Would we Move to Our Little House Again?

Our rural road

A friend of mine recently sent me an email asking me about living in the country. She is tired of dealing with bad neighbors in her urban neighborhood.

“I was wondering if you might be able to tell me about the less than ideal side about living in the country, like just anything I might not be thinking of.”

And finally, she asked “Would you do it again?”

These are some of the things I told her she should think about:

Access: Access to food, entertainment, culture and just about anything else. Internet access is what drives me crazy the most. If you live out as far as we do, you have to have satellite or live with dial-up.

Costs: You have to consider that your vehicles will need more care/maintenance (tires thick enough to handle these country rocky roads costs us about $800 every 2-3 years), oil changes and gasoline costs are more. Insurance usually costs more simply because more people have collisions with deer in the country.

Wildlife: In the city, you worry about home invasions and break-ins. In the country, there are other types of dangers that shouldn’t be discounted. If you have a problem with guns, you need to get over that in the country. We’ve had to shoot rattlers, copperheads and water moccasins that have come to the house and our guns could well save us or the dogs from a bear, mountain lion or coyote attack.

Isolation: Although I worked from home before, I was just 10 minutes away from a sushi bar if I needed human interaction, or 5 minutes from a grocery store. Now, every trip out needs to be planned and we combine most of our errands in one outing, which could last 4-7 hours. I miss being involved with professional writing groups and being able to meet a friend for lunch and be back at my desk within an hour or two. Also, in this area, as in most rural Bible Belt areas, most social functions revolve around church involvement, so if you aren’t involved in a church, it could be even more difficult to get to know people.

The people who aren’t our neighbors: While we don’t have anyone living against our property lines that annoy us on a daily basis, this area, like any other, is not untouched by bad people. We deal with bad hunters every year that litter the woods with trash and their dead kills, and boaters who think they can camp on the lake shore yards from our backdoor because it is Corps of Engineers property.  We have people who dump unwanted pets, leaving them for rural landowners to make horrible decisions on their fates. And we have greedy developers ready to snatch up hundreds of acres just beyond our property lines, clear cutting and platting dense subdivisions.

This list wasn’t meant to discourage my friend, or anyone reading today, from moving to the country, but instead, should just give some things to think over.

This also wasn’t the end of my list of things to think about. Tune in Tuesday for the rest of my email to her and the answer to that burning question:

“Would you do it again?”

For those of you who are thinking of a move to the country, did I list some things you hadn’t thought of, or if you have already moved to the country, anything I left out?

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44 Responses

  1. Maryann says:

    We’re 4 miles out of a small western WA town. We have 15 acres-only about 12 are usable. I was raised in a small town nearby; then went to college in a “city” – couldn’t wait to get back “out in the sticks!” I sometimes get overwhelmed by the work to be done, but the pluses are so worth it. I enjoy gardening and having an orchard, having pets (dogs, cats, horses), and so far neighbors have been a positive, not a negative (this may change as there is some development in our area). The ;millions of stars at night are enough to squelch any thought of leaving!We have a wood stove (it’s our “primary” source of heat); also a generator for those times when the PUD doesn’t rescue us before we need to run the pump, freezer, and fridge. I enjoy the slower/quieter pace of contry/small town living. Bigger towns are within 30-35 miles-the distance always prompts the question “Do I really need it?” – usually the answer is “Well, not right now” and then that usually turns out to be “Didn’t really need it!” (Lots of difference between “want and “need.”) I’ve enjoyed your writing (and the comments)for several months; this is the first time I’ve submitted a comment. Looking forward to reading more.

    • kerri says:

      Welcome, Maryann and I’m glad you joined in the conversation! One big thing I didn’t mention in today’s post to go along with the positives is less traffic. I’m finding it more difficult to drive in huge traffic jams in the city when we visit.

