Living in the Country

Hello everyone,

I figure I’ll ask this question while I’m still young-ish and have more time to prepare. There’s lots of back story to this, but basically, I feel like the cities have a really poor culture and are not the best place to raise a family. As one who would like to have children someday, I sometimes think it would be best to raise children in a rural area. I imagine it would be good for children if you can afford an acreage because it would give them lots of room to run around and you don’t have to worry too much that they’ll wander into traffic since there is none. On a personal note, I think it’s good for people to be close to nature. Does anybody here have experience living in rural areas? What difficulties are there and what’s the culture like? How can you live outside a city and still get a job that pays enough to provide for several children (Coming from a large family and being positively predisposed to children, I’d like at least 5) In regards to careers I’d like to be an accountant or an actuary. I also have an interest in the liberal arts (philosophy, theology, history) unfortunately that doesn’t feed a family.

I grew up in a rural area. It was certainly close to nature with lots of room to run. It was a close-knit town and everyone knew everyone else. However, now I’m raising my kids in the city to be closer to culture (arts, music, museums, festivals) and to experience diversity. When you live in the country you may think you’ll get into the city regularly, but it gets hard with children.

There are pros and cons to both places.

I am assuming right now you are not married? I think I am probably twice your age so I’ve seen a number of things in 50+ years. My first suggestion is not to get too caught up in planning this sort of things. Where you end up living is going to depend more on what type of job you have (as well as your spouse). Rural communities may sound nice on paper or in your head but there are a number of draw backs. You will end up more isolated, there are fewer opportunities for jobs and activities for your kids, there are bigger distances to cross, and just because it’s rural doesn’t mean that it is safer at all. Crime happens anywhere and in rural areas, with being more isolated, it is easier to become a victim. Instead of getting it set in your mind what kind of areas you think is best without having really lived it, it is better to focus on a career that will support a larger family and then be willing to work wherever that career will take you for a viable job. Once that is established, then worry about the incidentals of what may follow. Don’t romatisize living in the country, there grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Well, the culture and difficulties are going to vary a lot by region of the country you choose as much as the size of the place.

I’ve lived in a small town in the South growing up, I’ve lived in the 4th largest city in the US, and now live on a farm in the Midwest.

In general, small towns can be cliquish, and if you weren’t born there or didn’t marry in you are an outsider for a long time. And everybody knows your business.

Well, the cost of living can be lower in small towns, and different parts of the country. If you have some land, you can grown a garden, or have chickens or other animals.

As for work, I work remotely. Many people do. Some also drive a goodly distance for their jobs in a larger town about an hour from here.

Having a profession such as an accountant would definitely be something that could become a business in a small town-- doing taxes for farmers is big business around here b/c the state and federal tax codes dealing with agriculture can be complex. An accountant, insurance agent, lawyer, etc, could be a business. You could also work for a company.

I would look at what industries and what larger employers are in an area to see what sort of professional jobs it can support. As I said, I work remotely. If I didn’t, I think my choices would be Walmart checker or a factory job… there’s a lot more blue collar than white collar in my area.

Hi TheGreatHill,

I agree with what 1ke said, except that we don’t work remotely here.

My husband has a commute of over an hour to get to his job to the next largest community in our area, to get to work. We live in a more rural area.

You are more reliant on a car when you live in a more rural area, because public transportation is more limited.

If you decide that you want to live in a more rural area, you will need to have a car/s to get around, or make sure that your town has some kind of public transportation, like buses or trains so that you can get around that way.

It’s great when you want to get out and about and relax, because we live by some beautiful parks and nature areas.

Based on Oregon, living in a rural area is a lot safer, right up until the time when it isn’t.

Oregon currently has a lot of problems with drugs and crime in its rural areas, particularly some of the more remote rural areas. There is a lot of territory to cover and the police in the rural counties don’t have much money at their disposal. Criminals know it, and they have been taking advantage of it. If a county depends on agriculture, logging, or mining–the money has to come from somewhere–and the main local source of employment dries up, it can get very ugly very quickly. Most places where people didn’t lock their houses in the 1960s are not places where they don’t lock their houses now. When you realize you live someone where a lock is needed, you’ll need a really good one. Would-be thieves are much less concerned with getting caught when they operate far from a high population density.

