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What is better, country life or city life? I’ve spent time in a variety of places over my lifetime, from a remote northern mountain cabin to a southern coastal town to a small Midwestern city, and I found things to love about every locale, as well as things I didn’t much care for.
But right now, I live on an 80-acre homestead in rural Maine, and it’s the place I love best. Let me tell you about some of my favorite things about where I live.
1. I can ski off my back deck. Literally. When the conditions are right — a few inches of fresh unshoveled snow — I snap into my skis and away I go, across the deck and over a slight snowbank, onto the lawn and out to the forest trails beyond. It can be tricky to get the toe bar into ski bindings on slippery or uneven ground, and I love being able to stand inside the woodshed to do it. Even after the deck is shoveled and I have to carry my skis a few yards before snapping in, it’s still an amazing luxury to ski from my backyard at all.
Conditions are not always right for cross-country skiing. When it’s too icy, or there is too much snow to navigate easily on ungroomed trails, I opt for snowshoes instead. I choose my small aluminum models with aggressive crampons for crust, and my larger locally hand-made pair for deep fluffy snow. But either pair allows me back-deck access to the field and forest, which is awesome.
2. I can tap trees and boil sap in my back yard. A serious maple syrup maker could probably tap a hundred or more trees on my property, but I’m not that serious. Instead, I tap a dozen or so healthy trees, all just a stone’s throw from my woodshed door, and get all the sap I need for my own household use and a little extra for gifts.
My lawn has plenty of room on which to set up a wood-fired evaporator made from a 55-gallon drum, with plenty of clearance between it and the house, garage, outbuildings, other structures and trees. It poses no potential danger to anyone.
I have an abundance of available low-quality wood that I wouldn’t want to burn inside my house, but that works perfect as free fuel for an outdoor evaporator. It smokes sometimes, but nobody is close enough to be bothered by it.
All in all, it’s hard to beat. Large healthy sugar maples in close proximity, room to boil, and free fuel. In a world where the message seems to be “go big or go home,” I am able to keep it small and still have it be worthwhile.
3. I have my own gun range. Only, it’s not really a “gun range,” per se. The truth is, I’m not that big into guns. But my husband and I do like to do a little target shooting now and then, and we are able to do so without much ado. Our general method is to tape a paper target onto the back of a cardboard pizza box and wedge it between the branches of a downed tree in our “rifle range.” The reason I put quotes around “rifle range” is because it is really nothing more than an area we have identified as a safe and convenient place to shoot, with respect to location, direction, topography and accessibility.
The truth is, we could shoot from our back deck or lawn if we wanted to. Out here in the country, it’s legal. But aside from taking a shot every once in a great while in order to discourage predators threatening our livestock, we don’t.
It’s nice to be able to shoot as much or as little as we like, keeping it casual and low-key, without causing any worry to anyone.
4. My dog can bark all she wants. I’m not one of those people who ties the dog outside where it barks all day. In fact, she is almost never outside without a person. And she isn’t the kind of dog that barks just to hear her own voice. The only time she makes much noise at all is when there is snow flying through the air. But when that happens, it’s loud! Chasing snow — whether it’s snowballs or shovelfuls — sends her into paroxysms of glee. She runs, leaps, pirouettes, yips, growls and barks nonstop. She’s a big dog, and makes a big sound.
I sometimes wince at the thought of how much my neighbors would hate all that noise, if I had neighbors. I like to be considerate of others, so I check in every now and then with the people who live in the only house I can see in any direction, to see if my dog barking bothers them. No, they tell me. They are far enough away that they rarely even hear her.
If I’m being honest, I have to say it is not only the dog who frequently gives voice to joy. Despite being a terrible singer, I do a lot of it, usually at the top of my voice. If I had neighbors to hear us both and cast a vote, I’m sure they’d prefer the dog.
Of all the perks of country living, being able to make a lot of noise — and let the dog vocalize her love of snow any way she wants — is a really nice one.
5. The blinds and curtains at the back of the house stay open. Even at night. Nobody is going to see in, because nobody’s out there. It’s my land, and it’s too far out in the country for anyone to bother skulking around in the darkness out back.
In summer, we keep the windows open overnight, as well. There are a lot of zip codes where I might not feel comfortable doing that, and I count the fact that I can as one of the many advantages of living where I do.
6. I can go out for a morning walk in my pajamas if I want to. Winter isn’t the only time I step off my back deck into the woods. In fact, I spend time on my forest trails nearly every day, year-round. On a cool summer morning, it’s pretty easy to pull on a hoodie and slide into barn boots — without bothering to change into daytime clothes first — and head out.
Sure, passersby on the might get a quick glimpse of something that looks more like pink flannel than public attire as I make my way across open space between my house and the trees, but nobody’s the worse for it.
7. There’s plenty of room for growing food. Many people must judiciously manage their vegetable gardens or fruit trees or berry bushes due to space limitations. When I want to grow more food than I did last year, I simply build more raised beds or till the in-ground garden a little wider. When I run out of room for berry bushes, I start a new plot of them elsewhere in the yard. When I want to plant another apple or pear tree, I evaluate the sun and drainage and soil, and plant a tree.
Mind you, this is only my fenced-in so-called “back yard,” where I grow plants and mow lawn and boil sap and contain a barking dog — not including the chicken pen, goat yard, pasture and beyond. Having all this space is a fantastic way to live.
There are downsides to my location, too. There are disadvantages to everywhere. But for now, living in the kind of place where people still run to the window to look out when they hear a siren pass by on the road, I’m embracing all that the rural life has to offer.
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