Comments on: City, Country, Suburb? It isn’t Where You Live, But How You Live There. http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/ Sharon Astyk's Ruminations on an Ambiguous Future Sat, 14 Jun 2008 23:57:16 +0000 #?v=2.3.2 By: WNC Observer http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6637 WNC Observer Wed, 11 Jun 2008 21:42:06 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6637 Personally, I think that small towns -- either true rural towns, or the formerly rural towns that have become exurbs through no fault of their own as nearby cities have grown - are the best bet. The thing that a small town most has going for it is human scale. It is just possible for people to work together enough to actually solve problems and make the town work. Big cities just have too many unsolvable problems already, and things are going to only get much worse. Country living is fine for those few that can really cut it, but most can't; what is not generally known and appreciated is that even in pioneer days, a lot of those hardy, self-reliant pioneers just couldn't cut it either and had to head back to civilization, broke and broken. Personally, I think that small towns — either true rural towns, or the formerly rural towns that have become exurbs through no fault of their own as nearby cities have grown - are the best bet. The thing that a small town most has going for it is human scale. It is just possible for people to work together enough to actually solve problems and make the town work. Big cities just have too many unsolvable problems already, and things are going to only get much worse. Country living is fine for those few that can really cut it, but most can’t; what is not generally known and appreciated is that even in pioneer days, a lot of those hardy, self-reliant pioneers just couldn’t cut it either and had to head back to civilization, broke and broken.

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By: Rebecca http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6636 Rebecca Wed, 11 Jun 2008 21:35:20 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6636 I forgot one thing: I think the hardest part might actually be convincing people that what is coming is permanent. A lot are going to think -a lot are going to want to think -that all the problems are only temporary, and everything will be back to "normal" and "the good times" soon. I forgot one thing: I think the hardest part might actually be convincing people that what is coming is permanent. A lot are going to think -a lot are going to want to think -that all the problems are only temporary, and everything will be back to “normal” and “the good times” soon.

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By: canuck http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6621 canuck Wed, 11 Jun 2008 19:38:32 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6621 Thing is, it might not look like feudalism to the people its happening to while its happening, just like it probably didn't look like it to most peasants in the middle ages. After all, their lords were doing them a favour, letting them work the land, have a hut to live in and some gruel to munch on. I can just see it. "Instead of throwing me in debtor's prison, they're offering me a place to live (Okay, so there are two other families in the same house) some work to pay my keep and some food. Seems like a pretty good deal." Besides some say feudalism has already arrived, its just wearing a different shirt... Thing is, it might not look like feudalism to the people its happening to while its happening, just like it probably didn’t look like it to most peasants in the middle ages. After all, their lords were doing them a favour, letting them work the land, have a hut to live in and some gruel to munch on.

I can just see it. “Instead of throwing me in debtor’s prison, they’re offering me a place to live (Okay, so there are two other families in the same house) some work to pay my keep and some food. Seems like a pretty good deal.”

Besides some say feudalism has already arrived, its just wearing a different shirt…

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By: Anonymous http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6611 Anonymous Wed, 11 Jun 2008 18:50:36 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6611 Canuck, what concerns me is the extent to which foreign countries with controlled economies (ahem, China) have bought up securitized debt. Lacking arable land to support their own populations, I can imagine them, along with our bankers, ending up owning too much of surburbia and farmland. Overall I'm not quite as pessimistic as you. I think that vision of serfdom you imagined very possible will be attempted, but will not happen before J6P revolts completely. Unless it happens so very very slowly that the frog doesn't jump out of the boiling pot. I think the bankers realize that they can't realistically set up such feudalism without too much risk of social unrest - I think they'll try something different, though I don' t know what exactly. Canuck, what concerns me is the extent to which foreign countries with controlled economies (ahem, China) have bought up securitized debt. Lacking arable land to support their own populations, I can imagine them, along with our bankers, ending up owning too much of surburbia and farmland.

