Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Some people have told me that living in the country can’t be that different from living in the city, except for location. They think that life is very much the same. They just cannot imagine that there are so many fundamental differences. I too, really had no idea until we moved out to the country what it was really like. But there are some basic things that are as different as night and day. No wonder that little country mouse was so lost when he visited his city cousin!
Here are some very basic things that people really don’t think about until they have made this change:
Things you hear at the farm but not in the city:
“Look at all those stars ....” Because of the light pollution in the city, the wonder of the stars in the sky is hidden. Out here where there are no street lights and very few lights at night, we can see the Milky Way and even have seen the Northern Lights at our farm.
“Those coyotes are real close to the house tonight.” And they are! Sounds like they are standing on the front porch!
The hawk's cry: The hawk’s cry is very distinctive and always makes me look up from what I am doing. They are more vocal during hay season. How many city dwellers hear them, or can identify them?
“Get the sling blade and trim the driveway ....” Do city dwellers know what a sling blade really is besides the name of a movie?
“Get the 4-wheeler and round up the neighbor’s cows, they are out again.” I have participated in more round-ups in the past 10 years than I can count, and I don’t even own livestock.
“They are haying the front field.” First of all, the phrase ‘front field’ would never be used in the urban environment unless you are talking about a soccer complex. And secondly, almost everyone knows that hay is something that livestock eat, but most haven’t heard that word in the context of an activity that must be done.
“The mice/rats ate through the wires in the barn.” Apparently there is something in the wires that attract mice and barn rats to chew on them, as it really does happen! You go out to start something or flip a light switch, it is dead, and when you follow the wiring, there are the telltale chew marks with bare wire showing!
"Geez, it rained again and the phone is out." And when you call the phone company their response is, “Yeah, there was a big rain. It should come back on soon.” Our phone has been out up to a week because of a rainstorm. Can a city dweller relate to that without having had a catastrophic storm move through? And without having a meltdown at the phone company clerk? But really, in this day and age of technology, why should rain make the phone go out?
"I couldn't get off my road to get to work today because of the ice." Horrible back country roads are not just a third-world thing. When we have a big snow or ice storm, there have been times that the road is so bad that no one at our end of the road has been able to leave for up to three days.
The wind coming. Once you are out in the quiet of the country and stand still, you can hear the wind coming through the forest. It can sound like animals coming at you through the brush, but it is just … the wind!
Some things you would hear in the city but not at the farm:
“Did you put out the trash?” Out in the country you must take your trash somewhere for disposal and don’t have the luxury of waiting for someone to come for it.
“Catch the thing in the attic and take it somewhere to release it ...” Exterminators will trap rodents and animals in the city and take them out to the country to release them rather than kill them. It’s a humane idea, unless you live in the country where they are released and those released animals hightail it for your structures! I have witnessed a car dump a very large snapping turtle at my neighbor’s pond, and when confronted, they were adamant that it was the humane thing to do. Except for the dogs that the snapping turtle latched onto and killed: it wasn’t too humane for them.
“There sure were lots of sirens last night ...” Unlike the city, you will seldom hear a siren in the country. If you do, then something is seriously wrong! That is so very different from in the city: when we hear a siren in the city, it almost always is background noise and not something we pay attention to unless it is extremely close.
“Try to stay away from Main Street because the traffic is blocked because of that festival on the square ....” Very seldom will traffic be blocked by other than a tractor, large animal, swollen creek, or of course, a snow or ice storm. Well, okay, the traffic on these two lane roads out in the countryside can be blocked way more often than you think it would be! Just don’t be in a real hurry when you leave the house and you will be fine.
“The city sure is slow clearing the snow off our street so that we can get out and go to work.” Town dwellers seldom are trapped in their homes for any length of time. When there is a storm that limits movement, the city is responsible for clearing the roads, but is usually castigated for their inability to do it as quickly as everyone wants it done. Very seldom can a city dweller NOT get to work!
“Run down to the market and get some milk.” With the closest grocery store 26 miles away, no one just ‘runs’ down anywhere. If you run out of something, you either substitute or do without until the next run to town. And because you are so far from town, those town runs can take all day long to get all the errands run.
These are just a very few of the differences between two life choices. Each has its rewards and its challenges. One is not better than the other for every individual, but one choice is definitely better for some individuals. For instance, that little country mouse might be frightened by all the noise and bustle in the city, but can that city mouse do without his phone because it rained, rustle those horses that are eating in his front flower bed back through the fields to the neighbor’s farm, and do without any cream in his coffee because he’s out and the grocery store is 26 miles away? Sometimes that city mouse is a she, and THIS city mouse that moved to the country does NOT do well when there is no cream for my coffee!
Maura White grew up on the Pacific Coast in a sleepy beach town and has lived all over the country, as well as in Asia. What a change it was for her to move out to the country and she uses humor to help her make the adjustment. She and her husband are working to make their farm, Double Star Bar Farms, a successful family farm. She keeps busy with her stained glass business, which you can check out at www.southernstainedglass.com. You can read more of her stories at whitem4.wordpress.com. She keeps saying “You can take the girl away from the ocean, but you can’t take the ocean out of the girl!” Copyright © 2011, Maura White. All rights reserved.