Before you pack up and move off to a cute little country home, you may need to make a few lifestyle changes. Here are five to get you and your family on the road to living in the country. The main thing to remember is “do it yourself.”
First, lose any excess weight, get your strength and energy up and improve flexibility. You need to be able to bend and kneel for gardening, hike up and downhill to check all the facilities and activities on your property, lift and carry tools and supplies for repairs and, in case you lose electricity, use hand tools to saw downed trees and fix pipes. If one or more disabilities prevent you from doing these activities, now is the time to figure out your accommodations and backup plans. This is also a great opportunity to learn first aid and keep supplies handy. Living in the country is full of ups and downs.
Next, downsize your stuff. Sell, donate or give to family and friends anything you can manage to live without. Convert your home library from books to e-readers and your scrapbooks and photos to battery-operated digital or web-based products. This will simplify cleaning, help you live in less space and reduce your electricity usage. Electricity bills for living in the country tend to be more expensive. Small country homes mean lower electric bills. When you convert to alternative energy, your kilowatts need to already be as low as they can go. Your storage priorities will switch to protecting tools, generators and ATVs.
Mice are a part of living in the country. To reduce rodent problems, wrap gaps around pipes with steel wool and seal with insulating spray foam. Keep surfaces clean and food properly stored. Replace cardboard storage boxes with clear plastic tote boxes with latching lids. Stock up on assorted sizes, along with zippered plastic bags. Get plenty of cedar balls and disposable dampness reduction salt buckets with pet proof covers and gridded lids. Stick some of each in your tote boxes for further pest control and mold protection. If possible, adopt a pair of cats from your local shelter. They’re the least toxic and most effective method of rodent control. Plus, they’re great for companionship and security. Be sure to have your feline friends spayed or neutered and apply vinyl claw covers to avoid problems. Eliminate poisons for pet and human safety.
While getting ready for living in the country, learn to preserve your own food. Save on fresh produce by joining a community supported agriculture (CSA) group or shopping your local farmer’s market. Invest in a large food processor, dehydrator, pressure cooker, vacuum sealer and related supplies. Most of these products include instructions and recipes in their packaging, with more available on the web. Forget about freezing for the most part, as refrigerator freezer compartments fill quickly and deep freezes drive up your electric bill. Beyond leftovers, dehydration and canning require the least electricity for storage.
Once you practice food preservation a few times, the process will become more convenient. This single lifestyle change will pay you back in time, money and healthcare savings. Imagine simply reaching into your pantry for home-canned gifts for any occasion and healthy meals ready in minutes, with the added bonus of recyclable packaging. Your dehydrated and canned goods will also become currency for bartering, another living in the country habit.
Exchange your city car for an economical minivan and a hauling trailer. Living in the country requires a chassis that is up off the ground and has plenty of cubic footage and towing capacity. Sooner or later, your mower will need to go into the shop for maintenance or repairs, hence, the trailer. Learn to use jumper cables, change the battery and tires, check the basics under the hood and deal with the trailer. Keep a crate of fluids, automotive sprays, funnels, tools, jumper cables, squeegee, scraper and hand wipes in the hatch. Living in the country, homes are spread out across greater distances, so you could easily end up being your own auto club or helping a neighbor.
Integrating these lifestyle changes now will make the transition to country life much easier for you and your family. See my next article on Living in the Country: Country Homes.