All of my growing-up years, I craved being in the country, out of town. I never cared for having neighbors, being crowded and having people watch me as I walked down the street or rode my bike or skated on the sidewalk. My favorite place, if I could find, was alone in a tree top or in a “cave” in a secluded woods somewhere near the house we lived in. But never in a shopping center, a store or a crowded concert somewhere. As I grew, I insisted that I would marry a rich rancher which would allow me to live on a ranch, away from people and out on the land with animals surrounding me. Well …. I got part of my wish. I married a rancher’s son, although not “rich.” I did find, however, that he was more comfortable with being on the land with something to do with his hands. He was not a shopper, a “go-er for the sake of going” type of person.
We eventually ended up on land in South Dakota as our girls grew up, twenty miles from the nearest town. Norm was an industrial arts teacher at a local high school; I stayed home to raise children and animals to my heart’s content. This lasted for about fifteen blissful years, then we moved to the outskirts of Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the middle of big city happenings.
We lived for over ten years in a mobile home park with neighbors to the left of us, neighbors to the right of us, neighbors in the front of us, and neighbors in the back of us. We were limited to dogs and cats (two of either or in combination). Did our neighbors quarrel? We heard all of it. Did our neighbors have noisy children? They were probably in our yard. Did our neighbors play loud, obnoxious (to me) music? We heard it, day and night. I was drowning in people, suffocating for lack of free air, for freedom to do what I liked, when I liked, where I liked without rules and without people watching me, always watching me. I could feel eyes on my back even inside my own home.
Then we moved to Historic Murphy’s Landing – an oasis on the banks of the Minnesota River, in the middle of the city. Green grass, growing things, farm animals, no neighbors to speak of – our closest neighbor was our friend (and boss) who lived at the Landing, as well, a quarter of a mile away. The first thing I did when we moved there was crank up my stereo and play classical music so loudly that I could hear it outside! We were in charge of the “farm,” The sheep, goats, horse, chickens and guineas were ours to care for, so I had my farm life I loved.
But however delightful it was to live at Murphy’s Landing, there were always reminders of city life beyond the fence. Trains going by day and night, jets flying overhead, cars going by at all hours of the day. Yes, I could see the stars, but there were still lights from city life shining on the edges, blurring the stars. I was still feeling the weight of the population on my shoulders.
Then came the move to our forever home – Ash Lane Farm – in southwestern Minnesota. Now THIS was more like it – no trains, no planes, no automobiles (well, hardly any). The closest neighbor is half a mile away; the grove surrounds us on two sides so that we are very secluded. I can do what I like, when I like, how I like with no one – NO ONE – watching me!
In my favorite time of year, springtime, it hits home more strongly that I love being out in the country more than anywhere else on earth. Spring, when the air is hot in the sun, cool in the shade; on rare windless days you can sit and listen to grass growing and birds singing. All is green around you; the grass is full of tiny suns that slip into white before flying into a million seeds to start the process over again. Flowers are blooming on the ground and in the trees. Baby things are everywhere!
When we lived in South Dakota, we raised rabbits; I could sit on a bale of hay and listen to the rabbits chewing (I miss that); now I can sit and listen to the rooster crowing and the hens clucking – close enough for contentment!
I get up around seven (early for me, I am NOT an early riser, as anyone who knows me can tell you), take the dog, Peanut, outside and do chores in my pajamas and barn shoes. If it’s chilly, I throw a light jacket over my jammies and put socks on under my barn shoes. Chores consist of feeding and watering the chickens and letting them out into their yard, feeding the cats and letting them out of the barn for the day and making sure Ms. Broody is sitting on the guinea eggs instead of somewhere else – she DOES like to move around a lot!
Then I head back inside with Peanut, enjoying the birds and pheasants talking to us as we go. The early morning hours are the quietest around here. We DO have traffic, as our house is close to the road, but, excepting harvest time, rarely do I even hear a car driving by.
This past week, as my sister and brother-in-law were over for cribbage (the boys), visiting (we girls) and supper, we saw a deer coming towards the house; it was a yearling doe that had taken a detour from the grove to the stream south east of us. She showed no fear when the boys went out to look at her and talk to her.
At night the stars are so close you can pick one out of the sky and save it for a night-light. When it’s warm enough, the fireflies come out to flicker in the grasses. I like to think of them as my fairies, come to wish me a good night’s sleep.
At night, there is no noise! The farmers have finished planting the fields and anyone that has been out and about has gone home and gone to bed. When Peanut answers a call to nature, I have to take her outside. The other night it was calm, quiet, with stars overhead. I could hear two owls hooting to each other from a distance and heard a rabbit scream as something caught it for a late evening snack.
And last night? The windows were open to the night air. I smelled the fresh lilacs in a vase near my bed and heard a pheasant rooster right outside my window. I looked out in the dusk to see the rooster strutting away from the window, three rabbits playing chase-ies out under the crab apple tree and one rabbit right under my window. I could have lifted the screen out and popped him on the head with one of my window-ledge crystals if I had wanted.
This morning just before dawn, the birds were starting to sing, the mourning doves starting to coo, there was the rooster under my window again, crowing the way a pheasant crows. Not another sound in the world.
I wouldn’t trade my life in the country for all the tea in China!