This week brought about huge landscape changes with the driveway being cut in and the ability to move forward. And we struck water yesterday, although about 100 feet deeper than originally anticipated. (I hope it doesn’t break the budget!)
The guys who are doing the driveway work said it would take about a day and a half. They started on Monday, and here it is Thursday and they still aren’t finished. Luckily, they bid this out by the project, not by time!
Oh! and another bit of news. We received the estimate for the new design of the house to be built from our new builder and its something that we can live with! Bryan and I have always loved large wrap around porches. This amenity is one that we loved in the previous plan and one that we didn’t want to do without. So, our new house is a little farmhouse style, with porches. The heated space is 2420 sq feet with about 1300 sq ft of porch. And you do pay for that porch. But, we will use it and love it. So, we should be pouring the foundation next week! How’s that for progress?
Last week, we travelled to our new “neck of the woods” to start our collection of storage facilities (okay, I am being sarcastic. And click here to see a video of the typical traffic in our new neighborhood.)
As I mentioned in my previous post we met with Jim (our one and only builder, thank God) and the two brothers he likes to work with, the Mills brothers: Andrew and Alan. These two guys will be the ones who do the “land work” – dozing and leveling both our drive way and our barn area and RV parking. In addition, they will be doing our septic work, but I am not sure when that will happen. They are truly a one stop shop!
First things first!
In talking with Andrew and Alan, we discovered that they need permission from the utilities that exist underground (the phone company) and the Missouri Department of Transportation (MO-DOT). I assumed that we would use the existing driveway at the top of the hill, but that the driveway also exists in a location on the highway that is at a hairpin curve with a steep drop to the east. Bryan and the Mills didn’t think it would be approved by MO-DOT. So, (in the hopes that there are no stupid questions) I asked, how can we get approved by MO-DOT? The answer is more complicated than it seems.
Call them, but they need a street address.
How do I get a street address (no home has ever existed on this parcel of land)?
Go to the post office to talk to the post master there.
Answer 1: We’ll ask the carrier, once he returns from his route to call you, and he’ll assign it.
Answer 2: But we’re in the middle of computerizing the addressing system (tied into the 9-1-1 system) so that everyone can have access (to 9-1-1) so you may need to go to the county clerk’s office.
We went to have lunch and waited for the postman to finish his route. At 2, we decided to head over to the county seat and the county clerk’s office, just in case.
The conversation at the county clerk’s went like this:
“Hi, we’re the Snows, Bryan and Dawn. We purchased a parcel off of 142 last year and we want to start to build. We were told that we don’t need any permits for the building, is that correct?” “Yes, ma’am.”
“But we do need permission from MO-DOT for our driveway. But we do not have an address to tell them where along the highway we are! That’s why we are here.” “Your postal carrier will probably assign you an address, but it may be in the ‘9-1-1 region,’ so let me check. …. oh, yes, here you are. Is this correct?” (She showed me her computer.)
“… yes, I have your address here, but the system isn’t exact right now, so I need to put in a ticket to make sure its correct. Let me see, you don’t have a residence on it yet? Oh, then, you cannot get the address….”
My head nearly came off. I took a breath, laughed and said, “Okay, we want to build a house on the parcel we bought, we need no permits as such, but we need to get water, electric and septic. In order to get those things we need to put in a driveway and level the appropriate areas. In order to get a drive way we need approval from MO-DOT but they need an address, but you are telling me you cannot do that because we have no house?”
It was as if the light went off (again, because it seems as if she understood what we wanted at first.)
“oh, yes! You want to build. There has never been a house on that parcel?”
“Okay. I’ll call you next week with your address.”
It’s so much fun looking for houses. Boy, the sky is the limit. And you can imagine a different sort of life!
For years, Bryan and fantasized about building an alternative house. We talked about geodesic domes, rammed earth processes, even stacked hay bales. And we have always wanted to do something more environmentally sustainable…
I love cottages, something cute, creative. We are living in Bryan’s dream home – its his “take-my-breath-away” house. He always knew we would sell this for a larger property/smaller house configuration and so we did two weeks ago.
We started looking at floor plans about a year ago. Southern Living House of the year 2012 was my hands-down favorite. But there were some problems: no study/library, no real pantry, and while I really think I would like some “all-together-open-plan” activities, I think in real life: not so much. So, after really thinking about this, no.