1ke is also right that it can be very hard to be the “outsider” in a rural area. You may live there 10 or 20 years, and you’re still new. Are the people “better”? It depends. There aren’t any guarantees that a rural neighborhood will be one full of people who help each other. Sometimes it is a neighborhood full of people who want to be left alone. You need to investigate these things somehow, before you move. If you know *anybody *who lives in that area, likes it, and has made friends there, that would be huge!

I guess my main caution would be that it isn’t necessarily easy to sell a rural property. The farther something is from employment, the fewer are the people who can consider living there. Look for something that you can re-sell, if you need to do that. For instance, if you have a health problem, a rural area can be a long way from medical care. When you get older, you may want a place that is easier to take care of. You’ll want to shop for groceries infrequently, because it is a drive to get to stores. If you forgot to pick something up, you just do without.

On the up side, it is usually very quiet, perhaps more quiet than you’ve ever had. I don’t mean dead quiet, but that the sounds are all natural–bird sounds, the wind, and so on. It can also be a lot darker at night, which makes the stars appear brighter. It just depends how much light pollution you get from local urban areas. The air, likewise, can be great or if you are downwind from an urban area, it can be as bad or worse than the city. You can have large animals and keep a barn within walking distance of your house. If you don’t have too much forest or don’t live on a north-facing slope, you can probably have a much bigger garden. You can have much more privacy, even if “everybody knows everything about everybody,” because your house is physically farther from your neighbor’s house. They can’t smell it every time you cook a curry. There can be a lot of advantages to it. It just depends on what kind of advantages are important to you.

There are pros and cons to both places. Having lived in both, for me, I felt like a better practicing Catholic in the city because there are so many resources - multiples Mass times each day, multiple parishes to find where one feels most at home, more lectures, retreats, etc.

I think what is more important in considering where to raise a family, is the proximity of family. Grandparents, cousins, etc. That is the type of “village” you want raising your child.

For the first 13 years of my life, we lived in a small city in Northern Illinois. Then we moved out to our family farm after my Grandpa died. My brother still lives on that farm, which has been in the family now for almost 100 years.

Lots of good comments on this thread. I have to leave for work so not much time to comment. I’ll try to get back to this discussion. I do agree with what others have written so far.

Let me add one thing. You mention lots of land for kids to run around on. Keep in mind that the land has to be CLEARED if you want them to run around on it. Land isn’t just grass. It’s weeds and trees and thistles and old crops and water holes, etc. My brother currently has a wildflower field on his farm (the government pays him to keep it “wild” like the original Illinois prairie–our tax dollars at work), and believe me, you would NOT want your children running around out there because those flowers are taller than an NBA player!

Also, if you have any “land,” there’s a good chance that unless you are fairly wealthy, you will plant crops on that land, and you don’t want children to “run around” in the beans, oats, or corn. Especially in the corn–I grew up with dire warnings never to go into the cornfield without Daddy or Grandpa, because children get lost in corn fields and it’s terrifying.

Land is a LOT of work! Think about mowing the lawn at your house. Now think about mowing hundreds of lawns, but the grass isn’t grass, it’s tall weeds and stalks and thorns. Remember what God said to Adam in the Bible–you will have to work the land in order to grow food on it.

It’s really hard to work at a job and to also take care of land. Many farmers work a job in the city at the same time that they take care of their land, and that leaves them with little leisure time. I think a lot of naïve people don’t realize this, and they think that they will have lots of time to spend with their children and train them. No, that’s not true. If you are farming, you will spend a lot of time WORKING with your children, and that’s good. But if you are just a city person who moves out to a farm, you will be awfully busy just trying to maintain your land, and time with children will be sparse.

