The Driftless Dirt Farm photo by Bob Wiesner
Glamorous idea - move to the idyllic country where life is peaceful, fresh food abundant and the air is clean. You like the idea of growing your own food, connecting to nature and possibly becoming self-sufficient. You've been admiring those Instagram images of your favorite farmer, forager chef, or the magazine with the farm-to-table spread full of gorgeous people enjoying themselves?
Well, let's just do a little fact check before you take the leap. Here are a few ideas from my own reality-check checklist. To set the record straight, I moved to the country from the city. Well, let me clarify, I bought a country home with the idea of escaping for the weekends, and now I live here full time. I married a local organic farmer, so not only have my own little 15 acre farmette to keep up with, but have adopted a few chores on the husband's working farm as well.
First things First
Do you work out? Well, don't do that in the country or you'll look like a damn fool. Unless you're a city transplant, not many "locals" ride a bike or head out for a walk or run unless they're chasing after an escaped critter. There is so much work in the average day, you'll be too pooped to go jogging. You will easily log 17,000-25,000 steps if you have a few acres to tend.
Like weekends, "free time" after work and vacations? Well, say goodbye to those. There is so much to do to maintain a country property that you won't have time to sit down. If you want to hang out with locals, you best not sit down or they might think you're spoiled. There's no "after work" until the sun begins to set. If you turn on your TV anytime before 9:00 you will be judged. If you have animals, forget taking a vacation entirely. Your new vacation will be an hour on the deck with a beer, then get back to work! In the country, taking a vacation is perfectly acceptable, but it's typically only a once-a-year kind of thing. Taking time to play is certainly on the increase, but know that folks in the country don't typically "make plans for the weekend."
Successful in your career in the city? Well, move to the country and find you have ABSOLUTELY NO SKILLS. You'll need your driveway plowed, wood cut and split, downed trees removed and some serious mowing. If you don't own and know how to run BIG machinery, you're sunk. Start saving for a skid steer, tractor, trailer, and top-of-the-line lawn mower. Obviously, you'll need to learn how to fix these machines as well.
Love gardening? You probably have a postage stamp sized perennial garden in the city, but in the country you'll want to really landscape your property. Just remember, that city garden that takes a couple weekends a year to maintain is multiplied by every gorgeous plot you add to your property. I can barely maintain my gardens, and in reality, could use the help of a gardener 10-12 hours a week. Get used to neglected gardens and weeds...or plan to pay a gardener's wages.
Enjoy reading? Well, that's a surefire way to get behind on your chores! There is no sitting, so unless you go all-out Audible, you won't have time. Try talking to a local about a book you read, you will likely get a blank stare. Time to read you will not have. Back in the day of Downton Abbey, one had time to read because one had staff. You will not likely have staff, so take "time for reading" off the wish list.
Enjoy high fashion? Leave it in the city, because looking stylish is just another way to look like a fool. Anything more dressed up than jeans and a t-shirt and you'll be asked why you're looking so fancy? The same goes for hair - let it blow in the wind, tie it back, or stuff it under a farm cap.
Dislike driving? When your nearest grocery store is 25-60 minutes away, driving takes on a whole new meaning. If you want to eat out occasionally, you'll be enjoying the one or two good restaurants near you or plan to drive. Out here we say our neighbors are anyone within 40 miles. Want to visit a neighbor, you'll be putting on some miles! Stop by for a drink or two, forget about UBER! You're on your own to find a safe way home.
Get used to shopping fatigue. Do you stop to grab a few missing ingredients for dinner on your way home? Or do a little quick shopping on your lunch break? When you live in the country your trips to town will be an all-day affair, and you'll need a big vehicle to bring home the goods. Instead of a quick bop into a store or two each day, you'll need to BIG SHOP when you go to town - all your groceries and necessities you'll need for a week or more. This often entails way too many stores in one day for me! Not only will you be exhausted from all the shopping, but you'll need to be much more strategic about your plan of attack. You may like to end your shopping day with a relaxing dinner out, but you can't do if you've already gone grocery shopping. Your ice cream will melt and your salad greens go to slime in the summer hot car. Winter offers its own set of problems for the veggies, so you need to plan accordingly so things aren't left in the car that can't handle the temps.
Need to socialize? Of course you do! You may think, I need to get away, I want to be alone. People bother me, so I'll move to the country. A couple of years later, you'll start to feel lonely. A quick get together with friends and family for a little social fill-up is tricky. You'll need to drive far and wide, plan to stay as their guest, or maybe you'll have friends come out to stay the weekend in the country. Eventually, you'll tire of all the travel and hosting and wonder how you can afford to build a guest house! Good country living necessitates a good country social network. I am grateful I found that here.
LIke peace and quiet? You'll likely get that in the country, but if you're used to a constant buzz, you might find yourself going a little stir crazy. Also, when you get used to the quiet, the smallest noises can become disturbing. You'll start to notice distinct bird calls, hear active bees in your garden and tune into Mother Nature in new ways. The neighbor's loud tractor running all afternoon might just drive you nuts!
Are you an environmentalist? The neighbor's tractor is driving you nuts and so is all his monocropping. You'll also get annoyed that the only pollinator habitat (roadside ditches) is mowed all the time, small swaths of protective forest along field edges are removed to expand cropland, and the soil is sprayed with chemical herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. You'll need to remind yourself that human interaction with the environment is bad wherever you go.
Expect culture shock. Folks in the country have a different worldview, different skill set and different priorities than people from the city. It will take you time to navigate your new social realm, adapt your expectations and adjust to this way of living. I'll be the first to tell you, life in the country is not nearly as glamorous as the Instagram photos portray!
That being said, a day trip to the country is just the thing you need!
Come for blueberries at Rush River Produce, visit me at Lake View Organic Farm, then tour the Great River Road for a day of FUN! You'll get the chance to experience a little country distance-driving and pretend you live here for a moment!
WHAT'S IN THE STORE?
We are stocked and chock-full of farm goodies. Our fresh-pressed sunflower oil is waiting for your summer grain salads, we have a freezer full of Grandma's Farmhouse Treats, and the greenhouse is bursting at the seams with things the GREEN GODS amongst us enjoy!
It's going to be a great weekend on the farm. Stop out to see us.