The cat’s out of the bag friends: we’re moving! Yep, that’s right. In the total chaos that was May 2021, we found our dream home, sold our original little beachtown homestead, and are currently packing and preparing to transition over to the new property in the next few weeks. Whew! Some of you may have already heard the exciting (perhaps shocking?) news over on Instagram, but I know not all of you follow along there – so let me fill you in!
This post is obviously a bit different than the usual informational content I share here, but since this is at the forefront of my mind right now, I figured why not write about it? Plus, it’ll be a fun and personal way to document this huge change in our lives. So let me tell you the story of finding our forever home, as well as answer some frequently asked questions about why we’re leaving, what we’re taking with us, logistics, chickens… stuff like that!
The other intent in writing this post is to give our loyal readers a heads up: that we may need to skip a week of new content here and there as we get settled over the next few months. (Thank you! I knew you’d understand). Don’t worry, I will keep posting new material as much as possible, and we’ll definitely stay in touch with helpful seasonal articles and recipes through our weekly newsletter.
Speaking of loyal readers… Before we go any further, Aaron and I want to extend the most massive, heartfelt, and sincere THANK YOU to this community! The success of Homestead and Chill is part of what’s made all this possible, and none of that would be possible without YOU. As you continue to show up, tune in, share us with friends, buy goodies from the shop or our affiliate links – it’s all so appreciated! Every ounce of your support enables us to grow, reach and help others, and do what we love for a living. We truly can’t thank you enough. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Alrighty then, let’s dish!
Why are we leaving? A bittersweet ending.
I know some of you may think we’re bananas to leave our current space, with all the beauty and abundance we’ve created here. Trust me, I get it! We’ve poured countless amounts of energy, love, hours, and resources (literal blood, sweat and tears) into this place. Honestly, our gardens feel like part of my identity now, and that’s a strange thing to walk away from. Yet from day one, it was never intended to be our forever home! When we bought this house in 2013, we had a 10-year plan in mind. We’ve always desired more space and privacy (and increasingly so the last couple of years). It was always supposed to be our starter home. However, we also set out from day one to make the very most of our time here!
This is something I always encourage: work with what you’ve got, and have fun doing it! We did not let the fact that we’d eventually be moving stop us from gardening our little hearts out – and then some. Leaving our original homestead behind will be bittersweet for sure, but I can’t imagine having spent the last eight years any other way. Working outside in the garden is our primary hobby, therapy, sustenance, physical activity, and connection together. Even in previous rental homes, we built raised beds or grew food in containers. Rather than going out to eat, shopping, or going on vacations, we garden.
So here we are, 8 years of wonderful memories and learning experiences later, ready to move on. The new larger property and home will enable us to learn about and cultivate a wider variety of plants, explore new DIY projects and growing methods, enhance our product line with more healing garden-to-body offerings, have a designed workshop inside, maybe even start a local farmstand, and so much more! And of course, we’re thrilled to document the transformation of a new garden space with you all! We feel incredibly blessed to have this new opportunity with room to grow, in every sense of the word. This is something we’ve been been manifesting and working towards for years.
Finding our forever home
The way we landed at our new place feels equal parts serendipitous as well as surreal. As corny or woo-woo as it may sound, the stars absolutely aligned! We’d been saving for years, on the lookout for a new homestead since mid 2020, and seriously started hunting in February of this year. Our search was for something very specific; our “must haves” list long (more on that to follow). Given how special our space is now, we were not willing to leave it for just any larger place.
I’d had my eye on the now-ours place (pinch me!) for over 3 months. Yes, it was on the market that long – which is totally unheard of in this market, especially in this area! Most homes are selling in under a week. I looked at it online every. single. day. and couldn’t get it out of my mind. At first, it was out of reach price-wise. We continued to save, explore other homes, and had also heard the sellers were not entertaining contingent offers (as ours would be). For many months, it was nothing but a pipe dream.
