so this next chapter didn’t come into existence over night. there were many conversations (some heated, some not) about our quality of life in the city. it had been over six years that we lived in our place, over six years of an hour plus commute each way to work, over one hundred six thousand miles on a car that was only 5 yrs old. it began about a year ago, and got really intense after our return from christmas holiday in january. something was off. we were out of sync, and totally at risk of losing each other. it had been a year since I had been thrust into taking on expanded responsibilities at work which included wading through some of the dirtiest politics I’ve ever seen (actually I think we are all wading through the aftermath of some pretty dirty politics), adding resources to my team, and managing the dynamics and challenges of very different personalities. I wasn’t myself, I was unhappy at work, tired of the commute, feeling cramped and suffocated in our home, and creatively dead. I created NO new work in 2016, none at all. I needed space. Space to think, to breath, stretch and create. I needed a new start, we needed a change, and we needed to figure it out quick.
in the spring of 2016 we began looking at places to live that would end the commute to the fruit. we found a few – the same price (or a little more) for tiny bit more space but NO commute. pulled the trigger on one, and I think the only reason we aren’t there now is the length of time it took the management company to let us know that we were approved. they had our deposit for over 10 days with no word. cancelled, refunded and back to feeling trapped in the city.
while living in seattle M and I spent time at Madison Grove Farm in Fall City WA. M cleaned horse stalls, helped build a fence and worked a bulldozer/tracker like nobodies business. he loved being around the animals, working hard and seeing the results. and knowing that what he was doing allowed the Farm to do even more of what it was there for – rehabilitating horses to work with kids who need an extra hug. He worked on the ranch at Motherwell, and keeps talking about going back to do a cattle drive! (sometimes I don’t this guy, and wonder what he’s done with M the city guy.) I’ve always loved growing things, and the idea of being semi-self sufficient. I’ve dreamt of flower gardens that keep my home full of fresh bouquets. I’ve dreamt of a home big enough to comfortably entertain family and friends, and space for future grandchildren to safely run and play. we’ve talked about it before. daydreamed about how great it would be live in a beautiful farmhouse like the couples that Chip and Joanna surprise at the end of “Fixer Upper”. so I brought up the idea of us starting small, and creating wallum farm.
when the south bay house fell through (or was cancelled by us) we brought back the notion of a farm. we had no boundaries in thinking about how big it would be, what kind of animals we’d have – would we have animals, would we grow crops, would it become a full-time farm with employees, so many questions and ideas and options. we could really do anything we wanted, that was the beauty of it. we had the ability to create our next chapter. we all have that ability, we may just be to afraid to use it.
we also thought a lot about where we could make this happen. of course we looked right where we were first. any further north (Marin, Napa) wasn’t an option as it would just increase an already bad commute. going south between the city and work (Woodside) we were priced out 100 times over. south and west to the ocean, there were some options and A LOT of ocean front weather to deal with. even further south in the mountains above santa cruz we found a historic home with a “just add animals” farm. the mountain house is what we call it now, it needed special maintenance for the multiple water tanks , generators to be watched over to make sure they sustained things during power outages which there seemed to be quite a few, oil tanks to keep filled for heating the home, pruning of the fruit tree orchard, preparation for multiple snow falls over the winter. the mountain house was much more than we knew what to do with, or were prepared to take on and it was millions (yes, with an s) of dollars. once we realized that the real feel of the farm wanted was like the area we were priced out of, we began to contemplate places outside of california. seattle came up, but we had just left there and still wanted to explore the world before returning. we considered Hudson Valley NY for the home sizes, land opportunities, art community, and easy train ride into Manhattan. NY has always been one of my favorite places, and to have it at my fingertips while also being able to have space and fresh air would be the best of both worlds. M is from NY and loves his city, and would love to go back at some point. the winters are what killed Hudson Valley for us. talking with friends, and knowing how hard the recent winters have been on the east coast moved us to consider the last 2 cities we each really liked.
for different and similar reasons M picked Nashville, and I picked Austin. M had never been to Austin, and I had never been to Nashville. he loved to food, the music, the vibe of the city. he took a trip for work and was shown some of the great things about Nashville which sold him. because we both had only been to the places we had chosen, we decided to not make any decisions until we had visited each others city. during the recovery from my summer surgery we took a couple of days to tour Austin, and it’s surrounding farming neighborhoods. we worked with F from Magnolia Reality (yes, the Fixer Upper Magnolia) and her husband O. she kept the search radius within 30-40 minutes of downtown and found us over 20 properties to look at. we picked our top 4 which happened to be well situated in each corner of austin. we saw a house surrounded by corn fields, one with a good layout but just not enough land, one with a guest house and lots of oak trees that would need to be cleared, and one so nonimpressive – I can’t remember it. I was surprised at the options we had, and shocked by the prices. for what we had been paying attention in SF, we could have been living in a palace. austin looked great, felt great, tasted great and had lots of opportunities in tech – and the prices were beyond right. the city is growing – third fastest growing city in the country, which means if we are able to get property now it should only go up in value.
next on the trip list was Nashville, but when back in San Francisco we thought a lot about our time in Austin, and started figuring out when we could get to Nashville. after a couple of weeks, we came to the conclusion that Austin was the better choice for both of us – so the trip to Nashville was postponed. we will still go and check it out, but for wallum farm we set our focus on Austin, and set our timeline for February 2017.
September came with a surprise change in plans. the owner of the condo we rented in San Francisco called us for the first time in the 6 years we rented from him to “talk with us”. I immediately knew something was wrong. he let us know that our 6 years of month to month renting from him was coming to an end. he needed the place back for his mother-in-law who was moving to the city from Boston to help care for her grandkids. her house was selling in 30 days, and legally he had to give us 60 days to move out. a “no fault” eviction is what we were handed, and we took a week or so to figure out how to handle the adjustment. options were to move twice within the Bay Area and keep the plan to move to Austin in February, or accelerate the Texas move. after looking at Air BnB rentals for a 45 day stay we decided to just take the leap, and move early. this meant job options for me were now completely up in the air – but we had faith that everything would work out the way it was meant to as long as we stayed focused on where our hearts were taking us.
we returned to Austin in October with the intention of coming back to SF with an address. we looked at the Rancho Bueno property (the one with the AMAZING kitchen) that had 5 bedrooms on 3 acres, and a few others that weren’t as interesting. Rancho Bueno has been the first only property we’ve been the close to purchasing because it felt almost perfect, but without knowing the area it was in we couldn’t pull the trigger. so back to our mission of securing an address. we found a brand new house in a brand new development to rent for less than a year. done! so here we are – november 18th. the same moving company we moved to SF with was hired to pack us out, bikes shipped using a super cool app in SF called Shyp (they came to the house and picked up the bikes, packaged and shipped them), final cleaning, and turned over the keys. we closed the door on our life in SF, and took a thirty six hour drive to the next phase.
the job, the house, the upstairs backyard all coming up. stay tuned….