Living in the country ~ Best rural places to live

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Living in the country – Dreaming of a different way of life?

Many people seek solitude or just more of a back-to-the-basics type of lifestyle.

Whether you plan to relocate from a large city or suburbs, you will find country life very different.

Learn about living in the country and best rural places to live.

There is nothing more breathtaking than living in the country with its lush greenery, minimal pollution and natural beauty. There are many advantages to living a quieter life.

Perhaps you will pursue more self-sustaining habits, including composting, gardens and orchards, beekeeping, or a hydroponics system.

Maybe you will consider raising backyard chickens.

And if that isn’t all exciting enough, some venture into raising miniature cattle complete with a livestock guardian animal.

The opportunities for learning and new hobbies are endless!

You won’t need to do everything right away.

That’s what rural living is all about — learning to live at a slower pace — but it is worth considering adopting modern homesteading practices.

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Living in the country
Living in the country

Living in the country could be for you

There are many advantages to rural living in the country:

You are automatically integrated into the community.

While some young families that have moved into the countryside may feel that long-time residents take awhile to get to know them, there are things you can do to help you assimilate faster.

There are local events which bring the community together.

Nothing is more effective at helping one join the community than volunteering at the many local events which take place there.

Get involved and meet your neighbors.

Peace and quiet

Moving to a small town and rural living is much sought after by senior citizens, retired couples, and others who seek solace.

The lack of traffic and other city activity is welcome.

In addition to a less stressful environment, you will probably have some beautiful views and wide open spaces.

You will see more stars at night as the city lights won’t interfere.

Going at a slower pace, with less bustle and stress, you can take time to watch the sunset and be up early to enjoy the sunrise.

You may find you are able to enjoy more time outside as you garden, tend to animals, or set up an irrigation system.

You will be able to enjoy the quiet and be more in tune with your surroundings, even as you are doing work around your homestead.

Limited entertainment options

While major shopping, tourist attractions and entertainment venues may be a big drive away, you are likely to find fun and entertainment closer to home, in simpler activities.

There’s a ‘We are all in this together’ idea.

School, sports, church, local craft fairs, perhaps some car groups and crafting clubs are often popular in smaller communities.

You will likely see a fish fry, weekend barbecue and festivals. Outdoor Kitchen Design Plans

If there’s a high school in town, the community may come out to support the football games on Friday evenings.

There is a tremendous sense of community, especially when someone needs assistance.

Disadvantages to living in the country

Other aspects of living in the country may pose a problem at the initial stages for people.

Some of these include power outages, the presence of wildlife and insects, and the transition it may take for those not used to living amid rural surroundings.

You may need to “rough it” more than you did before.

Also, depending on where you moved from, you may have downsized or may have moved into a home that needs repairs.

Or maybe you aren’t used to having to maintain land.

It may take awhile to get used to being more isolated from neighbors.

During natural disasters or storms, it is common for those living in the country to be technically and geographically cut off from the world due to power outages, no Internet, fallen trees and other issues.

The time taken to restore functionality will be greater since they are away from service outlets and have less homes and population to restore.

Electrical companies and other service providers generally go to the denser areas first.

In exchange for a more relaxed lifestyle, your country home may be a great distance away from healthcare providers, hospitals and urgent-care facilities.

This might be a problem in the event that you require medical attention.

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Best rural places to live for modern homesteading

The cost of building a sustainable home is much higher in urban areas due to the stricter building codes, zoning and other housing regulations.

Many readers dream of a simpler, healthier life in rural areas where there are few or no building codes and costs are far lower.

But what are the best rural places to live in?

The United States is experiencing a rural resurgence as families are leaving urban areas and seeking out communities where crime is lower, good schools are present, and life is simpler overall.

Best rural places to live
Best rural places to live

Homesteading is also becoming more and more popular among people with the charm of living a life close to nature.

We’re seeing a definite trend of people choosing to live in the country rather than in urban areas,” says Jack Odle, editor-in-chief of Progressive Farmer.

“And we wanted to celebrate that.

We’ve come up with a unique list of some great areas that may be somewhat under the radar.”

Best rural places to live

Here are some of the best rural places to live in United Sates of America.

All of these places have the common values of providing land at a good value and having vibrant local communities which have a flourishing local commerce scene.

  1. Fauquier County, Va.
  2. Oconee County, Ga.:
  3. McPherson County, Kan
  4. Callaway County, Mo
  5. Grafton County, N.H
  6. Gillespie County, Texas
  7. Sauk County, Wis
  8. Wilson County, Tenn
  9. Eagle County, Colo
  10. Rankin County, Miss

These areas are good places for someone to raise a family as the crime rates are low, there is plenty of fresh air to breathe in, and vast areas available to run around.

There are good schools in all the localities that have been listed.

It is important to have the availability of good schools and hospitals in the area where you want to settle in as these add a lot to the value of the community and provide social comfort as well.

The trend to move out of crowded cities and live in rural areas is becoming more and more widespread. What No One Tells You About Selling a Home

Other best rural places to live include:

  • Anna, Illinois and it’s nearby neighbor, Cobden, IL (Learn more about the area with its wine trails and more.)
  • Vail, Arizona
  • Cassopolis, Michigan
  • Jerome, Arizona
  • Ellsworth, Kansas

According to, there are rural areas that will entice you to move there.

Consider Ellsworth, Kansas.

With a population under 3,000 people, it’s one of ten Kansas towns which offers free land for retirees and others to move there.

Remember, on many publicized lists, there are small towns that feel more like large cities.

If you are truly looking for a rural existence, you will want to note the difference.

Consider if you want to move to a rural city, town or rural village.

Using less resources

Moving to a rural area could be a boon for the environment as well.

A number of studies have found that people who are living in rural areas are utilizing much lesser of the resources per capita and living a much easier sustainable lifestyle.

There are also a number of people who find that they are more suited to the hands-on approach to the rural lifestyle.

You will have more opportunities to use your skills in different ways, especially when you live off the land and from your talents and hard work.

The above mentioned list is by no means comprehensive and only serves to provide a starting point for which to begin your search for good rural places to live in.

Declaration of Homestead

The homesteading movement is spreading all across our nation.

There are a variety of reasons for which people are taking the decision to live a rural life off the land giving up their city lives.

These reasons vary from wanting to move to an area with lower crime, taxes and better schools to making the environmentally conscious decision to utilize less resources and try to be self sustaining in lifestyle.

Whatever the motivation to set up your homestead may be, it is important that you fill up the legal form for the declaration of homestead.

This is necessary as the law provides certain privileges to your homestead that can protect it from foreclosure because of debts to creditors under certain conditions.

declaration of homestead
Declaration of Homestead

A Declaration of Homestead requires you to prove that the homestead is your primary place of dwelling.

In certain states, just proving the homestead as your primary place of dwelling is enough to provide you with the same legal protection.

These laws vary by state and make sure you are aware of your legal responsibilities before taking the decision to set up your own homestead.

Declaration of Homestead form

Filling the form is fairly straightforward.

You can do it without any legal help.

You can download them online.

The form has to be notarized before submission, for which the legal fees have been capped by the government to a maximum of $25.

Rural living classes

The homesteading lifestyle is not for everyone, and it is advisable you look into what you are taking on closely before you commit.

There may be options where you can attend hands-on workshops at functioning homesteads.

You can also seek out community outreach and conservation centers, nurseries, nature and special-interest clubs, libraries and community colleges.

They often offer classes on specific topics throughout the year.

These places can be great resources to learn about living off-the-grid.

Many teach about may teach about rainwater harvesting, attracting pollinators, planting native plants, preserving food, growing fruits and vegetables, wind and solar production, composting, prepping, and much more.

This will allow you to get an idea of the activities that you can do.

You may well find some new hobbies and friends.

You can learn skills that will help you earn a living as well.

Even if you don’t plan to earn money from your venture, you may save money and/or live healthier by growing or doing it yourself.

It’s a great way to fully immerse yourself in the life you are considering.

Choosing to move to a rural location

Be sure you are making an informed decision and not just following a trend when you decide to set up your own homestead.

The environmental benefits are a draw as the resources that you consume and the strain you put on the environment is much less than those people who live in the cities.

Be sure you to follow all your legal responsibilities when you are setting up your homestead.

This includes building your homestead to code and filing your declaration of homestead to avail of the legal protection that the law gives you.

Earning a living homesteading

Can the homesteading lifestyle provide an income too?

We think it can.

So the question we are attempting to answer is what are the homesteading skills that will help you survive and even earn a living?

There are a number of ways you can earn a living off your homestead.

Grow fruits and vegetables and sell them at the local farmers market.

