Thursday, March 10, 2011

Country Living 101: Know Your Reasons

So this notion of leaving the city and moving to the country has taken hold. Now ask yourself, WHY do you want to move to the country?

The following passage is the opening page from an unpublished manuscript detailing how we left urban California. It explains the moment when we knew it was time to leave.

I sat in rush-hour traffic, moving forward with the speed of melting ice cream, with my chin in my hand and my elbow propped on the steering wheel.

Terrible accident on Highway 50, said the radio. Horrible. Awful. Really bad. Whatever you do, avoid that part of the highway.

“There’s got to be an easier way to make a living,” I muttered. The cars around me were immobile. I waved to my husband Don behind me in his truck. We even had to commute in separate vehicles because we worked in different locations, too far apart to conveniently commute in together. Though we were newly wed, it sometimes seemed we spent more time apart than together.

It’s not that we even lived so far away from our work places. Twenty miles is nothing, if you look at a map. But when faced with driving this distance over congested highways, it became absurd. Public transportation would have added an additional half-hour or more to our normal commute. Accidents positively stalled the traffic.

Idly I listened to the morning news, which gradually gave way to the 9 a.m. talk show. And still I sat, there on the highway with thousands of other cars. There comes a point where you just have to accept the traffic and not sweat the fact that work started at 8 a.m. I tried not to think about the poor people involved with the accident itself.

By the time I got to work, I was mentally exhausted, and not at all up to nine hours at the office and another hour’s commute home.

We had to get out of here.

And that was that. We knew it was time to leave. Within a year we’d left California behind and bought four acres in rural southwest Oregon, where we stayed for ten years before moving to Idaho.

So what’s your reason for leaving the city? The answers will probably include one or more of the following:

• A desire for more independence and self-sufficiency;
• Concerns about the crowded nature of your suburban or urban location;
• A wish for more elbow room and room to grow a garden and/or raise livestock;
• A desire for fresh air and more natural living conditions;
• Concerns for your safety should the bleep hit the fan.

These are all legitimate reasons to ditch the cities and move to the country. But I cannot emphasize strongly enough that moving to the country requires massive preparation, both physical and mental. Unless you’ve done your homework, moving to the country is fraught with peril.

Know in advance why you want to move and what you hope to accomplish. Then have some knowledge of whether or not it’s possible to accomplish your goals. If you’re physically unable to do the hard labor to get a herb farm started, for example, then your goals are not realistic.

Such a move will affect all family members as well. You can’t drag an unwilling family to a place that is completely different than anything they’ve ever known and for which they’re completely unprepared – and hope for a good outcome. If your teenage daughters loath the idea of leaving shopping malls and movie theaters behind, they’re going to make your life miserable with their complaints. If your spouse hates the idea of getting dirty under any circumstances, you might be slated for divorce if you insist on moving. It might sound like a cliché, but it really must be a unanimous decision to move (unless the kids are too young to have a voice, of course).

It’s an old truism: if you hate where you live because you’re full of hate, you’ll probably hate living in the country. If you love where you live because you’re full of love, you’ll probably love living in the country. In other words, externals don’t change internals. Don’t think that by leaving the city behind, you’ll be leaving your marital woes and/or financial difficulties behind as well. All your baggage (the good, the bad, and the ugly) will come with you.

Above all, never ever ever think that country living is cheap, easy, or simple. Those are buzzwords that will inevitably come back to bite you on the hiney when things turn out to be expensive, difficult, and complicated.

On the other hand, if you approach country living with both eyes open and a realistic assessment of what it takes to transition over, your chances of success have just increased.


  1. We could have written that list. So, ditto. Except maybe our current condition being very crowded. It is, actually, to us, but not like your southern CA deal at all. But yeah, one acre is not enough to do what we need to do.

