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Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Have You Heard? Country Living Ain't So Quiet After All

 loggingtruck Ah, life in the country.  

It's the stuff of countless novels and songs, waxing poetic about the graces that come from living out amongst the birds and the trees.  Yours truly has even been guilty of making it sound all fluffy and romantic on occasion (amongst all the talk of mice and predatory cats, but I digress...).

If you're pondering a move to the country and think your life will suddenly get blissfully silent, I'm here to kick that notion to the curb.  Unless you literally move to the middle of nowhere, of course.

But even then, the country is noisy.  Different noise, for sure, but noisy nonetheless.

My Love/Hate Relationship with Noise

I spent 20 plus years living in a reasonably sized city, usually for some reason in the vicinity of emergency medical facilities and firehalls (cheaper rent?).  This wasn't so much of a problem when I was single and childless, but after having a baby and the sleeplessness that that brings, then living in a 'courtyard inspired' townhouse development where you could literally hear everything on a summer evening, I got pretty grumpy when it came to excess noise.

The fact we lived 2 blocks from the firehall and directly across from two extended care facilities with all their middle-of-the night ambulance visits didn't help.

So yes, I was a bit sensitive.  Maybe overly so.

Which is why the idea of moving to our little cabin in the woods was so entrancing.  No more ambulances screaming in my ear at 3:00 am, no more loud conversations at 1:00 am from tipsy neighbours on their decks when I had to be up for work in the morning.  Just acres and acres of trees.  And quiet.

Or so I thought.

Now, before you think I'm just complaining for the sake of complaining, I'll assure you that I love where I live.  And for me, there's something about the sound of human activity that's sort of comforting (especially living in the toolies at the end of the road as we do).  But I do know that some of the noises we're bombarded with here on a daily (and nightly) basis, would be the source of city council neighbourhood reviews and official community plan wrangling in other parts of our district.  One local business just went through two or more years of political spinning and wringing to get a simple shed built on their industrial site - because the neighbours thought it might have trucks making deliveries (or something equally benign sounding).  Pretty crazy - and a good chunk of the opposition came from recently transplanted 'city people'.

To me, these sounds are all more than tolerable compared to what I came from.  But to others, maybe not so much.

The Noise in Our Neck of the Woods

We live far away from any subdivisions or towns.  Properties are a minimum of 5 acres, but most are more - and few have anyone living on them.  But we're adjacent to an industrial zoned area, and that's where all of our non-wildlife related noise comes from.

Here's a rundown of the regular and not-so-regular sounds we hear:

