Self-Honesty and Rural Life

Discussion in 'Countryside Families' started by Peacock, Nov 26, 2006.

  1. Peacock

    Peacock writing some wrongs Supporter

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    I've had this nagging suspicion for a while now, but today I decided it was true; if I'm being totally honest with myself, I'm not sure I really want a rural life.

    Now, I DEFINITELY know I do not like cities. I avoid them like the plague. Little towns, though, are nice. I hate commercial strips and malls. I have a real dislike for cookie-cutter subdivisions and am horrified by HOA's (though I can see why they're nice for some folks.) And I like where we live now because on 1 1/4 acre there's plenty of room and lots of possibilities. I guess what I like are "Exurbs."

    Still, DH has expressed for a long time the desire to move out into the country and have a small hobby farm, and I've agreed in theory. We go for a drive and comment, "isn't it pretty out here?" and "wouldn't that old farm house be nice?"

    In reality though, I think I'd hate it.

    We visited my DH's aunt and uncle today, the ones I discussed in a previous thread. Yeah, they're getting older and having trouble keeping up with the place -- the cattle, the hayfields, the veggie plots, the buildings. They've been having trouble lately with erosion and sinkholes. They're in their 80's and due to severe arthritis DH's uncle hasn't been able to do anything outside the house since July. They have 3 children who are in their upper 50's, grandchildren in their 30's, and great-grandkids in high school, plus a whole bunch of other relatives in town. Some are helping, but others just want a handout. Two of their offspring live in rundown trailers on the property and OH my, they make the place look shabby.

    DH's aunt and uncle are hardworking folks -- they grew up on the farm and always made it look easy and idyllic! They can't imagine any other life, but boy is it a liability now!

    As with many other rural areas, especially in old coal/iron towns, the country is pretty but what man has done with it is really hideous. Some of the eyesores we passed were due to poverty, but I suspect sheer laziness does a lot too. But I can't criticize -- taking care of acreage is HARD, especially if you're not used to it.

    Seems that so many people like rural living just because of the lack of rules and opportunity to do things like ATV riding and target practice with the 22's or paintballs. Yee-haw! Forget about the work it takes to keep the place up.

    Just our little acre and a quarter intimidates me. It'll be easier when we fix some things up and finish dealing with the landscaping/trees/brush/etc. but wow, I'm glad I have a strong husband.

    When I was younger, I used to think, wouldn't it be nice if his aunt and uncle decided my DH was such a good nephew they should just give us a big chunk of their acreage (or sell it cheap)! We could build a home there or maybe renovate the 100+ year old home standing abandoned across from theirs. Not that they would, mind you, or should, with 3 of their own kids living nearby - I was just musing. But now, I really don't want it. I'm sure Ironton is a nice place if you're used to it, but I'd feel terribly isolated.

    OTOH..."homesteading" isn't necessarily synonymous with "rural." You can do a LOT on a plot the size of ours. I still want chickens. And a huge garden! I may never be self-sufficient or want to be, but I'd like to be (and already am, I think) several steps farther in that direction than the average.

    Also...I think I have a much better chance at living a positive, productive "homesteading" themed life on a smaller lot that doesn't intimidate me than I would on a big rambling place that tires me out just thinking about it! Don't you?

    Kudos to you who manage huge parcels and live in the boonies! I have no idea how you do it.
     
  2. Selena

    Selena proud to be pro-choice

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    Will your DH be happy on 1 1/4 acres in the future? If not, time for some hard thinking. Best part about thinking is it is free and doesn't require a commitment. If by chance the opportunity to move to his aunt & uncle's farm, how much land would be the "happy" medium? Or any other tract of land for that matter. How long to commute to a job that either one of you doesn't hate? Could the acreage be a weekend/summer place for now and a move to in the future? If aunt and uncle offered you the chance to buy it, how would you deal with the 2-in-a-trailer situation? Would aunt and uncle want you to allow them to stay? Would aunt and uncle be able to keep the cash in order to take care themselves or would the family attempt to suck them dry? If that happened, would you step up to the plate and see that their basic needs were met? How far "out" is too "far out"? Might be easier to start 2 (or 3 lists) of don't want, want, and can go either way. Spouse to do the same thing and then compare. Might be a fight waiting to happen but might save you a divorce later.
     

  3. wyld thang

    wyld thang God Smacked Jesus Freak Supporter

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    Sooo, do you mean you don't want to have to take care of every square inch so it looks nice, is productive,....? A big reason of why we moved here(we are "past the country", into the wild) was letting nature have its way, and being in that environment. We did log a portion, and built a motorcycle track and ride dirt bikes and target shoot and my son's friends come up and roll around in the woods playing paintball:)(yee-haw!!!). Our neighbors are far off, but I've never felt isolated. I've gotten to know the neighbors much better than when we lived in a cul-de-sac. I am a person that enjoys the solitude and wild nature tho.