    We have been preparing, but are feeling like we're approaching a point where in order to advance in our preparations, we kind of need to get there soon. We're ready to sell and relocate. We wish we could take this fantastic house with us, but we can't. The freedom (to work the land and livestock, for starters), the space, the water, the green, the fresher air, and what all this provides in the way of a healthier context for family relationships and nurturing our kids, is all more important than even being able to live in our super house that my husband built.

    You are right, too, about taking heed not to expect to reap inner change with a simple change of environment. We realize this, and purposefully enjoy this situation for everything it does have to offer. For instance, we have found and dried medicinal herbs that grow right here in the desert, and are grateful for our goat milk, gardens and chicken eggs, and especially for the precious neighbors we've gotten to know.

  2. I've lived in both, cities and rural areas.....the difference is best explained by saying in rural areas (especially VERY rural areas) you control your environment, the good and the hard; in a city your environment controls you.......

    I was happy as a bug in the rural life, even with the work and the challenges (that were constant).....I was miserable in a city, big or small.....

    People ready to pick up and move to the boonies need to be moving for the right reasons and not because of a fad or a fantasy.....And not get into a situation that's way beyond your expertise once you get there (like goats just because they are "cute" and those construction projects you only have READ about)....Work ethics in a city are vastly different than what's required in a rural place, too, so don't fool yourself by thinking if you have them in the city you're good to go for the country....

    In my case the rewards were much greater in the rural setting than it ever was in a city...but that's not always the case for everyone......

  3. In the early 1970's I thought the TEOTWAWKI would involve government persecution of Christians, had spent a year living on a farm, and spoke to my wife to be about the possible need to cache Bibles against the coming darkness. We were both living in NYC as we had most of our lives, but unlike some of our friends were not in love with the place. It was what we knew and where we had our jobs.

    What made us finally take action to escape was not the traffic (and folk who think they have bad traffic have not experienced NYC or LA traffic), instead it was the schools. We had growing unhappiness with them, and then the local grade school expelled a 5th grade student for taking a knife to school. So in the mid 1980's I did a career change and we moved to an area with much better schools. We lived in a smallish town with farms within a few minutes drive. Our oldest complained loudly about the move, but more recently after a visit back to NYC thanked us for getting the family out of there. He also complained strongly about a still later move, but if we had not made that move he would not have met his wife.

    Today we do not live on a farm, but in a small development surrounded by farms. I am not certain if at our ages we would want to do the hard work involved with life on a farm.

    I teach personal protection, and the most important personal protection skill is situational awareness. The most fundamental issue in avoiding trouble is not to be there when it happens. You spend most of your life where you live and work. If those places are not safe, or have other major problems, get out of there! All the prepping in the world would not have helped if you worked in the World Trade Center in NYC!

    I pray that your readers who have been considering a move away from a bad situation overcome their inertia and actually do it. Just because you can't move to your imagined "ideal" location should not stop you from making the move to a better location.

    We each will look back and see different triggers that got us to do the initial move. I think most of us will in hindsight be thankful we made the move.

  4. Truer words were never spoken. Baggage goes with us. "Chop wood, carry water" is a Buddhist saying." No matter where you are, there you are" is also one. Think about it.

  5. I love living in the country,and never want to leave,but I'm pretty flexable and could probably live ni a city,just don't want to. Blessings jane

  6. I grew up on a very rural farm in Oregon. My children have been raised in apartments in cities, and now, in suburbia with a teeny yard. Oh how I've always wished they could have experienced the awesomeness of having all that space to play in that I did! There is still time as several of my kids are still young (& I'm pregnant).

    That is just one of the many, many reasons why I have had country living in my bones everyday of my life, always hoping that I could end up with a nice piece of land someday. We're well on our way down that path, and I am so, so excited. Rural Idaho, here we come!

    Thanks for letting me share. :) And thanks for this series!