You can preserve food by canning and dehydrating to sell.

You can raise bees and sell honey.

Many people rear livestock and then use them as a source of income.

Sell milk and then meat from miniature cattle.

Sell eggs from backyard chickens or ducks.

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Make money from timber

If you have purchased a piece of land that is heavily wooded, that in itself is a huge opportunity to earn money.

Timber companies will pay you good money to come and clear your land for you.

All you need to do is inform them that you have standing timber which you are ready to sell.

This sale can be either to large companies or individuals.

There are always people looking to purchase firewood and you can cater to these people.

Earn money selling rocks

If your land has a lot of rocks then that can too be a source of income as there are people who are interested in buying all kinds of rocks.

You can set up a simple website to advertise the rocks you have to sell.

You may see a surprising amount of interest in what most people see no value in.

Raising livestock for a living

Again, you can raise livestock for meat and cows for milk.

There are auctions in most small towns for livestock of good breed.

You can raise them and then sell them for profit.

Depending on your space, you can also consider small cows instead of full-size.

You can have ducks and chickens on homesteads.

Chicken and duck eggs are always in demand wherever your homestead may be.

This can be for food as well as income.

You may be able to raise quail along with chicken and ducks.

You can sell quail eggs for more money than chicken eggs.

Rent out equipment

Often you will have equipment you aren’t using regularly.

You can rent out tools, a generator, tractors, or heavy equipment to make extra money.

Earn money from your skills

Once you are skilled in these various jobs, you can earn money for them.

You can offer classes and workshops in town teaching any number of things.

From there, you may want to hire yourself as a consultant, helping people get started in a new hobby, craft or trade.

You can be the expert in rainwater harvesting, milking cows and preserving milk, bird watching and building birdhouses, beekeeping, cultivating organic seeds, making cheese and butter, growing berries and making jam, or building furniture.

There are endless opportunities when you live in a rural place.

With your skills, you can help others get started and grow your business.

Modern homesteading skills

Homesteading is spreading across the United States.

More and more people are interested in acquiring the necessary skills that will let them live off the land in a wholesome and self-reliant manner.

There are homesteading schools in certain parts of the country.

Taking a class can often be easier than trial and error, and you will often find success faster.

All kinds of people attend these homesteading schools and workshops, not necessarily beginners.

A number of people took the plunge into homesteading and then realized that there are some skills that they needed to polish or learn from scratch.

These schools have started receiving help in the form of fiscal support as well as access to facilities by corporate players in the field.

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Pole barn insulation

Having a pole barn on your property is a cost effective way to have some sizable storage space.

Depending on the use of the barn, insulating it may be necessary.

Proper insulation provides a number of advantages.

It make the barn safer for the animals inside by helping to regulate the temperatures.

It also makes the structure a more comfortable place for the people that work there and even help prolong the lifespan of the structure as a whole.

What insulation helps with

Insulation helps combat the two main problems most commonly faced with pole barns: extreme temperatures and moisture.

Any pole barn that is going to house animals should contain reflective insulation.

This will help to protect the livestock and poultry from excessive heat.

An increase in the heat stress on the livestock has a direct effect on their milk production, fertility and may make them more susceptible to disease.

Reflective insulation controls indoor temperatures.

It reflects heat away from the building.

It also helps control condensation.

By using spray foam insulation, you can prevent water and moisture when insulating the pole barn.

An important thing to consider is to avoid using pure urethane for foam insulation as this can ‘rot’ when exposed to excessive water.

Most new spray foam insulation formulas are designed to avoid degradation that can occur over time.

Another way to combat this moisture buildup is to use a heavy duty plastic sheet in between the insulation and the metal side of the barn.

The only downside is that the metal can rust due to the trapped moisture if left undisturbed for a long period of time.

There are a number of different types of methods that can be used for pole barn insulation.

Insulation Options include:

Fiberglass blanket insulation

This is commonly found in steel buildings and it may be housed in vinyl.

The advantage with this type of insulation is that it does not require additional support on installation.

The fiberglass sheets are easily available at the hardware stores.

These are fixed in place with the help of steel nail guns.

Fiberglass board insulation

This is probably what most people associate with when they think of pole >barn insulation.

This kind of insulation requires the addition of a vapor barrier alongside.

The fiberglass board should be installed with a custom cut to ensure that it fits tightly.

Spray foam insulation

This is the most widely accepted way to insulate a pole barn today.

You will be hard pressed to find someone who does not agree that this is the best method for pole barn insulation; however, it turns out to be fairly expensive.

If this falls within your budget, then it is a viable solution.

There are many options that you can use to insulate your pole barn.

This is a great investment when you move to a rural location.

It can seem like a lot of work but the pay off in lower electricity bills as well as increased productivity is worth the trouble. 

Maybe you will consider a generator or a solar backup generator.

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Living in the country

Making the decision to move from a busy and bustling city life to the comparatively quiet and peaceful country, might seem like a radical decision.

However, once you start living in the country, it will hard to imagine anything different. You will likely thrive living a rural existence.

When you start thinking of homesteading and rural activities that will interest you, you will like it that much more.

If it is too intimidating to move out of state, consider options closer to where you are now. Many major metropolitan areas have outlying areas several hours away that are very rural. Perhaps you get acreage outside of the county limits. Consider your options and make it happen.

You will want to consider homesteading, including declaration of homestead and modern homesteading skills to be successful.

Modernizing Your Rural Home Upgrades to make more enjoyable

Modernizing Your Rural Home Upgrades

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Modernizing Your Rural Home – Just because you’ve chosen to live away from the hustle and bustle of the city doesn’t mean you have to forego all modern-day amenities.

In fact, the technology of today has made it so you can enjoy almost all the things of urban life.

Maybe even more without compromising the simple one.

Take a look at these modern upgrades that will make your rural home living more enjoyable and more satisfying than you ever imagined.

Some might even save you money! Home Maintenance Tips that Will Save You Tons of Money

Modernizing Your Rural Home Upgrades


If you’re in a position where you can change the cosmetics and interior of your home, you may consider some upgrades on that front as well.

Even simple things, like adding skylights, help bring in more sun to heat up the home.

Plus, they make for great star-filled night sky viewing!

Moreover, there are many green building modernization today, including eco-friendly insulation, flooring, framing, roofing, siding, paint, and more

All designed to keep your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, while reducing your carbon footprint.

And like the alternative power sources, they can save you money in the long run.

Upgrading Your Rural Home with solid real wood flooring

Modernizing Your Rural Home with solid real wood flooring is something that will add to the value of your home, make your indoor space more attractive and even improve your health and quality of life!

There’s a very good reason why solid wood flooring is the preferred choice of those who understand how to strike the right balance between functionality and style.

At Lifestyle Flooring, our solid wood floors are 100% natural, with each plank coming from a single piece of tinder.

This gives you a uniform look, while still keeping a lot of visual interest.

Why Should I Upgrade To Solid Real Wood Flooring?

Modernizing Your Rural Home with solid real wood flooring will give your house a timeless elegance and appeal.

It Will Increase The Value Of Your Home

If you are ever thinking about selling your home, upgrading your flooring is a great first step to raising the value and allure of your house.

Since everyone knows the value of solid wood floors, they will be an excellent selling point for you and could even increase the bidding price for your property.

If you are not planning on selling your rural home, you will be able to enjoy the floors yourself!

Solid Real Wood Flooring Looks Classy And Modern

There are few things in this world that are more versatile than really great flooring.

You will be able to strike the right note with wood flooring because it will complement any other different decor that you might have in your home.

It looks just as wonderful in a streamlined, modern home as in a rustic and cozy one.

Real wood flooring is the perfect canvas that allows you to do all of your other decorating.

This Type Of Flooring Is A Breeze To Clean

Carpets tend to trap dust and dirt inside them. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how often you clean them; they just have a tendency to soak up all of the debris in your house.

Wood flooring is a breeze to clean, and you won’t miss a spot.

This keeps your home looking great, but also keeps your health at its optimum peak.

We all know that hazards like dust and mold can really take a toll on our airways, so having hardwood floors can seriously save us some trips to the doctor.

You Will Enjoy Better Acoustics

Love to play your stereo or entertain company? Real wood flooring gives you some of the best acoustics that money can buy.

Your music will sound clean and bright, without being tinny or over amplified.

Since real wood flooring absorbs more sound than other types of hard flooring, like laminates, your music will never be overpowering.

Your guests will be able to enjoy a nice conversation while taking in some of the background music.

If you want to take your home to the next level, you should seriously consider an investment in real wood floors.

