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Old 02-08-2008, 10:23 AM
 
Location: Rutland, VT
1,822 posts, read 4,911,367 times
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Dear Vermonters,

My husband and I are contemplating various sizes of property for any home we might purchase. We know we want at least 1/3-1/2 acre for our own privacy and for a generous cat pen for our cats.

But what if a house that's otherwise perfect comes with more land than that? An acre? Two or three acres? We want to hear from people with more experience than us.

1. How much time & energy do you spend on land upkeep? And what it is that you do? Possibilities include but are not limited to:
  • Vegetable & flower gardens
  • Lawns that you mow (or don't)
  • Wildflowers
  • Other kinds of landscaping with more or less upkeep required
  • Manual and/or power tools & equipment used
  • Just let it grow
  • Are there differences you could describe between having, say, 1/2-acre, having 1.5 acres, and having 3 acres?
2. We also wonder about driveways. What are your thoughts about . . .
  • Paved vs. gravel
  • Driveway length past which maintenance (plowing, grating) becomes onerous
  • Manual and/or power tools & equipment used -- and/or people hired to help
  • Other considerations
Thanks for your input!

/\ /\
= ` ` = Sheryl

Last edited by Sherylcatmom; 02-08-2008 at 10:53 AM..
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Old 02-08-2008, 12:51 PM
 
21,812 posts, read 64,835,504 times
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Driveways - skip the gravel. If you use a snowblower, the gravel ends up on the lawn and through the windows. If you have the drive plowed, it ends up in the drainage ditch. If you have a kid with a bike, he WILL skin both knees and both hands and both elbows when wiping out on it.

Large acreage? Depends. Sometimes it is woodlot, sometimes pasture, sometimes rocks and boulders. Try not to mow the boulders or fell the trees on the house.
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Old 02-08-2008, 01:23 PM
 
Location: Rutland, VT
1,822 posts, read 4,911,367 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harry chickpea View Post
Driveways - skip the gravel. If you use a snowblower, the gravel ends up on the lawn and through the windows. If you have the drive plowed, it ends up in the drainage ditch. If you have a kid with a bike, he WILL skin both knees and both hands and both elbows when wiping out on it.
LOL! That's hilarious and horrifying. Thanks for the warning. No human children here, but I wouldn't want my kitties to damage their dainty paws when they get walked on their leashes.
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Old 02-08-2008, 01:24 PM
 
Location: Apex, NC
1,341 posts, read 5,955,330 times
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I currently have 128 acres in Virginia. We're heading back to the Middlebury area and looking for a 10-30 acre property suitable for horses. So I can probably throw my 2 cents into this thread.

I've once lived before in the 'burbs on a 0.29 acre lot. With my 5hp lawnmower it would take me up to 45 minutes to mow the entire lawn. Currently, I have about 5 acres of lawn around our house. With my 23hp riding mower it takes me about 90 minutes to mow the 5 acres and my particular lawn has some significant slopes that slow me down. So I guess to answer your question, going from 0.3 acres to 3 acres will take MUCH more time and energy if you stick with a $300 5hp lawnmower. Probably an entire day to mow 3 acres of lawn. Alternatively, you make a bigger investment in mowing equipment. A $2,000 riding lawnmower will make quick work of 3 acres and might only take you an hour if you buy the right mower. In summary, going from 0.3 to 3 acres will either take a greater investment of maintenance time, or require a larger up front investment in the form of a riding mower. But if you have a 3 acre lawn and you or your kids don't use it regularly then one has to ponder the logic of such a "feature".

You can replace an existing lawn with varieties that grow more slowly, but the cost of establishing a new lawn correctly can get expensive. Warm season grasses would grow more slowly but brown out and look like hell up in Vermont for most of the year (?). Cool season grasses are best, and they are going to grow like gangbusters from late Spring up until early July, then slow down, and then kick back in around August and keep going until the dormant season begins. You can save time by not mowing as often, but try to make sure you leave at least 3" and never mow more than 1/3rd of the height of the blades otherwise you'll stress the grass, some patches might die and be replaced by fast growing weeds.

If you want to minimize your cash investment on maintenance, consider naturalizing the acreage. Plant fast growing trees that will shade the lawn and compete with the grasses for moisture. You can set up a vegetable garden but that's only going to eat up about 2,000 square feet (1/22nd of an acre) unless you plan on growing food for more than just yourself. Wildflowers are nice but some might invade the lawn you want to keep so do your homework. Ornamental grasses and hedges are nice options to eat up some lawn space. So are rock gardens and water features. None of these are cheap. A rock garden might cost you $2,500 in just materials.

A paved road requires less upkeep but obviously increases the upfront investment. I'd pave it. Maintaining a dirt/gravel road is a pain in Vermont. On the other hand you'll be spreading out your investment over time. But be mindful of the grade of the road and check for evidence of road washouts if its a sloped lot. Be wary of a concave gravel road or a gravel road with ruts; it's more likely to erode rapidly during a gully washer.

Except for basic landscaping and mowing I'd hire everything else out. Otherwise you'll find yourself buying (and maintaining) equipment you use but a few times a year. If it's a lifestyle choice and you want a garage wall full of hanging 2 stroke toys, go for it. Just don't buy junk or it won't last - why pay $75 for a weed trimmer that lasts 2 years when you can buy a $199 trimmer that will last 10 years? Otherwise save yourself the headache and hire it out.

