As I’ve said before, we live on an ancient coral reef. The down side to this is that our soil is very rocky. Very, very rocky. You can’t put a shovel in the ground anywhere without hitting a very large rock or boulder anywhere on the property. Most of them are peeking their heads up out of the dirt, but they’re like massive icebergs. In some places we’ve been able to clear enough of them to dig a garden. We have yet to discover all of them, though, and some we are aware of will just have to stay for now.
The other downside to our land is the fact that what isn’t rock is heavy clay. Clay that bakes hard in the summer. Since we moved in in 2009, we’ve been working on amending the soil in the gardens as we can. The chickens both help and hinder this effort by producing lovely manure and disassembling the compost heaps.
Our neighbors are all a bit closer than I would like, but far enough away that I can go outside in my pajamas and not worry about my “modesty”. I’m not there to impress anyone with my beauty and fashion sense anyway. I frequently go out to the veggie garden in my bathrobe. There’s a tear in it from getting it caught on a tomato cage if that tells you anything about how I live my life.
We were not as prepared as we could have been, moving out to the country. We had exactly one snow shovel when we moved in. We have at least a two to three hundred feet of driveway which makes for very long days of snow removal, but we could at least take turns and come in to warm our frozen toes. We have two shovels now, and a blade for the riding lawn mower. Takes me about forty-five minutes to do it by hand with about four inches of snow on the ground.
There are many positive things about our house and location. It’s dark. So very dark at night you can clearly see the Milky Way in all its glory. When the neighbors were building their house, they were nice enough to ask if we wanted them to have the electric company set up one of those bright sodium lights while setting up their connection. When we told them we were amateur astronomers and would prefer no light, they said they also enjoyed the night sky and no light was installed.
It’s very quiet. We aren’t very far from two different highways and a railroad line, but with the trees all around, the noise is muted. We are more likely to wake up in the morning to the calls of turkeys, crows, the roosters, or the neighbor’s donkeys instead of traffic and police sirens. It makes it difficult to sleep when we go up to Chicago to visit my family, and it’s always nice to come home to the silence. There is nothing better than lying in bed in the dark, listening to the crickets and owls with a cool breeze coming in the window.
I adore the wildlife around my home. I improved my bird watching skills tenfold in just the first two winters here, even though the White-throated sparrow tricked me for years by being the tan-striped variety. We put a game block down by the bird feeder and would wake up to many deer munching away with possums, Northern flickers, and the usual chickadees, cardinals, jays, and the other, non-migrating birds. The summer brings my favorite little friends, the Ruby-throated hummingbirds. I now have a grand total of seven feeders and they remain busy from about April through October. The birds can be loud and violent and make some interesting noises, but I love them.
There is nothing more amazing than looking out your window and seeing a mother turkey and her babies laying in the shade of one of your fruit trees. Spotting a turkey can be hard enough for me, but seeing babies is like seeing a unicorn. We had a set of White-tailed deer twins born a few years ago and they continue to cut through the yard to go down into the woods with their own families. I recognize one of them from the enlarged tarsal gland on her rear right leg. One day, just as I happened to look out the back window, a bobcat came strolling up out of the woods. Fresh from the city, I ran to grab my camera and was out the front door before I stopped myself. What was I going to do, run up to it and try to treat it like a house cat? Here, kitty kitty, let me take your pretty picture? Sometimes I get excited and act before I think.
Down through the woods there is a tiny meadow that fills with wildflowers and their heavenly scent in the spring and summer. In the fall, the sumac turns bright red and looks lovely against the clear blue sky. In the winter, bittersweet climbs up the naked limbs of the trees, adding a surprising jolt of color.
The five acre pond is man made with a large dam on the east side. We own the south corner of the pond and the land on the other side. We have a small john boat, The Sophie, to paddle around in. We’ve seen that pond low enough to see all the chairs and fishing supplies that have been lost to it over time and so high that we can’t get across to the other side without our boat. We’ve stocked it with crappie and there is also a population of perch. There are bullfrogs who will cheerfully chase your fishing lures and whose song can be heard all the way up at the house on a summer’s night.
It’s a gorgeous place to live, even though the lot is narrow and rocky and I can hear my neighbors yelling to their kids. I can let the clothes dry on the line and watch a bald eagle fly overhead while song birds serenade me.