    Yes you can homestead anywhere. I not trying to be contrary, but your thoughts just seemed really interesting to me, in the sense that different people see things differently. Why not just handle the few acres you want to on your relatives farm, and let the rest go back to nature? You dont' have to control the whole land. Besides, if you fight the land it will always win in the end:). I think you need to go read some Wendell Berry essays ;).

    Anyway, it's good to know why you feel the way you do, helps you make decisions. FOr me, I know now that I HAVE to live in the woods to stay sane, I HAVE to have that uncontrollable wilderness outside my door, doing its thing, regardless of me. And not a strip mall(or a Starbucks) within miles. :)
     
  4. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    ditto
     
  5. hippiehill

    hippiehill Active Member

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    You can do alot with the land you do have. I have just shy of an acre and have the huge garden, dairy goats, chickens, and a "mini" orchard complete with grapes, peaches, pears, apples, plums, cherries, strawberries, and raspberries. I too wanted wilderness at one time and occasionally I wish for more acreage. But I have enough keeping up with stuff on my microfarm! I cannot raise grain and hay for my animals, but I still know what they eat and where it came from more or less. And I have to buy and scavage firewood (Can I cut down that dead tree for you for the wood?). But we are pretty happy with our own eggs, chicken, milk and dairy products, vegetables and fruit. You may just want to start there and see how you feel later on. You may just find you want more land and its time to get bigger, or you may just like things the way they are.
     
  6. Peacock

    Peacock writing some wrongs Supporter

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    I know very well that if you have a large parcel it is not possible nor desirable to "take care of every square inch." On 1 1/4 acres, it is different -- maybe not every square inch gets micromanaged, but you at least have to keep the honeysuckle and poison ivy from taking over. :) On a larger acreage, you can let a large portion grow wild, but there are buildings to maintain, especially if you have animals, and the land shouldn't look diminished in appearance due to your residency -- meaning that you can't trash it. Maintain the drive, clean up after your animals, mow the grass right outside your home, stack the wood, don't let junk pile up. Subdivision mentality? No...I don't think so. I think this belief is just good honest pride. I don't want to bite off more than I can chew.

    Regarding the possibility of actually moving there, which isn't likely, just something I muse on sometimes -- I could theoretically do my job anywhere as long as I had Internet access. DH could transfer to another post office or make a living in many other ways. Yes, absolutely we would gladly take care of DH's aunt and uncle (and his uncle's 97 year old mother! Who lives there too!!!) if need be. Though they're pretty good at saying "no" to family's requests for "help" -- only problem is the family nickels-and-dimes them by considering their pantry an extension of their own. :) I have to admit that the trashy trailers next door would drive me NUTS and DH's cousins would learn to hate me real quick. ;) Now they think I'm just a nice, quiet girl...but as a neighbor I would NOT be and would not stand for the way they treat their dogs!

    Anyway...no way would DH leave town while his dad is still alive and he'd hate to be that far from his sister either, so it's not likely. Summer/vacation/investment property, maybe. And I think our recent move to where we are now is a bit of a wakeup call to DH as it has been to me...liking country life in theory. :)
     
  7. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    We lived in town and owned our first 'homestead' of 26 acres. One acre was clear with a small 'weekend' house with electricity, but limited plumbing because of a small cistern. There was an outhouse.
    The 25 acres was scrub behind the one good clear acre, so that was left as the 2nd parcel basically wetland and not worth developing at that time. It basically came with the whole package of the one usable clear acre, house, shed so we went with that. Lots of work, but it's what we enjoyed. It was 10 minutes from the house we lived in town, so anytime we could go there and water the garden or whatever. We built a poultry house, lean to greenhouse, kept ducks and egg laying chickens, set up 2 beehives, and had the 3/4 acre massive intensively managed garden producing a lot of produce to store and sell at farmer's market then. We started all our plants in the house from seed and sold some transplants as well. At least there was not so much lawn to cut in the acre with the use of most of it for garden and the poultry.
    An acre is a lot for a garden to manage. Very true.
     
  8. MelissaW

    MelissaW Well-Known Member

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    Best to put thought into it now! There is nothing wrong with starting small, and staying small if that suits you. Our place is by no means big, only 5 acres. Even at that, we only use half of it for cultivation and living space. The other half is in woodlot. If you decide to go larger, having some wilderness on the property is a nice option, both for firewood from culled trees, and wildlife. I must add, as a disclaimer, that when we bought our place, the neighbors were pretty colorful. Picture a hermit living in an 18 foot trailer with a temporary utility pole leaning against it, and a drunken gun collector with enough junk cars to build a stairway to the moon. After a decade of rising property taxes, we have faily posh neighbors...and an outragious tax bill. Can't decide which is better!
     
