YFZ Ranch

You’ll recall the hullabaloo caused by the raid on Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, which precipitated the arrest and conviction of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs on charges of sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault. Women in long prairie-style pastel dresses with whole hoards of children and babies were loaded on buses by child welfare officials after reports of underage marriages came through.

While the 2008 raid and investigation cast a spotlight on the YFZ Ranch and the small West Texas town just south of San Angelo, it did more to uncover the foreign lifestyle the fundamentalist Mormon followers had on the 1,600-acre property, including the several log homes surrounding the 3-story temple on the compound, which housed many families (some of which were allegedly polygamist, though that is yet to be confirmed). It also cast a glaring light on the shortcomings of the state child protective services, but that’s a whole different subject entirely.

Polygamist Retreat

Still, we’ll have to see what will actually happen to the ranch, as some YFZ residents (a pilot who frequently flies over the site estimates between 10 and 80 followers still remain) have made efforts to pay the ranch’s lofty outstanding tax bills.

What we’re wondering is, if the state is successful in its attempts to seize the ranch, what will it become? I think it would be an interesting investment for anyone who wants to start a camp or commune, maybe even a self-sustaining farm. One thing is for sure: Thanks to the shale gas and domestic drilling boom, there’s a shortage of available housing in West Texas, and these units could be an interesting addition to the mix. Texas Monthly writer Katy Vine has a few ideas:

After the property has been vacated, law enforcement will begin taking inventory and the compound will be sold. This raises the question, Who will buy it? Oil-field companies needing housing? A group needing a religious retreat facility? Some in town have imagined a boy’s home or some other nonprofit purchasing the land—situations that would prove problematic for the local school district, which has grown to depend on the ranch’s taxes for 5 to 10 percent of its budget. A few, noting the original watchtower and the community-living structures, have even proposed a minimum-security prison. That would be one way to circumvent a marketing challenge.

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Kathryn Roan gets a frequent request from clients shopping for a ranch home:

“Searching for property, the land is way more important than the house, and I’m repeatedly asked by clients to find them a “tiny house on a big piece of land.” And, quite frankly, we do not want to clean (or pay for) rooms we just will not use.”

Sounds pretty logical, and you can definitely see that logic in this modern take on the dogtrot, with covered parking separating the main house and the horse stalls with attached run. A horse-lover’s dream, this is as close as you can get to your equine friends.

Find out more about this ranch and many more fabulous second homes on SecondShelters.com.

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(Portrait: Joe Garcia)

Full disclosure: I’ve known Jenna Kujawski (pronounced: KEY-os-KEY) since our days at Texas A&M University, and we’ve kept up with one another as we’ve both gotten married and had our first kids.

Jenna, now pregnant with her second child, is currently celebrating with sparkling cider as her family moves into their brand new home on the range in Franklin, Texas, just outside Bryan-College Station. It’s a dream home come true for Jenna of Lazy K Designs and her family, who live on 28 acres known as the Lazy K Ranch. Jenna and her husband Brady bought the acreage soon after graduating from A&M, with the goal of one day building their dream home – a home perfect for raising a family and teaching small town values. After 7 years, that dream is now a reality.

Read more about their real estate story after the jump!

Brady and I met while attending Texas A&M, and even before we were engaged, we would always talk about our dream home. I’m sure every couple has this conversation at least once while dating, but if you know me, you know that I don’t just have dreams; I have plans and goals. Plans and goals that I intend to achieve.

So after we were married in the fall of 2006, it was time to put our plan into action. Most young married couples get their first jobs and buy a starter home, but investing in a $150,000 home in Bryan-College Station didn’t make sense for us. No, our plans required a different approach.

We knew we wanted to stay close to Aggieland; it’s our alma mater, and as a communications and marketing professional, it afforded me the opportunities to advance my career. We also knew we wanted space – I had grown up as part of a farming and ranching family in El Campo, Texas, so I was used to living in the country, taking care of animals, and having room to roam.

Land was fairly easy to come by at the time, but location was extremely important to us. Even though we were just months into our marriage, we were making long-term decisions based upon our future. We wanted to be in a small town we could envision raising a family; we wanted a reputable school district; we wanted a realistic commute; we wanted a community with which we could be a part; we wanted a place where we could see ourselves grow old.

And we found it in 28 acres outside of Franklin, Texas, a rural community known for it’s high-achieving schools, and with a relatively short 35 minute drive to Bryan-College Station. And as an added bonus, a few of my college friends had married into the Franklin community, so we would even know a few people. We closed on the Lazy K in the spring of 2007.

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Since building a home wasn’t financially feasible at the time (or the right move to make), it made sense for us to try to live as cheaply as possible so that we could begin to save for our dream home. Since we knew this living arrangement would be temporary, it made sense to invest in temporary housing. So we found a used double-wide mobile home that we moved onto the property. It wasn’t anything spectacular, and we spent day and night for the first two weeks renovating it so that it was livable. Even though things seemed stressful at the time, it was one of the smartest decisions we could have made.

