Moving to the country, gonna eat a lot of… homemade food. And not restaurant food. Almost ever.
About the Episode:
Since we moved onto our 40 acres, people have asked me many times, “How much work does it actually take to maintain that amount of property?” Now, I’m a country mouse through and through, so I’ll be taking my wild open spaces under most conditions, please. But that doesn’t mean we’re working ourselves to the bone to keep up our land!
In this episode, you’ll hear:
- Why the property you want and the time you have to maintain it may NOT match up in reality
- The cold, hard, self-sufficient truth about being in the backwoods
- How much time it REALLY does take for us to maintain our property (and all the people, plants, and animals on it)
And so much more!
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Hello and welcome to The Vernacular Life Podcast where we talk about anything and everything that goes on in our turn of the century folk Victorian home. I’m your host, Paige, as usual. There are lots of homes out there and there’s lots of old homes out there and there are lots of old homes on smaller lots or in cities.
Our old home happens to come with a whole bunch of land. Originally, the farm was purchased. The guy who built the house, he purchased the land from his in-laws and he purchased about 160 acres. We don’t have that much left, but we do have a decent amount.
I grew up on land. My husband grew up on land, so we weren’t exactly unfamiliar with living out in the country. But one of the questions that comes up a lot when I show our fields or we have farm animals and people kind of see where the farm animals are living is they’re asking how much work is it actually to live in the country.
So that’s what I want to talk to you about today because I love living on land. It speaks to my soul. I am a country mouse through and through. I can’t do the cities. I did it for a couple years and it made me a very, very sad Paige. I am undoubtedly a country person.
But it is a different kind of lifestyle than living in a city and there’s some very interesting kind of efforts that go along with that. So today we are going to be talking about how much work it actually is to live in the country and what kind of work you can expect if you are looking to move toward land of your own. We touched on it just briefly, but we have over 40 acres.
We moved here four years ago. We have done a lot of work to the land since then. I say we, but this was actually really my husband’s project. He was very frustrated by how bad the property looked when we purchased it. So he spent really three straight years cleaning it up and making it look nice and making it a lot easier to maintain.
The property was a wreck. It had really not been maintained well since a massive renovation in about 1980. At that point, a whole bunch of wooden fences were installed and there was a bunch of renovations done to the house and it pretty much just never changed. So from when we bought it, that was like 35-ish, 40 years of neglect and wear on all of these fences and all of this infrastructure. So when we got here, it looked terrible.
The biggest thing that made it look terrible were those fences. Because at one point, they had been beautiful and they had been straight and they had been painted nice, crisp white. But by this point, they were completely unpainted. They were dilapidated. They were falling down. They were rotten. They didn’t hold animals in anymore. So there was nothing to do but take them all out.
Now, when you’re living in the country, and I want to say this upfront because I’m going to probably hammer this point home over and over and over, and it’s that living in the country is as much work or as little work as you personally want it to be. The difficulty comes in that you may not be able to achieve the aesthetic that you want with the amount of work that you’re willing to put in. So if you want 40 acres of a perfectly manicured garden, you can do that. It just might take you every single waking moment of your entire life to maintain it all.
Similarly, if you want to own 400 acres and do nothing but mow a strip around your house and let everything else be wild, you can completely do that too. So even though one property has more acreage, it requires less maintenance than a 40 acre golf course. So you, as an individual or as a family, have to decide what you want your house to look like and how much you’re actually willing to put into making it look that way.
I will also say just as a little aside, it’s been my experience that in the country, people don’t really judge you the same way that they do in the city or in the suburbs for having a yard that looks a certain way. In fact, I didn’t know until I was about 12 years old that having a decaying husk of a car in the front yard was not normal. It wasn’t until I got out of kind of the rural area that I grew up in that I realized, oh, not everybody has like bath tubs and toilets and cars and washing machines in their front yard. That’s just where I’m from.
So you really have a lot more freedom because out here people tend to just sort of leave you alone. Of course, you’ll get your occasional grumpy neighbor who’s going to make things difficult. But for the most part, we live out here because we want to be left alone. We don’t live out here because we want everybody to have an opinion on our grass cuttings.
So the truth of the country is that it is going to be work. You’re going to work somewhere. So you just have to decide what kind of work you are willing to do. But like I said, it is as much or as little as you want. So our main goal and our philosophy was that we want our property to be easily maintainable with a zero turn riding mower.
