Our Christmas 2006 Story...

My wife Marna and I consider ourselves very fortunate in that we have been blessed with so many friends, both locally and electronically. The downside is how to tell so many people we are moving, and harder yet is repeating the story of how this all happened. Forgive the grammer!

Marna and I moved up to Wisconsin in 1999, and purchased 80 beautiful areas from a local lumber company on a land contract with a 5 year balloon payment. We both had money owed to us, and the plan was to pay off the land and build a small house. Well, the money never came. (That in itself is an entire story, but I won't reopen those old wounds here.)

So we tried to get a traditional loan and refinance our land. By 5 years, we owed less than $60k on land worth $160k (+ at least $30k in improvements). But we didn't have a finished house, self-employed, etc. No one would touch us. We were going to sell 1/2 the land then to pay off the other 1/2 and finish our house. In all of this the lumber company even gave us an extra year+ to straighten this out. I can't fault them, they were very good to work with!

My family then told me that my brother Brad (party to the money never coming in the beginning I might add) would loan us the money. Seems he has made him a tidy sum in the St. Louis real estate market. Google "Brad Kazmaier" for fun if you want.

So June of 2005, I went to St. Louis and talked to him. Everything was going to work out. Then just a few weeks before our extended time with the lumber company was up, my brother explained that the lawyers advised him that the only way he could be protected was if the land was in his name and he leased it to us with a purchase clause. Not what we had in mind, but it is family after all, right? I did want him to be protected after all.

So time went by. No lease. My father kept telling me that everything was going to be ok. They were quick to tell us when the purchase from the lumber company was complete. Then no word until late October (or was it November? Doesn't matter) 2005 when we got the first email with the lease. Several obvious things wrong with it, wrote back and asked for changes. Things like only my name was on it, not my wife's. As it turns out, if I died she would not be entitled to continue to lease or purchase. We had to ask permission to cut firewood. Hmm. We do that every year for heat, and we hoped to pay it off with a logging when it was time for the next cutting, and he knew that. Must just be the lawyers. When asked to make changes, once we got a response like "I'll forward it to the lawyers". When asked to remove the section that basically read "you guarantee the roof, interior and exterior walls, and fixtures of the house to be maintained" for a house that didn't exist, we got no response. The only change we ever saw was Marna's name on the signature page, but not on the list of "lessee/lessors" which is where it actually matters, anyone can "sign" the back but that doesn't give them any rights. And they added "we can cut firewood for personal use".

Then they just ignored us. Then in July a process server delivered the "lease" along with a note "Sign it or else". We considered just doing what they asked, but with a clause in it that basically said that as soon as we sign it we were in violation of the lease and would be evicted (and this is the best part) would owe him a house, we decided that we could no longer trust them beyond what was actually written. My father had told me at the beginning to "make sure you can live with what is you agree to". So we marked up the copy, signed it, and sent it back.

Never heard a word, but we did then get served eviction hearing papers. On October 31st, yes Halloween, we were told by the judge "what your brother did was despicable, and you should take him back to court where he should be pounded", but as far as the actual lease and land, no signed contract, out you go. My brothers lawyer "generously" offered us 45 days and made it clear that he had the papers for the sheriff already drawn up. The judge gave us 60.

Never heard a word from my parents after we asked for revisions last year. My 40th birthday came and went this year. Never heard a word. I guess the fact that my brother employees my father, and is building a mansion with a "wing for them with an elevator for our mothers failing knees", is thicker than blood. But as they say, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Shame on me.

So hear we are packing to move. No money saved up for such a thing, every dime invested in this property. I figured the other day that we have invested over $80k here. It was our retirement, our savings, our nest egg. I don't expect we will ever see a dime. If we went back to court it would cost us more. After all, it is our word against his, and he as the money for the lawyers.

The plan? We thought we were going to be homeless, but we found a chunk of land in South Dakota. Undeveloped, raw, rolling prairie land. Much like what we came to in WI but no trees Smile They offer it under a land contract with little money down, only NO BALLOON! The differences also is that we know that the electric and telephone company are never coming. And we won't be counting on family to honor any obligations. We have a generator, and a great many ideas. Wind mill, passive solar heat, and we can keep some of our animals. Way better to either of us than an apartment. We would be miserable in a city, plus we work from our home. Three businesses. My computer work with PageStream, Marna's ebay work selling working animal equipment and animal related items, and raising and selling of a few kinds of animals. Try and fit that into a one bedroom apartment!

So life dealt us a tough one, but we are doing what we can. We try not to let the bitterness eat us up. It will only hurt _us_.

Now comes the hard part (as if this all wasn't enough). We have always tried to do for others. Now we need to eat some humble pie and ask for help. Basically 3 ways someone can help.

If you are in the market for a great desktop publishing program consider PageStream at http://www.pagestream.org. Have a pet? Check out Marna's items at http://www.marnasmenagerie.com. Looking for a great llama, rabbit, or a goat? Write Marna a note at marna@grasshopperllc.com.

We also have a list of items that we need. This is just the short list but the highest importance. We figure that if someone has something used laying around that we could use and they don't, it would go a long way towards helping us financially. Some things seem far-fetched, but if we don't ask...

Sterilite 18qt tubs. (Most everything will be outside for a long while).
Batteries. (Automotive good, deep cycle like gold cart better, used electrical forklift batteries best)
Fence posts and fence (we have to fence the grazing animals out, they don't fence them in where open grazing is practiced)
Lumber and insulation (we are building from scratch, again)

Some bigger pie in the sky:
LCD monitors/TVs. (Our electrical capacity won't tolerate large draw items like CRTs unless we want to run the generator 16hrs a day)
Laptops (if it runs, we can probably use it. again, lower power draw)
Laptop 9mm or less HD (if you have one, you will know what that means)
Charger or Inverter, Solar Panels, Wind Mill parts
Two-way Satellite Internet

Lastly, but about as important as it comes, cash donations. Gas money is our biggest expense right now. We can survive day to day, but getting everything transported and set up 800+ miles away is huge. We have to get our businesses set back up asap, or the loss of income will be unbearable. We do have a business paypal account (sales@grasshopperllc.com) and a personal paypal account (deron@grasshopperllc.com can't accept credit cards on this one) and our mailing address is now 15851 US Highway 85, Belle Fourche, SD 57717, USA. Phew. There, I said it.

That is it in a nut shell, and we must be the nuts Smile Thanks for reading this far! If you are ever in western South Dakota (think bad lands, black hills and mount rushmore) please look us up, our email remains the same! We hope to never loose touch with the great friends we have found through the years!

Happy Trails,
Deron & Marna Kazmaier

Our Driveway 2006 Dec

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