Patience, persistence and an unshakeable dream conspired to land Cheryl and Steve Smart the home — and life — they’ve always wanted.
A two-bedroom house perched on a hill along Highway 44 had long sparked Cheryl’s imagination. “I’d been driving by the house for decades, and it just had so much potential,” she said. “It got to be a joke (with my husband). … We’d drive by and he’d say, ‘I know wife, it has so much potential.”
The couple had been looking for property in the Black Hills — specifically in the Johnson Siding Fire District where Steve is the district fire chief — but weren’t finding the right fit. Cheryl sold her Rapid City hair salon, and the couple had all but given up their search for land. They were planning to relocate to Boise, Idaho — but they just couldn’t get that little hillside house out of their minds.
Steve and Cheryl approached the neighbor of the woman who owned the house. They asked the neighbor to contact them if the owner ever wanted to sell her house — and it turns out, the owner did want to sell it. Steve and Cheryl stopped by a dozen times or more, hoping to meet the owner and discuss buying it. Finally, they wrote her a letter. Three weeks passed with no response.
“We’re big believers in positive attitudes. If we think about it long enough, if we dream about it, it will happen,” Steve said.
At last, the owner returned from a long vacation and contacted the Smarts. Days later, they looked at the house and in February 2016 the Smarts bought it. They named their property Hills Roost Farm.
Built in 1973, the house had tiny rooms that needed updates. The Smarts moved into the house in the fall of 2016 and began extensive renovations. “We started remodeling the day we closed (on the house),” Steve said.
The couple’s friends compare them to Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper,” Steve said. Cheryl comes up with design ideas, and Steve’s job is to build or create them.
The couple transformed the main floor into a modern farmhouse. They tore down walls to create an open-concept layout. They removed popcorn ceilings and replaced them with a vaulted ceiling in the living room. They added wainscoting.
The Smarts filled the house with light by installing huge windows that showcase views of Forest Service property and Shanks Canyon. They built a new master suite, closets and a mudroom. They also built a deck off the kitchen and added a garage.
A second full kitchen and bathroom on the home’s lower level inspired the Smarts to dream about opening an Airbnb. The Roost Airbnr will open in the spring of 2018, Cheryl said. It is decorated in a Black Hills theme and will be large enough to accommodate two couples.
Steve and Cheryl bought Hills Roost Farm with the intent of sharing it as much as possible. They’re thrilled that before renovations were even finished, they hosted their nephew’s wedding in July. The Smarts also welcome hikers, picnickers or anyone who wants to stop by and enjoy their land, Cheryl said.
The Smarts’ house sits on almost three acres, and the couple has been transforming the property along with their home. Steve grew up on a farm in Wisconsin; both he and Cheryl were avid gardeners before they met and married. The Smarts are working together to create eco-friendly gardens and amenities at Hills Roost Farm.
One of their first tasks was planting an orchard of apple, pear, peach, plum and cherry trees. Beyond the orchard will be a huge pumpkin patch. Last summer, the couple planted and harvested vegetables from their raised-bed gardens.
Hills Roost Farm will be a haven for bees and butterflies, as well. “We’re just growing things to encourage the pollinators,” Cheryl said. “Our bee garden is full of bee-happy food. We’ve got five beautiful thriving hives.”
“We have bees because they’re such an endangered species and to help pollinate the gardens we do have,” Steve said.
Near the gardens, two repurposed corn cribs house chickens; Airbnb guests will be able to linger in the gardens and select fresh eggs for breakfast, Cheryl said.
Hills Roost Farm’s gardens, fruit trees, bees and chickens are “abundance to share,” Steve said. “We want to educate people. We want to help people understand they can garden even on small scale. The biggest thing we’re trying to educate people about is ‘back to Eden’ (chemical-free) gardening.”
The Smarts, both empty-nesters, sold a spacious townhouse when they bought their little house. After their first year at Hills Roost Farm, they have no regrets about a life with less square footage but more possibilities.
“We both love how tiny the house is. It’s refreshing. The townhouse had a lot of space that was not used,” Cheryl said. “We love the simplicity of the whole farm concept.”
“We still can’t believe we get to wake up here every day. It’s so dreamy,” Cheryl said. “We’re trying to create a magical space. It’s fun to be stewards of this little property.”
For more information about Hills Roost Farm and the upcoming opening of its Airbnb, go to facebook.com/thehillsroostfarm.