Moving to the country is a difficult endeavor. Even in the best of times it is difficult. Leave the city arrogance in the city and be aware that the country life is not for everyone, not even for those who desperately want it.
“So how do you survive a move back-to-the-land in any kind of situation? It is, we think, the people with a high tolerance for boredom, disaster, and simplicity who survive. Also, those who haven an ability to improvise and roll with the punches. Where does this ability come from? It doesn’t come from having stuff. We think it comes from having a mindset geared towards enduring and surviving. A realistic idea for what one might encounter in any situation is a must. Fantasy doesn’t make it in the country.”
CHAPTER ONE: To Move or Not to Move?
FREEDOM! Your life is your own. This brings both a sense of responsibility and balance. Consequences come quickly in the country if you don’t direct yourself with discipline and intelligence. Freedom brings self-discipline or self-destruction.
Personal Growth. You will gain abilities you never thought you would have. You will become… competent. You will become a problem solver, not a victim.
With all these new features in life comes a sense of reality, a view of the world as it is. Life slows down to a human pace so you can see it, feel it, and understand it.
You will gain good judgment.You will claim your life. Personal responsibility is a lot higher than in the city where so much is transferred to the machine.
Surviving Your Move Back to the Land
Moving back to the land takes a concerted effort, a plan, a change in the way you view the world. You need to know what to do, and what not to do. Cultivate a “moving-to” attitude as opposed to a “moving-away” attitude focusing on working towards the future instead of constantly being fixated upon the past.
Be honest and upfront about your capabilities from the start. Lose the cockiness and the ego. Keep plans small and grow to your psychological limit. We had seventy head of sheep and even though we knew what we were supposed to do, it was too much to handle psychologically. So start small and learn your limits slowly.
You will have expectations about the area where you’ll be moving to, about your responsibilities, about the people. Try your best not to assume too much. There will have to be many adaptations made to the environments around you, whether social, environmental, etc.
Word of mouth is powerful, so use it to your benefit and not your detriment. Country people and small-town people are slow to accept change. This can be seen as a stubbornness or stupidity. Or it can be seen as a stability and strength where people will be what they are and say what they think.
CHAPTER TWO: Preparing to Move
Location, Location, Location
Where you end up will be an important factor in whether you succeed in your country move or not. Some factors that may have been unseen:
- How far to live from a town
- Whether you live off a dirt or paved road
- What kind of neighbors you have
- Quality of the land purchased
- Type of predators you will have to face
- Local water quality
- Proximity of prisons, nuclear reactors, chemical dumps
- Severity of winters
- How deep your well is
- Home relative to rivers that may overflow
- Economic outlook for your area
- If you are used to people being around, population may be important to you. Is your closest neighbor a quarter mile down the road or ten miles down the road?
- Crime may be a factor. In the very rural country crime is usually rare. However if you are close to a growing town, the crime will most definitely spill over to the countryside.
- Having land near national parks may result in added restrictions due to being so close to federal property, or the added fear that the national park may annex your property.
- TV (and probably internet???) might be tough due to either distance from the television transmitter or interference from nearby mountains.
How will any of these things affect you personally? Each person has his own tolerance level, his own coping abilities. A lot will ride on your motivations for moving to the country, and your specific expectations. Just the same, it’s best to consider the circumstances surrounding your new home so you don’t end up hitting a brick wall.
MOVE INTO A HOUSE. Don’t live in a sod hut or a teepee or a cave. Adjusting to country life is difficult enough in the beginning without having to deal with no comfortable home to return to. This advice extends to “fixer-uppers.” Just stay away! The only building code in the country is “don’t build on your neighbor’s property.”
You may love the country life, but there’s no getting around it: moving is stressful. This stress plus the stress of adapting to the country without something familiar to latch onto and steady yourself psychologically may leave you with literally forgetting why you moved to the country. Try to keep those reasons dear to your heart and close to your mind.
CHAPTER THREE: You’re There. Now What?
Reality Descends Hard
Adversity is commonplace in the country and wastes no time finding you. Be prepared to work hard and address it: you have to earn the benefits of the country they are not automatically given to you.
The single most important ability to survive in the country is the ability to endure. There are no certified experts in the country and you must have the mental attitude to take charge and be your own plumber, carpenter, mechanic, etc. as the needs arise.
Butchering is something else you may find yourself doing. It becomes a natural process where you take pride in being efficient and humane. You take on a huge responsibility, interacting intimately with life and death, and you know where your food comes from. This is a knowledge as old as humankind.
You need the right equipment. Here are tools that we have found vital:
- Hammers (three different sizes and weights), with nails of all types and lengths
- Staple gun, long and short staples
- Wrenches of all sizes, screwdrivers, pliers, wire cutters, heavy scissors, ratchet sets.
