Lessons from the Rural Life: Month One

Though I’ve always wanted to escape the city and live my rural dream, it was only in the last month that the dream started to become a reality. Where Adam knows how to catch frogs in the driveway, build a dog house from scrap wood, and start a s’mores fire in even the least productive conditions, my experience of anything beyond city life has been confined to hopes, wishes, and daydreams.

Having hauled water to his home in Arizona and walked his kids a mile to school in small-town Texas, Adam is happy with municipal water and access to a school bus. What’s a given for him is all new to me. While I have truly loved every minute of our new life outside the city, it’s not without its discoveries.

I grew up in Indianapolis (population 858,325) and spent nearly a decade in Orlando (pop. 262,372) before I started the journey of downsizing my hometowns. When I came back to Indiana in 2016 I settled in Pendleton (pop. 4,212) where I had an adorable small town main street just a few minutes away. Unfortunately, towns that size don’t have a lot of rental homes, so when we got bit but the house bug and decided to rent something bigger, we ended up in Shelbyville (pop. 19,163) in a cookie-cutter neighborhood with massive homes crammed just feet apart. That didn’t last long.

Desperate to get out of the crush of suburbia and finally in a position to buy a home, I started a search that took me just about everywhere, including Poland, Cloverdale, Trafalgar, and beyond. My realtor Lezley Wass was a saint, exploring all manner of questionable properties with me until we found the one. A beautiful little house in Nashville, Indiana – population 1,076. The only incorporated town in Brown County, and naturally the county seat, this is as populated as it gets for at least 30 minutes in any direction.

Home - Nashville, Indiana
Home sweet home

We’re a three-minute drive from the largest state park in Indiana and about the same distance from the charming artists’ colony that’s Nashville. It’s heaven up on our hillside in the trees (or “on the mountain” as the kids call it), but it’s definitely a whole new world that’s come with some surprising lessons.

Those Trees Get Troublesome

Fallen Tree
Yep, that’s the driveway

Trees seem entirely desirable at first glance. Wooded lots offer glorious shade, beautiful birds, and four seasons of breathtakingly diverse views. Having more than an acre of my own private woodland seemed like a dream. Until it stormed. Then those gorgeous trees became an impassable obstruction in the driveway.

Fortunately, we found some help with the right truck and chainsaw combo to clear the driveway, and Adam’s endlessly entrepreneurial spirit is already planning how to profit from the fresh source of firewood (Or furniture? Or handmade shelves?) that’s landed in the yard.

If You Hear “Look at This!” It’s Probably Alive

Frog on the Trail
Look! A new friend

Our first night with the boys in the new house became a milestone we’ll never forget. Adam caught a bitty little frog hopping in the back door with him and brought it in to show the rest of us. For the record, I’m not afraid of frogs. Sharks, yes. Frogs, not so much. But I didn’t yet realize that “Look at this!” means there’s a new creature in the house. So, when the mystery in Adam’s hands jumped at me, I shrieked. When we went to the next room to show the boys, they screamed in horror, scaling the bunk beds like squirrels to escape. The brilliant thing about kids is that they’re adaptable. The horror of just a month ago was the delight of the trail yesterday.

Holding a Baby Frog
Holding a wee tiny baby frog

You Can’t Take Power for Granted

Lights Out
Battery powered lights are essential

It turns out that living out in Nashville means you lose power. A lot. Sometimes it’s a few minutes, sometimes an hour, or in the case of this morning, several long hours. The boys summed up the situation well when they assessed that “No power means no coffee. The grown-ups aren’t going to be happy.” On a side note, if anyone wants to buy us a battery-powered coffee pot, that would be A-ok with me.

Solitude Calms Small Souls

Relaxing on the Deck
Can you spot the Transformer taking in views with him?

Though I desperately hoped the boys would come to love the same things about nature that I do, I was prepared for the backlash. Our house is smaller than the massive 2,500-square-foot rental we moved from. Though our lot is ten times the size of the yard we had before, no one used that yard so I wasn’t sure they’d appreciate the difference.

Even before we discovered the joys of backyard fires, visiting turtles, and a massive driveway that’s perfect for private bike riding and chalk masterpieces, the boys delighted in the simple wonders of the deck. The best surprise of all was watching a 3-year-old zen out in moments just to take in the view.

I’m sure the surprises are far from finished, but fallen trees or not, saying goodbye to the packed suburban life hasn’t come with one regret yet.

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