Discover more from Post-Nomad
Small d democracy in Grafton County
Plus: I closed on the land in Dorchester; how much it cost and what I plan to do
This week I came across one of the best paragraphs on climbing I’ve ever read. I’ve tried multiple times to describe what climbing means for me (initially here, and probably better here), but it always feels like I’m falling short. Words are hard, and sometimes I feel like climbing must be experienced, even mastered, to really know.
That said, I think Chip Brown in his book Good Morning Midnight (a biography of New Hampshire outdoorsman Guy Waterman, who eventually committed suicide by freezing to death atop Mount Lafayette), has done about as good a job as any:
Like hunting in its more noble forms and farming at its most contemplative, climbing urges on its adherents a kind of communion with the natural world. It is a way of seeing and feeling and weaving one’s self into nature, but it is more intense than most disciplines because peril is part of its equation. To climb is to enter a labyrinth where the menace that awaits is nature’s indifference to its own creation, an indiffierence you feel in those corrosive instants of self-estrangement that beset even the greatest alpinists: brink-of-oblivion moments when the proximity of the void draws a crushing tension between the nature within and the nature without. What the hell am I doing here? But in the payoff of its transcendant moments, in its therapeutic rapture, climbing can generate states of mind akin to the mystic’s experience of unity, dissolving the distinctions of self and not-self so that the outer reality of wind and sky truly seems part of the terrain of one’s inner life.
The book is very good and recommended.
And, once the rain stops, I look forward to more moments of therapeutic rapture out on the cliffs, in the company of friends.
#1: Closed on the land
Today, I closed on the vacant piece of land in Dorchester, NH, about ten minutes from my house in New Hampshire. My plan is to build a house, basically because I want to learn how to build a house starting from scratch.
There is site planning to do, perc testing, and sorting out the permitting approval process with the town. But first, I was thinking I’d go over there with my axe and chop down a tree.
In all seriousness, the one-acre parcel is completely wooded, so at the very least I can harvest firewood from it, which will displace some of the propane we use for heating here and might save us some money.
According to the Internet forums on forestry, each acre of wooded land should yield about a cord of wood per year when sustainably harvested. Here in central New Hampshire, where winters can get quite cold and last quite long, we go through about two cords of wood per season to supplement the propane-fired hydronic baseboard—with a cord going for about $350 last we checked. That feels cheap, especially considering that we’ve been spending in excess of $3,000 each year on propane, and probably this year more like $5,000.
My feeling is that it’s better to burn as much wood as we can from nearby sources, as opposed to relying on the more expensive propane that gets shipped or trucked in from God knows where.
Anyway, even if I do nothing with this land, I will gladly drive down in my pajamas with a bottle of whiskey and an axe and find an occasional tree to chop down, a la Bill Murray in Moonrise Kingdom, and be well-satisfied with my investment.
#2: How much did it cost?
After I announced the land purchase in last week’s newsletter, a friend texted to ask what a vacant piece of land in New Hampshire runs for nowadays.
Of course the answer varies widely, depending on access to water, location, whether it’s part of a planned development with amenities, and especially whether it’s in any proximity to the Lakes Region.
My acre of land I feel like I got pretty cheap. Earlier this year, it had been listed at $35,800. In July, the sellers lowered the asking price to $29,800. Since it had been on the market a while and it was completely undeveloped—and because I knew there would be other options if this purchase didn’t work out—I decided to come in fairly low with an offer of $20,000.
The sellers countered with $25,000, and I delivered my “last and best” offer of $22,500 cash, which they accepted. I think it’s a good price, especially since there may one day be a home on it that could sell for something like $450,000.
Also, buying the land is a signal that I am “doubling down” so to speak on New Hampshire. As far as my investments go, buying the land means putting more eggs into the Central New Hampshire basket—which I really believe in. I believe in it based on climate change considerations, which I’ve written about before, but also as a lifestyle choice I think more and more people will be making in the future. Dorchester is still close to the Rumney crags and the White Mountains to the north and east, as well as to snowmobiling, skiing, hunting, mountain biking, and more. But one could also conceivably commute southwest to the job markets in White River Junction, Lebanon, or Hanover, where Dartmouth College is located.
The point is: if you want a low-key, no-commitment way to make a decades-long investment, you could do a lot worse than buying some cheap, vacant land in Central New Hampshire.
#3: Small d democracy in Grafton County
Last week, I took my grandmother down to the Rumney Common where, under the town gazebo, about 20 senior citizens met the two candidates who are running to represent them in the New Hampshire state house and senate: Edith Tucker and Craig Tomlinson.
I was the youngest in attendance by far, so I kept my mouth shut and listened as the citizens of Rumney told Tomlinson and Tucker what was important to them, and the candidates, as candidates do, listened and told them how they might be able to help.
It was all very de Tocqueville—citizens organizing themselves into groups and meeting at the town commons—and also very far from the Twitterverse and the cable news talking heads and the pollsters (there are no polls for these races) who supposedly tell us what is happening or going to happen in America.
This might be stating the obvious, but it still astounds me how many people ignore the fact: these two races for the NH state house and senate are important! Control of the legislature, especially here in a swing state, can determine so much: just think about redistricting, which is controlled by state legislatures, or abortion access, or voting access, or public school funding, or environmental regulation—all of it depends on which party controls the state legislature.
During the event, one woman recounted an incident where she’d called the state environmental office to report a violation of the rules about companies allowing chemical runoff into our streams and rivers. There are already regulations to protect against this, but the person who answered her call—a well-meaning and dedicated public servant—had told her they simply didn’t have enough people to enforce those regulations. The backlog of potential violations was so long that the state of NH was ignoring most of them, just trying to focus on the biggest.
It was kind of horrifying, actually, and all I could think about was that, for most of my lifetime, one of the two major parties in America (ahem, Republicans) has mainly been concerned with purposely breaking government—you know, like a child—while the other party has mainly been concerned with fixing it again.
Right now, Republicans control both the state house and the senate in New Hampshire, but there is an opportunity to flip both. So, here’s hoping Tomlinson and Tucker win those races, and also that other local Democrats win theirs and power shifts. At the very least, maybe we’ll get some more people in the environmental office to make sure we’re not all drinking polluted groundwater. #Vote