our town.

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?


19 thoughts on “our town.

  1. Doug says:

    Upstate SC.

    Even better. We have properly hot summers, where the best thing to do is go to one of our many, many ice cold sparkling rivers for a nice slow float. (Or a raging whitewater ride, if you are into that sort of thing) Winters that are cool enough to let you know the seasons have changed without being so cold you can’t feel your toes when you wake up.

    Other than that reversal, it is pretty much the same as there. Atlanta is close enough for a day trip, as is Charleston and the rest of the gorgeous Carolina Coastline. And as long as you stay out of Greenville, there is very little crime. Other than moonshiners. And I count those as an asset rather than a liability 😉

  2. and to think that a little while back, you were considering giving up and letting that unsold little brick tenement rowhouse drag you back there.

    i’m glad you’re happy there, and more importantly that the young’uns will grow up in that environment. sounds inspirational and conducive to productive writing, too…got a publish date yet?

    p.s. no new content in the files in a long time; i know the new book has taken precedence, but two essays -the 9/11 post and the parenting piece- deserve a place there.


  3. Angus Lincoln says:

    Uh-Oh, the cat’s out of the bag now Marko. Many parts of NH are the perfect place to put down some roots. I agree with all you say about the positive aspects of being a rural resident in this state. You left out the part about all the really good fishing there is to be had.
    My fear is there will be more and more liberal minded folks running from the horror that has evolved to our south and infiltrate our our lifestyle with the same ideas that spoiled things in their homeland. It’s already happening in my corner of the north. Town politics have never been so strained. On the otherhand we need them to visit and drive the economy up here to the north of you. No one wants to live with ’em, but it’s tough making a living without ’em.

  4. Brandon says:

    If you had to sell me on it, what would you tell me?

    It doesn’t leak, unless a burst retention pond from some warehouse construction upstream causes a runoff flood. That’s about as much good as I can come up with. We can’t wait to get the hell away from Memphis.

  5. perlhaqr says:

    If I was going to try to sell you on NM over NH, I’d tell you that my night skies might well be even more spectacular than yours, and it is very rare to be as cold here as it is there.

    Had some friends out from Seattle a few years ago. We drove down to the VLA. It was dark as we were driving back, so I stopped on the side of the road, halfway between Datil and Magdalena, and we popped out of the car. It was a dry, dry day, (5% humidity?) with no clouds.

    The stars were bright enough you almost wanted sunglasses.

    A lack of humidity does wonderful things for seeing. One of my wife’s favorite tricks is to take relatives from back east up to the top of Sandia Crest on clear days, and have them look at mountains that are farther away than the entire width of New Jersey.

  6. Satanam in computatrum says:

    Maybe not exactly what perlhaqr’s talking about, but close: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/image/0705/deathvalleysky_nps_big.jpg

  7. ss says:


    New Hampshire is beautiful. I have a non-resident Pistol/Revolver License from New Hampshire. It was easier to obtain than my resident Virginia permit. There was a hangup with the US Postal service when I moved but the NH Department of Safety was polite and courteous during our telephone call. A person answered the telephone on the third ring!

    I do like Virginia. We have mild winters and good employment opportunities. Except for my work prospects and my memories of New England winters, New Hampshire and Vermont would both be on my short list of places to live.

  8. Jay G. says:

    I’ve covered it before.

    Where I was born, where I was raised, where I keep all my yesterdays.
    Where I ran off, when I got mad, when it came to blows with my old man.
    I came back, settled down, where they’ll put me in the ground.
    This is my town.

    Even in 2009, in Massa-f**king-chusetts, the local school still says the Pledge of Allegiance every morning.

    Neighbors call the cops if unfamiliar cars stop outside your house.

    Outstanding support of Scouting.

    Within 2 hours, I can be in the White Mountains, Cape Cod, or the Smith & Wesson factory.

    In less than 1 hour, I can be in Boston, Manchester, Portsmouth, or Lowell for concerts, plays, and local breweries.

