Off The Grid: Stories From Higley Hill

One Saturday morning, we woke to the sound of Tough Mudders driving by, creating more traffic then we have in an average week. Trucks, motorcycles, and even Masaratis whizzed up and over the hill from Marlboro on the dirt road side of Higley Hill where Whoopi Goldberg once owned a house, down into Wilmington, then north to Mount Snow to compete in athletic events that involve slogging through mud. Our house is set behind a buffer of trees. I was exhausted, the Mudders barely disturbed my sleep.

dirt road

Turkey Crossing Higley Hill

Since we’ve moved to Wilmington, I have spent only half my time here. I’ve been driving back and forth between Rhode Island and Vermont, helping my parents and my daughter with the everyday hassles that are life in America in the 21st century. But each time I cross the border into the Green Mountain state, a huge weight lifts off my shoulders and I breath a sigh of relief.

We currently live off the grid. We have a lot of work going on at our house. We bought this little place for $60,000, cold cash, for sale by owner, no realtors involved. Rich was a former home inspector so we saved money there, too. Our biggest expense is re-doing the cinder block foundation which caved-in some time ago, probably from rough winters of freezing and thawing, or spring floods.

Rich has jacked the house, eased the weight of it onto cribbing and a couple of steel beams we borrowed from a friend of a friend, and we’re ready for another friend of a friend to pour a cement foundation tomorrow.


This is cribbing a house

For now I manage without Wifi at the house. I find my Internet connections in various places. The town center of Wilmington has free access. Sometimes I just park on the street in front of the town hall, roll down the car windows, quickly check email, and scan the New York Times headlines to see if I’m missing anything important. This summer there’s a lot of important and disturbing news. It is one of those times in our nation’s history when the center isn’t holding.

Wilmington Flood Stats.JPG

Wilmington, VT Town Hall

I was a couple of days late on the news out of Baton Rouge and Minnesota, two more black men killed by police officers, but I was in Rhode Island visiting my mother at the new nursing home she has been moved to when the shooting in Dallas occurred. I was staying at a friend’s house and we caught the news as it was breaking.

On my return to Vermont, before heading back up Higley Hill to leave the mad world behind, I parked in front of the town hall to get online and check the latest news out of Dallas. Somehow I didn’t notice the sign, No Parking From Here To Corner.

Oblivious to the steady stream of traffic passing through town — tourists with kayaks on their roofs, towing RV’s, bicycles on trunk racks — I was startled by a policeman poking his head in the passenger side window.

“I’m sorry, you can’t park here,” he politely said, pointing to the sign. “When the big delivery trucks come through town they need this spot clear so they can make the tight turn.”

I apologized profusely, told him I forgot all about the sign, and for some reason didn’t notice it today.

“That’s okay,” he said. “I think you should be able to get the Internet around the corner.” He straightened up, walked a few steps, and peered around the corner then returned to my car, leaned in again and said, “Yeah, there’s a few spots around the corner. If you can’t get it there, the public parking lots in town have access, too. Just look for the signs with the big ‘P’ and an arrow.”

I thanked him profusely and moved my car around the corner. This really is how Vermont life goes.

I now use those public parking spaces where there are Welcome to Wilmington signs on the back of colorful benches set among yellow sundrops, purple iris, and orange poppies. One day while I was sitting on a bright blue bench reading about the FBI’s findings on Hillary Clinton’s email habits and feeling depressed about the upcoming election, two women in a car with Tennessee license plates parked next to my car and asked if I could recommend a good place to eat.

Still there when they returned, now answering emails and checking book sales — I sold three books the day before! — I asked how their lunch was, then somehow mentioned I was an author and happened to have a book in my bag. I offered it to them for free but they insisted on purchasing it. So I sold a book on a bench that day, and three more on Amazon, and things started looking up.

The Saloon in Dover is also a good spot for finding a connection, and if they’re not open the bartender told me, “just park in front and you’ll get the signal.”

Sticky Fingers Bakery, a tiny shoebox of a building with no indoor seating, is across the street. One rainy Sunday I made a late morning cinnamon bun run only to discover they were sold out, but the guy behind the counter told me a fresh batch would be ready in ten to fifteen minutes.

“No problem,” I told him. “I have my laptop and some things to do on-line. I’ll wait in the car.”

After a half hour of getting swept away on the world wide web, I heard someone knock on the window. It was the bakery guy, rain dripping from his beard, his shirt getting soaked.

“The buns are ready,” he said. “I wanted to let you know so you could get them while they’re still nice and warm.”

Sticky Fingers

Sticky Fingers Bakery Dover, VT

Today is July 18, the first day of the Republican convention, when Donald Trump officially becomes the standard bearer of the Grand Ole Party. I thought we might have Internet service by now, but we’ve decided to hold off for a bit longer. It’s not as stressful being off the grid as I imagined it would be. As a matter of fact, it’s the other way around. The stress is out there, beyond the Green Mountains, back on the grid where the 24/7 news cycle reports the constant headlines of a world that has lost its bearings and can wait until tomorrow or the next day or whenever I decide to come back down the Hill.

Let’s hope the crazies are staying  safe in the open carry state of Ohio. I myself am going to read a book tonight and try not to worry about where we go from here.

higley hill sunset

Sunset on Higley Hill


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