Like so many others, we cut our ties to the city during 2020. We sold our urban condo and moved ourselves out to the farm full-time. We were so grateful to have a place to go where we could still smell the scent of freedom, and it really has been a blessing. However, life in the country isn’t exactly what I expected. Here are 5 things that surprised me.
1. There are More than 4 Seasons in a Year
I’ve learned to stop and marvel (right NOW!) at the natural phenomena going on around me, because life in the country seems to be composed of a myriad micro-seasons. There was that day I noticed all the papery helicopters twirling down from the sky, delivering maple seeds here, there and everywhere. SO many, it created a delightful flickering rhythm against the sunlight. Before I got around to capturing it on camera, it was over.
A few days later the air was THICK with dragonflies. I was concerned we might have a problem, but before I could look into it they were gone.
My favorite micro-season memory was the night we noticed an almost constant flickering in the ditches while driving, and realized the fireflies were out in FULL force. We drove to the end of the dirt road where our property abuts a marshy wildlife area. Wow. I have never seen anything like it. It was God’s natural fireworks show. So many white flickering lights at the same time. We marveled and went to bed with smiles on our faces. I’m so glad we took the time to enjoy this because we didn’t see this again all summer.
Then there was the delightful week of the monarchs in our no-till garden. I had seen a monarch butterfly here and there, but suddenly we had a whole bunch fluttering about.
More recently we had a bird event. Mr. P called me out of the barn because of the clatter. There must have been a thousand birds up in the trees chattering SO loud you just couldn’t ignore them. We watched for about 5 minutes and then all at once they made a great, coordinated swooping exit. This happened a few times as I assume the birds were making their southerly migrations.
It may be true that micro-seasons exist in urban areas too, but I think they must be muted by all the other distractions and the manmade environment. You just can’t help but notice these phenomena out here in the country.
2. Neighbors are Still Part of Your Life
Living in our urban condo we had some special neighbor relationships. Living right below us was a poet. I looked forward to her unexpected insights (the things only a poet would notice!) and treasured the various poems she shared with me now and again. Living next to us was a sweet old Italian couple who had created an urban Italian villa on their double lot, complete with gardens, fruit trees and a grape vine. We have many happy memories of playing in their driveway, visiting, and helping with maintenance and harvesting.
I loved having these relationships with neighbors… unexpected people I otherwise would likely never encounter. I expected that moving to the country, where people live so far apart, would mean we’d have little interaction with neighbors. This seemed kind of sad.
I quickly realized that neighbor relationships are critical and valued in the country. I guess, because there are fewer of them, each one becomes more important. In some ways, our lives have become intertwined with our neighbors. We have a neighbor who keeps cows in our pasture, and someone from his family comes over late every afternoon to bring the cows their dinner. The boys love watching the routine, and once in a while getting a ride in the ATV. We’ve gotten to know this family and they’ve been a very helpful resource, lending us this or that and sharing excess garden bounty.
Speaking of garden bounty, there are a lovely pair of sisters who have been very generous with their garden produce and eggs. They live in a charming red brick farmhouse set back across the road, and we love making the trek back into their sweet world of horse-breeding, chickens and gardens for some eggs or cucumbers. We try to reciprocate with a loaf of our homemade sourdough, but it’s hard to match their excess!
3. The Delights of a Dollar
Like many rural towns, we have a local dollar store, and these places are a kid’s dream come true. All sorts of bright and shiny things made available in the candy-store budget range. (A kite for a dollar?! Well sure, but the quality is not much better than a plastic bag…)
I try to limit this consumer-driven plastic junk coming into our house, but on the occasions we have frequented the dollar store, the kids have come away delighted with their acquired treasures. (And I have found out they are quite the motivators for doing garden chores!)
The kids had fun picking out multiple birthday gifts for cousins at the dollar store, and then I did some additional shopping to round out the gift with something a little more respectable. Lo and behold, the most excitement-inducing gift was a plastic trinket from the dollar store… sigh.
4. There’s a Use for Everything
On a less consumer-driven note, we’ve been discovering that on a farm there are so many opportunities for re-use and resourcefulness that we’ve started to hesitate before throwing anything away. Those curious cement-filled tires left by the previous owner have proven surprisingly useful for holding barn doors open. That long metal pipe in the rafters was just the thing to extend a wrench and break rusty bolts free on an old hay conveyor. That old metal mailbox? Perfect wind shelter for getting a fire going.
Urban Husband’s life motto used to be “When in doubt, throw it out.” He shocked me the other day when he stopped me from throwing out some old skis I found up in the barn rafters… because they might be useful for making some sort of sleigh to carry things through the snow. What?! Who IS this man? Country life has brought about some profound changes in my husband!
Here he is fashioning a fire pit out of a rusted out steel drum found behind the barn. (We ultimately hauled this out with some other dangerous metal items we didn’t want to have around.)
And here’s a baseball tee the boys set up using that strange cement-filled tire thingy!
5. There are No Vacancies
You’d think when buying a new place that it would be clear and ready for use, but you can’t take that for granted in the country. Whether it was mice, raccoons, or birds, we’ve had to move someone out of every building on our property. (Yikes!)
Due to the local mouse population, the first animals we welcomed onto our farm were two adorable kittens. As barn cats, we thought a perfect safe space for them to start their new life would be in the small milk house attached to the barn.
It wasn’t long before we met the resident barn swallow of the milk house. She seemed awfully stressed out by the newcomers, and soon we uncovered the crux of the problem. She had 4 eggs in her muddy little nest, and her ideal, protected location for raising children had suddenly become a death trap for the little birdies.
We learned from a little research that swallows will teach their babies to fly (on the ground) once they are about a week old. There’s simply no way this could be accomplished in an enclosed area with two energetic kittens. So, once the scraggly little guys emerged from their eggs, we had to move our kittens along to the bigger barn space. (And then board up the milk house windows once the birds flew the nest!)
Here’s the hungry baby swallows.
And there goes stressed out mama swallow.
Have any of you made the move from urban to country life? What were your biggest surprises?