Wednesday, July 20, 2016

End of an Era

When we purchased our house many years ago (almost 20, in fact), there was a garden center a couple of houses down from ours, which was good, because our new yard was a barren landscape, which I hoped to fill with all sorts of edibles. We became regular customers, and when my son (who is now an adult with kids of his own) was a youngster, his first paying job was at the garden center, moving plants around and watering.

The people who owned the garden center also owned the woods behind our house. For the first few years, most of the folks in the neighborhood used that land as a kind of commons. There were walking trails back there and blueberry fields. If one walked back through the trails and around, it came out at a gravel pit.

At some point during all of these years, the owner of the land filed a subdivision plan. The plan was for 20+ acre-sized house lots, which would destroy the entire woods, eliminate the walking trails and raze the blueberry fields. One entrance to the subdivision is less than a half mile down the main road from where my house is, and the other means of egress from the neighborhood was planned to go through the garden center. Yes, that is right through the center of the building that used to house the retail portion of their business (plant pots, garden bobbles, seeds, et cetera). The land was his retirement, he said.

Back then, it seemed he would never retire, which was fine by me.

Unfortunately, he wasn't well, and so he and his wife closed the garden center and attempted to sell their holdings in one big piece - 25+ acres with their house and the garden center, but the price was really much higher than anyone could afford, and so they weren't able to find a buyer. Then, he passed away, and she was left holding this big piece of land. She was not interested in developing it herself, and after a few years, she finally found a buyer who bought the 25 acres of woods.

The new owner didn't waste any time making that plan a reality. He has been cutting a swath through the woods for the past year. Half a dozen houses have been built and a few sold. I have a friend in real estate photography who has been down here taking pictures of the homes that are for sale. The houses are pretty in a kind of flashy fragility that doesn't look like they'll survive a Maine winter without copious fossil-fuel inputs and hard wishing for a gentle season.

Last week, I heard the heavy equipment moving through the woods behind my neighbor's house and chainsaws cutting trees. Today, they were tearing down the old garden center building.

When I was putting my clothes on the line today and listening to the destruction of that building that's been here for longer than I have, I thought about those houses that they're putting in over there - those houses that are selling for more than a quarter of a million dollars. The types of people who buy houses in those kinds of neighborhoods don't usually want food gardens or clotheslines.

And I wondered what, about my life, might change now that I'm like the old man from Up, finding myself surrounded by a shiny, new suburb.

I know that they can't take away my clothesline. Maine law does not allow municipalities to pass laws that would prohibit the use of outdoor clothes drying. I don't know if there is a Home Owners Association over there, but since my house and road are not part of their subdivision, even though their neighborhood horseshoes around mine, there's really not much they can do to force me to make my yard look like theirs.

Still, in the interest of being a good neighbor, I may have to step up the aesthetics a little and build a fancy outdoor living space. Perhaps a space with a little more curb appeal to ... you know ... boil down all of that sap in the spring.

*Picture Credit

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