So what's been happening at the ranch? A lot, a whole lot!
If you have already looked around the website, you probably already know the biggest news - we have our first cabin! Well, actually it's a cottage; but a very nice cottage. My mom moved to Texas in 2004 and built a house on our acreage. We took this opportunity and piggy-backed on her construction, attaching the cottage to the side of her garage opposite her house.
The cottage is fully furnished and equipped with pots and pans, dishes, utensils, sheets and towels - everything you need for a comfortable stay. All you need are your clothes, a toothbrush and if you must stay connected to the outside world, your cell phone. Click on Texas Guest Cottage to check it out. If you like what you see, give us a call, make a reservation and come stay and relax here at the ranch.
But what else has been happening? Let's start with the loose ends.
Tying Up Those Loose Ends
those loose ends. “Did you convince your
company to let you work 4 days a week and/or telecommute?
Bumps In The Road
You may recall I mentioned several bumps on the road to closing on our property. Let's look at these now in a bit more detail.
When we made the decision to purchase a place in Texas, I spent hours looking at our financial situation. I worked up spreadsheets with income and expenses and figured out where we could cut corners and how much property we could afford. I had things worked out just perfectly. Then about 2 weeks prior to our closing, I found out there were to be layoffs in our office. The good news, I was not to be one of those to lose their job. More good news, I was going to be able to work a 4 day workweek. The bad news, I was not getting to work four 10 hour days; but four 8 hour days. My hours, and salary, were being cut by 20%.
Twenty percent! I had just spent hours figuring out how we could make ends meet. Could we do it with 20% less? Quite honestly, we weren't sure; but we were too near to closing to give up.
Then came the final shocker. Two days before closing, we got a call from our loan officer. Our loan had been approved - conditionally. Our loan would be approved if and only if we came up with an additional 10% down payment! The good news was we had the money from the sale of our other house. The bad news was this was the money we were planning to use to fix up the place after we moved in.
As bad as this seemed, it was easy to decide what to do. We had come too far to stop now, and besides with my hours and salary cut we didn't know if we could qualify for the loan if we had to start all over with another lender. We had already sold our other house. We were homeless! We still knew this was the place God had guided us to. We swallowed hard and closed on our property on the final day of our interest rate lock.
My Home Away From Home
After closing, I took a few weeks off from work to try to get things unpacked and somewhat functional. But time flew by and before I knew it, it was time to go back to my day job.
Now that I am here at the ranch . . . Oh yes, I am here at the ranch now; but we'll get back to that in a minute.
Upon returning to work, I began driving to Clear Lake on Monday morning and returning to the ranch on Thursday evening, spending Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night at my home away from home, working my day job in Clear Lake. This wasn't an occasional thing, it was our weekly ritual. Candace managed the ranch from Monday morning until Thursday evening, taking care of the alpacas, supervising the building of fencing, basically doing it all. For the first year, she even worked a full time job as a landscape designer for a large local nursery.
Initially I rented a room in our old house from Cynthia & Marv. But after 5 months I moved and rented a room from the mother of Cynthia & Marv’s loan officer.
Living apart was not easy on either of us. It was highly stressful and very difficult. It was probably the most difficult thing we have ever done in our lives. I was living in two separate, diametrically opposite worlds, four days in one and 3 in the other; and Candace was on her own for four days of each week. She was (and still is) a true alpaca rancher woman. But we had a dream and we had a goal and this was just one step in getting there.
Back Home At The Ranch
After almost 1 1/2 years of this weekly ritual, I returned to the ranch for good. This was a mixed blessing, as the circumstances that facilitated this weren't the best. At least they didn't seem that way at the time.
On October 1, 2004, I was laid off from my job of over 25 years. This is what enabled me to return to the ranch. It was a very strange feeling being laid off and driving away from the office parking lot for the last time.
I spent almost a full year unsuccessfully searching for a job; but we managed on my severance package, vacation pay and small unemployment check. I even did a brief 10 hours consulting with my old company, updating some documentation; but 10 hours of income doesn't amount to much. The alpaca business was beginning to grow but was nowhere close to where it is today. We finally got to the point where we needed to dip into savings some. Our financial pad was eroding and we were both getting just a bit nervous.
A Voice From The Past
looking at the numbers. "If only I could work just 2 days a
week". Then in late September 2005, I got a phone call.
"Would you be willing to be my backup and work 8 to 10 hours a week?" 8 to 10 hours? That sounded great! I could drive to Clear Lake one day a week and knock out 8 or 10 hours. Driving into Houston one day a week would be no problem at all.
But it gets better. After just a few weeks, October rolled around and the project went into a new fiscal year. We were allocated some additional hours and I was now able to work 16 hours a week. 16 hours! Sound familiar? "If I could only work just 2 days a week". 2 days = 16 hours! It was a Twilight Zone moment. And it gets even better.
Along with being able to work 16 hours, I was setup with a secure id that allowed me to work from home. I was getting what I had asked for 2 years prior. I was going to get to telecommute! Our God really is an awesome God!!!
Today I work 16 to 18 hours a week, most of it from the ranch, traveling down to Clear Lake only once or twice a month. And those trips are day trips. The rest of the time, I'm right where I should be, here at the ranch.
The Tennessee Place
And finally, “What about the Tennessee place – did it sell?” Yes, the Tennessee place did sell; but it took over a year. Shortly after we placed the property on the market, our renters moved out. Little did they, or we know that it would take that long to sell. Our place sat vacant through four seasons with us always wondering if it was ok, or if some of the locals were setting up a meth lab in the back bedroom.
But thankfully nothing bad happened, and at long last some folks from jolly old England purchased the property. They brought with them two retired race horses to grace the pasture which we thought would one day hold alpacas. When we last spoke to our Tennessee realtor, she said they were just loving it. Which is as it should be. It really was a wonderful place.
Closing on the sale of the Tennessee place was another blessing. It allowed us to pay off short term loans that we had used to put in fencing and do fix up after we moved in. It also allowed us to do some other things around the ranch and most important, it happened prior to my job layoff in October 2004.
Thanks again for reading “Our Story” beginning to end. We are still enjoying our life here on the ranch and are thankful each and every day that we are here. Our alpaca business continues to grow and gets better each year, as more and more people find us, visit the ranch and purchase alpacas or alpaca products. Couple that with our Texas Guest Cottage Bed & Breakfast and my part time work and we are doing just fine, thank you.
Quite honestly it would be hard for us to leave and move back to the city. We realize this life is not for everyone and that's fine. To each his own. But for us, this is truly a dream come true. Give us a call or drop us an email. Come see us, share our dream and meet the alpacas!