About fourteen years ago Southern Man and Southern Ex had a dream of building a house and raising our (then two) children in the country so we went shopping for land. We looked at a couple of lots and weren't very excited but one evening Southern Ex called on a lot and was told "by the way, we're cutting a road in to some new lots that back up to a little lake on Thursday. They're not even listed yet." We went out the next day and Southern Man fell in love with Lot #2, a long, skinny lot that was nice and flat in front (this was retired farmland that the owner was parceling out) but a couple of gulleys and depressions in back that cried out "Farm Pond" and "Koi Pond." We bought that lot. Somewhere in a box is a hard drive with a snapshot of the older two kids looking over the lake into the sunset. Southern Man is not much of one to carry pictures but he carried that one in his billfold for years and years, until it plum wore out. It was a film camera but we loved that photo so much we had it scanned (which was kind of a big deal back then) and Southern Ex used it as her desktop background. Some day Southern Man will find that hard drive and post that photo. And from that time on we always referred to our country property as The Land.
A year later Lot #1 (which was on the corner and did not go all the way back to the lake) was still unsold so Southern Man and child number three (then just a month old) went to the realtor and bought it (much to Southern Ex's ire) and that gave Southern Man two adjoining lots totaling ten acres that wrapped around a "common lot" that was supposed to one day have a boat dock and picnic tables and such but none of that actually happened so in effect Southern Man has pretty much free run over five additional acres.
We built a little storage shed and planted trees (hauling water in buckets from the lake) and the kids played Raptor in the tall grass and we fished and waded and even camped out a few times. And in 2000 and 2001 we dug trenches and moved sand and built forms and the Sunday School class came out to help pour concrete (thanks everyone!) and in the long hot summer of 2001 Southern Man built The Barn, which was to be home base for tools and building materials for the future house.
And then the marriage
After the divorce Southern Man was working two and sometimes three jobs and putting his time and money into buying his kid's love (every divorced man does this for a while before he figures out that they'll either love him or not regardless) and putting the rest of his time and money into two more relationships, the second of which ended in flaming ruin and put Southern Man on the brink of bankruptcy. He chose the current casa based on a hunch that Teen Daughter The Elder would move in with him when Southern Ex remarried and moved out of state - she did, and she did - and slowly started to put some time and energy and work into The Land. And over the next few years he tore down the remnants of that first shed and built The Woodshop in its place and finally repaired the damaged south roof on The Barn to stop that leak and slowly started to put things in order.
The Land, complete. The upper left is the Common Lot, upper right is Lot #1, and across the bottom is Lot #2. For a more detailed view of the lower left corner where all of the interesting stuff is, click here.
So now that Southern Son is on his own (more or less) and Teen Daughter The Eldest is about to embark on a four-year tour with the Navy and Teen Daughter The Younger is with her mom for at least another year Southern Man has made The Land a priority. He's always wanted to live out there - he bought the FEMA trailer with that in mind - and now is his chance. There's no well down so there is no running water (the worst part about that is no shower) and no plumbing and both cell phone and internet service are sketchy at best ("no service" is typical) but as of a few years ago electricity is finally in (Southern Man has four, count 'em, four, 'fridges out there now) and Southern Man just loves it out there. Every time he makes that half-hour drive he feels refreshed and renewed as soon as he puts his feet on that good red dirt. And every time he reads Walden he wants, wants, wants with all his heart to be out there even without running water or 'net service.
So he has given notice that he'll be out of the apartment at the end of August. Teen Daughter's deployment date is still a bit up in the air as she keeps passing tests for more advanced positions but she has more or less migrated out to Southern Parents anyway. And Southern Man will spend the next week - his last week off before the fall semester kicks in - preparing for the move. Tomorrow he tackles the ground floor of The Barn...