First day on the new property

So here we are setting up a home base in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

We've already talked about the good things about this place, the many reasons why we moved here, the reasons why we're trying to set up a home base.

We finally found a property with land that met most of our requirements and are able to rent it for three months before deciding if to make an offer to purchase. So, for the last quarter of 2017, October November December, we're renting a piece of land outside of San Miguel de Allende!

This all happened suddenly. We first saw the property on Monday, we took a look at it again on Tuesday with the kids, we paid on Wednesday, we planned on Thursday, we packed up on Friday, we moved on Saturday, and now we've spent a couple of nights sleeping here!

However everything might seem to go with our family, a simple move to a piece of land could not be easy, there's always something that has to go wrong and in this case it went very wrong.

The owner of the property had said there are basically two stipulations for the property although it turned out to be three actually. First, he did not want us to dig a hole for the septic system. We can Boondock for about 2 weeks but we cannot Boondock for 3 months. Boondock means living without electricity, living without running water, essentially living without a dream. So if one of the stipulations was no digging a hole for a septic tank, okay, we drive away with it, that's cool, got that problem taken care of.

The Second stipulation was that we could not cut the fence to get Gracie onto the property. At first we thought this was a very big deal but then we realized there's a ditch in front of the fence and even if we had cut the fence getting Gracie into that ditch would be nearly impossible.

The back side of the property does not have a fence so we were then planning to drive Gracie around to the back side of the property, near some trees for shade. But, as with all well-laid plans, things went wrong. We knew the land was wet. We knew that there was mud. But it hadn't rained overnight and it hadn't rained for 2 days in San Miguel de Allende. What we didn't realize is that this property is far enough outside of town that it could rain at the property and not in San Miguel de Allende, therefore we did not know that it had been raining each one of those days.

Becky was driving our truck and I was driving the motorhome, typically we would have had the truck on a trailer behind the motorhome, however, we decided to drive separately. Becky decided to drive onto the property first because the truck is lighter. We figured the truck could make it there and then she was going to check it out and direct me in. We figured it would be fine for the truck, but we were wrong.

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You see, here comes the third stipulation That stipulation was that they needed there to be no ruts in the property. He was concerned because we were driving Gracie, and he just said I don't want any ruts.

Well, when Becky got stuck and radioed back to me that she was stuck, I radioed back to her that the motorhome had just gotten stuck too. We hadn’t gotten very far into the property, we weren't but 6 feet off the road, and Gracie was stuck.

This is where all the problems begin. I started digging and jacking the truck up and we found out that it was just swampy mud. I put a board down under the jack and when I extended the jack between the board in the truck it would just push the board down into the mud. We worked and we worked and we were able to get the truck up a little bit and put some stones under the wheels cuz this property has tons of stones. But as soon as we got back in to try it again the stone sunk, the wheels sunk, and we were quickly on our frame.

All this time neighbors had been walking by or driving their mules by, and they kept saying you need to go to the big farm next door, they have a tractor. I was a little nervous to be like ‘hey, we're new to town, we just moved in and we got stuck, can you come use your tractor and haul us out?’ but I decided, in the end, to give it a go and to trust the neighbors. So one of the neighbors took me to the farm and I got to ride on the cart that his mules were pulling, yes it is that kind of a quiet town!

The tractor came and proceeded to dig and pull us backward out of the mud. We got about 50ft and I thought to myself that’s perfect let me go and I can drive around and get out of here. Having Gracie stuck, as long as she's off the road, is no big deal as we can wait until the land dries out to retrieve her, but with the truck stuck, and us being 30 minutes outside of town, not having enough groceries, all kinds of crazy things like that, we need the truck. So I thought, simply get me unstuck and then I will drive my way around. But the tractor driver didn't seem to agree with me. I wasn't able to communicate with him because here I was up on top of the ground and he was pulling me backward with my tow strap, and we have such tinted windows that he can't see me and he couldn't hear me over the tractor…

So, in the end, he pulled me right back into another wet spot and we quickly went down to the frame again.

