Houses have been on my mind a lot since I last posted here almost two months ago. Our relationships with our houses are incredibly complex (many books have been written on the subject) and what follows is just a brief glimpse at some of my thoughts about these wonderous things.

We had our house on the market this Spring, and almost sold it, but at the last minute decided we want to stay put for at least another year. Leaving our jobs and leaving our home proved to be a bit more stress than we wanted to take on all at once; and we were lucky enough to have a choice.

When you go through the process of selling your home you learn a lot about your house, or at least how your house is perceived by others. This can be an interesting experience but not necessarily a pleasant one. Our house was built in 1925 and in some ways shows it. We've put lots of money into the house over the years, and improved and updated many of the systems, but there are lots of systems in a house. The un-updated systems tend to be perceived as 'negatives' and are often the first things on which perspective buyers focus.

When we thought we were going to sell we spent some time looking at houses up in New Haven. What struck me most about that process was how clearly our country's neighborhoods are socio-economically stratified. We could tell -almost with just a quick look- whether a neighborhood was one in which we would feel 'at home'.

The house in the image at the top of the post was built by my maternal grandparents for their retirement in Duxbury, Massachusetts. It was designed by the architect Royal Barry Wills, and is a classic example of Wills' simple but elegant adaptations ot the traditional New England vernacular Cape Cod house style. My grandparents loved to garden and had a large vegetable garden at the back of their property. On summer visits I spent many happy hours helping out back there doing things like picking raspberries and beans. It was there that I first saw a compost heap and learned about composting.

This next image is of my parent's summer/retirement home on Cape Cod. This house grew over the years, as often happens with houses as needs and assets change. It started as a small summer cottage and had three significant additions tacked on over the years. The whole agglomeration was torn down a few years after my parents had to sell the house due to failing health. The addition on the right was designed to take maximum advantage of passive solar energy. Both my parents loved to garden. My father had a big vegetable garden out behind the house where he would spend lots of time puttering.

The next two images are of our house. "Our" being my wife Laurie and me, and our two sons, one of whom is in the hammock in the second picture. The dog, Snowy, is now buried in the back yard. The first of the pictures is taken from Otter Creek, which is a tidal creek that winds along the salt marsh behind our house and eventually empties into Long Island Sound. The house is shingled with asbestos shingles which are quite safe, but unfortunately are perceived as a distinct negative and definitely lower the "curb appeal." One of my goals for my Yestermorrow experience is to figure out what to do with these shingles specifically, but more broadly, what can be done to improve the energy efficiency of older houses like ours.

Finally, just for fun, is an image of the type of house I'd like to try building for our retirement home. If I do build a house like this it will definitely have a big garden. I'll be bouncing this idea off of folks up at Yestermorrow and it will be interesting to see what comes of that process. I'll be sharing the experience here.

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Two aspects of houses that I have discovered, the first several years ago and the second just in the past few weeks…

The more times a virtual house walk-through is viewed, the more it begins to feel like it exists. Its quirks are not yet apparent, for I haven't lived in the house, but the pathways through the house, and the rooms themselves, are etched in my mind. The house may not be tangible, but seems no less real.

When my home of 23 years almost became someone else's home, then with relief and a smile it remained ours, all its quirks suddenly seemed more endearing than frustrating. This house I have known for years I am now seeing through a new lens.

Looking forward to seeing your Yestermorrow experience unfold :-)