My name is Mary Pryde and my family owns Prydelands Ranch in Redding, CA where we raise Alpine and Boer goats. Following is an article I wrote after one too many irritants by my "city neighbors". It is also on my blog at our website www.prydelandsranch.com. As a board member for the Northern California Meat Goat Association, I know that other producers struggle with many of the same problems we have experienced when urban living begins to press into our rural living.
Dear City People,
You know who you are. You are the folks who "long for the country" as one magazine banner reads. I'm not meaning to be unkind and far be if for me to crush any man's dreams. After all, we all need a little wiggle room to grow and become our true inner-selves.You dream every day of having a place of your own and that is okay. The problem lies when you do have a place in the country that by deed you may own, but you haven't done a thing with besides plant a house in the middle.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if the only thing you've ever broken ground for is landscaping and the only thing you've ever raised for production is a lap dog, you can have 800 acres deeded to you and you are still...a city person. You are just in denial and wearing a country disguise.
There are undeniably country souls trapped in cities all over the globe. To them, my hat is off and I say, "welcome!". It isn't your fault that your great granddaddy had to leave the farm after some big drought and the remainder of the generations got stuck on asphalt. I can personally relate to that dilemma. My little soap box rant is directed at those citified folks who move out to the country and then spend the rest of their time trying to make it exactly like the place they left - the city.
To those type of folks, I'd like to establish a few ground rules and come to some understandings.
#1 If you are going to move to the country, plan to actually use the land. And don't be so surprised that I am actually using the land. Using the land is what real country people do. We are just funny that way.
#2 The country has smells. I don't drive into the city and announce "Hey! This asphalt-making really smells! I think you all should rip up the asphalt and plant some pasture here in the city because tar-smell is offending my delicate sensibilities." In good turn, please don't move to the country and say, "Hey! It smells like (Insert here- cows, goats, pigs, fertilizer)! I think you all should quit doing/raising whatever is making that smell because it is offending my delicate sensibilities." I'll make you a deal. If I don't like the smell of the city, I'll come back home to the country with my mouth shut. And if you don't like the smells in the country, well, we gently invite you to do the same.
#3 Compost piles only stink the day they are turned. I laugh when I hear of the voters in San Francisco and Los Angeles pass a bill that says we should all compost because composting is GREEN! Then, when you turn the compost pile and it smells for a day, they have a hissy fit. Too bad sustainability affects their sensibilities. When a country person piles manure up for a year and turns it occasionally, it is not done as an affront to you. That pile will cook and break down and make the most amazing vegetables next spring. We'll be more than happy to share the bounty. But calm down and don't get your britches in a bunch on the day we turn the compost pile and it smells. As soon as the top layer dries out and forms a shell, it won't smell. Too bad being green is sometimes brown.
#4 Chickens are healthier when they free-range and they may just free-range on over to your house. Now, I'm going to give it to you that you, as a city person, haven't had much chicken experience except eggs benedict or cordon blue. Let me help you out a bit. Chickens that free-range don't make manure in one place like chickens in a coop. Manure in one place makes flies. If you don't want to complain about the flies, than put up with a little chicken mud on your property from free-ranging birds. Free-ranging birds also keep down the local bug population, scare off snakes on both our property and their eggs have 4X as much Omega-3s which are heart healthy. Don't gripe about free-ranging chickens and I'll keep you in heart-healthy Omega rich eggs every day of the week.
#5 In the country, dogs bark. For some reason this comes as a surprise to city people. I'm pretty sure I have heard dogs bark in the city, so I'm not sure where your confusion comes from. Most true country folks will be the first ones to give an obnoxiously barking dog the .22 treatment. However, country dogs have a lot to worry about. While you are sleeping, walking across your country property are deer, racoons, skunks, and more intimidating, bobcats, coyotes and mountain lions. I got a nice little anonymous note in the mail once asking me to please keep my Livestock Guardian Dogs quiet at night. It was addressed to "Dear Neighbor" and signed with a smiley face. My first thought was we all must be in third grade when neighbors can't talk like adults, express some understanding on both ends and try to work it out. I'm not big on anonymous smiley faces I guess. We spent a week timing the dogs barking. They only barked when the coyotes were running and yipping and they never barked for more than 10-15 minutes at a time. One exception was the night the coyotes took down a yearling deer ON our fenceline and the dogs were working the fencelines like fiends keeping the coyote pack on the other side.
We took pictures of the kill, our bark records and the smiley face note to the county animal control and turned ourselves in. Yep, we had dogs that barked at night and this was why. The animal control officer came out and looked over the lay of our land and left shaking her head at the idiocy of "city people". The Federal Trapper came out and took a look at the lay of our land and told us said neighbor ought to be thanking us. About the time they wrote their smiley face note, he had killed a young male mountain lion not 100 feet from our back fence. It had been hunting the backside of all our properties. He said our dogs are what probably held the lion across the creek and kept it from coming over and eating all the house dogs and cats in the area. Much less the little kids.
Hm. If you live in the country, dogs are going to bark at night. You might just send them a gift-wrapped bone for Christmas.
#6 You know how kids whine when they are hungry? Well, when we go out to feed the livestock twice a day, they are just like little kids and they are going to whine until their supper is put before them. Once the hay is in the feeders they will shut up. Just a suggestion, and this will work where the barking dogs are concerned too, turn on a fan in your bedroom at night and the "white noise" will cover up the farm noise.
#7 Yes, my kids will throw footballs on the front lawn, shriek during a game of tag, haul hay all night long in noisy trucks and have to leave for the fairgrounds at 4:30 am. However, they will also never vandalize your home or property, speak disrespectfully to you, drink alcohol in our home, have scary friends over or end up in the prison system using up your tax money. We do our best to keep them too busy to get in much trouble. They may buck a bit like all colts do, but they will end up some of the soundest saddle horses ever.
So my dear city people, you may see us as noisy, messy, stinking neighbors. We see ourselves as hardworking, god-fearing, good hearted folks trying to live up to our inner-selves out in the country. If you want to join in, well then, "welcome!". If you don't like us, well then, we gently invite you to leave.