  1. The log sorting facility down the road - At the end of our road, less than a mile away, are booming grounds, a dryland sort where they sort and grade logs for market, and a log home builder.  So as you can imagine, all day long there's the sounds of back-up beepers, big log loading machinery, logs bouncing on the ground (which are strangely loud), boom boats, and every once in awhile, the crazy loud sound of logs being dumped from log barges in the sound.  This usually happens in the middle of the night for some reason (less boat traffic?), and sounds like the explosion of a massive thunder storm.  The first time it happened, I was more than a little freaked out, thinking something had blown up - til I realized what it was.  And of course, there's all the traffic at 6:00 am and 4:00 pm from the workers at these facilities.  This goes on generally 6 days a week, but depending on the time of year and the logs being processed, the processing can go on all night long.  We're pretty used to it now, but for the first few months, it was a bit hard to sleep when there was a night shift.
  2. Logging trucks - It goes without saying that a log sorting facility and a log home builder require logs.  And that means logging trucks.  And not all of them are brand new, if you know what I mean.  There was one truck last year that I swear was on its last legs - you could hear it coming miles away (I'm not exaggerating).  His clearly-in-need-of-repair air brakes coming down our hill was impossible to sleep through at 4:30 am (yes, he was hauling that early in the summer).  Usually they're not that loud, but they are constant.  Again, we're used to them now - unless the air brakes go.
  3. The paper mill at the end of the sound - A few miles down the road is a large paper facility.  It used to be a pulp mill, but now manufactures specialty paper.  Most of the pollution issues were dealt with years ago, but there are some very odd sounds that come with living within earshot of a big industrial facility. (Of course, earshot across water can be quite a distance).  The funniest one is the 'end of shift' alarm that goes off at 5:00 pm every day.  It's the soundtrack to Close Encounters of the Third Kind - remember?  Do-do-do-do-dooooo...  An odd choice, don't you think?  And every once in awhile, they do emergency drills at night - nothing more disconcerting than a scary-sounding alarm at an industrial facility at night.  I now know that's what it is, but the question I need to find an answer for is whether or not there are any chemicals there that could become airborn in a big earthquake (like the chlorine they used to store there).  Must get on that...
  4. Air traffic - Living in a coastal community, you get used to the sound of floatplanes.  It's a sound I actually really love, but I can see how it would be annoying to some - they are LOUD!  Then there are the helicopters that traverse right over the cabin on a regular basis on their way to the facilities mentioned above.  And the fact we're right under the current flight path approach to Vancouver International Airport - exactly at the point where the jets decelerate and make that disconcerting sound like the engines are cutting out.  So yes, for living so far from town, we do have a lot of air traffic noise.
  5. My dad's mill - As I've mentioned in previous articles, my dad has a small sawmill on the property below us where he custom cuts timbers and decking for residential and commercial customers.  Again, I'm used to the sounds of the mill and the truck and loader, but some people might not find it so pleasant.
  6. Wildlife - I've written about the wildlife sounds previously, and I think most people love the sounds the wild critters make at night.  But not everyone is so enamoured - I remember being on a wilderness trip years ago where a woman actually brought a battery-operated white noise machine because she didn't want to be awakened by birds.  Or maybe the quiet freaked her out... I can't quite remember.  But we've heard some very unusual sounds lately here in the early morning hours - including something that sounds like a humpback whale, but can't be.  Some have joked that it's a sasquatch.  Others think it's elk.  Thing is, it doesn't sound like an elk, or a coyote, or a wolf, or a cougar, or anything else I've ever heard.  And it's not a machinery sound.  Quite the mystery...

In other areas and parts of the country, you might have the sounds of farm machinery, military installations, main transportation arteries, mining activity... you get the picture.  Just because you live in the sticks doesn't mean you'll be immune from noise.  It's critical to do your homework before buying or moving.  Remember - no regrets!

The Wrap-up

So the moral of the story is to do you research before buying or moving to our country property.  Find out what plans are in the works in your area, what's in the official community plan (if there is one), and what industries currently exist that may expand at some point in the future.  And be sure to spend a good chunk of time at your new property both during the day and night, and at different times of the week.  A friend passed along that advice years ago, and it had saved them from a number of real-estate mistakes.

Great advice, I think, and so often totally overlooked.

Have you ever moved somewhere only to find the noise drove you batty?  Do you have any advice for others looking for their rural dream property?  Would love to hear your stories in the comments below!

(Image Credit:

victoria gazeley
4/9/2012 8:31:04 PM

All the best to you with finding a quieter place!

victoria gazeley
4/9/2012 8:28:38 PM

It doesn't happen all that often. We're not in a residential area, I think he's free to use whatever brakes he feels like... :) It hasn't happened at 4am for awhile, thankfully. But I knew when I moved here that there's a log sort at the end of the road, so it's all good. Much rather that than ambulances and police cars all day!

victoria gazeley
4/9/2012 8:27:03 PM

Ah, quads and 'sleds'. So glad I don't have to deal with that... and so sorry that you do!

victoria gazeley
4/9/2012 8:24:46 PM

AGREED!! I can't tell you how many people I've heard who have moved here then complain about people making a living... I grew up here, so knew what to expect (frankly, I don't hear most of it anymore), but I know of many who move with a romantic notion in their minds that's completely unrealistic. Great comments - thank you!

