Gerald Almy: Selling land a hard decision

Gerald Almy

Regular readers of this column are familiar with my fanatic devotion to wildlife projects and land management. This article and the conclusion next week will explain why I will soon be downsizing the quantity and scope of those habitat improvement efforts. But while I may be cutting back on the number of such projects I undertake, I will never reduce the intensity level or passion I bring to them.

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I’ve always hated making decisions. That’s especially true when major life issues and potential changes are involved. For some people, it’s not a problem. Instinct and past experiences lead them to their choice quickly. And many of them don’t look back. No matter how wrong or right their decision was.

I’m not that way. In fact, my wife Becky says I overthink things and analyze too much. But when I make a choice and it’s wrong, it’s hard to forget. It gnaws at me. I know any life counselor or therapist would tell me that’s the wrong attitude. But it is what it is.

Of course, thankfully, not all my life decisions are wrong. Four major ones, in particular, have been good ones.

First, my career choice. I wouldn’t trade being an outdoor writer for any other job in the world.

Second, my companion for life. I would not have married any other woman than my wonderful, loving wife Becky.

Third, the decision to become parents. That led to the birth to our beautiful daughter, Jarrett.

The fourth major decision was purchasing the land we now live on in the western side of Shenandoah County, after living on the eastern side, on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, for about a decade.

We were happy there, near Woodstock. But we decided as an “experiment” or life adventure to try living in Texas. The Lone Star State (in our case, the Hill Country near San Antonio) was great, but after less than a year we decided to come back to the Shenandoah Valley.

Our hearts were here, and relatives were nearby. But we wanted a bit more land than the four acres we owned before, where we lived on the river near Woodstock. Increasingly, the writing assignments I was getting focused more and more on managing the habitat for fish and wildlife, though there were still plenty of pieces on fishing and hunting for them.

It was hard to experiment or learn much about the topics of food plots and habitat management on four acres, half of it brush, and another acre devoted to the yard.

So when we came back from Texas we decided to search for a larger property, say about 20 acres, close to Strasburg, Edinburg, Woodstock, Front Royal, Stephens City, and Winchester for the restaurants, stores, farm co-ops, and libraries they offered.

We ended up buying 86.

The parcel of land we found at the base of Little North Mountain just off the Back Road was so fantastic that we couldn’t resist, even though it was way more than we wanted or needed. Many things made it appealing, but one of the most important was the wide variety of habitat. It ranged from rolling hills and open fields in the lowlands up into brushy foothills and then finally, forested mountain terrain at the higher elevations.

There were several springs on the property, one of which we found out later is the actual birthplace of “Toms Brook.” Good spots for building ponds were abundant, and several streams offered water for deer and turkeys. In short, it was a wildlife management writer’s dream property.

Then a year or two later, unexpectedly, a long narrow strip along one border became available at a bargain price. We dug deeper in our pockets and bought that.

So there we were. We wanted to own 20 or 25 acres, but somehow had wound up with 116 ½ acres.

Next Week: The reality of owning 100-plus acres sets in, health issues arise.