The reality is that if you only want 0.3 acres, you're better off only getting 0.3 acres. In fact, a $200K house with 0.3 acres and public road frontage and zero driveway maintenance might be cheaper than a $175K house with 3 acres and a 300' gravel drive after about 10 years. On the other hand, you might find yourself enjoying new hobbies with a 3 acre property, and more reasons to be outdoors and so on?

Sean
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Old 02-08-2008, 01:47 PM
 
Location: Vermont
1,475 posts, read 3,979,171 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harry chickpea View Post
Driveways - skip the gravel. If you use a snowblower, the gravel ends up on the lawn and through the windows. If you have the drive plowed, it ends up in the drainage ditch. If you have a kid with a bike, he WILL skin both knees and both hands and both elbows when wiping out on it.

Large acreage? Depends. Sometimes it is woodlot, sometimes pasture, sometimes rocks and boulders. Try not to mow the boulders or fell the trees on the house.
Many Vermonters have no choice but gravel. Paving my driveway would cost more than my house. Long paved uphill driveways, havent seen many of those.
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Old 02-08-2008, 02:48 PM
 
21,812 posts, read 64,835,504 times
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You might check to see if anyone still does maccadam (sp?) drives. Essentially crushed stone in a tar base, it'll need renewing a couple times before all the frost damage is worked out, but then it should last. I live further south now, and have a 500+' long gravel drive myself for now, since snow isn't an issue. I used inexpensive crusher run for the gravel, which compacts into an almost cementlike mass. I hated the pea gravel that my parents had in the drive while I was growing up. The only thing it was halfway good for was slingshot ammo.
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Old 02-08-2008, 03:20 PM
 
Location: hinesburg, vt
1,574 posts, read 4,682,132 times
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I have 10.4 acres being 90% wooded with a nice variety of trees and three streams. The driveway is a bit over 500 feet and gravel/dirt. Paving it would be nice but absolutely cost prohibitive not to mention the costs of resealing and dealing with inevitable heaving and cracking that seems common place with asphalt drives in my area. Dirt/gravel requires an occasional regrading and to be honest snowblowing it really has not been a problem. My lawn area is around 8000 square feet. When I bought the property I had some of the drainage near the house improved and culled out about 45,000 board feet of white pine to improve southern exposure and benefit existing hardwood growth to include numerous apple trees. I was lucky in that I was able to sell the timber and only had to deal with burning slash piles. This also created some small clearings which also benefits wildlife. Anyway, rather than hire out I opted to buy my equipment because I enjoy taking care of the outdoor chores. As already mentioned, if you buy your own gear buy the better quality as it will not only be much more dependable, but actually cheaper in the long run. The equipment I use is a Honda 11hp track snow blower, a Honda self propelled mower (due to inclines) and I also have a Stihl chainsaw to take of blowdowns on some of my trails as well as culling some trees. Finally, I have a Stihl gas trimmer which I use to keep the driveway edges cleared of weeds and brush. A final note on driveways, I keep four 20 gallon Rubbermaid Brute containers spaced along the drive with sand which takes me all of one hour to fill in the summer and lasts all winter to deal with occassional icing such as we had last week. When we moved here we really wanted to create a garden, but have found due to work conflicts we just don't have the time to properly tend to it. Ultimately if health or physical limitations are an issue than you will of course have to hire out for the work or just choose a property that is simpler to keep up.
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Old 02-08-2008, 04:04 PM
 
Location: Rutland, VT
1,822 posts, read 4,911,367 times
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Thank you! This is all very helpful input. I'm glad to read about different types of driveways and how people care for them.

If we considered more than 1 acre, we'd want some of it to be woods & ledges, not a giant lawn. I also like the idea of rock gardens and water features.

Having never done outdoor chores, I don't know if I'd enjoy it or not. I mean, I've helped other people with their land, but that's totally different than ongoing responsibility for one's own land. If it turned out that I love outdoor chores, then I'd have made a great choice. But what an expensive way to find out that I might not enjoy it!
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Old 02-08-2008, 08:04 PM
 
Location: Apex, NC
1,341 posts, read 5,955,330 times
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I'm an idealist and I often see things that can be improved in my landscape and when I've got the free time I find myself making those improvements. It's a real pleasure. So like flu189 I collect power tools and use them regularly. But I don't think there is any way to _know_ if you'd like a change in lifestyle until you give it a shot. If you've helped others with their own outdoor work and have enjoyed it you might have answered your question. If you've already got all of the hobbies you'd like then perhaps 0.3 acres is better for you.

Heh, I remember visiting the "castle" in Vermont (forget the name) and seeing across the valley a mountainside property with what I thought to be a steep driveway heading up to the nicely built home. I pointed to it and said to the tour guide that I'd hate to skid down that drive in the winter. He said that the owner had the contractors install a pavement heating system that kept the road surface free of ice and snow. I wonder what his heating bill looked like in January

Sean
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Old 02-08-2008, 09:11 PM
 
Location: Inis Fada
16,966 posts, read 32,917,116 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by quickdraw View Post
Many Vermonters have no choice but gravel. Paving my driveway would cost more than my house. Long paved uphill driveways, havent seen many of those.
I have a long gravel uphill driveway -- I could never imagine it paved!
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