Like most people born and raised in a big city, I always believed that carrots grew in trees and meat grew in Styrofoam trays in farmers’ emerald-green fields. (Admit it. You big-city folks reading this are nodding your heads in agreement.)
But I’d always dreamed of living in the country. When my husband and I realized that our Toronto house was worth a fortune thanks to out-of-control housing prices, we decided to take advantage, sell and buy a piece of paradise in a town northwest of the city.
That was four years ago. Now, me and Duane (that’s not his real name – it’s the “country” name I gave him. It suits him) had no experience living in the country. But at this stage of our lives (we’re geezers), it was exciting to embark on a new adventure. Besides, my parents were gone, the kids were grown and, frankly, if I saw one more condo go up in my neighbourhood, the top of my head was going to explode.
The first winter in our new home was a tough one, with more snow falling than in the previous 10 years. I learned the true meaning of “cabin fever” – when I develop an uncontrollable urge to smack Duane over the head with a cudgel because I can’t stand the sound of the air blowing though his nostril hairs when he breathes. We were trapped together 24/7. A lot. It wasn’t pretty.
Fortunately our property is located on a main road. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Remember this, because I shall return to it later.
When spring came I found myself driving to the city at least once every few weeks. I needed to hug a tall building. I wasn’t adapting so well. Duane, on the other hand, gleefully purchased an ATV, a chainsaw, a riding lawnmower – new toys he had only dreamed about.
That first spring also brought wildlife, something we thought we knew about. After all, we hailed from the City of Raccoons.
A skunk began lurking about the property during the day. The dogs would bark at it, I would throw things at it and it would just look up at me as if to say, “You want something, old lady?” It was getting annoying, because although my dogs aren’t the brightest of creatures, they have a strong prey drive and were just itching to get at that skunk.
Duane decided to take matters into his own hands. He cornered the skunk outside the basement and proceeded to fire a BB gun at it. This apparently annoyed the skunk enough to make it raise its tail and spray directly into a vent leading to the air ducts in the house. That annoyed me enough to stop talking to Duane for a few days.
A few nights later, when I discovered Duane in his underwear on the deck outside the bedroom at 3 a.m., firing BBs at raccoons, I decided to put a halt to his antics and took away his BB gun. He’ll get it back when he matures.
There are so many things to learn when you move from the city to the country. For example: It’s not a good idea to pull up a chair beside a farmer’s field in the dead of winter to stare at the ground just because there’s a sign that reads, “Corn – watch it grow.” Apparently, this is a summer event.
And it’s also not wise to stock your pond with hundreds of trout when you have a family of mink living there. All I knew about mink was that they were made into coats and stoles that my mother’s generation adored. Now I’ve learned that they are also incredibly good swimmers and can eat hundreds of trout in one month. Because Duane and I disagree about the ethics of leg trapping innocent creatures, the minks are still there and our pond is now empty. (Score one for me. And the minks, I guess.)
But there are so many wonderful things about living in the country. I first realized it would be different when I went through the express lane with a dozen items at the local supermarket and nobody threatened my life or even gave me dirty looks. People actually smiled at me. And driving around the countryside is a relaxing endeavour, unless you get caught in country gridlock. This is when a farmer on his tractor is moving bales of hay and you get stuck behind him.
I have discovered clouds. I have seen all sorts of amazing birds and wildlife. I am fascinated by tree fungus and cicada casings. I’m slipping into a new role and a new life and it feels good.
But I’ve also discovered gravel trucks. Remember when I said that our property is on a main road? Well, it appears, as far as I can make out, that big industry sees the countryside as one giant gravel pit, with a few annoying farms and truck stops connecting it all together. Gravel trucks are big. They’re noisy. And they pass by my house a lot.
At first I obsessed about sitting by the road with a rocket launcher, but common sense prevailed and I began to adapt to the sound of trucks passing by.
But now an American company wants to dig a huge gravel pit just north of my home. I don’t see myself adapting if that happens, so this old hippie has dusted off her frayed blue jeans and marched into battle with the rest of the local community. The quarry proposal is aggravating, but it’s given me the opportunity to bond with the people in my area, and that has been the clincher for me. I am home. The city is no longer where I belong. I’m here for the long haul.
Besides, it truly is paradise.
So, apparently, carrots grow in the ground. But as far as I’m concerned, meat still grows in Styrofoam containers. That’s my position, and I’m sticking to it.
Gail Prussky lives in Shelburne, Ont.