This article started its life as a pair of posts on The Cauldron's message board when the subject of farm living came up. They are must reading for any Pagan who thinks rural living is always so much better than urban living. As Elisa points out, while the rewards can be great, life in the country is not always a bed of prize roses.
Country Living is not a Lark
Yes, being rural has some interesting differences from living in the city or suburbs.
I was just thinking about some of the differences between my life and my mother's (she lives in town). One big difference is utilities. Mom frequently gripes about her utility bills, and I always have to bite my tongue. During hard times (very hot or very cold), my electric bill alone runs over 300 dollars a month! Hers very rarely goes over 100. Point being, electricity costs a lot more the further you live outside a metropolitan area. Community water (if available at all), is also usually higher and does not include the extras of sewer or trash pickup. Cable is usually not available, internet access is quite often a long distance extra (we got lucky on that one), and many other services that are easily and relatively cheap in metropolitan areas are non-existent or more costly as you move outward.
In this day and time, most people who have farms, have an outside income - JOB. My husband has a full time job, so I'm fortunate enough to stay home and tend the farm. His job comes before the farm, so I've learned to do a lot of things that I never dreamed of doing.
Being in the country, I do get to enjoy nature, but I see a different nature than city folk. I see the reality of how food is harvested, both by man and the rest of the animal kingdom. Finding food can be a violent and horrifying event. If watching one of those shows on animal attacks bothers you, country living might not be your cup of tea. That's reality.
If you just live in the country and don't raise a garden or have livestock, country living can be much easier and basically just a slightly different version of living in town. But, if you do want to keep a few animals and grow a few home grown fruits or vegetables, things change bunches.
Gardening is not too big a deal, but it can be very frustrating to do everything right and have something take one bite out of every fruit. Wildlife can be very wasteful. Deer will strip your young fruit trees down to tiny stumps during the winter and will take one bite from each dangling apple or peach as they ripen. Rabbits, tortoises, birds, etc. will sample your vegetable garden daily, also just taking a nibble or two from the just ripe fruit. Raccoons and deer will give you a run for the corn. And we won't even get into the bugs, which can be a problem even in town.
Now let's talk livestock. Home grown eggs are wonderful, and skunks think so too. Free range chicken is wonderful, but opossums and raccoons like it too, and aren't too kind in their harvest methods. Again, I must say, wildlife is wasteful when it comes to eating. They will frequently kill an entire flock, only eating the heads. If you cage your poultry, they've been known to reach through and mutilate the poultry through the wire.
Want to raise a few larger critters for pleasure or meat? Well you'd better build good fences and be prepared to protect them too. I've never had a problem with the coyotes in my area (knock wood), but stray domestic dogs are another story. Domestic dogs will kill livestock, not for food, but for fun. And even in the few cases where it was for food, it's not pretty or clean. I won't get into details unless someone really wants to know, as there is a big difference in a dog kill and a coyote kill, and livestock producers can usually tell the difference.
Then you must work with nature and her ever changing seasons and moods. During long cold spells, outside water freezes, so you must either heat the livestock's water tanks (remember the electric bill) or haul warm water from inside. Even if it is freezing rain and a blizzard, those animals in your care must eat and be looked after. Barns or shelters must be in good repair, hay and/or grain must be distributed and kept dry.
The point of all this is, for those of you longing to live a more natural life, don't romanticize rural living.
Okay, now that I've convinced you that living rural is a rough thing, I'll make you a promise, I will tell you some of the pluses. Yes, there are pluses.
Some Things Truly Are Wonderful
And here are a few of those plusses (as I see them) to being rural and having a farm.
The miracle of life
For anyone in the country the miracle of life never grows old. Each spring, gardens begin to grow, chickens go broody and try to hatch chicks, many types of livestock also have their young during the spring, when young, tender grass and foliage begins to grow.
Watching a cow, horse, goat or sheep give birth is such a joy. Seeing the sheer will of a chick cracking its shell to emerge into the light. The sound of wild birds' offspring greeting their parents for a meal. The croak of the frogs and toads as they call to each other. Even the sounds of insects can make your heart and soul swell with joy.
One of the most awe inspiring events of spring is planting a tiny seed, then seeing this frail looking thing later emerge from the earth. I think the Bible's comparison of faith to that of a mustard seed is wonderful, and more true than most people can imagine.
Depending on where your farm or country home is, smog is probably not something you deal with. Fresh air and the untamed breeze greet you each time you step outside. Birds will flock to your rural home, if you constantly provide food for them in some form. All manner of wildlife can and will be seen, if you just take the time to look.
The changes of the season, which happen so gradually, are easily observed in the country. In early spring, you see the silhouettes of the bare trees change. Swelling buds start changing the color of the branches. Pale greens, deep reds and purples, and yellows all begin to show. As the days grow longer, you see the tiniest of leaves begin to unfurl and grow in the light. Flowers appear overnight and it is like a great, moving symphony to your soul.
Even a storm can be a soul moving event in the country. In the safety of your home, you can hear and see the trees swaying and moving with the wind. The sound of the rain, wind, and thunder carry their own messages. Vivid lightning lights the sky in brilliance. Then, after the passing of the storm, you emerge and the smell is indescribable. All the world seems fresh and clean as if reborn.
Summer brings hot, long days. Shade and breeze are welcoming and sought out. Gardens grow, trees thick with leaves have their own songs to sing, and you rejoice in the bounty of nature all around you.
Then comes autumn. Slowly you notice the color of the trees is changing. Plants are setting seed instead of flowering, coats on the animals grow thick and woolly. Nature begins her slow wind down. The crispness of the morning air is welcomed after the long hot summer. Gradually the leaves begin to fall from the trees, dancing on their way to the earth. The whole feel is one of slowing down, and for me, it is very calming.
Winter comes slowly or quickly, depending on nature's whim. If slowly, you marvel in the first frost. How it creates lacy patterns on the things it touches. If fast, you are reminded of nature's power and fury. Either way, you become humble to nature, as she is strong and we humans are weak.
To me, winter is a humbling time of year. A time to reflect on our lives and make plans for the future.
I believe this is the way nature intends it to be. Again I am reminded of something in the bible - there is a time to sow and a time to reap. Truly one of the more beautiful passages from that book.
Gosh, I hope this isn't as mushy as I think it is! Some of you might start thinking I'm just a big softie at heart - not!
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