Maine House Dreams, Part II

It’s been a crazy month here, between the sad loss of my grandmother and her subsequent memorial at the beginning of the month, a trip to Chicago to visit Ben’s family, and a blizzard that unexpectedly extended that Chicago visit an extra three days. We’re just getting back into the swing of things, which means we’re able to focus on the Next Big Thing in our lives: finding, and buying, a house!

With the threat of rising interest rates on the horizon and the end of our lease in July, both Ben and I are eager to find the perfect home and get things rolling. The past few months have been a little agonizing, as we’ve both been trolling Zillow looking at houses – knowing full well that, if the right house came along, we realistically couldn’t do anything because we didn’t want to pay for both a mortgage and rent at our existing location. During that agonizing time, there was a place in Woolwich that we kept returning to in our searches.

“We could use that shed for goats,” I said.

“Look how well they redid that kitchen!” said Ben.

For both of us, it ticked all the boxes.

Sadly, the Woolwich house showed up as sold on literally the day we were pre-approved for financing and decided we could reasonably begin scheduling showings. The universe, sometimes she is cruel.

My dream home showed up in Montville a couple of months ago. Five acres. Solar panels. Sauna. Greenhouse. Hen house. It’s a hippie paradise.

A poor facsimile of Jen’s Dream House.

And, it’s an hour and a half from Portland — where Ben works.

“But it’s perfect,” says I.

“It can’t be perfect if the location is wrong,” says Ben.

Still, I stubbornly refuse to remove it from my favorites on Zillow. I pester Ben about telecommuting for his job. It’s a possibility for this job now, but what if something changes, he insists? What if he loses this job, and then is stuck in Montville — where they are definitely not looking for technical writers with graduate degrees in library science, regardless of how extensive the resume. It’s good that he is reasonable; I traveled from Oregon to Kentucky in a former Portland city bus with 65 animals, to set up camp in an old elementary school purchased on Ebay. That adventure, however good the tales might be for cocktail parties, ultimately did not turn out well. Sometimes, reasonable is a stretch for me.

And so… We keep looking.

Our vision for this future haven has evolved over time. Initially, we’d thought maybe a small plot of land outside town — or even in-town somewhere, as long as there was enough room to house chickens. There’s some gorgeous housing stock in Bath, vast old colonials at shockingly low prices that Ben is captivated by. Maybe a house like that, with just enough land for a small flock of hens? (in Bath, a lot must be at least 7,000 square feet before you can even be considered for approval of backyard chickens)

But then at some point one of us — I honestly don’t know which — mentioned goats. Ben has always wanted them. I used to have them, and was never happier than sitting out with my LaManchas on a warm spring day. What about taking in a few goats before they become someone’s dinner?

A cool fall day in Oregon, feeding Bonita while Butterfly and Abby look on. Circa October, 2006.

We mentioned the idea to Ben’s son, Noah, who turns fifteen next month. He was home from the Maine School of Science and Math this weekend, and we dragged him around with us looking at potential homes. Including some of those grand old colonials in Bath.

“Where would you keep the goats?” Noah wanted to know immediately.

“For a house like this, we’d have to compromise on the goats. Maybe chickens –”

“I can’t cuddle chickens! Why are we even looking at these places?”

Noah hasn’t allowed anyone to cut his hair since he was nine. He does things like decide he’s going to build his own calculator or video game controller on school breaks — and then does it. He spends long hours watching YouTube how-to videos about things I will likely never understand. He’s pretty awesome, actually, but I had no idea he was looking forward to cuddling our goats.

Which means goats are back on the list. And chickens — ideally, ex-battery hens, as we’d like to do some farm animal rescue. We’re entertaining the idea of doing a vegan airbnb (“Why don’t you just call it a B&B?” asks Ben, every time I say this. “Because a B&B is more commitment,” I say, “and it’s for old people. Airbnbs are fresh and new, and we can do them whenever and however we want.”) I want space so my nieces can come and stay. And, of course, we need space for Noah. We both want fresh veggies from our own garden.

It feels like an endless list, but we’ve already begun the process of evaluating our priorities and compromising accordingly. We’re working with a stellar realtor at RE/Max who was recommended by a friend of mine, and she’s already proving invaluable in giving us some insight into the market. We’re both agreed that, ultimately, the most important thing is that we find a safe, leak-free, affordable home that we can both fall in love with.

And, also, goats.

Jen Blood is author of the USA Today-bestselling Erin Solomon mysteries and the Flint K-9 Search and Rescue mystery The Darkest Thread. You can learn more about her at



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5 Responses to Maine House Dreams, Part II

  1. Monica says:

    I’m one of those ‘old people’ who made the commitment to own and operate a B&B. I get what you were trying to say to Noah, but I run a real business that is up to date, ‘fresh and new’. We are always renovating and adding new amenities for our guests. I research new recipes, maintain a website with all the bells and whistles, stay current with new trends​ in decorating.

    It is harder for me to compete with someone who can stop hosting whenever they feel like it and move on to something else. It’s especially difficult as I’m required to get a local license, a state license, and be inspected and approved yearly both by the fire department and the health inspector.

    There is possibly enough business in Vacationland for all of us, but guest and host alike will fare better if we play on the same team rather than adversarially denigrating one or the other style of operating.

    Best wishes in your search for a home where all of you get what you want! I’d certainly stay at a place with goats to cuddle and chickens on the loose.

    • Jen Blood says:

      Hi Monica,

      My apologies for any offense people may have taken over my poor choice of words. It wasn’t my intent to denigrate B&B operators — it was an offhand comment that I clearly didn’t think through. I stay at B&Bs myself, and have utmost respect for the incredible dedication it takes to run one well, particularly in this challenging and competitive climate. Precisely the reason I make the distinction with Ben between selling ourselves as a dedicated B&B versus something else — your commitment and passion are clear demonstrations of what it takes to know and thrive in the business over the long term. My apologies once again for my poor phrasing, and best of luck with your business.

  2. Good luck! It is a huge undertaking to search for your first house together and I wish you all the best.

    • Jen Blood says:

      Thanks, Brenda. This month has certainly been a slog… I’m hoping it gets a little easier from here, but that may just be wishful thinking.

  3. Julianne Spreng says:

    The most important piece of advice I can give you is…DON’T SETTLE! It’s okay to buy a fixer-upper if you are able to invest the time and money to do this. I grew up in a house that was in a constant state of renovation for almost 40 years. As a family we loved the way the changes unfolded and eventually became my parents dream home. It wasn’t always easy and some times it was a pain but it was definitely interesting.

    My husband’s idea of the perfect house was turn-key. They build it and hand you the key when it’s done. I wanted an older place with the feel of history in its bones. We ended up buying a fixer-upper that 30 years later is still being fixed. It’s got an interesting history, and we’ve enjoyed and are proud of all the work we’ve done to make it our home.

    As long as the house or grounds speak to you, you’ll be happy there. Even if it takes a lot of TLC and hard work.

    [P.S.Good neighbors are important, too. They can make your dream place a nightmare if they don’t like what you’re doing.]

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