Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Quest is On!

As you know, Brent and I are looking for land to build an energy independent home. This weekend found ourselves with some free time on a beautiful Saturday. A rare treat! So we decided that we would take a meandering course through Warren County, writing down descriptions of any properties that caught our eye. With notebook, gazetteer, camera and picnic lunch in hand, we set out.

Getting just a few miles west of our current home we noticed that things changed almost immediately. The pace was slower; the roads more winding. At one point Brent said, "I feel my blood pressure is just lower here." We followed the river and took as many dead end roads as we could find. I said I would keep my eyes open for abandoned houses, never guessing we would see quite so many of them as we did!

All in all we saw three abandoned houses that seemed to be part of old farms. Two appeared to be part of small tracts of land and possibly not quite right for our particular quest. But one seemed to capture our attention.

We were driving down Independence Road and I saw a dilapidated mailbox. I looked over my shoulder as we drove past and saw an overgrown lane and a house with broken windows. We decided to turn around and look more closely. We drove up the lane slowly, afraid we were driving onto a property where someone lived and might not enjoy the intrusion. But the overgrown front porch and broken upstairs windows gave us courage that no one was there.

We found an old farm with a rolling pasture and a barn that looked in pretty decent shape. A door on the barn blew in the wind and scared me for a minute. But we saw that the electric meter was not turning so we felt that we were right in our first impression that no one lived on the site. The house looked in very bad shape though because the upper windows were broken out and the ceiling looked to be peeling and possibly caving in due to being open to the elements. It was hard to really tell from the outside. The only sign of activity on the place seemed to be some 4-wheeler tracks in the pasture. I guess an abandoned secluded farm would be a magnet for teenagers looking for a place to have fun with no adult oversight. Who could blame them?

We followed the tracks a bit and looked out over the rolling pasture. The sky was blue and the white puffy clouds moved along as the tall grass in the pasture waved. I felt not only the thrill of fear that came with wondering if the owner would burst out of the barn asking who we thought we were to be on his land but also a deeper sense of excitement that maybe a place like this could be our spot. The place we could come to love and make our own. We took a few pictures and wrote down the address in the old mailbox to look up against the plat book that we had ordered but hadn't yet arrived. We decided that there couldn't be a better place to go Mortgage-Free than "Independence Road."

We continued to follow the winding roads closest to creeks and "dead end" roads until we found ourselves at our lunch spot - the Potholes. This Nature Conservancy owned property is one of the hidden gems near our home. Fall Creek has created "potholes" in the stone below the creek, and it can be really fun to hike in to the waterfall by walking up the creek and sometimes falling into the "potholes." It being early in the summer we weren't sure it was quite warm enough for that, so we just hiked in on the path, which was really muddy. I noticed the people leaving before us had very muddy seats on their shorts. I found out why when we got onto the path!

Ignoring the "*no everything" signs, we waded over to a place on the stone embankment in the dappled shade near the waterfall. We enjoyed a picnic lunch of black bean salad and Brent's special avocado sandwiches, his own unique invention, followed by some super-delicious date bars. It really couldn't have been much better. A few people were wading and swimming in the water. After we had our food, we found a sunny rock in the middle of the creek where we sat until we were very hot and enjoyed cooling off by wading in the icy water again. We hiked back out and found our car almost blocked in by some folks with kayaks in their truck. Lucky for us, living at the top of a hill has honed our ability to back out of tight spots, so we found ourselves driving through the farm fields & winding roads once again.

We learned that two sports bottles of water are not quite enough on a hot day. We learned that the pop machines in Independence only take quarters and we only had one. We decided we didn't really need a corn syrup soda anyway. We learned that the outhouses in Cicott are open this time of year, and that is a really glorious thing. And we learned that black bean salad tastes even better on the banks of a waterfall.

When we finally got our plat book in the mail we found that the property we visited is owned by someone named Eve Refshauge who is not listed in the local phone book. We found that Eve Refshauge owns quite a bit of land in Warren County. If anyone reading this post happens to know Eve Refshauge or her family or how to contact them, we would love to find out if they are at all amenable to selling the property on Independence Road. If anyone reading this is from Warren County and has any information about this family and how to contact them, we would love to hear from you!

*Footnote Regarding the "no everything" signs:
I think that posting signs saying "no swimming, no picnicking, no rock climbing, no breathing, etc." really serves to negate the whole concept of fostering a love of the natural world. A love of the natural world is developed by being a part of it. People need to be able to touch, feel and get dirty. I understand that the Nature Conservancy wants to preserve the spot and so do I. I think people will want to preserve it when they love it; and they love it by participating in it. A sign that said, "Please pack out anything you bring in; leave the place better than you found it; and swim and climb at your own risk - no lifeguard on duty" would be better suited to influencing people to follow the rules and enjoy the natural setting appropriately. As it is everyone knows that the posted rules are only good for ignoring.

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