Whenever I talk about Castle Frostbite (“Located in Scenic Upper Cryogenica!“), I usually complain about something: the leaky roof, the satellite Internet, the cubic miles of snow after a storm, the muddy roads in spring, and so on. Reading through those anecdotes, one might get the impression that I’m not really happy with where I live, so I thought I’d take a few moments and make a list of things that I love about living here.
- We have a starry night sky.
Out here, there are no large metropolitan areas. The nearest city is Lebanon, population 12,000, and it’s fifteen miles away. The next large city is Concord, sixty miles to the south, and “large city” is a relative term here in northern New England–Concord’s population is just over 40,000. When I leave the house on a clear night, it looks like a planetarium outside. You never know just how beautiful the starry night sky is until you’ve spent some time outside of a large city. It’s not quite as impressive as the night sky over Martha’s Vineyard, since we have hills and lots of trees to spoil the “stars from horizon to horizon” effect, but it’s still astonishing and awe-inspiring. When we build our next house, I want to have a little observatory.
- There are animals everywhere.
On our property alone, we have squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, bats, ravens, a huge variety of songbirds, and probably a few dozen species I’ve not even met face-to-face yet. Occasionally, we have deer and wild turkeys walking across our front yard. On the way to town, we have to stop for the occasional deer or turkey parade to cross the street. A few weeks back, we had a moose crossing the road in front of us as we were driving out to the farm for some milk, and Quinn just gaped at it with an expression that said, “This is the coolest thing I have ever seen in my life.” These kids will grow up with animals all around.
- It’s quiet out here.
There are no car doors slamming, neighbors talking, or kids in rice rockets racing by on the street. When I step outside, most of the time I can only hear the rustling of the trees in the wind. I never knew just how noisy the old neighborhood was until we moved out here, where our nearest neighbor is a few hundred yards away, with lots of trees and a hillside between us.
- We have space to do our own thing.
On our property, we have a private campground on top of a wooded hill, and I can grab a gun and go out to shoot a few rounds of .22 or .38 any time I feel like it, without having to ask permission or check opening hours. Last year, we had a few friends over for dinner, and one of them brought a nice over-and-under shotgun, a hand thrower, and a box of clay pigeons. We went out into the front yard, and shot up the whole box. Out here, the occasional gunfire means “having fun”, or “getting some venison”, and nobody calls the SWAT team.
- There’s very little crime.
As property tax payers, we get the town report every year, which includes the crime statistics from the local PD. Most of our police calls involve traffic accidents and DWI calls. There’s some property crime in town on occasion, but very little in the way of assault and other violent stuff. There hasn’t been a homicide here in many years. This is a town of 4,000, and the police department consists of a chief and three officers, some of which are only part-timers. That’s all the constabulary needed out here–people watch out for each other and take out their own trash. It’s one of the huge perks that come with living in rural New England.
- Our taxes are spent locally.
Our property tax rate is pretty high compared to Knoxville’s, but all of those are spent in town. We have good and reliable town services: the trash gets picked up, the roads get plowed and sanded, and I’ve never waited for more that a minute or two at the town clerk’s office. We have a nice little library, a new police building, two post offices, and efficient and courteous town employees who go out of their way to do their jobs. My police chief doesn’t charge for permits because he believes that people already pay enough taxes, and last time I had to get a blueprint at the town clerk’s office, she looked it up for me after closing hours and made a copy free of charge. I don’t mind paying taxes so much when I see that the money is being put to good use locally.
- We have beautiful seasons.
Up here, there are four distinct seasons, and they all have their own perks. The winters are cold, but everything looks gorgeous, and we always have a proper white Christmas. The summers are mild and pleasant (we don’t have or need air conditioning), and the New England fall is simply the most gorgeous season anywhere. I like cycling through the seasons and enjoying their respective benefits, instead of having to run the AC from April to November, and seeing snow twice a decade for a day.
- We’re out in the green, yet close to virtually everything.
Craving some big city? Boston is a two-hour drive away. Ocean? The Atlantic is ninety minutes to the east. Mountains? The White Mountains are ninety minutes to the northeast. Burlington and Lake Champlain are ninety minutes to the northwest, right up I-89. Downeast Maine and Acadia are a three-hour drive away. Canada is two hours to the north. There’s a huge variety of scenery, culture, and activities within a two-hour radius from our front step, and we still get to enjoy the benefits of rural life.
Anyway, that’s what I like about this place, and the list of positives greatly outweigh the annoyances. We do love it up here in the Upper Valley, even if we did buy a house that was put together by drunken simians on meth.
What about you? Why did you pick the place you call home? If you had to sell me on it, what would you tell me?