He knew the last owner, and was just checking on the property, seeing who we were. He hadn't known it was sold. The last owner had said he could have all the downed wood on the property, and he asked me if I had any use for it. I told him we were going to try and use everything. If not for logs, at the very least I'd use it for cordwood masonry or firewood.
He said he was a Vietnam vet, permanently disabled. I learned later he had lost a leg, and it's why he never got out of the car - and in fact I never saw him but behind the wheel.
He and his wife were very friendly. Our dogs played for a while. Brent and his wife raised bees and sold honey. They'd built their large beautiful cabin by themselves. And they're actually from the North, like us. One's from Jersey and the other upstate New York, if I remember right.
I didn't see them again until the next summer, driving down the road. They offered to give us a ride out to a mountain spring where they got all their drinking water (the well water being too metallic). I'd hoped to join them, but Patty came up and we were often out so we missed them.
I later learned that Brent also has chickens, and he got them because chickens eat ticks. Even though we've been vegetarians for over 8 years now, this might be a good reason to raise some chickens. Maybe they'll even pick them off the dog [Mishka was so covered in both hard and soft-bodied ticks that Patty kept him down in Atlanta for the last month, after having him dipped at the vet]. We can always sell the eggs, if we don't wish to eat them.
I liked Brent and Sandy a lot, and felt we probably have more in common with them than anyone else around here, but never got a chance to know them better.
The next neighbor I met is a woman who stopped by when I was out digging a hole for the mailbox. She lived a few miles down the road, and had horses. They'd been here 7 years. They started out in a camper, then built a small cabin. They're now building a house up on top of their barn. She's the neighbor who said if I cleared the land and kept it short it would help with the ticks.
She wanted to see what we'd done with the property so far, so I took her for a tour. She was impressed with how pretty it was from up there. I didn't intend to take her inside the shed, but when the kids started talking about the eggs in the nest I thought it would be neat to show her. However when she saw our toilet in there she froze and backed out. She wondered why we hadn't connected to the septic yet. I didn't even bother mentioning the idea of humanure. And the funny thing was, being so pro-septic, she went on to tell me a horror story about how their septic backed up, and they had sewage going down a hillside, and how expensive it was to take care of it.
She used horse manure to fertilize her garden, and said she swears by it - she's got rich black soil, and can grow anything. She said I could come up and have as much manure as I wanted. All I'd need were bags. She'd planted the idea in my head to go gather composted manure from the hillside above to use for my garden. And I think she's right, it works.
I also met a guy named Vic. He and his wife are retired doctors from Knoxville. When I was down by the mailbox he stopped by with a friend. He asked me how the ticks were, and his friend said something about how this place is Tick City.
I later visited him and his wife and his cabin and found them to be wonderful people. They gave me a lot of information about the area. And they were very enthusiastic about having us as permanent neighbors, maybe because we're from the big city too. When I asked his wife if there were any Girl Scouts' programs around here, she said there was Boy Scouts in Deer Lodge, but no Girl Scouts that she knew of - but she said she'd start one, if that was so. Vic said the area had many programs for children that most people didn't take advantage of.
And Vic said the last two years had been highly unusual as far as ticks - they were never this bad before. Somebody'd told him it was the summer drought of the last two years that really brought them out. This was good to hear.
Vic and his wife were also adamantly against our dirt road being given over to the county for maintainence. They liked the fact that this area was ours, and let's keep it that way, not try and bring the government in to manage it. I agreed and admired that. I looked forward to getting to know them better.
I met another guy named Jim who didn't impress me much. He was also from the North, in fact, Erie, Pennsylvania. He was the one pushing for county maintainence of the road, and was prepared to start a lawsuit over it. He had a lot of negative things to say about a lot of people, and was rather belligerent. Being originally Pennsylvanian, he reminded me a lot of backwards Northeasterners who think everybody they don't like or who doesn't agree with them is either a drug dealer or a devil-worshipper. I only saw him once, so my impression is pretty limited. Though he's somebody I will probably avoid. He lives far away anyhow, a couple miles up the road.
My next door neighbor George stopped by once in the spring. He's also from the Northeast. He lives beside us to the west. But with the trees, and the size of the acreage, I never see or hear him. He is exceptionally friendly and polite. He tells me about the great old trees that used to be here, before the last owner had them cut and sold. I guess the fire that burned down the home also happened under suspicious circumstances. I try and not let the past affect me. What went before has nothing to do with what I'm doing now.
I go visit George in the fall before we leave to go back to Atlanta, to ask if he can keep an eye out for the place. I also invite him over to see what we've done with the property so far. He is very impressed, says I can use his equipment whenever I like, and when he hears that only a lack of work is keeping us from living here full-time, he offers me a job at his plant of which he's the supervisor. This is great news and incredible generosity. It will give us some kind of income and break our dependence on Atantla.
He also says if we want to raise chickens, he'll give us chicks in the spring. And if we want to try growing grapes, he'll give us cuttings from his grapes to plant.
The other thing about George is that he's totally for what we're doing, as far as homesteading, and raising our kids in the country. He believes it's the best life for them. This is the kind of support we need. George had originally tried to purchase this property, and planned on growing a Christmas tree farm, but at the time the owner was not ready to sell.
What we've learned is this: we originally assumed that rural people would have nothing in common with us, and be ultra-conventional, and frown on what we're doing. So we set out to keep a certain distance and privacy. But we've now realized this is untrue. They are all semi-homesteading themselves, and believe devoutly in country living, and being close to the land, and keeping it simple. So instead of staying isolated, like we have for so many years, I think we're going to mix with our neighbors and form some community bonds. We could make our lives much easier, for one thing, but mostly I think it will help us settle in and identify ourselves with Sunbright. You can't both homestead and be cosmopolitan and zipping around the globe.
09' is the year we'll give our best shot at settling down in one spot, and quenching the wanderlust and elsewhereness.