That’s what we want. We want to live here forever. We’ve taken a lot of steps to kind of ensure we can age in place in this house and make sure that it will be comfortable for us if our mobility starts to go or if we start to have certain medical needs.
Part of that is that we want to be able to maintain our property with more or less just a riding mower. So what that meant is that when we moved in, all of those fences had to come out, all of them. Sitting here trying to think how many feet of fencing it was, 500 feet fencing, 700 feet fencing. It was a ridiculous number of posts and slats.
My husband just worked very diligently to take them all down. We did that because now we can mow right up to the line that we want in the field. When our neighbors hay our fields for us, they can overlap our line. It just makes it a lot easier to maintain that part of our property because we cleared up a lot of those things.
If you have seen the exterior of our house, you’ll probably also notice that I don’t really do landscaping. When we moved in, there were a whole bunch of rock flower beds and shrubs and all sorts things all around the house and we pulled out every single one because all of them required extra time to maintain around.
The flower beds were lined by all of these stacked rock walls, which were really cute when they’re maintained, but then you have to get a weed eater out and you have to get a leaf blower and sometimes snakes hide in them. Then you have to fish out the flowerbeds. It was just more work than we were willing to do.
So we cleared it out and then we seed it with grass right up to the house and it’s a much easier, more maintainable property for us. In maintaining with just a mower, it’s really about three things. It’s about no landscaping, which we already mentioned. It’s about no yard decorations. So I don’t have any mulching around trees.
When we moved in, there were kind of these decorative fence corners that were by the driveway. Then the third one is no hard to cut around fences. That’s why we took down so many of those fences because they obstructed the view and they made it difficult to mow around and so we just took it all down.
So kind of going back to the country being as much work as you want it to be, you have to figure out what that is. Some people really thrive on having a big, beautiful garden bed and a huge cutting garden and florals and wonderful landscaping around the house and that just feeds their soul. The thing is they’re willing to put in that time.
They’re willing to lay out those flowerbeds and put in those gravel walkways and pick out different plants that will thrive in the shade and the sun around their house and that’s their hobby and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s perfect.
That’s one of the best things about living in the countries. If you want a new 40 by 40 flowerbed, you can just go put one somewhere and it’s probably not going to offend anyone. That’s not where we’re at. We’re willing to do the work around the property so that we can enjoy living here and we can enjoy looking at it, but we’re not going to create kind of extra work for ourselves because gardening is neither of our hobbies.
Flowers, they don’t really do it for me. I don’t have a very good sniffer. My nose has never been particularly strong or particularly skilled at detecting sense. So smelling flowers and having different scents, it’s just… It’s not enough of a return on the time investment for me.
I’m having to kick my own behind in order to actually get into real gardening because I love canning so much. I want to be able to produce the food that I put in jars, but even that is a serious struggle. The thing about having property is it’s not necessarily different maintenance than what you have in a subdivision. Of course, there are some things that are different in a subdivision.
Usually, you don’t have to plow your driveway, or maybe you plow your driveway, but they plow the street. If you park on the street, you can get out if there’s snow. Maybe you don’t have to cut up your own fallen trees. Maybe you don’t have to do some of those kind of bigger, hairier adventures that sometimes happen in the country.
But the thing about the country is that, or really just having land and especially land without buildings, it’s like all of the maintenance that you need to do for your house. So weed eating around the building and clearing out the gutters and making sure the landscaping looks nice, you multiply that by every building you have on your property.
So we have a total of five buildings on this property, which is five sets of gutters. That’s five edges of the building weed eat around or to landscape around. That’s five foundations to worry about. That’s five roofs to worry about. It just really starts adding up. So you have to kind of be strategic about your maintenance.
Someone did ask me once what we used on our lawn to keep it free of dandelions. It just happened to be that the section of lawn I was showing was free of dandelions, but we don’t treat our yard. We don’t do anything out there because it’s different if you’re thinking about treating five acres of property versus a quarter of an acre of property.
You just can’t put the same level of care most of the time that you do if you have a smaller property. So I want you to think about three things if you are going to buy a new property or you’re trying to buy land or you’ve inherited land or basically you’re looking to increase the earth that you are responsible for, okay?
The first thing that I want to say is to figure out who you’re trying to impress with your landscaping skills or with your house maintenance skills or farm maintenance skills in a neighborhood. We know this because we lived in a subdivision for two years. You have a lot of people watching what you do. If I was being cynical, I would say it’s because the neighborhood is a little bit under stimulating. So what else are we going to do but watch what everyone else is doing with their yards? But we’re not going to be cynical so I wouldn’t say that.
