By Kay Whatley
North Carolina offers residents a mix of urban, salt (coastal), mountain, and rural life. This writer’s preference is rural life, here in the “inner coastal plains” area of Eastern NC.
What does it mean to live in a rural, farm-rich area? Living where Nash and Franklin counties meet, it means routinely seeing farm equipment and growing fields. It means being in the heart of the country, seeing food grown, and buying produce from local farmers for the family table.
It also entails avoiding deer, snakes, loose dogs, chickens, cats, turtles, squirrels, and foraging guinea hens while driving to and from the store.
Living in county areas means that on rare occasions when it snows, work stops. It’s playtime, with school closings and company closings announced. The ease with which deadlines are stretched — unless you’re a farmer with animals and fields to tend — makes taking snow-days as days-off a county-wide activity. Snow angels take precedence over customer service, and that’s just fine for the few days until the snow disappears.
From rural areas, there are still towns within easy reach. Yet we’re surrounded by forests, flocks, herds, a few neighbors, and various crops.
There are moments that urban dwellers miss:
- finding loose horses in your backyard
- watching a deer eat from your deck
- seeing brightly-colored bluebirds and Cardinals regularly
- watching crops being harvested, mechanically and manually
- little traffic
- fishing close to home
- land and trees between houses offering privacy
- room to grow a big garden
- places nearby to get horse/cow manure for fertilizing the garden
- breathing air that often smells of flowers, not dumpsters (though sometimes manure)
- peaceful walks through fields and woods
Sure, there are down-sides:
- For those in a rush, following a tractor might seem annoying. Or, getting caught in a cloud of gnats might be terrifying — for those not used to it.
- Towns nearby are small, offerings shops and restaurants that are more niche than in the cities — though department stores and malls are less than thirty minutes away. We find pretty much anything we need within a 15-minute radius.
- Country families aren’t all eager to meet outsiders, nor neighbors, so if you move in from somewhere else, you might not get a warm welcome from some.
- Especially in the “voluntary agriculture districts” where farmland is protected, there my be pesticides and fertilizers blowing in the breeze. (Often, you can smell it and get indoors.)
Living where the house is surrounded by fields, lawns, woods, and ponds means picking up a tick while weeding, or getting bitten by a spider sitting on your living room couch. (Yeah, that just happened.) The cold days aren’t gone, and there have already been lizard and snake sightings in the backyard.
And, because of the aforementioned loose dogs, taking a walk around a country block is not always safe.
For those in service, professional, educational, news, and administrative jobs, living in the country may mean lower-cost housing and more house for the money, but longer commutes and a higher percentage of income spent gassing up the car.
There are more quality foods and peaceful moments in the country, though, and stopping to smell the roses an option more than in a city.
I’ll still take rural areas over city, or even as a second-choice ocean living (which offers its own kind of peace). North Carolina offers many choices. Everyone has their own preferences, but for those of us who like to live near farms, small towns, and peaceful places — and away from the hustle of downtown — eastern NC’s rural areas offer more peace, a quieter environment, and a connection to fresh produce, that cannot be found on a city block.