  7. Both Mr. D and I are from the country, so this is really nothing new to us. We are new to owning our own land. That is all new and still exciting even if it is lots of work. We started just clearing the land with a chain saw and lots of elbow grease along with a very rickety truck. It was an adventure. Mr. D stayed in a tent that first winter, but since I had to be seen in public... full-time job... I lived in the camper and not on the land. We had a long first year. Then we got a contractor to come and do the stumping and driveway. We paid him by letting him take some of the larger pines. They must have made some beautiful wide planks. We also took a loan to do the septic and well. Now we have our own little spot. It's not very big, but it suits us just fine. We are near most of our family and raising meat birds, getting eggs and gardening. It's difficult at times, because our mobile home is still not all hooked up, but we're hoping to finish this summer. Living in a mobile home will be like living in a mansion.

    I love your writing and read nearly everything here. Keep up the good work.

  8. Save the Canning JarsMarch 11, 2011 at 2:05 PM

    Under your reasons for moving you mention " Concerns for your safety should the bleep hit the fan." I have three apartment complexes within 1 block of me. That's too many people who will smell my cooking post-event. Time to move.

    Today, I had on of those days that re-enforced that it is time to go. Mom's cat went missing. The search was on. By God's grace I phoned animal control and someone had trapped the cat and hauled her in. I claimed Miss Chloe and returned her to mom, but the someone who trapped the cat lives on the other side of the fence. This has never been a problem for 13 years, but today that all changed. So I've spent hours today looking at on-line real estate for a place for all of us to move to out in the country.

    Often God speaks to me in dreams. A few weeks ago I dreamed I was standing in a parking lot (like Home Depot) looking at fruit trees for sale. I was standing in front of the cherry trees, admiring them, and God said to me in a very authoritative voice, "Don't mess with these little trees. Buy the BIGGEST trees you can afford." And then I just understood that there was not time for these little trees to come to maturity to bear fruit. And then I woke up and felt I had been seriously warned.

    I'm willing, I'm actively searching for the place, I'm praying for divine assistance. God help us all!

  9. first tree cut hit the pickup truck. more than 200 trees later we got enough daylight coming thru to plant a small garden. twenty years later and i still think that i live in paradise. fruit trees, flowers,a good but small meadow, ponds nearby with fish, ....can hear myself think clearly.

  10. It's kind of hard to put your finger on just what brings you out here, isn't it? Elbow room, self reliance, wildlife, sunsets and sunrises, the Milky Way, the Northern Lights, a big giant sky and a big garden.

    I wanted a garden. Working in it is one of the ways I pray and give thanks.

    Just Me

  11. I was raised in the country or on the farthest edge of a small town. I spent every possible moment in the bush or fishing and hunting.

    I don't do well in cities, even for visits. Living in one nearly did me in. I lasted barely three months. I've never been so uncomfortable.

    The suburbs were almost as bad. There were just too many people too nearby. Too much noise and not enough privacy.

    Now I'm back in the woods and live in a place you have to fly over to be able to see. It suits me fine. I go down out of the hills to town once every two or three months whether I need to or not. :) Hubby stops at the store on his way home and it all works out just fine.

    I'm convinced I have dominant cavewoman genes. ;) I truly appreciate my electricity and hot running water, having lived without both, but if forced to choose I could give up either or both rather than be forced to live in a city. No thank you very much.


  12. I was at the feed store and they had chicks! I've never had any White Plymouth Rocks, so I got ten. Friday they'll have more Araucanas and Rhode Island Reds!

    My husband is soooo gonna kill me if he finds MORE CHICKENS.

    I've been doing Araucana, Wyandotte, Rhode Island Red and bantam crosses. The big chickens don't lay too well in the summer heat, and the bantams lay prolifically in the summer heat but not so much in the winter. It's not hardly worth the time to butcher and eat the bantams, though.

  13. I drove Hwy 50 one time but I veered off into the central valley in Placerville down Hwy 49. I was lucky to find my turn off on the first try. That was a beautiful memorable drive for me as soon as I turned south on 49 the traffic faded away and it was late morning and gorgeous.