Peaceful country living attracts many city folk who don't mind the work
BY BRAVETTA HASSELL World Scene Writer
Saturday, February 09, 2013
2/09/13 at 7:07 AM
In the middle of the morning, Diane Coughlin uses tongs to draw a canning jar from the turkey roaster sitting on her stove top. At this moment, the roaster is serving as a hot water bath for jars she will use to can her salsa and her strawberry jam. The water is hot but not hot enough.
"You let it boil real good," she says.
The hot water sterilizes the jars and seals their lids, Coughlin explains.
This chore and others Coughlin has learned are gifts she's found in the country. This isn't how she grew up. You can hear New England in her voice. But this is what she's chosen.
"This is all my life," says Coughlin, who lives in Catoosa.
The most one hears is the periodic sound of vehicles passing by on the road ahead of Coughlin's house. And then there is the gibber of Coughlin's chickens, if you stretch to hear them from the house. A thin cackle rises up briefly, and that is it. What's left is the ticking of two clocks in Coughlin's kitchen.
"It took me about a whole month to get used to the quiet," Coughlin says. She moved here from Broken Arrow last May. Springtime.
When the weather is warm, she takes her breakfast at a patio table on her back porch. Summer was beautiful, she remembers.
Her move counters the current trend of many moving away from rural areas and to cities, and yet people such as Coughlin are not unnoticed.
Last spring, the University of Minnesota Extension published research showing many people in their 30s and 40s are moving to rural areas. Coughlin is a bit out of that age demographic - she declined to give her age for publication - but she is not alone.
Gary Kirby of Owasso says he's not surprised people would want to move away from the city and to the country, especially if they grew up there. He did, he explains. His family was among those that made the run on Oklahoma in the late 19th century. They homesteaded land in what is now Grant County, land that Kirby's family still owns today.
"When you grow up in that, you tend to go back to that lifestyle," Kirby says. You know what it's like to go outside and not see buildings, to see deer coming right up to the fencing, to play outside all day as children.
For love of the country, Kirby bought 19 acres in Claremore with the hopes of building a home for him and his wife.
"But my wife is a city girl," Kirby says warmly. To keep everyone happy, they bought into an Owasso subdivision and live on an acre of land, so "everyone has a big yard," he explains. Still from time to time, Kirby goes to the land in Claremore - he drives around and looks at it.
In Coughlin's case, she moved to Catoosa because she just wanted some peace. She liked the duplex she was living in, but some of her neighbors - all of whom lived "on top of each other" - were a different story, she says, picking her words carefully.
"And then you come out here, and everyone is so kind," Coughlin says. "And the country folk are country folk," she says, explaining that there is a kindness in her community that is unchanging. That when she needs help with something - though there's plenty she can do on her own - there are people ready and happy to pitch in.
And there's a slowing down and appreciating of life.
"I like the quietness," she says. Out here, she doesn't hear much but quiet. Maybe the cows mooing, as they do this day, or the baying of horses out to pasture and presently unseen.
Out here, where houses aren't in neat rows and in some cases, not seen for quarters of miles, things are different, things aren't boxed in.
But the challenges can't be ignored, Kirby says.
"Let me tell you, the biggest challenge is going to be work, even if it's mowing the grass. There's just a lot of work that they don't realize is going to be there," he says of those considering a big move away from city and suburbia to a rural setting.
"If you have livestock, you have to see to them daily." There can be a lot of equipment involved, and if you're making a living farming, you're really working hard.
"Especially during harvest time, what you're working for is out there in the fields," Kirby says. The year's big income is out there in the fields, and getting to it all before a bad storm does is key. "It's totally different from the things going on in the city."
At the very least, Kirby recommends renting in a prospective area before making a purchase to see if the investment is something a family wants to make.
"There's a lot of work to it."
In Coughlin's country lifestyle, she says she has found her purpose. Some find it early. Some find it later.
Purpose in her garden where fruits and vegetables are grown, in the red metal hen house where about 30 chickens cluck, in Coughlin's warm kitchen with the table full of canning fixings and, yards away from the coop, an almost-white shed to which she's affixed a cross.
Coughlin's chicken eggs are brown and fresh and $2 for a dozen if you pick them up, $3 if she delivers them. The gardening and canning, and the contents of the church-shaped shed she calls a disaster relief center, are for those who are down on their luck or starting over, she says. They are people she wants to welcome. Canned goods, jackets and inspirational books are in this pantry, and "anything that they see in here, they can have." So far the pantry has served 10 people, and Coughlin forsees more.
Many of the things Coughlin is doing these days living in the country, she learned from books and magazines. She learned how to take care of chickens from a past neighbor, one who actually taught her a bit about gardening, too.
This sharing of knowledge and learning by word of mouth and trial and error is ever the case in the country. Now Coughlin is sharing what she has learned.
"I don't think anyone ever does everything right the first time," Coughlin said. "You just go with it and make changes as you go."
Green Acres courses
The Tulsa County Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension office's Green Acres miniseries seminar will run from 6 to 8:30 p.m. March 11, 18 and 25 at the extension office, 4116 E. 15th St.
Green Acres is a rural-living course designed to assist participants in learning basic country skills, making them more self-reliant. Participants will learn how to buy land; basic homesteading; vegetable, fruit and small grain production; livestock care and management (poultry, cattle, goats and sheep); pasture management; and how to market small farm products.
Those interested are asked to pre-register to aid in the planning of the seminar and ensure that sufficient meals and course materials are on hand.
The registration fee, which includes the book "Storey's Basic Country Skills," is $30 per person or $35 for couples who can share the book.
Registration begins at 5:30 p.m.
Extension horticulturist Kenda Woodburn and agriculture educator Bruce Peverley will lead the course.
For more information or to reserve your seat early, call 918-746-3725, or email Woodburn at firstname.lastname@example.org or Peverley at email@example.com.
- Bravetta Hassell, World Scene Writer
Original Print Headline: Moving to the quiet
Bravetta Hassell 918-581-8316
Diane Coughlin shows off her egg incubator in a storage shed she also uses as her disaster relief center at her home in Catoosa. Since moving to the country in search of some peace, Coughlin has learned new skills such as canning, gardening and raising chickens. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
Coughlin fills canning jars with homemade salsa. Life in the country is not how Coughlin grew up, but this is the life she chose when she moved to Catoosa last spring. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
Diane Coughlin holds up one of her chickens in its coop at her home in Catoosa. She sells the eggs for $2 a dozen picked up at her home and $3 delivered. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World