As I lay lounging in the garden, surrounded by dogs and overlooked by horses, on a rare heatwave in Britain, I got to pondering, what makes this lifestyle so special?
We are so quick to moan about the slightest inconvenience and far too slow to praise the many benefits of rural living. Is this a sign of the modern world all too rapidly encroaching upon the traditionally slower, relaxed pace of life we enjoy on the countryside? Do we need to make ourselves more aware of what we have in order to fully appreciate it?
This got me thinking, what are the good, the bad and the just plain quirky idiosyncrasies that make us proud to be country bumpkins?
The quaint and idyllic
The obvious difference that notably sets rural life apart is the peace and quiet. No traffic, no crowds, no voices, no banging, no sirens. The noisiest culprits here are the birds and the musical chorus of their voices is one I will never tire of hearing. A tractor chugs away in the distance, livestock call to their offspring, a chicken strolls by clucking its comical language. It’s this purity that appeals.
From the unpolluted air to the blanket darkness that allows the stars to shine through, it is a pleasure for all the senses. We smell the fresh cut grass and aroma of flowers all around us. We taste the wholesome flavor of fruit and veg fresh from the ground. We feel the gentle breeze on our skin, the grass between our toes, the velvety soft warmth of a horse’s nose on a chilly winter morning.
The good that outweighs the bad
Farm life can often seem like a never ending list of chores. Animals require early starts and late finishes. Yet these long hours do have their benefits. The wide open vistas of a land uncluttered by humanity provide the greatest canvas for some spectacular sunrises and sunsets—nature’s reward for your dedication.
Helping, as you tend your many chores, will undoubtedly be a collection of canine companions of varying degrees of usefulness. Gambolling around the yard, tripping you up, and providing amusement with their mischief in equal measure.
I love the fact my dogs enjoy such freedom. I love it less when some innocent visitor arrives and their welcome is drowned out by a cacophony of ferocious barking. Likewise, I am also unimpressed when the hound of the pack spots the deer I was peacefully admiring and takes the whole lot off for a hunt. No amount of yelling will ever stop them. It is at this point, I realize, my pack of freedom-loving hounds are in fact just plain feral.
Alas, they do have some uses. One of the many guilty pleasures of life for those with no neighbors is the odd cheeky sunbathe in your underwear. Pity those without a feral pack to warn of the approaching postman. (Unless, of course, they happen to be off hunting!)
The things only a true Country Bumpkin can laugh over
Which leads me nicely to the many little trials and tribulations of this life. With the stoic martyrdom of hardened outdoorsy types, we shall suffer through it. What else shall we grumble about over a pint in the local? What else will fuel our crass jokes that outsiders see as heartless and we see as necessary.
I speak of matters such as the ever-present poo. The way it creeps into your house and the smell forever faintly lingers on everything you own. The glorious sensation of being wet through to your pants with hands so numb you can’t unzip your coat. The constant battle against mud in the winter and bugs in the summer.
City dwellers who bemoan their daily traffic struggles and dream of open country roads have clearly never experienced rush hour in harvest season. Or the misfortune of bumping into Mr. Jones moving his unruly flock five miles down the road! The circle of life that encompasses sleep-deprived nights and the utter joy of welcoming new life in the spring but also the heart wrenching reality of how food gets to our tables, predator versus prey and animals as financial commodities.
So why do we love it again?
People talk about moving to the country as “choosing the good life.” They are not wrong. It would be silly to pretend it doesn’t have its challenges, but the good by far outweighs the bad. The psychological benefits of being surrounded by nature, wide open spaces, fresh air and silence to hear yourself think are immeasurable in my mind.
I once met a group of young girls, around my age at the time, in a pub who were visiting from London. We got chatting about the differences in our lifestyles and they asked “but what do you do for fun—aren’t you bored?” I simply thought, if you have to ask me that, you will never understand.