Move to the country, at what cost?
So, you think you want to make the move to the country. Ah, the life — fishing from the docile creek that will flow just yards from your door, a huge garden from which you will harvest your own vegetables. Peace and quiet, clean air, a view unobstructed by machines and industry — that is what you envision.
But wait! That little stream has the potential of being a killer torrent during a downpour there or in the hills above. Pay attention that the house you build is far from the creek and on considerably higher ground. The garden will have to be constantly weeded, the deer, raccoons and other wildlife will be vying for their share, which can amount to a great deal of your fresh produce. You will have to fence the garden.
Then, unless you can also put a fence over the top, birds will likely find your spot and raise havoc. If you do all right with your daily harvests, you won’t be able to eat it all. You will want to preserve by canning, freezing or drying. Those processes have to be done when the produce is ready, not when you get around to it. If you are lucky and have excess produce, you might even be able to sell your wares at a nearby farmer’s market. Sharing or exchanging with friends and neighbors is part of the work, the fun and the fulfillment of gardening.
Country living is not just the same lifestyle as city living with simply a new environment. Rural residents have to be much more self-sufficient.
Perhaps the single most important word that country residents must embrace is “responsibility.”
You will have to take care of trash removal, burning it when weather conditions are right or hiring it hauled away. You will have to pay the sanitation company directly; the bill is not included with your utilities. If your well runs dry, you will have to fork over the money to drill a new one or haul all of your water. Perhaps a rural water company will have pipelines nearby and you may be able to get onto that system. If the fence needs fixing it is up to you to fix it or attempt to hire it done. Even if there are not leash laws in the country, you still have to keep your dog from wandering around on the property of others. Unfortunately, if you don’t, the dog may be stricken with lead poisoning and never come home. It is one of the Codes of the West.
Ownership means there is no more landlord to call when the plumbing quits. Roads are not automatically plowed after a snowstorm. You will soon learn that all of those country-related perks can also be problems, and that they cost real money.
Yes, living in the country is a wonderful lifestyle. The caveat is you need to be knowledgeable and carefully consider the facts before you make the move.
Peggy writes from the family farm in southwestern South Dakota and her internet latchstring is always out at email@example.com. ❖
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