For the past decade, I’ve been living in the Northern mountains of New Hampshire. It’s not a big place or a fancy place, but it soon became an integral part of our lives. It gave us safe shelter from the outside world; it’s our office, church, school and grocery store all rolled into one. In short, we bothered no one and no one bothered us.
When my wife and I took on this property it needed a lot of work. But over the years we had slowly transformed it into the super-efficient homestead you see before you. Now flourishing on all sides with organic gardens and fruit trees, it’s fair to say we have worked every inch of this land. We were intentional about living this way, living simply while growing our own food is important to us. With a small flock of chickens and several sheep, this little gem soon became the absolute epitome of sustainable living.
We simply grew what we ate and ate what we grew. Living this way meant we didn’t need a huge income. Given that our savings had been all but wiped out by an earlier illness, this lifestyle fitted us rather well.
Here’s where it gets tricky.
To be clear, growing food year round is hard work, more so when the long Northern winter hits. In an attempt to extend the growing season, I decided to build a high tunnel. This final addition was an important piece of the sustainable puzzle. Little did I know at the time, but this “improvement” was about to be my downfall.
While building the ends of the high tunnel I was careful to make sure they could withstand the strongest winds. I must have built them a little too well because it soon provoked a visit from the local tax inspector.
I guess he liked what he saw because he then began sniffing around for a reason to increase our property taxes. The first increase came in at more than $1500. The second increase meant our property taxes had doubled.
When you are trying to live a simple life, this rate of increase was not only unwelcome it was, sadly, unsustainable. Ultimately we were being priced out of our home. The irony is, had we let the place go to ruin the property taxes would have stayed the same.
With no sign of the man letting up, we knew we couldn’t survive another increase. If I’m honest, I’m still a little irritated by this. You know somethings not right when an Englishman such as myself gets to complain about American taxation! And so, the house went up for sale.
Either way, a lady from Florida saw the photos online and was immediately smitten. She flew up the very next day and said it was the sharpest looking house she had viewed to date.
She particularly liked the warm, friendly feeling of our home and kindly commented on how clean everything was. Her husband was suitably impressed with the efficiency of the house which could be heated year-round with just four cords of wood.
This was really important to him (just as it had been to us) because he wanted a manageable place with affordable utility bills. He admired the barn and even marveled at my small collection of hand tools all neatly lined up on the workbench like a surgeon’s operating table. It seemed to tick all the right boxes, but after several days of deliberating, the wife finally decided not to buy. The reason?
She had once traveled to Japan and while there she had bought a large collection of ornamental china vases. For the past fifteen years, wherever she lived, they lived. No matter how hard she tried in her mind, she simply couldn’t find a place in our tiny house to put them all. As her husband rolled his eyes for the third time it made me realize this was a classic case of something that they no longer owned. These vases owned them!
Long story short, someone else soon came along and snapped up our homestead. This actually brought heaviness to my soul. My wife and I have fond memories here. But it also made me thankful for the time we had worked and owned this beautiful place.
For now, this American dream has come to an end. We have decided to sell everything we own and try our luck back in the motherland. As liberating as this may sound, it’s probably the first time I’ve packed a suitcase and not wanted to be somewhere else.
I’m really not sure where the wind will take us next, and although we will miss the stability of our home, my message to you is clear. Things shouldn’t define who we are, because one day, we may have no choice but to let them go. Wish me luck!
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Heather McLeod, thought you might be able to relate