At this point he started slipping and he started making ruts.  Pulling an F-150 backward while it's riding on the frame through swampy mud is not an easy task. I could put it in reverse, put it in drive, put it in neutral, even put it in park and it had no impact on how fast or slow he could pull me because my wheels never hit the bottom of the ruts and he was just dragging me along the frame on high ground.

The problem was it was wet and so we were shoving mud in every crack and crevice, in every spring, and in every steering part, in everything under the brakes and the wheels, everything pushing through Like Play-Doh pushes through one of those french fry makers. It was disgusting.

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But it got worse.

You see, the tractor had been slipping this whole time and it was a sad thing because it was making all these ruts but at some point in time, suddenly it couldn't pull me in so then he would shorten the tow strap in half and for some reason he could get some traction and he could pull again and then he would slip and he would lengthen the tow strap and then he would slip and he would shorten the tow strap and so we kept doing this back and forth and back and forth.

He even added his chain into the link so he could get farther away from me but that didn't work well so he switched the tow strap for the chain and then started jerking on the truck to pull it out backward. Not a pleasant experience but we were making some progress until we weren't and the tractor could not pull and he was in deep, deep, deep and he was starting to get stuck so he called his other tractor from the farm.

The second tractor showed up and now we have two tractors pulling on little old me in an F-150 and they just pulled me right out to the road.

That's when we realized the full extent of the damage to the underside of our truck.

It looked like a shaggy mud monster had just come out of the swamp.

And the damage we had done to the property, the ruts all the way through made Becky’s stomach queasy and made me really sad, scared and disappointed.

Yes, we got the truck out. No, Gracie isn't where she needs to be. We have at least a football field’s length of ruts and some massive ruts at least three feet deep in some places.

So while we haven't dug a hole for the septic tank, and we haven't cut the fence, we did accidentally cause major ruts in the property.

The next day we found out when we drove our truck to town to get it washed that it had ruined the balance of our wheels. I didn't know why but I thought it was an alignment or a balance issue or whatever. But today I took it into the shop and found out that the mud had dried inside the wheel rims which caused a balancing issue, plus the mud had pulled the weights off of the rims that had been on there to balance them originally.

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Fortunately we live in Mexico and despite all the cleaning that the shop had to do (and it was a very clean shop!), despite having to remove all four wheels, all four brakes, all discs, all drums, clean out the rims, scrape mud off of everywhere, and put it all back together again, despite all that work, it was only 25 US dollars!

2017 10 02 12.07.43

Oh, and by the way, the down payment or the deposit that we put on the land we don't get back if we cause ruts, break the fence, dig a hole for a septic tank or do some other damage. That was $130. It’s  sweet to rent 6 acres and if you screw up at all you lose 130 bucks. This is my kind of country, this is my kind of financial situation, this just works out really well for us.

So that was our first day.

Our first couple of days on the property did not go at all how we expected and made us both sad and discouraged to disappoint our landlord on day 1 within a couple hours of arriving. But we are here, we're testing the property out. We don't have electric and we don't plan on it, we don't have running water other than what's in our RV and so we will fill that as we go and we will call the septic man to remove the junk. We're getting internet installed in a couple of days and yes we have been testing out the property. We love certain things like the kids play outside everyday, most of the time we love that it's quiet, that we get to watch the wind blow through the fields and we love that we have our house on this property for much cheaper than what it's been to camp in most places.

But will we buy this property? Will this be the place that we set up our home base? We're not sure. We’re still working that out. Each night a train goes through nearby, and it wakes us up multiple times. If we continue to wake up to it, we know this is not the right place for us.

So stay tuned as we post more about our property! I went and bought a load of wood and pipes and some other things, tools, and shovels for the kids to play with and make a mess with as well as a new tow strap because we did break ours.

What are your thoughts? If you were to rent a property, what would be the first thing that you would do? Set up fencing, set up a driveway, or something else? Would love to hear your thoughts below.

