “shelter” has brought me a previously unknown joy and satisfaction. I think perhaps we are wired, as humans, to build. More on this another time. For now, I will just say that it feels good and right to be fully engaged in using my hands, body and mind to build. The project is enormous, but I have nothing but time and a not-too-tight deadline to get the house sealed, warm and habitable by the deep of winter. Every day I learn so much, and every day commune with the generations of ancestor farmers, homesteaders and builders. In a day, hardly anything seems to happen, and in a week hardly much more seems to be accomplished. But the Farm and House have come a long way in 2 months, and I know that diligent effort and focus, day by day, without burning myself or anyone else out, will bring about an expedient and desirable outcome almost before I know it. Projects take time. The time will pass anyway. Might as well head boldly in the direction of the dream, and it has been incredible good fun and satisfaction to have the dream, the daily meaningful labor, the creative moments, the simple living, the solitude, and the occasional company and helping hands of family and friends. It is good to be here. I think I will stay.