I have always been an aspiring land hoarder. For as long as I can remember in my adult life, I have longed to own a little piece of “heaven on earth” somewhere amidst green pastures and rolling terrain. When we lived in New Jersey, I envisioned a retreat in the green hills of Vermont. When we resided in Virginia Beach, I would drive through the winding, strawberry-laden roads of Pungo to arrive at the lesser-known beaches of Sandbridge and dreamily envision what was possible.
And when we returned to Birmingham five years ago, I became fixated on parts of our state that held interesting possibilities, pulling my good natured husband Ken into the adventure. The choices seemed almost endless as we became reacquainted with favorite spots and explored new out-of-the-way places.
As we went through the process, we refined our criteria. Something near water would be nice, but we didn’t need to be directly on a big body of water. This would allow us to purchase a larger piece of land.
After spending time with my sister Sheri and her family on Smith Lake, we toyed with the idea of purchasing a farm in Arley. After a few weekends of travelling up Corridor X, through Jasper, and hooking around the lake to reach its upper edges, we determined criteria #2: we wanted to be close enough to Birmingham that we would take full advantage of a getaway. An hour and 45 minutes, while not a lengthy trek, seemed just far enough that we might make excuses as to why we couldn’t get there on a more regular basis.
Next we looked southwest. As University of Alabama graduates, we explored out-of-the-way villages and swaths of land hoping to find a place that would fit the bill en route to Tuscaloosa football weekends. While this seemed to make sense, we just never saw THE PLACE that spoke to us.
At this point, we did what any technically connected person would do to narrow down all the possibilities within an hour (give or take) of our principal residence: we surfed the net. I found sites that featured raw land and farm land and established vacation homes. We selected properties based on proximity, beauty, and having more than a spit of land. Some had structures, others were “virgin land” building free.
We spent weekends on our newfound hobby, meeting with real estate agents — lots of them. Many showed us parcels for sale with falling down barns and abandoned dreams, similar to our own idealistic enthusiasm. And yet, we persevered.
On an early Saturday afternoon, we met up with a commercial real estate broker who had an odd listing in Talladega County. Online the photos had looked promising, the acreage count was generous (30 acres – Ken couldn’t even imagine what we would possibly do with so much land) and the price was right.
The agent, Andrew, told us he used to be a land broker and this was a listing he brought with him to his new commercial position. He met us at the roadside, next to an oversized real estate sign more appropriate on a busy city street corner than amongst the horse pastures, woods and close by bungalows of Lake Logan-Martin. If we had traversed this road during our search, we likely would have driven right by the property, so unassuming from this vantage point.
As we followed the tree-lined, gravel road that ringed the property, it was hard to tell exactly what lied ahead. It was green and pretty for sure but was it THE ONE? As the road curved right, the vista opened up and literally took our breath away. A pristine pasture circled a crystal clear pond that mirrored the foliage hugging its north and east edges. The entire clearing was protectively donuted by rolling hills covered with towering pine trees, separating it from the county street we had just arrived from and neighbors on either side.
No residence existed. The land was the thing and it was IT, THE ONE. My dream of being a land hoarder was finally realized.