From lattes and boardrooms to wellies and homegrown veg

by Mars

It’s been two years since we made a complete lifestyle change, where we left the stress and frenzy of city life behind us, and opted for green fields, sheep, toads, dragonflies, pheasants and fresh air.

In 2017, we reached a personal and professional crossroads: commit to another city-based venture for another decade or pack up everything and move to the countryside. At the time, it wasn’t an easy call to make.

As born and bred city slickers, urban life is what we both knew. A life based on stress, materialism and making money was what the daily grind was all about. To decompress, unplug and rebalance, we would escape the pressures of city living and travel to far-flung corners of the world to enjoy nature.

As they say, the grass always looks greener on the other side, and when we travelled to these destinations local people would tell us how lucky we were to come from a big city with glitzy lights and lots of shops, while we would constantly tell them how fortunate they were living a holistic life based around meaningful things surrounded by mother nature and eating amazing homegrown food.

It doesn’t matter how you break it down, but modern living is based on money. Without it, most of us couldn’t survive. Everything to survive, with the exception of air, costs money: water, food, electricity, etc. So the decision was a tough one, but one we felt we had to make, and we have absolutely no regrets.

We knew we were both getting burnt out and the thought of getting to retirement age totally wiped out of energy, and in all likelihood with stress related illnesses, was a frightening prospect. How would we enjoy our retirement together if when we got there we were broken?

We also recognised that we did not feel nourished. No matter what our latest purchase or how exotic the latest holiday was, the soul highs had worn off and we both felt that our lives were just not fulfilling.

Rural living

There are still stressful things that we have to deal with living in a rural setting such as the home sewage treatment plant not working as it should, the unhinged neighbour felling trees on our property without our permission or issues with pests in the vegetable garden and orchard, but all of these are manageable and don’t take away from everything else that we get from our new lives.

The peace and tranquility of the countryside where you can just switch off mentally and watch squirrels, rabbits, buzzards and herons going about their daily business in their natural habitat is very relaxing and an absolute privilege. They are also a constant reminder that there is so much going on around us, that it puts you, as a person on this planet, in perspective.

It’s very humbling (and a relief) to feel that a bee that has just buzzed past your nose could honestly care less what brand of wellies you have on or if your jeans are covered in mud. Just get out of the way, you are not important city slicker or country bumpkin; that bee has an important job to do and you need to step aside.

Brave new world

We feel like we’ve had a head start in relation to what the post-Coronovirus world is going to look like. It’s highly likely that there will be an exodus of people from cities to the countryside in the months ahead as companies realise that staff can work remotely. And all these former city dwellers like us, who have only had countryside vacations, undertake similar journeys to us.

In fact, in a very recent study, it was revealed that a fifth of people in Britain are thinking of relocating to the countryside. This figure rises sharply amongst the younger generation, with over a third (37%) of 25-34 year-olds thinking of making the move away from their urban environments, compared to 17% of urban dwelling 45-54 year-olds that are considering a similar move.

When looking for a countryside retreat, 22% of people surveyed said that the top priority was breathtaking views, with reliable broadband coming a close second (21%). Both are important to bridge this new world.

Nearly half of the 2,000 people surveyed (45%) believed that countryside life is ‘stress-free’, which made me chuckle, because as humans raised in a modern world we’re preconditioned to stress, and there are things to stress about even in a picturesque rural setting. Trust me.

Nevertheless, it is a positive journey and one that should make a lot of sense for people. But I digress. Back to our story.

My Home Farm

The moment we decided to move to the country we also committed to being as sustainable and environmentally-conscious as possible. Sustainability and environmentally-friendly living doesn’t happen overnight when you moving to the countryside even if you have the best intentions.

There is a definite mental evolution that has to happen, not to mention self education, and it starts with small things such as not using bleach and antibacterial products to keep your sewage treatment tank healthy, to big things like installing solar PV panels and an air source heat pump to get off oil central heating and using renewables to their maximum.

It’s taken us two years to get this point, and there are still things we know that we must improve, but we are getting there slowly. The use of chemicals in our gardening has now virtually ceased and everything we use we try to ensure is 100% natural. It makes a big difference to your consciousness when you can physically see the wildlife around you and know your actions directly impact them.

