In May we bought a house on 36 acres in northern Vermont in one of the three counties that comprise the Northeast Kingdom. It’s far enough north that it is not touristy Vermont and certainly not second-home-for-New-Yorkers Vermont. We only discovered the area because a good friend moved up here the year before. It’s not the most obvious place to end up when you have the ability to live anywhere (we both work remotely) so I thought I would share the reasons why we chose to make this our home.
1) Water is available and land is cheap
Jonathan was quite set on having an orchard and doing some small scale agriculture - more than a backyard garden. Out west in Colorado this was not feasible at all. The land is clay, alkaline, and you can only irrigate if you have costly water rights. In Massachusetts water is not an issue but land is expensive. While some parts of Vermont are costly, the Northeast Kingdom is full of incredible homes on large parcels of land at a relatively affordable rate. Our home here cost less than either our house in Colorado or Massachusetts.
2) You can hike for hours and see two people
When we lived in Colorado, we once spent an hour and a half driving up to a remote trail to do some mountain hiking. When we got to the trailhead, we had to turn around and drive half a mile back to find parking. It was just us, nature, and a few hundred other people. The Front Range is sunny and beautiful and everyone has figured that out, so it’s not only expensive, but also incredibly crowded. In Massachusetts we weren’t near any hiking at all, unless you consider a one mile loop in the woods to be hiking. Here, we’ve got some small, challenging mountains. We’re less than an hour from the White Mountains, 20 minutes from the Groton State Forest, and the incredible Lamoille Valley Rail Trail is literally in our back yard. We love to take walks after dinner on warm evenings. Half the time we don’t even see anyone else. And relatedly…
3) There aren’t a lot of people but they are our kind of people
My parents lived in rural Nebraska while I was in college. Nebraskans are a friendly lot, but rural Nebraska was not my cup of tea. Despite being surrounded by fields there was no local food scene - you had to drive an hour Omaha to get fresh cilantro. There was no recycling program. There were no other transplants and everyone in town had known everyone else in town since the day they were born. There are constant water issues caused by chemical fertilizer runoff. (This was a decade ago, so these things may have changed.)
Vermont has its hippie reputation for a reason. While I occasionally see fields of corn, they aren’t the norm here. People move here to grow local food or to buy local food. In fact, we are number one in the nation for the most local food per capita. Even our tiny town has its own farmer’s market. There is a culture of making and buying locally. Most of the agriculture is organic and sustainable - we don’t live in fear of Dicamba drifting into our yard. And because it’s a great place to live, there are other transplants, which makes it much easier to integrate into the community. The kinds of people who move up here are not career oriented - this is the last place you would come to advance a career unless it’s in forestry. You only move here if you want to have a life, not a job. Everyone I’ve met seems to dabble (or work) in fields I haven’t encountered elsewhere - things like herbalism, foraging, natural dyeing.
4) There aren’t a lot of cultural amenities but there are enough and they are growing.
We don’t have any pho or tacos, but we have a few good restaurants around. (Our favorite is Three Ponds.) We’ve got a bakery with croissants. We’ve got a wine and cheese store. And we’re only 10 minutes from St. Johnsbury which is the de facto capital of the Northeast Kingdom. It hosts Catamount Arts, which shows art house films (you can get booze while you watch), concerts, and all sorts of other stuff that warm my millennial pink heart. St. J also has a natural food store, pharmacies, and the regional hospital. We are 10 minutes from 98% of the things that we need. A few new breweries and restaurants are about to open up. The two things on my cultural amenity wish list are good ethnic food and a fabric store. I occasionally day dream about quitting my day job and opening a fabric and yarn store in St. J’s charming Victorian downtown.
5) The views
When we drove up to this place, I knew that was it. Love at first sight. Can you blame us?
So there you have it! Feel free to ask questions if you have any. I could talk about Vermont all day.