Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Progress Marches In

The Ranch - that 90 acres or so of Heaven I spend part of every day scheming to get back to - was actually originally part of a much larger portion of land owned at one time by my Great-Aunt and Uncle, who originally lived here.  The part that my parents own - the 90 acres with the Meadows - and the house above on the hill that my Aunt and Uncle own plus 20 acres and an additional 120 acres they purchased - were the gem and the developed part of the property.  The rest of the land - I am not sure how much, but quite a bit - was sold to a distant relation that had some sort of plans to eventually develop the property.  If helpful as an image, think of an avocado: the Ranch is the pit, the surrounding fruit flesh the other land. 

The potential for the surrounding land to be developed has thus always been there since the early 1980's.  Nothing really materialized over that time:  brush was cleared, permits were gotten, then extended, then re-extended.  The original owner passed and his family is now in possession of the property.

When I took my walk looking at fallen trees yesterday and got beyond the gate of our land, I noticed a thing I had not seen before.  You can see in the lower right corner of the picture.

The road is now rocked in.

Not just graveled in, rock in.  Big, solid pieces of fist-sized gray rock from where the road out branches to go up to the higher level of the property all the way back to the main road.  

This cost someone actually money.  This is a new thing.

This was always the way it was going to be, of course.  I am a pretty staunch believer in private property and the rights of people to do (within limits, of course) what they would like, even as I inwardly decry the fact that this sort of development ruins perfectly good land that will never be the same.  At the same time, my money is not tied up in land that is essentially doing nothing but running up a tax bill (Note:  Were governments actually concerned about overdevelopment, they would limit or perhaps even eliminate taxes on undeveloped land.  Sadly, their "love" of the environment is eclipsed by their love of tax revenue).  

There are other small signs as well:  The main road has had more traffic on it than I can recall in my lifetime.  And for the first time from my parents' house, I can see a streetlight that someone has put up (thankfully in summer it is blocked by the trees, but it is there none the less).

I know that my Uncle (who owns the house and 120 acres) is sensitized to this as well; he and I have had more than one conversation about how to manage the land that he has, even putting it into a land trust to prevent it from being developed).  It is on my mind as well; I am sure that at at some point the rocked in road will be rocked in or more, and the land around The Ranch will be filled with lights and houses and bar-be-cues music on the weekends and people feeling they are living "the good life" by being away from it all, all the time (for the most part) insisting that the modern world follow them in.

Potentially there still remain barriers, of course:  the risk of fire and resulting cost of insurance is a real thing, along with the fact that even our short drive "to town" can become both costly and time consuming if one is making it every day.  The recent power loss is likely going to be another factor for some people as well:  while the power is not down for two weeks every year, it is down to the extent that it is something that one plans for here as a not irregular occurrence.

All of this, of course, is beyond my control.  But what it does reinforce to me, more than ever, is that the - urge, desire, feeling? - to preserve this small plot of land from the larger world is something that is real.  I may not be able to prevent development of the land all around, but I can perhaps prevent the development of this small part.

It is not sensible, of course, nor is terribly rational.  But I sometimes wonder if this is how salmon feel  recalled to the stream of their birth for no other reason that that is the place they are meant to be.


  1. Anonymous3:37 AM

    Yeah, Civilization crawls or leaps, but make you mistake, it WILL eventually intrude into your personal space. When I was a young adult in 1980's, pole sodium lights at various ranches was extremely rare, maybe three seen in a 180 view. Now - at least triple the number.

    Much worse, wind generator windmills now dot the eastern and western horizons. Day time is not so bad. At light - red blinking lights taking up at least 100 degrees of night horizon. We try to ignore, but the blinking catches the eye (as it is intended to do, warning pilots of their presence). So rearrange the chairs is my only option.

    We were offered the same deal as the neighbors, ERCOT and oil companies offering $$$ in exchange for permission to explore for oil and wind opportunities. When found, they cut an approximate 100 foot wide swath of land for their installation of an 8" pipe. A ridiculous amount of clear cut. People who took it now have a highway width through their property. Not mine brother, I'll stick to being poor in pocket but rich in view.

