Real estate listing photos from the property Adam grew up on. This is where I fell in love with Vermont. Not a bad view for washing dishes, right? (I'm not linking to the actual listing for privacy reasons... this is the only property on the ridge of family land that is no longer owned by someone in the family.)
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We left Connecticut in the late afternoon, heading north. It was my first time going to his family home and I was excited to connect with the place I'd heard of only through stories and memories shared. At some point in the trip I fell asleep, lying across the bench seat of the old Ford pickup with my head resting on Adam's lap. As we got closer, nighttime at this point, he gave me a little nudge to wake up, to see the stars. My eyes opened. Without sitting up, I looked through the windshield toward the sky and looking back at me were the brightest, biggest stars I had ever seen. I felt like I was floating among them! Sparkly, glittery stars filling the pure black night sky. They just don't make stars like that in Connecticut. I was a goner. That was nearly 25 years ago.
Vermont has been my home ever since. We've hiked countless miles, pitched tents and carried backpacks. We've seen concerts, paddled canoes, sampled our way through beer factories, and supported farmers. All the while, there has been one sole purpose to our visit - to feel connected to place. Clean air, clean water, clean trails... what may be scarce in Connecticut, is abundant in Vermont. We even moved there for a short time after we were married. But being a young couple, still working on college and "career" building, it was limiting. And so we returned to Connecticut with a promise to be back. On the morning of our departure, after packing the moving truck, the last thing we did was hike up the local mountain for a final look at the valley below. Dotted with green trees, mountains in the distance, winding rivers, and old New England homes, it was my idea of perfection. That was nearly 20 years ago.
We've been trying to get back ever since.
If you've been following this blog for any length of time, you'll remember the many false starts we experienced in doing so. We looked all over the state... content with just about any location... just get us there. But over and over, things fell through. To name a few, there was the contract that didn't work out; a hurricane seriously damaging a village just one week after our visit to look at properties; both of our cars dying (kaput) one week after a resumed land search in which we found a couple of serious contenders (nothing like replacing two cars at once to drain the savings); arriving to see a cabin that had been listed forever only to have the realtor tell us it went under deposit that very morning.
We never gave up on the dream. Logic would have told us to back burner the whole thing, but I don't exactly specialize in logic. Although to be clear, there were plenty of moments in which we fully recognized the absurdity of it all and noted that surely the universe had other plans for us. Then we'd put our hands over our ears and say la la la la la... I'm not listening! Because we are very mature.
As much as I'd be happy with an acre of land just over the Vermont border, my deepest connection to the state has always been felt in the Northeast Kingdom, where Adam grew up. The place where I became smitten with the stars and mountains and rolling farmland and dirt roads and set-apart feeling. Man, I love that place.
This past summer Adam was about to click "purchase" on a four day getaway for my birthday to some funky, woodsy place in Vermont. He literally had filled out all the information, debit card number was entered, etc. We were one step away from purchasing something that wasn't exactly cheap, and would be completely over with nothing to show for it in four days time. I asked him to "WAIT! Hang on! Don't click purchase!"
What if we took the money we were about to spend on this trip and pool it with the small savings we'd been rebuilding since replacing two cars at once... could we buy a little something? Just one acre would be fine! A place to pitch a tent and call our own... is there a way? He did not click "purchase." We closed the vacation website, then hit up realtor.com once again, searching for anything cheap. And north. The further north the better. Oh, and cheap. Did I mention cheap?
Before I go any further, I'll share that our plans for Vermont have changed a bit over this past year. No longer do we see ourselves living there full time, at this point. Last spring Adam accepted an offer of partnership at the law firm he's worked at for five years. Let me tell you, the number one factor in our decision making when considering the position was indeed the commitment to Connecticut residency. That was a hard one. If you are in our age demographic, you likely understand what it means to be over-educated and under-employed. For him to get an opportunity like this is a rarity in today's job market. To get another opportunity for something similar, especially in rural Vermont, is unlikely. Furthermore, he really likes his job and the people he works with. All of these things would be hard to duplicate. And let's not forget, those six figure student loans (as much regret as we may have about acquiring them) do not pay themselves. Solid, secure employment matters. It's not the only thing that matters, but it does matter. Deciding to stay in Connecticut and accept this position was not an easy decision, but it was absolutely the right one.
So, while I may have spent a couple decades dreaming about life in Vermont, I have since tempered that dream with the needs of my partner. We're in this together.
Anyway, back to relator.com and our search for the cheapest yet most amazing piece of land in the Northeast Kingdom.
We found a property in the very town Adam grew up in. It seemed too cheap. The pictures looked pretty good, but I know how we can use our cameras to create the best angle. We called Adam's aunt to ask if she knew of the property and of course she did ("small town" is an understatement). She told us it was a rough piece of land that was basically one very steep incline and would be difficult to use.
Then the heavens opened and she mentioned that she and her husband might like to sell us some of their land. They are retired now and do not use the entire property any longer. To sell some, keeping it within the family, and maybe support a little snowbird dream of their own could be a win-win for all. It basically took us all of two seconds to say YES!!
To settle on family land, where aunts, uncles, cousins and Adam's grandmother all have properties connected across the north ridge, is the perfect ending to pretty much the only dream I've had for my entire adult life. Vermont is my bucket list.
I've been keeping this on the down low for months and months. We had an agreement and shook hands and said "let's do this" way back in September. Then, before we could sign on the dotted line, we had to demonstrate all the patience in the world as the deal passed through town zoning, then we waited for the surveyor, etc. It was all fine, and there were no major surprises, it was just a slow process. They don't feel the need to rush things up there.
After years of almost making something happen, then having it not work out, we decided to keep our lips sealed until we were indeed the proud owners. (Well, Adam's lips are always sealed, it was me that decided to keep quiet.) I can finally share that we now call a piece of Vermont our own!! Twenty acres of mixed woods with a gentle slope, southeastern exposure, and a fresh water spring. For now, it's the perfect place to pitch a tent, stare at the sky, and sob like a baby over the good fortune of it all. Who knows, someday soon there might even be a cozy cabin, soup simmering on a wood cookstove, with quilts, books, knitting, and foraging baskets piled all around.
Over the last several months we've made quite a few visits to the land that would become ours, and of course I spent some of that time with camera in hand. All of the pictures in this post (pictures from Adam's boyhood property aside), were taken on our land, or on the road the property is located.
Our land! Twenty acres! In Vermont!
Dreams are good, friends. Never giving up on them? Well, that's even better. xo