I left Idaho for a few reasons and recently purchased my Tennessee homestead. I don’t know why or how Tennessee became so popular for “American refugees” fleeing the big cities. People are coming from all over the country, mostly from highly populated “blue states”, unlike myself. There’s a lot to like about Tennessee including a strong Second Amendment along with a Church on practically every street (solidly in the “Bible belt”), as well as a longer growing season than Idaho. My reasons were that family was moving there and I wanted to be close to my grandchildren. At one time, long ago, my relatives were scattered throughout the Appalachia region, so it feels kind of like a homecoming. I recall visiting as a child and especially loving the thunderstorms and the lush, green, vegetation. It was there I first learned of “lightning bugs”, also called “fireflies”, how magnificent thunderstorms can be, and how to speak with a twang. Although, the twang never left me since most of my relatives are from the South.
I had envisioned a little brick house on small acreage at an extremely affordable price, something like my grandmother had. The reality of what I found is that most of those mini farms are in high demand and very hard to find. You can still find land that is available, but the builders are backed up for a year before they can start on something new. Not to mention that lumber prices have gone through the roof. I even contacted an Amish log home builder in Montana who could deliver and build a log home package in Tennessee, but alas, they are also a year out. There are still new homes available, as of this writing, but they’re in new developments, i.e. “regular neighborhoods”. Many Tennesseans are putting their homes on the market since their market value has doubled or tripled in a relatively short period of time. The catch is, they may not have any place to move to – some even asking for several months of free “rent-backs”. Cash is king, just as it is in Idaho’s real estate market. So, like me, if you sell and get wads of cash, you may have no place to buy. The situation is creating a Catch-22 for both buyers and sellers.
THE GREAT MIGRATION
I still want to know who started the rumor that Tennessee was one of the best places to live. Californians are so done with California, population of about 40 million people, and spreading out across the country with many moving to Tennessee. Washington, Oregon, Colorado, “turned blue” (it’s those voting systems, I’m sure), much to the chagrin of most of the people who live in those states. Idaho, Montana and parts of Wyoming are being overrun with “American refugees”. Utah… well, Utah is Utah, beautiful in its rugged, high desert, geography. Nevada is mostly one big hot desert (trust me, I lived there for a decade). Arizona is fighting to stay Red and too close to the porous southern border for my tastes. New Mexico was taken over by Liberals (sorry New Mexico!) — the best Sopapillas I ever tasted, were in New Mexico. Texas property taxes have become a huge deterrent, not to mention they somehow sold out on being energy independent. Have you ever been to North Dakota in January? I have and no thanks to the frozen tundra, although many people love the Dakotas. I am not familiar with every state in the country, but have traveled through most at one time or another. I personally would like to avoid the “deep south” coastal states due to very high humidity combined with high summer temperatures and the occasional hurricane, and of course, I’d like to avoid the mostly liberal East Coast. A lot of folks are moving to Missouri! It used to be that people wanted to move West! Now it appears that many people are moving East!
I have been looking for that ever-elusive “sustainable, defensible, homestead”. Enough land to grow and raise food, as a lifestyle choice, and should TEOTWAWKI occur. I began to feel a bit desperate being displaced from my Idaho home, staying with family members, and living out of a suitcase. Although, I am *not* complaining. I am very fortunate in that I could live with my various children and play with my adorable grandchildren. I started to compromise on my wish list and feel a bit depressed as I sorted through my Priorities while I looked at properties online.
What are my priorities? Well, as much as I love my dear grandchildren and want to be a daily part of their lives, my gut told me to keep hunting for the homestead property, even if that means not living next door. Maybe I can be a part of their weekly lives! I am a firm believer in “When God closes a door, He opens a window”. Sometimes, we put ourselves in difficult situations by our own poor choices. Even then, our Heavenly Father watches over us and brings us through. I know this, deep in my soul, from life experience. Sometimes, we can see the goal, but have to walk through a difficult path to get there. Some more painful than others. It’s about being “steadfast” and not sweating the small stuff. I have First World problems at the moment and I chastise myself frequently for being so spoiled.
