Adjusting to a new life rhythm

One of the most thought-provoking things I have read in a long time comes from young Sam Gribley of My Side of the Mountain.  Surviving in the Catskill Mountains by hunting and gathering, he muses about how you don’t really notice the weather until you live in it.  Even then, long before this move, before our chickens, before my first real garden, I began thinking how irrelevant the weather has become in modern life.

[Missing picture here]

Some of it is because of technology.  The light bulb has decreased our dependence on the sun, heat and air conditioning has allowed us to regulate our immediate environment despite what nature has in store for us, and the local news has relieved us of the need for learning to read the wind and the clouds.

Some of it is because of our changing economy.  My grandfather was a farmer and to the day he died he stayed up to watch the weather and then went to bed.  An agricultural society depends on the sun and the rain for its daily survival.  We notice droughts when the city imposes water restrictions and we are no longer allowed to water the lawn or wash our cars.  We notice floods when neighborhoods are evacuated.  But for the most part, awareness of the year’s rainfall remains on the periphery of our knowledge, something stored away for small talk in the checkout aisle but rarely personal or meaningful.

The sun itself has lost its significance, for we now schedule our days by the ticking of a clock rather than the rising and setting of the sun.  Surrounded by technology telling us the time, we no longer need to look at the sky to see that it is getting late.

When we moved out here, I knew we were in for many changes.  That the very rhythm of our lives would be altered.  Our work would no longer fall neatly into a planned schedule, looking much the same from day to day, week to week, month to month.  Instead, spring would bring planting and (hopefully) kidding.  Summer would bring weeding and fertilizing and fresh pasture for the animals.  Fall would bring the harvest.  And winter would bring some rest and time for all that we just couldn’t get to earlier in the year.

Now, however, I am aware of the approaching dusk.  I watch the sky as the sun sinks lower on the horizon.  The afternoon turns to early evening, the shadows lengthen and it does not matter what I am doing, it is time to prepare for the coming of night.  Dishes will be left, dinner held, games paused because we are now in a race with the sun.  Before the light changes, before the color of the sky deepens and before the sky is painted with fire, I must catch the cat, bring in the dogs and lock up the chickens.  The coming of night brings not only the close of day, but danger as well.

Coyotes are foremost on my mind, for ours seem bold.  They are a threat to the chickens, the dogs, the cat and even the children.  But we also have bobcats, cougars, foxes and a seemingly endless list of animals that would love to prey on our chickens.  And almost all of them are called out of their sleep by the setting of the sun.

Driving home from Lincoln, I realize I misjudged how long the various errands would take.  I pull into the drive with an odd sense of urgency as I give instructions to get the children and shopping in as quickly as possible.  The last rays of the sun disappear behind the trees as I scoop up the cat on the way back from the chicken coop.  Hunter turns and strains against the leash, looking back across the cornfield toward the treeline that marks the river.  A low growl catches in his throat and I turn to look.  The trees look ominous.  Like a dark hole cut out of a blackening sky.

I quicken my step toward the house.  Hunter comes along, but his ears are erect, his tail held high.  He is on full alert, staring into the enveloping darkness.  I don’t know what he perceives, but I trust his senses and appreciate his presence.

Inside, I turn the lock, release the dog and smile at the children.  We’re home.  We’re safe.  We’re in for the night.

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18 Responses

  1. I remeber what it was like when we moved to the edge of town. i was 15 and newly married,yes!!! Anyway,I could hear the crickets having lived in town my entire life I could not sleep, Therefore my new husband got so sleep deprived he wou;d take me to mama’s so I couldnt hear noises. Well years later we moved 15 mi out in the woods and about 25 mi. from town, Being a small town it pretty much rolled up the streets at dark. So when it got dark it was Dark. Let me tell you they was way more things than crickets out there. I slept with tv on not to hear stuff. So I feel for ya but it does get better. We lived there 15 yrs. and now live on 5 ac but we are on a main highway. Then it took us forever to get used to the noise again. Now it doesnt even phase us. But you;re kids are gonna love it once they get used to it.

  2. A wonderful post. Enjoyed your writing. Thank you for this!

    I’m in a suburb. Weather and time of day don’t matter due to modern technology. We need money to pay for it all though. Life is defined by work schedules. Employment issues affect daily survival in a certain way, we need money to pay for the heating oil, need money to replace the broken furnace, need money for a reliable vehicle to drive us to our jobs. (Public transportation is not an option in the suburbs.)