It’s a simple thing that can make a huge difference.
Modernizing Your Rural Home Upgrades

Alternative Power

A nice benefit to living in the country is the availability of alternative sources of power for your home.

Resource that our city-dwelling brethren typically don’t have access to.

Using eco-friendly sources, such as solar or wind, to run electricity in your home can not only save you a ton of money in electric bills, but also greatly reduce your carbon footprint.

What’s more, the set up process isn’t all that difficult.

There are plenty of online DIY resources and how to guides to get your power sources up and running in no time.

Generate enough power and you might even be able to contribute back to the grid, with a nice paycheck awaiting you from Uncle Sam.

High-Speed Internet

It’s amazing how many rural homes are still connecting to the Internet via dial-up access numbers.

The result is slow internet that doesn’t let you take advantage of all the rich content found online, not to mention fast home networking solutions (see Home Wireless Network, below).

Though you may not be able to get cable Internet where you live, as most cable providers only service major metropolitan areas, you can still get your hands on high-speed Internet.

No, not DSL.

The solution is satellite Internet.

Satellite internet has become such a popular channel for rural high-speed Internet that the government even subsidized the service for some time just a few years ago.

What’s great is that it’s super easy to set up.

All you need is a satellite dish and service, both provided by a satellite service provider, and a clear view of the southern sky.

Everything else works just the same.

It is important to note, though, that most satellite Internet providers do have caps on how much you can download in a day.

And, you may not be able to do certain things like stream movies from Netflix and Hulu.

But you can still download other media, like YouTube videos, music, and pictures—much faster than you typically can from a dial-up connection.

Another option you may have is cell phone tethering.

This is when you use a cell phone network to create a connection to the Internet that you can then in turn use on your home computer or any other Internet-ready device.

And it’s very easy to set up.

The problem with tethering is that it’s 100% dependent on having reliable cell phone reception, which may not be the case if you’re pretty far out in the country.

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Home Wireless Network

Once you have your high-speed Internet connection established, you can then take advantage of a home wireless network.

This removes this hassle of having wires running throughout your home.

Plus, it gives you the convenience of being able to do things like stream content media from your computer to another device, such as your smart TV.

Having a home Wi-Fi network also makes it convenient for guests to access the Internet when they are in your home.

They don’t have to attach a cable to get on the Internet, which may not even be an option for them anyway.

All you have to do is give them the password to your network, and they’ll be able to hop on in a flash.

Setting up WiFi in your home

Setting up a home Wi-Fi network isn’t as complicated as it sounds.

All you need to do is purchase a router that connects to your Internet modem.

Many of the routers come with quick and easy setup discs that will get you going in a matter of minutes.

From electronics to the very framework of your house, these solutions are a great way to start modernizing your rural home.

Put one or all of them in place, and you’ll quickly find that country living can be even more rewarding than you anticipated.

And you’ll be sure to impress your city friends!

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Advice on Property Development that can hurt you

Advice on Property Development That Can Hurt You

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People have often asked me my best advice on property development.

it is: “What you don’t know is the thing that can hurt you the most.”

That statement is true for many situations in life, but is especially true as you embark on finding the perfect rural home or retreat.

The thing you don’t know will not just cost you a little more money and time.

It might mean the difference between meeting or missing your ultimate goal.

Let me explain.

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Advice on Property Development That Can Hurt You

Let’s say that after looking for a while, you found the perfect ranch, farm, or property to develop.

You and your family have a list of things to look for, and on the surface this one piece of property looks perfect!

It is a beautiful site.

It might even have an old barn on it.

So you quickly buy it and want to start building your home.

Advice on Property Development That Can Hurt You
Advice on Property Development That Can Hurt You

You call the local well drilling company and they come and meet with you.

After looking around, they tell you the news: there isn’t any water to drill for.

The ground is shale, which doesn’t hold any water.

You become a bit numb.

What did he say…no water?

There is a slight possibility that they can use new technology to fracture the shale and perhaps get  a little bit of water.

The bad news is that this all could cost you upwards of $25,000 …and that is something you don’t have.

Also, there is no guarantee that you will even get water.

So what do you do?

You ask yourself…how did i get in this mess?

Why did I buy this?

Without water, no house.

And you are now proud owners of a place that has no water.

Gee…could that be the reason why the property was so cheap and no one had purchased it?!

Or maybe this situation:

You found this same perfect place.

It was a good fit.

Everyone told you it was perfect.

You noticed that access to the piece was through another parcel.

The road was there and everyone said it was the official access to the property.

So you bought the property, but the next time you went to see the place, the road was blocked.

Really blocked.

The neighbor whose property the access road went through said he didn’t have to give access legally, and with a change of ownership he decided to stop it.

So now what do you do?

Enter a costly legal battle?

You are proud owners of a place that you can’t gain access to!

How did you get into this situation?

These are two very real-world examples of what can happen if you haven’t done your  “due diligence” prior to closing.

Due diligence is the process where you resolve all issues and questions regarding use of the property in the way you plan to use it.

But don’t be discouraged–there is no reason to shrink from developing your new farm or ranch even with these potential issues.

Regardless of size, each project has a start, and from then on it is a step by step process.

It is both exciting and nerve-wracking.

But it achieves something very special that is bigger than ourselves.

It is leaving a legacy for those that will follow after us.

And experiencing a common goal and outcome brings family together.

Is it an easy process? No.

There are lots of things to consider, but each development/construction issue taken individually can usually be resolved with a positive outcome.

If you have ever purchased a home, you know that part of that involved a “house inspection.”

This inspection resulted in an objective opinion of the pluses and negatives of the house, as well as present and potential future issues.

This kind of “inspection” is different for land /farm/ranch purchases, but the principle is the same.

You just want to know what the whole situation is and don’t want to stumble into an unanticipated web of problems and issues.

These can involve county planning requirements, legal issues, water/utility issues, and many other factors.

Many things can be investigated quickly, while some issues may require more involvement.

But in any case, the resolution of your concerns prior to purchase will give you peace of mind and maintain the development momentum you’ll need as you move forward.

Even a negative resolution is a positive thing if it keeps you from purchasing a parcel that will be nothing but a headache.

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Holiday Gift Ideas From Rural Living Today

Holiday Gift Ideas From Rural Living Today

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Holiday Gift Ideas – Is it that time of year again? Our family truly enjoys this special month of December.

We celebrate Christmas in many ways, from a birthday cake for Jesus to special holiday menus, from stockings on the mantle to a fragrant Christmas tree.

But our favorite facet of the month has to be the warm and festive gatherings with family, friends, and neighbors.

And some of those get-togethers involve gift giving.

Though we try to be kind and generous all year round, there’s something about celebrating this season by giving something special to those we love.

In our family we exchange gifts including coupons for services and outings, personalized tree ornaments, practical packages under the tree, and fun gift bags passed around in those silly gift exchange games we just can’t give up.

Are you in the market for some ideas for holiday gifts for individuals or families?

Holiday Gift Ideas From Rural Living Today
Holiday Gift Ideas From Rural Living Today

Here are some suggestions from our house to yours.

Rural Living Today Holiday Gift Ideas Four Holiday Wish Lists

Rural Living Today have compiled some lists of practical and fun items we use or would like to have…and that we highly recommend to other homesteaders.

So here we have lists For good measure, we’ve added a list for the youngest homesteaders in our lives.

We’ve included links to some online stores so you can see the products or order them if you wish.

But we also encourage you to support your local merchants by shopping in your own neighborhood.

Rural Living Today Holiday Gift Ideas
Rural Living Today Holiday Gift Ideas

Rural Living Today Holiday Gift Ideas

Carhartt Long Sleeve T-Shirts

I could never have too many of these–I live in them all winter.

Marie and I both like to wear them alone or layered under other shirts, depending on the temperature.

These Carhartt T-shirts are heavier than most Ts, well made, and reasonably priced.

They come in several colors that still look good after lots of washing, and Carhartt’s short sleeve T-shirts are great for the spring to fall months.

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Extra batteries for battery-driven tools

You can never have enough extra batteries.

There are few things more frustrating than running out of power in the middle of a project.

Keep a battery charger in the garage, one in the barn, another in the garden shed.

I like these combo sets of interchangeable tools.

I have a drill, handsaw, and flashlight that use the same battery pack.

Speaking of flashlights, you can never have too many!

This year I bought a giant one that will even shine on coyotes hundreds of feet away.

And we have several of these little LED headlamps around; we keep a couple in the truck so we can see the gate lock when arriving home in the black of night.

Check your local stores for specials on these–we found a pack of three headlights with batteries.

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Framing gun, finish gun, finish brad and staple gun.