  9. MorrisonCorner

    MorrisonCorner Mansfield, VT for 200 yrs

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    edayna, I hear your pain! When I moved onto my family's property my grandmother (at 85 no less) had well maintained flower gardens and a manicured lawn. She also had seven open acres which were going to blackberries because they weren't maintained. She heated with oil. And while she might have moved a bit slower than I do, she didn't have a full time job.

    Today there are only shadows of flower gardens left. But the sheep have taken care of the blackberries and the fields are open again. We heat with wood, which is hugely time consuming, and both of us work full time. Staying on top of the flower gardens? Life becomes a "pick your battles" thing.

    There are real concerns when it comes to relocating at what the French refer to politely as "a certain age." In addition to the social issues, where you find yourself in a community which may not share your idea of how leisure time is spent, preferring ATVs and dirt bikes to theater or concerts, there are some health issues as well. Where is the nearest hospital? What is the quality of the medical and dental practices in the area? And, not something to be discounted lightly... are they taking on more patients? In Vermont the wait to see an orthopedic surgeon stretches to almost a year at this point. That's a long time to deal with a wrecked shoulder. My physician's practice, which has five physicians in it, is not taking on new patients, they're maxed out.

    My grandmother's way to cope as she aged was to let things go. Let the fields go wild, ignore the trees down in the woods, heat with oil... tend the flowers and have a lawn service trim the lawn. But that was back in the days of relatively low property taxes. Today we use as much of our property as we can because we're paying ruinous taxes on the land. Having "land around you" is a huge luxury in a state with property taxes as high as ours are. If we can't use it we need to seriously consider losing it.

    And if I "rolled down" so to speak I'd roll to a small town house with a big lot. Preferably with a little corner store within walking distance. I'd have a few chickens, a big garden, and maybe bunnies.
     
  10. RedTartan

    RedTartan Icelandic Sheep Supporter

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    I understand, Edayna. I prefer "small town living" to "completely rural" as well.

    I've got a 12.68 acre place right near the center of a very small township. Most of the houses around me are run down; however, the area is building up. Lots of the run down houses are for sale and I'd wager that people will buy them for a good price and fix them up. If they don't though, it won't bother me. I like to be where I can get to places in a short period of time and have my land and animals too. :)

    RedTartan
     
  11. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I know how my husbands uncle managed his big place when he got old.

    He got a few Mother cows, and once a year he sold the calves. He didn't even castrate the males.

    The cattle kept the grass reasonably short, and he bush hogged once a year to cut any weeds. He walked the fenceline and checked it once a year, also. He didn't have to feed hay: understocking the pasture meant that there was long grass over the winter for their feed, and they got very little snow where he lived.

    In this manner, he was able to keep his place looking nice even when he was old.
     
  12. MarleneS

    MarleneS Well-Known Member

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    Edyna, in all fairness to your husband, you need to be honest about, many acres in an isolated location will not be a "good" thing for you. Especially, if you are only happy when the land is picture perfect.

    Marlene
     
  13. hillsidedigger

    hillsidedigger Well-Known Member

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    I would like to live where:

    neighbors barking dogs could not be heard and would not be walking thru my gardens and chasing the wildlife everyday, where highway traffic and sirens could not be heard either, where I could walk in any direction for hours without trespassing on posted land, where wild animals are common and where there's abundant fish in the creeks. Such a place would be very rural.
     
  14. ajaxlucy

    ajaxlucy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Edayna, you don't have to have lots of acreage far away from town and other people in order to do some homesteading. Lots of people around the world, especially in poorer areas, live in small communities and raise their own crops and animals. Where land is limited, they observe tradtitional small-scale, intensive and diverisfied practices. I think that for many people, that kind of life is not about getting away from others. It's more about doing things the old-fashioned, traditional (and healthier) way.
     
  15. katlupe

    katlupe Off-The-Grid Homesteader Supporter

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    I live only 6 miles from our small town, 11 from a little city, where I do most of my shopping. We are surrounded by acres of forest land, on a small acreage ourself. Our taxes are very low for NY state, so you won't hear me complaining. On our small property, we could raise more food than we do (plan to do more in the future). We both love the forest and living on a dirt road with no neighbors that you can see. Our road mostly has hunting camps on it. We are working on setting up our property so it is easy to care for as we get older, or when one of us is here alone. I always thought we'd need more land to homestead, but that's not true. You can do alot with small spaces.

    katlupe
     
  16. Gercarson

    Gercarson Well-Known Member Supporter

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    "Life Was Never Meant to Be a Struggle"
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