The compost heap was also a big step earlier this year, because all our gardening waste now ends up there, which means that nothing goes to landfill. Plastic plant pots from the local garden centre are taken back to them to reuse. All our home cleaning products are natural and eco-friendly, and Kirsten has switched us to natural skincare so even the shampoo that ends up down the drain is non-toxic.

The vegetable garden and orchard was a massive step this year towards partial food sustainability. In the years ahead we’ll figure out how to ensure that we have enough food to see us through the entire year. This comes from experience, and with each passing week, let alone year, we are learning so much.

I have also been able to lean on my geeky background to install smart home technology to make things run more efficiently. Our central heating, for example, is now fully automated thanks to smart TRVs, so the house is able to regulate itself. Yes, it still needs tweaking, but after this winter I think it’ll be balanced and optimised. This is one area that my city slicker knowledge has come to the fore, and it is great to know we are now getting to a stage where we can merge tech know-how with the hands-on skills we have learnt.

For all intents and purposes, we’ve had a head start to off the grid living, and we’re hoping that our stories can help other urbanites that are transitioning to the countryside get a better understanding of what they can expect and we look forward to helping others by answering questions and sharing our experiences.

Moving to the countryside is steep and sometimes muddy learning curve, but a very enjoyable one.

8 comments

Mark Crooks 28 August 2020 - 08:47

Good for you! Great to hear you made the right move.

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lovelyandgrateful 28 August 2020 - 10:05

I think you made the right choice for you, it might not be easy but it will be worth it. 😊 A very inspiring post, thanks for sharing your story.

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Sheila Murrey 28 August 2020 - 13:42

We’re right there with you, since Feb 29, 2020. We are off grid living on family property in a 10 year old 5th wheel RV. And my husband turns 70 next week. Making the change has not been easy, but I love gardening and watching the squirrels, rabbits, birds, and bats!

Question: did you put a scarecrow or owl in your garden? I put up a plastic owl and our bird population drastically decreased overnight! So, I think we’ll move the owl farther away. ❤️😉

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Luffy 5 September 2020 - 11:35

So brilliant to hear that two years into the journey that you have no regrets. Especially as we’re just on the cusp of embarking on the same adventure. Well done for recognising that health is everything and doing this whilst you’re both still fit enough. We are in our late fifties and feel we may have just squeezed in in time … 😊

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Ed Skipper 7 October 2020 - 00:05

For a sustainable future, most of us need to live in cities. And we need to make sure those cities are livable spaces. It is a luxury afforded the few to live the Tom and Barbara Good life taking up rural space from those who actually know how to produce.

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Mars 11 October 2020 - 09:27

Thank you for your feedback Ed. While cities will remain the core of a ‘modern’ lifestyle for the foreseeable future, cities are also unsustainable in many respects, especially as populations around the world explode. The Covid pandemic has also highlighted just how fragile the modern, urban ecosystem is when something significant goes wrong, and the point we’re trying to make is that there are many people across the UK (and the world) that can work remotely and can lead a more sustainable lifestyle away from the city.

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Philip Hillman 10 October 2020 - 19:27

I do understand the point by Ed Skipper (above) about a ‘luxury afforded by the few’, but do strongly believe we need pioneers to explore what can be achieved to increase self sufficiency and reduce our carbon footprint in both a rural and urban environment. I believe that some of the issues addressed here (eg Air Source Heat Pumps) will be very much at the core of urban carbon reduction for heating systems & so I value the honest & frank feedback we are getting here.

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Mars 11 October 2020 - 09:37

Thank you for your feedback and comments Philip.

As mentioned in my response to Ed, there must at some point be an attempt to depopulate cities in a bid to reduce the carbon footprint. From our experience, it is definitely much easier to become sustainable in a rural setting where you can put up solar panels and air source heat pumps, which is not always viable in urban settings. It’s taken us two years, and between the air source heat pump and solar PV system alone, we’ve saved pumping thousands of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere – that’s just us, one household.

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