As other homes continued to unimpress and as we got closer to being able to put in an offer (albeit still contingent, we were going to give it a shot anyways), the dream home had a flurry of activity, showings, and several strong offers before we were able to act. The very day we thought we’d lost it, a really rad property with a lot of potential came up in the Petaluma area, which would be closer to our families in NorCal. We dropped everything, made the trip up there, and went after it wholeheartedly (again, only because we thought the local one was a goner). Needless to say, we didn’t get it – and we thank our lucky stars for that! On the drive back home, our realtor told us that we lost that offer – but that somehow, the local dream property was still available. All their recent offers “didn’t work out”. So we pounced.
Turns out, the dream house was on the market for so long because the sellers weren’t in a hurry. It had intended to be their forever dream home too, and were only leaving it due to an unplanned work relocation. They were waiting for the perfect people to lovingly take over their home and garden, and none of the previous potential buyers felt right. In our offer letter, they read our story, saw photos of our gardens, the chickens, and said we were the ones they’d been waiting for. That “God had sent us to them”. We’re more spiritual than religious, but hearing that made me burst into tears. I felt it too. 💖
During our first visit. I can’t believe this is our new reality. The glimmer in Aaron’s eyes gets me every time! 😭
What is the new place like?
I will take more photos and/or a full video tour of the new property in the next month or two, draw up our future plans, and share more with you in a separate post! In a nutshell, it is over 2.5 acres, mostly flat and usable, already has a handful of raised garden beds and young fruit trees, and quite a few beautiful oak trees as well. There are several partitioned pastures (the previous owners had a horse and a goat) along with many water spigots throughout – a huge plus! The soil is incredibly sandy (on the silty side even) and will need ample organic matter, aged compost, and mulch to liven it up.
Our current homestead is on the border of USDA hardiness zone 9b/10a, while the new property sits firmly in zone 9b. It’s only a few miles away from our place now but slightly inland. That means it will be a tad warmer during the day and cooler at night, and have less fog and ocean influence. That’s something we’re actually really excited about! As much as I love being a mile from the beach now (it’ll still only be a short drive away!) the summer fog can become oppressive at times here. In fact, as I’m writing this, I haven’t seen the sun in several days.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot: we’re adopting three more cats! There are currently four outdoor “barn cats” at the new property, and the seller is taking one with them. There was talk about having the other three trapped, so I immediately stepped in and said we’d be more than happy to take care of them. Our three indoor-only kitties are accustomed to seeing the neighborhood cats in our yard anyways. So, I’d like you all to meet Teddy, Bear, and Badger – our new buddies and built-in rodent control! I’ve heard they spend most of their time hunting gophers in the furthest pasture, so I have high hopes they won’t bother the birds too much.
Selling our home and real estate madness
Okay, back to how it all went down. What a whirlwind! Because our house-hunting hadn’t been feeling all that fruitful, and we also had the potential to find a more affordable place without dealing with the stress of a contingent sale and timeline, we had NOT seriously prepared to sell our house quite yet. Sure, we’d done a couple small projects and made a few donation runs, but that was about it. So once our offer was accepted, it was GO time!
The offer on the new home was accepted late one Monday night, and we worked around the clock to get our house show-ready, photographed, and on the market within a couple days. Pruning, mulching, purging, deep cleaning, staging… I was so exhausted, I felt like I had the flu the whole time but had to keep pushing. Showings were scheduled all day the following Friday and Saturday while Aaron and I sat in the car at a park with all three cats and one chicken. That’s a whole other story, but let’s just say thank goodness for NuVita pet CBD (and the human formula too)!
Our home was on the market for only 4 days, had 21 showings, and 10 offers came in. We accepted an offer from a fabulous young nature-loving couple the following Monday night – exactly one week later. Just as our sellers were particular about who bought their home, we made sure to select a buyer that was going to love and appreciate our garden, and continue to tend to it (at least to some extent) – not some flipper or investor.