But people watch you a lot and they watch to see what you’re doing. Then if you have an HOA or homeowner’s association, then they’re going to be watching what you’re doing and they’re going to be making sure that you are keeping things up to standard for the neighborhood. That just doesn’t really happen out here. I mean, maybe it happens some places. It hasn’t been my experience that that’s been an issue in all the rural places that I’ve lived.
So if you’re going to buy this property and you’re going to live in the country and you’re worried about keeping the same standards that you’ve had with a much smaller property, with a lot more people around, I would say there’s a pretty good chance that your standards can relax a little bit. You probably don’t have to keep your Christmas decorations within HOA regulations if you live out on 50 acres. If your closest neighbor is a half a mile away, I sincerely doubt they care you have a blowup Santa Claus in your front yard.
What’s funny out here is that kind of the meddling of neighbors and kind of the attempt to impose your will on your neighbors, that’s sort of the outlier. For example, where we live, nearby, there is a man who collected just a bunch of cars and he’s collected them over years so now it’s kind of like hit junkyard status.
But they’re just in part of this property and they’re over there and they’re not hurting anybody. Cows don’t mind them. It’s just he’s got a bunch of land and that’s what he wanted to do with it is to put a bunch of cars out there.
Well, he told me a story that at one point, somebody who could look across the hill and see his collection of cars or his junk yard decided that that was offensive to look at, and so went through every loophole and every way that this person possibly could find out to get him to get rid of the cars. I would say that that experience, that sounds like suburbia to me.
That sounds like a city issue. That is not really something that goes on out here in the country. Most of the time, as long as you’re not being a jerk, as long as you’re not playing your music really loud at 11:30 at night, as long as your dogs aren’t coming in and getting my chickens, I don’t care what you do.
I live out here because I want to be left alone and I assume that you live over there because you want to be left alone. So when you’re moving to the country, you’re going to have to go through a little bit of a mental reset to figure out, okay, I used to do all of these things and maintain my yard and maintain my house in a certain way because you didn’t want to deal with the HOA, you didn’t want to deal with that neighbor that always comments on your grass, but a lot of those go away out here, which is I think very freeing because it gives you the opportunity to decide, okay, how do I want my property to look, how do I want my property to be maintained?
How much work do I really want to spend? Do I want to pull all of the dandelions out of my yard in the middle of July when it’s hot as heck? No, I don’t really want to. So the first question that you’re going to ask yourself is how much do you want to work? How much do you really want to work? How much are you willing to put in? What do you want it to look like? And make sure that the person you’re trying to make happy is you and not a neighbor or not a homeowner’s association.
Now, the second thing that we’re going to talk about, this is a big one, is that you need to figure out how much you want to spend. I did a YouTube video a very long time ago about moving to the country and some things to think about. One of them is the costs associated with moving to the country or moving to a rural place, because you would think that in a city or in the suburb, you kind of have that lifestyle creep, right? If you have DoorDash, it’s really easy to spend 30 bucks on dinner a couple times a week. If you can get grocery delivery, it’s really easy to just get grocery delivery.
If you live near a bunch of nice restaurants and within walking distance, you’re more likely to go spend money and time at those restaurants. So in the city, I can see very clearly how living in a nicer area results in kind of this lifestyle creep that causes you to spend more money. But the caveat to that is that if you go from that nice swanky area with all the fancy restaurants and you plop yourself in the middle of nowhere in a little farmhouse, all of your expenses don’t suddenly disappear, okay?
No, we don’t have DoorDash out here. No, we don’t have pizza delivery. No, we don’t have grocery delivery. But the difference living in a rural property is that the expectation is that you can kind of handle your own stuff, okay? So if a tree falls across your driveway, most of the time, you’re not calling a tree service, unless it’s precarious and maybe you’re cutting down a tree as a preventative measure.
Most of the time, a tree is just something that you learn how to deal with. If you have a quarter mile long driveway and it snows, you’re plowing it. Because out here, there just aren’t really those services. There might be a few occasionally, depending on where you are, but it’s not as guaranteed as it is living in a more densely populated area.
So when you have to take care of everything by yourself, you have to spend money on tools and equipment in order to facilitate your ability to take care of that stuff. So we moved here in the summer and it was one of those where we bought a car and we bought a house and then we paid for some foundation work all within like two or three months of each other. So I’m just watching money just fly out of our bank account. It’s like, I know we’ve been saving for this. I know it’s okay. I know it’s fine, but oh, I’m getting nervous. So we were kind of trying to not spend that much money.