The last is great for attaching wire cloth, screening, and chicken wire when building chicken tractors and coops.

There’s no substitute!

Nice air compressor with air driven tools

Here’s a combo set with air compressor and tools.

Good quality chainsaw

I recommend a farm-sized chainsaw–not a small startup saw.

I’d get a Husqvarna Rancher chainsaw or the Stihl equivalent.

Make sure you have extra chains and lots of 2 cycle oil additive on hand.

Weed whacker

Either a Husqvarna or Stihl trimmer.

Get a good heavy-duty one with a support strap to hold the weight of the tool while you work.

Remote wireless thermometer

Summer and winter, the first thing I want to know in the morning is the outdoor temperature.

It tells me how the livestock and the garden might be faring and helps me plan my day.

BUT especially on frigid mornings I’d rather not go outside to check the temps.

With a remote weather station you can have several wireless weather station around your property reporting in to one central reader located in the comfort of your home.

I have my eye on this one that can read three remote sensors up to 330 feet from my house.

Good Laptop Computer

A good laptop computer for research, record-keeping, etc.

Brands and formats vary but it’s important to have something you’re comfortable with and that suits your preferences.

Depending on your needs, a tablet may be enough.

Apple peeler – Apple Corer – Apple Slicer

I may be an outdoor kind of guy but hey.

I can find my way around the kitchen!

This fall we spent hours peeling and coring apples the old-fashioned way.

Then I found out about this manually-operated Apple Peeler gadget that will speed things up like crazy next year.

Holiday Gift Ideas Favorites
Holiday Gift Ideas Favorites

Rural Living Today Holiday Gift Ideas Favorites

Jolly Garden Clogs


If I could recommend only one thing (or one pair of things) to my friends, it would be Jolly Garden Clogs.

They are durable, very comfy, and easy to slip on and off.

Their sturdy cork insoles support my flat arches and are removable for cleaning.

I wear my red Jollys all year round all over our farm as long as the snow is not deeper than they are tall.

They also disappear from our mud room all the time and can be found on the feet of my daughters and granddaughters.

Men can wear them too!

Jollys come in two men’s styles and two women’s styles.

Adobe oven for our backyard patio area

An Adobe Pizza Oven is on our wish list every year, just waiting for it to rise to the top of the priority list on our developing family farm.

We’re thinking about building something like this.

But for now we will stick to our BBQ Grill.

Can you imagine baking bread, roasting meat, or cooking a homemade pizza in one of these?

Ninja Kitchen System or similar appliance

One of the most important tools in the kitchen!

We use our Ninja Pulse Blender multiple times daily for grinding coffee and herbs, grating cheese, making smoothies, mixing, kneading, and all sorts of other things.

So handy not only for everyday cooking but when there’s lots of garden produce to process.

 Kitchenaid Mixer Fruit and vegetable strainer attachment

Our hand-cranked food mill does the job (and without electricity), but for large quantities of applesauce and tomato sauce, this Kitchenaid strainer attachment is a real hand- and time-saver.

Homestead Food Processing Projects and Canning Equipment

I have a large kitchen, but the counters always seem to be full of processing foods, trials, and testing projects…and the endless canning supplies.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a separate bowls of bread dough, jars of kefir, crocks of fermenting vinegar, bowls of soaking grains and nuts,dehydrator, canners, etc.?

I’m planning to get a separate set of canning utensils to keep aside for canning only.

Speaking of kitchen projects, I recommend every homesteader kitchen be equipped with both a water bath canner for high-acid foods and a pressure canner for meats, vegetables, and other low-acid foods.

I use some of them all year, but at canning time I spend too much time trying to find them around the kitchen.

Big food dehydrator

I have a small round Nesco dehydrator, but oh would I love to have an Excalibur dehydrator!

When I’ve used my daughter’s, I really notice that the Excalibur not only holds more food and has more height flexibility, but also dehydrates everything much faster!

Vacuum Sealer

FoodSaver rounds out the food preservation equipment list.

Vacuum sealing prevents freezer burn and just keeps things fresher, plus it consolidates packages so they stack nicely in the freezer or pantry.

We have a basic model, but the larger models have more capabilites.

Reading for Leisure Time

All this talk of equipment for working makes me want to sit down for a bit to read.

For me that includes reading about working (Getting Started on a Food Supply Plan: Sourcing, Preserving, and Storing Food for Tomorrow’s Uncertain Times), you can buy it here.

Here are some great magazines to read about the homesteading life and more mad scientist experiments to try!

GRIT, Mother Earth News, Hobby Farms, Backwoods Home.

I’d love to sit down and reminisce through the new 40th anniversary edition of The Encyclopedia of Country Living, the book that inspired our homesteading hearts.

Holiday Gift Dream List

Kindle eBook reader

One thing that is extremely handy is Kindle e-reader.

It isn’t just for reading fiction, you can store thousands of great, informative, and educational books on one.

Making them a great tool to keep with you, whether you are working in the shop, the garden, or learning new skills.

I’ve been wanting one for about three years and this year I am finally getting one – very excited!

Pullover Sweater

A nice thick pullover sweater for chilly mornings before the fire warms things up.

I like sweatshirts but one thing my dad Jim can attest to is that I am a big sweater fan.

I’ve been stealing his sweaters my whole life!

Travel mugs to keep my coffee hot

Contigo mugs are bar none the best, although I’ve got a few others sitting around.

I am a creature of habit, and as a creature of habit I love my routine of coffee in the morning and afternoon.

A good travel mug will keep it hot if I don’t finish it in time, which is handy with little ones underfoot!

Kitchenaid Mixer

This is probably one of my most favorite and useful tools.

Kitchenaid is an absolute workhorse.

There are some days I use mine multiple times in the day.

It not only is good to have as a mixer, but it has lots of attachments to do whatever you want, from an ice cream maker to a food strainer (which I use quite a bit!).

You can use it to grind your meat, mix in the seasonings, and then extrude the sausage into links.

A very useful tool!

Shelving Systems

A nice shelving system for canned goods is a good thing to have on hand for anyone who does their own food preservation.

One thing that is difficult is when you don’t really know what you have on hand.

Personally I’m no good at keeping an inventory.

Having a shelf that keeps everything right in sight is hugely useful for planning meals or knowing when it’s time to stock up.

A good garden wagon

Wheelbarrows are really nice but if you have a good sturdy garden wagon/cart, you can haul so much more and it is much easier to use than a wheelbarrow.

If you garden at all, this is a hugely useful item that makes life a whole lot easier.

Automatic feeders and nipple Chicken waterers (available for chickens, hogs, and more)

These are something that will also make life much easier when caring for livestock.

At our old house when we had our chickens I loved the fact that my chickens could have plenty of food and water at any given time.

It really came in handy during those busy days running errands, canning marathons, or anything else that might “help” me forget to feed or water my birds.

Large feeders can be found easily online and in feed stores.

We made our nipple waterers similar to this, but you can find ready-made ones at Avian Aqua Miser and The Garden Coop.

Insulated hooded zip-up sweatshirt

My favorite is one I got from North 1(which is very difficult to find) – it is thermal insulated on the inside and so warm.

I love having the convenience of a hoodie with the warmth of a coat for quick trips outside to grab more firewood, compost pile or to wrangle the animals.

I know Carhartt has some really good ones, too, and they are easier to find than North 1!

Set of cast iron cookware

I would be so lost without my cast iron.

When seasoned it cleans easily, cooks evenly and food somehow tastes better when made in it.

I have several skillets in various sizes and a dutch oven and they pretty much have a permanent residence on my stove.

On my wish list this year is a set of cast iron bread pans.

I have one made from stoneware, and it bakes so much nicer than the thin nonstick one I have.

Indoor/outdoor slippers

Since I don’t have a pair of Jolly Clogs like my mom (and yes, I DO steal them when I visit) I love my slippers that have soles.

They are just sturdy enough that I can run outside for that trip to the woodpile or compost pile and not have to worry about putting on regular shoes.

Holiday Gift Ideas Fun for Younger Homesteaders
Holiday Gift Ideas Fun for Younger Homesteaders

Holiday Gift Ideas Fun for Younger Homesteaders

Fisher-Price Little People Farm

We have to start with this old favorite of our family.

Bethany still has the old 1970s version that our kids all played with.

Of course this one is all modernized, with animal sounds…and does the barn door still “moo”?

Melissa and Doug Farm Friends Floor Puzzle

We love the quality of Melissa and Doug products, and this floor puzzle looks like tons of fun! Look at all those farm animals and the big red barn.

Pieces are large enough for young children to handle and put in place.

