As I begin to write this “beginnings” blog, my head swims with all the ideas related to this project over the years. Sometimes they would actually make it to paper or an excel spreadsheet, but more often than not, they would end up going down the drain with my morning shower as I got ready for work.
Well, today is going to be a little different. Today I am going to begin writing about all the events that happen along the path of our journey. I am hoping, that in some strange way, documenting the process will also be a motivator for me to stick with it, and see the project to completion; a log cabin I can begin renting.
When I look back and try to figure out where this dream all started, I have to chuckle. It always reminds me of one of the first times we brought my parents out to show them the land that we had purchased. As we were driving them down our lane my Dad says, “so, you can build a couple of those cabins right over there.” What? We aren’t building a cabin! We are going to build a house to raise our family in. And we had already decided that we weren’t going to kill ourselves trying to make the land produce any kind of income, we just wanted to enjoy it. At that time we were two young professionals–DINKS (Double-Income, No Kids). Why would I want to do anything that will bring people OUT here? I want to keep this place to ourselves. That’s what we like, the seclusion. “He is so crazy sometimes”, I remember thinking. Well, look what can happen in just a few short years…
Well, we did build our house. We built it ourselves, while we both worked full-time jobs. It took us 1.5 years, and I still don’t have wood trim around my front door. My father, from the conversation above, retired and he and my mom helped us build it. We learned A TON! Then the babies came—three in 5 years. I quit my job to stay home with the kids, virtually cutting our income in half—but that is what we had always wanted, right? Well, then the tax bill came on that new house, an increase of 600%! We dabbled with cows, hay, even checked into the income from a timber harvest. What happened to the idea that we didn’t want the land to produce any income? I think it is the concept of landownership itself. You take pride in it, you plant a garden, you tend it, you see what its potential could be. I even had a friend once explain that it is just the way God made us (or cursed us!), as the Bible describes man as constantly toiling to get the land to produce.
We think we are pretty typical Americans. We dream/strive to be “financially independent”; whatever that seemingly indefinable term actually means. We saved every dime of the money from the first year of Doug’s “real” job after college, and lived on just my income. We maxed his 401K for a while, and always put in at least enough for the company match even after I quit my job and the kids came. We’ve dabbled in real estate, house flipping, rental properties, farming, IT consulting. You name it, we’ve tried it! We got a financial advisor, we developed the plan, we made short term, intermediate, and long term goals. We got life insurance. We tried to do everything right. But we always knew that if we wanted to really be able to walk away from our 9 to 5 jobs before we were too old and wrinkled, we would have to be successful entrepreneurs.
Then, as we were throwing out ideas, Doug decides, “Hey, why don’t we build some rental cabins in the other field?” What? I immediately recall the conversation with my dad when we bought the place…and I realize, “maybe there is something to this?” OK, maybe it wasn’t quite that simple. It actually took a lot of convincing. Probably number one being, wait a second Doug, you spend a few months building these things. Then I’m expected to spend a lifetime booking rooms, dealing with the public, cleaning cabins, and washing sheets?
Enter our current economy. Things aren’t looking too hot. Our wonderful mutual funds are down 40%. Every dime we put into the 401K this year has been lost. Desperate times for some. We begin analyzing again. Then it hits me—probably because I am always a worst case scenario person. So, what is the worst that can happen? OK, the absolute worst that could happen would be that we begin building the cabin, but don’t finish it. That shouldn’t even be an option, but you know, all things ARE possible (remember I still have no trim around my front door!). If we are smart and start out just spending our savings though, at least we won’t owe anyone anything.
Next, worst-case option…we can’t seem to get the vacation rental business off the ground. Oh well, we are building a 2-bedroom log home (Floor Plan – 3D Model). I’m sure I won’t have a hard time finding someone to rent it out as a house. And we already have experience with rental investments. Or, since we will build them in the south field, with its own road, it would be easy to divide and sell off; especially now that we have one pond by our own home, and a second, newer pond just south of the cabin (Building Site). When I know that I am not really going to lose everything if I try this, it makes it much easier to move forward.
Our concerns with the economy are justified. It isn’t looking pretty, but then again, we don’t live on either coast, or in a particularly urban area, so our housing economy is a little more stable than most—I am not suggesting there hasn’t been a slow down, but it hasn’t crashed, either–since there was no big bubble to burst. My husband’s take on the economy is that things will probably be grim for a while, but even during the Depression people still traveled. People will probably be less likely to take that trip to Disney this year, but they might travel in their car for a trip to soak up nature’s beauty. It helps that we are near a national forest, and within a three hour drive of Saint Louis, Missouri; Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee; all with a combined population of over 6 million people. Now we just need to show them all the beauty and diversity that Southern Illinois has to offer—enter our other labor of love… www.shawneeforest.com the “unofficial” site of this beautiful area. This is not the flat corn and soybean fields that we grew up on in Central Illinois. This part of Illinois has sandstone bluffs, cypress swamps, historical sites dating back to The Revolution, and all the outdoor sports we love; fishing, hunting, SCUBA diving, 4-wheeling, water skiing, hiking. The list could go on, but I should probably stop there for now.
So, over time, and by that I mean over a couple of years, we have mulled over the best sites on our land for the cabins. What type of cabins we want. What material do we want them made out of. When will we start? I don’t even think our friends believe us anymore, we have talked about it so much, but it has never come to fruition. Well, this really is it. We decided last December, and this is the year it goes in! I’m excited. I figure if every dime we stuck into the 401K last year is gone, then why not invest in another risky area for now, a start-up. But, this time, our OWN startup… www.cabinstartup.com