victoria gazeley
4/9/2012 8:22:43 PM

Wow - so glad you're all safe! Yikes... Great advice - thanks so much for sharing.

victoria gazeley
4/9/2012 8:20:21 PM

GREAT advice! So much to think about, and unfortunately it's easy to forget to ask... :)

victoria gazeley
4/9/2012 8:18:54 PM

Yikes!!! That sounds a bit 'lively'... stay safe!

kiri hyatt
2/27/2012 10:51:48 AM

Also…meet the neighbors and listen to what they say. What are their plans for the future? I bought this property to run a non-profit ministry helping homeless/displaced chronically ill folks. In other words cabins are going to be built and people will live here. Not long after I moved here a couple came by who was looking at the property for sale next door. They wanted it for hunting land and live quite a distance away. I told them what was in the works for this land. The only response I received was his wife telling me “he is careful”. They bought the property which I believe was a really dumb move. What if they decide in the next five years they really cannot afford this property anymore and decide to sell? Who would purchase hunting land next to property full of people and livestock (in the process of building a goat enclosure)? P.S. accidently killing livestock will send you to prison too. So my advice is to talk to the neighbors and find out what their plan for the future is? It might look peaceful today but down the road, will it still be that way? And then imagine if for whatever reason you need to sell, will you be able to?

kiri hyatt
2/25/2012 7:48:13 PM

I am one of those folks who does live in the boonies as there are less than 2000 full time residents in my county, and it takes me over an hour to get a decent size town. So generally it is quiet here, except for the critters. My immediate neighbors all live elsewhere and only come out here to hunt, (hunting is a major industry here), and so I occasionally get the thrill of hearing target practice. So I agree, research is important. Know what you really want before signing any papers. Other things to consider is how rural do you want to be? Can you put up with an hour drive to Wal-Mart, a doctor, etc.? They want $5000 to install a telephone line and there is only 1 cell tower near me (forget 3G). Thankfully there is Satellite TV and Internet available for me, but forget really fast Internet speeds. Satellite is faster than dial-up, but it is much slower then cable. So start out your search by making a list of your needs. And when you look at property, ask questions. Lots of questions.

randy jones
2/21/2012 10:12:15 PM

Well put I agree , we all are up tight and it is easy to loose your peace but I can deal with noise if it is done with respect to others.

kathy mott
2/21/2012 2:48:46 PM

One more thing they also liked to shoot guns in the air and at the property. My daughter and I moved back to the city and it seemed tame after what we went through.

kathy mott
2/21/2012 2:45:15 PM

You might also check out to see if the area residents are the type to take it out on the female if they don't like what the male is doing or saying. I had people driving by shouting obscenities and making threats and had no idea what was going on. Apparently my idiot of an ex-husband had been doing things to anger them but instead of taking it out on him they were taking it out on me and my young daughter. The police would do nothing about it because they were buddies or related to the offenders. They also hated outsiders anyway. So you may want to check out to see how the locals treat those who are not one of them. He became an ex because as long as they weren't bothering him about his behavior he didn't care how they treated me or our daughter. That type of thing makes the situation even worse. Seriously check out the mind set of the people you will be living around, check out the state statistics on crime in the area. Just because it is the country it doesn't mean there is not crime. Don't count on the area you are looking at to give the right statistics, they sometimes will give false numbers to make their area look better. Then make an informed decision, noise can sometimes be the least of your problems when moving to the country.

ivah onstott
2/20/2012 4:58:54 PM

I'm not trying to be mean to city people who move to the country, but i do agree with my husband when he says people should take a test before they move to the outside city limits. Find out exactly what goes on in the area you wish to live in. It is not quite in the country. Cattle bawl, tractors make noise, wild animals don't respect your personal space. You are coming in someone else area, complaining about things that are a way of life (and living) is only going to cause resentment. I'm not talking about people invading your property, by driving over it. That is rude, but public highways are going to be used, fields are going to be worked (sometimes in the middle of the night, if necessary). Things don't always work like they do in the city. Please do research before you move and see if you are going to be able to deal with the normal way of life in the are before you move.

