“Why on earth would you want to live that far away from the city?” I got used to this reaction from my friends when I announced years ago that I was moving to the country. Well, not exactly the sticks, more like the fringe of the city where I could have the best of both worlds – land around me, yet still within reach of work. My friends were mortified that I actually chose to move here but I was, and continue to be, as happy as a pig in a peach orchard.
Did I relocate to my ‘hobby farm’, as small rural properties are so quaintly referred to, mostly by real estate agents, in a show of defiance against the current trend of mass exodus from the country to the city? After all, for the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population live in towns and cities, a figure that is expected to swell to almost 5 billion by 2030. No, my reasons were not about making a global statement. I moved out to ‘the fringe’ in a purely selfish effort to live the way I wanted, surrounded by my animals.
When I say animals, I mean big animals – horses. I had six thoroughbreds that I competed on in dressage, showjumping and cross-country eventing. When the horse bug bites, you have two choices – pay to keep them at someone else’s property closer to town or move further out and keep them with you. Oh wait, you have a third choice – marry a billionaire so you don’t have to work and then you and the pampered pets can live where you like! Somewhat predictably, the third option didn’t work for me so here I am with my non-billionaire husband on our city fringe property. And I couldn’t be more content.
As far as creature comforts go, I have a lovely house with a wraparound veranda on which we have many candlelit dinners on summer nights. The garden is gorgeous – a rambling country garden which is perfect for summer barbecues and winter bonfires. I grow vegetables and herbs. We have fruit trees and macadamia nut trees. I have cheerful chooks which provide eggs galore – we eat a lot of omelettes and pavlova in our household! We also have neighbours who share their excess produce, as we do ours.
Our horses, and now donkeys, live in shady paddocks and retreat into a rustic old barn when the weather turns nasty. Our dogs and cats have any number of places to play and explore. And the wildlife is endlessly fascinating. We have kangaroos and wallabies in our paddocks, grazing alongside the donkeys. Our skies and trees are bursting with rainbow lorikeets noisily chattering away. The gardens offer 24 hour snacks to honeyeaters, kookaburras, magpies, butcherbirds, wrens, finches and many more. The tree outside our kitchen window has been lit up to reveal a procession of ring-tail and brush-tail possums on their nightly escapades. We feel privileged to be an accepted part of this non-urban landscape.
But how do you keep up with all this work, our friends bleat? I must admit I had honestly never considered mowing lawns as ‘work’. To me steering a rider mower round the house yard is something that just has to be done. It is also a creative time for me. I get some of my best ideas when I am mowing. Maybe it’s just because mowing gives me some personal space in my busy life.
Apart from cutting grass, maintaining an acreage property does require additional work. My husband has mastered new skills such as brush cutting, chain-sawing, fencing, building and repairing stuff. Every now and then he’ll take the tractor out and slash all the paddocks to help with weed control. How much work you do on an acreage property is entirely up to you. Some love the natural bush look with minimum work, others (like us) adapt the property to fit our livestock needs. There are some properties, and you do see them, that are hedged and manicured within an inch of their lives. While this may look picture perfect, I don’t see the point of moving to acreage if you are going to offset a more relaxed lifestyle with such a burdensome workload.
I have mastered new skills, too. I now have an enviable collection of colonial artefacts from farming days of yesteryear. And have I plenty of space to display them. I make a mean chilli jam which is in great demand at Farmer’s Markets.
Admittedly, rural property living is a “love it or hate it” kind of thing and only you can decide if it is for you or not. If you are barely capable of keeping a pot plant alive, let alone nurture hectares of native plant life, maybe it’s not your thing. Here is my list of Pros and Cons of owning acreage. I have tried to be as objective as I can but will freely admit my bias. You have been warned.
Advantages of living on acreage
- The night sky. The word mesmerising doesn’t seem to do it justice.
- You fall asleep every night to the sounds of crickets, frogs and the occasional owl.
- Watch the bush come alive in the morning as the sun pulls itself over the rim of the earth.
- The clean air is so fresh you can almost taste it.
- Wide open spaces with country-style views in every direction.
- The wildlife. There are so many more beautiful birds, let alone other flora and fauna.
- Peace and quiet. Forget planes, car horns, sirens, and the endless drone of traffic and replace it with bird song, the sound of a cool breeze flowing through the trees, and absolute silence.
- Space to play outside with kids or pets, or work on your hobby uninterrupted.
- Space to accommodate boats, caravans, visitors with motorhomes etc.
- Real estate prices are more reasonable the further from the city you buy.
- There are no fast food stores within easy reach.
- The best Farmer’s Market is in your own backyard.
- Your chicken coop is your most prized possession.
- You learn to cook nutritious food with whatever is in season.
- Share home-grown produce with neighbours.
- Fashion label preferences switch from Louboutin to R.M. Williams.
- When you come home from work in the city, you feel like you are at a resort.
- Visiting the city becomes an adventure, rather than a chore.
- Mobile reception can be patchy and internet slow.
Disadvantages of living on acreage
- The night sky – it’s creepy.
- The wildlife – it’s a nuisance and should be eradicated.
- No corner stores or phone-ordered pizza deliveries.
- Fast food outlets are not within easy reach.
- Buses rarely pass by.
- Schools cannot be walked to.
- Friends rarely drop by.
- No choice of real estate options, including apartments and units.
- Much of your weekend is spent maintaining your block.
- Factor in price of ride-on mower, brush cutter and chain saw.
- Added time and expense to commute to city job.
- No city buzz, art galleries, cinemas, coffee shops, weekend papers, night lights.
- Mobile reception can be patchy and internet slow.
Yes, I do enjoy my rural lifestyle very much. Having spent much of my life living in various cities, I can now relax into the peace and tranquillity of my country home.