In all, we admittedly bought our new home during an extreme peak in the market, but we also got to sell during the peak, so it’s not all bad! Plus, when you’re talking about finding your forever dream home, does resale or potential depreciation really matter? Not to us.
What plants or other garden things will you take with you?
It was always the plan to leave all of the raised garden beds, wine barrels, trees, and other in-ground plantings. Those things are part of the landscape and ecosystem we’ve created, and we’re happy to leave them for the new owners to enjoy! They belong here. We also decided to leave the greenhouse behind since it’s securely installed on a concrete block foundation, and we’ll probably upsize now that we have more space.
The chicken coop and run was up in the air (we offered to remove it as part of the listing because some may consider it a bit of an eyesore out one of the bedroom windows), but we’re thrilled that they want to keep that too! Of course, the four chicken ladies are coming with us. Our new place already has a large coop and enclosed run for them!
The other things we definitely wanted to bring along with us were the nice ceramic potted plants, garden art (like decorative windmills, solar lights, and signs), the monarch butterfly enclosure, patio furniture, homemade potting bench, fountain… you know, more personal items. We’re leaving them our storage sheds and big single-bay compost bin, but taking the worm bin and compost tumbler.
Finally, we’re still trying to figure out a game plan for the rainwater collection system. The smaller 140-gallon rainwater tank will stay, as it’s already all hooked up and in place. Yet the two larger 530-gallon slimline tanks became unsteady (thanks, gophers) and have been disconnected since last fall. Because we intend to set up a larger rainwater system at the new place, we may just sell them before we go.
Things we were looking for in a new property
As few folks have asked what qualities we were looking for in a new homestead. Some things were simply personal preference, but certain aspects may be helpful for other homestead-hunters to consider as they navigate their journey too!
- Space: Ideally, we were hoping for 2 to 5 acres that were relatively flat, open, and usable. That’s ample space for a large raised garden bed area, small fruit orchard, chicken area, wild pollinator area, and then some. Anything larger felt unmanageable, and was most often out of our budget. We’d also consider something as modest as 3/4 to 1 acre if it was in a prime location, had a great house, was flat and usable, set up just right in regards to trees or potential shade, etc – but something like that never surfaced. There are a LOT of hilly and heavily treed properties around here, which leads us to….
- Fire Risk: This was a huge factor and something that eliminated numerous properties right off the bat. In our area, the majority of larger properties are further inland, while smaller lots are closer to the coast. Yet the more inland you go, the increased amount of hills and canyons, trees, unmanaged brush, winding roads, and other fire hazards there are. In California, fire is a risk just about anywhere you live, but we weren’t willing to volunteer ourselves onto an especially high-risk property.
- Remoteness or Access: To be frank, we’re modern homesteaders, not folks looking to live totally off-grid in the boonies away from civilization. Having fairly quick and close access to the pet ER, hospital, hardware store, nurseries, and other essential services was important to us. Plus, our business is dependent on having high speed internet and good cell service. (Speaking of access to services, several really awesome properties were way too close for comfort to the massive power transformer towers that run through the hills around here. Talk about a buzzzzkill.)
- Water and Sewer: The new house has public water, it’s own septic system, and room to drill a well in the future if we choose. During our hunt, we were totally up for either. There is a definite convenience factor when you’re on city services: while you have monthly bills to pay, there is no ongoing maintenance or potential (very) expensive repairs. Then of course there are the perks of being on your own well and septic too: no monthly bills, and far more self-sufficiency.
We’ve always been on city services before, but I happen to permit and inspect rural water systems, wells, and septic systems as part of my “real job” outside of Homestead and Chill, so that change was not intimidating for us. The key thing I wanted to know about any property on septic was: where is the leach field, and how large is it? Septic tanks are fairly compact and easy to work around, yet leach lines can take up a HUGE amount of space. It is not recommended to put raised garden beds, trees, other edibles, or deep-rooted plants on top of them. I’ve seen one-acre parcels where half the property is leach field! That would have been a total bummer – and deal breaker.
