There is a a lot of misconception among those who live in the urban/city areas of the country that living in a rural area as a farmer or rancher means that you have that kind of a serene lifestyle where you never have any worries. You don’t have to buy expensive clothing and dress for the office, you don’t have any transportation expenses to get to your job nor do you have to get up at the crack of dawn to get ready for work!

Your animals flourish without any attention, the crops grow unattended, you have a huge garden that grows by itself and you have all of this wonderful food available just for the taking and it doesn’t even cost anything – what could be better? The thinking that rural families can live really cheap because we live in the country and get ‘free’ food from a garden was recently made by someone who should know better. She does has a point, of sorts; We do raise a lot of the food we feed to our families, but it’s not FREE by any means.

Gardening is hard work, usually done at the crack of dawn because weeds won’t wait and there is field work and critters to tend to during the day. All that canning is done in the evenings after supper and dishes are done and the rest of the house has gone to bed. The dehydrator is filled while you are waiting for the canner to be done and helps keep you awake until the job is done.

It is true that we don’t have to buy expensive clothing to go to an office downtown. We can do the chores in jeans full of holes and patches, ratty shirts with the elbows worn out, tattered sweatshirts and holey boots. The cows and chickens really don’t care what you look like as long as you bring breakfast! That hay has to be cut, baled, hauled in and stacked, and then fed out daily over the winter months. Crops have to be planted and harvested and hauled to town (at our expense) to be sold. Fences have to be maintained, as does the machinery needed to put up the feed. Cows in the pastures have to be checked on frequently throughout the winter months and then moved in close as they prepare to give birth in the spring.

Calving time is coming up, which means several weeks or months of not much sleep for anyone because the cows have to be checked quite frequently for new babies. Some ranchers have someone riding through the calving pastures every hour or so during calving season. There are predator-type critters who would relish a brand new calf for a meal! And, the weather has a tendency to be unsettled this time of year, so critters have to be moved to the barn for birthing when needed. It’s a whole lot easier to help a cow, ewe or mama pig with a problem if you have her in a pen in the barn and a light available. It seems like most babies come late at night, and it’s usually cold!

One of the big disadvantages is that most of us only get one paycheck a year! That money has to pay all the expenses of the ranch: feed, equipment, repairs, fuel, seed, etc., and hopefully there will be a little left over for the family. Don’t get me wrong, I love my lifestyle and wouldn’t trade it for anything, but learning how to stretch that once-a-year paycheck can get real interesting.

Another disadvantage of living out of town is distance. If something goes wrong with a piece of machinery, or you have something major go haywire in the house, not only do you pay the hourly wages of the carpenter, mechanic, plumber, electrician or general ‘fix-it’ guy, you also pay them to come out to your place to do the work. (It’s called mileage and can get expensive if they forget a part or two and have to make a couple of extra trips.)

In a city or town, you can actually get along without a vehicle if you have access to public transportation such as taxi, bus or shuttle service, or ride a bike to work. Some folks can walk if they live in an apartment near their workplace. Plus, many of the local business places will deliver things to close-by places. We ‘country folks’ do not have that advantage. If we need something, we have to drive ourselves a good distance to get what we need. If we need livestock feed, seed, or parts, we have to have a pickup to haul the stuff home.

Our lifestyle isn’t for everyone. We work long hours, and the money isn’t that great a lot of years. But most rural folks were born recyclers and can figure out a way to get something they need by reusing what is available. Grandma warned her youngsters not to waste the earth’s resources, and to think twice before you spend that hard earned money.

And that’s good advice for everyone!

–Paula


 

Paula Vogelgesang, the author of the monthly column "Pennywise", is a monthly contributor to the Farm And Livestock Directory. Email her at [email protected]Please be sure to mention the "Farm And Livestock Directory" when you respond.