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 as a couple was about what we wanted out of life, and it turned out that 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 distant dream, but within the first couple years of our relationship – and after over a decade each of living in Charlotte, NC, watching the population soar from 750,000 to 2.5 million – both of us were craving a slower pace. When Chris’ work shifted to Tennessee, 3 hours west of Charlotte, we decided to speed up the dream and move to the country.
A weekend trip helped us decide on the Knoxville area. The rolling hills, cheesy fun of Gatlinburg, beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains, and proximity to Asheville and Charlotte would make it easier to leave our Queen City comfort zone.
We wanted to rent acreage first. If country living wasn’t for us – or if we missed friends and family, walking to the gym, and the 5-minute drive to Whole Foods – we could drift back to the city. So, 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 became evident: if land was attached to a rental house, the land had been rented separately for horses, hay, and even other renters in mobile homes. If someone were renting out a farm, they were also monetizing all the pieces of the property until the cows came home…no, until they didn’t need any cows to turn a profit.
This was our first big lesson about life in the country. In areas 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 other epiphanies in a post about our discoveries when we moved from the city to the country.
After a few fruitless weeks of searching and one bait-and-switch by a smarmy realtor, we were feeling burned when we ran across a weird but oddly right-for-us Craigslist ad for a geodesic dome only a few miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It wasn’t finished, so some days we’d share the space with the builder, a cordial 80-something who’s been building geodesic domes for decades.
The 5 wooded acres attached to the dome weren’t good for chickens, goats or gardening, so that part of the plan would have to wait. In the meantime, we’d learn about building and living in alternative housing. Somehow, the arrangement suited us.
We moved into the dome at the beginning of spring and realized quickly that we loved the area but 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 closed on our very own 20 acres as the wind blew the last of the leaves off the trees.
At the founding of this blog, we’re still renting the original 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 turning 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 wonderful 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.