    1. I understand - and do not understand - the purpose of sodium lights. Yes, I get the security. I also get the "You moved to the country to enjoy the darkness, silence, and nature. Sodium light is none of those things). For now at least, I can redirect my chair accordingly as you do. (And of note, this visual disruption of the landscape and light pollution is not mentioned by any of the folks who are for "clean energy" - as long as it is not in their backyard and they get their power, there is no concern).

      We do have (as you may have seen) power lines running across the property. They predate both my father and myself and have been something we have lived with. The power companies and their contractors have always been highly respectful of the property and the "rules" (such as they are), and frankly it is helpful to be on a main line when the power goes out (not so much in the last storm, but in general we are usually the first restored). That said, we have had the clear cutting as well - wasteful of trees of course, but I suppose on the bright side the lumber is down, ready to be used.

      I do think you have the right of it, view over profit.

  2. According to the assessor's website, there is another 185 acres on down that now rocked in road. I sure hope for your sake it isn't divided up into lots of small parcels. That would really take away some of the beauty of The Ranch.

    My parents were wise and bought the land within sight of the original plot of land and cabin in Arkansas when they were able to afford it and it was for sale. They didn't need it but it protected the line of sight and prevented someone else from building something right next door. My father has also ceded a local organization developmental rights on other property my parents own that will prevent someone in the future from ever developing the property for a residence. It will keep it wild and undeveloped for eternity. I really like that thought.

    1. Ed, back in the day - and the day being twenty or more years gone now, when all the principals were still alive - was that this was going to be developed into a large acre, high end home market. The land directly around here, as you have undoubtedly noted, is fairly rugged and hilly and small lots really will not make a go of things. That said, the development was put off twice due to the market; while nothing is sure, another market meltdown and/or increase in interest rates could easily put an end to that quickly. And as the development has fallen through twice before, I have no inherent idea if it will take this time. For all I know, they are improving the road for the power line access.

      That said, within the line of sight of The Ranch itself - the actual 90 acres - we have the opportunity, I believe, to be largely isolated from at least the views (not the noise, of course) of other houses were they ever to built here.

      Your parents were indeed wise. I have played with concept of developmental rights to an land organization as well, as I know my Uncle has as a methodology to prevent further development, at least here.

      If I were independently wealthy (oh, that this were so) I would buy all the surrounding parcels and be done with it. At best, I can hope to find a way to work with my Uncle about his land, either the 120 acres or the house and 20 acres. Maybe I cannot fend off all the development, but perhaps I can keep that much perserved.

    2. When I was younger, everyone was leaving the countryside in droves for the large urban centers. I reveled in that fact claiming about how I love it more with all those people gone. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that people would tire of the urban life and rush back out to chop up all that land into little pieces and build little "acreages" and then complain about the things they never considered like manure spreading in the fields for fertilizer. The one consolation though is that most of the land around where I grew up is more valuable as farm land than to sell it for a house in a one time transaction so that slows them down a bit. However in the rugged terrain around "The Ranch", you are wholly dependent on the economics. If I ever get a tip on the winning lottery numbers, I'll let you in on it so you can buy up all the surrounding lands.

    3. Ed, much of the same thing happened in my home town, although on a smaller scale. People fled here for the Big City, then fled back by building over the orchards, pastures, and wild areas. Not as much to complain about now, as there is virtually none of those industries left.

      That said, there is quite a "Keep Home Town small" movement, which accidentally includes raising housing and land prices - thus indirectly having the same effect as yours has on the farmland.

      I do appreciate the potential tip.

