Living the Country Life I Once Knew
Turning my Reality from City to Country Living Without Moving
My husband and I plan to move to the country in a few years after he retires. In the meantime, I plan to make lemons into lemonade and take steps toward living the country life although I’m citified. In fact, I’ve lived in the big city of Springfield, IL since 1975. This blog will be an ongoing journey of making my life more like living in the country. I will be sharing my journey with you as time goes on. But first, let me tell you about my years on the farm.
I grew up in the country on Route 125 between Pleasant Plains and Springfield, IL with my parents, two brothers and sister. We moved from Loami when I was 5 because my Dad took over farming my Grandma’s land after Uncle Richard died of cancer. The house was two story, with a white stucco covering, and was surrounded by tall trees in the front, a wire fence around the big yard decorated with irises, a snowball and burning bush and several birch trees with a long clothesline. The yard was big enough my Dad and brothers used a riding lawn mower. In the front of the house on the south side, my Dad put up a rope swing with a wood slat for a seat. I spent many hours on that swing. Next to it was an old tractor tire used as a sandbox. We had a wrap around front porch on the front and north side, with a wooden swing my Dad’s Dad made. That swing is still swinging on my front porch in Springfield years later.
The house was close enough to the road we could see and hear the cars go by, probably about 200 feet away. I would sit on the front porch swing wondering where people were headed, while they drove east toward Springfield or west toward Pleasant Plains. It was a two lane state highway, with increasing traffic as the years went by. There was a stainless steel mailbox at the end of our highway, so the country mailman could just drive up and put in our daily paper and mail.
The barn was huge to me as a child, with a loft entrance in the back and front for loading straw bales. The iron water pump in front cranked out mineralized water which tasted so good. As I went in the side entrance facing our house, I stepped into a tomblike room with empty dairy stalls, covered with dust and cobwebs. This was a constant reminder of my Grandpa’s successful dairy farm, where his dairy cows were milked. My Mom often talked about waking at 5 am to milk the cows. He died when she was 15, so I did not have the privilege of knowing him. He died in the mental institution after suffering severe depression resulting from losing all his money in the stock market crash of 1929. I would think of this loss every time I stepped through the room. The next room was for raising baby piggies. This was a supplemental income for my Dad and he would have a new round of baby pigs every year in the winter. The largest section of the barn had the ladder to the loft where I spent many hours jumping from one pile of haybales to another pile and swinging like Tarzan. My older brothers installed a basketball hoop. We had up to 15 outside cats at one point and the mama cat would often have her kittens there. I took it upon myself to raise them as tame cats and they were good companions.
The shed was beyond the barn after going through one of many gates to enclose the pigs. There Dad had an endless supply of tools on his tool bench which stretched the width of the barn. I would often be his assistant and hand him the proper tool for whatever he was working on. The shed housed the combine and a few other implements with the overflow outside. Every year the combine would break down at least once, which meant considerable delay and time was crucial at harvest to get the crops in. We were blessed with a large crop of blackberry bushes close to the shed, although I can’t say I enjoyed being stuck with the thorns. Perhaps that’s why blackberry is my favorite pie, after all the work involved in putting it on the table.
To the side of the house was a chicken house and gated yard. We had a small brood house where we placed lamps to warm new chicks bought yearly at the feed store. This was an exciting time of year as everyone knows how cute baby chicks are. It was my job to gather the eggs at night and bring them in for frying every morning. When we nursed an injured mallard duck back to health, she stayed and shared the chicken yard. She became a little too fat to fly. My Dad would kid me about having pet duck for supper. One night a varmit did exactly that. My poor pet duck.
The front yard had four huge trees towering over the house, which became my play house as each shadow represented rooms toplay house in. This became the site for many fun crochet and badminton games with my older brothers and sister. I became quite good at both games, actually.
One of my favorite pastimes was walking down to the end of the lane. Our farm covered 125 acres and the lane was about a half mile. There was a small creek toward the end of the land which snaked beneath a wooden bridge. There were always cattails and red winged blackbirds, high reeds and prairie grass. I often gazed back at our homestead to reflect upon life. I always had a different perspective when I returned to the house. It was refreshing. Every year I would help bring in the pigs which had grazed at the end of the lane for part of the summer. The dogs were especially excited as they barked at the pigs, acting like sheep dogs.
Between our car garage and truck garage was our garden. It was huge, big enough for a strawberry patch and at least 10 rows of sweet corn, green beans, bush peas, cucumbers, onion, beets, lettuce, tomatoes and potatoes. We even had cantaloupe and watermelon. I would help with planting the seeds, weeding and then snapping green beans and shelling peas. I would usually do this on our porch swing. Mom spent many hours canning green beans and tomatoes, making pickles, jelly, pickled beets and preserves.
