The Birth of Sweet Valley Acres

Building a Forever Home

I want to build a house up on this mountain

Way up high where the peaceful waters flow

To quench my thirsty soul

Up on the Mountain”

Steven Curtis Chapman

Lyrics from ‘The Mountain’

Have you ever found a place that you visit year after year and find yourself dreaming of building a forever home there but something always gets in the way? Well that happened to Bentley and I and my oh my did it take us on a journey. Let me tell you our story of discovering what is now known as Sweet Valley Acres.

In 1993, we moved from the bustling city of Vancouver in search of a four season playground to raise our yet-to-be children. We purchased a home near downtown Kelowna but we were an adventurous young couple so we explored our new city as often as we could. To our delight, we found our heaven on earth on the outskirts of Okanagan Mountain Park. Every time we visited, we “ooohed” and “awwed” as we gazed upon the natural beauty.

Lake views that went on for miles…

Cliffs of rock reaching to the sky…

Fields of waving yellow grass…

And the sound of crickets filled the air…

Could it get any better?

Okanagan Lake at dusk - this the view from our forever home
The view from the property over Okanagan Lake at dusk

We dreamt of building our forever home on one of the acreages that backed onto the park.  As a result, every time a property came up for sale, we madly dashed out there, walked the property and schemed of ways to sell our current property quickly so we could finally have our little slice of heaven.

Unfortunately, each and every time, it did not work out.

In those days, I became attached very quickly to things that appealed to me. Losing out on a property was like having a loved one torn from my arms and then I was heartbroken for months afterward.

Finally in 2016, things started to come together.  We had our previous home up for sale for about a year and suddenly we had an offer with a very unique condition.

The seller required us to stay living in the home

for an additional 8 months RENT FREE!

Who does that?  Well an out of town buyer does, especially one who does not want the home to sit vacant.  He felt we were the perfect ones to maintain the home until he could make the move.  It did not take long for us to agree as we knew this was finally our chance to build!

Rain and a sunset mixed to look like fire raining down from heaven
Weather systems roll through this area and on this particular day it looked like fire rained down from heaven

We had our eyes on a property in our desired neighbourhood but wouldn’t you know it days before our home sold, it sold.  Heartbroken again, I couldn’t believe the timing – we were so close.  Lakeview acreages that we could afford to buy were extremely hard to find, almost non-existent.

Steep hillside of Sweet Valley Acres - this is where we would build our forever home
The last lot left in our desired neighbourhood

There was one last acreage left in the neighbourhood but it had been for sale for 8 years without any takers due to it being a challenging property to build on. Then it had a $100,000 price drop! With no other options and it being within our budget we considered it.

We walked the land and realized it was beautiful!

It had a seasonal creek running through it which meant that unlike most surrounding properties it had trees.  I should back track a bit. This area was devastated by a firestorm in 2003 that made the news worldwide as so many homes were destroyed.  Almost every house in this neighbourhood was destroyed and along with it the fire decimated all of the trees and vegetation.   Fast forward 13 years, the area was still quite barren and only where creeks ran through did vegetation exist.

Pathways between wild willows - this is the location of our driveway to our forever home
Natural pathways created by animals between wild willows

Bentley and I sat on a large outcropping of rock, prayed and were hoping to get direction on whether to make an offer.  It was a sunny day and there were no sounds except for birds singing.  The lake was a vivid blue and there was a soft breeze. I felt like we were lying down in green pastures beside calm waters.  Never had we seen a view as beautiful as this one.  The stillness touched me.

I knew deep inside this was the setting I wanted to call home.

Rock shield - location of our greenhouse - our eventual forever home is to the left
Rock out cropping that Bentley and I sat on while deciding whether to buy the property

We had never taken on a project like this before though.  This wasn’t just a reno or building a house which we had done many times before.  We were going to be building our forever home and this property required complete development – power, utilities, gas, a septic field, not to mention we also needed to construct a driveway, a build site, parking, etc. And all on a slope!

We also wanted to do it without debt.  Oh I know you are all rolling your eyes at this one and I don’t blame you but this was very important to us. We had to move a few times in the past because debt had gotten the better of us so we did not want to make that mistake again.

This was to be our forever home.

There was no way we were going to have to sell again!

Not wanting to in any way influence Bentley, I did not tell him how I felt.  I was bubbling with excitement and fear at the same time and still searching deeply for an answer.Wild thistles on Sweet Valley Acres

Beautiful golden wild grasses - the location of where our forever home would be built
Golden wild grasses emerged between the rocks

After much silence, Bentley said he felt good about it and wanted to make an offer. Bentley is definitely a man of few words and not a guy who gets excited about things, he never has. Out of the blue, he asked me to listen to a song because it had touched him and it was how he felt about the property. It is called “The Mountain” by Steven Curtis Chapman and I have the lyrics interspersed throughout this blog. As I listened, I battled the tears. We were on the same page – we both loved it equally.

If you have a chance, please listen to the song and you will understand our feelings about this property.  Click the lyrics below to listen to the song.

“My faith is strengthened by all that I see
You make it easy for me to believe
up on the mountain.”

