Over the years I’ve lived in many places, in two countries, and have pretty much figured out what I like in a home. I’ve owned, rented, and borrowed places and understand that no home is absolutely perfect.
I do know that I like living in the urban core – a warehouse loft off of Bathurst in Toronto for instance (pictured above*) – or in the country – I’ve even had chickens** in the past – but can’t find anything appealing about being in that vast suburban wasteland between the two. Being forced to rely on a car, shop only in chain outlets, and having neighbours cheek by jowl watching everything that you do is not for me. And strata councils…. don’t get me started.
Privacy is nice, and being on a big acreage in the country – or down a holler in Kentucky – is often the best way to get that. That seclusion was best summed up by a friend who lived on top a mountain in Virginia who once said,
You know what I like to do? When there’s a really big summer storm, and the rain is coming down so hard that you can’t see to the road, I like to get nekkid and go outside and dance!
So, rural, farmland, room to grow some vegetables, maybe some chickens for eggs.
A nice old house. Old because they’re better built, have better proportions, and in general are just more comfortable for living. Stone is good, and Normandy has no shortage of stone houses. Wooden beams. At least a few bedrooms, a big kitchen with room for a table, and a living room with a big fireplace or woodstove. (It’s interesting that throughout France and England the practice is to install airtight woodstoves in fireplaces. Why hasn’t that become the norm in Canada?)
Some renovation is fine, especially cosmetic stuff. I can look past bad choices in wallpaper and drapery. But we definitely want a place that we can just move in to. I really, really want relatively recent electrical wiring and plumbing, and a good well and septic system. And a half decent Internet connection, although EU cel phone prices are low enough that we can possibly work around that.
A second building already kitted out as a gîte would be very, very welcome because we do actually want some visitors, or even paying guests. And some kind of an outbuilding for a workshop or studio as well.
A view that will take our breath away, and enough distance from major roads that we don’t hear traffic. Good walking trails in every direction. Fairly close to train lines, and within walking distance of the nearest town. A good local library.
And, important to me, and a sure sign of the impact that Kentucky had on me, is a proper big porch, with enough room for a proper porch swing. If there’s one thing that I miss from the South, good porches are it.
* Across the street from a major pig slaughterhouse. Guys that kills pigs for a living coming out to their cars at 4am on their coffee breaks don’t really help your sleep. Behind us was a former car battery recycling plant. Eventually all of the topsoil in the neighborhood was replaced, and we all were blood-tested for lead poisoning. There’s a daycare there now.
** Chickens are stupid. Real stupid. Bright new coop. clean straw, food, heat lamps. Chickens are sitting on the fence. In an ice storm. If I hadn’t have come out we would have had chicken-sicles