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The Difference a Year Makes

August 7, 2017

A little over a year ago my husband and I packed up all our worldly possessions and moved from a nice house in an urban setting (a city that was getting far too crowded, noisy and busy to suit our dispositions) to a much larger country property in a rural community approximately 85 km (50 miles) to the southwest (a ‘retirement plan’ we’d been discussing from the time we first met; see When Someday Becomes Today).

When you reach ‘a certain age’, you think you pretty much know everything you need to know in order to survive and thrive in any environment. I didn’t think there was an awful lot about living ‘in the country’ that I wasn’t at least vaguely aware of, or knowledgeable about. How wrong I was! Here are (some of) the things I’ve learned in the last year:

  • There are more shades of green in the country than I ever could have imagined.
  • March7_Sunset2

    Country Sunset

    When the sun goes down (or the power goes out), it is ‘pitch black’ outside. (I didn’t really understand that term until one evening, shortly after we’d moved here, when I had to drive home after dark on then-unfamiliar roads; at the time I didn’t even know where the ‘high beam’ controller was on my car – because I’d never had to use it in the ‘ambient light’ environment of a big urban centre.) But when the sun DOES go down, it’s quite often the most spectacular sight on earth!

  • Time and distance have a completely different relationship in the country than in the city (see my earlier post on The Time Distance Paradox).
  • It doesn’t matter how often you travel the same country roads; the view is different every single time (because there’s always something growing, dying back, or changing colour).
  • PileatedWoodpeckerHoles

    A pileated woodpecker  did this!

    The bigger the woodpecker, the larger the holes it drills in trees. We have small downey and hairy, larger (mid-sized) red-headed and red-bellied, and huge pileated woodpeckers in our forest; the holes drilled by the latter are enormous (and pileated woodpeckers look like pterodactyls when they’re flying).

  • Chipmunks and squirrels are not afraid of humans; I believe they see us as the ‘interlopers’ in THEIR territory and often make their annoyance with us known (by chattering loudly and/or staking a claim to their spaces; see The True Meaning of Tenacity).
  • Dragonflies and damselflies come in every conceivable size, shape and colour (and they eat mosquito larvae – how advantageous is that?!?!?)
  • TurkeyVultures

    Three of 11 turkey vultures sitting in my tree

    Turkey vultures ‘roost’ from sunset until early morning in groups in tall trees (that one particular family group of up to 15 of these enormous birds chose a pine tree in my front yard for this purpose pleases me no end); they spread their immense wings to wash them during a rainstorm and to dry them on a sunny morning (the sunlight apparently also kills any bacteria lurking in their feathers). And when they ‘launch’ themselves (one after the other) from the tree, the sound their wings makes is reminiscent of someone shaking out a rug or a very heavy blanket.

  • No matter how often you weed a garden, the weeds will be back within days; it’s a never-ending cycle (something I have yet to come to accept!)
  • Poison ivy can grow in the forest as a low-lying plant, a shrub, and/or a vine; it’s insidious and can only be killed by pulling it up by the roots (NOT recommended for those who are sensitive to its caustic oils, like me) or spraying with a highly controlled herbicide (available in urban areas because it grows EVERYWHERE!) Fortunately, my husband seems unaffected by the nasty plant and has managed to eradicate it – by spraying the low lying plants and yanking the vines out by the roots – from the garden areas and pathways along the edge of our forest (but not before I suffered from a rash on my forearms and parts of my legs last fall).
  • SouthernOntarioWeeds

    A field of ‘weeds’

    Most of our native (southern Ontario) roadside ‘weeds’ (misunderstood wildflowers, IMO) have either purple or yellow flowers (with the occasional white, blue, pink or orange thrown in for contrast); they grow to great heights during a wet spring/summer season, and attract an impressive number of birds and butterflies (and they grow back within a week of being cut down by the shoulder-clearing county tractor).

  • In the city, far too many drivers (IMO) think a yellow light means ‘speed up’; in the country, we have yabos (usually in tricked-out pickup trucks) who think a solid (or even a double) yellow line is merely a ‘suggestion’ not to pass other motorists (so you can never assume that the vehicle in your rear view mirror is going to follow the rules!) This is one of the only ‘negatives’ I’ve encountered out here.
  • As a counter-point to the observation above, nearly everyone slows down and/or pulls over to the far side of the road (and WAVES!) when they see a couple of former ‘townies’ walking along the side of the road (something very few people seem to do out here; we, however, thoroughly enjoy our daily walks).
  • Speaking of walking: ‘going to the corner and back’ is a 2.5 km (1.5 mile) walk (either north or south); ‘going around the block’ is a 5 km (3 mile) trek; we do the first almost daily (sometimes extending our strolls ‘around the corner’ and going 1 km or so further); we’ve done the second walk only once so far (but plan to do it again before the summer is over).
  • FrozenFog2_Jan15_2017

    Frozen fog on the side of the house

    Fog is nothing more than very low lying cloud; on early fall mornings, it spreads its floating tendrils all the way from the ground to the tops of the tallest trees (around 100 feet) and beyond; this low moisture is what makes the area good for growing crops like tobacco and ginseng. And in the winter, we have frozen fog (something I didn’t even know existed) – it sticks to horizontal (like the sides of the house) as well as vertical surfaces.