I really love living with my second refrigerator. I really think having a laundry room near the bedrooms is a no brainer. I really need a mud room. Bryan really needs his library/study with doors. And a couple of guest rooms: mainly for guests near term, and hopefully (don’t show this to my daughter) I hope to have a few grandbabes running around for summers. I would love a footed tub, and Bryan wants a nice big shower (which we have now, actually). And WRAP AROUND PORCHES.
We have always loved Oak Alley. If you haven’t been, you really must go visit. It’s a day trip from New Orleans, LA. We both love the look of this Southern Gem and wrap around porches have always been high up on our “have to have” list.
We decided to hire an architect whose design was listed on one of the “stock” plan sites. We had some changes to the existing plan, and so, we worked with the agency and the son of the man who originally did the design. It is basically Oak Alley. Originally, they have an elevator and 3 stories. But, did I mention, we had changes? So, two floors, no elevator and move the laundry room upstairs.
We hired them late in December of 2016 and they promised a 10 week turn around. We finally received plans with all our changes on April 4. (Not quite the deadline as promised, but finally.) All the while we were waiting for the plans, we were making repairs and improving our current house and receiving calls from our builder. We arranged with him to break ground on August 1 as he would be finished with his current project by then. We were so excited.
The week we took delivery of the plans, we received a call from Jim. He and his wife were in a serious car accident and he would not be able to work on the house. Ever. Oh, my gosh.
So, after all the angst with the architect, we were back at square one. Because frankly, at the price per square foot he quoted us, we could afford to build this beautiful Oak Alley look-alike. Truly, it’s a bit bigger than we need, but we took out the 3rd floor and put in a stairway instead of the elevator.
So, since April 4, we have been reconsidering our finished plans.
Since we have sold the house, and we needed to start to clear out the garage, we took all of Bryan’s woodworking tools, and a few other things up to a storage facility near our property. We will be building a barn first with a workshop in the rear so that Bryan and who ever builds our house can use the space and tools securely. So, we did that this week. After unloading the trailer we sat down to lunch and we received a call from Jim. He wanted to introduce us to the Mills Brothers and talk. We met Jim and the Mills brothers out at our property the next morning. Jim was healing and actually has received a “provisional” all-clear from his doctor. So, our builder is our builder again!!! Hooray!
We didn’t look for property the same way others did. As usual, we forged our own path. According to Google maps the area was just south and west of the Mark Twain National Forest. According to DarkSiteFinder.com, it was in a very dark place. So, we were hopeful.
In early October of 2016, we arrived in the new area around 4 p.m. and promptly napped. Remember, I hadn’t even contacted the Real Estate agent yet. We needed to see the property a few hours after the sun went down first. We were blessed with a clear night and so we set out. If you look at the area on Google maps, you see the approach from the nearest town, Thayer, MO is filled with hair pin turns. What you don’t see are the hills and valleys. Driving this road for the first time at the posted speed limit – at night – was scary! But the fear subsided when we found the place. It was replaced with sheer joy. I posted some of the photos Bryan took of the night sky. Those images were made with only a camera & a tripod. The exposures were a bit less than 30 secs as the star movement gets too great without a motor drive.
The next day, we drove the property on an ATV, we fell more and more in love. It had the hills and valleys we loved as well as the trees. It was in a climate that had more of a chance to see a real winter and not so long of a summer. Of course, all this remains to be seen, but the historical data bears out our assumptions. (Let’s not get into a debate on Climate change – we realize all bets may be off… but we’ll see!)
Of course, we went back and forth with the agent because, apparently, there are no surveys to be done in the area (one would cost $5K.) No codes either. I researched the historical data on the land Platt books out of the University of MO to find the actual meets and bounds documents. The real estate ad said “61 acres +-“. We measured on Google Earth, around 57 acres. They have a “Fence law” in MO. Nearly the entire state follows it. Its says that if the fence is in place for 10 years it you own the property. So, who knows really. I even asked the real estate agent about it, he said,”… this is the way we do things up here. Don’t bring your big city ways up here.” After we completed the purchase, we found the east fence and the south fence, but there is no fence on the west boundary. We went to the county tax office to see if they could shed more light. But no, they couldn’t. They have that platt marked in the tax records as 57 acres. So, what we found out is that we bought the parcel of land, not an acreage. We know the existing drive way is on our property, and we know that boundary runs north and south. But the exact placement is still up in the air. I will be working on remedying that once we are there.
