The MacAuley & Stone Gang searched for their quarry high and low, throughout the northern lower peninsula, and throughout the upper peninsula of Michigan. (For non-Michiganders, the two peninsulas are connected by a magical portal called the Mackinac Bridge (Mack-ih-naw). Everyone north of the bridge is a U.P.er, or a Yooper. Everyone south of the bridge is a troll. Everyone in the southern half of the lower peninsula is a flatlander, because those north of them have delusions of mountains. The mountains are actually all in the U.P.)
The Gang investigated beautiful, isolated farms and properties in the Upper Peninsula, where the growing season is short, but the opportunities for farming goliath mosquitoes abound.
They carefully examined farms in the lower peninsula that were within budget, finding a disturbingly high number of properties containing mostly swamp, or located directly behind lumber mills. Properties were searched on both peninsulas where the top soil was a foot above bedrock, properties that were perfect except for the owner’s unwillingness to sell under land contract, beautiful places that had no access to them other than by helicopter, properties that had been denuded by paper companies.
One day, we drove onto a property in Harrisville, a little tourist town on the shores of Lake Huron, the county seat of Alcona County. 40 acres of undeveloped, wooded land. Most of it was a former white pine tree plantation (a very common sight in Michigan).
It wasn’t perfect. There was no water on the property. No wells, creeks, ponds, or puddles.
It was mostly flour sand, which makes water retention a serious issue ( a big concern when there’s no well and you have to bucket water to your garden and field).
The soil would be extremely acidic due to the over-abundance of pine trees.
However… there were gorgeous, fully mature oaks, maples, spruce, hemlocks, and beeches.
We’d have so much work to do, but we could do it step by step, tailoring the property to our goals. It was pushing budgetary constraints, but after almost a year of real estate hunting, it was the first one that came close to meeting our requirements, that would we could actually (just barely) afford.
So, after a calm round of negotiating, we bought 40 acres on land contract from a very nice local couple. The property had been inherited by the woman from her father. She has a sentimental attachment to it. Fortunately, our goal of responsible stewardship, along with our organic and eventually sustainable practices are exactly what they were hoping for, so everyone is happy.
Now that the target had been acquired, it was on to Phase Two:
BUILDING A FARM