In the last newsletter we wrote on the need and importance of getting out of the cities into the country. We felt it may be worthwhile to add another article on some practical aspects of country living, some points to avoid, others to embrace.
First of all, as was emphasised in the last editorial, we are definitely encouraged to head out of the cities into the country. “The Lord desires His people to move into the country, where they can settle on the land, and raise their own fruit and vegetables, and where their children can be brought in direct contact with the works of God in nature.” —Country Living, p.30
But this could well raise some reasonable questions: Where shall I go? What kind of home should we select? How shall we gain a livelihood? In thinking over these questions, it does not mean isolation from civilisation. It should also be understood that if God’s plan is followed, country living will include some agricultural activities, but may not be able to fully sustain a family, at least initially.
Some families may choose to take on full-time farming as a livelihood, but a large number may settle in the country and gain their livelihood from other sources.
Spirit of Prophecy does not counsel that country living is farming, but it does counsel to move into the country.
“Educate our people to get out of the cities into the country where they can obtain a small piece of land, and make a home for themselves and their children.” —Country Living, p.11
“Get out of the cities as soon as possible, and purchase a little piece of land, where you can have a garden.” —Country Living, p.17
On reading these quotes, if one is to purchase a small piece of land, it does not necessarily mean full-on farming, but it does specify a garden. So the family needs to be wise when making the decision to move and keep in mind they need a definite means of income. The country-living family need to be housed, to eat, be clothed, need to be warm and dry, educated, need transportation, just as does the family living in the city environment.
So in summary of these thoughts in moving into the country, our decisions must be molded by basic necessities to sustain the family. Gaining the benefits of the rural environment we can either have another means of income while developing gardens to supplement the home, or to take on full-time farming as a means of livelihood if there is enough land.
But only those with either experience or have had some training should attempt to farm for a living. Tilling the soil for maximum productivity to gain a living takes skill, long hours and hard work. Yes, it can be done, many thousands of people have made a successful career on the farm and some have a natural ability to turn their hand to the land.
Don’t Burn Bridges
One point to be very aware of is not to go into country burning all your bridges of income until you can be sure of successfully supporting the family needs on an ongoing basis. This is not to discourage anyone from moving out, but to avoid enthusiasm turning into disappointment through inexperience and lack of knowledge, then giving up.
It may be necessary, especially in the early stages, to move into your country home, but retain your employment at your current position. It would therefore be sensible to purchase your land within commuting distance from your work, taking into consideration the expense of travel. This may be essential at least for the initial move while the farm gets established, or you may need to keep your job permanently, but the benefits of taking the family out of the city boundaries to give them an experience in a rural setting could be well worth the extra travel and expense.
There is no doubt a country environment is a huge benefit for children. It gives them a practical upbringing to face the realities of life when they go outside the home for their own employment. We are counseled to take our children out so they don’t get the street education.
“Many parents remove from their country homes to the city regarding it as a more desirable or profitable location. But by making this change, they expose their children to many and great temptations. The boys have no employment and they obtain a street education and go on from one step of depravity to another, until they lose all interest in anything that is good and pure and holy. How much better had the parents remained with their families in the country, where their influences are most favorable for physical and mental strength. Let the youth be taught to labor in tilling the soil and let them sleep the sweet sleep of weariness and innocence.” —Adventist Home, p.137,138
Looking For A Location
In selecting a location to live in the country, some points need to be considered, especially for a city worker or businessman, before securing the property.
1) As already mentioned, the home should be within a reasonable commuting distance to work of the wage earner. With freedom of owning cars and having good roads to travel on, this does allow for a greater distance each day to and from work. In saying that, consideration needs to go into the condition of the roads in your immediate area, if gravel and poorly maintained, dust in the summer months. Or if sealed roads, are they prone to ice in the winter.
2) Adaptability of the property should also be considered. While the location may be desirable, check the ground. Does the property have a good and reliable source of water? Is the soil conducive to producing a harvest? Is it free-draining or is it a clay base holding water, only to drown plants? Is it flat or sloping ground, is it prone to flooding at all? Make sure there are no rivers nearby that can rise and flood your land or house.
Check that all services are available and working. Check the power supply, availability of phone and internet coverage. As most properties in the country are not on a sewage system, check the septic system to make sure it is functioning properly. Get a LIM report on the property and check the house thoroughly.
3) Even in the quiet country, you are still to be a light to the world. We need not isolate ourselves away from society forever. Consider your neighbours and how you can be a witness to them needs to be considered. Take into consideration proximity to shopping, supplies, schools, church and even fellow-believing Christians to have fellowship.
4) It is desirable for the family to own their own home, but not an absolute command. Counsel implies that we should own our own home. “Parents should get as suitable a place as their means will allow.” “Fathers and mothers who possess a piece of land and a comfortable home are kings and queens.” “Get out of the cities as soon as possible, and purchase a little piece of land, where you can have a garden.” — Country Living, p.24,18,17
Ellen White in her own practice through the years, owned her own home. Home ownership is, most probably, the wisest use of our finances. Everyone needs a roof over their heads, but the demand for land often outdoes supply which drives the cost up. To purchase property you will catch the inflation ride. It also creates a sense of responsibility and carefulness that encourages families to keep the place respectable and clean.
