our country home

Secrets of the country dweller

Things that could take you years to find out, all in one place

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This is not about who to contact, who the best contractors are, or how to find great deals. All that information is elsewhere. This is about those secrets to a happy rural life. Here you’ll find the best ways to get along with your neighbors, when to be careful of private property, what animals to worry about and when.

Don’t see your tip here? Tune in next time for Tips 2.0. And if you want to add to the list, just email annemarie.schuetz@gmail.com.

Tips have been gently edited for clarity and tidiness.

At home

In other places, people like to chat about the weather. Here, the universal topic is, “How are you heating your home? Propane? Oil? Electric? Pellets? Wood? Cutting your own wood or buying it?” There is no end to this conversation.

Hire someone to plow your driveway before the first snowfall.

Get a generator because your power will eventually go out.

Learn how to use the flag on your mailbox to let your postal worker know that you’ve placed something in your mailbox for mailing out.

Here in our cars

Do not double park. We don’t do that here.

In the city, people honk their horns frequently, whether they have a good reason or not. After moving here 15 years ago from the city, I don’t think I’ve used my car horn once. If the light changes and the person in front of you doesn’t notice, give them a moment or two—they’ll figure it out.

As a newcomer, resist the urge to dash into a parking space close to a store. Allow someone who might need to park closer to use that spot. Plus, we can all benefit from a bit more exercise. Do not try to slip into a parking spot that someone else is clearly attempting to also access. Courtesy to others is a traditional value in these parts.

Animals, wild and not

Your dogs can’t run loose. Be respectful of your neighbors and keep your dog on a leash or a run. Clean up after your pet and don’t let them go on other people’s property. Each town has its own dog regulations; check their websites.

If you plan to put up bird feeders—and I highly recommend doing that—just have them up between Thanksgiving and the end of March. Otherwise, bears may come after them (speaking from experience).

You will be surprised by what deer will eat or sample: almost everything.

Don’t be surprised if you are woken up in the morning by a bird fighting with its reflection in your window.

Check grills and long-standing vehicles for nesting mice.

When out walking, make a point to notice the nature all around: from the eagles, kingfishers, herons to the little chickadees, and yes, even the white-tailed deer, though you will soon tire of them after an incident or two involving your car.

Duct tape heart

I recommend you start planning for winter at the end of October or before. Make sure you’re stocked in whatever you heat your home with: fill your oil tank, your propane tank, or make sure you have a large stockpile of seasoned wood for your wood stove. It’s difficult to get fuel trucks into a long driveway if there’s snow in the way.

Don’t be surprised if some of the contractors you may work with drop by randomly without a call, or with a very last-minute call.

If you find a reliable contractor, love him and feed him well, and do not introduce him to any of your friends.

Are you lonely? Reach out. Connect.

A great way to meet people and make new friends is to volunteer. Here in the country, we couldn’t survive without volunteers. Find an organization that piques your interest and offer a few hours of your time. Perhaps help with a community event. We have many, and you’re guaranteed to make new friends.

Wave to people as they drive by. You may not know them, but they might stop and introduce themselves next time because they think you are friendly.

Meet your neighbors and exchange phone numbers. You never know when you might need your neighbor’s help.

Smile and say hi to people you pass in the street. Even with a mask, you can smile with your eyes. Smize!

Take out the trash

Please don’t litter. Other people just have to go pick it up.

Join your town’s litter pluck and river clean-up events.

Keep a trash bag in your car.

Take your trash home so the overburdened, public trash cans don’t overflow.

Never, ever put household trash in public dumpsters or trash cans. This can result in trash cans and dumpsters being removed.

Adopt your road. I collect at least 15 gallons of trash over three months when I’m out on a two-mile walk. And yes, you may need to pay a few bucks to take this stuff to the dump. However, visit your town’s website to find out when there are free dump days. For instance, in Narrowsburg, twice a year, the highway department and other town officials join together and allow a whole lot of stuff (construction waste, old mattresses, etc.) to be dropped off, and Sullivan County hauls it away. There are restrictions: It’s up to you to find out the details from your town or township. 

Slow down

Enjoy the slower pace of life and patiently wait until neighbors finish the conversation they are having car to car in the middle of the road. Next time, it could be you.

Be patient with others. This is the country and everything moves a little slower. That’s why you moved here, and we welcome all our “new locals!”

Seeking information?

Join the chamber of commerce in your town.

Register to vote locally and learn about your town officials.

Join the Upper Delaware Network, with more than 1,000 members, at www.groups.io/g/UDCommunityNetwork.

Support local public radio. Visit www.wjff.org.

Read the local newspaper. Subscribe at www.riverreporter.com.

We get along

This is a small town, and you’re going to see the same people again and again. Try to avoid any lifetime grudges.

Whatever you believe, you’ll meet nice people who agree with you and nice people who disagree. 

When you see your neighbors in front of the supermarket or firehouse collecting money in a jar for their favorite charity, go ahead and toss in a buck. They’ll feel better and you’ll feel better; that’s a pretty good deal for just a dollar.

One of our area’s greatest unknown resources is the many local libraries; they are all connected by computer. You can go online and request your favorite book, CD, or DVD and, in a few days, it will be delivered to your local branch for you to borrow for free.

 You are going to see a lot of second homeowners and tourists. They provide a huge percentage of the money in this county. They are not the enemy; they are people who like this area too, pay a healthy share of local taxes and spend money with our merchants.

Do not expect your neighbors will welcome you with a loaf of bread. Instead, bring them some. Offer to help them with something, like computer aid, take their recycling to the collection site, shovel snow. Perhaps some of your neighbors are elderly and could use some help.

Be safe

Drive slowly on one-lane roads for the protection of the walkers and animals.

Lots of people up here own guns. No one cares.

If you decide to become a gun owner, be sure you have the proper training

Keep in mind, volunteers handle ambulance calls and fire calls; no one is in the firehouse 24/7.

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