We’ve gone and done it now

Draft of 2004.03.10

May include: personal&c.

We’ve gone and done it now.

Our latest offer for a house on three acres just north of Chelsea Michigan is likely to be accepted. It’s a nice house, big enough for the family (including my Mom, who’s moving in with us) and some of our stuff. The three acres include the bog-standard development grade-and-grass crap on the front third, but overlooks a hundred acres or so of beautiful low, flat wetland meadow to the south in back.

Of which we are buying two acres.

Barbara has brought her ferociously thorough research attention to bear on this project, and thus we not only have the sale prices of all the other houses in the development, the names and occupations of at least half of the owners, detailed aerial photographs from four sources covering the last five years showing the transformation of the land from working farm into exurban development, a number of government and nonprofit groups’ opinions of the degree of protection and development the place can take, notes on utility coverage, advice from the County on “how to live in the country”, line-of-sight bearings to the wireless internet provider in the area (I did that), and cost-benefit analyses of the various unfinished bits (driveway, decking, water softener), and what the farmer grew on the various bits we’re buying (potatoes and corn). And how much the developer paid for the land and is charging for the construction on it.

We also have a soil map.

See, the lay of the land is what makes it so beautiful and hard to describe, and also a big factor in our decision to pay what is frankly a scary amount for the place. The prospect to the south is (in winter) something like being perched on the shores of a large, dry lake. Of plants. The flats stretch off to the horizon, and the opposite “shore” is occupied only by one timber-framed and distant house. In between, the many maps show some drainage ditches (one of which we’re buying in toto, apparently), and a sinuous line of telephone poles (which oddly also remind me of past visits to waterside towns like Port Clinton or Tampa).

But, as should be obvious from my elision, that’s not water there. As the soil map makes clear, that’s Houghton muck down there in the flat picturesque bits.

Of course, we will like all our neighbors preserve and enhance the natural beauty yadda yadda &c &c. It’s to look at, not do something with; I know that. It’s not like I’m allowed to, say, build a little hobbit house in the back out of strawbale and cob as a studio/office/eccentricity—neither by the deed restrictions nor my wife. But you know, now and then the earnest and diligent exurb conservationist will want to knock down the taller weedier stuff with a riding mower.

And not sink.

Or put a couple of subtle but useful benches out there, whence one can watch the red-tailed hawks and sandhill cranes and white-tailed deer and bluebirds and such doing their thing.

Without sinking.

So now I find I must learn about muck. This, I confess, is not what I expected.