- Duct tape and wd-40
- Garden hoes. Try to get an older, pre-modern one at a garage or farm sale.
- Garden hoses, ½ inch heavy duty.
- Garden cart, not wheelbarrow
- Flat and pointed shovels, pickax, post hole digger.
- Fence post pounder, fence wire stretcher. You WILL be putting in metal wire fencing.
- Saws – manual electric and gasoline powered. Hacksaws. Crosscut saws. Do not skimp on a good chainsaw.
- Maul, ax, wedges.
- Gloves. Leather for work, heavy wool for winter. Be sure to use a good oil (such as olive oil) on your hands in the winter to prevent dryness and those awful cracks.
- Plumbing supplies, including extra lengths of pipes, joints, caps, sealing compound, glue, valves, and replacement faucets. If your pipes break in the winter, the plumber won’t be able to get to you. These supplies will give you the resources to fix that problem.
- Plastic 5-gallon buckets. If you buy them they are expensive. You can get them used at bakeries, fast food joints, or from delis.
- GOOD spare tires. Flat fixer gunk.
- Air canister to fill the tire.
- Generator. Good for emergencies… pumping up water or keeping the freezer going.
- Strike-anywhere matches, candles, oil lamps (Aladdin brand is good), extra mantles and wicks, and plenty of oil. The power WILL go out.
- CB radio or long-range walkie-talkie. Send one with the kids when they go out for a hike!
- Boots/cross-trainers in the summer. Wool lined “waders” with a strong leather upper in the winter. Be sure to oil the leather when taking them out of storage, and again when you put them back.
- Tiller. Troy is a good brand. Lawnmower or lawn tractor. Sheep are awesome, but can’t go to all places (like an orchard for example). If you have more than an acre, stick to a tractor. Tractors can also have multiple uses to they double or triple up in their practicality.
- Ice cleats to slip over your boots.
- A .22 rifle. At least. For butchering your animals and protecting them from predators.
- Pickup truck or other transportation vehicle.
Everything in its Time (Backups for Backups)
Order Checklist to your Dream!!!!
The First Year:
1) The house: Make it livable. Patch the roof, put up screens, lay mice traps, replace bad plumbing, clean and inspect the chimney, caulk door frames and windows. Save major renovations for next year. Somewhere in the middle of this, bake some cookies, visit the neighbors, visit local churches.
2) Walk and check all fence lines. Make some notes on where it needs to be repaired and make some orders.
3) Till garden area. Plan garden, buy seeds. Plant in late spring or begin indoors in early spring.
4) Decide which livestock you want to start out with. Begin with only one species if this is your first time with livestock – chicken or rabbits are a good place to start. All livestock need shelter and fences. Determine your current facilities and upgrade as necessary.
5) Investigate the livestock you want and call local people to order chicks. Get a date for when the pens must be established.
6) Complete your fences, fix livestock shelters.
7) Repair ponds, or prepare watering systems for the barns and shelters
8) Order and stock appropriate livestock grain, and include appropriate amount of food quality hay.
9) Accept delivery of livestock species #1
10) Settle in for awhile.
11) Begin preparations for winter. Determine your wood or fuel needs.
12) Cut, haul, and stack wood. Check the outside of the house for winter-readiness. Patch or fill cracks, pull bird’s nests out of eaves.
13) Can and preserve garden. Determine if you will need a fruit cellar next year. When garden is exhausted, retill, fertilize, and put it to bed.
14) Make Christmas gifts from scratch. Winter-proof livestock shelters.
15) Stack some firewood on porch. Check wood stove for leaky gaskets, and ensure a good attachment to the chimney. Put in fire extinguishers (baking soda will do in a pinch) and smoke alarms.
16) Assume you will be iced in for a part of the winter and stock up on amusements, extra batteries, flashlights, etc. Assume that you will not be able to acquire feed for the livestock for a whole month and stock up appropriately.
17) Survive winter. Make notes on what improvements need to be made.
Years Three through Five——–
Backups for your backups
Stocking Up: A Hind-Sight Perspective
Chapter Four: Systems
“Water, Water, Everywhere (and not a drop to drink)…”
Doing Without Electricity
Heating and Cooking with Wood
Chapter Five: Ensuring Your Food’s Future
Ensuring Your Food’s Future
The Real Country Kitchen
Chapter Six: All Creatures
The Calf Leaves Home: A Tale of Civilization Versus Nature
Learning to Shear Sheep
Learning From Our Mistakes
Chapter Seven: Systems, Dominos and One-Cow Economics
Your Farm as a Business Venture
Ups and Downs, Ins and Outs, of Auctions
Chapter Eight: Protecting Yourself
Chapter Nine: Still Going? Some Things to Think About
Your Own Worst Enemy
Letting Go of the Past
Missing the City
The Full Moon