Gretchen's story is about planning for her retirement home in the country. We're often so busy juggling our professional and personal lives that we don't allow enough time to plan for tomorrow. As we join Gretchen's journey, you'll gain insight into many of the choices and difficult decisions that need to be made when you leave the city where you've lived for years, to settle down in a new community with a different culture and lifestyle. For Gretchen, she's leaving Boston to return to her roots living on a farm in western Massachusetts.
We're launching “homeowner stories” where many women will share their personal stories. We spend more time in our homes than anywhere else, so it's important that we learn how our homes shape our lives and how we can transform our homes to support the lifestyles of our dreams. By sharing our stories, we can learn from each other and capture the essence of home is where the heart is!
Farm Forward: Building a Sustainable Future
… City Mouse Returns to Country Roots
A funny thing happened when I turned 60 two summers ago: I began to ask lots of questions about the future. How long would I continue to work? What types of career opportunities and volunteer options could I pursue? Where would I retire? How could I surround myself with friends, family and plenty of pets? How could a “city mouse” like me be thinking about moving to a farm?
Truth be told, I wasn’t always a city person. I was born and raised on a working farm in Bethel, Maine (population 2,500). My father was a pipe-fitter (plumber) at a local mill, and my mother managed a horse business. I used to joke that we were “resource rich” – with little money in our pockets but plenty of food on the table and lots of practical knowledge at our disposal. When spring and summer came, we tended acres of vegetables, berry bushes and fruit trees. When fall arrived, we canned, pickled or froze everything we harvested. We had cows for raw milk, chickens for eggs, and bees for pollination and honey. When something broke, we fixed it. When somebody needed help, we pitched in. As I packed my bags for Boston University in the late 60s, I took with me a deep respect for being part of a farm-based community.
Condo Ownership in Boston Brownstone
Fast forward to 1996. That year, my partner and I bought a condo in a brownstone in Boston’s historic South End. It needed tons of work – starting with window replacement and heating repairs to AC installation and kitchen renovation. We learned about the art and science of homeownership by managing the building maintenance and the books for our 4-unit condo association for 15 years. Not because we always knew what to do – but because we cared deeply about how things were done. For the final three years of our city tenure, we rented a plot in a community garden. The combination of potting soil, fresh produce and my sixtieth birthday uncovered my country roots. Our initial conversations about retiring to a farm soon turned into real-life planning. We sold our city condo in the summer of 2011 and rented an apartment just west of the city. We consider this to be the first stage in moving to a farm in the Northampton, MA area.
Planning for Our Future Home
It's clear that with retirement comes the opportunity to rethink our lifestyle decisions. Sharing this journey is a great opportunity to put into words some of the ideas, discussions and decisions we'll be making over the coming months as we research a new home, new community and the lifestyle that makes it real. I'll share how I'm able to apply my experience owning a condominium and managing the building, including improvements, repairs, working with contractors and budgeting.
We're looking forward to sharing our planning, which includes buying and remodeling a farm. Yes, there's more than a house on a farm so if you want to learn more, come back in about a month when we continue our story. We hope you'll continue to follow our journey, share your feedback and ask questions as being part of a larger, online community is part of our plan.
Gretchen Dock is a Boston-based marketing consultant with more than 25 years of experience in brand development, marketing communications and marketing publications. Current clients include: Moonrock (a tree-free paper company), AgroGreen (an alternative biofuels technology company) and Empiriko (a clinical intelligence technology company).