Goodbye Country Life…Hello Good Slice
With the exception of a year living in town while I went to college and two years back in the late eighties, I have lived in the country my entire life. There have been times I have driven through a residential section while going to garage sales and felt my chest tighten at the sight of all those houses hovering so close together. I have always been a homesteader at heart. My grandparents settled on a quarter section of land (160 acres) only four miles from where I live today. They came here by rail and then by horse and wagon. My grandfather had arrived a few months earlier to build the “temporary” log home for his wife and three year old daughter and one year old son (my Dad!). My grandparents would live in that log home until my grandfather died of a stroke in his early fifties. When I was a child I regretted not meeting him, but comforted myself with the fact he had lived a good long life. I mean…fifty!
That’s like, really old.
I turned fifty last year. Turns out it’s not so old after all. Scott Nearing–who wrote the back to the land bible on simple living titled “The Good Life” from which this blog draws its name–left the city and started living “The Good Life” in Vermont in 1932 when he was 49 years old and continued to do so until he died at 100. And yet lately my husband and I have started discussing the unthinkable…moving to town.
Don’t get me wrong…I love my life in the country. I love growing our own food. I love the wide open spaces and being able to take out the ashes or grab an armload of firewood in my housecoat and gumboots without worrying about anyone seeing me. But there are problems with our good life. My husband owns a hardware store in a town 45 minutes away. He has been commuting to the store for over 20 years. In that time we have gone through three trucks, two cars and a Jeep and a whole lot of fossil fuel. No matter how much pride I take in my massive vegetable garden, my berry bushes, my freezer full of produce, my own dried herbs and a cupboard full of honey from my own hives of bees and in the past, the eggs from our own chickens and the milk from our own goats, I can’t pretend we are living the green life. There is no dancing around the fact we are leaving a dirty footprint on this earth I profess to love so much.
From the beginning I wanted my husband to sell the store and live the Good Life along with me, to be the Scott to my Helen. There is just one problem. He doesn’t want to. He loves his work, just as I love mine. But he also, bless his heart, loves living in the country. However, it takes its toll. He leaves at 7 am and is rarely home before 7 pm at night. We have at least six months of winter during which he spends another half hour at the end of the day snowblading our driveway and wrestling with frozen taps while hauling water to our cistern. It was me that brought up the idea of moving closer to town. I was worried about the stress of commuting added to the stress of his work. He was against it. We argued about the pros and cons over the weekend. On Monday he headed off for work at 7 am. At 7:15 am the phone rang. He was stuck. The snow was flying, the winds were howling and the road was drifting in as fast as he could shovel himself out. The assistant manager had quit two weeks earlier citing health reasons and the only other person with a key to the store was on holidays. Was this stress? Oh, yeah.
“I bet living in town looks pretty good to you right now,” I joked.
“List the property,” he joked back.
That night we talked about it again, tentatively. We were both terrified. What if we sold what has been our oasis and hated it in town? What if we realized we should have done it years ago? We have loved our little log home since the first time we walked into it 16 years ago. I am glad we raised our sons here. But now they’re grown and gone, both living in big cities themselves. Millions of people big. The town we’re proposing to move to is only 20,000 people big! A village by comparison. The bottom line is I am adaptable and I do believe that to truly live the good life your foot print should be as small as possible. If you’re not on the land more than you’re on the road, you should probably be in town. And of course you can live the good life in the city. Community gardens, front lawns transformed into vegetable beds and urban farmers are proving that every day.
We’re still a few years from retiring. Living in the country isn’t getting any easier on us, or on the land. Maybe we will move back to the country after he retires.
What a decision to make! Or is it even a decision at all…
I wrote this post a year and a half ago. Since then we sold our little log house in the woods and moved to town. Soaring real estate prices meant all the houses in our price range were fixer uppers. We both were working full time at the store and exhausted. Fixer upper’s did not look appealing. And so we did the unthinkable. We bought a condo. Not a duplex with a mini-yard but an apartment. On the fourth floor. With NO yard! Just a balcony. Instead of 45 minutes we are now four minutes from work. And so here we are, learning to live the Good Slice multi-density housing style.