City living may have its perks, but combine the congestion and crowds with the threat of the novel coronavirus, and it’s no wonder that many city dwellers these days are fleeing to greener pastures (or thinking about it).
But what is it really like to transition from the hustle and bustle of a city to the more relaxed pace of rural life? As a New Yorker who bought a summer cottage with my husband in upstate New York six years ago, I’ve come to realize that country life isn’t always so serene. In fact, certain things have happened out yonder that make me very glad that we’ve kept New York City as our main residence.
Curious about what curveballs might await if you buy a country home? Here are a few of my more surprising discoveries.
1. The country’s serene silence is often punctuated by gunfire
People in the country love their guns. I’m fully behind the Second Amendment, but we didn’t realize how much shooting takes place in small towns, especially at local gun and hunt clubs, of which there are many in our upstate county.
In fact, there’s one right across the road from our house, and the members shoot skeet early every Sunday morning—without fail. It’s loud and probably should’ve been a deal breaker for us when we considered the house, but we bought it anyway. Now we take a long walk with the dog when the popping begins.
2. Cute woodland critters will eat everything you plant
I listened to the nursery specialists and planted the flowers that deer weren’t supposed to eat, but they still come by regularly to nibble. Apparently, in a bad winter, if these animals are hungry enough they’ll forgo their usual diet and consume just about anything.
So I nixed the flowers and went with wild grasses and herbs—and the bunnies thanked me by enjoying a nice salad every chance they could. As a last resort, I’m now letting the garden slowly grow over to grass and adding mulch to tamp down any errant weeds. My dream of colorful flower beds has turned into a patchy lawn with brown bits for accent.
3. Cute woodland critters probably live inside your house
Rodents are expected in a 200-plus-year-old house, so we set traps every weekend during the colder months. (My husband is charged with mouse eradication.) But I never expected the mice would nest—and birth babies—between our bed sheets. After finding a furry family tucked inside my comfy queen bed, going to sleep has become a bit of a nail-biter, since I’m always wondering what I might find there next.
4. Dogs can’t run free
One great joy in owning a country house (we thought) would be the ability to open the door and let Django, our sweet dog, race around. But when she did venture forth, everything went south.
While chasing a possum, Django apparently charged (and frightened) the neighbor across the way and her two lap dogs. Said neighbor let me know that this was not OK on her property. Clearly getting to know our neighbors was getting off to a great start!
Next, Django proceeded to chase a mouse into the downspout of another neighbor’s house and then punctured the metal with her jaws to get the creature out. Needless to say, I was on the hook for a new downspout that had to be custom-fit and painted to match my (now irate) neighbor’s house.
5. Country dogs are huge and scary
Meanwhile, my neighbor on the other side of me has an enormous black shepherd that, I kid you not, looks a whole lot like a black bear. Even worse, this dog doesn’t have tags that jingle when it approaches, so every time it appears on our lawn, I’m convinced it’s a bear and start to panic.
I’m thinking of giving this neighbor a set of cute tags for the dog’s collar with the hope that it’ll be worn and my blood pressure will finally recover. Until then, I keep practicing deep breaths as I sink back into the deck chair on the porch of my country house and try—and fail—to relax.
All I’m saying is if you think owning a country house ushers you into a life of peace and quiet, don’t be so sure.
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