Saturday, 28 February 2015

So You Want To Live In The Country?

Country life is ideal for us. I have never really utilized the conveniences of the city, even when I lived there. Although I enjoyed museums, galleries, libraries and coffee shops, these were less important to me, always, than space, fresh air, and quiet. I can and do visit the library and, although trips to trendy coffee shops with friends are all too rare, I feel like what we gain from living outside of town is worth the bit of a drive to enjoy what is IN town.

When I began this blog it was with the intention of providing information on how to set up an acreage in western Canada, ie. what steps there are and where to find permits, green options and the like. I have a couple unfinished posts that I should return to and make available. But beyond getting power and water and dealing with the health inspector, there are other things to consider when you think of leaving town for the countryside.

Winter is long--you are in charge of your own snow removal

In our Rural Municipality the gravel road is kept plowed (when they can get to us, and there is only one other home on this road and the school bus does not yet travel here) but our road in is our responsibility. It is an option to have the RM plow our yard for a fee, but that is not an option every where and is something to inquire about. We have a 4 wheeler ATV with a plow which does a good job if we keep on top of the snow before it is too deep or heavy. The year before we moved here the snow was 14 feet deep where our road is now. Should that happen now we would be relying on family and neighbours to come get us out.

2013, the year of major storms and wind

Your well, your problem

There are acreages close enough to town that they are on municipal water and sewer, meaning that if there is a problem you can phone someone and they come handle it. It's a tempting proposition and one that costs a pretty penny. The proximity and convenience come at a hefty price tag, but if that's your thing then go for it. You can save a LOT of money, however, by going a few miles further out. In the country, though, you must consider your source of water and know that if you aren't capable of figuring out what goes wrong you will be paying someone else to do it. What goes in must come out, so there's that sewer issue too.

spring runoff in 2013. Dealing with water of any kind is a homeowners

We have a really good well. This is an old yard site and all the old timers tell me there was always ample, clean water here. It's a comfort. Because we are on a good slope we are able to have a bell and syphon septic system (no pump=fewer worries). Except, of course, the other night when it was -25 and a wind and our sewer began to back up into our basement. We have an alarm to warn us if the tank overfills but our electrician didn't install it. The pipe where the septic system drains got drifted over with snow and froze over, meaning that once the tank was full it had nowhere to go but back towards the house. We were lucky in several ways: Husband was home and on days off. He spent 3 hours out there, first with a torch and then with a steamer that my brother brought from the farm. We were lucky to have help and that I was not here alone with the kids. We were also lucky that we noticed immediately. Husband took an armload of wood down to the stove and saw water; had he not we would likely have gone to bed and I run the dishwasher on a timer so we would have had that water plus any morning flushes before we noticed. I am extremely glad it didn't happen on a day that I did 5 loads of laundry and didn't go into the basement for several hours. I had the mess cleaned up in an hour and the worst part was for my Husband and brother who were out in the cold for a few hours. We will be keeping an eye on the end of the pipe from now on! If an acreage owner did not have the skills, that incident would have meant calling someone and probably paying them to come and help. For that reason alone, I am very grateful to have 3 brothers, my dad, and several cousins nearby if I needed them.

Recycling/Garbage Pick Up/ Mail and Other Curbside Services

I have neighbours that get their mail at the end of their laneways, but new customers no longer get that option. We get our mail at a group box site (a stand alone set of mailboxes) at the junction of two roads. When we have parcels to pick up we get a notice and take it into the post office located in Shopper's Drugmart in town. Others go to the actual post office. It is nothing to have trouble ordering online because we don't have a street number. It is ridiculously hard to get people in big cities to understand that there are no streets here. I recently had a heck of a time sending in our central vac (purchased new and wouldn't work--had to UPS it back to be fixed). They would not honour their warranty unless I had a street address. I finally got my brother's girlfriend's address. As soon as I gave that, the girl in Edmonton emailed me the UPS label. Makes no sense.

