Country Living Q&A
We've lived in crowded cities (Bay Area, New York City), semi-rural, and completely rural areas. There are definitely differences. I remember visiting country relatives and things were quite different and I didn't know why. Here is my attempt at answering some of those sorts of questions ... hopefully I answer right, but other people may have different answers.
Why does the water taste weird?
This is a question I asked my mom several times growing up, and maybe it's obvious. I remember going to relatives and drinking the tap water, which I was used to doing, but it tasted terrible. And, it wasn't the same from one house to another, but it was bad enough I didn't want to drink it.
My answer to this is that it's their well water. Well and municipal (city) water often has dissolved minerals, which can actually improve the taste of the water. Calcium and magnesium are two common ones. This may cause hard water. Some wells may also have iron or manganese, which make the water taste metallic, rusty, or bad. Even worse is if you have sulfur dissolved in the water, which gives it a rotten egg smell - I think it usually smells bad before it tastes bad. If the well has a holding tank, it may also have bacterial growth that gives an off flavor.
Not all well water tastes bad and not all city water tastes good. In fact, when we go to restaurants, we often find the water tastes bad because our current well water is fabulous. The cure? I've found adding a lemon wedge to my water when dining out helps a lot. Perhaps this would help when visiting someone with weird well water. You can also bring lemon juice with you and see if it makes it more pleasant, or bottled water.
Why do farmers listen to country music?
Good question. You don't have to listen to country music if you're a farmer, but a lot of them do. We don't. I suspect it's because it was widely available on AM radio. Also, pop music is at least as bad with regards to the topics they sing about. Not all farmers listen to country music and not all wear cowboy hats or cowboy boots.
Why don't you wear make-up? And, why don't you fix your hair?
Thanks for noticing ... I do wear make-up and fix my hair sometimes. I don't do it before I milk in the morning. The sheep, goats, and cows don't care what I look like. I definitely wear make-up and fix my hair for church, appointments, and try to remember when I go places off the farm where I'll be around people. When I'm on the farm, I often wear a hat to either keep warm (winter) or keep the sun off me (summer), so my hair is messed up by that. It's also windy here 90% of the time. Working outside all day tends to melt make-up, too, and I use a good brand (Clinique). I guess if I'm just working on the farm, it takes extra time to do and doesn't look good by the end of the day, so I skip it.
Other country people? I think most of them wear make-up sometimes, but I know many who don't. I think often they are not so concerned with "made up" concepts of beauty and accept the natural attractiveness. These neighbors tend to have long hair, often fixed in a braid. I think the pretense just isn't important to them. Wearing make-up is sort of silly if you think about what it really is ...
And with regards to my hair, I like to fix my hair. When it's long, I like to do all sorts of braids, buns, and wear dress hats ... the hat part is a personal thing, not a "typical" country thing. During the day, I usually try to wear it in a practical way. If I don't pull it back, it ends up wind-blown and tangled. Or, there is the potential of stray hairs ending up in cheese making where they shouldn't be.
Why do you have so many unfinished projects?
Very good question. I love my mother-in-law, but I think it must secretly drive her crazy when she comes to visit because she's not the sort of person to leave a project unfinished. We have a dozen things unfinished as do many of our neighbors. One neighbor, for example, has a nice large new hay barn he's been building for several years because he can't rely on local contractors. We hired two different ones to help build our small house, and had two fall through. In fact, one showed up, worked for two weeks, and ruined a lot of materials and did such a terrible job that we had to replace all the materials and spend twice the time to fix what they had done and move on. It's a common story - contractors are unreliable. We can call ones from the cities nearby, but they won't come out because they're booked solid and busy driving only ten minutes from home. Why would they drive an hour?
Many of our projects don't need the skills of a contractor, but they are unfinished. It's taken me two months to build a simple - but nice - skirting/planting table. I worked on it in the rain when I wasn't tending newborn lambs and kids or helping sick animals. When the rain broke and the mud cleared enough, it was my narrow window of opportunity to plant trees and berries. I stopped working on the table and planted. Or, I drive fences after planting ends and before the ground dries out completely during the summer (very hard) or freezes in the winter.
Why don't we order out? Dine out?
Living in town makes it easy to run to the store or hop over to a restaurant. It's not so in the country. The last two rural places we've lived it's been half an hour and a full hour distance to chain dine-in restaurants. There are usually little diners closer, but they are often very limited in their hours, often are part of a bar, or have a limited (or poor) menu. Sometimes we find them touristy and priced too high for what they offer. Pizza doesn't deliver to our area even for an extra fee. That said, we absolutely dine out. Most people I know dine out, but it's a little more planned. We can't just run by and grab something if we don't feel like cooking.
Another consideration to dining out is that the farm placed different demands on different rural-dwellers. For example, when we have lactating animals without babies on them, we need to milk. I sometimes feel like going out, but it doesn't work to take the entire family unless we go a little later because we need to milk. Other rural people may have "regular" jobs and then need to cut and bale hay in the after hours. Or, there may be babies due soon and they need to keep a close eye on things. There are so many reasons!
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Wife to Brandon, mother to Tess and Liam, farmer, entrepreneur, cook & baker, nurse, and accountant who loves to try new things, travel, and work toward greater self-reliance.