My Ultimate Broke-Ass Vermont Fantasy

A couple of days ago, I took a drive up to Burlington to visit my younger brother for his birthday. After a hellish couple hours trying to get out of NYC, and getting turned back from several tunnels, I finally hit 87 up to Vermont. Expecting a scenic drive, I was rather disappointed by 87. After a few minutes of trees and rock formations, I quickly became bored. Once you’ve seen a few firs surrounding a shale formation caught in frozen eruption, you’ve experienced the totality of what 87 North has to offer.

Fortunately, my trusty print-out from googley maps soon forced me off the major highway onto the twisty wilderness of route 7 which winds through wild Northern New York and into the quaint and crumbling valley towns of Vermont. From the road, virgin fields extend for miles and miles under the distant gaze of the Adirondacks until they hit the great Lake Champlain, dotted here and there with the occasional cabin or farmhouse. The area is a slightly less oppressive version of West Virginia… which actually doesn’t sound that great… still once you cruise through the main drags of White Hall, Addison, and Vergennes, past the flaking white facades of old town halls and volunteer fire departments you can’t help but start to give in to the romance of the small frontier town, where the sheriff’s cousin is the town drunk who is incidentally married to the Mayor’s sister, who is secretly having an affair with the volunteer fireman and the town’s only lawyer, Edgar J. Johnston (who works out of that small brick building on Main St. next to Norma’s Coffee and Quarters – rooms for rent at $30 a night).


Addison, VT’s main drag… yeah

Being a college town, Burlington is more up to date. There’s even an Urban Outfitters (rather unfortunately if you ask me). After the rolling hills and wide green fields of the drive up, it seemed almost a little too modern and civilized. I couldn’t wait to drive back through that rural land, and when I finally did, I noticed a good amount of abandoned farms – complete with collapsed barns and empty shacks – some of which were even for sale.

I began to imagine myself volunteering with Jeff and Joe at the fire department (which consists of drinking beer and playing cards for a few hours every weekend). I pictured the wood-panelled jeep wagoneer with which I would drive through the snow.


the Wagoneer

I also realized how cheaply I could live. Heck, I would only need a couple acres of green soil on which to build a greenhouse for fruits and vegetables in the summer. I would keep preserves for the winter, and buy cheap meat at the local store at a fraction of what I pay here in NYC.

But what to do about housing? The problem with this area is that they don’t use stone. They use wood and when a wooden house is conceded to the elements for a few years, the structure tends to go bad. So much for a fixer upper. Besides, buying land with a house (even a dilapidated one) would be way expensive.

Well, it just so happened that upon hitting New York State, I saw a place selling pre-fab sheds, some of which looked certainly big enough for a one man to hole up in. Outfit one of those puppies with a wood stove and a single bed and there you are. And if you don’t like the idea of pre-fab (which admittedly might lack required insulation), you can design and build your own. The carpentry is rather straightforward. And there are plenty of websites offering how-to guides.

Think about it:

7 acres for around $20,000 – a steal by most standards.

A pre-fab shed for around $500… or build it on your own… or go modern and totally rad with a tiny house, such as this Z-Glass House from Tumbleweed Tiny House Company.


if Frank Lloyd Wright had been totally broke…

A wood stove that you could find at any junk lot for around $100.

A wood panel jeep wagoneer for a few grand.

LL Bean boots for $150

Volunteer Fireman (FREE)

Town Council-member (FREE)

Good Friends and Good Times (FREE)

You could even go hunting for meat. Screw the supermarkets. Rifles in Vermont are totally legit. I actually met a guy who claimed to be a “firearms refugee” from Canada. Yes, he was totally crazy. And yes, he was a libertarian. The Canadian government refused to renew permits for his massive gun arsenal (probably because he’s a right wing extremist), so he took his guns and moved down to the US where his cousin is sponsoring him for citizenship. I look forward to having him as a voting citizen.

And he’s not the only kind of kook with whom you would hang out if you moved to a broke ass worry-free frontiersman lifestyle up in Vermont. They’re all kooks there. You pretty much have to be.

Aren’t you sick of the homogenous crowd in NYC? Aren’t you tired of your cramped apartment? Instead of hucking up $1500 a month for a Williamsburg loft that you share with three people, you could be living for free, king of your own kingdom, peeing outside every morning while drinking a Labatt. Civilization ain’t all that great. And often, for the broke-ass citizen, it’s an unnecessary luxury.

Photo Credits: Burlington Free Press ; Tennen-Gas

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About the author

Jules Owen - Wandering Wastrel

Going to a rich kid school when you aren't even given an allowance certainly trains you to live large on the cheap. Armed with such expertise, Jules travelled the globe, surviving off of 50 cent beers and 2 dollar meals everywhere from Buenos Aires to Mumbai. Three years ago he returned to the United States, living first in Baltimore while he settled a debt with the IRS, then in Brooklyn where he plays music and writes. He aspires to one day live in a van on N.15th and Kent.