As we get settled here, more ideas occur to me on what can make life a bit easier, or at least a bit easier to bear.
1. Don’t be proud. Accept offered help, call the friendly neighbour, introduce yourself. You may need them, they may need you, and it does get quiet and lonely out here.
2. Take a day off and make some ice cream. Once the animals are fed and there is at least bread and peanut butter in the house, give yourself a day off occasionally.
3. Have enough softwood on hand to start a fire. This is always a challenge for us. I don’t want to spend good money on pine, honestly. So it is either scavenge pretty well or bite the bullet and buy.
4. Don’t be a thief. Things not to steal: Someone’s time, lost items by the side of the road, things bought on the “pay you next week” plan. My landlady had a good way of putting it, when I praised her for being so completely honest with the insurance company: “Isn’t my integrity worth more than $500?” Your integrity, and the trust people will put in you for having it, is worth more than whatever small amount you gained by some random dishonesty. Another petty “theft” to avoid: Furniture, tools, materials from “abandoned” buildings – tempting to just take them, thinking they are long forgotten, but they aren’t, necessarily, so stay out of other people’s barns and old houses. People have been prosecuted and gone to court over the old table, the butter churn, the windows, they harvested from “abandoned” buildings. I am still replacing scythes, hay forks and hand tools thieves took from my shed a couple of years ago, and I lost heirlooms when my garage was raided while we were in the process of moving. As for items that literally fell off the back of a truck – ask the owner of the property on which it is resting if you can take it away.
5. Be a good tenant. While we will never win any “House Beautiful” contests, I do make it a point to keep trash and loose items stowed properly, and we notify the landlord immediately of any problems rather than waiting to see if it is getting worse. Rent paid on time is always welcome, too!
6. Know when to move on. Not necessarily from your croft, but don’t overstay your welcome in borrowed sheds, barns, fields. It can sour a good relationship with your landlord, neighbours, friends and relatives when you leave livestock, car parts, old furniture and household bits and bobs in their space.
7. Join a church. Rural communities are often centred on churches. If you are not deeply opposed to organized religion and have at least some heart for the spiritual, being part of an established church will give you not only food for your soul, but a network of people who will refer, help, listen and show up in an emergency.
8. Work on projects in stages. We need to put up fence, build a chicken coop, and continue to beat a garden into shape. Things did not go as we hoped or expected for a wide scope of reasons. When life events gang up on you, throttle back, relax, break each planned task into smaller parts and do what you can. Otherwise, you will be tempted to give up.
9. The reality will not match the dream in your head. I would have loved a river view, upland farm with a big barn and established fences. I have a small croft up a cliff, mostly level, with an old garage and no fence. I could have said, “No, this isn’t it,” but we would have missed honest and charitable landlords, a well-drained soil, the opportunity to rebuild a small farm, and proximity to a community we know and love.
10. Be encouraged by small gains. Chickens are laying after weeks of adjusting feed and housing? Excellent! The lettuce is up even if cutworms ate the tomatoes? Have Casear salad. No money, petrol or time for an evening trip to town for dinner and the theatre? Invite the neighbours in for coffee and Scrabble.
So maybe you have to forget all the enthusiastic blogs you’ve read, and relegate cravings for big city pizza to the next get-together with your family. Maybe it isn’t all Sunshine Family and John Denver. It’s still a good way to live.