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And now for something completely...different?

Sep 20, 2016

Four months ago, I upped stakes from my hometown and moved thousands of miles to the middle of the forest in Vermont. I took a break from the Web and changed jobs. Everything has changed...or has it?

Up until a few months ago, I lived in a space-constrained duplex in a happening urban neighborhood in happening Portland, Oregon. Now I live in the middle of a mountainous forest in Vermont, on a dirt road, next to a river. I changed jobs. I got rid of about 75% of what I owned. On the face of it, everything has changed. Or has it?

Here are some thoughts on all of the changes, as well as some thoughts on how much hasn't changed at all. In the form of a FAQ, because: why not?

Wait. Where exactly do you live now?

In a town in southern Vermont. When I say town, I mean it in the New England sense: a square-ish area of land roughly 6 to 10 miles on a side. Not all towns have villages or any form of conurbation; ours does but it is about eight miles distant.

We live on a dirt road that is well-maintained but is, still, dirt. Our nearest neighbors are across the river, about 800 feet as the crow flies but a quarter-mile walk to get there. They're the only neighbors within screaming distance.

Where the heck do you buy food and stuff?

There's a general store about six-and-a-half minutes away by car. The two local villages are each about a 12-minute drive. One has a grocery store I'd roughly equate to Safeway on the west coast: it's sufficient but not inspiring.

It's remarkable and rewarding how much of our food is obtained directly from the humans who made it. We belong to a little CSA up the road—it's personal enough that they'll notice and comment on our absence if they don't see us for a week or two. There's a Jersey dairy—raw milk and eggs—down the road. Pork and chicken often comes from another farm run by a couple in the next town over. And one of our neighbors raises grass-fed lamb (and may—CROSS FINGERS—scale into acorn-fed pork soon).

What's the landscape like?

Tons of local relief. Our house is at the bottom of a valley. We are surrounded by forest, save for a small field on the east end of our property which is used for hay for our neighbor's sheep. I usually say that, aside from that field, you can tell when you're on our property because you won't be able to stand up properly—it's that steep, most of it.

There's a river. Technically it's the North Branch of the Williams River, but no one ever calls it that. It's just the river. It's a small river; you can walk across it easily, a large creek, really. The water is clear and the rocks various and interesting.

So, you're off-grid or whatever?

No, not entirely. So, no. We do have a grid-tied pole-mounted 3kW solar array, but it doesn't power the whole house. We're also connected to civilization through our phone/Internet lines (more on that shortly). Aside from that, though, yes: we have a well, septic. Our heating fuel is provided by an in-ground propane tank.

Getting online must suck?

Is that a question or a statement? Here's the best part of all the parts, when taken as part of the beautiful whole: our Internet is fantastic. The local telecom got a grant from the federal government and used it to invest in a fiber grid. We pay a reasonable amount and we get reliable 1G symmetric connectivity (real-world performance between 600-800Mbps). Yee haw!

Aren't you terribly isolated?

This has been the most surprising thing about this change. I expected to have loneliness, to have to work intensely to have contact with other humans. And yet. We know all of our neighbors. Our front yard and porch are visible from the road and sometimes people just drop by if they see us. Our friends and family visit us.

Sometimes we won't leave our property for four or five days at a stretch and it isn't bothersome at all.

So you work from home?

Yep! I'm lucky to have my position as an Open Web Engineer at Bocoup. Their systems and people are well-oriented for distributed teams. We're fortunate to have a real, dedicated office portion of our house: a separate staircase, large shared office room and a half-bathroom. So "going to work" feels like a thing, still.

And you're not going crazy?



Really. But we'll see what happens once winter comes!