I guess you could say we live in the country. A rural area, somewhat. We are 12 miles from town and about 5 miles from a regional university. But our town is relatively small and the area still has the feel of a rural county, one that not too long ago survived on farming.
Communities are named for the creeks that run through the valleys and coves between the mountains: Greens Creek, Scott's Creek, Dick's Creek, Caney Fork. Old homesteads dotted the wagon roads along these creeks, farms on either side. Now the creek valleys define the major communities, and more and more homes and small subdivisions line the creeks.
This is where we live.
Technically we live in a subdivision--two lots back off the main community road. Across the road is the creek, and across the creek one of those old farmhouse homesteads. Our neighborhood consists of about 25 lots cut from a piece of land that once, I suppose, would have been farm fields, flat for a few acres from the road and then rising up a small, wooded knob. Six of the lots are flat and relatively treeless. The rest, variously steep and heavily wooded. On one side the development is bordered by an old dirt road that runs up and over another, higher knob, and beyond the dirt road a corn field, planted and harvested for silage last year. One the other side, another field (technically part of our neighborhood but kept intact by the developers) and beyond that, a farm field--both baled for hay twice a year.
Fow now, there are only three houses in our neighborhood, including ours. So although we are technically in a neighborhood/subdivision, it feels as if we're in a very rural setting.
Two of the houses sit close to the main road. Here's what they look like from our house.
This house is on the right. It is owned by E.R. and his wife, who live full-time in Florida and visit sporadically. He dreams of retiring and moving up here full-time, and is lately talking of making the leap sooner, given the current housing market (he's in construction). E.R.'s property consists of the house closer to the main road, the knoll behind his house, and two additional lots.
Here you can see part of his property and the empty field beyond. E.R. owns basically all the flat parts on one side of the subdivision road up to the branch that borders the wooded area and the rise up to the knob. The line of vegetation you see beyond the lane is the branch. Beyond the branch in this photo the hay field, beyond that, the farm.
Thene there's the house on the left. This one:
That house is owned by a young (relatively--in their 20's) local couple. I have heard that her mother actually owns the property. He works at the local paper mill and must work very very hard, for he leaves early in the morning and returns late in the evening six days a week. She is an elementary school teacher, who is also attending graduate school. We know most of this information not from first hand knowledge, but from what others have told us (the developer, the realtor, E.R., and the grocery store clerk have all filled us in). We have not actually met these neighbors, and they are rarely, if ever, outside. They have a nice wide front porch that I have never seen them step foot on. They come and go to their cars through the side door, they mow their lawn regularly, and otherwise they are at work or inside.
[Side note: I will say that Paul did meet the man once, when the hounds were roaming about. It seems we were both feeding the dogs and one day I saw the neighbor starting to put chains on them. I hate to see a dog chained up and I feared he would take them to the pound, so I sent Paul down to investigate and he and the man had a short conversation. A few minutes later the dogs were loosed and after that, they stayed at our house, visiting the neighbors daily. I noticed yesterday that they now have a small dog pen and dog house and what looks like a little puppy in it. I might be unable to resist going to introduce myself just to get a chance to see the puppy. They can't be too bad if they're dog people.]
There is one more lot between our property and theirs. This lot is owned by the schoolteacher's brother (or, according to the grocery store clerk, owned by their mother for the brother). More about him later.
Our house, seen here:
is a log cabin, built at the back of the flat part of the lots, up against the rise of the knoll, so that our front yard looks toward the flat fields, the other two houses, the road, the creek, the farmhouse, and the mountains beyond.
Behind our house is an embankment, woods, and the road rising toward the knob, where the remaining lots are mapped.
We bought the lot behind us, just a steep patch of woods, but enough to allow us nearly three acres total.
There are no more houses behind us. The lots in this neighborhood, with the exception of the lower lots as I've described, have sat unsold for more than six years. And they are beautiful lots, with lovely views.
(View from lot 23 close to the top of the knob).
I think the main reason for the lots to have remained empty is that the developers (just a couple from Florida who spent childhood summers in the area and invested in land as adults), only paid to have the road put in, the survey done, and the power run as far only as our lot. So the top lots have no power accessible to them. Initially, Paul and I were interested in the top lots, thinking we'd build, but the power issue made it too costly for us to even consider and so we investigated the cabin that was under construction at the time.
For the nine months we've been living here, it has felt as if the entire knob is ours. Cars would go up there once in a while (sometimes, we suspect, for someone to have a liquid lunch), but all-in-all it was our own private estate. We could walk up the road in the evening and we never had to worry about neighbors being too close, too loud, too much in our way.
All of that is about to change.
First, four of the top lots have sold. One to the person who owns the farmhouse across the creek. We were told they intend to put a spec house on it, but they've made no moves to clear. Two of the other lots are in the process of being cleared now. A few weeks ago they dropped off a backhoe and we heard it working for days. We saw the well-digging truck go up one day, and, what's more--the power truck. Large spools of cable line the lane. The power is being placed, houses are getting built up there, and before we know it, we're going to have neighbors.
I suspect, once the power goes in and the whole thing gets started, more lots will sell and more homes built.
Then there's the schoolteacher's brother. Monday night, eating our inaugural Spring supper on the porch, we saw a truck pull up and a man and woman get out with large metal stakes. They began eying our garden and trying to sight the property line, making sure we didn't build the garden over the line (we didn't). Again, I sent Paul down to investigate. The schoolteacher's brother, it seems, is ready to build. He and his wife were staking the house out in anticipation for the "foundation guy," who will be arriving this week. They will face the house at an angle toward the view, which means our front porch will look into their backyard. "She" he said, is insisting on a pool--the above-ground type, I imagine-- and so we will look into that, as well.
As a homeowner, I realize that our property values will be increased by the increased interest and other houses in the development.
But I can't help thinking as more and more trucks and cars go up the road--there goes the neighborhood. Nothing against the neighbors themselves, just the fact of their presence. If only that lottery ticket had come through so we could buy the whole mountain just to leave it alone.