We’re Chris and Beth, and this blog is about our journey to settle 20 acres of raw land in east Tennessee.
One of our very first deep conversations was about our long-term life goals, and we realized we both wanted to own land. Raise and rescue animals, grow food and flowers (Beth), hunt and fish (Chris), camp, hike, ride horses, build things.
We thought it was a far-off dream, but in the first couple years of our relationship, watching our city’s population soar to 2.5 million, we were craving a slower pace. When Chris’ work asked him to handle regional work in Tennessee, it was a welcome invitation to try something new sooner than expected.
A weekend trip helped us decide on the Knoxville area. The rolling hills; cheesy fun of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge; beauty of the Smokies; and proximity to Asheville, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Charlotte would make it easier to leave our city comfort zone.
We wanted to rent land first. If country living weren’t for us – or if we missed friends and family, walking to the gym, and a 5-minute drive to Whole Foods – we could roll back to the city. We contacted rural rental agencies and scoured online listings for “farms for rent,” or at least acreage with liveable structures.
The rule of “farms for rent” quickly revealed itself: if acreage were attached to a rental house, it was rented separately for horses, hay, and even other renters in mobile homes and campers. People renting farms were monetizing the pieces of their property until the cows came home…er, until they didn’t even need to raise cows to turn a profit.
After searching for a few fruitless weeks, we were growing frustrated when we ran across a strange but oddly right-for-us Craigslist ad for a geodesic dome near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The 5 wooded acres attached to the dome weren’t good for chickens, goats, or gardening, so that part of our plan would have to wait. In the meantime, we’d learn about living in alternative housing.
We realized right away that we loved geodesic domes, country living, and east Tennessee, but we wanted quieter land and to build our own dome. The search for land started in late summer. We made an offer as fall color began and closed on our very own 20 acres as the wind was taking the last leaves off the trees.
At the founding of this blog, we were still renting the [never quite finished] geodesic dome as we began to settle our land, which needed everything from a driveway to water and power.
Settling raw land was the hardest thing we’d ever done. We compulsively self-soothed with quotes about “journeys starting with one step” and compensated for our lack of experience with our vision, optimism, and overwhelming capacities for listening, researching, collaborating, and looking stupid. Within a couple years, we had power, water, tools, several forms of shelter, and finally a sense of comfort with not knowing exactly what comes next, because we know we’re strong enough to face it.
If your dreams look like ours, and you’re interested in turning raw land into a magical and environmentally responsible place to live, we hope sharing our experiences will be helpful to you.
You may want to start with the following posts, and please free to contact us with questions, thoughts, or to talk land, homebuilding, and geodesic domes.