    In less than 30 minutes, I can be at the ocean or shopping (tax-free) in NH.

    I like my town a lot. I just wish we could secede from MA and join NH…

  9. LabRat says:

    Hey perl- where in NM do you live, anyway, or is that classified? We seem to share some stomping grounds.

    Anyway, what he said. Pretty much everything applies except for ocean access, and we have some pretty good whitewater to the north if it’s just water you’re after. Good fishing, good hunting, and the state is thoroughly eccentric and independent in spirit. If you dig on diversity, you’ll find a range of Indian tribes (with some of the better-run rezes in the country) and a political spectrum from Taos hippies to Catron anarchists. If we hadn’t had term limits, the governor who earned the nickname “Veto Johnson might still be in office.

    The chile ain’t bad, either.

  10. MedicMatthew says:

    Marko, it was great getting to meet you this weekend.

    I moved from Pittsburgh, PA back to Maine because I found myself spending most of my free time out in the country and away from the city. After staying *in* Boston this weekend (I know, what was I thinking?!?) I’m reminded of why I moved back to Maine. Though I may occasionally wish that I were closer to a more populated area I still wouldn’t trade all that small town life has to offer. I think that Portland, Maine is about as close to “big city” as I’d like to live in.

  11. perlhaqr says:

    LabRat: I’m in the ‘Burque. Which does not have the star views I was talking about earlier, but does save my wife a huge commute from those places. 😉 I wanted Johnson to run for president when he was done being Governor. If nothing else, the debate crews couldn’t have ignored him the way they usually ignore the Libertarian candidates.

    Satanum: It’s a lot like that, only 7000 feet closer to them. Thinner air is clearer air! 😀

  12. JIGSAW says:

    I live in the hills to the east of Perth. It’s semi-rural (i’m on a 1/2 acre) but close enough to the city if you ever wanted to go there.

    The best thing about where I live is the trees … we have lots and lots and lots of wonderful trees. Along with the trees we have abundant bird life and other wildlife – some good (possums, bandicoots, kangas), some not so good (snakes, spiders, scorpions) (oops, I’m supposed to be selling you on it).

    Everyone knows everyone else but “not too well”. I think the current population of the suburb is 6,000. There are a lot of community groups, sporting and otherwise.

    The weather is pretty stunning all year round. It does get hot in summer, but the trees help.

    I love driving home at night and seeing the city lights in my rear-view mirror and the trees surrounding me.

  13. Beautiful post. Mine would be very similar but not nearly as well written.

    Here in the mountains in Roanoke, Virginia, I would have to say the same things, but add bears, bobcats & guinea hens to the list of animals spotted. Lots of green and trees. Beautiful stars at night, open carry or concealed carry with permit (I thought easy to obtain), few neighbors and no noise except the birds and the wind. Lots of open space where my little man can roller skate outside in his underwear if he chooses. ‘City’ just 15 minutes away. Perfect location for us.

  14. i was commenting on a post at tam’s wherein she requested advice on armed defense from mankiller komodo dragons, and realized it might be apropos here for any of ya’ll considering a move down here to florida paradise…


    ten foot lizards? and you gotta go to frickin’ indonesia to tangle with one? pfft. a ten footer is barely average for a fla gator…lake istokpoga is five miles from my house; last time i cruised it during a drought the damned things were swarming…big ones. dumbass snowbirds feed the things. and if you’re gonna croak one, gotta have a permit…and a big long .44 mag. bangstick.

    but apparently we’ve got a potentially worse reptile problem:


    looks like a twelve gauge is the preferred method of dispatch…but apparently that’s considered inhumane.

    damn, this place is really getting to be a jungle…there’s a huge wild iguana problem around fort myers, and i guess those f’n dragons will take up residence soon enough.

    but it’s still the two-legged monsters i’m most concerned about; that twelve gauge would do a pretty good job on them, too…and i don’t give a rat’s ass if it’s inhumane or not.


