Earlier this evening, Tres was sitting on the windowsill of the living-room window that opens onto the front deck, and he was yowling and yowling and yowling. So I got up to see what had him so agitated. I turned off the room light, and I peered out the window. I could definitely sense something was there, but at first I couldn't tell what. Gradually, as my eyes became adjusted to the dark, I first became aware of a pair of eyes that intermittently made their presence known by the occasional flicker of reflected light. Then, as my eyes became more dark-adjusted, I began to see the occasional flash of white. Eventually, I was able to make out two white bands, roughly parallel, elegantly curving, narrowing down to a graceful point. Yep, Tres wanted to make friends with a skunk.
That got me to thinking. So many people want to move out into the country, but they're not prepared for the inconveniences. One community in New Mexico even went so far as to produce a brochure to explain the trade-offs to prospective buyers of rural property, but business leaders and some (but far from all) real-estate people didn't like having a document around that discouraged prospective residents -- never mind that people who aren't prepared for rural life shouldn't move to the country.
So we get city folks moving out into the country, or the woods, or wherever, who just don't understand the hardships, and who then try to make the country into what they thought it should be. They try to impose city standards on country living, and they have unrealistic expectations -- they expect to live in a place that has clean, sweet-smelling air to breathe, and lots of peace and quiet, but they also expect convenience and services that they might have thought were available everywhere, but which, in reality, don't happen in the country, such as having people come by once or twice a week in a truck to pick up the trash.
True story: A woman in a rural community near Albuquerque was peacefully minding her business: She raised hogs and boarded horses, as well as growing a few acres of alfalfa to feed the horses. Her family had been doing the same thing with the land for more than 50 years. A very wealthy person bought the next farm over and constructed a million-dollar mansion. Once the new neighbor moved into the mansion, he sued the farmer, because her operations caused unpleasant odors and drew flies. That particular case, the rich guy lost, because the hog-and-horse operation had existed before he bought his property.
But still, there are a whole lot of people who are not millionaires, but who believe that when they move to the country, they're getting rid of big-city problems, and that the country doesn't have any problems.
First: The country contains livestock -- that is, farm animals. The "fresh air" that the country has is, indeed, free of industrial fumes and motor vehicle exhaust, but where there's livestock, there's manure, and manure smells. A responsible farmer will manage manure in a way that reduces the odor, but there's no way to eliminate it completely. Likewise the "peace and quiet" of the country is far from silent. Livestock makes noise. Cows moo, chickens cluck, and roosters crow. If a person has trouble sleeping because of all the city noise, that person will have the same problems with country noise -- although a rooster crowing would generally not be as alarming as a police siren.
Second: The country contains wildlife. If you plant a garden full of stuff that rabbits and deer love, the rabbits and deer will eat it. If you allow a small dog to stray, it will become a meal for something -- a coyote, hawk, eagle, owl, bobcat, bear, or possibly even a mountain lion. If you move into a neighborhood full of deer, you have no right to complain when they eat your vegetable garden. If you want a vegetable garden, you should not move to a place where the deer eat vegetable gardens, unless you're prepared to protect your vegetable garden with an 8-foot-high electric fence. And you should not expect the government or neighborhood association to pay for your electric fence.
Third: The country is not full-service living. In general, people who live in the country don't get ANYTHING delivered to the door. Mail is usually at a post office box, or at a community mail station out at the nearest highway. Deliveries from FedEx and UPS go to someone else who has an address on a public road -- in the case of Five O'Clock Somewhere, it's a restaurant out on the highway. Trash is not picked up from the front of the driveway; it has to be taken to a transfer station a few miles away. Telephone service and electricity are far less reliable than in the city, because the lines are stretched out over many miles. Road maintenance is different, too. Many properties are on private roads, which means the government isn't maintaining the road. Homeowners have to pool their money with others who live along that road to keep it up. Here at Five O'Clock Somewhere, the organization that maintains the road does an excellent job. Our road has been called the best private road in Rio Arriba County. But anyone who is thinking of buying a rural property should check out the road maintenance before completing the sale.
Rural living has immense rewards. But it also has drawbacks, and it is important that anyone who buys a rural property should understand what those drawbacks are and be prepared to live with them.