Ron drove just the two of us to meet the real estate agent. Civilization seemed far away as he turned off the highway up a steep road with hillside on one side and a slope toward the little-used highway on the other. Our sedan snaked away from the last vestiges of urbanity past some small farms framed by the winter-bare limbs of oak and big-leaf maple trees, and then to my surprise, we passed the snowline. We'd had a bit of snow in the city but it had long melted away. The white stuff on the hill had gotten pretty crusty and hid in the shadows of barns and in storm ditches, but it still made me think of wintery holidays with actual winter in them.

So far we'd looked at McMansions, run-down double-wides with DIY additions, 1970's era ranches with bizarre floor plans, and everything in-between. Neither of us were in a terrible hurry to find a house, but at the same time I wanted out of the city. Gangs had started to move into our little suburban neighborhood, and I'd outgrown our garden area. I just wanted some acreage so we could raise more veggies, maybe even some animals, and I hoped that I could ignore unneighborly neighbors more easily.

One of our neighbors in particular had been getting wackier by the day, to which the huge, now deformed black walnut tree in our backyard could attest. She'd decided that she wanted just grass in her backyard, a fact announced by the sound of chainsaws early one Saturday morning. Apparently the half of our tree overhanging her property, along with all her lovely shrubs and garden beds, had to go. I worried that a strong wind would knock the poor, overbalanced tree over. It would fall, of course, onto our property.

The sad irony was that most of the shade fell on our side of the fence.

Anyway, we saw a lot of houses as we made our way up the hill. Those houses came in every style and state of repair and disrepair we'd seen so far all over three counties. McMansions and manufactured homes coexisted uneasily with traditional farmhouses and converted barns. The only thing the homes had in common was upheld by the law of the land, literally--a minimum of five acres.

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