Farm Cube Puzzle by Melissa and Doug.

Remember the kind where each side of each block is part of a different puzzle?

Kids can spend hours rearranging these cubes to discover their favorite farm animals looking back at them.

Lace and Trace Farm lace up cards. Generations of kids have enjoyed lacing perforated cards with yarn.

These farm animals are adorable (and yes, they’re from Melissa and Doug and we really don’t get paid for advertising their products!

But quality speaks for itself).

My First Farm set for LEGO fans

These duplo blocks are for the young ones, but I know some older kids who would love to build this and play with it too.

My Collage Farm

Four cute little animals and a bunch of goodies to decorate them with.

Little ones need help but older kids can let their creativity fly.

Little House on the Prairie books and DVD sets

I’ll never be too old to read about the pioneer life of the Ingalls family.

We used to read the booksevery year, and now our grand kids are avidly reading them.

The DVD’s they’re among the best for entertaining young people while accurately describing life for the original homesteaders.

Do you have an avid craftier in your family?

My Little House Crafts Book includes instructions for 18 projects that Laura and Mary actually made in the Little House stories.

My Side of the Mountain trilogy

These books were some of our childhood favorites.

They inspired our dreams of self-sufficiency and aspirations to live the life we live today. Prepping gives you options on the road adventure

You can be sure our own children will be reading them in the years to come!

Farm Science Set

Farm Science set for older children.

A fun way to learn about how farms work with all sorts of educational and fun activities from T.S. Shure.

Storey Publishing’s game and puzzle books for preschoolers and older kids

These look like so much fun I’m thinking of putting them on my own wish list!

Barnyard Games and Puzzles, Pony Play Games and Puzzles, Chicken Games and Puzzles and Horse Games and Puzzles each include more than 100 brainteasers, word games, puzzles, jokes and riddles.

Badland Winches and Trailer Tongues for Your Vehicle

With safety always being a priority, we have put together information on two products for your vehicles, depending on your situation.

It is not surprising to have off-road vehicles get stuck in the mud or some challenging terrain regardless of their tough mechanisms and dynamic designs meant for such situations.

This is when Badland winches would come in handy to extract the vehicle from uninspiring positions in the outback or dense forests.

The market offers 12000 lb Badland winches with an automatic load-holding brake to get stuck off-road vehicles out of their predicament easily and quickly.

The dynamic winch can offer plenty of power in any heavy vehicle recovery using a cable tensioner that pulls out the stuck vehicle quickly without damaging any component.

If you frequent adventurous trips using 4×4 wheel vehicles in remote terrains, it is wise to bring along one of these 12000 lb winches as an unfailing companion when needed to get out of a tight situation.

Badland Winches
Badland Winches

Badland Winches for off-road fun

Badland winches exhibit great power in not just recovering stuck vehicles; they can haul timber over a great distance or be loaded onto a container.

A boat can also be loaded with this powerful winch which uses a series-wound motor.

The winch enjoys a 3-stage planetary gear system that spurns a fast speed line to get the job done.

Its load-holding brake is an automatic feature that is designed for extreme safety in any off-road adventure.

Modern technology ensures that all Badland winches are designed with dynamic components that offer features to benefit the extreme adventurer with maximum safety.

The winch’s motor stays cool even when in long pulls while the free spooling feature ensures a fast line out.

Its cable tensioner is specially designed to prevent any tangling of the cable.

The winch has a 12-foot remote control that is ergonomic in shape for a smoother hold and grip.

Its roller fair lead comes with nylon bushing and tough wire rope of aircraft grade to give durability and strength at every pull out job.

It is easy to attach the winch onto the vehicle easily and securely to ensure that the vehicle would be pulled out of the challenging terrain.

Easy access to buy Badland Winches

Veteran off-road adventurers have no hesitation in investing in a quality Badland 12000 lb winch from an appointed supplier that provides fair pricing and friendly customer services.

Such products come with a lifetime warranty that assures consumers of material defects or substandard workmanship.

An extended guarantee can be secured to enjoy better services from its distributor.

Certain distributors may even allow a return of these winches for any reason.

Costing just a couple of hundred dollars with a lifetime warranty, Badland winches are a strong necessity for adventurers as well as heavy vehicle repair shops, manufacturers, tool enthusiasts and building contractors who have specific uses of the winch.

The wide number of suppliers and distributors for winches makes it easy for customers to get a unit for their vehicles.

The internet is a powerful platform that allows easy search and online purchases of these tools, such as

Trailer Tongue

At first look, Trailer Tongue sounds like something a dentist might be interested in or maybe something a stand-up comic dreamed up of.

However, hold your laughter as a trailer tongue is a very real thing and for people who love to carry their mobile home along with them as they head down the road, a trailer tongue is a serious thing.

Trailer Tongue
Trailer Tongue

Technically it refers to the forward portion of a trailer where the coupler is mounted.

Now why would one worry about this contraption or even give it a second thought?

Tongue weight

Well first of all, as they say in trailer circles, always know your tongue weight.

It is something that you will need to aware of if you intend to hitch a trailer to your car.

Most people who are familiar with all things towing say that the tongue weight should be around 9-11% of the gross trailer weight.

This is crucial with respect to safety while towing your trailer.

If the tongue weight is too light then not enough downward pressure is applied on the attachment point and can result in something that is called as trailer sway.

This is unsafe as it makes the trailer difficult to handle and can it can even come off under severe stress.

The other thing is if the tongue weight is too heavy.

This causes an undue strain on the car pulling the trailer affecting the gas efficiency as well as making the trailer very difficult to maneuver specially around turns.

There are some fixes that can be made if the trailer tongue weight does not fall within the correct weight limit then simple fixes can be made.

These include shifting the cargo weight inside the trailer to help compensate as necessary.

If the trailer weight is too light then all that needs to be done is to shift the weight forward and if the weight is more, then some weight needs to be shifted toward the back of the trailer.

This helps in balancing the trailer weight and helps in maneuverability.

This however is a distant second fix as compared to changing the actual trailer weight.

Calculating tongue weight

The next logical question is how to calculate the tongue weight?

Well the first step is to know the total weight of the trailer so that you can calculate what weight range you need to be within.

If you do not already know this then a trip to the public scales and a small dollar investment will provide you the answer.

To calculate the tongue weight you can either use a small bathroom scale (for lighter tongues) or you can purchase a specific tongue weight scale which will help you find out the exact scale of the heavier tongue weights.

For newcomers, both the information on Badland winches and trailer tongues for your vehicles may sound intimidating but with your research, you will need what you need to in order to buy accordingly.

10 Things to Love About Rural Living

Ten Things to Love About Rural Living

Last Updated on

Things to Love About Rural Living, After living for a long time in urban and suburban environments, I am now living a rural lifestyle.

Is this for everybody?

Maybe not.

But I sure do enjoy rural living 52 weeks a year in a place where I used to vacation for 2 weeks a year.

Things to Love About Rural Living

Apart from a few years that I spent as an urban dweller many years ago, I have lived most of my life in the country.

For me, it is the only real choice. 

If you’re like me, then you know what I’m talking about.

City living doesn’t have a lot to recommend it.

The noise, the stink, the pollution and the excessive number of people, all of these things are enough to drive me crazy. 

My life in the country is different in virtually every way.

Surrounded by the soft sounds of nature, I have plenty of opportunities to contemplate my thoughts or carry on a conversation.

The air is crisp and clear.

When the sun goes down, I feel like I have a front seat in the audience for viewing the entire Milky Way. 

I sometimes go for days without seeing another person except those who live with me, yet I’m never lonely.

There’s just so much to see and do.

My garden always needs tending, and I have animals that make for incredibly good company. 

Of course, one of the best things about country living is being able to be so close to nature.

During my years in the city, I felt nearly cut off from nature.

All of my walks involved asphalt and concrete.

Seeing some grass, let alone walking on it, was rare.

The trees I saw tended to be less than impressive, and flowers were nearly unheard of. 

Things are incredibly different where I live now. Off-Grid Living: Surviving the Outdoors

For miles around, I can explore pastures, meadows and forests.

The gently rolling landscape is just perfect for enjoying a healthy walk, and you can bet that I’m out there pretty nearly 365 days a year. 

I will admit that as I have gotten older, the terrain has become a little more difficult to handle.

It’s only natural that after many years of activity I would experience some joint stiffness and other mild complaints.

Plus, sometimes I feel like I’m just not as surefooted as I used to be. 

Now, I have never been accused of being a quitter, and I don’t intend for that kind of mindset to take over at this point.

I started looking around for a solution.

A friend that I regularly run into at a store in town suggested that I look into getting a walking cane, so I started doing some searching on the Internet. 