  2. Whoa! These are good reasons not to live in the country. I’d love to live in a small town, but I don’t have what it takes to live in the country as you do, Kerri. I can be a the pioneer woman, but my pioneer side is the one who can chop down oversized bushes, haul river rock in wheelbarrows, design/build a water sprinkling system. But I don’t really want to fight wildlife or come face-to-face with a poisonous snake. I do that here in the city in Phoenix where I live, and I don’t like it. And it’s fairly rare. Out there, things like that sound more frequent. I’d be living on the edge, but not in the way I’d like. Great post. Very informative. You sure answered this woman’s questions!

  3. V Schoenwald says:

    I would love to live in the rural areas of my area even though I am in a small city in a rural centered state, (Nebraska).
    But…
    The winters here are brutal to say the least, and if you do not have 4 wheel drive and a tractor, you are SOL to get out so you have better be well prepared because you won’t get out for about a week to 10 days, if you are in the country, it is even bad in town for at least 4 days after a blizzard.
    It is dangerous in the country or city with vandals and crooks. We are having a rash of break-ins in rural areas and we have even have had murders in rural areas at random around my area several years ago.
    I have had 2 attemped break-ins and I carry a 9mm and have a carry-conceal permit. I backed off both of them, one was coming through a front door, the other a kitchen window, and I had no problem doing it. So even if you are city or country, weapons are sometimes a life saver. My dad was a cop and I have hunted and have taken gun safety and carry conceal training and I have no problem defending myself to save myself and home, if you are in the country, you definitly need a weapon, rifle, sidearm of some sort as you will run into rabid animals, disabled animals hit by cars or trucks, snakes, and the two legged varmit also. You also will run into nasty neighbors who live in the country who are no nicer that the garbage that lives in the city like I have here in my park with the drug dealers.
    Country living needs to be well thought out, and planned. It is nothing that you do on a whime, but sometimes people are so desperate to get out of the urban areas that they will do almost anything to get out, and not think, and then get caught with their underwear down, and maybe even die from it. Several years ago, on a news program I heard, a couple moved into a cabin, in Montana or Idaho, (I can’t remember) and they died from exposure and starvation, and their pets all died also, as they did not have wood to heat, food to eat, or any planning at all. It was a sad story.
    So, it takes thought and guts to do it.

    • Kerri says:

      Oh, my, Vicki. You did hit the nail on the head, it needs to be well thought out and planned.

    • Vida says:

      Wow Vicki, what you described is just hellish and scary. One of the advantages of moving out of the city has been peace of mind. Here we leave our doors open when we leave and never lock them at night. Are we tempting fate? I hope not. In spite of the the social unrest here in Greece where we currently reside, we have little crime out here in the tiny villages. I truly hope that things do not change here and I hope that things do change where you are, for the better. I wish you all the best, I have read many of your posts and you seem a courageous, sensible and sensitive country dweller.

  4. Alexandra says:

    This post hit the spot for me because I am vaguely trying to figure out in the back of my mind whether to stay in the country, or move to the city, where hospitals are closer, as we age. (My hubby is 72.) I found your list rather intimidating actually. I always thought we lived in the country, but I guess not. Small, small town is more like it. Your spot must be so much more rural.

  5. Country living the way to roll. Nothing against concrete jungle, urban living with gangs, violence, smog, noise, pollution, insincerity, pushing, shoving and no stars, no bluer than blue skies. Country, enjoying your own company, not fearing being alone, an awareness of the world around you. Your place in it. In country, rural states like Maine, there is a sense of connection, involvement, locality.

