By Caroline Campbell
So… you want to buy an acreage, do you? Me too. Kids driving you nuts with how their friends all have dirt bikes and they don’t? Me too. Even though you live in a small town, are you desperate for more quiet? Me too! Think it would be heavenly to drink your coffee in your underwear on your deck in the morning? ME TOO! Wait, maybe that’s just me, how embarrassing.
There are seven of us in our family, which include five children ages four through 13, and we all live in a 1000-square-foot home in town. We also have two large hairy dogs and a cat. No shed, no garage and limited basement space that isn’t being utilized as functional living space. This little house was perfectly sized for my fiancé, his two children and their dog; however, when we melded our two families, space became a little tight.
My spouse likes loud toys and so do the two oldest boys. They dream of trails to ride their noisy bikes on and room to build a skate ramp. The three little girls are not big on TV and would swing, build, cycle, scoot, collect, gather, climb, run and hide outside from sun-up to sun-down every day if we’d let them. Selfishly speaking, I want to own a horse again, I’d love to butcher our own beef, and a few chickens would probably be handy. With all of this said, we have decided that the next big plan is to find an acreage to buy.
Let’s really think about this plan for a minute.
I grew up on a small farm in BC’s Fraser Valley. My childhood is painted with the most pleasant memories. Playing hide and seek with my cousins, playing in the creek with my neighbours, a whole extra hour each day of socializing with my school bus friends, big backyard parties, and hours of hot days riding my horse and then swimming in our pool. Each night I fell asleep with the moonlight flooding into my bedroom and the authentic Canadian sounds of a CPR train whistle and packs of coyotes echoing through the valley. It was almost movie material.
My parents had a different take on acreage living than I did. These are the things that are important for me to remember at this point in my life. Firstly, I have no recollection, ever, of my parents sleeping in. My parents owned a larger property and worked in town, so naturally chores began very early on weekdays. Farm animals don’t sleep in on weekends to give you a rest, so Saturday and Sundays Mom and Dad were up early feeding cows and turning out horses. This business of never getting a morning in my life to sleep in could be problematic for me. Working full time and mothering five children means I look forward to no alarms and no responsibilities at least one day a week. On rare occasions we have no kids at home on a weekend, and in that case, don’t even contemplate calling our house before 10 a.m. because we will not be awake. Note to self: don’t buy an acreage that requires seven days a week of work.
The cattle I mentioned above came about out of financial necessity for my folks. It wouldn’t have been possible to pay the mortgage and utilities with so much property, in addition to the cost of commuting daily for work, my riding lessons, etc. With the ownership of cattle came responsibility. Weekends were used to go to auctions, get grain, and repair fences. Not to mention the lawn that took hours to mow and the garden to keep. They also didn’t go on spontaneous road trips, and planning holidays meant finding someone reliable and responsible to stay at our house. That’s an insane amount of work! Note to self: buy an affordable acreage.
My friend Ashley, who moved from the city to the country about six years ago told me once about the cabin fever she experienced the first couple of winters she was living on their acreage as a stay at home parent. She said, “If you are living isolated, particularly in the winter, you need to work hard in the other months to make some friends with kids or have activities to do a few times a week. Learn to recognize the winter funk that naturally comes each year.” Her advice is to “change up your furniture in about January, get some new paintings for the walls, and give yourself some fresh space.” Note to self: buy an acreage that is reasonably close to my social circle.
I asked Ashley to tell me some of the other things that she had to adjust to when her family of four moved to their rural acreage 40 minutes north of Edmonton. “Hands down, water. Have you ever been out of water?” Laughing, she said, “Imagine it’s a Saturday afternoon, your family has to get out for the day and the water cistern is empty.” She admits to siphoning water out of her Keurig machine one -25 C day. She told me that I will never understand how much water a large family uses until it’s the dead of winter and I have to spend my Saturday hauling H2O. Apparently this is common practice. The house we looked at last weekend was being sold with a water truck for hauling and filling the cistern. The owner of the house told us that they do a water run once a week for just her and her husband, both seniors. I do laundry nearly every day, and all of our kids are daily bathers. At that rate we would be hauling water every second day to fill a small cistern. Note to self: buy an acreage with a decent well and no matter how much I love the acreage, hauling water is probably a chore that we are way too busy for.
Ashley gave me a few other things to think about. One was garbage. “It depends where you live, but in our neck of the woods, rural garbage pickup doesn’t happen,” she explained, “just imagine how much waste your family produces in a regular week and in town the magic garbage truck comes and takes it away so you never have to think about it again.” She is right, that’s what I do, simply move it to the curb and off it goes. She giggled, “made sense that we would just burn all of our waste, until once, ok four times, I left an aerosol can of hairspray in the garbage bag and nearly blew my husband’s head off when it went into the burn.” Note to self, look into garbage pickup before committing to an acreage.
Writing this article has taught me a few things that I may not have thought about before. Now that we live in a rural town, we have many acreage dwelling friends. I know it’s what we need. How could space to run free not be right for our large family? Freedom of any sort usually comes with a cost and if it means that I can drink my morning coffee with the birds on my deck, (pants optional), spend an entire Saturday with my sweetheart doing yard work, watch my boys rip around our yard and enjoy the laughter of my girls while they breathe fresh air, than the exchange of some conveniences is well worth it.
Do you live on an acreage? Do you have any stories you could share with me about your adjustment or things our large family should consider before taking the plunge? I’d love to hear from you!