Stephen Curtis Chapman

Lyrics from ‘The Mountain’

Step one was over – we made the decision.  Now on to step two – make the offer.  Everything was going well until we got the call that two other buyers were making offers. How could that be?

No offers in 8 years and suddenly three buyers want it?

Was this was a sign? We were torn – we did not want to bid too much but we also did not want to lose it.  After much discussion as a family, we increased our offer to full price and decided if it was meant to be, we would get it, if not we would walk away.

Pink bleeding hearts - plants I want to grow at our forever home
Pink bleeding hearts all in a row – our love for Anne was deep

As I sat waiting for the agent to call back, the smell of my mother-in-law’s perfume filled the room. Intensely – there was no mistaking it.  My mother-in-law, Anne was the person I could always go to when faced with a difficult decision.  She remained calm and had the best advice.  She passed away years before and we all missed her terribly.  Where on earth could this scent be coming from and how is it so distinctly Anne? If you knew Anne you would know what I meant. She was a beautiful woman who always wore a particular perfume and it was lovely. I checked everything to see where this fragrance was coming from and there was nothing.  This scent had never been in our home previously and it only appeared for about an hour.

To this day it remains a mystery.

Right or wrong, I took it as Anne reassuring me as she always did, that things would be ok. A few minutes later, we got the call and the seller chose us because Bentley was a builder and he felt that a builder needed to buy it given the “nature of the property”.  Now that should have set off alarm bells for us, but at the time it didn’t. We only thought of the slope of the land as a problem which we could conquer,

we never thought of what might be laying below.

On July 27, 2016, we became the owners of what would become Sweet Valley Acres – finally we were on the path of building our forever home!  We rejoiced and felt blessed.  Little did we know, we were about to embark on three of the hardest years of our lives.

I hope you come back to read about the mystery of what laid below, our trials and more importantly our triumphs and the eventual gorgeous property we are so fortunate to call home.

Purple, pink and yellow sunset - view from building location of our forever home
The sunsets from Sweet Valley Acres are breathtaking

You bring me up here on this mountain
For me to rest and learn and grow
I see the truth up on the mountain
And I carry it to the world far below

Steven Curtis Chapman

Lyrics from “The Mountain

XOXO
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16 Comments
  • Juliet
    June 25, 2021

    Beautiful story, Crystal! I look forward to your next installment. I love your blog design, it’s lovely. Welcome to the blogosphere! xo

    • Crystal
      June 26, 2021

      Thanks so much Juliet! It is going to be fun to re-tell our crazy story. So many odd things happened during the build. You will have a number of laughs lol

  • Wendy McMonigle
    June 26, 2021

    Crystal, I loved reading this beautiful story! What an amazing writer you are. You were. Want to be a blogger. I can’t wait fir the next chapter.

    • Crystal
      June 26, 2021

      Thanks Wendy – I was talking with my family last night about writing – I have always loved writing and am surprised I never really tried up until now. It truly is an outlet to pour out all sorts of thoughts and feelings.

  • Wendy McMonigle
    June 26, 2021

    What an amazing story Crystal! You are a beautiful writer you are! Great job.

    • Crystal
      June 26, 2021

      Thanks so much Wendy – you are so kind!!!

  • Gretchen
    June 26, 2021

    Crystal, I loved reading about your thoughts on your journey to find your forever home. I felt like I was with you in the process! Very well expressed!

    • Crystal
      June 26, 2021

      Thanks so much Gretchen! Exactly what I was hoping for. It was an incredible journey and I am excited to bring people along just in case someone else wants to wander down this crazy path haha!

  • Kim Waldorf
    June 26, 2021

    Welcome to the blogging world! Your blog looks great. Looking forward to reading more about your journey

    • Crystal
      June 26, 2021

      Thanks so much Kim! I am very excited to share our journey and to figure out blogging, hahaha! Wow what a challenge it was to get this website up – a tech person I am not!

  • Kippi Ohern
    June 29, 2021

    I am so excited about your blog.
    Congratulations!!!
    Hugs,
    Kippi

    • Crystal
      July 6, 2021

      Thank you so very much!!! I am excited too and looking forward to sharing our whirlwind story!

  • Leslie Watkins
    August 15, 2021

    What a beautiful story. Anne was my mother in law’s name, too. How precious that you felt her presence and reassurance. Stephen Curtis Chapman is from my hometown. His family went to our church. We truly love him and his family. Thankful the words he wrote spoke to you. I’m sure he would love to know. ❤️

    • Crystal
      September 18, 2021

      Oh my goodness Leslie! Your message means so much to me. This whole experience has been precious and is such a meaningful part of our lives. We are excited to see what will come of this property and our home as we would like it to be a retreat for pastors or church staff who just need to have a little break. Maybe one day when we learn what this property is truly meant to be, we can share that with Stephen

  • Cara
    August 19, 2021

    You photos are amazing! I would love to live here and I can see why you would as well! Thank you for sharing your journey.

    • Crystal
      August 19, 2021

      Thank you so much Cara! We feel very blessed to call this home but it sure has come with a lot of challenges