Overall I’m not quite as pessimistic as you. I think that vision of serfdom you imagined very possible will be attempted, but will not happen before J6P revolts completely. Unless it happens so very very slowly that the frog doesn’t jump out of the boiling pot. I think the bankers realize that they can’t realistically set up such feudalism without too much risk of social unrest - I think they’ll try something different, though I don’ t know what exactly.

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By: canuck http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6600 canuck Wed, 11 Jun 2008 17:43:16 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6600 Hi Sharon, I admire anyone who takes a serious stab at painting the picture of the world that is to come. I agree that some the End of Suburbia crowd (particularly the literalists as opposed to the "suburbia as a mentality" proponents) overstate the case against the burbs when they say that they will become "useless". Without dismissing your analysis as unlikely, though, I'd like to offer a different take on their possible use. This is just a rough sketch of the horizon from where I stand. Instead of saying “maybe” or “perhaps” or “it is possible that” in every sentence, I will write as though this is what will happen. But I only intend this as a possible scenario (the most likely one to me) to be added to the stockpile of other very worthy candidates. The suburbs will very be useful, but useful to whom? Not primarily for the folks that end up living there. I'll return to this point. Now I know you Americans are fond of free will ;) but it might be worth remembering (or re-stating) that we all have a lot more of that now than we will then. For the unaware, ie. 99% of the population, when faced with their own personal collapse of their current way of life, their living situation will generally not be a matter of choice but of overwhelming circumstance. Those group #2 exurbanites for example who find themselves unable to actually become country folk, either because they owe $300K on their McMansion, and now have no job, or no way of getting to their job, or a host of other reasons, will not be gentrifying the urban setting they flee to or competing with the urban poor. They will BE the urban poor. And not purely by choice, but largely by circumstance. And does this mean there will be a lot of empty housing in rural areas? Not really, because there isn't a lot of housing in rural areas (that's why they’re rural areas). True, urban property will be at a premium, but not no much in re-sale value as in RENTAL value, and only initially. I say this because in the aftermath of an economic meltdown, the "buy and sell" real estate market that we presently take for granted may be virtually non-existent for a while. Again, urban property owners may be victims of this circumstance in that their only option will be to hold the bag on deflated or meaningless re-sale values and try to stay afloat through renting. This may actually give an advantage to lower income urbanites who presently rent in jurisdictions where rent increases are controlled. That is, if they stay put, they may actually stand to pay a lot less than people newly arriving in the urban core where property is at a new (rental) premium. Remember, most of these new arrivals will have had their McMansions foreclosed on or even if they had them paid them off, have no means to even contemplate buying anything again. So what becomes of those rural areas? I think we’re looking at a tectonic economic shift. A shift from an information, services, numbers-on-paper based economy to one overwhelmingly based on food. How many other significant economic activities there are besides food depends on how far we fall and how hard we hit. Whatever the case, economic activities not connected to food, at least for the first long while, will be small in comparison. This means that, from a business-head point of view, the means of producing food (the land and its attendant infrastructure, out-buildings, dwellings etc.) will become the new oilfields of the post collapse world. Please excuse the disgusting metaphor. Now who presently owns these means of producing food, ie. land? In precious few cases, Old MacDonald might actually own his farm outright. In most cases, as with most of the rest of property in our world, the banks own the means of producing food. What's not owned by the banks is owned by good friends of theirs, big corporate agriculture. Even if Ma and Pa Kettle had inherited their farm from Pa's father, who inherited it from his pa etc., it is very likely that, if they are still farming, they have borrowed from the bank to stay afloat. We all know, it doesn't take banks and Wall Streeters very long to smell the sweet scent of fresh green opportunity beginning to sprout, even in the springtime of cataclysmic new realities. So will they let Ma and Pa Kettle and the rest of the mortgaged folks who might know something about growing food to pay them in potatoes and green beans instead of the cash they no longer have any access to? Nay. If you can't pay, you'll either move on or be become part of a new indentured agricultural management class for the profit of the banks or big agriculture. They will profit. Furthermore, will they let the hordes of people forced out of other situations to peacefully come and squat or homestead on the "new oilfields" of North America (insert laughter)? This brings me to the suburbs. The suburbs will be very useful, but primarily from the point of view of the new banking/corporate agricultural interests. In your post, it almost seemed that you foresee the present country folk, with maybe a few new arrivals, turning their hands to producing the bulk of the food that will be needed by the hordes living in the cities and the suburbs who will be doing other things. The country folk - producing the bulk of the food without the present energy inputs - without the present amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides - largely without machinery. Ain't gonna happen. For every one person presently involved in agricultural labour we'll need a hundred in our future world (this is an educated guess). So that takes care of the non-urban hordes and their free time. "Now where to house them? Hmmm... The cities are too far away from the fields... there aren't nearly enough buildings in truly rural areas and we're letting our new agricultural management class (formerly called farmers or country folk) stay in all of those... too expensive to build now and that land is too valuable to us anyway. We need a lot of cheap housing... not too far from the fields so that these poor bastards can haul their butts to and fro work each day... I've got it!!! All those suburbs that we foreclosed on and that have become completely worthless! After all, we still own them! And all those bums still owe us money! We’ll let them move back into what’s left of them houses, but they’ll have to bend their backs dammit! Its win win!” What we’re looking at is massive sudden relocation. And it will happen in waves that crash back and forth like when a 300 pound suburbanite cannonballs into the middle of his above ground pool. And some will spill over the sides. We might do well to look at other massive sudden relocations and how people were disorganized, organized and corralled in their wake. And what’s our favorite example of agricultural bondage? Look south, son, way down South. The suburbs could well become the work camps for agricultural laborers bonded by debt or by the need to eat. As such they might be the least desirable places to be. Especially when the great numbers of urban poor who discovered that a food-based economy doesn’t support urban trade centers of even half the population that tried to stay, start to arrive at camp and shack up in already teeming houses owned by the banks/big agriculture. Like a flock of pigeons that swoops down on too few bread crumbs, a good chunk people who initially flock to the city will have to swoop back out to find a way to stay fed. I admit this is a darker picture, but I see the night coming. We have a choice about where we spend the night if we think about it during the day. But once that sun begins to set, and were in a strange land, we will find our choices much more limited. We will have to hunker down and bed where we are. Sure we will have some room to adapt, but much less than we do to prepare. We will then be subject to forces much larger than ourselves. Hi Sharon,