Twisted Sassafras Turned Knob Walking Cane

That’s how I discovered the Brazos Walking Sticks Company.

It’s a US company that’s located in Texas, so I feel like they really understand my fiercely independent lifestyle.

The fact that each of their walking sticks is fashioned by hand, one at a time, was also incredibly appealing. 

I mean, who’s heard of that kind of craftsmanship in this day and age?

Most products are turned out by the dozen on mechanized assembly lines located in some other country that isn’t the US.

However, I feel like this is one company that’s really doing it right.

They genuinely care about their products and what people think of them. 

I spent quite a bit of time on their website before ultimately deciding on the Twisted Sassafras Turned Knob Walking Cane.

Its appearance is really eye catching.

The shaft is made from sassafras with some of the bark left on for added appeal.

In fact, the bark forms the “twist” around the shaft, and it looks amazing. 

As good as the pictures online are, seeing my own walking cane from Brazos Walking Sticks Company was something entirely different.

The piece has a really beautiful sheen, and the orange and red colors are gorgeous.

I’m impressed by how lightweight this stick is, yet it appears to be amazingly durable.

No matter the terrain or the weather, I know that my Twisted Sassafras Turned Knob Walking Cane is up to the task. 

The wood that is used to create this stick is incredibly well polished.

It feels so smooth and comfortable in my hand.

Available in two lengths, I was able to get the size that is perfect for my height.

Additionally, it’s possible to add all sorts of personalization and accessories to these walking sticks.

I added my monogram and the combi-spike tip so that my cane would be a true go-anywhere accessory. 

If you like, you also can add a cane strap or other embellishments like an American flag medallion or a pewter star.

Brazos even offers a thermometer, so if you’re concerned about the temperature, that might be a sensible addition for you. 

One of the things that I find so appealing about this cane is that it has so much personality.

I’ve seen plenty of people walking around with a plain, impersonal cane made from metal or another less-imaginative material, but it’s rare to see someone with such an outstanding and unique accessory in their hand. 

I guess what I’m saying is that I appreciate that this cane was made from a material that once was a part of a living tree.

In some ways, I feel like it’s an extension of nature, and that fits in well with my lifestyle.

Plus, anyone can see how sturdy and dependable this cane is in addition to being well made.

This is probably going to end up a family heirloom for my country-loving relatives. 

Initially, I had planned to only use my walking cane while going on my long rambles through the countryside.

Now I take it pretty much everywhere I go.

When I bring it into town, people are always impressed with it, and I can’t stop myself from telling the story. 

I also tell them, only if I’m asked, how much I paid for my stick.

It never fails to astound people that this impressive and functional piece of art costs so little.

I think it just might be the smartest purchase I’ve ever made. 

I have no intention of ever giving up my independent country lifestyle.

My walking stick is one more tool that makes that possible.

Oak Wood Derby Walking Cane With Oak Shaft And Brass Embossed Collar

If you are looking for a handsome, durable walking cane, look no further than the Oak Wood Derby Walking Cane With Oak Shaft And Brass Embossed Collar from Fashionable Canes.

This cane is as functional as it is beautiful.

The secret is in the derby style handle, which is both easy to grip and balances like a dream on the edge of any table.

No longer will you have to worry about your cane slipping to the ground and embarrassing you during a fancy dinner out.

You also won’t have to tuck it away and run the risk of forgetting about it!

Your cane will be right where you left it, securely clamped on to the table.

The handle also makes it easy to maneuver around with.

Many canes will slip right out of your hands at the first disturbance or slippery ground, but not the Oak Wood Derby Walking Cane With Oak Shaft And Brass Embossed Collar!

The derby handle keeps it right by your side, no matter what kind of terrain you are up against.

The design also allows you to keep up with others who might be walking briskly without the aid of a cane.

You will never worry about falling behind again!

This cane is also lovingly carved from oak, which gives it a beautiful appearance as well as makes it sturdy and largely immune to many different types of wear and tear.

The oak is honey-colored, but the grain is darker, giving the cane a sophisticated appearance that contrasts the darker grain against the naturally light color of the wood.

The result is striking and sophisticated; the perfect complement to any outfit.

This is a cane that could accompany you to the most prestigious occasion and fit right in perfectly.

Such a fabulous cane needs some incredible ornamentation, which is exactly what this cane gets with a solid brass collar that connects the derby handle to the staff of the cane.

This simple collar is subtly marked with the Royal Canes Company logo.

It is muted and understated sophistication, the last word in class.

This cane can be customized to your weight and height, although some maximum limits to apply.

The cane itself weighs in at just under a pound, which is great for users who need a lightweight cane that can still stand up to the rough and tumble nature of life.

This cane is also reasonably priced as well.

You can get your hands on it for under $40.

It’s a small investment in your overall happiness and mobility, and well worth it!

I would recommend this cane to anyone.

It’s handsome but simple enough to go with any different outfit, and it is able to stand up to different types of terrain and wear and tear.

Best of all, the derby handle will keep the cane right where you need it; by your side at all times.

10 Things to Love About Rural Living

I don’t have to spend 10% of each day commuting.

For years I did it in the morning, and then I did it at night, and I repeated the cycle five days a week.

What a waste of time, energy, and emotional well-being.

Nowadays, my vehicle of choice is a tractor and there’s hardly any traffic!

I am happy when I wake up.

I don’t dread a new day.

Each day is a new one full of adventure, projects and challenges.

The old routine called the “daily grind” is history.

I live in a safe environment.

I leave my keys in my truck.

My house is unlocked.

My dogs are the best doorbell I’ve ever had!

Ten Things to Love About Rural Living
Ten Things to Love About Rural Living

I know the history of much of my food nowadays.

No more worry about food scares and where my food is coming from.

My food doesn’t have unknown additives, hormones, enhancers, and other stuff that just isn’t good for you.

I will live a longer life than if I had stayed in the city.

My food has flavor, too.

Just try one of my tomatoes and compare it to one from a supermarket.

Mine has flavor…

Things are growing all around me.

I am surrounded by real life—living things.

I can look at my garden and watch my own livestock from my kitchen window.

On my way into town one day, I saw literally hundreds of deer and wild turkeys.

I really enjoy watching the eagles soaring above me as I work on my property.

10 things child gardening
10 things child gardening

My kids are learning about life.

They know where their food is coming from, and they are responsible for some of that.

They are able to follow their desires and passions, whether it is growing food, flowers, or animals.

Their world is unlimited.

They run around and play and I don’t have to worry.

They have become much more self-sufficient and confident.

They are no longer addicted to the Social Media, text messaging, or video games.

My family is somewhat protected from potential issues in the future.

All is not well in the economic, political and global environments.

Unemployment, home foreclosures, civil unrest… are things really getting better?


The civil consequences of all of this will be hitting the urban areas much more than the rural areas.

I can be out hunting in five minutes.

I can be catching a fish in thirty minutes.

Couldn’t do that in my suburban neighborhood.

I know my neighbors.

They are ready to help me with a phone call and when we pass on the road, they always make time to stop and say hello.

In my last neighborhood, I barely knew or even saw my neighbors.

My family lives here too!

Advice on Property Development that can hurt you
Moving to the Country Start of the Journey
Factors That Limit The Refinancing or Financing of Rural Properties
What No One Tells You About Selling a Home

And the top reason I love rural living: The Importance of Family Traditions

I love rural living: The Importance of Family Traditions
I love rural living: The Importance of Family Traditions

Long, long ago, December 25 was designated as a day to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus.

Over the years, other cultural and personal traditions became a part of Christmas celebrations.

Our family embraces both the sincere appreciation of Jesus in our lives and the joy of participating in many fun and meaningful aspects of the season.

We stretch our celebration into about six weeks, from the day after American Thanksgiving in late November into the first week of January.

Each year we attend some new events, try some new recipes, and make some new decorations.

But the basis of our celebration of the season is a cornerstone of family traditions.

Sense of belonging

Family traditions give a family a sense of belonging, routine, and anticipation.

They provide a cohesiveness that can bring everyone together no matter what the circumstances.

If a teenager is feeling like an outsider or wondering which planet his parents came from, family traditions can bind everyone together in shared history and memories.

Someone going through a tough time can relax and be reminded that he or she is not alone.

Newcomers to the family can be invited to introduce some of their own traditions as the family melds together.

A new family being formed by remarriage can encourage the family blending by incorporating traditions from each merging family and then creating new traditions together.

With turmoil all around us in the world and even in our communities, there’s something dependable and faithful and even comforting about participating in a family tradition.

