[Originally published: January 24, 2017]
Let me tell you a bit about our quaint little farm… We live about a quarter mile off a narrow, but paved, country road. Generally, the only traffic we have going by our house are our neighbors, to whom we always give a “country wave” when we pass. It’s quiet – aside from the cows mooing at dinnertime and birds chirping at 4 a.m. Our house, barns, and shop sit atop a slight hill which allows us to see for miles around. We are surrounded on all sides by green pasture followed by corn and bean fields. Our dog can run freely, our farm cats come and go as they please, and my kids have ample spaces to play and explore. It’s peaceful, it’s picturesque, and it’s perf—– Actually, no. It is FAR from perfect…
Growing up in a town of 850 people, I thought I understood country living. But no. There are many, MANY aspects of living on a farm which I had no idea of. Let me enlighten you to a few:
Farm Smells – Sure, everyone knows farms can be kind of stinky. However, the level of stench drastically depends on both the type of farm and the time of year. We have cattle. So we deal with the smell of cow poop daily. The surprising thing is that the smell changes depending on what the cows eat. The direction of the wind also impacts the level of stink you have coming at you. Some days it is so stinky that it’s actually counterproductive to open up the windows to air out the house! Other bad farm smells make it inside on my farmer’s clothing. Smells like diesel fuel, welding, chemicals, and old rotting silage all plague my laundry room.
Garbage – While garbage pickup is an option where I live, it’s pricey. Country folks who don’t have the luxury of regular garbage pickup have other options such as a dumpster, burning their garbage on the farm, or transporting it to the city dump themselves. Household garbage is handled a bit differently from when I lived in town though. Instead of just putting any old thing in the trash, it’s divided out a bit better. Lots of farm families I know will collect their compostable kitchen waste and either put it in their compost pile that they’ll later use for gardening or just dump it in the cornfield. Recycling is collected and transported to a recycling center in town.
Well Water – Being without city water might be the most life-changing aspect of farm life I face. Some family and neighbors have to be conscious of the amount of water they use based on the depth of their well and recent amounts of precipitation — sometimes your well CAN. RUN. DRY. And that’s a scary thing! Luckily for us, we have a very deep well that’s on the Mohomet Aquafer (ie: a big underground river that will virtually never run dry) and I don’t have to keep track of the amount of laundry I’m doing or make my kids bathe together in 2 inches of water. I should mention that even though we have plenty of water, and it’s safe to drink, we have very hard water with high sulfur and rust contents. We spend a lot of money on softener salt.
Septic Tank – We have a septic tank. Sometimes it gets full. Enough said.
Power Outages – In my experience with country living, the power outages always seem to happen in the dead of winter. City people deal with power outages too, but in the country when there’s a power outage, it is much more difficult for the power company to come repair the lines during an ice storm on slick, unsalted country roads than in town, meaning our power can be out for days instead of hours. This is when our scenic hill and drafty old farmhouse don’t get along. Without power, our propane furnace is unable to ignite and the cold winter wind whips through our home. I’m talking a breeze through our power outlets kind of draft. And let me tell you! It only takes one (freezing) time to realize that your generator is insufficient and can’t keep up with the amount of power needed. I should mention, though, that some of our generator’s power is allocated to our cattle – can’t have the automatic waterer freezing up!
Liquid Propane – Since we’re not on a natural gas line, like in town, we have to purchase liquid propane (aka LP) to heat our home and run some appliances. LP is delivered by a gas truck which drags a hose through your yard to fill a big ugly tank sitting in your kids’ play area. The tank usually holds approx. 500-1000 gal. of propane. The price fluctuates similarly to the way gasoline or corn prices change. Time of year also affects the price, making it cheaper in the summer and more expensive in the winter. Propane is definitely more costly than natural gas but it is essential for heating our home. Some people also use propane for their stove, clothes dryer, and water heater.
Sometimes it really feels like I’m totally living off the grid in central IL, but as much of an inconvenience some of these things are, I truly wouldn’t trade it in for a city life any day of the week! I take a little pride in knowing that should there be a zombie apocalypse, we could survive on our own power, water, food, tools, and toilet!