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As a planner, I always had it in my mind that we’d be building our home within 5 years. Well, if life has taught me anything, it’s that ultimately I’m not in control. I had my first daughter in the summer of 2011 and changed careers in order to be closer to my family, which set us back some in our plans. Looking back, it was probably smart to postpone the home-building process a bit; it gave us time to continue to pay off a large portion of our land, our mobile home, and our two vehicles.

In the early spring of 2013, exactly 6 years after starting our lives on the Lazy K Ranch, the time seemed right to take that leap of faith. Keep in mind that Brady and I have always done lots of planning before beginning any process, and this was no different. In fact, Brady had drawn our house plans himself, starting completely from scratch. We had already talked to a loan officer to make sure that the house we had drawn on paper was a house we could actually afford. We had almost finalized our builder. Things were falling into place.

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We broke ground in early June 2013 on what I would call a typical ranch-style home. Early on, we had decided to downsize from a two-story house since we had the room to build a large single story, and I do not regret that decision. Not when you have little children. Even though this was our dream home, we still had to be smart in how expensive a dream home we would build. So we agreed on what we would compromise on (marble, porches, ceiling height) and made certain we were on the same page about what we were not willing to compromise on (kitchen, limestone, gabled entrance, outdoor kitchen, layout).

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And here I am, a little over 7 months later, enjoying my morning coffee on my new beautiful front porch, watching the sunrise over the treetops. My now 2-year-old daughter is still sleeping in her big girl bed in her new room, and my sweet husband is sitting next to me.

I want to pinch myself to make sure this is real because I feel like I’ve spent most of my life talking about “one day building our dream home,” and I’ve never dreamed what it would be like to actually live in our dream home.

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And now I’m getting to live my dream. And all the sacrifices and decisions we both made years ago have been worth it. Because this home is more than a building — it’s a place where I will get to raise my growing family, throw fantastic summer birthday parties, entertain family and friends, host a Thanksgiving or Christmas gathering, and barbecue on the back porch while we watch our Aggies play … and win.

But for now, I’ll just sit next to my husband, holding hands and sipping our coffee, excitedly talking about what’s next in our future together.

To see the building process of Jenna’s Lazy K home, follow jennak04 on Instagram using the hashtag #lazykhome.

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Kathryn Roan 1

Is there a more perfect last name for an equestrian than “Roan”? Seriously, we think Kathryn Roan, an Ebby Halliday Realtor with Texas Equestrian Properties, was made for this business. With only a year under her belt as a Realtor, Kathryn already has excellent perspective on the market.

You’ll be seeing more of Kathryn on SecondShelters.com, and occasionally on CandysDirt.com, too, as our farm and ranch correspondent. We’re thrilled to have this talented Realtor and horse-lover on our team.

Want to find out about this lovely gal? Our Q&A with Kathryn is after the jump!

CandysDirt.com: Where are you from?

Kathryn Roan: I was born in Midland, Texas, and raised in Dallas, graduating from Highland Park High School in a year I’m not willing to share!

CD: How did you get into real estate?

Roan: After spending 10 years in the oil and gas industry, it was time for a career change that involved less traveling. The time frame from when I decided to go into real estate to the point I had my license was about six weeks. When I interviewed with Ebby Halliday Realtors, I had yet to start my real estate classes. It was all a bit spontaneous.

CD: You specialize in farm, ranch, and equestrian properties with Ebby Halliday Realtors. Tell us: What are some unique challenges that Realtors face in this market?

Roan:Farm and ranch owners are a breed all their own. They don’t respect money, labels, or high heels. They respect hard work and a willingness to get dirty. On a recent listing appointment, to which I had worn boots and jeans, one of my current sellers said to me, “Our last Realtor showed up in heels and stepped around all the horse poop. We didn’t like her.” A rural realtor has to understand that the land and the barn is more important than the house. If the land doesn’t “work,” it doesn’t matter if the house is the Taj Mahal. Sometimes a client loves the land, and hates the house … or loves the house and hates the land. You have to find the right combination of both.

CD: Where is home for you in Dallas?

Roan: I live on an 8 acre horse farm in a community east of Rockwall called Poetry, TX. It’s a darling horse-owning paradise on sandy loam soil, earning the area the nickname “Little Aubrey.” In true horse person fashion, I purchased for the land and not the house, which we all lovingly refer to as “The Shack.”

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CD: And you drive a … let me guess, Mercedes Benz?

Roan: I had a Mercedes in college. A dark gold 1985 turbo diesel. It looked like a baby Rolls and I LOVED it. But alas, practicality wins the day and I drive a Chevy 3500 dually diesel for showing big property and pulling the horse trailer. Not to be left out, my daily driver, a Nissan Altima, has driven a few properties! Only got it stuck once …

CD: What’s your favorite ‘hood in Dallas and why?