It means something to count on, something to anticipate, a feeling that “I’m a part of this family and this family is a part of me.”

Traditions also promote expectations, which can be good or bad.

In our family we try to focus on the positive ones and eliminate or adapt those with heavy strings attached.

We’ve also kept an eye on interests and abilities as years go by and people change.

Some traditions just die of old age or are replaced by more appropriate or comfortable activities.

Family traditions, old and new

In the past decades, as we shaped our own family’s winter holiday traditions, we carried over a few from our own childhoods.

Each of us had always gotten a tangerine at the bottom of our Christmas stockings.

We both had fun memories of annual visits from “Santa” as part of Christmas Eve preparations and Christmas morning surprises.

Holiday music was played in both of our childhood homes; local concerts and Christmas Eve candlelight services were special events.

On the other hand, we dropped with a thud the traditional fruitcakes of our childhood.

We tweaked the typical Christmas Eve and Christmas Day menus of our parents and grandparents.

We added activities like our annual trip to a rural tree farm to select and cut down the “perfect” tree.

Family Ice Skating
Family Ice Skating

We made our own set of traditions and our own memories as we raised our children.

Today they do the same in their homes, keeping some of our traditions alive and adding others that fit their families.

The four younger families in our nuclear family have developed their own traditions.

Each family has maintained some of the parents’ childhood traditions and initiated new ones tailored for the family members and the changing times.

And even those traditions are fine-tuned as the children–our grandchildren–grow older, bringing home their own ideas and indicating their favorite traditions and the ones they could do without.

Nowadays, three generations of our family celebrate the season together.

First a flurry of family emails goes around with discussions of when and where to gather together, what food to share, what type of gift exchange to have.

Then we start the “doing.”

We bake cookies and share special holiday food–both old favorites and new recipes.

We have enjoyed making tree ornaments and other decorations like painted plaster Christmas village houses and decorated graham-cracker “candy houses.”

Some of us even watch sappy holiday movies; Jim and Marie’s annual favorites include It’s a Wonderful Life, The Christmas Story, Christmas with the Kranks, The Santa Clause series, and our most recent additions, Mrs. Miracle and Call Me Mrs. Miracle.

It’s never too late to start initiating family traditions.

Any favorite activity, project, or food your family enjoys is a candidate for a tradition.

If you’re short on ideas, ask friends about their traditions or search blogs, magazines, and books for others.

Here are a few of our own special customs.

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Tree ornament collections

Tree ornament collections
Tree ornament collections

We gave each of our children a tree ornament every year so that when they left home as adults they had their own sets of decorations to start with.

We still give each family an ornament most years and give each grandchild one as well.

Some of the ornaments have been purchased, but most were handmade.

Usually the ornament has some significance either for the individual child or for the family.

Our kids’ collections have included their favorite animals or pets, college logo ornaments, symbols of that year’s family vacation, and a shiny key to signify the first driver’s license.

Last year Marie made felt hens for the grandkids, using the color of each child’s favorite chicken in our flock.

This year our farm kids will have little piggy ornaments to signify the new farm project of the year.

Over the years we have brought home small tokens from vacation spots for our own ornament collection.

If they weren’t already tree decorations, a bit of ribbon or other adornment was added to what was originally a fridge magnet or key ring.

Nowadays our tree is like a walk down memory lane that evokes wonderful memories from years gone by.

Celebrating Christmas as family

We encourage each of our four young families to spend a leisurely Christmas morning at home, so our extended family gathering is usually on a weekend in December or even early January.

It’s not unusual for some families to stay overnight, and we may even have a “Christmas Eve” and a “Christmas Day” over two days so we can fit in all three of our favorite holiday meals.

As the family grows, the gift-giving changes.

Some years the adult kids draw names among themselves.

We usually have some kind of silly or serious gift bag exchange so Marie can direct whatever new pass-and-steal game she’s discovered for that year.

And there is one gift that keeps on giving–we never know from one year to the next which of the women is going to receive the 80s style hot pink shoes!

Christmas Eve appetizer buffet

Though we have a sit-down dinner on Christmas Day, we like to keep things simple on Christmas Eve.

We can graze and eat when we’re hungry, there’s always plenty for friends who stop by, and best of all–preparation and cleanup are fairly simple.

Everyone brings some type of appetizer to contribute.

Nowadays we enjoy this buffet as the main meal of our family gathering.

Our favorite must-haves include slow cooker sweet and sour meatballs; veggie trays with pickles and–of course–olives for fingers; pigs in blankets made with refrigerated tubes of croissant dough and cocktail wieners; and other specialties introduced over the years.

Our kids who married into the family have added their favorites from their own family gatherings.

And oh will there be Christmas cookies, including old traditions like spritz, Jan Hagel, and frosted sugar cookies; more recently acquired favorites; and some nostalgic holiday treats we adopted during the years we lived in Germany.

As our children developed their own styles in the kitchen, we discovered who had a flair for this or that.

Now the oldest grandchildren are beginning to contribute their specialties.

Let’s just say there’s never a shortage of delicious and appetizing food at our gatherings.

Birthday cake for Jesus

We start our Christmas morning breakfast with some kind of a cake, with candles and all.

Over the years we had coffee cake and yeast rolls.

We finally settled on our now-traditional “cake” of homemade cinnamon rolls in a large pan.

We sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus and blow out the candles for him.

Time-saving Hacks

Days before Christmas, Marie shapes the cinnamon rolls and freezes them unbaked.

On Christmas Eve, she sets the frozen rolls out to thaw overnight.

In the morning she pops them in the oven and they’re fresh and hot for breakfast.

Sharing the joy

When the kids were young we also had neighborhood birthday parties for Jesus.

Each guest brought a toy for the town’s giving tree or groceries for the local food bank.

This gave the children a sense of reaching out to others as well as a reminder of the focus of the season.

Other ways of giving to the community include taking children’s names from a “giving tree” and selecting gifts.

Sharing groceries or prepared food with a local family; and caroling in the neighborhood or at a special care facility.

Reindeer cookies with Grammy

Reindeer cookies with Grammy
Reindeer cookies with Grammy

One of our traditions is just several years old.

It involves Grammy and all the grandkids, though Papa and parents are allowed to watch and help little ones.

Grammy saw a fun cookie in a magazine before she became a grandma and filed the idea away for later.

Now the grandkids from toddlers to teens look forward to baking day.

We try to get as many of the grandkids together at one time; this year we made the cookies on Thanksgiving after dinner dishes had been cleared away.

You may have seen reindeer cookies in various colors and forms.

Here’s how we make Reindeer cookies

Round slices/cutouts or flattened balls of brown cookie dough (gingerbread, spice, peanut butter, etc.)

Small pretzel twists for antlers

Colored candies for facial features–including red for noses

Separate baking sheet or labeled parchment paper for each child

Imagination, a good sense of humor, and flexibility as the kids create some interesting “reindeer”


Special apron for each child; AbbyKate Designs will embroider names on cotton aprons.

Don’t forget one for Mom or Grandma!

Family traditions may be deliberately developed or spontaneously adopted.

They may be serious or funny, simple or complicated, old-fashioned or modern and trendy.

The important thing is that they are valuable to your family in some way and they evoke warm memories as years go by.

And by the way, family traditions are not just for Christmas!

Any holiday, birthday or other annual occasion can include traditional aspects, and other special days can be “invented.”

Maybe you serve green pancakes for St. Pat’s, or hunt for pumpkins in October.

Do you have a special end-of-school year party?

Jump-in-the-fall-leaves day?

Snow pudding with the first good snowfall?

Clever Ways to Extend the Space of Your Rural Home

Tradition is tradition!

This December many families all over the world are grieving after tragic losses.

Others are struggling to make ends meet and navigate an ever-changing economical climate.

In the midst of it all, we are ever mindful of the true reason we celebrate Christmas.

Jesus is the reason for the season, and our hope for navigating the future is in him.

We all wish you a warm and fulfilling holiday season.

Our blog may be quieter than usual while we spend time with family and friends, but we have more helpful posts and something new planned.

Restoring an Old Abandoned Rural Backyard

Rural Backyard

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This is about restoring an old abandoned rural backyard. Several months ago, we had to relocate due to a job. In this economy, you often don’t have a choice.

The job we relocated for was a blessing but it took us several months to find the right home.

The one we found is incredible.

It’s out at the end of a rural backyard road, and it has about twenty fruit trees, a grape arbor, blackberries, tons of foraging, and acres of woods.

Rural Backyard
Rural Backyard

When you have a relatively new property, there is lots of potential.

You can plant things where you want to, clear out what you want to, leave the woods alone where you want to, find the perfect spot for this or that, and so on.