I admire anyone who takes a serious stab at painting the picture of the world that is to come. I agree that some the End of Suburbia crowd (particularly the literalists as opposed to the “suburbia as a mentality” proponents) overstate the case against the burbs when they say that they will become “useless”. Without dismissing your analysis as unlikely, though, I’d like to offer a different take on their possible use. This is just a rough sketch of the horizon from where I stand. Instead of saying “maybe” or “perhaps” or “it is possible that” in every sentence, I will write as though this is what will happen. But I only intend this as a possible scenario (the most likely one to me) to be added to the stockpile of other very worthy candidates.

The suburbs will very be useful, but useful to whom? Not primarily for the folks that end up living there. I’ll return to this point.

Now I know you Americans are fond of free will ;) but it might be worth remembering (or re-stating) that we all have a lot more of that now than we will then. For the unaware, ie. 99% of the population, when faced with their own personal collapse of their current way of life, their living situation will generally not be a matter of choice but of overwhelming circumstance.

Those group #2 exurbanites for example who find themselves unable to actually become country folk, either because they owe $300K on their McMansion, and now have no job, or no way of getting to their job, or a host of other reasons, will not be gentrifying the urban setting they flee to or competing with the urban poor. They will BE the urban poor. And not purely by choice, but largely by circumstance. And does this mean there will be a lot of empty housing in rural areas? Not really, because there isn’t a lot of housing in rural areas (that’s why they’re rural areas).