So, after we saw it, loved it and purchased it, we interviewed builders in the area. We talked to a few, but none were as friendly or as seemingly capable as our new friend, Jim Pace. This guy is a mason and self-taught contractor. He and his wife, Sarah, build the houses they take on, one at a time. Each aspect is carefully executed. We inspected 3 or 4 properties he built as well as a block foundation he was in the process of building. The properties were all beautiful, and his price was right.
As of Dec 1, 2016, we were the proud owners of RR3, Myrtle, Mo. (Of course, this is not going to be our address, that post is upcoming. So many lessons to be learned …)
Our next decision was what sort of house would we build?
During the process of getting our current house on the market, a friend recommended that I start a blog on all our activities. Well, I already have this site, so, I will transform this more commercial photography blog into an experiential blog describing our triumphs and frustrations in the process of building our house.
But before I jump in with our current activities (and there are some doozies), I must catch you up.
In 2009, the year I quit USAA and Bryan retired, we spent a month hunting for an acreage on which we could build our retirement house and observatory. So, naturally, it had to be located in a dark site AND it had to feed my artistic soul. No dry desert for me, no way. We spent that month in Kentucky, as we had never been there and it was beautiful.
When we returned, we realized LaNita (Bryan’s mom) would be by herself with no one really to care for her in her golden years as the rest of the family were all working more than they should! So, we put the dream on hold until the time was better.
In the summer of 2010, LaNita had lost too much weight living by herself, so I forced her to move in with us that fall. The next 2 years were up and down for sure, but we were both so glad that we had waited and that we could care and love her in her final months.
Meanwhile, between 2009 and 2010, my small business of commercial/personal photography took off and we really never decided to go and seriously look for property again. We were both on the board of directors of the International Panoramic Photographers Association and that took us to many places between 2010 through 2014. We spent time in the great Northwest, and all along the California coast, New Mexico, Arizona and Tennessee. In all those places, we looked at the places convenient to our different IAPP trips and loved seeing so much of this country.
Two years ago, we took another trip, but this time overseas, to Italy, my dream place. I would live there in a heartbeat… but that is a different story. And at that time, Bryan asked me to think about retiring. My business was really changing and I was finding it difficult to change with the new requests coming my way. Shortly, after we returned, someone in my family became deathly ill and I decided enough was enough and said no more. By setting aside my business, I was able to be with my family through to a successful outcome. (All is better now although it was touch and go for several months, thank you.)
When we got the all clear from the doctors, I asked Bryan, “what are we waiting for?”
Mind you, we were very comfortable in our 3400+ sq foot house. It’s a lot of house to care for, and we loved every inch of it. This is the one that burned down in 2002 and we rebuilt in 2003. So, it is loaded with well loved, personal touches along with the remembered pain and angst of all the challenges that we did NOT ask for.
But in 2015, the time was right. Lauren (our daughter) seemed to be self sufficient and everyone was healthy then and is now (knock wood). So after the Italy trip, we really thought about how to find that perfect place for our sunset.
Bryan found a website called DarkSiteFinder.com and we cross-referenced that with Zillow.com. We looked around the Sherman area 2 or 3 times. Even had an agent take us around in the North Texas country side, specifically, Telephone, TX. Last year, we did fall in love with a 30 acre place in Annona, TX. But, this placed suffered the same as all the places in TX, the owners were very proud of the houses on these beautiful parcels, but the houses themselves were virtually all “tear-downs”. The Annona place was affordable at just over $2K an acre which was the going rate in the area, but the house was plain weird. The house was not worth the additional money they wanted. As an example: They had an upstairs with no stairway. The interior way to get upstairs was a ladder. Really, a ladder. Okay – no.
We became very upset, and stopped our search for a while. Inertia had set in and we were so comfortable, but really not doing what we wanted to be doing! Last fall, our agent of choice had told us that it was a sellers’ market and we should get back to it. Knowing Bryan as I do, and knowing that I need a deadline to accomplish anything, I thought, let’s look on Zillow again. Maybe we would find a place that would spur us to get our house on the market. Sure enough, Bryan found an affordable place that was more acres than I thought we could afford and was situated in a beautiful part of the Ozarks Plateau in southern Missouri. Rivers surround it, close to Mark Twain National forest and DARK.
We found the place on a Friday afternoon and I asked Bryan what was he doing the following week. He grinned at me and said, “Going to Missouri.”