Finally, not everyone is successful at gardening. I grew up on a farm, and I can’t make anything grow. Gardening is a gift. Take a look at your houseplants–if they aren’t thriving, then remember that a garden is just a giant flowerpot, and what makes you think you’ll have any better luck with it?! :wink:

I just lightly skimmed everybody’s posts, but it looks like a lot of good ground is being covered. EasterJoy is correct about it being safe, right up until it isn’t. I recommend a dog at the very least and being cautious about neighbors. (One of my parents’ neighbors was begging her for pain killers a few years ago. Eeeek!) My family is also (I gather) armed to the teeth.

My parents moved us from our small town (four figure population) 20-25 minutes out into the country to a house they were building on a family homestead when I was almost 9. I had quite an idyllic time with my two younger siblings. I was a reader and loved damming our creek and building tree houses. And we also had a small cattle ranch so we did farm stuff. And when I was a horse crazy teen, I had a horse to ride.

I didn’t really think about this until I was older, but there were downsides. Much of it was stuff that was more of an issue at the time for my more social sibling. We didn’t have many kids on our road–the closest being about half a mile away. Over my entire childhood there, we had visits from neighbor children maybe 2 or 3 times. I didn’t have any school friends, and certainly none visiting us 25 minutes out of town. Also, we could have done way more with school events and extracurriculars if getting in and out of town hadn’t been such a hassle (or my mom hadn’t been a big loner or we hadn’t been so poor, but that’s another story). Also, with three kids at home, it was one thing, but as the kids started to leave home, it got lonelier and sadder for the kid or kids remaining at home. (I didn’t see this myself, being the oldest and the first to leave, but that’s what I’m told.)

If you are a loner and your future wife is a loner, you may be super happy living out of town, but one or more of your kids may think of the isolation as hell on earth. (It may be a little different today with cell phones and internet.)

Some more points (apologies for any repetition of points covered earlier):

  1. Make sure you have enough funds to cover heavy transportation costs. One should probably assume $500+ a month for gas.

  2. If your kids do any activities at all, you and/or your wife may find yourself living in the car shuttling them back and forth. (Even people who live close-in find that is true, but it’s worse the further out you live.)

  3. Think seriously about school. My sister has spent a lot of time in our home town, and at some point, she was not willing to tolerate our school for her son anymore.

  4. Your kids will be totally dependent on you for transportation until they can drive.

  5. When they do start driving (and they have to to get anywhere), rural kids have a huge death rate.

  6. It will be harder to cultivate friendships for your children.

  7. Health care may be very poor in a small town with a one-horse hospital. In case of serious emergency, you or your family member may wind up 4 hours away from home. Even “just” childbirth is an issue. My mom (when she was having us) used to bypass the local hospital in favor of the next biggish town over, 90 minutes away. And knowing what I know now, I think it was very wise.

  8. I would also suggest easing into it. Rent for a year or two while you get to know the area. If it turns out to be a very difficult place to raise children, be prepared to leave, bearing in mind that rural properties can be hard to find a buyer for.

Good luck!

Here’s a jumping off point:

catholic.com/blog/devin-rose/there-and-back-again-a-catholic-homesteaders-tale

I also suggest Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I (although that’s a classic, rather than a totally contemporary source) and The $64 Tomato.

Good luck!

My spouse and I moved to the country a few years ago for a call at a Lutheran church. We’re about 75 miles away from a few large cites you’d know, but the community is definitely farming one. I’d agree with the comment that people aren’t necessarily better or worse in the country, they’re just different. You WILL be an outsider for a long time in many cases. They WILL know your business, sometimes quicker than you even know it yourself. You really cannot be a very private person in the country. If you are, they will fill in the blanks about you someway or another.

Life can be cheaper in someways, my son’s daycare is 1/3 the cost of where I work in the nearer suburbs of a major US city. But you will find it harder to find decent stores, especially food stores in my experience. You will also drive more.

