May 21st, 2012
top secret info

As many of you know we have been on a quest to find a place to live for many years now. I wrote a post about it a couple of years ago which outlined all the things we have been looking for and the big push for a more sustainable lifestyle. I can honestly it has been a lot of work, we looked at all of the possibilities (from building our own structure, east coast, west coast, Canada, US, etc.) We have literally been all over the map looking for something that would satisfy the whole family’s needs and give us a low overhead (something I have always needed given that you never know how your career will be doing a year from now). I learned that I am not at my core “a renter”, preferring to own a space that I can change and alter whenever I wish. The west coast proved much too expensive for our wish of a low overhead. And truth be told we had a hard time with “the rain” in the Pacific Northwest, (though I’m told you do adapt to it if you stay for a few years, and I do know people who are totally fine with it). Our friends and family have been amazed and dumbfounded at the moving around that we have done in the last seven years, and our almost neurotic quest to find “the place” where we finally settle.

And so I am happy to announce that we have indeed bought a house in (drumroll please)…Northampton MA!

It is an interesting story, which I will save the long version for later, but suffice to say this house found us/came to us. The current owner has a radio show and wrote me years ago to do an interview. We wrote back and forth trying to arrange a time, but I was in the midst of going to teach in Vancouver and it never worked out until last year when we went for a visit. We fell in love with the Pioneer Valley and eventually bought his house!

I believe it will satisfy all of our current lifestyle needs. If you look at our list for the Plan for Change.

1. Northampton is extremely bicycle friendly with a large network of bikepaths that take you everywhere you need to go. This will allow us to phase out the car use over time. The town is so bike happy they even collect garbage on bicycles!

2. There is a huge locavore infrastructure, in a variety of areas.

3. We are going to try to eliminate as much packaging as possible.

4. (Eat and buy local). See point number two.

5. (Phase out car use). See point number one.

6. The house is fairly small if you count that it includes two work spaces for both me and my husband. And it allows us to have a low overhead!

7. No need to buy land, we have enough space to put in a couple of raised beds. I read a quote once that said, “The greenest house is one that is already built.” This one is dated around 1900.

8. I am saving up for one of these grow domes which will allow us to grow all year, (and also satisfy my Buckminster Fuller obsession.)

9. We will be composting as much as possible.

10. We are installing some rainwater barrels at the new house.

11. As soon as finances allow we are going to be looking into solar panels, which a lot of people in the area are already using.

We have come to understand that there is no perfect place, every place we looked at had positive and negative aspects, and we learned there are always negatives, from cost of real estate, to toxic waste, harsh weather, access to big cities (or lack of), political problems, and cost of living. The main thing became finding a balance of what we wanted and what was affordable. Northampton has some air quality issues as we learned, though they are working on making it better. But we are very excited and feel confident that it is a good place for us (everyone we have talked to really loves living there!)

Now we are wanting one of these to get us around town, except we spent all of our money on the down payment for the house (sigh). I am devising a plan to turn it into an art piece so that I can justify raising funds for it. Coming soon to a town near you, the Society for Exploratory Research’s Mobile Unit.

May 21 2012
10:50 am
Sarah writes:

It looks fantastic Keri! Such a beautiful old home… and that porch + swing + good book = perfection.

May 21 2012
11:26 am
mollie writes:

YAY! A New Englander! Congrats on the new abode. Save up for that box bike – a friend of mine pedals his twins around Providence in one — truly amazing when seen in action. (It also makes an incredible parade float when decorated in various “costumes”.)

May 21 2012
11:55 am
secretfragileskies writes:

Northampton is a dream! My son lives in a yurt there after graduating from Hampshire this year. Lucky, lucky you! Best to you and your family :)

May 21 2012
1:08 pm
Joanna writes:

My husband bought me a Dutch “bakfiets” cargo bicycle after the birth of our first baby, and I cannot tell you how much I LOVE it!! I am still pedaling it comfortably with three months left before the birth of our second baby, who will fit comfortably in the front strapped safely into her baby carrier / car seat. Best of luck saving up for yours; I know you’ll love it. :-)

May 21 2012
3:37 pm
Leanna writes:

Northampton is a really special place. I love living here! Welcome to this really charming, New England town, I’m so happy you’ve decided to call this place home!!

May 21 2012
7:50 pm
Carolyn writes:

Try exploring a little north in Franklin County before you get rid of your car. You might like to visit the Bookmill in Montague and there are some very scenic drives.

May 21 2012
8:31 pm
Jen writes:

Oh, I am so happy to hear from someone who’s going through a similar process… and that there was a happy ending! We have moved *so* many times, had some amazing experiences, but nothing has “felt right” or had a workable balance of income vs. overhead. Hopefully we can stay where we are now long enough to find our feet, and eventually find our “place” and buy a house.

Like you, I am frustrated by not being able to alter rentals – and once wasn’t allowed to renew our lease ’cause the landlord wanted to move back in = another move =not fun. We’re in Sydney, but have our eyes on Tasmania or the Blue Mountains. We’ll see =) it’s aways off yet.

