The town that I currently live in just rebranded itself a city. People are outraged. I am not, but I thought that I would use the controversy to talk about cities, towns, and the countryside, and our new fan-dangled march towards home ownership in the town or city that we live in.
I grew up in the outskirts of a town which is now a city in another country from where I live now. I knew that we lived in the outskirts because you had to drive past the city-limits sign before you got to our driveway. While you could basically walk to the end of the driveway and look down the road and see the city-limits sign from the end of the drive, we were still on the “other side.” That meant that you were not on mainlines for the city’s utilities. This had implications for services but it also meant that behind our trailer (I grew up in a trailer until I was about 11) past our rented property line, there was crown land. Crown land isn’t really the Queen’s land in the country where I come from, but instead, it is an expression used to mean public land. In the place where I grew up, 94% of all land is public land, much of it inhospitable.
Having a backyard that was undeveloped public land that seemed to go on forever and ever made a very large imprint on me and my life. A lot of my childhood memories involve woodlands rather than people. I can recall small hills, streams, frogs, skunks, rabbits, wildflowers, places to make forts, walks, etc.. Much of my childhood revolves around being outside when it was light and inside when it was dark. As both of my parents worked away from home during the day and I took care of myself from a very early age both after-school and in the summers, I spent a lot of time isolated outdoors. I had (and have) a difficulty with social interactions and while I have a tonne of really good friends now, fitting in with people hasn’t always been easy for me but fitting in with nature has always been liberating and natural.
Things of course changed as I moved from the town to a smaller city with my parents when I was ten (yes, we actually even moved the trailer so I lived in the same home but in a different city for the first year). Then we moved to town when I was 12. We moved to 6th street, so I knew we were definitely in the city limits now, because no way would an out of town street be called 6th street, but even this city had a population of less than 10,000 and was nestled in a mountain valley about 8-10 hours from any major city in any direction unless you wanted to cross an international border.
Finally, since leaving for University a long while back, I’ve been living in cities: big and medium sized cities ever since we came here, which is a town or a city depending on what side of the ferocious debate you are on.
While I’m trying to convince my spouse that he would be much happier living in the countryside, he grew up in a big city and he’s much more concerned with what he thinks might be being too isolated and so we just bought a quaint house in the town district of the town next to the big city / town park. Everyone is so excited that we are moving next to the city / town park.
“Parks are lovely,” they say. “You will get to enjoy the park, they say.
The part of me that grew up with the seemingly unending vista of crown land surrounding me hates everything about parks. The other part of me, the part that has a dog and has spent the last 20 years in cities is like, YAY PARK!
Because this is my first house, I’m trying to figure out how to bring these two sides of me together into one space, and how to do it ecologically and frugally. We are spending everything we have, more or less, with only a 5% deposit on a house that is on the top end of what we can afford, so there is a need to both quickly build up some emergency funds as well as to decorate the house to make it ours. While I can write about all the nitty gritty details about the mortgage if you want, I think a better use of this blog is turning it into a frugal decorating blog, so I thought I would set the stage for what sorts of things I am thinking about.
I found this DIY project online by Fiona, and this more or less sums up the mood that I want to have in my new house.
Does anyone else have any experience turning an in-town house into an ecological woodland retreat on a budget and also in keeping with the architectural features of the property? I would be really pleased to hear your thoughts if you do and, while we are definitely still committed to getting out of debt (we are now about 56% of the way through), and will report back on how that is going from time to time, I’m really looking forward to transforming my in-town (city) Victorian semi and especially transforming the backyard into a miniature temperate woodland in which I can escape.