We keep our garbage in a large wooden box with a plywood lid to keep from attracting wildlife. I compost and recycle so there is not much, but it does pile up because Husband works a 24 day shift and we only get to the local nuisance grounds once a month. I refuse to put it in the trunk of my car. It is an option to get a dumpster from town and pay a monthly fee to have a garbage truck come haul it away, but this is a simple way that we can save money. We have a system for storing recycling until we can take it in. It takes up minimal room in the garage and is just part of my routine. For some people, curbside services is one thing they say they couldn't do without. I wouldn't say that we have missed it at all.

Getting anyone to come out from town can be a struggle

It really depends on the economy. Our area is absurdly busy with oil and gas (well, it was before the price of oil dropped by over 50%) and most companies have all the work they can handle within the city limits so do not take jobs that require travel. This would not be a problem everywhere, but it is the case here and it has been a detriment to supporting local businesses. I opted to hire the nearby small town plumber to do our plumbing and heating. It took him 14 months to completely finish our furnace work. We spent most of a winter with only a couple heat ducts attached to our furnace and now have water damage on 2 exterior doors because we could not rid the house of humidity without proper heating. When we called to ask please, can you come finish the job? we were actually sworn at and the whole experience has been awful. I tried to get quotes from 4 alternate companies: 2 did not even return my many calls, one returned their quote so late I had already hired the local guy, and one "town" plumbing company came in at about the same price as the nearby guy that I hired. In the end I opted for small town and have regretted it, although one would usually expect better service from a small and local company. No matter where you live, you need to consider where you will hire the services you need.

What is peaceful to some is lonely to others

I can go weeks without seeing people. In the winter it can get isolating, but it is truly the way that I am wired. A couple visits with friends can last me a long time, and too much social activity leaves me plain exhausted and slinking off to my corner. That is not to say that I don't like to have people drop in. In fact, I'm quite used to my regular coffee guests and I'd sure miss them if they stopped coming. Play dates for my kids are treasured occurrences, especially since I've found some moms that are wonderful friends. But if you are considering a move to the country, consider whether the whole family can handle days at a time without social activity. If not, have you established ways to get your fix without daily trips to town? Or, are daily trips to town in the budget and part of your plan? If so, go for it! I recently heard of a family that pulled their children out of our local school and pay extra to drive them to town to school, since they are in so many activities there anyways. You might not find ballet and karate in your small local towns, but we have 4H and seasonal sports and school clubs. It is about choosing what is right for your own family and budgeting for what works. But if you haven't considered winter roads (I'm talking western Canada now) shortened days and a possible lack of your preferred amenities nearby, it can be a deal breaker for people that didn't expect to be "stuck out in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do". You have to find your own entertainment, nurture hobbies, and be brave enough to go meet your neighbours when you live in the country. Personally, I've always found that harder to do in the city. I would rather be alone with my thoughts in my yard than surrounded by strangers that I feel completed alienated from. That is what has brought me to the country, so what brings you?

the view from my dad's tractor when I packed silage for him this past fall.
Many, many happy hours of my lifetime spent listening to golden oldie country tunes in that seat, enjoying that view.
 And many, many more I hope!

These are just some things that pop to mind when I think of the difference between town and country living. We can't take cabs where we want to go. It is almost a 3 hour drive in either direction to get to a major airport, professional sporting events or other big city features. It is a 25 minute drive to our swimming lessons or to get groceries, so whe we go we try to get everything done in one trip. Our fun is playing with our kids, working together in the yard and house and enjoying good homegrown food with friends and family. There are some sacrifices when it comes to rural living, but none that I resent and the peaceful, authentic life we lead more than makes up for any inconvenience. What are your perceptions of city vs. country living? Are you drawn to small town/rural life or would you rather have the city amenities at your fingertips?


  1. I have always been a country girl. Even when my parents lived in the city for part of my childhood, I longed for wide open spaces and green and trees. I always tell people that I would just go crazy if I had to live in town.

    1. I agree, Miss Bee :) I am lucky to have grown up in the country and have experienced city and small town living, as well as northern forest life, before returning to put down roots. It's the only life for me :) thanks so much for reading!