Roan: I really do love the Rockwall area. There is something to the lake-culture-meets-East Texas thing. People are just nicer on this side of the lake! It’s very city-meets-country.

CD: What was your best/highest sale?

Roan: A lakeside house in Rockwall.

CD: Likewise, what was your most challenging or memorable transaction?

Roan: My most memorable thus far was a property that had quite a few different personal issues going. My sellers did not get along, and the buyers were from out of state. The house had been vacant for over a year, so I ended up doing a lot of clean-up on the house myself, and went through about 30 cans of wasp spray. I was elated and relieved to get that one closed!

CD: How quickly have you ever turned a house?

Roan: Not very. Farm and ranch property takes time. Its extremely rare to see a property sell in a matter of days like you’ll see in the city.

CD: How much did you sell last year?

Roan: Zero. I was still working in oil & gas last year!

CD: What words of wisdom do you often share with clients?

Roan: Not to panic that they will have nowhere to go when their house sells. Moving a farm to a new farm is a production. You cannot just pack your boxes and call a moving van. There are often horses, cows, and farm equipment to consider. I explain their options and am happy to start looking for property before they have a contract on their current home, so they’re reassured that they won’t be standing on the curb holding leadropes on closing day.

CD: If you ever change careers for an encore you’ll…

Roan: Probably go back to oil & gas.

CD: Do you have a second home? If so, where?

Roan: I do not. But if I did, it would be 100 acres of sandy loam soil, all pipe fenced, with a 30-stall barn and a huge indoor arena. A girl can dream, right?

Knudson Home by Jennifer Pickett

(Drawing of the Knudson home: Jennifer Pickett)

UPDATE: The Holiday in the Highlands Home Tour day was previously incorrect. It is Friday, Dec. 6. And like the US Postal Service, the show will go on whether ice, snow, sleet, or whatever else Mother Nature may throw our way!

Full of family homes and interesting architecture from myriad styles and schools, Lake Highlands is an incredible neighborhood that spans a broad swath of northeast Dallas. A stone’s throw from White Rock Lake, the area not only has views and amenities, but considering that much of the area is inside the Richardson ISD attendance boundaries means it attracts families with school-aged kids.

But not everyone uproots when the kids graduate and move off to college on their own. In fact, there’s a lovely community of women in the Lake Highlands Women’s League that has truly stood the test of time. Each year this group donates money and time to great causes throughout their community, funding their endeavors with their annual Holiday in the Highlands Home Tour.

This year the Sunday FRIDAY, Dec. 6, tour will include some amazing homes, but you’ll love the people inside these great houses, too. Take Suzanne Knudson, for instance, who, along with her husband, Mark, is opening up their Lake Highlands home for this year’s tour. Suzanne took a few moments to answer some questions about her house, her community, and this year’s home tour.

Keep reading to find out how you can win a pair of tickets to this year’s home tour after the jump!

CandysDirt.com: What are your favorite design elements in your home and why?

Suzanne Knudson: It would be the openness that brings our home to life.

CD: Which rooms do you and your family love the most?

Suzanne: First it would be our kitchen which reflects my love of cooking. We also love our “Flamingo Lounge,” better known as the “party room” with a full-service, large granite bar and 144 wine bottle cellar refrigerator for entertaining our guests. My husband, Mark, loves the dinning room, because it lets us sit comfortably and enjoy our family and friends.

CD: What are you doing to prepare for the Holiday in the Highlands home tour on Dec. 6?

Suzanne: Our remodeling had been completed in 2012, so all I have done is added some fun art and decorated with all my many years of Christmas decorations.

CD: What feature, furnishing, or artwork should home tour goers pay special attention to?

Suzanne: Our home is a reflection of us the Knudsons, including our dogs all over the house! We love all our artwork, The Dirty Chef Coat, “All Done” in the kitchen, the Tango Dancers in the main room and the funky art collection in our bar room.

CD: What does it mean for you to have your home featured on this long-running tour, benefitting the community through the Lake Highlands Women’s League?

Suzanne: It means a lot for Mark and I to be able to give back in this special way and help out our Lake Highlands community. We feel very blessed to have raised our children in Lake Highlands and I personally have loved being a member of Lake Highlands Womens League all these many years …

Want to win a pair of tickets to the Holiday in the Highlands Home Tour from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6? Comment below and confirm your entry by sending your name and daytime phone number to jo@candysdirt.com! We’ll select a winner after 5 p.m. today!

Clay Hill Gate

You have to check out this week’s Ranch of the Week over on SecondShelters.com, if not to check out all of the gorgeous photos of rolling pastures and wildlife, but to read more about this property’s history of moonshiners and shootouts!

Find out more about Clay Hill Ranch from Hortenstine Ranch Company right here.