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Real Estate and Home Guide — The Altamont Enterprise, May 20, 2010

On the move
Country living has its charms — and drawbacks

By Jo E. Prout

I have a confession: I clean my car out by tossing used Subway cups into the bushes next to the driveway. I pick them up, eventually, when I know someone is coming to the house who might park, or walk, down the drive by my car.

I used to feel guilty about the junk strewn in the front yard as we renovated our front rooms and heaved construction debris onto the grass. Not anymore. As one neighbor told me, “We live in the country. No one cares.”

I didn’t believe her, at first. But, then, I started noticing other neighbors’ yards and saw various truck parts, Dumpsters, fallen “No Trespassing” signs, and crumpled mail boxes. She was right. No one cares.

Our town doesn’t even have zoning laws. That’s right. No zoning. Want a home business? Open right up. Putting up a fence? Go ahead. Adding on to your house? Call if you need any help.

A girl could get used to this. In fact, I have.

The trouble is, I’m one of those average Americans who chooses to move every five to seven years. I put an offer on a house this week.

After a real-estate cycle’s worth of renovations, hubby and I have decided that renovating is for the birds (the ones who still live in the roof on the third floor), and that we want a new house. And, just where are all the new houses in our school district? In a gated community. It’s a quandary, for sure.

Will I be fined for leaving my trashcan out overnight? Will a neighbor complain if my dog gets loose and runs? Will I need a landscape plan if I want to plant an apple tree?

The answers are yes, yes, and only if I plant more than a couple. How do I know? I used to live in that neighborhood before we chucked it for the “serene” life in the country.

Did I mention the crazy guy who blocked me and my baby girls in the driveway and said he’d call animal control on me if my dogs didn’t stop barking? Did I mention that there is no animal control, my attorney is my next-door neighbor with three wandering dogs of her own, and that the town police questioned the crazy guy about bothering me while el loco dude’s dog barked non-stop?

After that, I had to post my own “No Trespassing” signs so the guy could be arrested if he came onto my property, again. And, here I’d been set to paint a “Welcome” sign and hang it on my pretty picket fence. Too bad for me.

I’ll have to switch the signs if I want to sell this place; big yellow signs inspire too many questions. I’ll switch them back, again, if the house doesn’t sell.

We’ve made the house and grounds our own, by now; we’re pretty happy with them. The world will not end if we have to stay here another year or two. I’m pretty handy with a shovel, a saw, and a drill, by now. We’ll hold our breaths and hope nothing else breaks down while we wait for the market to recover more. As for the crazy guy, I’m a tough cookie and I’d be happy to sic the dogs on him.

At my Realtor’s insistence, I’ll disassemble and bag up the lamp that’s leaning on a poison ivy vine in the trees along the drive. I had asked hubby to take care of it in January, when people were coming and we needed to replace the rotten thing.

It was cold out, he was busy, and the lamp was tossed but stayed tall in all its glory, mocking my good intentions to live in a clean, beautiful country home. It’s seen its last days, and so have the Subway cups.

I’m sure there will be emergency car-cleaning done at our new house, but I’ll be sure to pick it up before anyone notices. And, I’ll be sure to plant some screening in front of the driveway, just in case.

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