But being out here, we didn’t have chainsaw because we came from college apartments and then we went into a suburban house that was built two years prior and then we came out here. We had no need for a chainsaw before this. So I remember one of the very, very first big purchases, and I say big now, we renovated and spent a lot more money than this, but one of the first big purchases that we did was we went and we bought a really good chainsaw. It was a steal. It was a Farm Boss and I want to say it was $400. I remember at the time being like, “Oh my gosh. We just spent so much money and now we have a $400 chainsaw.”
It felt really bad in particular because a chainsaw is something where you need it like three times a year. Unless you’re heating with wood and you’re cutting up all your own wood, you don’t need it that often. So I felt like we had just spent this huge chunk of money on this thing that we’re not going to use that often, and oh my gosh.
Well, turns out we use that chainsaw all the time. Brandon used it to cut up all of those fences that I said were all over the property. He used it to cut down a couple dangerous trees that were needing to come down. He’s used it all over the place. It’s been a really vital piece of equipment in our efforts to clean up the property and make it easier to maintain.
So do you see how just because you’re not going out to dinner every night doesn’t mean that there’s not other expenses that come from living in the country? So most of the time, this comes in things like weed eaters, lawnmowers, power tools, generators, things that are kind of big and very specific.
They have a very specific purpose. Because if you’re out here and a tree falls down and you go over to your neighbor and say, “Hey, can I borrow a chainsaw?”, they probably would let you, but they’re also going to be like, “Oh, look at this city slicker. Doesn’t even have his own chainsaw.”
So if you’re looking at a property and you want to understand kind of how much money is going to go into maintaining it, you need to think about all of the seasons. You need to think about all of the things that you might need to do on that property. So do you have a long driveway? If so, do you have a snow plow? Do you have a truck? Do you have something that’s four-wheel drive that can get you out even if you’re snowed in? Do you have some way to mount that snowplow? Maybe you need a quad. Maybe you need a side by side.
In not the winter, if you have a bunch of rain, do you have ways to clear out fallen trees? If you have a creek that backs up all the time, do you have a chainsaw to kind of chop those things up and make sure that it clears through and keeps the creek flowing? In the summer, do you have a good lawn mower? Do you have a lawn mower that’s robust enough to handle your property? Because a lot of those nice little soft riding mowers that they sell at some of the big box stores, rural property will just beat the heck out of them. I promise.
Brandon has fixed the lawnmower that we have, which is a John Deere, multiple times because there’s rocks and there’s divots and some of the areas that he mows used to be cow pastures so there’s cow paths. You need more robust equipment the more trying to maintain.
We’re fortunate enough that we have an agreement with our neighbors where they hay our fields every year and they take most of the hay for their cows and they leave us with a couple of bales that I can use for my animals. But if we didn’t have that agreement, we have 20 some acres of cleared pasture that we would have to figure out how to maintain.
We don’t have the tractors that can pull those. We don’t have the balers and the sickles and all of the things that you need to properly get the hay out of those fields. I only bring this up because if you’re looking at a property that’s right at the top of your budget and it’s going to take all of your resources and put you in a very uncomfortable position in order to actually be able to purchase it, I would probably steer away from that property, unless you can figure out how to increase your income or make some cuts in other areas. Because there is an initial expense that you’re going to have to put out in order to just simply get the equipment to maintain your property.
So this one is less about time and it’s more just about another resource that I think people don’t think about when they move to a rural property. I just want to bring it up to you so that you don’t get caught in a situation where you are those newbie country people and you don’t know what you’re doing and you have to ask people for things. I just want you to think about all of those before you get into a rural property.
So first, we’re readjusting our standards, making sure that you are actually trying to please yourself and not an HOA or your neighbors. Then you’re going to make sure that you have enough money to spend to actually maintain the property the way that you want to do it. Then the last one is how much time do you want to spend maintaining your property?
A lot of people move out to the country and they want farm animals and they want a homestead and they want to do gardening and they want cow and chickens and all of this stuff, property maintenance isn’t necessarily a fun part of that.
Nobody wants to pull a bunch of rocks out from around the buildings so that you can mow closer. Nobody wants to clear out the gutters. It’s necessary work, but it’s certainly not nearly as fun as playing with a baby cow.