As for raising kids, some of the ideals may well be true in the area you might choose. But there are also places with plenty of drug use, teen pregnancy, and family troubles. The town we are in has a school district that is ranked in the bottom 5% of the state. Needless to say my son will be going to Catholic school if we are still out here when he goes to school. The sad fact is that unless you are a farmer or work supporting farmers; there isn’t much well paying local employment in many places. Yes you can work remote with a good job, like I sometimes do. But the employment situation for many kids that grow up in rural areas tends to be farming, leaving for the larger cities, or going to college (and never coming back). The ones that do none of the above tend to live off government support, get abusive, or get into drugs at a higher rate than you’d expect. There are rural “ghettos” out there. I don’t mean to be dramatic about all of this, I just mean to say that the type of area you live in only dictates the types of problems and opportunities you will have. There are few areas that are close to a utopia.

great insight Cat.

Hey - wanna to buy our 20 acres? :smiley:

I’ve lived in the “country” most of my life and wouldn’t have it any other way. But there is country, and there is country. Are you thinking of an area of 5-10 acre mini-farms? Or do you want wilderness? Either way, are you willing to work your tail off for the pleasure of maintaining the property, long driveway, animals, etc.?

And there is crime. We used to have a very strange neighbor who was a drug addict. There have been 4 murders within 10 miles of our place in the last 15 years; not stranger violence, but family & one was a drug deal gone wrong

Emergency medical care feels a lot farther off than 12 miles when you are waiting for the ambulance. And if you’re in a very isolated area, pony up the $60/year for the medical helicopter insurance.

I thought it was a great place to raise the kids, but I have a vivid memory of my teen daughter complaining that she “didn’t ask to live in the enchanted forest.” Town is 12 miles away. Fortunately, it’s a pretty good town with lots of amenities. But neither of our children - now adults - wants to live here. Neither do we as we’ve gotten too old to keep up with the work involved.

If you’ve never lived in the country, get some experience. Take working vacations at the homes of friends or relatives who live where you would like to. Get on country living oriented forums. You’ll read a more balanced accounting of country life there than in magazines and books. Except for The Egg and I. And We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich.

I lived in a small town of 340 people until I graduated from high school. Then went to a small Catholic college and now I am living in Omaha, NE, which is a city, but not nearly as large as other major metropolitan areas.

As everyone else has said, there are pros and cons to both. I really like my small town and I loved telling my college friends that I could leave my car (keys in the ignition) at the local gas station, they’d change the oil, and then leave the car sitting in the parking lot for me to pick up (sending a bill to my family later for the service). Nothing ever happened. We could leave the car unlocked if we really wanted to (very few incidents of troublesome kids or thieves). I realize that’s not the case everywhere, but it was in my town.

With such a small population, my town was of course one of those towns where everyone knew everyone. The downside is that you have to be very careful about what you do sometimes. None of my brothers or I were ever interested in getting into trouble, but even something that seems innocent could be looked down upon by those little old ladies at Mass! :stuck_out_tongue: I also found it harder and harder as I got older to find things to do. Running around in the yard is fun for a 10 year old…not so much for a 17 year old. The nearest Walmart was an hour away and gas is expensive!

My dad had (and still has) a pretty well-paying job, but it is agriculture-related, like many things in the rural areas. I worried that no one would be interested in staying in the area (my parents want to move as soon as my youngest brother is out of high school), but one of my brothers is studying agriculture right now and loves farming, so perhaps I’ll have a reason to visit sometimes. :wink:

As I mentioned, now I am a young adult living in Omaha, a small city. I moved partly because I wanted to get out of the rural area and partly for my job (I have a degree in Spanish, and not many people in my hometown/surrounding area spoke Spanish!). Also, I really don’t think I’m going to find anyone to date and possibly marry in the small town. :o I really like it here too, especially because it has pretty much everything I need but it’s not so huge that it’s overwhelming. And I like that there are more opportunities to serve and get involved in the city. Not many soup kitchens or clothing drives needed in the small town. :shrug:

There are many admirable things about living the rural life, but if you have never experienced it, I think it’s good to “try it out,” as some have suggested. All the questions that have been posed in the other posts are legitimate and important and need to be pondered.

Best of luck to you!