Last but not least, was pastureland leading to a small tenant house occupied by my Grandma. Her and my Uncle lived in our big house many years before he died. My Mom and her sisters and brother spent their teenage years there. Grandma lived alone and never remarried. There was a coal stove in her living room for heat and an old iron pipe stove in the kitchen. She didn’t have a bathroom, although she had enough money to install one. There were family portraits hanging from wire as was the old style. One was of my Great Great Aunt Alice who died of tuberculosis on the boat coming from England. Grandma’s cats kept her company and she had a cane covered chair to relax in right outside her porch. She raised chickens also, with a small chicken coop. She never learned how to drive, and I would ride with her while Mom drove us to town. Springfield was only 15 minutes away and we spent many days downtown at the various shops, having lunch at Thrifty and ending with ice cream at Broadwells Drug Store.
My memories are cherished, and keep me going until I can live in the country again. I will explain how I will live an alternate reality of living in the country as a citified farm girl.
Small Steps To Wholeness
Country fresh eggs would be something I would start with. I grew up on a farm and one of my daily duties was to gather the eggs. I really believe farm fresh eggs taste better. So one of the first things to put on my list would be to find a local farmer to deliver eggs to my door once every two weeks. I would prefer someone with a small chicken coop that doesn’t need all the eggs their chickens produce. I’m not talking a farmer with a huge herd of chickens in cages with machine automated systems. I’m talking free range chickens from the small farm like my Dad farmed. Since I wrote this, I have found a friend who started raising chickens and she gave me a dozen.
Having a Garden or Partnering with a Neighborhood Coop
I know I’m getting old and everything, but my dream is to have a garden again. We have trees that have grown so tall at our house in the last 29 years, they are nice shade trees. But unfortunately this doesn’t make for good gardening. With Covid, there are not as many neighborhood gardens, but I plan to join with a coop when it is safe to do so. Hopefully next year we will be able to join together to plant and harvest a garden.
Visiting Farms Open to the Public
I am so glad farms have begun opening to the public. It is good for city folks to enjoy country living, even for a short time. I have a previous high school classmate that has a very nice farm with a horse drawn wagon ride to see mini highland cattle and mini pigs, pick pumpkins and gourds, or play on the playground. They have a corn and bean maze in the Fall. Another school classmate had an ostrich farm at one time. Anyway, there are probably several farms to visit near you.
Taking Country Drives
This fall weather is perfect for a drive, but I have taken drives to the country in the winter just to get out of the house. My husband and I have several routes we like to take. He grew up on the Northend of Springfield, IL, so we take country roads out that way. Sometimes we drive around Lake Springfield. When my daughter drove me back to her house in Missouri, we ended up on gravel roads, despite using the GPS. I loved it! Be adventurous and get out of the city. Get off the interstate and take a county road, or even a paved road off the beaten path. You’ll be glad you did.
Wineries have become more prevalent in Illinois as never before. Explore on the internet if there are any nearby. We have several within a half hour or hour drive. Usually you have to drive a ways in the country before getting there.
Festivals and Events in Small Towns
Scroll the internet or pick up a local weekly paper that lists events for the season. There are many Fall Festivals nearby. Hopefully you can find some that are surrounded by miles of countryside. Visiting a small town gives you a feel for the town and its culture.
There is nothing better than to feel the local paper in your hands to read while drinking your coffee in the morning. The newspaper was delivered to our mailbox by the highway. I really miss that. I recently subscribed to our local paper. I might even add a big city paper to get another perspective.
Bringing the Country Indoors
Make your home a country haven. The retail market makes that easy as I see many farm and country related decorations. Pictures of country scenes soothe the soul and you can see them everyday in your living room. As I stand in a nearby Home decorating shop, I see plaques with the words Farmhouse or Biscuits, pictures of coal buckets, chickens and barnyard animals. etc. You can decorate with country quilts and linens, a farmhouse table, mason jars, and milk bottles. I’ve taken out all my childhood farm toys and placed them on the kitchen shelves with Rooster pot holders, burner covers and dish towels.
One of the joys of living in the country are getting to know your neighbors. I went to a small grade and high school in Pleasant Plains, IL. We had approximately 57 in our graduating class. It was easy to know each other well. When my Dad went to Farm Bureau meetings or fertilizer company events, he already had met most of the people there. So I usually knew who lived in what house all the way into Pleasant Plains. We would visit the neighbors we knew better, which were within half a mile on either side. When someone was sick or had a death in the family, people would visit and bring along a meal for them.
In the city, most people don’t know their neighbors beyond the ones next door. One way to get to know your neighbors is by joining the local Neighborhood Association. We meet bimonthly to discuss neighborhood issues and projects and have Neighborhood Watch meetings every other month. Normally we have an annual neighborhood picnic, which was not possible this year because of Covid. I take walks around my house and I’ve met several people that way.
Finding Contentment As a Citified Country Girl
I have to remember to be content with where I live and what I am doing, for this is what God intended for me. He will move me by His Holy Spirit to look for a country home according to His timing.
A Bible verse I like is 1 Timothy 6:6-8 NIV, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
Ecclesiastes 5:19 “Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil-this is a gift of God’s.”
Psalm 16: 5-6 “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.
So be content with your lot, for God knows what you need. Do not get ahead of God. He will lead you at the proper time when or if it is time to move to the country.