Liberty Nature Preserve
Liberty Nature Preserve is dedicated to all the family and
friends that have supported us over the years as we chased our dreams
The Liberty Nature Preserve is a private project that is owned and operated by your hosts on this website journey, Donna and Brett. It is a dream that is being coaxed out of slumber and into reality. On our journey through life, we take from nature every day and rarely give back. This will be our effort to re-pay and still reap the benefits of not only owning it, but being an integral part of it's development and growth. We have often wished for a large, blank canvas to paint our picture of a natural nirvana; this will be our masterpiece. God willing, Mother Nature willing, and our loan officer willing, we will take small calculated steps through a projected 5 year project to turn 46 acres of timber into a nature and wildlife refuge, complete with a three to five acre pond and a modest house or cabin.
THE BEGINNING OF THE DREAM
We started looking for property for a week-end getaway in 2001. The first consideration is pretty much the same for most vacation home dreamers: waterfront property. Well, it didn't take too many calls to realtors to realize that our beer budget was not going to finance anything of value on the waterfront. Quite frankly, the first and most formidable barrier is the location of our principal residence: too close to Chicago. Unless we wanted to drive 6 - 7 hours one-way, any piece of real estate within 4 hours of Chicago comes at a premium. We scratched the waterfront idea and shifted to small acreage...maybe 10 or 15 acres of timber where we can cut in a road, build a cabin, and disappear. Let the search begin.
THE WEEKEND DAY-TRIPS
We became proficient at using the computer to search property options and ideas. I remember the manual search my folks went thru looking for the same; driving to an area to see what's going on, looking for realty signs with phone numbers, call them and then visit their office to see what they have to offer. Man, has this changed for the better with the internet....BIG TIME. Anyway, we drew the big 4 hour bulls-eye around our home and started working regions: southwest Michigan, south-central Wisconsin, southwest Wisconsin, northwest Illinois, western Illinois, west-central Illinois, then central Illinois. Every time we walked a parcel of acreage, my size requirement grew a little, thus stretching my budget a little. At one point, we were sure that 20 acres would be more than we ever dreamed of and if we find "the right one" that we could afford, the deal would go down! Ah yes, that was until we walked a 30 acre parcel in south-west Michigan. Then, sometime later, there was the 50 acre parcel in central Illinois....WOW! To be fair, I will admit that the 50 was the largest singular parcel that we considered. It was very cheap and the quality of the land ultimately proved to be below our standards. The same old problem: champagne taste on a beer budget. It is fair to say, though, that I dragged my poor wife thru 800 acres of forests and farm fields, 20 - 50 at a time.....most of them in the 20 -30 acre range. Considering Donna's knees aren't what they used to be these last couple years, a gold medal is certainly in order.....and plenty of pain killers. I admittedly enjoy a couple Ibuprofen myself at the end of the day. No pain, no gain....right? Our mid-life creed has pretty much come down to "you better do it now, because in 15 years......." well, you know.
THE SECOND BIGGEST PROBLEM
As mentioned, our proximity to Chicago is our first hurdle when it comes to affordability. Well, how many times have you driven thru corn country somewhere and looked out and saw a patch of timber. This is the kind of thing we were looking for. Come on! That has got to be the garbage soil and topography that the farmer can't plant and has zero use for, right? It will work just fine for our needs; this will be perfect. We should be able to buy that stuff for a song! WRONG-OH, Daniel Boone. It seems that the hunters have the same idea. Oh yeah, and the midwest is huge buck country. Here's the deal; hunters from all over the U.S. are buying the small to midsize wooded timber tracts for hunting and flying in with their pals once or twice a year during the season. Hence, the market for this property that we want to buy with our beer budget is national and focused on our target region. Kinda dis-heartening, eh? Well, we kept looking......
THE TIPPECANOE RIVER
Poof, we wandered into the Lake Shafer zone in Indiana and find a one acre parcel on the Tippecanoe River, fully developed. It was very affordable and we found that ideal buyer's situation: the seller's were poorly represented by their realtor and desperate to get out. Enter frugal Brett and Donna. It actually took 4 months, but we got it pretty darn cheap. Oh, I forgot to mention, the principal home was a highly converted mobile home. This is a huge white elephant for any property and certainly contributed to it's price and afford-ability......so we bought it! We owned it for 2 years and decided that it lacks the "elbow room" we really desired, so during the summer of 2004 we hit the small acreage market once again. While we are looking (again), we tidied up the River home and marketed it ourselves as a FSBO. We finally listed it in April of 2005 and 3 months after listing it, we close on the sale. The profit was very helpful.......because........
THE LIBERTY PROPERTY
Sometime in early February 2005, while deeply immersed in searching for acreage within the bulls-eye zone AND still remodeling the River Home property for sale in the Spring, we stumble on the Liberty property. I learned alot about buying and selling real estate, but one true key: know exactly what you want and be VERY ready to move when you find it. We did. Shortly thereafter, we closed on Liberty and put it on ice while we "kicked it up a notch" on the sale of the River Home. Well, I can smell the ending of this episode coming.....we sold the River Home, wiped our brow, and kicked back to relax for awhile. Right! As Donna so aptly puts it, "you promised me we would take some time off between projects to relax and enjoy the summer without having to run somewhere else every weekend.....I got 8 days!" (I guess that 8 days wasn't enough).
BEGIN DEVELOPMENT OF LIBERTY
Well, my beer budget couldn't buy Kool-aid right now, so let's accept a reasonable time frame to develop this dream.....5 years seems fair. Actually, I think it is a pretty good estimate. So, what are the steps. Well, we purchased Liberty for a number of good reasons, particularly it's topography for a pond. It seems that after considering all the improvements slated, the pond should really be the first. If for some reason a pond is not possible, I want to know now so I can decide if this is still going to be the "right one". Ok then, let's talk to an excavator. This is when the eighth day of our summer break came in; it was spent with Jake the excavator. Jake is a real good guy and highly motivated, but we felt he didn't have the technical expertise that this size project would require.....so.....the next weekend was spent with John the excavator. John came very highly recommended by a good neighbor, Vernon and his wife Toni. It didn't take long to recognize that John's credentials could "toe the line"....in fact, I kinda think that we selected each other on this project. Speaking of Vernon and Toni, I need to take a quick moment to thank all our wonderful new neighbors. Vernon and Toni have been super helpful and supportive of our endeavor. Vernon laughs when I tell him that I can't buy enough lunches to pay him back. Tim and Misty have taken their personal time and equipment to mow our access path without my asking. Dan and Carrie have been there right from the beginning, providing priceless information and support. Jim and Theresa are great neighbors, too. Tons of thanks to all! Anyway, back to John the excavator. He is the guy! This guy knows his ponds. During my 4 years of research, I talked with a number of different USDA offices about ponds and I have picked up decent knowledge. With this knowledge, I can fully appreciate it when a pond wizard gives a dissertation.....John is the pond wizard! It seems that our 2005 budget and timing will allow excavation of the 2000 ft drive from the county road to the pond site. Then begin clearing the timber within the pond site. That pretty much taps us out for this year (and most of the coming years.....this is where our loan officer "kicks it up a notch"). We will target next year (2006) for the actual excavation of the pond and construction of the dam. After that....well, we will have to see. In the meantime, though, this website will be ever evolving with the progress and news as it develops.......STAY TUNED.