Every spring a miraculous event happens - heavy machinery runs all along our yard and, within a few weeks, evidence of our new summer fence begins to display itself.
Most years we are surrounded entirely by field corn growing over six feet tall on three sides of us. This has the pleasant effect of enhancing our privacy out here on the homestead. We are surrounded by a wall of green on three sides, hiding us away in our refuge. It's also a familiar sight - as I've mentioned many times before, I grew up across the field from here, and we were there, as here, often surrounded by the corn.
Privacy, such as it is, is a key benefit to life out on the homestead. Having your own little space in the country affords something very different with respect to the opportunity to connect with nature, with the surroundings, and with one's self.
We lived in the Greater Rockford Area for over 15 years. Though often maligned, Rockford offers quite a lot for people who want to be in the out of doors. The Rockford Park Systemis an active, thriving, entity, with parks throughout Winnebago county in a wide variety of locations, offering a huge array of experiences. There are river walks, a pretty decent recreational bike trail system, dog parks, large wooded areas. In addition, Rock Cut State Park is at the north end of Rockford, with hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, Pierce Lake. There's something for virtually everyone who wants to get outside to do. I spent a lot of my own time in these places - especially Rock Cut.
Having your own space out here is different, and in a very specific way. There's no way, on our two little acres, to replicate the variety of experiences that a state park can offer. Thinking about it always makes me think of something someone - my brother-in-law, I believe - once said:
you aren't living in the country if you can't pee off your back porch without being seen.
All of those park facilities are wonderful and, for the most part, very popular. And that's the rub: A hike at Rock Cut is a wonderful thing, but it is always the case that, even if one is alone at the moment, there may well be another person to encounter over the next rise, or around the next turn of the trail. You are never truly alone.
Here you are, to the degree that you choose to be. When I lay in my hammock I am hearing the birds singing, the dogs moving about, not Bitter Betty next door yelling at her grandson, not the guy who recently put glass packs on his 84 Ford pickup line trying them out by running up and down the street.
All of this is true when the corn isn't there - when it comes down in a few weeks we will still have that privacy. But it's enhanced at the moment, a welcome shift that says now, more than any other time, this space is for you and you alone.