Oftentimes, when people decide they want the rural lifestyle, they end up with a place they can do whatever they want with.

However, sometimes it doesn’t happen that way.

When you move to a home that already HAS all those things, it can pose an issue. Especially if the people who initially developed the property had no interest in vegetable gardening.

We are renting. We had no desire to commit to buying a home since the ultimate goal is to be able to live on the property we already have. All in all, though, this can create opportunities. Make lemonade from lemons, right?

Know that wherever you live, there may be some obstacles that you will have to think creatively to work around.

The nice thing is it will give you a lot of great experience, regardless if you plan on staying there forever or if it is just temporary.

My obstacles are just a few:

  • No good place for a vegetable garden because the tree canopy is too tall.
  • Not much direct sun gets into the yard.
  • There hasn’t been much maintenance done in the last few years.

This means I have an orchard with twenty fruit trees that really need pruning. There’s a grape arbor that is so overgrown, it is trying to take over the neighboring trees.

And there’s a lost patch of blackberries that was abandoned years ago that needs to be restored.

This also means a significant amount of my vegetable growing will be in containers this year, placed carefully in spots here and there that get enough sun.

But you know what? It’s exciting to have the opportunity to do this. There will be lots of very valuable experience in rural living and lifestyle to be gained from this, even though it may take several years.

I hope you’ll follow along with me on this journey, and I will post photos of my progress along the way.

In the meantime, here are some “before” pictures to show you what I mean.

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Old Overgrown Grape Arbor

Restoring an Old Abandoned Rural Backyard

Here is the beautiful old grape arbor.

There are a few remnants of the tiny, sour grapes it produced this fall. I am hoping with some heavy-handed pruning, it will produce some good fruit.

You can see it is trying really hard to take over the trees next to it!
Overgrown Grape Arbor Taking Over Trees

There are two, 20-foot rows of domesticated blackberries that are completely lost.

They need to get new posts and wire re-strung.

The good news for rural living is, we’ll probably end up with lots of blackberry starts to give away and to replant.

How to define a project area with fencing

Depending on the size of your property and what you want to do with it, you may be considering fencing. 

Fences in the country aren’t necessarily to keep people away and to provide privacy like in the city and suburbs.

Rural fencing usually has a functional purpose. In fact, any improvement made to a rural property usually has a clear functional basis.

After you make a master plan for your lot, you can decide if fencing will be among your goals. Before you buy fencing or do anything, you must define a project area first.

What is your reason for fencing

Our former property was an old homestead that had no structures or real improvements on the property. Over a hundred years ago, the European immigrants homesteaded here. We had purchased it from the descendants.

It is from this home that we moved onto our current rental property. We mention it because at that property we were able to improve the backyard with fencing. 

It was nearly four acres. While we didn’t have money or even the need to fence in all of the acreage, we planned for our garden, small livestock, and a greenhouse as well as our utility buildings and our home.

We decided to fence that area.

It made the most sense to define the space that would serve as our core area. 

Originally, our reason for fencing it was to create boundaries for our livestock guardian dogs and prevent them from expanding their territory too far.

We were able to see where former owners cleared a large pasture. Some fence corners were still standing with barbed wire.

They established an orchard many decades ago.

Barely visible under brush and brambles, a crumbled house foundation indicated where a home once stood. But other than that, it was pretty much a blank slate.

The property was a large piece and planning what to do with it was a bit overwhelming. Where could we start making this ours? Building a fence to define the space made a huge impact.

Fences serve many purposes

The fence served another purpose just as important and valuable. It helped us to stay focused on what was important and what wasn’t.

No longer were we looking at the whole piece of property and wondering “where do we start?”

We had an area defined by fencing. For a large piece of rural property, it made working on the homestead much more manageable. We were able to better prioritize our goals.

While we still had smaller projects going on other parts of our property, most of our time and energy was spent on the area within the fences.

fencing old branch fence
fencing old branch fence

Being able to properly prioritize is a huge benefit to one’s sanity!

I wonder if our forefathers knew that secret when they fenced small areas many years ago. 

While this isn’t specifically a “how to” post for fencing, it is one to encourage you to plan and build one for yourself if you don’t already have one.

fencing barbed wire
fencing barbed wire

Different types of fencing

Determine what the fence will do

Typically, fences “multi-task” by keeping some things in and some things out.

What do you want to keep in or out?

This will help you determine the kind of fence you do and don’t want to build.

For us, a primary reason for our perimeter fence was to keep our livestock guardian dogs enclosed so they will patrol and watch over the important core homestead area without wandering away.

We also wanted a physical barrier to keep predators and deer out.

We were planning on building fences to enclose hogs, chickens, cattle, and possibly horses. But during the planning stages is when we were considering the move.

Determine the type of fence you will build

This depends primarily on function. What you want it to do?

Because skimping here can be financially and practically disastrous. Other considerations for the fencing type are aesthetic:

  • What it looks like
  • How long do you want it to last

But certainly the cost of the fence is also a major factor.

I would never recommend downgrading the type or quality of the fence you build due to cost. Instead, reduce the amount you fence at a time by doing the work in affordable phases.

Types of fencing

Barbed wire

This is used mostly to fence larger animals into a large area, as the cost per foot of the overall fence is very reasonable.

Barbed wire should not be used for horses; they tend to lean into fences and can injure themselves.

Cattle, on the other hand, are not as likely to push into fences. See closeup photo of barbed wire above.

define a project area with fencing
define a project area with fencing

Wire mesh field fencing

This is a very popular kind of fencing that comes in various strength, mesh sizes, and height options.

For our perimeter fence, we used a 48″ high heavier duty/smaller gauge fence that had smaller openings at the bottom than at the top.

We used wooden corner posts to anchor the fence, with metal T posts at 8′ centers or so. I like this fence a lot. It is very functional and it’s attractive in our rural setting.

It will last a long, long time as well. Cost-wise it is a bit more expensive than most options, but we saw it as a very long term investment in our homestead.

High tensile wire fence

I experimented with this type of fence to see if I was going to use it for my larger fields. 

It is a very good concept, flexible and fairly economical. It has the potential to be my fence of the future.

High tensile fencing is constructed by setting strong corner post assemblies in the ground and attaching strands of high tensile steel wire between them.

Line posts are spaced 25-50′ apart, substantially farther than posts for wire mesh fencing. This type of fence can have any number of wire strands, including just a single strand that contains cattle very effectively.

I have seen different farms using various numbers of strands depending on the purpose of the fence.

A property perimeter might have 5 or 6 strands, while a cattle paddock may have 2 or 3. This makes the fencing system very flexible for many uses. Create tension using springs.

I have seen in video where something like a tree falls on the fence. The wire strands do not stretch. After the tree is removed, the spring tension returns the fencing to its original shape.

One final great benefit of this fence is that some or all of the strands can easily be electrified. For a photo of high tensile fencing, click here.

define a project area with fencing
photo courtesy of

Electric netting

This looks to be a great option for a very flexible and portable fence. I’ve seen photographs of these fences containing all sorts of small livestock.

The fencing comes in 100′ or 150 ‘ rolls. You will be able to roll and move the fence.

The netting is designed to be electrified. People use this for hogs and chickens as well as other animals.

Mark the fence lines

Once you’ve decided what type of fencing to build, use some large stakes to mark out your fence lines. Plan for a wooden post at each  corner and at any point where there is a change in direction.

If you have a “valley” or a hill” in the fence line, be sure to put a wooden post at either the bottom or the top of each slope.

Measure for fencing and calculate the number of wood and metal posts you’ll need.

Then go shopping. Be sure to choose treated and solid wooden posts. I select mine by hand.

Take the time to properly define a project area with fencing so you can do it right the first time.

Working on your rural backyard and property can be overwhelming. However, starting small with a plan can make it much more doable.

Start with the existing areas. What’s already established? What do you want to keep and improve or expand on?

Consider fencing an area of your rural backyard to create defined space and to protect from predators.

Restoring a backyard

Any improvements you make to your rural backyard will further add to your homesteading experience.

Have projects ready depending on the time you have. Save the smaller, easier jobs for when you have an hour or less. Have other projects in mind for when you have several uninterrupted hours in an afternoon or an entire day free.

As you make your plan, consider trees, sunlight, and drainage. You will also need to pay attention to how level the property area is so that you can do what you want to do in the correct areas. Other factors to consider are neighbors.

Depending on if you plan to grow vegetables, have animals, or want open space, it’s essential to start with a master plan.

After you make a plan for your lot — even if it’s a five or 10 year plan because of costs — start with one area and build from there.