Friday, January 28, 2011

Domestic Enemies of the RURAL Mom

Our friend Emily wrote this for us. She is a full-time student at 31, a proud farm wife, and the mother of three kids. She doesn't plan on growing up, but her job, if she ever graduates, will be teaching high school English--evidently she's a glutton for punishment.  We adore her and are so grateful for her putting this together for us.  You can check out her blog right here!


I was raised in cities. Not ginormous cities like Louise described, but probably a good distance away from the burbs, as measured by instances of graffiti. So when as a teenager I moved to a small town I had never heard of in Idaho, a state that had a smaller population than the metropolis I most recently called home, I was justifiably shell shocked. Culture shocked. Just…shocked. But, once the weirdness settled into me I fell in love—with both the area and a farm boy, who I married and now I’ll die here. I love it. There are so many things that make our life wonderful and rare. However, we rural moms have a whole other set of domestic enemies that most people just don’t deal with or understand.

Grocery Shopping (or, stocking up for the zombie apocalypse)
Do you know how far I would have to drive if I wanted a T-Box? 70 miles--one hour, five minutes. Wal-Mart is a mercifully close 25 miles or half an hour-ish drive away. There is a grocery store in my own town, 8 miles away, but here’s the catch for rural groceries: they cost a lot more. Like $1.88 milk at Wal-Mart is $2.66 at the local store. This means that unless I want to spend half our money at the grocery store for a meager amount of food and toilet paper (I don’t even want to talk about diapers), I have to drive distances to get groceries.

With children, this is less a shopping trip and more an expedition to the Himalayas; with a strong possibility at least one of your children is going to be handed over to a Sherpa to keep. To be adequately prepared for the expedition, I need at least 40 diapers, except for when I had two kids in diapers and then I needed roughly 9 billion. Then there are snacks, spare clothes, list, coupons (the Cap’n would be so impressed), blankets, sanitizer, toys…I pack more crap to go to Wal-Mart than my ancestors packed to cross the Atlantic.

I don’t want to be driving 5o miles every other day just for milk or apples, so when I go, I get everything I will need for at least two weeks. At the end, my cart looks like I’m competing on “Supermarket Sweep.” My children, who started out looking like well cared-for, clean, pleasant tiny people look like…well…everybody else’s children at Wal-Mart, especially if this Wal-Mart is in West Virginia (I know, I’ve been there). I leave my home looking clean and put-together—I get back to it looking like a cult escapee.

Fuel (or, why I cry myself to sleep at night)
Fuel prices these days are a challenge for everyone. I can’t believe I’m a young person and I sound like a crabby old man; “When I was your age, gas cost less than a dollar, and you could get 5 nuggets on the dollar menu!” And that was only…well fine it was 15 years ago, but still. It seems excessive. Anyway, as I have already illustrated I have to drive to get anywhere. Drive a lot. I also do not live on a paved road, and have a long driveway that is also not paved but is frequented by tractors and cows. Plus, out here even a little bit of snow can be a disaster, because if the wind blows, there is nothing to stop that little bit of snow from drifting right up against the back of my car.

These challenges mean only one thing: if I don’t have 4-wheel drive, I’m stranded like a Donner for a good part of winter (which is roughly October to June) except I have satellite T.V. Distance+SUV=giant fuel budget. The kind that makes you wonder if you are personally going to get a tongue lashing from Al Gore (which really isn’t that scary, it’s just that people tend to follow him around with cameras, and what if they show up right when I’m getting home from Wal-Mart?).

Pests (Wild America, except with more rodents)
I fully sympathize with Louise here, except I have more critters. There are a lot of critters in rural America, largely because most of them have never been informed that this area has now been zoned for people, and even if they had, they don’t think much of The Man. We grow grain here. Grain is basically mouse food. Mice live in the fields, in the irrigation pipes, in old logs, abandoned cars, barns, equipment—everywhere. And as soon as it gets cold they are drawn to the warmth of MY HOUSE! It doesn’t help that I have cattle, and so surround my house with corn and straw and sweet molasses. My farm is basically a mouse Hilton. It is a constant, disgusting battle to keep these critters out. I am personally keeping the good people who make Bar Bait in business.

In addition to the rats and mice that infest the city, I also enjoy: feral cats, coyotes, skunks, beavers, mountain lions, huge owls, bald eagles (pretty, but taloned) and that’s just the wild animals. I also live with about 1000 calves. So in addition to the fear that my children will pet the wrong kitty and either get sprayed by disgusting bio-terror or rabies, I fear that the cows will get out and stampede my kids while they play in the sandbox. Do you have that, New York City? Plus, where there are cows, there are flies. Lots and lots and lots of flies. I love my cows, I love our life, but if I could kill every last one of the flies with just my mind, I would be more beloved around here than Larry the Cableguy.