So happy for you!! Northampton sounds awesome =) =)

May 22 2012
3:00 am
Caatje writes:

Congratulations on the new house. I so had to laugh at you wanting a ‘bakfiets’ which is not all that special over here in The Netherlands. The info on the site says it can carry four passengers, well, maybe…if they’re little gnomes. But for carrying supplies, groceries and stuff or one or two children it would be ideal. Good luck.

May 22 2012
3:27 pm
francesca dileo writes:

keri, congrats on finding your dream home (for now)!

i’m a torontonian, and since travelling to Boston, and Holderness, MA, my husband and i have decided we want to buy a home in Boston and a cottage in Holderness. well, when we win the lotto, that is… !!

enjoy your new home.

May 22 2012
3:30 pm
Claire writes:

I have just read your ‘A plan for change’ post. It is most inspiring and a life style that I aspire to. Your new home looks amazing. Congrats on finding your place. Good luck and thanks for your blog. x

May 22 2012
4:24 pm
Kim writes:

Love the Growing Dome – what a great idea. I think we can totally do this at our house. Thanks for the tip!

May 22 2012
5:17 pm
folkscallmejonny writes:

All the work is going to get done on that porch (neither indoors nor quite outdoors) – this means your rocking chairs will be tax-deductable.

May 22 2012
6:31 pm
Fanfan writes:

Wow! I love this house. It has a ” soul “.

May 22 2012
8:43 pm
Northy Hamp writes:

Uhm, I live in the Northampton area. Don’t dump your car, you’ll need it. You’re moving to a very rural area. Western Mass is beautiful, wonderfully affordable, but in any rural area in Mass cars necessary. Keep it. The bike paths are great, but, well, maybe buy a Prius. To get more bang from your buck, you should have considered buying in Easthampton (5 minutes from downtown Northampton). Plus, I think it’s funkier. Enjoy, and welcome to the Republic of Western Massachusetts.

May 23 2012
4:16 pm
Bill Childs writes:

We are utterly delighted, as you know, that the new owners of our home will love it as much as we have.

And we still need to get you on the radio show.

May 23 2012
4:30 pm
Megan Zinn writes:

We made a very conscious decision to move to Northampton 13 years ago and haven’t regretted it a moment since. Given where you’ll be living, you could come close to phasing out the car (maybe with a bike trailer for groceries). Welcome to town! (though, we’re sorry to lose the folks you’re buying your house from…)

May 23 2012
7:02 pm
Sarah writes:

You forgot to mention that Northampton is a VERY chicken-friendly town! (point #2, #4). Looking forward to having you as neighbors!

May 24 2012
5:15 am
Pania writes:

Great house! Congratulations! Also, as a new member of the Society for Exploratory Research, I am excited to have completed my first task (walk around the neighbourhood, notice “white”, and take notes). Now I feel a Strong Need to share my scientific observations. Is there a Central Collection Point for specimens?

May 24 2012
9:20 am
~Heather writes:

Welcome to the neighborhood!

Should you decide on chickens – you should join:

PS: Cafe Evolution’s cupcakes are rather delicious.

May 25 2012
10:28 am
kerismith writes:

I really want chickens!

May 27 2012
1:27 pm
Rose writes:

Also check out the Pioneer Valley Backyard Chicken Association. Full of information and advice. We learned a LOT there. 34 chickens, soon to be 85!

My partner also suggests

May 28 2012
6:52 pm
Sandra writes:

Congratulations! Heartwarming news, finding a place that inspires roots.

May 29 2012
10:28 am
Patricia writes:

Yay! and crazy for some reason relieved you didn’t say Burlington VT…Northampton, Ithaca and Brattleboro are our top choices (although I secretly still long for my former home of Burlington)…

May 29 2012
2:37 pm
Becca writes:

I used to live in that area (I’m a Hampshire College alum), and I am so excited to see that you’ll be living there! I met a lot of wonderful people with great energy. I can imagine you will discover and explore many beautiful things.

May 29 2012
2:42 pm
Becca writes:


I also wanted to add that I have found that the education system there is great! I am sure you have already thoroughly looked into this, but there are tons of fabulous schools, alternative-minded schools, homeschooling and unschooling peeps, etc. There’s close by climbing and kayaking as well. And the Five College system offers so much! (Haha, I’m making myself want to move back there though I don’t think that’s the right place for me right now.)

May 30 2012
8:37 am
caroline lawton writes:

Beautful house – good luck with your new home and the plan.
My Nana too would “make do and mend” , such a trendy statement these days but a necessity then,…. and grow etc, but also one reflecting questions on lifestyle some people are putting out there….. re-cycling indeed!!

happy chickens in Northampton MA

Jun 3 2012
1:48 pm
Knittinglea writes:

all the cool people eventually find the pioneer valley ;)
you’ll fit right in.
c o n g r a t u l a t i o n s !!