SUSTAINABLE HOMESTEAD PRIORITIES
Acreage was my first priority, but not just any chunk of land. I wanted farmable land, land for animals, and land a bit removed from major population centers. Sure, you can find some empty land sandwiched in between a couple of freeways, across the street from a new development of who knows what! Or you can find land that is all forested mountains and try to determine what areas can be cleared for a home build, plan to build a road into the property, figure out where to access water, and if you’ll go on or off-grid. Or maybe land that’s cheap, next to that really big river that floods its banks seasonally. Not all acreage is created equal. Success in finding suitable land is a combination of knowledge and research, coupled with a local expert.
An existing home was my second priority, but not just any dilapidated farmhouse. Some have been “flipped”, meaning paint, new laminate flooring, and some countertops, but those old homes need completely new electrical, plumbing, often a new foundation, new roof, and a very long list of expensive repairs that can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. I passed on a few farmhouses.
Third priority: Location, location, location… Realtors liked to steer me towards little retirement communities. Hmph! This was a recent conversation with a Tennessee realtor (I kid you not):
“But why do you want to live so far out?” (Me: that’s the whole point).
“Aren’t you afraid of living alone?” (Me: No, that’s why I have German Shepherds and guns).
“That’s a long, winding, barely two lane, road!” (Me: long, icy, snowy, winding roads are my specialty and my all-wheel drive vehicle is amazing. I have developed nerves of steel.)
“It’s so far from shopping.” (Me: I’m not a shopper).
“There aren’t any neighbors should you need help!” (Me: yippeekayay!)
“You have to mow the grass! The mowers are close to $18K and you can’t let the grass grow or you’ll have to have the property bush hogged!! My husband spends 4 hours mowing every couple of weeks!” (Me: Riding mower is in the budget. I am not a helpless female, as you apparently are.)
I did not say all those things in response to the realtor because I found myself getting intensely annoyed. It can be difficult to convince a realtor I know what I’m doing, so I decided that I didn’t have to convince anyone of anything. I know what I want and I know what my capabilities are. The realtor’s job is to assist with the purchasing process, pretty much, since finding a homestead is an “every (WO)man for himself” kind of process in the current market. Finding a realtor who listens and works for you is key. Several times, the realtor told me they don’t “cover that area”. Hmph, again. I reached out to other realtors.
I decided that my capabilities, patience, timeline, and budget would not allow me to purchase raw land and build, buy an old farmhouse to renovate, so the hunt intensified. One morning, as I was searching for properties online, an existing home on a little over 5 acres popped up. It had been fenced and cross fenced, as well as having been fenced for various animals and a large garden area. Ooooohhhhhhhh. It had a couple of functioning wells on the property, septic, a couple of small, newer, barns. Woohoo. The home was not that old, was in very good condition, and actually had been decorated very nicely. Oh boy! The home is perched on a hill with a view of the surrounding areas – a narrow, winding, road leads you there.
I had been praying, “Lord you know my wants and needs, please open my eyes and let me accept Your Will for my life, even if that means not getting what I want.” I always ask for what I want because I know the Lord delights in giving His children beautiful things, but I also know that His ways are not our ways and in everything there is a purpose. I prepared myself and contacted my realtor. “Oh, that’s not in our area.” Okay, contacted another realtor who got on the ball immediately, researched the home, provided documentation, and we prepared to make an offer and get it in before the deadline. I was able to do a live Zoom walkthrough of the home. I put in an offer a little more than 15% over the asking price. There were 10 offers and mine just squeaked above the next highest offer, which gives anyone searching in Tennessee an idea of what it will take. I did not expect to get the home, but the Lord gave it to me, and for that I am grateful. In a few weeks, I’ll be living in my little Tennessee homestead. I thank you all for your prayers and for following my journey with interest and encouragement.
A new adventure begins!