Saturday, November 16, 2013

Coming down from the sandhill

In several of these columns, I've described events happening "up on the sandhill we call home."

From the threatened Blandings turtle crossing through the yard, to the screetch owl in the rafters of the barn, to the adventure of cutting a wasp nest out of a tree in the llama pasture, a lot of nature happened on that sandy hill outside of Hortonville.

But we no longer call the sandhill home.

Plans for a four-lane highway bypass across the road, running through the farm field where I counted cranes, watched tom turkeys in full display and saw deer gather by the dozens in the evening, was not something we cared to hang around to witness. That and thoughts of growing older in a two-story house with the maintenance of an oak woods sent us looking for a new place in the country.

That place ended up being in the Town of Dale, west of Appleton. It is not the blow sand of the ridge in Hortonia. Building pasture fence drove home that we now live on clay soil. Maybe it's now "up on the sandy loam we call home."

The transaction happened very fast. We never put our house on the market. No signs. No staging. No open houses.

The property we chose had been on our radar for several years as it went on, off and then on the market again. When we finally expressed interest, the sellers wanted to check that the sale of our house -- a contingency in any offer -- would be likely to happen in a reasonable time.

Their Realtor checked out our place on the sandhill. He said he had a couple who were looking for that kind of a setting and asked if we would agree to a one-party listing for them to see it. We did. They liked what they saw and eventually made an offer of nearly what we wanted.

The owners of the other house agreed to an offer of close to what we wanted to pay. The two transactions took all of four days.

Then the Hortonville tornados hit. The storm downed at least 75 trees in our woods and left a good number damaged but still standing. We. hadn't closed on the deal yet and were thinking we never would.

It turned out that the buyer was raring to hit the woods with a chainsaw and his father raises draft horses that could be used to haul timber out of the woods for fun and profit. A lot of people used the phrase "meant to be" when we told them our story.

With apologies to those who have lived in the limbo of carrying two mortgages, I have to tell you we owned two houses for less than eight hours.
It was hard to leave the sand hill we called home. It was a beautiful, hilly, diverse patch of woods. We had raised fours dogs there over 19 years and were getting acquainted with the fifth. We had buried four llamas there and had to move six others.

We have traded the woods for open pasture, the firewood, morel mushrooms and trillium for a view of sunsets, bluebirds and growing our own hay. As one friend put it during the move, this place gives us more credibility as farmers.

We also have a couple of friends and one mother-in-law who put in an irrational amount of time helping us move, and other friends and family who lent a pair of hands. You can define a true friend as someone who is willing to carry yet another box of school materials or dig a 30-inch-deep post hole in clay.

Our farm is still named Sandhill. We have heard their call every day and watch them settle gracefully into our hay field. We will always cherish what we gave up, but we're up on a new hill awaiting fresh adventures.

David Horst's nature column appears here regularly. Contact him or check out past adventures on the sandhill at

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