  6. Vida says:

    Hi Kerri,

    Downside of living in the country:

    Very quiet (rain seems noisy even)
    Far from neighbours and people
    Have to drive to buy anything
    No sushi o pizza or anything “exotic”
    Winter (some grey and boring days)
    Animals (strays, dumped pets)

    Upside of living in the country:

    Very quiet (aah, the absolute peace)
    Far from neighbours and people (did I call it a downside? Jess kiddin.. good friends drop by anyway).
    Have to drive to buy anything (So we don’t buy much and save.)
    Sushi and pizza? Make my own, former from freshest fish direct from the sea, latter in my own wood oven. Learnt to cook killer chinese food.
    Winter (mostly mild and on sunny days, great for long walks with our pack).
    Animals (Wildlife and strays that we rescue and foster and who warm our hearts)

    I guess it depends on how you look at things… I recently went for a visit in Madrid and came back just longing for silence and the views. I’d do it again in a shot.

    • Kerri says:

      I will write more about the upsides tomorrow, Vida. I did learn to cook a lot here, but unfortunately, still cannot buy sushi grade fish to make at home.

  7. Where we live, you cannot get food delivered. No pizza. No Chinese. Nothing … so, honey, if it isn’t in the freezer or the pantry, you’re not having it for dinner.

    And, we’re only about 12 miles, 20 minutes (up a windy mtn canyon) away from a good-sized suburb of Denver.

    I agree with the electrical note. Our electric CO-OP took our whole valley down for 4 hours Sunday (midnight to 4 am) to make some improvements that will supposedly make it faster for them to get us back up and running during future outages. Except … when they flipped the switch at 4 am, something blew … and we ended up without power the entire day. We were worried about food in our freezer.

    It was a good reminder that after nearly 10 years … we really should get a big generator wired into the house … just in case.

  8. Brandy says:

    Kerri,

    a while back you mentioned a documentary on tv that you liked called “Afraid of the Dark”. Im letting you know its available to watch again on Comcasts “In Demand” under the history and nature column, then go to history then halloween and its there.

  9. BJ Lambert says:

    A big decision maker to moving to the country is jobs. I had hoped to move up into my little cabin this summer, but could not find a job. I am a teacher, usually (read in normal economic times) teachers can find jobs anywhere. Unfortunately during these difficult times, I had to choose between continuing full time employment with health care benefits, or substituting in my new area and hoping I could work enough. Also, subs are never offered a health care plan.
    You also have to decide how far from doctors and specialists you want/need to be.
    BJ

    • Kerri says:

      Welcome back, BJ! I wondered if you had made it to your little cabin this summer. Sorry you could not find a job. This is a good point though, as readers here all know the problems Dale has had with the job we moved here for. It seems all is settled for now, but we’re still on edge every time the company makes an announcement. Doctors and specialists are a consideration and was something that worried my mom when she was going to be with us.

      • BJ Lambert says:

        Thanks Kerri, I have missed ya’ll! I also lost a laptop this summer (yes, spent the whole summer in my little cabin). It fried its’ hard drive,so I had to save for a new one.

        Doctors become a biggy especially if you need a specialist.

  10. Frugal Kiwi says:

    The tiny public library here that only has request privileges with a few other tiny libraries gets to me. I CAN request books from outside the district, but at $6 a pop haven’t.

  11. Sandy says:

    I too live in rural part of the county. While my area has escaped the sprawl of cookie cutter houses we are not without trailer parks, double wides and houses that need repair. I actually live on a road that recently got paved but am down the street from a trailer park filled with hispanics. While quiet 99% of the time, we still have to deal with the trailer park idiots who play music from their car stereo’s during drinking binges. Our neighborhood homes sit mostly on 1 acre lots, with a few on 3 acres, 6 and one horse farm on 10 acres. We live on 3 acres but it is narrow and long, so of course we have neigbors on both sides. Most of the time I’m ok with the proximity, but it can be annoying when our neighbor allows their dog to bark. I do love our rural drive to get home as we are only 13 miles from town…it’s feels like it’s further. I live about a mile from our zip code town which is a one stoplight and one road through it. We have a hardware store, CVS, and a small family owned grocery store. Of course there’s a Hardees, an Omelet house, BBT, GoGas and a Public River Access as well. That’s pretty much the gist of it. Small but cozy.

