It sounds idealic – eating fresh food you’ve produced yourself, looking over green paddocks, setting your own time table, maybe even slowing down your lifestyle a bit….. And it certainly can be like this, but there are times when things fall in a heap, and you wonder if all the hard work is worth it. If your living in the city and contemplating a “tree-change” here’s a few points to keep in mind!
1. Can you Cope with Mother Nature’s Unpredictability?
This is by far our biggest challenge every year. We do all our planning at the start of the year, working out what crops to grow, estimating how many calves and lambs we will get, what vegies should be planted and when. Then we reassess, and reassess – repeatedly through out the year. Rainfall is our biggest limiting factor. The first three years we were here were drought years – the dams dried up, and we purchased an absurd amount of stock feed. At the end of the third year, Cam decided to pay an excavator to come and clean out our dams, and deepen them. I remember having the discussion that I thought this was crazy, to deepen the dams, “It never rains!” Well of course in year 4 we had so much summer rainfall that our dams were all over flowing, to the point where the paddocks were flooded and our road was cut off to the north and south! Our crops were completely wiped out! Luckily the house is up on a hill!
This is how our front paddock looks today!
2. Do you mind critters?
I’m not just talking about the little caterpillars that eat your baby broccoli plants – the critters here come in all shapes and sizes! The first wet year we were here absolutely over run with mice! Pick up a log, or piece of tin, and likely 30-50 would run out. Any bags of seed were eaten through in no time, and our sheds smelled horrific. My dad purchased 15 mousetraps, and was emptying them twice a day. We are very lucky that our house is mouse proof, but our previous house wasn’t, and we even had to transfer all our pantry goods into solid plastic containers!
Then there’s the spiders! We have a log fire place, which I love, but bringing wood inside means bringing spiders inside. Thankfully no one in the family is too worried about them, and quite enjoy seeing a big huntsmen on the wall (thinking about the flies and mossies he’s hopefully catching). Its when we have guests and they suddenly look up to find one at eye level, less than a metre away – my sister in law, in particular, doesn’t cope will with that – we’ve heard her screams from the other end of the farm!
We also have lizards – not just little drop tail skinks, but gorgeous big stumpy tailed lizards. They can give you quite a fright if you are reaching into the strawberry patch, and you see this large scaly body move. More than once, I’ve jumped half a metre in the air, thinking it was a snake! We are lucky that we have only seen one snake within the house yard, and it was tiny – but certainly other families around here have seen plenty.
3. Are you afraid of hard work?
Look, to be honest you can make country life has hard or as easy as you like. We try and be as self sufficient as we can, in that we like to grow as much of our our own fruit and veggies as we can, our own meat and milk. This all takes time and quite often a fair bit of physical labour. There’s bags to be hauled, hay to be carted, work in the shearing shed a couple of times a year, where you are on your feet ALL DAY! The vegie garden takes a lot of digging, weeding, watering. Not to mention the extra washing from all the mud (or dust in our case!). Obviously we can’t supply all our vegie’s and fruit year-round, but we try to grow enough so that we can preserve as much as possible to see us through the winter, when the garden is not very productive. Preserving takes time and energy!
Most country homes also have a log fire. When I was pregnant with Jaz, it was over summer and we were sweltering, and decided to bite the bullet and put in a split system. We can use this as a heater, but a) it is EXPENSIVE to run, and b) it is no where near as efficient as the fire. I can have the split system heating running all day, and still feel cold. Then around 4pm, when I am sick of it (or when the boys are home from school to collect some wood for me…) we light the fire, and with half and hour the house is warm. Hence we hardly use the electric heating.
4. Can you cope with slow internet and unreliable mobile service?
Ugh! I hate slow internet. Where we live we have no access to Cable or ADSL – we rely on Wireless broadband. It is more expensive and less reliable. It is dependant on things like line of sight to your nearest tower, distance, and localised interference. Most of the time, ours is okay, we live on a hill so our line of sight is good. However it slows down at night, and also seems to on bad weather days.
Again living on a hill means our mobile service is very good, however we don’t have to drive far in any direction for it to drop out completely. I guess I’m use to it, and I know where the black spots are, but I know it is frustrating for our city visitors.
5. Are you (and your family) prepared to be flexible?
Because of all the reasons listed above, flexibility is paramount when you live in the country. Take yesterday for example. I was due to take my eldest son, and his friend from school to footy training in town. They had rushed in from the bus to grab something to eat and get changed into their footy clothes, giving us about 2 minutes spare before it was time to go. I head out into the living room after changing out of my farm clothes, into something respectable enough for public, and this sight awaits me!
I know what you’re thinking – she needs to be flexible and make time to clean her windows – but I was actually thinking “holy heck! There’s a bull on the lawn”
Suddenly I had to race out, get him back to his paddock and work out how he got out so he doesn’t do it again. Luckily he had just got out through the small gate we use to get up to the sheds, so after hunting him back through, tying some twine around it to stop him bumping it open again, we headed off to training, and were only about 10 minutes late.
Flexibility comes into play on a daily basis. You plan your day, and then realise the sheep are out of water, and suddenly you need to stop everything, to go and pump some water. You think you have 10 young cows to sell, but when the truck arrives, two escape, and only 8 make it onto the truck – less income. You plant three rows of sweet corn, and then two days after they germinate, a chook finds its way into the vegie garden, and chews every second plant down to the ground, and suddenly you’re replanting. Just some examples from the last few months!
So how did you go, are you cut out for rural living?