“Simple Living”, that phrase sure is attractive and at times, even romantic. Pinterest has a never-ending supply of snippets and pretty pictures that celebrate living life with less and I’ve lost count of the books written on the subject.
I have had a recurring daydream of simple living as long as I could remember. As the years passed by the urge would grow but so did the responsibilities of a successful (and sometimes not so successful) business and a house full of kids. Right around 2010 we had a few clients fold up which left us holding a hefty stack of unpaid invoices. This was the first and only time I have been left with the uncomfortable feeling of financial insecurity for my family. The wife and I buckled down and fought our way through it, coming out much stronger on the other end with the urge for simple living now front and center.
During these particularly stressful times, I would picture a life filled with growing and raising our own food, fiddling with solar and wind power then pumping fresh water from our own deep well. Cutting firewood, turning compost and the general manual labor at high altitude would surely have more lasting effects on my health than the annual 3-month failure prone gym memberships which had become my post-holiday ritual.
“Someday”, is the word I would say out loud as I would snap out of my daydream.
Fast forward to September 2011. On a whim, we cancelled our annual trip to the Sand Show in Orange County and instead hopped in the wife’s Jeep and hit the road for a week to start looking at rural property. These trips became the norm for us over the next year and a half. Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Northern Arizona all made the short list with Idaho in the number one spot. Realtors were contacted, meetings with our attorney and accountant to discuss the sale of our company etc.- the wheels were turning and we were set to dive head first into something exciting and terrifying all at the same time. A serendipitous meeting with a rancher from Northern Arizona on my doorstep changed everything. He was in Havasu shoeing horses as a side job and responded to a Craigslist ad I had for a old spare tire a friend of his needed for a truck.
After paying for the wheel/tire he mentioned his 100+ mile trip back home which sparked a conversation that lasted the better part of two hours. He lived in a small community of full time ranchers a couple hours from us, pretty well off the beaten path. As he described his neighbors, the weather, available water and good soil I was hooked but did my best not to seem too excited. I had passed the exit on my way to Flagstaff a thousand times and never even wondered what was back in those hills. We hit the road that weekend to go check the area out and immediately loved it. Only problem we found- nothing was for sale and rarely did anything in the little area hit the market. When property trades hands it is usually to a friend of a friend or one of the ranchers buys to add to their current range holdings.
I can’t even count all the trips we made up there. It didn’t take long for some of the locals to stop and chat with us while passing on dirt roads. The cold reception was expected as it is a very small and tight community, not more than 20 families in the whole area. This is where we wanted to be. Period. We threw the short list away, Arizona is where we were staying. Far enough from Havasu to escape the heat but close enough to be able to hang onto the business while we built ourselves a new life. We went back every chance we got and introduced ourselves and our intentions to more people whenever the opportunity presented itself. By this time we had made some friends and had several lunch/dinner offers that would no doubt end with some sort of chores while we got to know our “someday to be” neighbors. We would hear more and more about properties that might be for sale from locals. We took this as a sign of acceptance and we happily followed through on any possible lead but kept looking on our own as well.
There was one property in particular that just felt like home. I actually hand wrote a letter (first time in years!) to the property owner and sent it to the mailing address listed for them on the county assessor site as I couldn’t find any phone numbers for them. I explained our intentions and told them exactly what we had to spend. A week went by with no response so hopes were not real high. On day eight I received a call from the property owners to say they were getting too old to do anything with the property and they will accept our offer. We had the property deed in hand July 15th 2013.
The property has plenty of character as the elevation changes from 5300″ to 5100′ down in the pasture. It slopes South/Southwest making it ideal for orchards, gardens and solar power. Juniper, Oak and Pinon Pine are the majority of the trees in the area surrounded by plenty of native grasses and shrubs. Some people prefer the huge trees of a thick forest, heck we do too but the cost and hardships of growing anything in that setting didn’t make it practical for us to even consider. The one constant we hear from people on their first trip up is, “Your pictures don’t even come close to showing what it’s like back here”. Most seem very surprised at the quiet beauty that I can’t seem to capture with a camera. Honestly, I gave up trying so most pics will be of things we are working on at the time.
Click the link below to read more about our crazy journey…