    • Kerri says:

      It sounds (mostly) wonderful, Sandy! The rural drive is something I also enjoy. I love the mountains, especially in living in relatively flat Kansas the first 43 years of my life. 🙂

  12. Richard says:

    It is good to talk about the upside and the downside of things.I recently picked up a book called “Living on a Few Acres” that was put out by the U.S.Department of Agriculture in 1978.It fully covers both the positives and negatives of moving from the city and settling in rural America.Most of the book still applies and was a great pleasure to read.My family and I are still living in town but hope to have our country home in two years.

    • Kerri says:

      Thanks for providing the name of that book, Richard. I might see if I can find it as well! There is no ideal living situation, all of it has its ups and downs, but knowing what to expect helps people better prepare, I think.

  13. Mary Anne says:

    Great answers. We live in east texas about 2 hours from a big city and an hour from small city. You touched on the expenses of driving, but the reality of everything being so far is the biggest drawback for us. Our local grocery store (about 20 minutes) has the basic, but they never heard of vegetable stock, goat cheese, bok choy, etc. Honest! So it’s a two hour drive to Whole Foods. We started an organic garden for produce and there are lots of local market stands, but mostly not organic. We are Buddhists in the Bible Belt. Most everyone has just ignored this which is good, but we meditate weekly with a group and drive 1.5 hours to get there. The only clothing stores within an hour or so are Penney’s and Walmart and a very small Palais Royale. Luckily we have DSL that works pretty well, but then it was a requirement and we wouldn’t have bought here otherwise. I was a huge library user in the city (online ordering of books, free, could get 50 books at a time and could keep for 6 weeks). Here not so good. Very small library (20 minutes), can check out 5 books for 2 weeks, period. But that’s okay because the nearest bookstore is an hour away! It’s very quiet here, we live in the woods, beautiful scenery, and very nice neighbors, helpful but not intrusive. Critters everywhere, snakes are a fact of life and we have more bugs on our few acres than you could imagine. We’d do it again though because positives outweigh the negatives.

    • Kerri says:

      After reading about your life, Mary Anne, I don’t think I will ever complain again! 🙂 We do have some clothing and other outlets within 45 minutes and thanks to a huge rural library grant, a brand new, beautiful state of the art library now. We do have a wonderful locally owned organic, natural store that even carries free range eggs and meat. Hint: I’ll be writing about the positives next week!

      • Kerri says:

        Mary Anne, your note about what your store keepers haven’t heard of reminded me of when we first moved here. I went into our local grocery, which is vastly unchanged probably from when it was built in the early 1900s. I asked the butcher about free range, grass fed meat. He gave me the strangest look and finally said, “Well, I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, but we have them processed the ‘regular way!” 🙂 If it were up to me, I would do away with meat from the diet altogether, but I can’t convince Dale.

  14. David says:

    Kerri, another factor about rural electricity is that it tends to have relatively poor quality, with high or low voltage including transient spikes. I think part of that can come from lightning strikes or other atmospheric electrical activity near the long power lines. This effect is usually less in a city, since transformers are so much closer together. This can greatly reduce the life if your electronic equipment…sometimes ruining it entirely. Thus, it is very important to get good power filtering. Most cheap UPS units are “standby” types that have relatively weak power filtering. The best answer, then, is either to get a high quality full-time UPS (where the wall current charges the battery, the battery feeds the equipment–with no direct link from outside power to the equipment) or else an item called a power conditioner–which contains no batteries but does a very good job of filtering the power. Occasionally, you can find power conditioners on the surplus market that still may be quite good.

    • Kerri says:

      Thanks, David. I’m pretty sure our builder installed something to protect my electronics here in the studio when he built it. But I will show Dale your note and make sure.