rosie who
2/2/2012 12:32:57 PM

After living in the city for many years, I moved to a rural area. I'm in town but only 3 blocks from stores etc. The neighborhood "problem family" borders on my property. For 15 years I have had to sleep on the couch because my bedroom is on that side of the house. It used to be 12-15 hrs a day of their dog barking (poor thing was tied in the yard), starting at 5 or 6 am and then resuming in the afternoon, sometimes in the middle of the night. Then there are their kids and friends on the trampoline (placed on the property line next to my yard) screaming - this goes on for hours. This neighbor has also decimated the beautiful shrubs that delineated all the property in this neighborhood - they were there since 1948, but he managed to destroy any that touched his property. It's like living next to a bad trailer park. Haven't been able to do anything about since one of their family members owns a business in town. Being a "good ole boy" is everything here. I will be doing major research if I ever get out of here, which I am trying very hard to do! I will also be glad to be rid of the noise from gas lawnmowers (I have electric), especially the big pro type, trimmers, tree cutting equipment etc - this stuff goes on ALL the time as soon as the weather gets warm. I would like to be able to sit in the yard, read a book and relax - NO CAN DO.

judy wood
2/1/2012 7:50:10 PM

Nothing .... absolutely nothing ... kills sleep like having two or three whippoorwills in your neighborhood. Their call is LOUD. They begin at dusk and feel compelled to discuss their affairs for half the night.

susan laun
1/31/2012 10:22:41 PM

My property is adjacent to farm fields, so I don't have issues with logging truck noise. I don't even mind the farming equipment, because one expects that (although the dust raised and pesticides sprayed is quite a bit more than they had told me beforehand.) My issue is the ATVs, dirtbikes, and snowmobiles that fly past my house at Mach 2 with no semblance of a muffler. Calm (?) summer evenings. Weekends. Sunday mornings. Sometimes a whole line of them at 2 am, using my driveway as field access. Some riders are considerate, and I have no issue with them, but those that have no regard for the fact that their "sport" is disturbing my peace give them all a bad name.

mark allen
1/31/2012 8:46:28 PM

Sounds like you have a trucker using his engine brakes, aka Jake Brakes. Most of the time engine brakes are against the law in residential areas. Most likely if the noise is coming from one truck you have a rouge driver. I would bet money that if you called the logging company and said something nicely they would take care of the problem.

1/31/2012 2:47:14 PM

Exactly! Our first country home was on a paved road. It didn't take long to figure out the road was paved to facilitate the tractor trailers that went by all day long--hauling chickens, milk, cattle, etc. from the surrounding farms. Then we bought our own place on a dirt road. Our first night I kept hearing something. Sure enough, the stillness of the night magnified the traffic sound from the interstate 5 miles away! We also live in a military fly zone and have fighter jets go over so low our house shakes.

mike kiernan
1/30/2012 3:30:12 PM

Enjoy. Up here I have logging, log chip and logging equipment transporter trucks running 24/7 right outside my front door. Add to that is the occasional trucker trying to show off their skill's as a moosekiller and believe me, aircraft would be a welcome addition. The only thing that I DO WORRY ABOUT is the neighbor who likes to re-live the Battle of DaNang. One of these days one of his 30.06 round's is gonna come thru a window or wall. When he does, it is gonna get moosebutt ugly, real quick ! And people wonder why homeowner's insurance is needed out here !

kyle burdick
1/29/2012 12:09:38 PM

Good advice. Much better than trying to change peoples way of life after the BUYER makes the mistake. For us, when we bought our property the clues were very apparent. Snow mobile tracks all through OUR hayfield, a small army of children jumping on the trampoline (next to the skeleton of another, broken trampoline), and plastic bottles riddled with bullet holes blown in our yard from our neighbors. . We knew we were moving some place special.