The City Mouse and the Country Mouse

I’m very lucky, because I get the best of both worlds. We have a little place in LA where I get to spend time with my writing friends, and I imagine it’s pretty much the way most of you live, in town. But I also live in the Sierras. We have a small ranch, and that’s where home really is. How different it is.

There are a few things you have to get used to. There is no cable TV, and we can’t get regular TV either. From the day we moved in, we were satellite customers. To make it more complicated, our house is set into the side of the hill, down between tall oaks and pines. It took those boys quite a while to find a place to put the dish. Everything works well when the sun is shining. But let it snow and we lose our picture, until I reach up with my Swiffer and wipe it clean..

There is no internet available because we’re too far out of town to get DSL, and there is no cable. Now you can get it from your cell phone if it has built in wifi, but that’s only in the last year. We’ve had Hughes Net for a long time. It’s much better than dial-up, but it doesn’t work well when there’s snow on the satellite dish either. We do get good cell service. We’re really on a mountaintop, I guess that’s why.

By the way, when I say snow I’m not talking about a dusting. Most winters we can have snow anytime from October to May, and it runs up to three and a half feet. Usually when it’s that deep, not only do we lose TV and internet, we lose electricity and phones.

And the traditional country living joys? Yes, we have a well, with its own (expensive) pump and its own special breed of plumbing. We have a septic tank. So far it hasn’t had to be pumped out (ewww). We do have electricity (most of the time), and a very big propane tank. Those guys with the propane truck are really pretty good . I’ve seen them turn it around with inches to work in.

Our driveway is almost a quarter of a mile long, and it is very steep, so if the snow is deep or it’s icy enough, you can’t leave, or you can’t come home. We’re lucky we have a neighbor who plows it with his tractor. Every Christmas we drop off a gift card and a basket of cookies. We host a big family Christmas every year, and it’s always a concern that we’ll have to take people up and down the hill in the jeep.

It’s a half hour into town and back. There aren’t any big box stores, that’s another forty five minutes down the mountain, so we plan carefully before we go shopping. Trips to town include a run at the post office, gas station, grocery store, bank, and drugstore. That, of course, makes it an all morning trip instead of half an hour. Even more if we have to see the wonderful folks at DMV.

And friends? While I get them up to come up here occasionally, usually I have to go to them. I’m used to driving a long way to see friends, but most people aren’t. So, to keep up a relationship, I have to be willing to go the extra mile. Literally.

So why do we live here?

Those trees I mentioned are so restful. And we have a view across the mountains that’s to die for. When it does snow, it’s usually great big flakes you can catch on your tongue, just like you were ten again. It is so quiet much of the time. Our neighbors are good friends, but they’re over a block away. Close enough we can help each other, but not so close that we get on each other’s nerves. If you ever wanted a place to think things out, to contemplate, this is it. It doesn’t get much more peaceful. It’s a great place to write. Pop a log in the woodstove, start a pot of coffee, curl up on the couch, and get out your laptop. My Muse seems to find this place as irresistible as I do.

You really live in harmony with nature. You have to pay attention to wind and weather, but that’s a good thing. We haven’t looked for the ultimate simplification of life, living off the grid, but soulmate and I both think of this as a simplification we enjoy. We have each other, some of the time. It’s where we belong.

We’re between puppies and cats. It always takes me a while to get over losing one, but I will. We are up to about a dozen deer now. They’re so tame you can walk up close to them before they wander off. We’ve named a few of them, but they don’t come when I call them. They have expensive taste, they especially love snacks from my hybrid rose garden. We’ve seen a small mountain lion once. Lots of little things come around, all the squirrels, possum, and raccoons you’d ever want to see. And then there was the time we had the bear in the swimming pool.

But that’s another story…


9 Responses to The City Mouse and the Country Mouse

  1. Okay, I’m hooked, Erica! Can’t wait to hear the bear story. Wow, reading about your challenges to get close to nature, i realize I really am a city mouse. I have always enjoyed camping with the family, but I knew the time was limited.

    I do like the sound of throwing a log in the fireplace and curling up with the laptop. Come to think of it, being out of touch with the Interent might make me far more productive as a writer.

    Thanks for an entertaining blog and for sharing a little about yourself.

  2. I am like you–every inch the country mouse. Yes, I’m typing this using good ol’ dial-up LOL. Satellite tv here too. Yes, the wolves roam around, howling. But I love it. I couldn’t imagine living on the rez or in town again. Too crowded. The morning walks are something else.

    It’s so great to meet someone else who loves country living.

  3. Roz Lee says:

    Sounds very much like my NJ home! I can relate to your love of the place. There’s something about the peace and quiet of nature that soothes the soul. Thank goodness our bears haven’t gone swimming yet – at least not while I was watching! LOL

  4. LauraSheehan says:

    I’m with Lynne: totally want to hear the bear in the pool story now. In my mind he’s reclining on an inflatable raft, sipping lemonade, but I’m sure in real life it was much more exciting! I hope he was enjoying himself at least (better to have a pleased bear in your pool than a peeved bear in your pool, I always say).

  5. beverlydiehl says:

    Sounds like you have no need of all the “block the internet” devices people in the City use to focus on your writing time.
    Sounds beautiful – but I’m enough of a city mouse, and hating being cold, to know I would only want to visit, not live there. (Then again, all the reading I could get done…)

  6. Kate Wyland says:

    You make me nostalgic. Until a few years ago, we lived on a couple acres in the country, though without the snow and long drive to town. But had the well (which needed repairs regularly), septic, propane, no cell phones, satellite, and electricity that went out because of storms in the winter and squirrels in the summer. Also had deer (but never got close – learned that lesson when I was a kid), all sorts of varmints and a mountain lion who visited regularly. Unlike you, we were only 5 minutes from town and even had pizza delivery. We loved our little valley. It was so quiet and peaceful. And loved seeing our horses only a few dozen feet from the house.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Very evocative post! We just got a little guest house at the foot of the Sierra Nevadas. We’ve got neighbors all around, but it’s a tiny little community all by itself 15 minutes from Bishop. No cell or internet for us there. And 4 doors down at the end of our street is the National Forest!
    Just moved a few things in so far, but after reading your post, I’m really looking forward to spending some quiet time there. 🙂

  8. I’m greedy. I want both and thus the beauty of a vacation/second home. Your work allows you a flavour of both.

    That said, my time in my suburban home affords squirrels, possums, nightly raccoons, scrub jays and numerous dive bombing hummingbirds. We have visitor cat and a garden full of diversity. My fireplace crackles just as well as an isolated one, but Costco is just a few miles down the hill. I rather like it!

    Snow is beautiful. Like some of the other commentors, it is a visit for my humble thin blooded self. And neighbour? Don’t you know that even suburban folks seldom see each other, much less chat? Garage doors open and close without interaction. So no problems feeling

    Greedy me—I like it all!

    Thanks for the great post, Erika. Ears open for the bear story….

    Christine London

  9. joan mow. (@phantele) says:

    Sounds so idyllic. I lived in a place just like that except it was in the Santa Cruz mountains – no snow. Was 18 and pregnant and danced all over the place. It was heaven.

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