  15. Jeanene says:

    My cousins live on the family farm in east Texas and right now, they are battling a wild hog problem. In addition, they keep a very large shotgun in a corner of the house. They have killed every manner of critter. Power outages are a drag. A couple of summers ago when I was visiting, the phones went out and were out for several days until the phone company could get up the hill to fix it. They also live in a “dry” county so when they buy liquor/beer, it is about a 25 mile drive to the next county, and if you want to drink on Sunday, you better stock up on Saturday. The benefit is the absolutely beauty and peace of the place. Winters aren’t bad, but summers are oppressively hot!!

    • Kerri says:

      We have the same issues with the oppressive heat and Sunday liquor sales. We were a dry county until about 2005-06, I think. Although there is a group trying to repeal the liquor law here. Strange in what is supposed to be a tourist recreational area, but Arkansas has long been a dry state mostly. I’ll never forget, right after we built our little house, we went to get pizza and Dale tried to order a beer. “You mean a roooot beer?” the little waitress asked in her southern drawl. 🙂

  16. MarthaAndMe says:

    These are all very good considerations. I hadn’t considered that having a gun might be necessary because of wildlife threats. I can’t wait to read if you would do it again! Being far from shopping would drive me nuts.

    • Kerri says:

      Being far from a grocery store makes me plan better. As for other shopping, the advantage of also having our little house is that we don’t need many things! 🙂

  17. Allie Johnson says:

    Great observations, Kerri! I really appreciated getting your take on country life. There were a lot of things I hadn’t thought about!

  18. Kathleen Winn says:

    We have only lived in the country for a couple of months, so haven’t yet experienced going through winter here though from what I’ve heard it can be pretty brutal. Friends and neighbors have told us to always stay stocked up on canned goods and frozen foods through the winter months, in case a storm blows in and you can’t get to a store for several days or longer. We also have been told that having a generator is a necessity for living here, in the event we lose power during one of those storms. We have a wood stove for heat, but having a generator would enable us to have electricity during a power outage- so of course keeping enough gasoline for the generator is also important.

    We don’t have all of the same issues as you do, Kerri, because we are actually only about an hour outside Kansas City. I am still able to meet friends for lunch or go into the city for shopping and entertainment. However, some of the things I did regularly, like writers’ groups and belonging to my church choir have simply become too expensive because of gas. I just recently joined a small church choir in our new community at the Methodist Church. I am actually a Unitarian, but the Methodists are about as liberal a church as I’m going to find here. I’m enjoying singing with a new group of people and they’ve been very welcoming.

    We love our new rural life though as I said, we’re new to the whole experience and have yet to go through winter. I would definitely do it over again, in a heartbeat!

    • Kerri says:

      That’s a very good point about a generator, Kathy. We didn’t have one when the ice storm hit and although we were able to stay warm with the wood stove, being able to run a generator for some hours of the day would have been nice to catch up on the news and weather, as well as to keep the fridge cool and also flush the toilet! We did buy two generators during that storm, one for the office and one for the house. Having one for the office is a must, I can’t tell you how many clients I lost during that time because I couldn’t work. I would have loved to had a whole house propane generator, but those are very expensive.

  19. Heather says:

    Before I had to rely on a computer for work, I enjoyed short power outages (like less than a day). It was a good time to get out the board games and play by candlelight.

    • Kerri says:

      Yes, I remember those short power outages in the city, Heather. Always kind of a relief, in a way, to unplug for a few hours. The first day of our ice storm wasn’t bad, but it gets worse as the days go on.

  20. Kerri says:

    Yes, I completely left out the many power outages and the problems with having a small, rural telephone company that thinks we’re still living in 1980. Our 2009 ice storm left us without power for 10 days and stranded for 5.

  21. olivia says:

    In my part of the world – WINTER!! Vicious nor’easters or “weather bombs” can makes roads impassable, frequently for 2-3 days, with several feet of snow coming down in one storm. Power goes out (and country power is the last to be restored) and one is isolated in one’s home. Melting snow on the woodstove for water and relying on food supplies and flashlights. Heaven forbid you have a fire or other emergency – you are probably on your own!