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Land Hunting, Part Five: The One?

by Tyler

Today is our last round of land-hunting; it is another hours-long marathon of calling realtors for information, punching distant addresses into our GPS, driving up and down winding dirt roads, and ultimately, finding disappointment. We've been to eight properties in the last five hours and we've had zero interest in any of them. When our final possibility has been visited, only one is left standing: Maple Hill Road.

Land Hunt Spreadsheet

Before heading back to the Midwest, we decide to have another look. So, we backtrack across most of Vermont for one more walk through the woods and surrounding area of our potential homesite. As we travel south, drawing near to our destination, shades of doubt begin to creep into our minds—we're feeling uncertain about yesterday's zeal, wondering, did we just imagine loving the land? We're no longer convinced we felt real excitement about the place—maybe it was merely the first site that didn't elicit an immediate "no"?

We've arrived in Arlington, the wheels of our little silver Honda crunching over the nicely graded gravel of our maybe home-street-to-be. Cool air rushes through our hair and over our smiling faces as we watch the country scenes unfold: horses grazing in their pastures, ducks waddling along the shoulder of the road, and stately red barns standing in the dappled shade of afternoon.

Rolling up a grassy driveway to the white gates of "our" property, it becomes obvious that we needn't have worried about our enthusiasm being genuine. Before we've closed the doors of the car behind us, we're already breaking into wide grins, breathing deep with contentment, taking in the earthy smell of the woods.

"Our" Land for Sale?

This time around, as we hike up the sweeping path that could be our tree-lined driveway, there are no further parcels to visit—our focus is finely-honed on the land around us. After climbing over a downed tree blocking the drive, and wading through veritable a wall of thistles, we arrive at the clearing where the well has been drilled. Inspecting a land survey the realtor Bonnie sent, we set off through the woods to walk around the perimeter of the property.

At each corner of the L-shaped ten acre plot, a length of rebar is stuck in the ground amongst the trees, through a bed of moss, or in a chink of the meandering, picturesque stone wall that winds its way around the land. With the discovery of each rusted marker, hidden amid a jungle of overgrown brush, we cheer, feeling like explorers, orienteers, or maybe just two inordinately lucky people on the biggest treasure hunt around.

Our exuberance is momentarily marred when we reach the south end of the property. It ends long before we thought it had when we hiked it last time. According to our plat drawing, the large grassy meadow Tara had envisioned putting our house on is actually part of the adjacent lot. A phone call to the town clerk reveals that it is 30 acres of protected forestry land. So, we can't buy the small meadowy portion of it, but at least our privacy would be fairly well guaranteed here.

After talking through Tara's disappointment, we decide that ten acres is plenty of land on which to make a meadow of our own—we'll just clear some trees and use them for firewood or building. At last, we're satisfied with our canvassing, so we make our way to the car. We're a bit sad and reluctant to leave this peaceful wooded land. With a wistful sigh, we pull away.

Now that we're sure we like the property, there's one more investigation to undertake before heading home. What is the surrounding area like? In Maine, there were awesome people, farms everywhere, places to go swimming in warm weather, and of course, the ocean nearby with its historical seafaring culture. Would the community around this piece of property be as engaging and interesting?

With hopes high, we drive around the region, paying close attention to how we feel about the other houses, the neighbors, the stores, and the nearby towns. When, just a couple miles from our potential home, we pass a sign for a you-pick no-spray blueberry farm, we cheer. Then, we pass a sign for Polymeadows Farm and Creamery, and laugh with delight at the hillside of dorky goats munching away at green grass. Hello goat cheese and baby goat petting!

Sealing the deal, just a stone's throw from Maple Hill road, we come to the Clear Brook Farm market (open daily from April to October). They sell produce, bread, cheeses, pastries, olive oil (on tap!) and basic staple foods sourced directly from numerous farms in the area. That should keep us afloat until our own gardens are flourishing! They even have a winter CSA.

Vermont Farms

With so many of our criteria met in this one piece of land, we set off towards the Midwest, tired, dirty, and very, very excited. Amidst our jubilance, we're also feeling a little conflicted. The place certainly feels right, but does that mean we should get it? We'll need to get the well water tested, find out what kind of septic system the land will support, have a solar survey done, and probably a lot of other things we haven't yet considered. There is so much we don't know about this process yet!



"We'll just clear some trees" this is more work than you might imagine. Converting a forest soil ecosystem to a field is more than removing some trees. Cut trees down, buck into saw logs or firewood, move & store in pile or deck, deal with branches (chip, burn, pile?), pull stumps, level ground, remove rocks, seed. Keep weeds from establishing, irrigate. Do you need a road, ditches, equipment? What kind of soil? How will this affect adjacent trees?
Posted by et on September 19th, 2011 at 12:25 AM
Good thing we're not allergic to hard work!
Posted by Tyler on October 3rd, 2011 at 12:01 PM
I just found your blog from jenna's and realized you are our new neighbor (basically). We live just down the road on Maple Hill headed into Shaftsbury with the big stone gristmill at the end of the driveway. Welcome to the neighborhood!
Posted by Michael and Kendra Gardner on February 19th, 2013 at 3:23 PM
We know exactly where that is! That is so cool! Would you like to get together for dinner sometime? Please send us a contact!
Posted by Tyler on February 21st, 2013 at 10:47 AM