A Few Things To Know About the Country Life
If you answered Yes!, let me set the scene: An old Victorian home, a brook, wildflowers, cows peering over the fence as you plant that self-sustaining vegetable garden by the fruit trees and blueberry bushes. Or, maybe a solar-powered, self-built, off-grid cabin and a few acres off the beaten track.
At first glance, the thought of moving to the countryside in quieter, rural location may seem to be a romantic idea. But there may be a few things to know before you commit yourself ot the country life.
Depending on how close you’ve come to deciding to move, you already may have researched some matters such as how you’ll support yourself and how far you're willing to commute; what kind of home and how much land; what the schools are like if you have children; property taxes, zoning and building regulations (restrictions and protections); and availability of broadband.
Water and septic
In a truly rural area, you’ll be responsible for your own drinking water and septic system. My advice? Long before you move, learn everything you can about private wells and rural septic systems in general and also about the specific well and septic system on prospective property. (Especially important if you plan on composting your septic wastes.) Get to know the state and local laws and regulations.
Neither the federal Environmental Protection Agency, nor most states’ regulations, mandate testing of private drinking water wells. So no matter how new your well, no matter how clear and good-tasting the tap water, you won’t know if your water’s safe to drink unless you have it tested by a certified lab.
The negative health effects of some contaminants (including natural contaminants from bedrock, like arsenic) may not show up for years. Learn more before you move; check your state’s drinking water regulations.
Since rural areas provide more animals’ with their needs for shelter, food, water, protection, you’ll enjoy a lot more wildlife. Many folks relish the prospects of hunting, fishing, birdwatching, participating in wildlife conservation programs, or just glimpsing wild creatures going about their business.
However, it won’t take long before you’ll have one or more unwelcome wild visitors. Mice, Norway rats, various squirrel species might invade your home. Opportunists, they squeeze through the tiniest of openings; rats may chew in through wooden sills. Any or all of them may make nests in your walls; the squirrels may run around chattering all night.
If your property or adjacent properties feature wetlands, streams, or a pond or two, beavers can move in and cause trouble, chewing down specimen trees, flooding driveways and roads. If you have beavers, you’ll need professional advice on managing them.
Seeking shelter, mates, food, or all three, porcupines, raccoons, and skunks may also wander onto your property or into your home/outbuildings, causing mischief. Woodchucks will demolish your vegetable garden. Bats may invade your belfries. Birds will steal your berries.
I haven’t even touched on the stinging/biting insects, the ticks, the spiders, the snakes. But depending on your area, you’ll have them.
A good place to start for advice on any wildlife conflict is USDA’s Wildlife Services.
Buy yourself a few field guides specific to your area. Important:
Don’t kill anything you haven’t identified as the culprit causing your problem.
Read and follow the labels on any pesticide you decide to try.
In a rural location, chances are slim you’ll set out your trash and recyclables and have them whisked away. More likely, you’ll be hauling your own to a local or regional aggregation facility, which will move them on to landfill or burning. In small communities, “the dump” can serve as a community gathering spot. Many have swap shops where folks can drop off used items and pick up something useful for themselves.
To prevent rats, raccoons, and bears from getting into your trash, keep all of it (also any pet foods, birdseed) in tightly closed metal containers, possibly in a securely locked outbuilding.
Most of us still use the U.S. Postal Service, and postal workers in rural areas don’t deliver (or pick up) on foot. So you’ll need a mailbox at the end of your driveway, maybe across the road. Think winter. Shop for something sturdy, plain, and cheap because the passing snow plows won’t always miss it and you’ll need to replace it. You’ll need to shovel out around it to ensure the carrier can pull up and open it.
Oh, and the aforementioned mice may decide to nest in it. Or you may open it find a frog...or a snake.
Peace and quiet
Don’t count on it.
In my neck of the woods, several neighbors often take target practice (semi-automatic weapons) in their backyards, use chainsaws and log splitters (pretty much any time of year), repair and test motorcycles in their driveways. Across the woods close by, some guy flies a radio-controlled airplane for hours on end (probably not this one, but sounds like it).
You’ll be an outsider
Even if you grew up in a nearby city or a neighboring state, the old-timers whose families have lived in town for generations may see you as an outsider. You’ll look, talk, and behave like a foreigner.
Embrace it! Ask the locals for advice, particularly when it comes to hiring reliable, knowledgeable service providers. Hire local service people; patronize local businesses; shop your local farmer’s market.
Participate in town affairs. Attend board and committee meetings. Go to the baked-bean suppers. Offer to help set up for Old Home Day.
Most rural areas rely heavily on volunteers who may manage local government, man the fire and rescue department, report and publish local news, and more. After you’ve settled in and made a few friends, volunteer for something that interests you and benefits your community.
In a rural area, you can make a big difference, not just in the quality of your own life, but for others as well.