  3. raven7:12 PM

    Development. I understand people have to have a place to live, and nimbyism. Still, it hurts to see field and woodland turned into housing , usually so people can live in the burbs and drive to work in the city. It would not be quite so bad if most were not so horribly ugly, the sort of eye searing architectural constipation that perches on the land like a dump. It's their land, of course, they can build what they like, it just makes me want to yell at them, 'can't you see how ugly this is?"
    My daughter and I used to ride around imagining we had a cops ticket book, except rather than driving offenses it would be for "architectural abominations".

    A short tale. As kid's, in rural Connecticut(yes, you read that right) we lived outside-a land of worn down mountains, rich farmland along the river, and rocky woodlands scattered with small farms, it was an absolute joy for kids to play, ride around on their bikes, and explore- brooks,caves, old moldering cars from the 1940's all lined up on the back 40, granite and feldspar and tourmaline, rainbows and brook trout ,and every useful and beautiful tree imaginable. Snakes 'n arrowheads too.
    One fateful day we were exploring, walking along a path in the woods, farther than we had ever ventured before. Pushing our boundaries. Ahead of us, rearing out of the forest , was a wall of dirt and gravel, towering to the tops of the trees, like some alien construction. We climbed to the top of the slope, and there in the hot asphalt scented summer sun was a brand new virgin freeway. All the guardrails up and pristine lane markers, and not a single car. What was this new thing?
    Thinking back, that the the moment when my rural idyll changed- within a few short years, the mixed farm land woodlots became covered with houses, all enabled by the magic highway to Hartford.

    Preservation- the best is to buy, and if you have people around you with similar ideas, get them to buy close-things are not getting "better", as far as I can tell, having friends around is really nice.

    1. Raven, I guess that is the most painful thing: the reality is that for the most part, I presume people will not "live" here: they will have their stuff here and drive somewhere else to spend eight to ten hours somewhere else. This is no more living in the country than commuting to work is living in the city.

      Not nearly as dramatic, but my senior year of high school there was a hill just outside of town we would go to, four of us friends, to look down on the lights of the Big City and talk. Now, that hill is completely built over with homes and the valley beneath a sea of lights.

      The very best thing would be preservation, of course. If all I can do is hold on to this, that is something. If I can do a little more, so much the better.

  4. How lovely to have a such a beautiful place that you can spend time at. Is this land you grew up on? I can appreciate your pain over the development of the surrounding land.

    There is not very much such wild looking land near here, but living in a town on 1-65 and a short distance from Indy, the annual growth in the number of warehouses is dazzling. It's not enough that Amazon has a massive warehouse just five minutes up the interstate from here, but one is planned to soon be built near the exit of this little town too.

    Our recent move took us a bit further from the interstate to a country neighborhood far enough from town that we can see a difference in the number of stars that are visible at night. Even so, some neighbors have security lights, and we've even talked about getting one - just to have it available when it would be helpful to see at night - maybe for a summer night gathering or something. Like you say, I understand why people have them, and I'm always a little thankful for them when I drive home on a very dark night, but it makes me a little sad that our small, quiet and otherwise dark neighborhood is dotted with them and that they cause any amount of light pollution out here.

    1. Becki, the answer to your question is yes and no. The land has been in our family since the mid 1940's, when my Great Aunt and Great Uncle purchased it. As a result, we spent many weekend and vacation days here.

      The growth of warehouses is amazing both in larger Old Home and New Home as well, as are the growth of apartment buildings in New Home (almost to the exclusion of new homes, it seems). The warehouses confound me a bit, as literally they will only ever be warehouses. They are difficult to repurpose as anything else. I can see a day where there is a wasteland of empty warehouses sitting, old trash and brush blowing through them.

      Honestly, at the rate we are going Amazon warehouses are going to be the new Starbuck's: One on every corner.

      To be honest (and to be fair, personal opinion), motion sensor security lights make a lot more sense to me for most purposes, perhaps supplementing with outdoor lanterns. That way one gets both the lights, but they do not create the light pollution all night lights do.


Your comment will be posted after review. If you could take the time to be kind and not practice profanity, it would be appreciated. Thanks for posting!