Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Over the Hill to a Tiny House in the Maine Woods

Some friends of ours often speak fondly of their someday farm. They live in a suburban/urban area, and in a lot of ways, their life is just like ours (except they don't have any chickens ... yet :). Right now, they are caretaking at a local farm while the farmers are away on vacation, and as I follow their adventure, I'm a little jealous (milking the cow and making all that cheese!), but having really thought about, and experienced in a very small way from my own suburban homestead, what a real farm might be like, I know that I don't really want to be a farmer (although I still very much want to be a self-sufficient homesteader).

The other day, I was roaming around on Realtor.com. I do that occasionally. I'll pick a town, usually here in Maine, northeast or northwest of us, and I'll look to see what kinds of properties are available.

The other day I found one.

It's just exactly what we've always said we wanted - off-the-grid (solar powered, wood heat) home on eight acres, mostly wooded for a price we could totally afford. If we bought it, sold this house, and moved, we would reduce both the time on our loan and our mortgage payments by half what we owe on this house. In fact, if we could get what we believe our house is worth, with the equity we could just about pay off the other house.

Only, the house is a little smaller than the five of us would be comfortable living in - especially when we're stuck inside for so long during the winter. At just over 600 sq. ft of living space, it's less than half the size of our house. The kitchen was even more sparse than even my tiny kitchen having no cabinets instead of just the four like we have right now, and while I wouldn't mourn the loss of all of the stuff we'd have to give up to move to such a tiny house (except my books! Oh, not the books!), I would be sad to lose space for canning and storing all of the food we preserve. It has a basement, but from the pictures, the basement was small - and it was full of washing machine, the battery system for the solar array, and some odd-looking metal storage tank, neither Deus Ex Machina and I could deduce the function of from the pictures.

We could, definitely, have the life we've been saying we want. We'd be off-the-grid and our living expenses (and living space) would be a quarter of what we have. In fact, we could probably live off my small income ...,

... except that, if we bought that house and moved, I would lose my income, because I'd be too far from my client's office to be able to provide courier service three days a week, like I do now.

... and the girls would lose their dance classes, because we'd be too far to commute to their dance school twice a week for classes.

... and we'd be moving away from my daughter and her family, which means I wouldn't see my granddaughter very often. I definitely wouldn't be able to babysit (free) for them, which is important to all of us.

**(... and Deus Ex Machina would have to quit his job, which is, actually, a reason to consider the house ;)**

All of which got me to thinking about what it is I really want.

I, occasionally, dream of earning a living off my farm, but up there, I would have some serious competition, I'm afraid, and I'm not sure I could make a living with farming. I'd have to do something else to earn the small income we'd need to pay the few bills we'd still have.

Plus, I'm getting a little too old to pack it all up and move north to start farming, especially with my very limited knowledge and experience.

On the other hand, I'm also getting too old not to.

It's quite a conundrum. Hurry up ... no, wait!

I'm at the point in my life where I have just about as many years left to live as I have lived, but at this end of the life spectrum, time seems to move much more quickly than it did when I was younger.

It's like I've made it to the top of the hill, and the down side is exactly as long as the up side, but, I'm going downhill, and so the momentum carries me toward the bottom much faster than I was able to climb to the top.

From whence comes the analogy of being "over-the-hill", I guess ;).

I'm middle-aged, which is often considered a time for crises, especially among upwardly mobile men, who, at this point in their lives will decide to buy sportscars, order toupees and cheat on their wives with very young, buxom women, but I'm not sad that I've reached this mid-point in my life. It's almost, kind of, like I've come to that place Robert Frost made famous in his poem, The Road Not Taken, and I can decide to shuck it all and move north and have eight acres and freedom, and a lot of hard work, and maybe I end up in a worse situation than I'm in.

Or not.

I guess, at this point, I'm thinking I'm getting older. I see my neighbors across the street, who are empty-nesters. Their childern all live nearby and during the winter, one of the boys comes over and shovels, because neither of them have the physical strength to do it. They are as much older than I am as I am older than their sons.

I'm getting older, and there will come a time when I will need people around me to help me - to just survive.

I'm getting older, and the time that I may not be able to shovel my own driveway is not as far away as it was when Deus Ex Machina and I started dreaming our farm dreams.

There are some interesting things happening in our life right now, things that will be potentially life-changing, and we may, yet, decide that we're not as old as that gray hair and those crow's feet make me look, but we may decide that we are exactly where we want to be, and stay here, and continue to move our current house off-the-grid (the question remains, is it easier to take an on-grid house off or to put an off-grid house on?).

I'm envious of my friends with their down-on-the-farm vacation. I think how nice it would be to have a cow to milk twice a day and so much milk that I'm scrambling for ways to use it.

But I'm also pretty content on the Wyvern Heath with my chickens and ducks and rabbits ...

... and, maybe, someday, I'll convince Deus Ex Machina to get a couple of goats, which would mean fresh milk without all the work of having a cow :).

1 comment:

  1. I've been following her adventures to! I love her blog!

    I've struggled with the age thing too. When I turned 40 a sense of my own mortality was a part of my life that was not there at 39. Strange and uncomfortable ay times. Yes, it can be a moment of crisis. But I think that it can also be a time of great adventure; where the risks we take are given more thought but lead us to a truer sense of ourselves.

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