Chapter Two: A Serf Is Born!

The first big decision for Larry, where to relocate, was the easiest one to make. Huron County, in Michigan's Thumb area. Uncle Pete and his family brood were already living there. Cousin Chuck was a Sherrif's deputy, and cousin Jim was a county commissioner. In addition to already having family there, and having spent a good deal of time in the area, Larry also knew that the region had a diversified agricultural base. Corn and navy beans were primary crops. Vegetable protein and carbohydrates. Sugar beets were also popular. This meant that Larry did not need a large plot of land, since he could obtain these crops from the local farmers. All Larry would really need to do was have a basic garden and some fruit trees.

Memorial Day weekend in 1986 was when Larry drove up to his Uncle's place to discuss his relocation with him. Uncle Pete was happy at the prospect of Larry moving there. Pete's children had no interest in continuing the family farm. Over the past few years, Pete had sold off some of the land, and had reduced the size from over 850 acres down to 160 acres. This was about as much as Pete could manage.

Larry explained that he was interested in buying about 3-5 acres with a house already on it. Pete suggested that they drive into Bad Axe, the largest town in Huron County, and check out a realtor. Actually, they wound up first stopping off at an IGA grocery store. There, they obtained realty buying guides for free. Most of the listings included a photo of the property for sale.

Uncle Pete already had in mind a few prospects for Larry, but chose to remain quiet about them. To no surprise to Pete, the listings that Larry put on his 'A' list were the very ones Pete knew of. On Sunday, after church, Larry, with Uncle Pete and his wife Jan, drove by 3 of the prospects. Larry checked out 2 others on Monday before returning to Detroit. He had made arrangements to return the following weekend.

One of Larry's life-long friends, Al Beecher, was a rough carpenter. Building homes and garages were his specialty. Al was also an avid hunter and fisherman. Larry contacted him during the week and asked for his help in checking out the homes. Al agreed, especially after Larry mentioned the good fishing in an old gravel pit on his Uncle's farm. They would leave Friday night, so they could get some fishing in first thing Saturday morning.

The fish were biting, putting Al in a good mood. Uncle Pete came along after doing some chores, and described the good deer hunting in the area. Al now had an open invitation for both fishing and for deer hunting in the Fall. After a fish fry for lunch, Larry and Al set out on the road to examine the houses that Larry was considering buying. Al's trained eye really helped for speedy, but efficient inspections.

By mid-week, Larry had made up his mind and placed a call to the real estate agent for one of the prospects. A four bedroom home on five acres with a barn and two sheds. The rest of the farm had been sold off long ago, but there was still plenty of ariable land for Larry's needs. There were even some fruit trees, mostly apples and plums. Larry had taken water samples from each of the sites, and the lab-work showed that the well water from this one was the best. Quite a bit harder than city-water, but softer than the others.

Fortunately, thanks to Uncle Pete's inside knowledge, Larry knew that the site had been on the market for over a year. The asking price was only $56,000, but Larry made an offer of $35,000 and to his happy surprise, it was accepted. He would have to pay for the back taxes, but that only amounted to another $1,200. Larry paid half in cash and took out a mortgage on the rest. Monthly payments were only $220, which was no big deal.

The home was about six miles north east from Uncle Pete's place. Just down the road as they say. Pete was good friends with Larry's new neighbors and took care of the introductions. By the end of June, the paperwork had been completed, the loan approved, and Larry was now a property owner. On the July 4th weekend, Larry began the long task of moving in and setting up shop.

With help from friends and his new neighbors, Larry had the place livable in just a few weeks. He did not plan on moving in permamently till next year. Till then, every Friday night, he'd drive up from Detroit, spend the weekend working, then drive back down Sunday night. By September, all the rooms had a fresh coat of paint, all the pumbling worked, and the house was ready for winter. Larry bought a ton of corn and beans for $200 from one of his neighbors. He repacked it all in one gallon plastic baggies. This was time consuming, but neccessary to prevent weevils from ruining his supply. The farmer suggested adding bayleaf to each bag. He swore this would kill the weevils. It must of worked, simce few of the bags were infested.

