One of my readers left a comment in the "Country Life" introduction post, "Country Living magazine doesn't mention all the dust and mud, all the wild critters that come visiting, all the crazy neighbors with no zoning laws to rein them in, ..." and she is so very CORRECT in that statement. Because of these, and many other realities, one needs to honestly assess the answers to questions like, "Am I an introvert or an extrovert? Am I an independent problem solver or quick to hire a professional? Am I a perfectionist or more laid back? Am I a clean freak or do I lean a little more toward the messy side? ...
Me? I lean toward the clean freak, perfectionist, hermit type extrovert, independent problem solver who has enough life experience to know when I need to hire a professional. How is that working out for me in an isolated rural setting? Honestly, I have my good days and my bad days ... just like when we lived in a more urban area.
Moving to the country is much different than moving from one urban area to another. In urban areas the neighbors inquire about what brought you to the area, where you are from and follow up by sharing the same. Often, they invite you and your kids to the park for a play date. However, when we first moved to the Montana prairie many of the locals thought things like, "Here's another bunch of city folk who think their Mother Earth magazine has taught them how to garden, hunt, fish, and raise livestock. They also think they are gonna come out here and teach us some sophistication." Depending on one's character traits, this type of cautious, at best, welcome can be enough to cause one to pack up and run back to the city within a year.
It was late summer when we moved to our little place. Mr.B had enough sense to know that we would possibly need some sort of snow moving equipment for that coming winter and would need a small tractor for various other work come the next spring. In short order, he purchased our little orange tractor with a bucket. That little orange tractor and the ability to clear our own drive was enough for one or two folks, however, most remained skeptical. The following spring, I set up an improvised "chick brooder" in our basement and purchased chicks for the littles 4-H project. While most assumed all the chicks would die, one person stopped by for a look. When they saw our set up they were won over. Our first April the locals found me with my brand new walk behind tiller ripping up the ground just west of my kitchen. Many thought, they'll be gone by summer's end. But a couple more stopped by sometime around July and witnessed a thriving 40' ft. x 70' ft. garden filled with a grocers variety of produce and herbs. One said to the other, "Wow! Someone knows how to garden!" The following autumn, found my homemade pickles and other home canned produce on the buffet at a local pot luck prompting a hand full of others to re-evaluate their preconceived ideas about us. Our second summer found one of the local farmers asking us if he could rent a couple of our granaries to store his wheat seed. Since we only use a couple for storage, we offered to gift the remainder to him for the season. This tiny act of generosity, brought most around to thinking we might just make it out here. We've only lived out here six years but the locals have watched us make improvements on our place, become involved in a local church, witnessed our youngin's excel in 4-H, and be helpful to our neighbors and community when possible.
Ultimately, anyone who moves from an urban area to a rural area will have to have enough drive and stamina to "prove their salt". The locals are not going to teach urbanites how to live in the country. Folks who are new to a rural area must have enough gumption to take the initiative to become involved in the community. When doing so, they must also have enough humility to volunteer for the jobs no one wants, like cleaning the bathrooms and picking trash up out of the parking lot during the county fair. The locals will not invite a newcomer to join their church, sign up for local youth activities, sit on various local committees or participate in the fair parade. Relocated youngsters who excel in sports will have to patiently and consistently outperform "so and so's nephew" by leaps and bounds before he can ever "get off the bench" or "play the infield". Regardless of how many movies Hollywood produces about the outsider breaking down the genetic code of nepotism within rural communities, locals will never allow this to be accomplished in the real world. Relocated city folks must possess enough self assurance to be satisfied with earning the place of being only a peripheral part of the community and never becoming a full fledged member of the community. Locals have lived in rural areas for generations, which by birthright makes them a "big fish in a small pond", and they will not give up that power or influence by allowing outsiders to be thought of as "one of their own." If your family chooses to remain in the area for decades, your great-grandchildren may someday be considered "local". Because close relationships are hard for outsiders to develop, independence is a key character trait. Country folks are renowned gossips who enjoy the company of other gossips. Anyone within your family who is a gossip, will be privy to all the dirt on others in the county. But, remember, gossip is always quid quo pro within rural communities. Rural residents who enjoy privacy, are tight lipped and gossips have no boundaries. This often makes it difficult to form close relationships within rural areas. We've lived here six years and we have developed friendships but not what I consider, close friends. I doubt we will ever have friendships as close as we did when we lived down home.
In my opinion, one's character traits are far more important than personality when it comes to living in the country. My personal experience has taught me that perseverance, patience, humility, consistency, initiative, self assurance, and independence are some of the beneficial character traits that are required for the successful transition into a rural lifestyle. It will behoove anyone who is dreaming of a country lifestyle to seriously contemplate their character traits before making that big move.
If you decide the realistic transition to a country lifestyle may be too difficult for your family, remember, that's Okay. You can still have a bite of country living right where you are ... even if you are an apartment or townhouse dweller. Decades ago when I lived in an apartment, I raised rabbits on my patio and maintained a few containers of fresh herbs. More recently, our family has grown lettuces and spinach in plastic storage tubs under two fluorescent grow lights in our basement. We also use decorative containers to grow fresh herbs by the south facing windows in our mud room during the winter months. By utilizing the modern inventions of grow lights and container gardening, many urban residents are successfully enjoying tiny bites of country living even when they don't have any outside space.
Next time we will explore some of the financial realities of a rural lifestyle ... tootles!