Last week my wife and I visited an acreage for sale that's 20 minutes west of Lincoln. It's 80 acres of rolling land, with two tree stands, some CRP restored prairie, some hay, some corn. I'm not saying I want to move there -- the massive power lines are a health concern and eyesore -- but I'm trying to imagine myself living in such a space. And if I imagine, perhaps the reality of it is that much closer.
I liked the land because of the CRP, because it has differing terrain, because it adjoins a wildlife management area and small lake. It felt private. In a lot of ways it's perfect. In a lot of ways it isn't -- like the half million dollar price tag with no structures; that's what you get for being close to a larger city in prime farming country.
My thinking has always been to have multiple incomes: our prairie plant nursery would be open on long weekends during the spring and summer, and the plants I grow would be winter sown in a hoop house, not coddled in a heated nursery. But it takes time to build stock in such a way. And I don't have a horticulture or business degree -- I have three English degrees. At least I've done some marketing in my life and know how to spell.
I imagine an enclosed learning space for workshops and presentations, perhaps it could be picturesque enough to host weddings inside, or host that outside in the open or under some sort of shelter. I imagine two artists residencies that are 300 square feet, have a kitchen and bath, are completely off grid. They'd be further out into the acreage to provide solitude and serenity for a two week period. We'd drive residents into town for supplies (or provide them before arrival), and let artists raid our vegetable garden.
I'd still be doing garden consulting -- hopefully more than I am now, since folks apparently stop thinking about plants after July 1. Ideally I could teach English classes at a nearby college to tide us over in the winter months.
I'd like our home and buildings to all be off the grid, or at least 50% so. We'd harvest rainwater, use grey water outside. We'd host prairie walking tours, educational events, immersion programs for kids and adults but with some sort of unique twist. Maybe we'd sell plants at farmer's markets and other events.
Where does one do this? Where are tax laws favorable? Where are incentives for renewable energy best? Where is a community that would be open and supportive of these business ideas? Where is there affordable land, with part of it preferably already in CRP? How does one raise capital without the weight of loans and mortgages?
And then I wonder about my mental health. I've long wanted to "be out there," away from suburbia, in a place I can wander and explore at will. I need copious amounts of solitude and silence to remain even moderately balanced and healthy. I crave diversity in what I put my hands to (as does my wife). Would I turn into a mountain man and vanish? Would I feel more centered and grounded? Would I feel lost? Would I feel whole?
Could the acreage have a writing shed for me? Could I write books that would mean something? Sell? Provide another source of income, from royalties and readings and conferences?
I know a few things -- if I had the money I'd move today (no brainer); if I don't do this, I might regret it my whole life; if I do it, and go bankrupt, I'll regret that, too. Anyone out there have experience with this sort of thing? Any specific or philosophical advice for a guy in his late thirties?
I feel like folks think I'm crazy when I talk like this -- they immediately come up with reasons not to do any of these things. It's all so big and dream-riddled. But isn't that what cool people do? Muir. Leopold. Carson. Thoreau. So many more.