    One day I went to our unfinished attic. It was cold. I realized how a house is a thin veil of protection. Right outside that layer of wood and shingle was the wilderness. (I live in a wooded suburb.) Then I stepped in the wrong place and one leg fell through the floor. Just like that a hole was punched in our nice ceiling. In that room, looking up to the attic where sometimes field mice try to live when autumn comes—I realized, there is not a lot separating the nicely decorated room with the unfinished attic–the cold air was rushing in, ruining the indoor heated room’s nice temperature. Nature was not far off after all. Being inside a nice home is a facade, Mother Nature is right on the other side.

  3. It is somewhat of a facade! Great illustration. When we got stuck in a ditch, a kindly neighbor gave us some advice about just how thin that veil is. We can get snowed in. They were snowed in three days, and they have four wheel drive AND a tractor. Actually, his tractor is the one that grades the roads out here! The power can go out, sometimes for days, because the service vehicles can’t get through.

    So you need bottled water and a heat source independent of electricity, because the coming of winter is an emergency situation. You need to be prepared to be on your own for a few days. Now, living in tornado alley, I’m used to that advice as storm season approaches, but not for the onset of winter!
    .-= Dana´s last blog ..Homeschooling in the popular culture =-.

  4. I remember those days… especially dealing with coyotes and stray dogs. I had a loaded rifle behind my bedroom door from the time I was 8- if you hear barking in the middle of the night, you throw up the bedroom window, lean out and holler, then fire a shot into the air. I could do it in my sleep. It also discouraged teens from stealing gas. Let’s face it- if it takes the police at least 30 minutes to even get to your house, you are On Your Own. This means everyone owns a gun and knows how to care for it and use it. It also means that the ambulance will not get there inside of a half an hour, so you must know First Aid – and I’m not talking how to clean a cut, but how to treat snake bites or the loss of a limb… and CPR.

    You never really lose that rural mentality- self-sufficiency, an intolerance of foolishness, an eye for how you can help out your neighbor, and much MUCH better manners than what you find in cities.

  5. That was beautifully written Dana.

    Your recent posts have given me plenty of food for thought.

    For years we’ve talked about moving out of the city, raising some small livestock and maybe even getting “off the grid”…but the conversation of coyotes never came up.


  6. We thought about them. There were around where we used to live, too. But there are still all kinds of things you think you think about, but don’t really understand the implications of until you actually deal with it.

    And if that is truly what you guys want to do, I hope it works out for you! We’d like a windmill, though actually going off-grid isn’t anything I’ve seriously considered. I think my husband has, though.
    .-= Dana´s last blog ..Homeschooling in the popular culture =-.

  7. Speaking of coyotes- they actually released coyotes into the woods where I used to live to try to bring down the deer population- now instead of gardens being eaten by deer, the livestock are being attacked by coyotes.

    That’s gov’t for ya’- the simple solution would have been to allow hunters to take care of overpopulation- the world needs more trail bologna!

  8. Whenever we head up to Maine for the summer our awareness kicks in, we note the moment our eyes hit the water what the tides are doing. Even the 5 year old can tell me if the tide is going in or out (look at the boats on their moorings to see which way they are being pulled). On the farm we are constantly out in the weather and our activities are determined by precipitation, temp, and bug activity. I can’t wait to live on our farm full time and have promised myself to take a long walk every day of the year.
    .-= kat´s last blog ..guerilla shopping =-.

  9. Yes, the walks are lovely. And what I love most is that the children, especially the smaller ones, just automatically start getting dressed to come along on chores.
    .-= Dana´s last blog ..Book Giveaway! =-.

  10. Dana that was beautiful!
    Our family had a major life change 2 yrs ago when we moved to west Tx to start a vineyard and I had never heard a coyote before and now they are in the fields surrounding our house!! Thankfully our dogs keep them at bay or at least so far have and we have not lost any chickens or our family milk cow. But, I have heard they will attack them!!!!
    The seagulls of Alabama were not nearly so ominous!
    Have a great day!

  11. Ugh! I hate the coyotes! We moved to the country 1 1/2 years ago, and I still freak out when I hear them. Of course, it doesn’t help that I fear what will happen if they manage to get into our barn.

  12. Hi Dana,
    I just stopped by from the Homesteading Carnival. Your post reminded me of many years ago when we bought our first home. We were used to living in giant concrete apartment complexes and bought a little place in an old subdivision. I remember those first nights going to bed and actually hearing the crickets! I felt like I was camping.! Now, of course, we live many, many miles from the city and enjoy our modest acreage with not just our farm animals and pets, but the wild animals as well.

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