The house we looked at up in Petaluma was on a well. We were stoked to see that it was located in a stable aquifer with good recharge (not always the case in much of California), had a great production rate and pump, and good water quality test results. I did have some concerns though, because they’d disconnected their storage tanks and were running the well straight to the house. That is not ideal for the life of your pump or running a large irrigation system, and not having stored water is a terrible idea for fire safely, so a bit of work was going to be required on the water system there.
- House: Most people probably consider the house before all those property details I just covered, right? Lol. Well, the only real “must-have” in regards to the house itself was for it to be larger than our current space (1295 sq ft) so that we’d have room for our growing business inside as well as out. I had some other dreamy notions, but not many hard lines. At the right price, we were even willing to entertain a fixer! Thankfully, the new place needs little-to-no work inside at all.
That sounds like a tall order, right? Truth be told, I wasn’t sure we’d find something that didn’t sacrifice at least one of those things! I’m still in shock that we did.
A note on equity and the housing market
I want to acknowledge that we realize how privileged we are to be a white, straight, cis-gendered couple going through the home buying process. There is a long-standing history of unjust and biased practices in the US housing industry. While discrimination based on race, ethnicity, marital status, gender, and/or sexual orientation is now illegal, it is still happening (and is absolutely deplorable) – from “red-lining” and selecting home buyers to the lending process and appraisal rates. Yes, we worked really hard to get to this place, but the system is also set up in our favor. Others who also work incredibly hard aren’t always so “lucky”. To learn about this important topic, please read this article from UC Berkeley Othering & Belonging Institute.
Next steps and future plans
So, what’s next? You mean, aside from packing, moving, painting, cleaning, and unpacking? I need a nap just thinking about it all. Ha! In regards to the yard, the first order of business will be planting some some avocado trees. Of all our established fruit trees here, we’ll miss our avos the most. There is an area along the road that could use a little added privacy, and because trees take the longest to grow in and start producing, that’s always a good place to start! See tips about choosing and planting fruit trees here, and information about growing avocados specifically in this guide.
Otherwise, we’re going to take our time, sit back and observe a while. Sure, we’ll putter, do some pruning, clean up the chicken coop, add pathways and potted plants, get bird baths set up, arrange the new seed starting room (I can’t want to show you that space… let’s just say it’s a real “trip”!) and other things like that – but we want to watch the sun patterns through the summer, fall, and into winter before we make any big decisions or commitments in regards to the main raised garden bed or greenhouse areas. A ton of ground prep and irrigation work needs to be done before we install those too. I love the planning and transformation process (and remember, it took us over 6 years to get this homestead the way it is now!) so I’m not going to rush it.
As for the blog, I’ll plug along with usual content but also probably start some sort of series with updates on the new homestead projects too! Something a bit more casual like this post, sharing our thoughts and decision-making process, progress photos, quirky things or challenges that happen along the way… Let me know if you like that idea in the comments below!
In closing, we have to thank you again for your continued love and support! And if you too are house-hunting and feeling discouraged, please don’t lose hope. I know can be annoying to hear at times, but things do work out the way they’re supposed to! As I shared some of this journey on Instagram (including my frustrations), my inbox was flooded with dozens of similar stories: of folks who struggled to find the “right” place or had numerous rejected offers, some who looked for many months or even years, but all the stories ended the same way: people ultimately landed in a place that was even better than they hoped for – or more special than the previous ones they’d “lost out” on. A place that felt like home.
Helpful articles for new homesteaders (of any scale):
- How to Start a Homestead: 9 Must-Read Tips for New Homesteaders
- How to Remove (or Kill) Your Grass: Grow Food, Not Lawns!
- Turn Your Yard or Garden into a Wildlife Habitat
- How to Build a Raised Garden Bed
- Choosing the Best Fruit Tree Varieties for Your Garden
- How to Start a Garden 101