At the same time, with land prices the way they are, it is well understood that not all who would like to move into the country can buy a home on a piece of land, or even a piece of land by itself. It is not necessarily wrong to rent a property. If the drive to get out is strong, by all means rent, but choose your landlords wisely. Some can be pettish and difficult, while others can be glad to have you in their home, especially when they see that you care for their home and respect it and will go out of their way to help you.
5) Make sure you have a clear title, check the council records for any traps that could catch you out like flooding, wind, unstable ground, etc. Get a builders report on the house and buildings if needed, to make sure they are sound. Check there are no right-of-ways that others have use of, any prospects of council activities that could encumber your property, like roads going in, high tension power lines going in over-head, etc. Also check if any covenants are on the property of any kind that may prohibit you from being clear of council or government interference.
6) Careful attention should be given to gardening. Will you be installing raised gardens, glasshouses, or bed gardens? If agriculture or horticulture for a livelihood is on the plan, it is good for the family as they will learn some very practical life-skills. If not for a livelihood, still good for family to garden and get a feel for the soil and to produce food. It gives a sense of achievement - important to young ones. Be mindful of supplies, like timber, soil, straw and fertiliser for garden beds.
7)How much land do you buy? A good question. If planning for farming, a substantial acreage will be needed, especially for cropping grains. Certainly a smaller block of half to one hectare for intensified farming, like glass-houses, orchards or vegetable gardening would be sufficient. If continuing to work away from home, even 1000-1500 sq m would be sufficient for a decent family garden. It may be difficult to find a piece of land so small in the country, but they are out there.
8) When buying land including and neighbouring on to native bush, just make sure you are able to clear the land, even though you may own it free-hold. Some clauses on native bush-land have covenants that you cannot destroy the bush. If there is some clearing and it can be legally done, this becomes a good source of wood for home fires. Heavily wooded land will prevent cropping and agriculture, but it may be a good source of income. Be aware it takes a lot work and energy to clear stumps to get the land back to arable condition.
9) Finally, to make the decision to uplift the family and all your possessions, hunt out the ideal property, go through the buying process, then make the physical move, is a huge undertaking and upheaval for the family. Having all the necessary conveniences will contribute to a much nicer introduction the country. Yes, it can be an adventure to ‘camp’ for a few weeks perhaps, but the excitement and enthusiasm start to wear off as reality sets in. Having hot and cold running water, an efficient log burner and a good bathroom and laundry go a long way to make your new home enjoyable for the long haul.
As we come to the knowledge that we are co-labourers with God to prepare the soil, plant the seeds and cultivate the crops, the garden becomes to us and our families a school in which many valuable lessons will be learned. It is a means of recreation in the sense of a change of activity and environment, of physical development and even a worthwhile financial gain for the family.
“The God of nature is perpetually at work. His infinite power works unseen, but manifestations appear in the effects which the work produces. The same God who guides the planets works in the fruit orchard and in the vegetable garden. He never made a thorn, a thistle, or a tare. These are Satan's work, the result of degeneration introduced by him among the precious things; but it is through God's immediate agency that every bud bursts into blossom. When He was in the world in the form of humanity, Christ said: ‘My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.’ So when the students employ their time and strength in agricultural work, in heaven it is said of them, Ye ‘are labourers together with God.’” — Testimonies for the Church, vol.6, p186
As a spare-time hobby and recreation, gardening will yield in proportion to that which is put into it. It does call for faithful and regular attention, but it yields a satisfaction that is beyond measure. Each year, if effort is put into the project, will yield better than the year before it. Yes, there will be some failures, but be not disappointed, we are living in a tired and worn out world, some seeds are infertile and will not strike, or perhaps the fertiliser is too strong for the support of the plant burning its roots, or perhaps there is deficiency in the soil of vitamins and minerals. There can be a number of reasons for failure, but the garden will always yield something to encourage and feed the grower.
Organic gardening is the most recommended method. This means utilising materials that will restore the loam, providing the best organic matter, putting back into the soil elements to produce the best crops. This can be done by returning grass clippings, leaves, vegetable and fruit peelings, preferably already composted, ready to support the ground.
Implements and Machinery
With the purchase of the property and the move, there may be limited resources to finance machinery for gardening on a large scale. Two options can be considered. One can start very small and manage the plots with hand tools, and increasing the assets as finance comes available, which will allow the garden plots to expand. The other option is to hire machinery to break in larger plots for the first few years until machinery can be purchased and secured.
Patience and Perseverance
There may be a lot of learning to do, especially if the family have lived out of the green grocer shop while in the city all their lives. It is so easy to expect instant results, but be patient and persevering, the earth still gives her bounties in her seasonal times and the results are rewarding. To have a wheelbarrow full of home-grown potatoes, a bucket of tomatoes, big-hearted lettuces, cabbages, fat and juicy carrots, pumpkins, beetroot and radishes, spinach, beans and peas, there is something about the home-grown that lifts the heart and mind way above the purchase of produce from the local green-grocer.
One may say, “It’s all very well for those who can move out, but not all of us can.” That is true, not all can make the move for what-ever reason. Some may have to wait for a while, some may have to work in with others to jointly live on a piece of land. But none-the-less, there is counsel to strongly encourage every one who believes in our message to get out of the city and move into the country. Just think it all through carefully.
Courage to you each one, as you prepare to face these tumultous end times that are looming up in front of us right now. There is path through it all.
Don’t give up, Jesus Christ is our Saviour, He will see us through.