There is so much that is awesome about out life—if I need something out of my car I can go get it in my underwear and no one will know, even if it’s at noon. We have so much room, and so much air, and feel connected to the land. My kids will learn to work hard and they’ll know where food comes from, building appreciation for the work that goes into making the safest food supply in the world. And by safe, I mean to eat, not to play with.

xoxo, Emily

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2010


  1. Wow, Emily. You do make the city look a bit more appealing! Good Maude, I could *never* be organized enough to make such a huge trek for groceries with kids. (I know this because I used to put on flip-flops and walk to the bodega around the corner for a six pack of beer with the baby on my hip only to then realize I forgot my wallet. Even that trip was too much with a kid.) I applaud you! p.s. Stampeded by cows beats rat in stroller. You win.

    1. Do I win with the possibility of a mountain lion snatching my infant out of the front porch swing if I take to long to water the garden or check the mail? There are WWWAAAYYYY to many mountain lion sittings in this little wooded paradise of Texas. Last month when the neighbors goats and sheep birthed 4 out of the 30 living kids were eaten by critters. I fully sympathize with this post.

  2. BAH! Submit this to SNL!!! Next time Al Gore makes the news, they want this material!

  3. Awesome! Keep up the good work, rural farm mommy!

  4. I love the WV Walmart reference. I have been a WV resident for 7 years and am always fearful I will find myself on that PeopleofWalmart webpage. It's 40 minutes to WalMart for groceries and 2 hours to a Target from here, so we totally stock up mice, though, and that's a plus!

  5. I LOVE this...and can SO identify...from my parents' farm in South Carolina, to our minuscule acreage in Montana, and now in Virginia, I have lived the cow-stampede, the alien-cat, the mouse Hilton, and I miss it (are there varmits at the beach? I haven't met them yet). Thank you for the view into your life!!

  6. We haven't gone pro like you have, we're only on fifteen acres, but I'd like to buy you a drink, or maybe just a gallon of milk! The 'walking outside half naked' is on my list too. I nursed my last child several times while hanging out (excuse the expression) outside, without a worry of anyone seeing my business! Kudos to both you and Louise!

  7. Super awesome fantastico post! Rural living is the best! You, however, forgot to mention mud and dust. *constantlycleaningeverything* Love you!

  8. Wow. I think I hate you now for that photo of Al Gore and his wife. And his tongue.


    -kate in michigan
    (but I really also love you, because you are funny)

  9. So true! We live 30 minutes from town in an old farmhouse and I feel Emily's pain. We use try to use our woodstove to primarily heat the house, cloth diapers for the baby, hang laundry outside to dry during the summer, raise chickens, have a garden etc. We are slowly becoming more and more self sustaining. Why? Sure it helps the enviornment and all but what will YOU be eating/taking care of your family when the world gets taken over by zombies? It could happen. Lol. Last year we had a national lampoon style show-off with a wall troll (aka squirrel). The wall troll has never been back because we did indeed kill it or it realized how insane we are.

  10. I've really enjoyed reading this whole series. It's nice to know that ALL moms, regardless of where we come from, face daily challenges that are out of our control. I've loved reading the different perspectives. Here's your next one: "Domestic Enemies of the Celebrity Mom"

  11. I grew up in the country and converted my big city husband to it. We drive to a big box mall about 30 mins away and I have had the Al Gore Dream too. While we don't have any cows or horses we live next to horses. So we have the rodents that ask you what's for dinner. So we got a cat. One awesome morning I came downstairs and put my daughter in the play room while I made breakfast. She brought me her new toy that she was in love with. Yep it was a dead mouse. I freaked. It wasn't the last time she toddled over to me with a dead rodent in her hand either. I think it's against the law to boil your child but the desire was intense. Stupid mice.

  12. @Anonymous--Man I wish that didn't make me laugh as hard as it did. Because that's happened to me too! Yuck, YUCK, DOUBLE YUCK!
    @Mamajulep--"Gone pro..." Love it!

  13. We used to live out in "hunt country" in VA. It's only about 1 to 1/2 hours from DC but it could as well be a totally different country. We had critters, like fox, deer, possum, and many others roaming through our back yard. Had to check for ticks everytime you come in from outside, even in winter. The tiny supermarket in town only carried the small packages of diapers but no wipes. Nope, no wipes at all! No deli section either. The prices in all the stores in town were astronomical and we always said it was the tourist who shopped in town. I also remember driving down the windy 2 lane roads with no shoulders and coming across a hunt party crossing the road. Dogs, horses with people in red jackets and such. Also people like to bike on those roads. Try going around a bike as you cannot see around the corner or over a hill on a road with a speed limit of 50 MPH. Then they wondered why no one likes the bicyclists out there.