So figure out how much time you actually want to spend. I would say that typically, the time factor is what needs to be kind of the guiding principle as opposed to the appearance factor. Because you can look at a golf course, you can look at a resort that’s 50 acres, and you can see that beautiful with all of the flowers and the trees and the manicured walkways and the flowerbeds and the little gazebos.
There’s no denying that they’re gorgeous. If that’s something that really calls to you and really speaks to you, then by all means, knock yourself out. But that is a lot of time. They have full-time landscaping staff that are just dedicated to keeping it looking like that.
So if your goal is to move to the country because you want a homestead or you want to garden or you want to farm or you want to raise meat chickens or you want to have cows, if you put too much emphasis on making it look a certain way, on making it super manicured and resort worthy and magazine inspired, you’re just not going to have as much time for the real reasons that you moved out to the country.
Now, if you moved out to land because you want a whole bunch of flowerbeds, then ignore everything I said. I’m mostly speak from experience. Everything about the maintenance will take time. So pulling weeds, deciding on flowers, testing flowers out, making flowerbeds, weeding the flowerbeds, malting the flower beds, the more fanciful that you get your landscaping, the more time it’s going to take. So I just want you to make sure that you are conscious of that before you set your goals too, too high, if that makes sense.
Really, as a recap, you want to make sure that you are only trying to please yourself, nobody else, and make sure that you have the funds for it. Then you want to get an accurate, honest assessment of how much time you want to spend maintaining your property. As a last little note before I sign off here, I do get a lot of questions about how much work the animals are.
I mean, it’s a very good question because before I had any kind of farm animals, I looked at people who had chickens as the elite. You guys have clearly figured out your life and you have some kind of secret and magic that I know not of because you can keep chickens alive. That’s seriously impressive.
I got chickens. I was like, “Oh, chickens, as long as their coop is safe basically are just fine.” Make sure they have food. Make sure they have water. Otherwise, they’re completely fine. It was kind of similar with the cows. I was like, “Wow, people who have cows must be serious farm people and they know a lot of stuff.” Now, I have cows. Aside from giving them treats once a day and making sure they have water, they’re the most low maintenance chill animals ever. They don’t try to escape. They don’t try to do anything. They just hang out in the pasture and make me laugh.
So in total, we have a morning routine and a night routine for the animals. In the morning, we feed everybody and check everybody’s water. That takes maybe 10 minutes for most things for the size of our farm right now. If I’m doing something serious like replenishing hay or changing out bedding, that might take up to 30 or 45 minutes, but that’s not a super common occurrence, maybe once every couple weeks. In the evening, we do most of the same thing, except not everybody eats.
Only a few of the animals eat. The chickens only eat once a day. We’ll check water. We’ll close everybody up for the night. So that takes literally five minutes. So most of the time, maintaining all of the animals takes maybe 20 minutes a day.
Now, granted, we don’t have a whole lot. I’ve got 30-some chickens, and at the time of recording, I have two pigs and then now three cows. So I hope that this grows substantially. Brandon really wants sheep. Every time I bring up sheep, he doesn’t object. So I said, “Okay, all right. We can look at sheep. I like that.” But it’s really not as much. It’s a little bit intimidating when you first get started but not that much time.
So if you want to kind of add that into how much time does it take to live in the country and or have farm animals, for our small farm, it’s not that much. Of course, I would say if we get two or three times bigger, it would probably take me 30 minutes to an hour in the morning to feed everybody and say hi. If we milk the cow, that’s of course a whole thing. But for the most part, it’s really not too bad.
Kind of in summary, I guess, land to me is freedom because it is a way that I can go out and be outside completely by myself. I can go sit down in one of our fields and know that nobody’s going to walk up on me. I don’t have to worry about interacting with people. I don’t have to think about if someone’s going to come along my hike trail.
For me, that kind of peace and that kind of just solitude is priceless. There’s nothing more valuable than that for my mental health. So all of this stuff, how much work is it? I mean, it is work. But as you get into it, your standards start to change and you can figure out shortcuts.
If you really want the life of living in the country and living in that rural space, then you will figure out how to make it a tolerable amount of work for you. So I hope that was interesting. I hope if you are just starting a journey of looking for rural property or recently moved to a rural property or maybe have lived on rural property for a long time, I hope this maybe resonated with you and maybe gave you some things to think about that you hadn’t before. I’ve, as always, loved having you here. Thank you so much for hanging out and I will see you next time. Bye.