Jun 5 2012
6:16 pm
kelli ann writes:

northampton is really charming. i know that you will love the so many great events and services that i’ve discovered on our travels down there as a family. great, great neighborhood. so fun to see that you’re the ones buying this house!

Jun 7 2012
10:00 am
Ramona writes:

this is all very exciting.

Jun 11 2012
5:15 am
Simone writes:

You’re sure you don’t prefer this cargo bike:
Anyhow, it sounds wonderful. I am going to look at your Plan for Change because I too need change. If you feel you would like to change or adjust the floorplans to your new house, write/ call me, I am an architect. I would love to take a look and lend a hand. I lost the link to your blog a few years ago (computercrash) but am glad to have rediscovered it!!! Now I have to catch up (from 2010). Have a wonderful day!!!

Jun 12 2012
11:21 pm
Rachel writes:

WOW. I accidentally discovered you by wandering into a Barnes and Noble and seeing Wreck this Journal. Then I looked up the book on Amazon and saw that you had this website. I could hang out here for days. You sound like a kindred spirit on a similar journey. I like to think of myself as a mindful minimalist, living lightly on this earth. I applaude you, your work, and your actions. It’s inspiring to read your blog and I just bought 3 of your books. I’m sure they’ll be just as wonderful as this site. May you continue for years to come. I’ll be a regular follower.

Jun 14 2012
8:14 pm
IVAN writes:

ola¡¡ soy mexicano y quisiera que trajeras tu libro aqui :D eh visto muchas imagenes y tus libros me interesan, el problema es que no lo venden en las librerias importantes de mi pais y quisiera comprarlo ya sabes para ser creativo :D uff espero que me contestes ^^ bye

Jun 15 2012
10:58 am
Amber writes:

Fan of your work, have gone through phases of reading your blog a lot. Just saw your May 21 post and had to shout out. My in-laws are in that area, I’ll be up soon for the annual family reunion.

Not to be missed in your area: Montague Soap Box Derby

Also, the Montague Book Mill, which someone already mentioned.

Also, re: Bakfiets – I LOVE our extracycle and it carries about as much stuff (including kids) – perhaps a phase 1 budget option for amazing cycling is an extracycle or extracycle add-on kit. I would think it would be resellable in the area. . I was intimidated by the idea of all that stuff on just two wheels, as I am more of a “bike-rider” than “cyclist” if you know what I mean. I’ve been pleasantly surprised again and again at how easy it is to load of 80lbs of kids and a TON of stuff and ride around on the extracycle. I’m sure you also know there are lots of other companies doing similar style bikes as well – a friend has a Joe Bike bakfiets-style bike that has been used, abused, and going strong still after several years

One of my fondest stories of my in-laws family from that neck of the woods is that the family still do barn-raisings, except they’re mostly house-raisings these days, and I got to go help with a roof-raising at my father-in-laws place. It’s the house where his mother and her brothers and sisters were raised, and where he and his brothers and sisters were raised. It was really a big re-roofing work weekend. At one point, there were 19 cousins/brothers/sisters/in-laws/out-laws crawling all around the place, pulling off new shingles, cutting new ones, replacing sections of sub-roof. Marvellously, the last time the roof had been done was in the 70s, and to the tune of smaller footprints, I joke that instead of an addition to the house, they did a subtraction – they built a new roof several feet lower than the old one, then tore the old one off the top.

Jun 25 2012
11:09 pm
Keegan writes:

Hi Kerri- I will be your new neighbor. Bill gave me the link to your blog; it’s crazy to know so much about my soon to be neighbor before ever having met you (but kind of fun, too!). I’ll be moving in this Saturday, so I’ll have the cookies- and solar panels, bikes, and chickens- ready for you when you show up. Safe and happy travels!

Jul 4 2012
10:46 am
elisabeth writes:

hi keri, congratulations! i moved from berkeley (home for almost twenty years) to the pioneer valley about four years ago, the last few years in northampton, and i’ve never felt so at home. this is a wonderfully creative community–everyone you meet is doing something passionately. and the food is great; here’s a local-eating tip for next spring: be sure to pick up some of the local asparagus (at farmstands in the next town over–hadley–where the soil is very rich, i’m told)–it’s the best asparagus in the world (seriously!).

Jul 24 2012
9:39 am
siren writes:

OMG!!!!! Keri!
If you haven’t already, please come to the Tuesday farmer’s market behind Thornes, find the Green River Ambrosia tent and say hi! We won’t be there today but we will next week – we’re there every other week – and if you have any interest in finding people to hang out and make art with, I would L.O.V.E. to meet you!

Aug 1 2012
4:35 pm
Extragrunty writes:

Northampton is such a cute town. Mr EG and I visited it a few years ago. I fondly remember the yarn shops. We were talking a couple of nights ago about places we wouldn’t mind living and this place was one of them. As we’re still in the moving around phase it could be a possibility.

Aug 2 2012
6:47 pm
nina beana writes:

keri! the house looks like pure awesomeness. welcome to MA…we’ll be kind of “neighbors” ;) best of luck to you!

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