I’ll add that there can be a lot of morbid interest in newcomers.

My family, for instance, has watched the comings and goings at one of the competing small rural businesses with a lot of interest. The business has gone through a long series of over-optimistic out-of-state transplant owners, each of whom pays too much, engages in a burst of industry and expense to fix the place up, doesn’t keep it open during business hours and then runs out of money to stock it. And then they sell to the next sucker.

I have to confess that my family discusses whoever has this particular property and what they are doing wrong with the business the way other people discuss their favorite TV show.

Be prepared to be the local entertainment.

Yep. I’ve done my share! We were told we wouldn’t last 2 years here - it’s been 14 1/2. There was one failed business that I was cheering on as I liked his product. But he was often out of my favorite (and a lot of others) and he didn’t advertise. It’s almost as if he wanted to fail. :shrug:

I have a passion for gardening. I think gardening is a skill you can develop. Success in gardening is dependent on skill, the weather and God.

I remember when I was laid off and money was tight. I was able to save a lot of money on food because my garden, small as it was, suddenly started yielding an abundance of vegetables when before it did not. God’s way of providing for me when I was in need.

One needs to know what kind of “country” one is thinking about.

I live just outside a sizeable town, but have a ranch about ten minutes from where I live. I grew up in the country. I am very familiar with small towns in the area. I could add the following observations:

-Just about any kind of professional can make a good living in most small towns. Accountants, lawyers, certainly doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists. Lots of professionals (or perhaps their spouses) don’t want to live in small towns for various reasons, most of them not that good. That’s increasingly so, since most professionals nowadays were raised in cities and think small communities are the back side of the moon. So, professional who move there are virtually guaranteed a living.

-Cultural exposures can vary. I grew up in the deep country and never saw an art museum until I was in college. However, my parents were very interested in culture and learning, and when I finally saw an art museum, I knew what was in it better than a lot of my peers who had a lot better “cultural opportunities” than I did.

-Clearing and cleaning up land isn’t as difficult as some think. You do have to know how, but that can be learned. And you can’t be averse to using chemicals sometimes to do it. Thinning out trees for the more desirable ones is a long slog, but getting rich, lush grass established in a weedy, infertile field is not. And in the country, if one doesn’t have the equipment for spraying, seeding, fertilizing, liming, there are always neighbors or vendors who do.

-In some areas, one is never very far from medical care. I live in the Ozarks, and in the particular “economic zone” I’m in, (roughly Springfield Mo to Springdale Ar) nobody is more than about 40 minutes from a major hospital or about 15 minutes from a satellite.

-Shopping for basics in small towns isn’t difficult at all. Where they fall short is in high-end consumer goods. Want a relatively fashionable outfit? You have to travel. Want the “peak of the fashion pyramid” you’ll probably have to travel quite a distance.

-Spouse hunting in small towns is not particularly rewarding. It’s not impossible, but the selection is mighty thin because almost everybody is already married.

My small town relatives often shop at the Costco 90+ minutes away when they can. Their town has a population in low/mid four digits. The bigger town (actually two towns that run into each other) has a population in low five digits–it makes a considerable difference which you live in. The smaller town has one grocery store that really squeezes residents on produce that isn’t that great (hence the Costco runs).

You have to go 90 minutes away for anything beyond a pair of shoes or jeans. Men can buy blue collar work clothes in town and I expect there is adequate children’s clothing available, but white collar men and women generally will need to look further.

Also, as I recall from a recent trip, it is impossible to buy so much as a Pack N Play closer than 90 minutes away. Fortunately, there is such a thing as Amazon, but you can’t get anything immediately.

Genuine high fashion is probably three hours away.

Living on the edge of a small village is one thing, but living in the country means that you’ll do tons of driving, your kids won’t get much chance to socialise unless you drive them in and out of town all day long and shops, schools, clinics, hospitals are all annoying drives away. I’d say live on the edge of a small village surrounded by the country and you’ll have plenty of space and you won’t have to do so much driving because you could just walk to the local shop very quickly.

But it all depends on what job you have.

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