After more than a year living on a rural farmstead, I think I can safely say it’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. The peace, the quiet, the privacy. I love going outside and singing at the top of my lungs without neighbors staring at me. I have all the space I need, and then some!
Country life isn’t for everyone…even if you think it is. There are tradeoffs, extra expenses that may pop up you might not encounter in town, and extra chores. I grew up on a farm, so I had realistic expectations and knew what I was getting into, but there were still a few items that caught me by surprise after nearly a decade living in town!
Below I’ve listed a number of items you should consider before deciding to make your move. What are your needs? What inconveniences can you live with? How much work do you want to do with your own two hands, and how much are you willing/can afford to hire out? I’ve also tried to provide potential solutions to the problems and inconveniences I’ve listed.
1. Extra Wear & Tear on Your Vehicle
This was the one I expected the most, especially since I was still working in Fargo when we moved nearly 40 miles away to Ayr! It was still rather surprising seeing the milage on my vehicle hop up and up so quickly, though! I was putting on 80 miles a day traveling to and from work, even though my commute time was only about 15 minutes longer (traffic was terrible in our old neighborhood).
With more miles comes more frequent oil changes, more maintenance, more gas. Gravel roads are also harder on tires, so the 40,000 miles your regular car tires are rated for becomes about 25,000 miles when traveling gravel roads (as I recently learned).
What can you do about it?
Your car needs to be maintained, simple as that. Don’t skimp on oil changes or go longer than recommended between trips to the mechanic. You can learn to change your own oil, which will save you about $50 per 3,000 miles on your vehicle, but you also have to know where to properly dispose of old engine oil. You can’t just dump it on the ground!
Invest in a vehicle that gets great gas mileage. About six months before we moved, my red Chevy Cruze blew its engine, so I ended up purchasing a new Hyundai Tucson as a replacement. It has all-wheel drive and excellent highway gas milage.
Invest in a set of all-terrain tires. The tires on most vehicles, especially from the dealership, are not great in the first place and are more suited for driving on pavement. Of course, wear your first set out, but when it’s time to replace, spend a bit more money on the all-terrains with harder rubber and more resistance to rough gravel roads. You’ll likely get twice the milage out of them.
You can also choose to purchase a property close to paved roads. You will likely pay more for the property, have to deal with increased and faster traffic, and it will limit your options, depending on the area you’re looking.
Finding a job closer to home is another option, although likely less popular. About three months after we purchased the Ayr house, I found a new job 20 miles away, which cut my commute in half, and my husband recently found a job just three miles down the road! This drastically decreased the amount we spent on vehicle maintenance and gas. You might also consider work from home situations, even a few times a week.
2. How Much Lawn do You Really Want?
A large, lush lawn is the dream of many country dwellers, but then reality sets in…you have to mow it. My husband spends 3-5 hours ever summer weekend mowing our lawn, which is probably close to 6 acres all together. Luckily, he doesn’t mind mowing, and there are some areas I would just skip if it was up to me!
You should also consider the expense of a riding lawnmower, which can easily climb above $5,000 for a large machine. My husband purchased a small Kubota tractor with a loader, a 60” lawn mower attachment, and snow blower. The ensemble set us back about $15,000, used. This is no small expense and should be a major consideration when deciding if you can swing country living.
What can you do about it?
The easiest solution is choosing a property with a smaller lawn, or reducing the size of the lawn and letting certain parts grow, perhaps only mowing them once or twice a year. The majority of our property is pasture and trees that we do not mow and allow to be habitat for birds, insects, and other animals. One of my future goals is to replace parts of our lawn with pollinator friendly “meadows”. You can find programs through the NRCS that provide financial assistance to landowners, or you can strike out on your own using resources such as American Meadows.
3. Snow Removal x1,000
Ugh, the snow. Our first winter in the country was brutal. Frigid temps, frequent blizzards, and an enormous amount of white nonsense. We also have an incredibly long driveway. Shoveling or using a walk-behind snow blower was not a feasible option. You have no choice but to remove it or pay someone to remove it for you, or you’re not leaving for at least 5 months! As I mentioned previously, we purchased a small Kubota tractor that came with a snow blower, which was not cheap, by any means.
Even if you can clear your own driveway, you might be trapped if rural roads are not cleared. A particularly bad blizzard left us trapped until about noon, and if we hadn’t possessed all-wheel drive vehicles we likely would have gotten stuck even after the snow plow made its first pass.
