If you’ve always dreamed of country life now might be the time to put feet to that dream. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s life changes in a moment and today is the day because tomorrow never comes. This article gives an excellent beginning for making the move from city mouse to country mouse and if you remember Green Acres, the reference will bring a smile.
- When doing your research, begin at home. If you have others in your household ask them how they feel about moving to the country, a small town or village. What activities does everyone enjoy? Cross country skiing may be done almost anywhere but downhill skiing requires mountains or, at the very least, hills. Have you vacationed anywhere you might enjoy living? Buy a six-month subscription to the local newspaper and, if possible, take short trips and stay in a B&B or small inn to get a feel for the area. Look on social media for groups of people living in areas of interest; asking them questions opens up the conversation for a lot of information from a lot of different people. You’re sure to receive a varied perspective as you will when reading blogs of people living where you’d like to live.
- You will not be anonymous in the country and the talk (gossip) will beat you to your front door. Prior to our move to the farm people told each other, “Those new folks are from NYC and deal drugs and they have plans for a helo pad in the alfalfa pasture.” Without knowing the gossip, but knowing people in general, Dave and I made the decision to be married on the front lawn and, in addition to family and friends, we invited local people so they could spread the word. This was especially important because, after marriage, I kept my name which a lot of folks can’t wrap their heads around. People still gossiped but we gave them truthful information even though some chose to ignore. A sense of humor takes one quite a distance in life.
- Land takes upkeep; the more land, the more specialized equipment is needed. A zero turn mower, depending upon size, is able to mow an acre or three but for large acreages a tractor comes in handy. A tractor with four wheel drive, a mower deck and a front end loader, commonly called a bucket, is even handier. Farming neighbors will have different smells and a pig smell is quite different from a cow smell which is quite different from horses and roosters crow at all hours of the day and night. Don’t move to the country and then complain about farm smells; you will not endear yourself to your community.
- If there’s an agreement between the current owner and land renter, honor that agreement until the season is over. When I bought this farm, several pastures were in soybeans, an agreement I honored by shaking hands and when that season was over, we shook hands again for the coming season. It’s a good working relationship; he keeps up those fields and I receive money for the rent. If there’s no agreement with anyone, you’re under no obligation to let any ole yahoo coming down the driveway have his way. I’ve lost count of the sob stores I’ve heard but the two main ones are “I’ve been hunting this land all my life” or “John told me I could hunt here after he cut the beans”. Trust me, a strong gate and good lock across the driveway may be your best friends.
- What do you want to do with the land? Do you want to raise crops or animals or a veg and fruit garden for your family? Do you want to sell produce at the local farmers’ market? A garden roughly 20×40 feet or 800 square feet will feed your family of four depending upon what you like to eat. My first spring I began an orchard with fruit trees and have since added grape vines and blueberry bushes and every year more are added because I believe in planting for the future. My very small veg garden provides salads and I’m a faithful buyer at farmers’ markets.
- If you want to have animals you’ll need fencing and shelter. Depending upon the animals the shelter can be a simple run in shed or a barn with stalls. Fencing for crops isn’t as important and sometimes people see fencing as being un-neighborly. I’ve got fencing for horses and, for privacy, a locked gate across the driveway. I have great neighbors and they understand my “why” and are hugely supportive, giving me garden produce and I make them shortbread. I found my fence building man from his business card on the local Ace Hardware counter. He’s done several jobs for me, I’ve recommended him to several other folks and it’s been a good working relationship for all of us. I’m fortunate in having several Mennonite communities nearby and, in addition to my fence builder, have hired contractors and carpenters who’ve done excellent work.
- Do you require internet to work from home? Slow speed dial up is still the norm in some places while satt dish provides higher speed. DSL is available where I live…half a mile from me so for heavy internet use I must drive to town to use the county library which may, or may not, be open. There are some days and many evenings the parking lot has several vehicles of folks using the internet because the library is closed.
- Medical attention, such as a hospital, might not be readily available nor holistic or specialized medicine. The “local” hospital may be little more than an elegant first aid station and a good sized hospital with a trauma equipped emergency room could be an hour or more distant. Before moving, ask your current health care provider if he or she could recommend someone where you want to relocate.
- If shopping at ‘big box stores’ is an anathema to you, some rural areas might not be a good fit. Exotic ingredients may stop at elephant garlic and the “Asian” and “Hispanic” sections of my local grocery store take up about two small shelves each. I’ve given away all my cookbooks save the ones dealing with home cooked, slow cooker or Instant pot meals and kept books dealing with item specific recipes such as apples, potatoes, beans, desserts and the like. A well stocked pantry, extra refrigerator and a freezer are must items.
- If you’re moving to a four-season area, you need to consider a vehicle with four-wheel drive. Our first winter in the Appy Mtns, we didn’t have four-wheel drive and were farm bound for two weeks due to the worst snow storm they’d had in decades. That changed before summer arrived when Dave bought an older model Jeep. The state may maintain roads with snow removal but, depending on who lives on your road, a lot of times the county roads and even secondary roads aren’t cleared. The neighboring farmers kept the road cleared in order to feed livestock but when a judge moved in, the state became more diligent in plowing the roads.
- If you plan on farming, boots are needed; rubber boots made by Joules, Wellington, LLBean, Muck and Hunter are various brands and all do the same job of protecting feet from mud, muck, manure and, if lined, from cold. My boots aren’t lined as I prefer to wear wool socks. Waxed cotton barn coats and vests are invaluable as well and my favorite waxed vest Daddy bought for twenty-five cents at a farm sale.
- Buying locally is even more important in a smaller community. Mom and Pop businesses exist because people know a community is strong only because of the people living there. Whenever possible I buy from local hardware stores, feed stores and my farm insurance is through the county farm bureau. Buying locally means paying a bit more for items but that cost is negated from not driving 25 miles to the big box stores. It’s true not everything one needs or wants may be purchased locally and it’s then I’ll either drive to the nearest city or order on-line.
- Keep Calm and Listen. Every rural community I’ve known has families going back several generations and the last place I lived had 8th and 9th generation’s farming, all of whom tended to be conservative. When moving into a rural area, listen and listen for a long while before making suggestions or getting into politics. Truth be told, no one much cares how it’s done someplace else and look with a jaundiced eye on being told how “it’s better where I used to live”. Quite a few times I’ve overheard, sotto voice, “If it’s so good where you used to live, why aren’t you there now?” (ouch)
It takes a different mindset to live in the country and a slow living mindset, in time, will get you where you want to go. The seasons come in order, each bringing their own delights and gifts. Seed catalogs in winter are for dreaming and planning while nothing beats sitting on the porch, listening to the spring peepers. July 4th is made for parade’s and picnics (porch sleeping cannot be beat!) and autumn for harvest. Country living and families just go together, make a life worth living and passing on to children and grandchildren. If no children or grandchildren then a legacy can still be passed on in the stewardship of a well kept home, barns, outbuildings and fences.
One thing is for sure: you’re certain to be happy if you carry your happy with you!
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