Christmas Greetings from Fred and Maryellen Cyran, 2020
Please note a new address for Fred and Maryellen Cyran: 3649 Wolf Pen Gap Rd, Suches, GA 30572. Our old phone number (678.344.0939) is still in use, but it is only a recording with instructions on how to contact us by cell phone.
It has been a hectic two years. We are happy to now have a more stable life and to re-establish contact with our relatives and friends.
Our story starts in January 2019 when our neighbor in Snellville, Georgia (a suburb of Atlanta) sold their home. After a ten-year slump in home prices, we were shocked at the sale price of our neighbor's home (which was similar to ours). The price was far more than we ever expected. Ten years earlier we tried and failed to sell our home (to downsize from a 5-bedroom, 2-story house to a single-level 3-bedroom place). So when we couldn't sell the house back then we decided to wait until prices went back up. Well, they did in 2019. The same day we learned of the sale price of our neighbor's house we decided to put our house up for sale again. So from January to March 2019 we frantically began to fix-up our home to get it ready to sell. All our five children had grown and moved out previously. We got three generous offers within a week of listing the house in April 2019. Unfortunately, a week before closing the first buyer backed out, and we had to list it again. We got two slightly lower offers within the next week (now May 2019), but a week later the second buyer also backed out. Then in early June 2019 we got another still slightly lower offer from the third buyer, and final closing took place in July 2019. Talk about stress! But we sold it! And the sale price was still reasonable, so we were happy and relieved.
While our home was for sale, Maryellen's mother in New York deteriorated rapidly from old age (she was 97). We drove up there to help out during her last days and stayed for her funeral.
Then we had another problem when our home was in the sale closing process. Someone made an offer ahead of us on the property we planned to buy, and it looked like we would have no place to move to. We would need to start looking for another place all over again (and we were searching for over 10 years). So, we put all our furniture in a storage unit near our old home. We had no idea where we would live permanently. Since Fred "works from home" he was able to continue working wherever he had access to the internet. We decided we would live indefinitely for a few weeks with Fred's mother in New York, then return for a few weeks to Georgia to continue looking for a place to buy. In Georgia we would stay in motels and also with friends - living out of our suitcases. Homeless (i.e. "houseless") by choice, not misfortune. Money was not a problem because of the generous proceeds from the sale of our house.
The day we closed on our old home, we drove up to New York to care for Fred's mother and live with her. We were depressed because the property we wanted to buy was being sold to someone else. But while in New York, a miracle happened. Our realtor in Georgia called us and said that the contract for the property we wanted to buy (which was supposed to close in early August 2019) fell thru at the last moment. So, we made on offer on that property for a lower price that we previously planned to make. We then returned to Georgia and made a final inspection and arrangements to buy the place. A few issues were found during contract negotiations which we felt we could deal with, and that resulted in our buying the place for an even lower price. But we felt good that we knew what we were buying and could deal with it. It was a miraculously low price as far as we were concerned.
What did we buy? Well, originally, we were looking for about four acres of land in the mountains of rural north Georgia near the borders of Tennessee and North Carolina where we could build a modest 3-bedroom home. What we bought is an old neglected 12 acre farm with a non-livable home at one of the highest elevations in Georgia. It is in an unincorporated area called Suches, Georgia. (There are only three paved roads to get to Suches. All are steep, windy mountain roads with a maximum possible driving speed of 30 miles per hour, and only a few guardrails on the edges of the cliffs). The property borders on National Forest land. It has a small creek and is about 1/2 mile from the Appalachian trail. The house is 3000 feet above sea level. Americans over the age of 40 may remember an old 1960s television sitcom called "Green Acres." Well, that's the kind of house we bought - a "fixer-upper." It was no surprise to us. After we bought the property, we needed to decide to either demolish the house and build a new one, or invest a significant amount of money to make it livable. After more inspection and advice about the house, we decided to fix it up. There was no well or running water (we got water from the creek in buckets), broken freeze-damaged plastic water pipes under the floor, no electricity (just a temporary power pole with a meter and the power line laying on the ground), no phone, no cell phone coverage (the mountains block the cell towers), no heat (just an old wood stove, no cut wood, some old dangerous open-flame gas heaters and an empty rusted liquid propane tank), tall weeds, briars, and poison ivy everywhere, birds nesting in the attic (for years), critters and bugs in and under the house, mold on the walls and ceilings, termite damage in parts of the floor and structural walls (in some rooms we could see thru the walls to the outside), and there was junk everywhere around the property. There was also an old dilapidated barn with a leaking rusty sheet metal roof filled with junk. But the toilet worked if we filled the tank with buckets of water. About 1/4th of the property is forest, but many of the trees were damaged by a tornado about five years earlier.
That's what it was when we bought it. We couldn't live in it. So, we needed to contract out work to make it livable: drill a well, restore/upgrade electrical service, mold remediation, plumbing, grading, masonry. All this while living out of our suitcases, living part of the time in New York and part in our old neighborhood. We were fortunate to live at a friend's house - a recent widow who was living alone in a big house in our old neighborhood. (We were also friends with the widow's children who were our age).
Fred is 65 years old and still works full-time for the US government. He was promoted to manager in September 2019. But his increased workload added more stress to our transient living situation. Fortunately, he worked from home for over 25 years, and all he needs is a place to access the internet to do his job. Wherever his briefcase and computer go, so can his job.
Amidst all this, a medical detour was required on 01 October 2019. Maryellen needed knee replacement surgery because her pain was unbearable. She had one knee replaced and it took about two months for her to recover enough to travel again. During her recovery we stayed in our old neighborhood, living with friends or in an extended stay motel. Fred had to work full time, help care for Maryellen, and oversee work on the property two hours away, all while living out of our suitcases.
In mid-December 2019 we were able to return to New York again for a few weeks to care for Fred's mother. Then back and forth to Georgia. One Saturday in February we drove to the property to do some plumbing work. During the day we got eight inches of snow. We were stuck in the house for several hours because the roads were impassable. And this is Georgia. Unbelievable. A "blizzard" in Atlanta is typically 1/4 inches of snow. So we learned that the weather at this elevation in Georgia is more like living in central Virginia.
Once we got electricity and the internet working and the well drilled (early March 2020), Fred kind of moved in here alone for about a week. We bought an old intermodal shipping container, had it delivered here, and then Fred moved all our family food storage into it from our storage unit. Maryellen said she was not moving in until she had hot water and a working shower. We were not planning to move in until May or June 2020 when the weather was warmer and more improvements could be made to the house. But due to the escalation of COVID-19 restrictions and quarantine measures being implemented in Georgia, we decided to move in prematurely on 17 March 2020 (which was also the same day that Fred got the hot water and shower working). We slept on an air mattress on the living room floor and used a portable space heater to keep warm. Then in the next two weeks we moved our furniture from the storage unit pick-up load by pick-up load. Since moving-in in March we have worked constantly on fixing things up. It is now much improved, inside and out, and is quite livable. In March we had about 10,000 things to fix, but now we only have about 6,000 things left to do. That's progress.
We really love it living up in the north Georgia mountains. Wonderful community and neighbors (yes, we actually know our neighbors). Life here is better than we imagined. It is really beautiful. We have two beehives. We have even seen bears! We find deer tracks in the dirt along the house and in the yard every few days. Lots of stars in the night sky. Hunting and fishing are only walking distance away. Great garden spaces. Coyotes yip in the evening on the mountainsides that surround us. We hope to live here for the next 10-15 years or so, until we are no longer able to maintain this place due to advanced age.
Sincerest wishes to you and your family this Christmas Season,
Fred and Maryellen Cyran
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Updated 08 December 2020