Living in the country comes with rich lessons.

Every day some situation comes up that tests your endurance, your skills, or your sanity.

In almost two years on our rural 6 acres, we’ve had occasion to learn a lot of things.  Some are funny (‘gifts’ hidden in miscellaneous drawers by our tiny four-legged friends), some sad (a mouse caught in a too tightly wound live trap and dying a horrible death).  Some are disgusting (tiny legs and a tail – and nothing else – in the kitchen sink after a vacation) and some downright dangerous (think trees falling on a family enjoying a game of catch on the lawn).

Never a dull moment.

So along with all the lessons about overwhelm, not asking for help and trapping mice, we’ve learned a few other things:

Lesson #1:  When a Tree is Rotten, Don’t Wait to Call the Tree Removal Guy

Last summer I was playing a game of catch on the lawn with my son.  We were having a great time, laughing.  The breeze was blowing in a very un-summerly sort of way.  Then I heard something you never want to hear when you’re outside surrounded by trees and with no cover – crrrraaaaack!  It’s amazing how fast instincts take over in a moment like that.  It was the rotten old maple we’d been meaning to have removed, now heading towards us in a weird sort of freaky, slow motion animation.  All I could think was RUN, so that’s what we did.  Not knowing what direction the tree was actually falling (I didn’t wait around to confirm), I wasn’t really sure which direction was safe.  So I relied on my gut feeling (which, of course, was wrong, but it’s all I had at the time).  So we ran, we tripped, and the tree landed about 2 feet to the left of our prone forms.  If there was any moment the last while that I’ve said my thank-yous, it was that one.  In the aftermath, we realized how lucky we were.  The tree landed precisely where we’d been playing.  If we hadn’t been able to move faster, the end of the story could have been tragic.  Lesson learned: Inspect trees regularly and have them dealt with pronto.

Lesson #2:  You’ll Need a Big Truck

I’ve been an environmentalist since my early 20s, volunteering for ‘green’ non-profit agencies, sitting on government environmental policy committees, and working in communications for a municipal recycling and waste reduction education program for 12 years.  When I lived in the city, I went without a car for years and biked and walked to work.  But when you move to a rural property in a far-flung location, travel by bike takes on a whole different meaning (especially when it means riding on a narrow highway with crazy drivers).  We knew we’d need a car, so I bought the smallest one I could find that till had some style to it (in black, of course!).  It sips gas, which is great.  What it’s not so good at is hauling stuff.  The car actually holds a large amount of gear with the seats folded down, but it only carries 3 passengers plus the driver (not so good for carpooling) and clearance between the road and the car body can’t be more than about 8 inches.  Not so good in the snow, or the mud, or, well, anywhere that’s not flat and paved.  So in the country, you pretty much need access to a truck.  We were able to arrange for use of a pick-up when we need it (my parents live nearby and have an ‘extra’ we can use).  And it’s worked out splendidly!  If you’re not lucky enough to have family with extra vehicles lying around, it’s worth getting to know your neighbours so you can possibly borrow when you have need for one.  And there’s always renting, as most small towns have some sort of vehicle rental company.  I was surprised to find our town has one when a deer jumped into my car last year and wrecked the front end.  But that’s a whole other story.  Lesson learned:  Arrange for access to the type of vehicles you will need for your rural living endeavour.

Lesson #3: Friends with Skills are Great Friends to Have

Community is critical when you live in the sticks.  Get to know people and what skills they can offer should you need them.  We’re so lucky to have a tenant living on our property who is a highly skilled carpenter, furniture builder and all around super handy guy.  He built our new kitchen, designed and built our new shed/carport, and created our gorgeous Adirondack chairs and harvest table, not to mention stacked a good chunk of my firewood for me because he had some time one afternoon.  Now you’ve got to like that!  In return, I’m going to build him a website for his furniture business, and he got a few months free rent.  Great deal all around.

Lesson #4: Fog is Not Your Friend When You Have Satellite Internet Service

When you live in the country, your options for internet connection can be pretty limited.  We’ve got satellite service through Xplorenet, which is expensive, but fairly reliable (just slow).  But there’s one weather condition it does not like – fog.  Not a good thing on the west coast of Canada where fog is as ubiquitous at certain times of the year as the rain.  In those situations, I’m kitted out with a MacBook and my iPhone that I take to a local coffee shop to get work done.  Just something to keep in mind if you plan on working from your country paradise and live in a fog belt.  Lesson learned:  Make sure you’ve got a laptop and an alternate place to work if the weather renders your internet connection unusable.

Lesson #5: It’s Important to Stay Healthy When Your Nearest Neighbour is a Half Mile Away

This might go without saying, but injuring yourself on a rural property when you’re alone is potentially deadly.  You’ve probably heard the stories – man is cutting firewood from his woodlot, slips and cuts his leg badly with the power saw.  He’s alone, and practically bleeds to death getting back to his house to call 911 (because there’s no cell service where he lives).  He can’t call his neighbours, because he hasn’t bothered to get to know them.  Then the ambulance takes 45 minutes to get there because he lives so far from town.  Game over.  We live on a piece of land that’s not accessible to cell service, and our nearest neighbour is a considerable distance away.  Sadly, I don’t know them at all (that’s on my list of things to do this year – get to know my neighbours a bit).  So when I think of doing work around here when our tenant is away, I’m very, very careful.  No climbing up rickety ladders, no working at heights without the proper safety gear, no doing anything stupid.  And my son knows how to call the ambulance, or his grandma and grandpa, should the need every arise.  Here’s hoping it never does.  Lesson learned:  Learn to rely on people for help and accept it when it’s offered.  Get to know your neighbours.  And always be careful!

    So there you have it.  Five more lessons we’ve learned in our two years in the country.  Honestly, the opportunities to learn skill and life lessons in the mountains, desert or prairie are endless.  I’m sure we’ll learn a lot more this year when we get chickens and attempt to grow food in earnest.  Should be good for whole slew of new ‘what not to do’ articles!

    So if you’re considering the rural lifestyle, consider these tips before you dive in.  While your experience will be obviously be individual to you and your family, depending on where you live and your particular situation, some lessons are pretty universal.

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