Posts Tagged ‘country living’

City or suburb dwellers frequently decide to build their dream home in the country.  They find a nice spot brimming with wildlife and trees.  They look forward to waking up to the sound of birds in the morning and seeing hares and pheasants in the yard. 

But before you can say ‘Where’s my chainsaw?’  they’ve cleared out most of the trees and levelled the land.  Within a few years, their driveway’s paved and their lawn looks almost as neat and tidy as the one they left behind in the city.  (For my role in this, see Confessions of a Woods Cleaner).  They may plant some non-native ornamental trees and bushes and regularly weed their new flower beds.  Unfortunately, the hares and frogs have hopped out of the neighborhood as has much of the other wildlife.   

Does it have to be this way?  No, it doesn’t.

Wildlife and woods go together.  It’s almost impossible to have one without the other.  But woods are messy in their natural state, and most humans like to keep their environment looking neat.  However, the diversity of native plant and animal life shrinks astoundingly when land is cleared to make way for clean-cut lawns and pristine flower beds.

For example, many wild birds, such as woodpeckers, thrive in old growth forests.  When old trees are cut down, it’s no surprise that the woodpeckers leave the neighborhood.  They depend on these old trees for nests and the insect life within them for food.

Vernal pools created by toppled trees and an uneven forest floor collect rainwater and provide a habitat for amphibians and a greater variety of plants.  (For more information on attracting amphibians back to your yard, see my post on Why Every Princess Needs a Toad in her Garden).

The United Nations has designated 2010 as the Year of Biodiversity.  You can read more about why biodiversity matters here.  If you own land, you might consider leaving some of it in its natural state.  One simple solution is to allow wild spaces to thrive on the edge of your property.  Allowing the growth of wild hedgerows between properties provides privacy and a wind barrier between neighbors while sustaining native species of both plants and animals.  

By allowing a wild space to thrive in your yard, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the diversity of life that it will begin to attract.

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The daisy’s for simplicity and unaffected air.
~ Robert Burns

Daisies can be found almost anywhere, growing in gravel along the roadside as well as in carefully tended gardens.  Yet, regardless of where they find themselves, they are consistently unassumingly pretty flowers with a simple design:  Circles of yellow surrounded by numerous petals of white.  Throughout the day, daisies follow the sun in the sky, turning their faces slowly from east to west. 
daisy with beetleAs a child I often picked bouquets of daisies but found it difficult to find any that weren’t a magnet for tiny insects.  They are a favorite with bees and beetles.

I also used daisies to decorate mud pies and made daisy chains to wear around my neck.  Who has not plucked the petals from a daisy repeating, ‘he loves me, he loves me not?’  Daisies and childhood seem to go together.  They are a symbol of innocence and loyal love.

Their Latin name Bellis Perennis means perennial beauty.  A perennial is usually a flower that lives for more than two years.  The name daisy originates with Day’s eye, as they are open from dawn to dusk.

The daisy is a favorite of my friend Rhonda who is 28 today.  Like the daisy, she has retained her sweetness and simple country girl manner throughout the years.  Here’s a spiral of 28 daisies to mark the occasion.  In this day and age, staying sweet despite our years is no easy feat and an accomplishment well worth celebrating.

daisy spiral for rhonda

Child of the Year! that round dost run
Thy course, bold lover of the sun,
And cheerful when the day’s begun
As lark or leveret,
Thy long-lost praise thou shalt regain;
Nor be less dear to future men
Than in old time; -thou not in vain
Art Nature’s favourite.
~ William Wordsworth, To the Daisy

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house in early summer

Can you spot the cement septic cover?

Dealing with a well and septic system are part of the reality of country living.  Functionality rules and it’s not pretty.  

An aesthetically challenged cement cover rests on my well.

An aesthetically challenged cement cover rests on my well.

Several years ago we invested in cement covers in order to ease access to our well and septic tank.  A septic tank needs to be pumped out regularly and well pumps need to be replaced when they reach end of life.  Before we had the cement covers installed, digging up both these areas with a backhoe or shovel always made the process of gaining access more of an ordeal.  Although the cement covers are a practical solution, they’re also an eyesore, jutting almost a couple of feet out of the ground.  Our septic tank was also located directly in front of the house.

Stones placed on the cement cover make its hard lines less noticeable.

Stones placed on the cement cover make its hard lines less noticeable.

Fake rock covers made of hollow plastic can be purchased to cover these monstrosities but they are quite expensive.  Some people even construct wishing wells to surround the entrances to their wells and septic tanks but that’s not my style.  A live green cover with shallow roots seemed to be the best option.  I decided to plant several Rhododendron bushes around the cover in the front yard.  I bought them at half price at an end of season sale in mid-summer one year.  Leaves on these bushes are evergreen and provide a camouflage effect year round. 

Rhododendrons bloom in early summer.

Rhododendrons bloom in early summer.

In early summer, blooms on the Rhododendron plants surrounding the cover attract numerous bees and butterflies.  It’s best to not have the tank pumped out during this time as the bees would be hazardous to the person doing the work.  Our tank was pumped out a couple of weeks ago and was very easy to access despite the growth around the cover.

Raindrops glisten on Rhododendrons before dawn.

Raindrops glisten on Rhododendrons before dawn.

My well cover is still in need of a camouflage solution but is in a less prominent place in the backyard.  I’ve tried growing Eunomymus shrubs but ended up transplanting them elsewhere in the yard.  They didn’t conform to the shape of the cover as well as the Rhododendrons.  English Ivy vines may be a better solution.  Please feel free to suggest some other alternatives.

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Photo credit: Rosalie Sawler

Could children who grow up in a country setting be happier as adults?  Though the area around Flandrum Hill is considered semi-rural, it shares many of the characteristics of country living:  namely, fresh air, lots of open natural space and the presence of wildlife.

Why would children growing up here be happier?  Country kids can play ball in a field or hide and seek in the woods.  They can climb trees or play in tree houses.  In the summer they can pick berries and wildflowers.  They can spend an afternoon looking for frogs, snakes or salamanders.  Living near the ocean, kids also have the advantage here of walking to the beach.  It seems obvious that any child would grow up happy in this type of environment and take this inner joy with them into adulthood.

But what advantage does country or semi-rural living have for adults?  Can we expect to be happier in the country than in town?  Certainly the larger lot sizes afford more opportunities for gardening and privacy to do one’s own thing without worrying about disturbing the neighbors.  But there has to be some greater advantage for so many people to be attracted to living outside the city when it’s so far from many of the services we rely on in our modern lives (shopping, transportation, entertainment, dining).

We can’t underestimate nature’s uplifting effect on our senses.  Perhaps just seeing open spaces, trees, wildflowers and wildlife on a daily basis makes people happier.  In summer or in winter, there’s nothing like the scent of fir or spruce boughs to clear one’s head.  From birds singing in the spring to the sound of the wind trembling the aspen leaves in the fall, each season brings its own special appeal.  Seeing a deer or fox on one’s drive into work in the morning makes life here seem special.  Simple pleasures, like feeling the morning mist on your face as you taste a couple of wild blackberries from the vine, would make even non-believers consider the notion that God is in His Heaven and all is right with the world.

The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in his Heaven –
All’s right with the world!   ~ Robert Browning

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