What can you do about it?
Live someplace without heavy snowfall. If that’s not an option, learn to deal with it or don’t move to the country. You can also choose a property with a short driveway that you can shovel or use a walk-behind snow blower, but you’ll be trading that convenience for less privacy, as well as limit your purchasing options!
You might also want to consider the “importance” of the road your potential property is on. “State Highways” will be cleared before “County Roads”, “County Roads” will likely be cleared before “Township Roads”, and so on and so forth. We live on a main county road, so our road is usually cleared well before others. It’s best to ask the current property owner how soon after snowfall roads are usually cleared, or ask potential neighbors.
4. Sharing Your Home with Wildlife
Animals such as racoons, deer, and even coyotes are occasional visitors to many urban neighborhoods, but a move to the country means you’ll be sharing your property with wildlife on an almost nightly basis. After nightfall, we always hear the yip of coyotes, the unnerving scream of a red fox, and other chitters or growls from small mammals.
Small pets are easy prey for coyotes, fox, and even large predatory birds. A small pack of coyotes can send a large pet dog to the vet, or even kill them. Skunks sometimes make their homes beneath buildings, brush piles, or even your deck. Raccoons, gophers, weasels, rabbits, and other small animals are more nuisance than anything by eating your garden, getting into trash, and digging in places you’d rather not have them dig.
Then, of course, in the fall when outdoor temperatures cool, vermin such as mice and rats will try to make your house their house, too. My first encounter with a mouse was when I opened the bread drawer to find a loaf of bread’s bag torn open, and the loaf gnawed on! Little mouse pellets and urine filled the bottom of the drawer!
What can you do about it?
It’s best to accept that wildlife is part of the beauty of country living, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take measures to keep them under control, especially if you decide you would like to raise livestock (free coyote food) or grow a garden (free rabbit food). Most do not require you to kill the animal, don’t worry!
Mice and rats in your home is something you should deal with swiftly, as they carry the hantavirus, which can potentially be deadly to humans. The disease is transmitted through exposure or inhalation of infected rodent urine, feces, or saliva. If you’re seeing rodents or rodent droppings in your house, the first thing you should do is try to figure out how they’re getting in. If it’s not immediately apparent, hire a professional to evaluate your home and plug any rodent entrances. Be careful not to leave entry doors open too long in the fall, as mice can dart inside your home quickly while you’re not looking. If mice are inside your home, trap them and remove them as soon as possible before they breed and infest your house with their offspring.
Yard lights and motion activated lights are great ways to keep many animals from venturing into your yard. They often prefer the shadows and will avoid areas where lights flash on whenever they move! Some companies also sell motion activated lights and noise makers that blink, strobe, or flash to confuse animals and make them run away. People with chickens or a tasty garden to protect seem to like these options, as they work to scare away the animal before they test their fences or coop fortifications.
Sometimes animals are hungry enough (or smart enough) that flashing lights don’t send a direct message, so using physical deterrents is necessary. My father used to raise sheep, and he would hang up a shirt he’d slept in for a few days to make the area heavy with human scent, which would keep coyotes at bay. Other options are creating a fortress around the livestock or garden you wish to protect. A coyote and weasel proof coop may be necessary. Instead of regular chicken wire, you may need to use hardware cloth, which has smaller holes and is more resistant to animals trying to pry it off with teeth and claws. Your garden may need to be completely fenced in with buried chicken wire to prevent rabbits digging in.
Sometimes, despite all of the above, animals still insist on messing with your property. A coyote that repeatedly breaks into your chicken coop no matter what you do or harasses livestock will likely need to be killed. The alternative is accepting that you’ll likely lose all of your livestock or see them seriously injured.
Additionally, sick animals will sometimes wander across your property looking for easy food. A common disease in mammals is rabies, which can be transmitted via saliva (usually by a bite) to you or your domesticated pets and livestock. There is no cure once an animal is infected, so it will be necessary for you to kill them and dispose of the body, or call the DNR. None have wandered onto our property yet, but memories from my childhood on the farm include skunks waddling drunkenly through the yard in the daytime, completely unafraid of humans, and having to be shot, as well as a fox in our barn my young sister wanted to pet. We keep a small caliber rifle in our house just for this purpose.
