Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rurality Then and Now, Here and There (Part I)

I’ve been thinking some about the shortcomings associated with analyzing along a rural/urban axis. For one thing, it doesn’t accommodate regional differences. Plus, “rural” is used these days to mean so many different things, including exurbia. In academic language, I’ve been “problematizing” rurality. This is the first in a series of occasional posts I am planning on this topic.

Further thinking about the differences among rural places – as well as why we desire them – has been fueled by time my family has spent lately in El Dorado, Amador and Calaveras counties in California. These places are in the Sierra foothills, 1-2 hours from where we live in greater Sacramento. We decided a few months ago to start looking for property there, a place to build a week-end cabin, perhaps spend more time once we approach retirement.

I’ve been intrigued to learn, anecdotally from our realtors in each county, who lives in these places. We’ve been looking, for example, around Fiddletown, near the Amador wine region. Fiddletown itself is just a wide spot in the road (but on the National Register of Historic Places thanks to a fight a few decades ago to prevent a quarry hauling rock through there). It looks pretty local, with no amenities to speak of (but does have a nifty museum of items dating to Chinese immigration and work in the Gold Rush), even though we’re aware that the nearby wine region isn’t populated so much by locals these days. But our realtor tells us that many of the folks living in the Fiddletown area are exurbanites of a sort, driving to the Bay Area for a coupla’ days economic activity each week. It’s not just older folks, either, but also many families. Children attend school 10-15 miles away in Plymouth.

One Amador realtor must have used the phrase “end of the road” privacy half a dozen times in our first 3 hours with her. It resonates, which makes us re-examine exactly what we’re looking for and exactly what we would get out of owning such a “private” place, “in the country.” She suggested several times that this part of Amador County is like to “stay rural longer” than other parts in which we might look. A Calaveras County realtor referred to the area that included the 20 acres we were viewing there as “the Los Altos Hills” of Calaveras County. I guess she has more clients from the Bay Area than from Sacramento. I also suppose she also doesn’t really understand what we’re looking for -- or does she?

Again, all of this has us thinking hard about exactly what it is that we want from this property --besides maybe a cool-sounding address in a place like Fiddletown (superficial, I know). Do we want, ultimately, to be exurbanites? how much privacy is ideal? how much could we stand if we retired there? Why is it so important to have a property where the road ends? that no road crosses? I am not trying to get back to Newton County (AR), my very rural home county -- at least I don't think I am? So, what exactly is the attraction of a "place in the country"?

1 comment:

Vancouver realtor said...

I am working in real estate Vancouver BC area and I often wonder, how is the work of realtor in rural area. It has to be so different. Maybe once I will move to some clam place and start selling homes there as a hobby :)