  • Nearly everyone who lives and works outside the ‘big urban centres’ is friendly, accommodating, helpful, and just plain NICE; we’ve encountered very few people who are rude, dismissive, uncooperative, or unhelpful (a far-too-common occurrence in ‘the city’).
  • The local (small town) grocery store is considered ‘busy’ when there are more than six cars in the parking lot; the Beer Store, hardware store, and LCBO (liquor store) rarely have more than one person at a time shopping in them (oftentimes there are more [helpful] staff than customers in the stores).
  • ‘Public servants’ really are public servants. The workers in the post office (where we had to pick up our mail until our mailbox was installed at the end of the driveway) remembered me after only one visit; the local Librarian not only remembered my name and my reading preferences after meeting me once, but was soon recommending books for me to read, and calling me personally when a book I’ve put on hold arrives (and speaking of ‘holds’ – in the city, a new release would generally have anywhere from 12 to 100 ‘holds’ on it by the time I saw it listed in the Library  newsletter; here, a new release has maybe 2 or 3 people wanting to read the book ahead of me; I feel like I’m always up to date!); the MTO (Ministry of Transport) office is never, ever busy (in ‘the city’ there would be lineups out the doors; here, we’ve been the only ones in the place!)
  • OttervilleCarShow

    Otterville Classic Car Show

    Every small town has at least one ‘festival’ during the spring/summer/fall months. From nostalgia days to maple syrup and ice cream festivals to harvest festivals (not to mention truck and tractor pulls, classic car displays, swap meets and local horticultural show/sales, and the Canada 150 celebrations this year) there is something for everyone (and something you can ‘do’ nearly every single weekend from early April through late October).

  • Encountering ‘traffic’ on a drive to town (8 km / 5 miles away) means seeing one or two vehicles on the road; even a drive to the nearest city (25 km / 15 miles) is a pleasant experience, with no more than a few dozen cars travelling on the roads with you.
  • There’s something enormously satisfying about eating locally-grown food, and enjoying plants and flowers purchased from a roadside stand or market (especially considering you are contributing to the local economy at the same time).

I’m sure there are many more things yet to learn as we continue to live our dream here on … the other side of 55.

  1. Fassel permalink
    August 9, 2017 6:34 pm

    Amazing post. I love the little details and how you described them. I felt like I was living there myself. Reminds me of those children’s story books with quiet and peaceful small village environment. 🙂 Good luck to you.

    • August 9, 2017 7:26 pm

      That’s very much the atmosphere out here – calm, peaceful, content.

  2. Margy permalink
    August 8, 2017 8:37 pm

    It really does sound like you have found your perfect happy place!
    Our rural happy place is wonderful too, except it is a now too close to the once small town that has turned into a fast growing city.

    • August 9, 2017 8:33 am

      When we were looking, we specifically stayed away from anyplace that looked like it might become victim to urban sprawl. I’m shocked, however, at how many new homes (even full subdivisions) are being built in small towns ‘in the middle of nowhere’. I suppose the cost to build/buy is far cheaper than in urban areas and people don’t mind the commute (we have several smallish ‘cities’ within a 20 minute drive; even Toronto is only an hour away on a good day). Our ‘street’ (1.25 km long) only has 5 homes on it (each on 3 – 5 acres) and we’re surrounded by huge swaths of protected forest so we should be okay (thank goodness!)

  3. August 8, 2017 5:42 pm

    Sounds like paradise to me. I love how clearly you described your surroundings; it almost felt like I was there.

  4. wanderingseniors permalink
    August 8, 2017 9:29 am

    I’m so jealous, but I’m glad you found your perfect place.

    • August 8, 2017 10:18 am

      Someone once told me that envy is merely a ‘nudge’ towards something you want. So – go out and find your own ‘perfect place’! 🙂

  5. August 7, 2017 9:07 pm

    Sounds wonderful!

  6. August 7, 2017 12:15 pm

    Isn’t life in the country grand? Sounds like you are acclimating quite well and loving every minute (well, except for that poison ivy!). I wouldn’t trade rural life for anything, and I’m so glad we made this move many years ago. Obviously, you are too! So good to see you in the blogging world today. 🙂

    • August 7, 2017 12:43 pm

      Thanks. I’ve had so much on my plate lately that its been hard to get (back) to blogging. We’re certainly LOVING it here (and wish we’d made the move years ago!) Sometimes its hard to believe we’ve been here a whole year, and at other times, its like we’ve ALWAYS been here (it certainly feels like ‘home’).

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