    Jrseygirl in VA

  14. I grew up on a farm in Wyoming and we are trying to move back. It's a hard life but a very rewarding one and I didn't know what I was missing out on until I wasn't there anymore. We actually live trapped skunks one time to get them away from our cats and then took them out away from the house and shot them. Needless to say that was not a fun experience. I'm living in a small town right now and am trying my darndest to go back home! :)

  15. @ Laura - Varmints at the beach? Yes and yesier. Feral cats and sand flies are the worst, and those are just live ones. Dead fish, birds, seals even the occasional whale wash up on our beach all the time.

    Plus living at the beach usually means you can reach out the kitchen window and touch your neighbor. I can sit in my living room and watch the neighbor’s television - walking around in my underwear is clearly out of the question.

  16. We live in a suburb in Fairbanks Alaska, and it is a bit of both the urban and the Rural life. We get to deal with both the odd drunks and the roaming moose in the yard (which makes getting to the car tricky at best :P)
    I own a mini van with AWD (can we say ice and snow and unpaved roads?) and it is a gas hog too. It is rather grumpy making when I live really close to the pipeline and yet gas is nearly $4 a gallon...and don't get me started on milk :P I'd be thrilled with milk closer to $2. We are currently paying $3.99 for the cheapest stuff. Argh.
    Thank you Mommyland for keeping us odd mommies happier ;)

  17. Emily, my dear, you ROCK! And, I too am not sure I will ever get the Al Gore image out of my mind...thanks for that. Have a great day, and may it be Walmart free!

  18. I grew up on a farm in southern MN. I live in a "rural suburb" now (I'm 7 miles from the interstate/target/walmart, 30 minutes from downtown minneaspolis, but I have cows in my backyard--my neighbors cows, not mine). I'm not raising my kids rural but your post brings back a lot of childhood memories. :)

  19. omg. this. is. me. yeah, i go to the walmart in WV too.

  20. I feel you on the grocery shopping, we used to go only once every three months. If we had taken our four ihp's there would have been no room for the food.
    And my nearest t-box was well over 3 hours one way. Up until november anyway. Now we are the bumpkins in the big city and when people find that out they actually expect that we are impressed/blinded/overwhelmed by bright lights. I miss animals and room for the kids to run and roam but it sure is nice to have the hubby home more than once a month.

  21. I'm living on a farm in rural Western Australia. I used to live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and grew up on the Philadelphia Main Line. Needless to say there has been culture shock.

    Down here we Rural Mums also have long drives to retail therapy (mine 2+ hours)and rodents. But our domestic enemies also include poisonous snakes and spiders, lizards, sharks (if you make it to the coast), and bogans (think Deliverance). At least it never snows here so I can always escape if necessary...

  22. I must say, you also forgot the DE that is, um, "invited" critters. Like the toads, snakes, snails, huge beetles, worms, etc that come in at the hands of children who just have to show mommy. And drop said critter on the clean floor. I must say that the mudroom is now the bane of my existence. If an 8x8 room can hold all that mud instead of my house, that's a blessing!

  23. I realize this is late ... but living in "Hunt Country VA" myself (or maybe a county away) I'd like to point out that "Hunt Country VA" is ALSO "WINE Country VA".

    Yes, we have coyotes, foxes, raccoons, possums, bears, deer (who seem to have decided my yard is a buffet), roaming dogs, the occasional goat, sheep, pigs, cows, bald eagles, bobcats, panthers/mountain lions/pumas/cougars (despite the VA fish and wildlife claiming they're not here ... my husband saw one IN OUR FIELD), non-poisonous snakes (garter, rat/black etc) plus eastern diamondbacks and cottonmouths, lizards (you think MICE are bad?), mice, moles, voles, groundhogs ... well, you get the picture.

    I also have a half hour drive into town. We go grocery shopping once a week and during the week I see how much running around I can combine into one trip. We DO have local farmers who attach plows to their trucks to plow our street and one local farmer from the Middle East has taken my mother in law and myself under his wing to a degree to plow our driveways after he plows out the farm roads on his farm when it snows (we share a driveway - her house is behind ours) since my husband is an over-the-road truck driver and is gone at least 5 days out of the week - that's 5 days at 24 hours per day. But we still need 4WD vehicles because if we get snow and something of an emergency nature happens, we have to be able to get out. We also pretty much ONLY get plowed roads, no chemicals to melt the remaining snow or ice.

    I agree that bicyclists around here need to understand that those "charming hills, curves and scenery" they come out here from the DC Metro area to enjoy on those "charming" 2-lane UNMARKED roads with no shoulders and instead DITCHES are difficult for those of us who LIVE here to traverse when we can't see if anybody is coming around that curve or over that next hill. I honestly would rather they decided to STAY in the DC Metro area and bike in the public parks or the bike paths instead. In addition, the new transplants from the suburbs need to quickly figure out that unmarked roads around here are TWO LANES and they can not drive in the center of the road around corners, over hills etc. That's another reason I need 4WD ... the 2 door sports car I come head-to-head with is in the center of the road and I have to swerve OFF the road and into the ditch to avoid the collision.

    *sigh* Sorry. This turned into a rant.




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