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 first conversations was about what we wanted out of life. Our long-term goal matched: 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, and after watching our city’s population soar from 750,000 to 2.5 million, we were craving a slower pace. When Chris’ work asked him to take the Tennessee region, it was a welcome invitation to try something new, a little sooner than expected.
A weekend trip helped us decide on the Knoxville area. The rolling hills; cheesy fun of Gatlinburg; 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 the 5-minute drive to Whole Foods – we could roll back to the city. We contacted rural realtors and scoured online rental 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. People renting farms were monetizing the pieces of their property until the cows came home…no: until they didn’t need cows to turn a profit.
This was our first big lesson about life in the country. In places with job scarcity, people get creative to make a living. That sounds like a “duh,” but we’ve been living in a rich and opportunity-rich city for years. Read about some of our other epiphanies after moving from the city to the country.
After a few fruitless weeks of searching, including one bait-and-switch by a smarmy realtor, we were feeling burned when we ran across a strange but oddly right-for-us Craigslist ad. It was a geodesic dome a few miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It wasn’t finished yet, so some days we’d share the space with the builder, a cordial 80-something who’s been building domes for decades.
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 building and living in alternative housing.
We moved in early spring and realized right away that we loved geodesic domes, east Tennessee, and living in the country. However, we wanted even 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 we closed on our very own 20 acres as the wind took the last leaves off the trees.
At the founding of this blog, we’re still renting the [mostly finished] dome as we begin to settle the land, which needs everything, from the driveway up. We’re soothing ourselves with quotes about “journeys starting with one step” and everything being manageable if you divide it into small jobs, because making raw land into a homestead is daunting.
Another apt aphorism is that nothing worth having comes easily. 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 that 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.