A Year in the Round: How I Found My Host (I Swear I’m Not a Parasite!)

Reader Contribution by Natalie Morris
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When I started planning the tipi move, it was very clear that I wouldn’t be able to purchase property to place the tipi upon. Hell, I couldn’t afford a blade of grass if someone gave it to me. Plus, that kind of defeated the purpose. I want to get out of debt, not further into it.

Obviously, I needed to make friends with people who owned some land. So, my local craigslist “farm and garden” section saw an interesting ad.I stated exactly what I wanted, in a decently concise manner.  

My ad went something like this:

     Wanted: Work exchange for small corner of property near town

I’m looking for someone near town that would be willing to let me assist in the upkeep/maintenance of their land/livestock in exchange for borrowing the size of a decent garden for a couple years. I’m simply requesting a place for my 16′ diameter tipi (for year-round living that I’m happy to discuss), my friendly horse, two happy dogs and a small chicken tractor.  

It’s kind of an odd proposal, yes. Am I roving gypsy? No. 

Several people responded right away. Many were just interested in asking questions about the tipi, some actually with land and a plan.

Now, my best advice for someone who may be looking to do something of this sort; DO NOT make any agreements without meeting the land owner (and the land!) first. I can give examples.

I had several good email dialogues going with some well-connected and interesting folks. I even met some in person at the local coffee shop, and walked away happy and hopeful. However, upon visiting their properties, I was pretty disappointed by a few. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not really that picky. But, as I’m sure you’re thinking, how could I be disappointed in a place that I could live for free? 

Let me give some examples: One spot was 100 acres of a recent completely clear-cut forest. It was easily the most depressing thing I’d ever seen, but the owner made it sound as though it was paradise when talking to them. Then there were several land owners who actually did have a slice of paradise … an hour’s drive from work. Another was a nice couple looking to get a long list of housing issues repaired so they could sell their house and get a divorce.

Not exactly what I had in mind.  

On top of all this, the people at the coffee shop were beginning to think I was weird. 

When I began to lose hope, a woman emailed. I called her promptly and we set up a meeting. I couldn’t believe her place when I saw it. Her 30-odd acre place is a beautiful, well-maintained chunk of heaven! There are woods for exploring, pastures for galloping and a cheers-worthy view of the mountain sunset. Plus, she’s an awesome lady herself. When I first met her, she was working on her tractor in the 90-plus degree sun in a sports bra and shorts. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s happy for me to bring along the horse, the dogs and the girls (hens!).  

Below is a picture of where the tipi will sit, before work was done to make a (sort of) level floor. 

Because we have some foresight, LandLady and I made up a little “contract” of sorts. It’s basically explaining that she knows I live on her property, and I am doing so at my own risk. Same for my horse, Folly, in case she does anything that would prove her name correct.  

Everything is legal and everyone is happy!   

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