Living in the country is something I have always cherished and, from a very young age, believed so much better than congested urban sprawl. Both my parents chose large cities from Caracas, Venezuela to Manhattan in New York. The money, culture, restaurants, the enticements everywhere, copious and seductive.
The crowds though, the crowds. Stifling. When I lived in Tokyo the train operators pushed the sandwiched subway riders into the cars with white gloves, over-capacity. The smog and pollution were so intense I could barely breathe, suffering from asthma attacks and serial medication just to get by, tortuous. Eventually I got smart and fled for the hills.
In Japan it was Hokkaido, the northern frontier of flowers and beets, fly fishing and skiing, hot springs and lavender instead of museums and traffic jams. Things got better immediately. The dramatic alpine vistas and clean air made you feel as if you were reborn.
A pandemic magnifies all that and changes everything. As if toxic urban existence were not enough to wake up even the most avid urbanite, enter Novel Corona, or Covid-19.
All our lives have been transformed in ways unimaginable just a few months ago. City dwellers across the land are re-evaluating their decisions to live in highly congested urban and sub-urban neighborhoods where Covid-19 has spread like wildfire with over-taxed hospitals and over-burdened morgues in its wake. None of us have been able to look at any news source for over a month without the dreaded virus dominating .
As in most tragedy, the magic is in the silver lining. Here in the Mad River Valley or anywhere in Vermont, while partially or fully restrained from usual performance, what better opportunity than to dive deeply into and embrace country living?
A long-held dream of raising hogs became realizable; what could be better than your own home raised pork which must be, at least the Chinese would concur, the finest meat on the planet? From bacon to braised ribs to juicy pork chops, even better than chickens, as wondrous as eggs and the 5:30 a.m. crowing rooster are.
On top of a new culinary adventure, how about the challenge of constructing, start to finish, a tiny home?
While hopefully at least a few practiced hands or carpenters are reading this, most of you have varying skillset levels for DIY projects. No stranger to the hammer or chainsaw, this seemed an exciting challenge. With just a few minutes of online pig pen research, the solution availed itself.
Pallets. Wooden pallets like those cast away behind the big box stores and lumber yards. The same day I found a used pallet supplier less than an hour away and had, in no time flat, 15 wooden pallets stacked in the yard.
Sometimes the simplest things are all you need. And anyone can do it.
A few eight-foot pressure treated posts laid down on field stone later the foundation was born, stacking and screwing in each of four pallets to form the sub-floor to be covered with thick cut boards for support. Two pallets for each of the side and rear walls stacked on end, another for a half front face, the remaining pallets cut diagonally for the upper walls and one whole for a front deck in front of a gate door. A couple of cross beams and ceiling rafters for roof support, blue foam insulation to prevent the pigs' heat from condensing and raining down on them and their hay crib and finally two eight foot corrugated sheets as roofing attached with rubber washer sheet metal screws.
Tiny house, major pleasure.
Once the walls go up the one-inch thick boards go down on the floor, a combination of spruce and reclaimed planks, followed by diagonal braces in three interior corners for structural reinforcement.
The most enjoyable part of the pen construction was, and as my friend and very talented artist Cathy Stevens-Pratt would say, bringing art into everyday life.
To frost the cake, Core 10 metal sheathing constitutes the exterior baseboard, amazing as it rusts and with age forms an evolving patina, one of the few construction materials that improves rather than degenerates over time.
While cutting the Core 10 for the first time with a Dremel and tiny metal circular saws, it came to me.
I used a few of the metal sheets overlapped and cut out a hog stencil to adorn the new digs and announce to the passerby what this new crib would house. The same Dremel tool used to divide the sheathing is perfect for cutting out the stencil which I mounted on wooden boards about 3/4" thick. Both stencil and stencil cut out were mounted and used on both the side and the pig pen front door. Would hogs ever have it so good?
As with most construction, you won't be surprised if it takes longer than you expect but most great undertakings do and working with your hands, in contrast to typing endlessly in front of computer screen, is active and a wonderful form of meditation. The only other critical tools are the Makita Magnesium 7 1/4 inch circular saw which cuts and rips like butter and a Makita power drill for all the screws, which lend strength compared to nails.
The white band you see on the door and around the structure is a single layer of PVC clapboard, made of the same material as pvc pipe which is water resistant and a great material to use for window and door trim compared to wood which rots much more quickly.
The gate door, the inner diagonal braces, stone to fill the foundation walls, not to mention the stenciling, electric fencing and water-on-demand hydration, one thing leads to the other. While not completed yet, the project was begun a couple of weeks ago and is nearly wrapped with two Duroc-Yorkshire piglets arriving in May at $100 a head.
While you haven't likely dreamed of forking out a pig pen (remember when Judy Garland as Dorothy takes a tumble into the pig pen in the Wizard of Oz) or the likely enticing smells they'll generate, there is so much to love about living in the country.
Vermont has it all. What better time to escape the concrete jungle permanently or purchase a home or camp in Vermont as a sure escape in case another pandemic, or worse, strikes? My inbox and phone have been inundated with potential buyers who have realized just that and now truly understand what a safe haven Vermont can be, on top of the gorgeous mountains and streams.
Raising pigs and chickens are this Vermont real estate broker's Covid-19 silver lining.
What is your silver lining? Can a pandemic translate into something exciting and new, bring you to a safer place and open up a whole new world?
Vermont has been under lockdown, in various forms, since March 25th with social distancing the mantra, children home from schools and university, remote learning, virtual meetings via zoom, and many strapped and unable to work at all or come even close to being as productive as usual. Vermont realtors were, for almost four weeks, unable to show any homes.
Finally, Monday of last week, the 20th of April, guidelines loosened slightly allowing showings only to people living in Vermont or out-of-staters that have quarantined in Vermont for 14 days which, for all intents and purposes, rules out showings to any out of state buyers except those with homes here that can leave their home state for more than two weeks just to see some houses up here which is, to say the least, asking a lot of them and far from any reasonable measure. There is talk of the levee breaking June 15th from which Vermont Inns, short term rentals and B&B ops have been tentatively approved by Governor Scott, still over six weeks away. Herculean efforts are underway to bring the state government to more reasonable conclusions to allow showings sooner to out-of-state buyers with Covid-19 precautions in place.
It's a fantastic time to start exploring Vermont's real estate market in earnest and scheduling showings for June 15th if you're out of state without means to quarantine in Vermont yet or right away if here already or have come from out-of-state and have quarantined for 14 days already. Demand is building and many in the northeast and far beyond are eyeing this gorgeous place and preparing to buy up property here to help ensure they have access to this incredible escape. Already, many second homeowners have ditched their cities and are working remotely here full time. All over the world rural migration is reversing decades of urban migration. In today's New York Times, this story spotlights Peru where highways are full of pedestrians, suitcases and children in an exodus from Lima. What a fabulous change. Exodus, the painting below depicted by artist Robert Spencer in oil, captures the spirit of freedom and promise rural life offers.
Now is the time to move to the country or at least purchase a place to have in addition to your city dwelling. This it. To get information on any Vermont property or real estate, call 800-525-7965 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can accelerate the process towards making your dream come true. You can also text me at 802-793-1515. Thank you so much for the opportunity to serve you, always such a pleasure.
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