True, urban property will be at a premium, but not no much in re-sale value as in RENTAL value, and only initially. I say this because in the aftermath of an economic meltdown, the “buy and sell” real estate market that we presently take for granted may be virtually non-existent for a while. Again, urban property owners may be victims of this circumstance in that their only option will be to hold the bag on deflated or meaningless re-sale values and try to stay afloat through renting. This may actually give an advantage to lower income urbanites who presently rent in jurisdictions where rent increases are controlled. That is, if they stay put, they may actually stand to pay a lot less than people newly arriving in the urban core where property is at a new (rental) premium. Remember, most of these new arrivals will have had their McMansions foreclosed on or even if they had them paid them off, have no means to even contemplate buying anything again.

So what becomes of those rural areas? I think we’re looking at a tectonic economic shift. A shift from an information, services, numbers-on-paper based economy to one overwhelmingly based on food. How many other significant economic activities there are besides food depends on how far we fall and how hard we hit. Whatever the case, economic activities not connected to food, at least for the first long while, will be small in comparison. This means that, from a business-head point of view, the means of producing food (the land and its attendant infrastructure, out-buildings, dwellings etc.) will become the new oilfields of the post collapse world. Please excuse the disgusting metaphor.

Now who presently owns these means of producing food, ie. land? In precious few cases, Old MacDonald might actually own his farm outright. In most cases, as with most of the rest of property in our world, the banks own the means of producing food. What’s not owned by the banks is owned by good friends of theirs, big corporate agriculture. Even if Ma and Pa Kettle had inherited their farm from Pa’s father, who inherited it from his pa etc., it is very likely that, if they are still farming, they have borrowed from the bank to stay afloat.

We all know, it doesn’t take banks and Wall Streeters very long to smell the sweet scent of fresh green opportunity beginning to sprout, even in the springtime of cataclysmic new realities. So will they let Ma and Pa Kettle and the rest of the mortgaged folks who might know something about growing food to pay them in potatoes and green beans instead of the cash they no longer have any access to? Nay. If you can’t pay, you’ll either move on or be become part of a new indentured agricultural management class for the profit of the banks or big agriculture. They will profit. Furthermore, will they let the hordes of people forced out of other situations to peacefully come and squat or homestead on the “new oilfields” of North America (insert laughter)? This brings me to the suburbs.

The suburbs will be very useful, but primarily from the point of view of the new banking/corporate agricultural interests. In your post, it almost seemed that you foresee the present country folk, with maybe a few new arrivals, turning their hands to producing the bulk of the food that will be needed by the hordes living in the cities and the suburbs who will be doing other things. The country folk - producing the bulk of the food without the present energy inputs - without the present amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides - largely without machinery. Ain’t gonna happen. For every one person presently involved in agricultural labour we’ll need a hundred in our future world (this is an educated guess). So that takes care of the non-urban hordes and their free time.

“Now where to house them? Hmmm… The cities are too far away from the fields… there aren’t nearly enough buildings in truly rural areas and we’re letting our new agricultural management class (formerly called farmers or country folk) stay in all of those… too expensive to build now and that land is too valuable to us anyway. We need a lot of cheap housing… not too far from the fields so that these poor bastards can haul their butts to and fro work each day… I’ve got it!!! All those suburbs that we foreclosed on and that have become completely worthless! After all, we still own them! And all those bums still owe us money! We’ll let them move back into what’s left of them houses, but they’ll have to bend their backs dammit! Its win win!”

What we’re looking at is massive sudden relocation. And it will happen in waves that crash back and forth like when a 300 pound suburbanite cannonballs into the middle of his above ground pool. And some will spill over the sides. We might do well to look at other massive sudden relocations and how people were disorganized, organized and corralled in their wake. And what’s our favorite example of agricultural bondage? Look south, son, way down South. The suburbs could well become the work camps for agricultural laborers bonded by debt or by the need to eat. As such they might be the least desirable places to be. Especially when the great numbers of urban poor who discovered that a food-based economy doesn’t support urban trade centers of even half the population that tried to stay, start to arrive at camp and shack up in already teeming houses owned by the banks/big agriculture. Like a flock of pigeons that swoops down on too few bread crumbs, a good chunk people who initially flock to the city will have to swoop back out to find a way to stay fed.

