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What a Difference A Decade Makes

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I have been putting together information on west county for HowChow to use to talk about food and shopping out here, but thought I would do a companion series on living out here.

Physically, most of us out here are 10 miles or less using the back roads from getting to Clarksville or Columbia, and 10-15 miles from Ellicott City. The far reaches of the county out past Woodbine and Lisbon are 20 miles away and closer to Mt. Airy and Frederick. Gaithersburg is actually not that far, and when I look for recommendations for certain stores, Gaithersburg often comes up before Columbia.

Ten years ago, I had no idea we would be living out here. We were relatively content in our town house, with a newly renovated kitchen. Traveling whenever we wanted. No debt, no kids, no pets. Aging parents. Coming and going. Eating out three or four times a week. Commuting by bus or van to DC or VA. Hating the commute. Still loving Columbia.

What changed? Us, and Columbia. We wanted horizontal, not vertical space. Our town house was a three story split level. You couldn’t go from one room to another without climbing seven stairs. No yard. No privacy. An increase of crime, not major except for finding a spent gun shell in our bedroom after returning from vacation. Came through the siding, the drywall and left a hole in the wall at head level next to our bed. Seems a bad drug deal turned into violence down the road by the school. High caliber that could travel the distance to the top floor of our house. Scary, and resulted in a feeling that living in the midst of all the amenities of Columbia wasn’t what it used to be.

I do believe though that the biggest driver was just physically getting tired of covenants. Fighting whenever we needed to do maintenance on a 20 year old town house community. Wrangling over the costs of replacing driveways and other asphalt work. People had changed and weren’t willing to pay special assessments to keep the place looking like it did when we moved there. Many were neglecting their properties and hassles abounded when the community tried to enforce the covenants. We were caught in the middle with my husband on the board. Thirty years in Columbia. Time to move on.

We were ready to do something completely different. Buy an older house with land, and no subdivisions or community associations or rules. It meant most of our search went to west county. Acreage for the amateur radio towers. Privacy. Room for the gardens. Still easy to get back to shopping or restaurants with a little extra time. Besides, we were retiring within five years of moving.

Now, when we walk out past our shed in our backyard we see this.

Not all of it is ours, just the front half. My neighbor’s meadow and ours run together. It is natural meadow, that we cut often enough to allow my husband to put out crank up towers when he wants, and take them down. Eventually there will be a concrete base and self supporting tower there, but for now, it is just home to our little friends.

You can see why my garden is fenced.

As for the back yard, the shrubs and trees screen us from the neighbors. Breakfast and coffee on the patio in the morning, even if still in my robe.

With this privacy and loveliness all around us, we have changed. We have friends over for grilled dinners. Crabs. We eat all three meals out here some days in the summer. Having the farmer’s markets and farm stands all around means less time fighting traffic and crowds to shop. It is so simple to throw sausages or flatbread with toppings on the grill, add veggies and a salad, some wine and cheese and we are set to enjoy dining al fresco with a much better view than a restaurant parking lot.

Life is slower out here if you embrace the differences. We have, and think this sums it up quite well.

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