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Paul Kortman

Dad of 4, husband, blogger, digital marketer, follower of Jesus. I podcast at nomadtogether.com and own connexdigitalmarketing.com We're on this crazy journey to travel the world as a lifestyle. Looking for help in how to live as a digital nomad family? Join this Facebook Group!

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6 Comments

  1. jf

    yeah… those definitely look like ruts. Having lived near railroad tracks AND near an airfield, I’ll tell you that your brain will filter out those now-intrusive sounds after not-too-long a timed you WILL sleep through them.
    I will be interested in learning about which first things should be done first in a boondock setup! Are you still living in Gracie, or is there a habitable place on the land?
    Blessings

    Reply
    • Paul Kortman

      Yeah people told us we’d get used to living near the highway when we did in 2006, we never got used to that! Especially the semi trucks running over the rumble strips.

      Last night we both slept through the trains for the first time in 6 nights! So here’s hoping that becomes a trend!

      We are living on Grace and planning on living within Gracie as she is a perfect home for us. We may make additional more stationary add-ons to her (like a roof over the top to keep the heat off of her!) but in general she is our house!

      As for boon docking, we have 400 watts of solar power on top and 460 amp hours of battery storage, so when things are working well that’s about two days of our electrical usage in storage. We are having a bit of an issue witht he batteries, either a short or the batteries are failing, but we’re not sure yet.

      We have a septic guy on speedial who will “suck out” the grey and black water (yes they have pumps for this!) and there are two types of water delivery services to fill the freshwater tank… so we’re all good there. :)

      Reply
  2. Terese LaPree

    I guess the first thing I would find out is by talking to the farmer near by if this is how muddy the land is naturally. Is it like that all year ? Just when it rains? Only when it rains in the fall?
    There are places in Garfield Township here that are heavy with clay. No matter how much rock or gravel or sand or tile is put in the ground , it is a soupy muddy sink to the frame and beyond slimy mud. The kind you just can not drive through. Ruts are nearly impossible to fix in it. Had to be done while wet and allowed to dry to fix it. This usually only is a problem for a couple months in the spring. But can be a fall pain as well.
    Other places are wet all the time. Places that are bog like. They are mostly dirt on top . Walking on it is fine . Driving on it not do much! Something that never dried up completely would be a big problem. Property that is wet the majority of the time, is going to be a problem.
    Some places you could farm property like that with horses or oxen. But not a tractor. Or it could be pasture but not a road.
    What does the land owner use the property for? Does he not want you to dig a hole for septic containment because the hole will just fill up with water? Look at the deepest ruts. Full of water?
    Trains. You will learn to set your clock by them most likely. Oh this is the third train, must be 2 am.
    Depending on how much you tire yourself out during the day, and how light of a sleeper you are it should only take a few months to get used to the train noise.
    Hope that Gracie is not too hard to get out. And that the damage to her is not catastrophic.
    Sounds like your first week is full of red flags on this property. It’s a good thing that rent is cheap.

    Reply
    • Paul Kortman

      We’ve been there almost a week and the ground is significantly more solid/dry. It has only rained this morning so we’re getting the idea that there was too much rain that week.

      The property owner doesn’t want the property anymore, it was an inheritance and he wants to build a house in town so he needs the cash from this land to do that. He has been renting it out to farmers… however the farmers have to time the planting just right due to the rains… now that it’s not raining the ground is so hard it’d be tough to plow, so you have to have PERFECT timing and they haven’t planted it in well over three years.

      the deepest ruts no longer have water (except for under Gracie where there is protection from the sun, and run off from dew everyday)

      As for the trains, they aren’t on a schedule like they are in the states… at least we cannot figure them out yet! (perhaps they’re the same week to week but day to day they are very different!)

      Yes it is a good thing that rent is cheap!

      Reply
  3. kristin

    We are intrigued by your story, as we’re considering moving to SMA at least part of the year, and hoping to live outside the city in a more rural area. Have you found a church that you like out there? We feel like everything we need is in SMA (doctors, schools, etc.), but it’s so hard to get info about the protestant churches in the area. Any info would be appreciated!

    Reply

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