Switching gears

It’s been a year of learning for me, and often the hard way. But I feel like I’m starting to really “get it” in terms of switching gears from city life to country living.

Things I hadn’t expected: little surprises here and there, and some things that haven’t changed since the day we first bought this property for recreational use, five years ago. There is such a dichotomy to the life I live now. City galleries, museums and restaurants one day, shoveling out the goat pen the next. It’s become my new reality and it’s interesting how the two extremes have meshed into the new me.

I was in Toronto a few weeks back and pulled a fresh farm egg out of my coat pocket that I had forgotten to take into the house. I couldn’t help but laugh! It was the perfect image of my two worlds colliding.

Some things I’ve learned are no-brainers, such as never underestimating the importance of four-wheel drive, and the immeasurable value of a pair of quality rubber boots. Other bits of wisdom have been harder to come by. I have been sitting here this morning, reflecting on my past year. I am experiencing little revelations and forming new opinions. I am also rethinking some sentiments that I made early on.

Never underestimate the importance of a good pair of rubber boots!
Never underestimate the importance of a good pair of rubber boots!

Things like the town folk who seemed so rude in the beginning, walking past without speaking, standing next to me in our children’s classroom and not speaking, brushing past me in the post office without speaking and so on…. Turns out they’re mostly not rude, just shy.

And the maze of back roads known as concessions and side roads that I found so daunting? They’re actually not confusing at all. Side roads join the concessions together. Easy.

I’m even beginning to recognize the different crops I pass on the road. I now know farmers are quite divided in terms of what colour their tractors are, too. You’re either a red man , a blue man or a green man. Period.

Apparently, you must have a mailbox at the top of your lane or else you don’t get any Canada post packages delivered to your home (FedEx and UPS deliveries don’t require a mailbox – but you need to know how your parcels are being shipped and provide the correct coordinates). Apparently, it pisses the rural mail delivery person off if they have to actually get OUT of their car to deliver anything, particularly the notice that says they can’t deliver to your home. Did you know they have special right-hand drive cars here so the mail can be just passed out the window and into the box? Cute.

I also got over (kinda) the heavy sense of guilt at having to actually DRIVE my garbage up to the top of my lane. Otherwise, it would take me a half hour walking the bags back and forth from house to roadside and at the end of my long day, that’s just not happening.

Another adjustment to country ways: the limited hours of operation for many small towns and villages in the area. No Sunday sales. No shopping on Mondays. Library is closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Oh, and so is everything else. I’m not sure how these businesses make money! And once “supper time” arrives – around six o’clock – everything shuts down. Streets are virtually deserted. There’s obviously no nightlife here, particularly during the work week.

There’s no such thing as 100 per cent whole wheat bread at the grocery store; folks around here will go as high as 60 per cent, no more. Strangely, though, they do sell dried seaweed….

Despite a renowned collection of award-winning craft breweries right in the community, I puzzle over the fact many locals drink the cheap, watered-down brands of beer. Bush, Coors Lite and Bud Lite seem to be the choice here. I caught myself looking at the people walking out of the beer store with cases of this stuff and judging them for their utter lack of taste. Does this make me a beer snob? I was also judging them because, along these beautiful concessions and side roads that I mentioned, is a graveyard of spent beer cans that have obviously been whipped out of car windows. And they are always, ALWAYS, those particular brands of lackluster beer.

beercan
Another beer can on the side of the road

Speaking of roadside, a fun game that my kids and I play here is “Count the Tim Horton’s Cups.” The record so far is 15, during a 20-minute trip to a neighbouring town. Who the hell litters like that?!

How many of these can you count on your next trip in the car?
How many of these can you count on your next trip in the car?

I’m also acutely aware of hunting seasons now. It’s a weird feeling, hearing the report of gun shots outside your home. I lived in the inner city of Toronto for 20 years and never heard anything like it, despite the gun crime there. During this time, the kids aren’t allowed to go into the bush, and we always wear bright orange gear when out for walks on the property, just to be safe.

I am integrating myself into the community slowly but surely. But I still have so much to learn. Despite these “learning curves,” I am never second-guessing my decision to move here. How could I? This place may have it’s, um, curious idiosyncrasies, but those foibles are easily eclipsed by the abundance of wonderfulness that comes with living here.

Things like having neighbours that will drop anything to come and help you. Whether you need help removing the head of a groundhog that your dog left on your porch, to hooking your car up to a tractor to get you unstuck, or hand-delivering baked goods to you “just because” (I could go on and on). Farmers take care of each other.

And what about the magic of waking up and looking out your window and seeing nothing but hills and trees? It takes your breath away, every time. Who wouldn’t want that?  I’ve learned that the silence here is not quiet at all, but noisy with the chirping of a thousand birds. It’s a symphony.

My organic produce isn’t packaged in a grocery store during the summer and fall; My produce is freshly-picked by my neighbour next door, pulled from the earth the morning I get it. And my eggs? A short walk to the hen house and “the ladies” have a nest full just waiting for me.

eggs
Beautiful fresh farm eggs from “the ladies”

Being connected to the land and watching how the seasons change has been quite an adventure. Country weather is dished out in extremes. Blizzards that block your lane and close the roads one minute, and gentle snow falls that sparkle in the sunshine like a million gems the next. Hot summer days buzz and stick to your skin followed by rain storms that make you head for the basement! Ankle-deep in mud in spring, searching for early blooms becomes the feeling of grass between your toes and bouquet after bouquet of freshly-cut flowers in the summer.

Summer storm brewing.
Summer storm brewing out my side door

It is magic that surrounds you here, and I wouldn’t give this up for anything.

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