Bottom line, if you move to the country, at some point you’re going to encounter wildlife. If you grow a garden or keep livestock, that likelihood is increased. Be prepared to manage them
5. Decreased Access to Groceries/Shopping
I feel like this one is probably a given and this was the first inconvenience that country dweller wannabes accepted, but I feel I should repeat it! When you move out of town, your access to the grocery store is limited. Quick trips to the store to pick up the milk or bread you forgot are suddenly 10x more draining and annoying than they were when you lived in town! Any projects around the house require double the planning so you pick up anything you need or could possibly need if something goes wrong in one trip. Meal planning for the entire week (I plan for two weeks, personally!) is suddenly necessary.
If you still work in a larger town this might not be as huge of a deal for you, but if you’re like me and you now work in a small town with a grocery store (or no grocery store…) only providing the bare necessities, it is a bit of a lifestyle change.
What can you do about it?
As I suggested previously, meal planning is key! Not only does it help you save money, it helps make your trips to the grocery store quick and easy. If you take your time at home going through your pantry and fridge, you’ll know exactly what you need to pick up at the store and what you can save for your next trip.
If meal planning isn’t your thing…accept that you’ll be wasting time and gas making extra trips into town!
6. More Property = More Maintenance
I’m not talking about just mowing the lawn. If you have trees, they grow old and fall down, sometimes in places that are incredibly inconvenient. Someone needs to remove them. If you have outbuildings, they require repair every once in a while. You can add that to your budget. If you have pastures, they’ll need to be kept free of noxious weeds, or your county will send you nice letter telling you to do it or pay a fine. Your driveway is going to get pits and ruts in wet seasons. You’ll have to repair it.
With a move to the country and any sort of acreage, your maintenance costs are going to rise, especially if you can’t do the work yourself.
What can you do about it?
Maintenance is part of owning property. There is no way to get around it. Before you make your final decision, decide how much maintenance you are willing and able to do. If you can’t or don’t want to learn to run a chainsaw, a forested property where trees can fall over your driveway might not be a great choice for you! Making the right decision might mean choosing a smaller property, or a property with limited trees.
Keeping maintenance to a minimum is achievable by prevention. Put a new roof on the shed before it starts to leak and rots the rafters. Keep noxious weeds in check before they have a chance to take over. Remove dead and weakening trees before they fall and take two others with them!
If you were gifted with no handiness skills at all, you can always hire the work out, but it might quickly become expensive. There’s always something to fix in the country!
7. Emergency Services are Farther Away
This is something you don’t often think about until it happens to you. The police or an ambulance are no longer 5 minutes away…more like 20 to 30 minutes, or perhaps even longer depending on your location. Those 20 to 30 minutes will feel like an eternity if you’ve had an accident and require immediate medical attention. If you have a house fire, you’ll likely watch half of it burn before the fire department arrives.
What can you do about it?
Some emergencies are unavoidable, but you can decrease the likelihood of needing to call for help by working to prevent emergencies in the first place. This includes simple practices such as wearing protective equipment when using power tools, not burning trash on windy days or incredibly dry (red flag warning) days, or being extra cautious and safe when using a lawn mower, snow blower, or other equipment with sharp twirly things!
Knowing basic first aide for when an accident happens is also important. The ability to bind and slow the bleeding of a wound and knowing CPR can be the difference between life and death when you have to wait for help for so long. Keep a first aide kit in an accessible place, and keep it stocked. Purchase a fire extinguisher and learn how to use it.
Don’t be tempted to leave doors unlocked because you live in a rural area. People know that valuable tools are often kept in garages and outbuildings on rural properties. Just like living in town, you shouldn’t advertise your vacation on social media until after you’ve come home, and don’t leave television or other boxes from expensive electronic purchases in blatant, visible locations where road creepers can spot them.
Other precautions you can take are installing security cameras, driveway alarms (a device that alerts you if it senses motion on your driveway), and motion activated lights on your house and any outbuildings. People with malicious intentions are less likely to stick around if they know they’re being watched!
You should also keep the non-emergency phone numbers of your local law enforcement in your contacts so you can quickly report suspicious activity. Make friends with your neighbors and get their contact information, as well. They can keep an eye on your property when you go on vacation, and in return you can agree to keep an eye on theirs!
So, do you still think you can swing a move to the country? It can either be the best decision you ever made….or not. Even reading all the material on the internet, it may still be hard to imagine what life in the country is like. If you’re fortunate enough to have friends or family living in the country, ask them to show you the ropes for the weekend so you can have a taste!