During the fall and winter, Larry dealt with the eletrical wiring and putting up shelves in the basement, sheds, and two of the spare bedrooms. Al, and a few other friends were his first house guests. They came up for deer hunting season. It was a great time for them all as each got a buck. Most of the local farmers permitted Larry and company to hunt on their land. Several of them had fishing holes like that of Uncle Pete's and ice fishing expeditions were made during the winter. Al himself began thinking seriously about buying a cottage nearby. Uncle Pete offered Al two acres for a grand and said he could either build a house there or just get himself a trailer home. Al knew of a trailer home for sale for just $5,000 that was in decent shape. Moving it up there by a professional mover would run about $750. Pete said that the land he would sell already had a well dug for irrigation. Al took the plunge and shook hands with Pete.

Spring of 1986 was a busy time for Larry. He took a three month leave of absense from work. First thing was getting his garden planted. Larry borrowed his Uncle's tractor and tilled an small plot behind the home. He planted just about every kind of vegetable you can think of. One of his neighbors offered some raspberry bushes as a house warming present. Larry also tilled several small plots in which he planted a variety of drawf fruit trees. These cost a bit more than standard size, but still, sor about $600, he had a nice stand of peach and apple trees.

Larry's garden followed the method of high-density planting as spelled out in Mel Barthollemew's "Square Foot Gardening" book. This was a high efficiency which required less water and weeding than conventional row gardens. A few 4ft. x 4ft. plots provided enough produce to have a fresh salad everyday. Raised bed gardens were better, so Larry modified the method by using old tires instead of building frames out of wood as described in the book. Detroit was full of used tires, and Larry brought a truck-load everytime he came up from the city.

He prepare each tire by first drilling a hole as close to the tread as possible on the sidewall using a 1/4 inch drill bit. Larry then used that guide-hole for sticking in his sabre saw and then proceeded to cut away the sidewall. After doing this on both sides, he then turned the tire inside out and gave it a thorough washing. The tires were then lined up over the tilled soil. Each tire was then filled with a mixture of one-third compost, peat moss, and manure. He then watered each and let them sit overnight before planting his seeds.

Following Barthollemew's formulas, Larry planted his crops. He had a mixture of both vegetables and flowers. Larry had read that many plants mutually support one another, such as marigolds and tomatoes. Larry used larger tires for growing potatoes and for planting his drawf fruit trees. Here, again, Larry had read that raising drawf trees densely arranged was more efficient than conventional orchards. Keeping them in small groupings meant that Larry could use a single fine mesh net to cover a whole stand and protect them from birds. A large sheet of plastic could be used to cover them when it was neccessary to spray fertilizer or pesticides.

Over the next few weeks, Larry got a lot accomplished. He hit many yard and garage sales, both there and on his biweekly returns to Detroit, buying all sorts of goodies for dirt cheap. He really hit paydirt one weekend when he came across a yuppy selling her deceased mother's canning supplies. About a hundred jars with lids and rubber seals, plus even a large stainless steel pressure cooker. Larry offered $100 for the whole kit and kaboodle.

As things started to shape up, Larry began checking out the job scene in the area. It was pretty bleak. There were a few small machineshops here and there, plus repairshops for cars, boats, farm vehicles, and appliances. Larry dropped off resumes with the machineshops. The owners and managers at them explained that they could not hire him full-time, especially at the salary he was making in Detroit. Larry told them that he'd work when they needed him, provided that they supply all the technical manuals to him for the equipment ahead of time. Some agreed and Larry began building a nice library.

As the end of his leave of absence drew near, Larry had a big choice to make. Hire someone to mind his garden for him during the week, or just quit now and relocate permamently? Live a simple, quiet life with clean air and no crime, or continue to divide his time and efforts in both locations? The choice was easy. Larry went back and gave notice. He never looked back since.

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The material you have just read is a chapter in the on-line fictional story, "When Autumn Leaves Fall" by Andrew Zarowny, copyrighted 1997. All characters and circumstances are fictional and are not intended to bare any resemblence to actual people alive or dead. You have the author's permission to copy or reproduce this material so long as you charge no money for it's reproduction or distribution.

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