  15. mts says:

    I live in Mayberry. The last medium sized city in the area that didn’t go through a “change” that resulted in urban blight and slums, or wasn’t farmland that became suburban sprawl.

    Crime is low, the town characters are rather harmless, even when drunk. I walk to most everything I need, so instead of getting an oil change every month, I get around two a year. I can go buy stamps, get a book from the library, eat lunch, grocery shop, have the jeweler replace the watch battery, spin the laundry, see a city council meeting, stop for a drink, attend Sunday Mass, and catch a movie, all on foot. The worst thing the “juvenile delinquents” do is an occasional spray painting binge, which is quickly cleaned.

    Town government sometimes gets stupid ideas, but it is reasonably honest, and a man can get them to begrudgingly bend away from idiocy if he’s persistent enough, and gives them the decent treatment he’s asking for. And the place is self-contained enough where if we had another Depression, instead of imploding, it should be able to weather it like it did in the first one, or in the 1800’s, where everyone worked for someone in town. It’s not a mill town. It’s a diversified town-town.

  16. Chris Pugrud says:

    My family home is central, BFE, it’s not the middle of nowhere, but you can see it from there, Montana. All of the great features you mention except we have the Big Sky, horizon to horizon, wow! the sky is so big, stars, and thunderstorms you can see three days out. You have to drive 90 miles to reach a county with more than 15k people, let alone a “city” with more than one grocery store.

    At the moment I’m out in Northern Virginia suburbia. On the other hand, we’ve got more than an acre, deer in the yard, and Dulles airport is less than 10 minutes away, Iraq is less than 15 hours away. Jobs and some family keep us hear. When we are ready to escape the federal contractor employment teat and I can build a home warm enough for my wife to survive an actual winter, we will be happy at home, back in Montana.

  17. Sara says:

    I live in Illi-frickin’-nois. I live here exclusively for the proximity to family, and I’m planning to move the heck out of here if the job market ever recovers. It’s fun to run around Chicago, but you wouldn’t want to pay the taxes to fund the 8,000 forms of graft.

  18. Marko;
    Nicely put. Your post reminds me of where I used to live as a youngster in southern Vermont. Our house was in a small town, not in the woods like yours is, but I do remember all the things that you mention including all the animals, the night sky, the mountains close by. My Mom used to tell us kids to go out and play and not to bother her again until dinner time. We had bikes and .22’s and camping gear and a swimming hole nearby. The town had no post office or store (we had to go to the town adjacent, about 5 mi) and if we wanted to see a movie, the nearest theater was in Ludlow, about 30 mi. away and over the (one of many) mountains. In the winter, my Dad being the frugal man he was, would hang a blanket over the stairwell so no heat from the floor furnace would be “wasted” in an area without plumbing. I remember being able to see my breath in the bedroom, but with down comforters, it was fine until my feet hit the hardwood floor.
    Currently living in Indiana where I ended up after much moving around, but here we do live out in the farm area with mostly corn and/or soy and some woods and no nearby neighbors. It ain’t paradise, but its not bad.
    What would I do to convince someone to live here? I wouldn’t. Every place in the country has something good going for it and something that you wish wasn’t. I make a decent living and although the kids are out of the house now, its not a bad place to raise them. I don’t really like the commute to Indpls., but I have a good job and the place in the country is worth the extra drive. When the weather is warmer and I can ride in, even better.
    Still miss Vermont and enjoy my family visits, but for now home is in the broad flatlands of central Indiana.

  19. blocksworld says:

    I did NM, the high desert and all, and it IS beautiful, but the Green (and White) mountains are more my style. I’ve yet to out-do climbing off the mesa in White Rock for flat mind-blowing views, however…

    Marko, I’ve move to the Fairlee/Lebanon area in about a second if I could figure out the economic logistics. I spent a week over at camp Ohana for a wedding in the fall and nearly didn’t come back to SNE.


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