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Making the Move to West County

HowChow just finished a series about eating and shopping in Howard County. In it, he asked for some input about the western county, as he wasn’t that familiar with stores and restaurants out here in the rural residential west.

I will be doing a guest post for him about eating and shopping, but this post here on my blog is a stage setting post. It is more about living here and what to expect as different from Columbia/Ellicott City where most of the county residents call home. There is still quite a bit, but slower, building of new homes out here, on at least one acre lots, as well as the 55+ development going on in nearby Waverly Woods. Marriottsville and Woodstock are on the edge of west county, but are mostly served by county water and sewer, due to proximity to the landfill. Head northwest beyond Clarksville and you will find farms, businesses, old residences and new developments spread across the rolling hills.

We moved here seven years ago after thirty years in Columbia. Neither one of us in our entire lives ever lived in a single family home. We wanted land, privacy and no covenants. We got all three, but not without adjustments in our lives. Shopping involves at least 12 miles round trip, so you don’t just run out for one or two items.

It is dark out here. No street lights. Skinny two lane roads with no shoulders. Deer everywhere, so driving at night takes more focus. Going out to restaurants and having a few glasses of wine can easily turn ugly.

This has changed how we shop, how and where we entertain, and where we go.

The first thing you learn is how to deal with power outages on well and septic. A propane grill and fireplace are crucial unless you want to be spending nights with friends that have electricity after storms. A generator helps for things like sump pumps and the freezer. We have a wood stove as well. If we have advance notice, like with Irene, we can fill the tubs with water in order to flush toilets.

A pick up truck is extremely useful out here. We got ours used. There is no yard waste pick up here. Compost it. Grind it. Haul it away yourself. Three acres with mature trees results in humongous amounts of leaves. We have a compost pile, and we haul away huge tree limbs that drop on our property line. We back up to another home so can’t easily dump things on the edge of the meadow. Mulching the gardens, flower beds, groves of trees and shrubs, and pathways requires two tons of mulch.

A snow thrower is another almost necessary purchase. The biggest you can find. We worked with one of the neighbors for four hours to clear 300 ft of driveway that was 16 ft wide after the February 2010 storms. Add to that our driveway off the main one, the parking pads, all the sidewalks and patio, and we cleared almost a quarter acre of asphalt, concrete and gravel.

We also shop less and have more storage for bulk purchases. Costco was the original source for buying large cuts of tenderloin, or roasts, or tuna and packaging for grilling. We spend vast amounts of time outdoors, in the garden, the shed, the yard, or the patio.

We go to Frederick more than Columbia, as it is quicker to drive that 25 miles on the highway than it is to slog through Columbia to Costco. We go to the Frederick Wegman’s using a scenic leisurely drive out Liberty Road, right to the store. We use farm stands and markets to give us fresher foods than the grocery stores do.

We have changed from people who bought take out, or went to the Bridge every week, and spent enough at Giant every month on prepared foods to get gasoline discounts every fill up, to people who cook from scratch, grow our own veggies and buy meat and dairy from the source.

Entertainment has changed. Redbox movie rentals for Friday night date night. Tuesday nights at Bistro Blanc. Crabs at the Crossroads. The snow ball stand at Woodstock on a steamy hot Sunday afternoon. Walks around the west county parks. Pick your own picnics at Larriland. Friday night concerts at Black Ankle in the summer. Two or three nights at the county fair in August.

This is just the beginning of the posts about life here. Details on places to go, shopping, dining, CSAs, farmer’s markets and hidden treasures in future posts.

7 responses »

  1. Every time I drive the back roads to Larriland, I have visions of a life like you described. It’s so beautiful. I look forward to reading more.

    • Thanks, it is lovely out here. We used to always get lost when we came out the back roads. Now, we know all of them, even the unpaved ones.

      I want to do a really in depth look at living outside the biggest communities of Howard County. It changed us drastically. I can’t believe we are in the planning stages to keep chickens. That’s a big change to what I was.

      I grew up in Baltimore City but spent over half my life in Columbia.

      This is so satisfying, yet sometimes scary. If you get snowed in, you are in for quite a while and you have to become self sufficient.

      I have some fun things to write about, that I never knew were here until I moved here.

  2. Sounds a lot like my experience. Moved here in August. After moving over 16 times with the military we finally settled. I am from NYC and the first words out of my mouth when I’m asked how I like it are -“it’s really, really dark”. Getting acclimated to the serenity. Enjoy reading and learning about what’s here and where to go- Thanks

    • You’re welcome!

      I will be posting lots of stuff about west county. Now that I am retired and discovered blogging, I have been looking for the direction to take the blog.

      I am doing the research now for the links. I learned much about what is out here while going to things at the Glenwood library and at the Howard County Conservancy. Plus, talking to the vendors at the farmer’s markets in the county. I get the majority of my perishable foods locally now, since I have found sources all over the place.

      It took us seven years to really get acclimated to the difference in pace here, and to become accepted by old countians. The farmers and other long time residents here are truly exceptional people. To me now, my favorite week of the year is fair week. We get a pass for the week and come and go many times. Wander around and talk to the 4Hers while they are tending their animals. Attend the auction with the parents of a number of children who raise goats, lambs and pigs.

      I love knowing who grows my food, and seeing the care they put into it.

      And yes, dark isn’t the word for it. We can star gaze in the front yard with little light pollution. If the moon is hidden, I can’t see the mailbox across the road from our driveway entrance. I do love the peace and quiet.

      Lots of good info coming soon. Thanks for commenting.


  3. Thanks so much for your post,I came to fine you through howchow,and I love your posts! I am so excited about the upcoming posts about where to shop in the western part of the county. I’m from a little city in Southern Virginia who moved to Maryland almost 8 years ago,there’s no telling the miles I have traveled to get things from the source and from Mom and Pop places if you will. Him looking forward to exploring even more this year,and finally getting my blog started. Thine such an inspiration!

    • You’re such an inspiration,smartphones and auto correct aren’t my friend at all. Please excuse the typos.

      • Thanks for the compliments! Believe me, I know about small keyboards and auto correct. The typos in the HowChow post were mine because I forgot to proofread before sending and autocorrect didn’t pick up my grammar errors,

        I will be highlighting places two or three times a week in my posts about living out here. It took a while to find some of these sources, but now once you start buying, you hear about more.



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