I admit this is a darker picture, but I see the night coming. We have a choice about where we spend the night if we think about it during the day. But once that sun begins to set, and were in a strange land, we will find our choices much more limited. We will have to hunker down and bed where we are. Sure we will have some room to adapt, but much less than we do to prepare. We will then be subject to forces much larger than ourselves.

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By: kirk thompson http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6571 kirk thompson Wed, 11 Jun 2008 14:35:04 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6571 Wow. What a great, well thought out, encouraging read. I've spent the last 2 years or so absorbing the gloom and doom peddled by Kunstler, Carolyn Baker and the peak oil crowd, and had pretty much assumed that the end is nigh, and there's not much we can do, so why bother caring about it. Your post provides an uplifting, well written, logical opinion of what we, as a society, will be facing in the near future, and, more importantly, details steps we can take and reasons why it's not necessarily the end of the world. Thank you for that. Wow. What a great, well thought out, encouraging read. I’ve spent the last 2 years or so absorbing the gloom and doom peddled by Kunstler, Carolyn Baker and the peak oil crowd, and had pretty much assumed that the end is nigh, and there’s not much we can do, so why bother caring about it. Your post provides an uplifting, well written, logical opinion of what we, as a society, will be facing in the near future, and, more importantly, details steps we can take and reasons why it’s not necessarily the end of the world. Thank you for that.

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By: Mara http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6558 Mara Wed, 11 Jun 2008 12:35:59 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6558 Interesting post. I wonder how you would describe where I'm living right now, which is quite close to the heart of Charlottesville, VA. It's certainly not "urban"-- there are no skyscrapers here, and the population is something like 40,000. It's not rural either, by any stretch, based on the population density of the neighborhoods, etc. And it can't be "suburban" because there's no urban area, also because it's more self-sustaining; most people that live here, work here and shop here. From where I live, it's an easy walk downtown, a moderate walk to the farmers' market, and a difficult (but doable) walk to the main shopping area. The local food economy is thriving here in central Virginia-- farmers' market, a grocery that sells local, CSA's, etc with most of the farms within an hour-- I moved here from Dallas so that makes quite an impression on me. There are lots of vegetable gardens and even chickens here in town; this area has been farmland for centuries. I think "small city" deserves its own category, because it may just be the best possible combination of the three you described. Interesting post. I wonder how you would describe where I’m living right now, which is quite close to the heart of Charlottesville, VA. It’s certainly not “urban”– there are no skyscrapers here, and the population is something like 40,000. It’s not rural either, by any stretch, based on the population density of the neighborhoods, etc. And it can’t be “suburban” because there’s no urban area, also because it’s more self-sustaining; most people that live here, work here and shop here. From where I live, it’s an easy walk downtown, a moderate walk to the farmers’ market, and a difficult (but doable) walk to the main shopping area. The local food economy is thriving here in central Virginia– farmers’ market, a grocery that sells local, CSA’s, etc with most of the farms within an hour– I moved here from Dallas so that makes quite an impression on me. There are lots of vegetable gardens and even chickens here in town; this area has been farmland for centuries. I think “small city” deserves its own category, because it may just be the best possible combination of the three you described.

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By: Rebecca http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6557 Rebecca Wed, 11 Jun 2008 11:53:48 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6557 I think rebuilidng community is going to be harder than a lot of people think. Most people in the neighborhood where I live (which is somewhere between urban and suburban) don't even want to look at their neighbors. They won't meet my eyes, they won't wave back. Also, which environment to live in depends on lifestyle factors as well. I don't mean that lightly. I'm a lesbian, and while I don't flaunt it, I won't hide it. There are a *lot* of hard core conservative fundamentalists down here in the south, and in the rural and small town areas I would (quite literally) be risking my life living there. I'm not joking. Gay men and lesbians (especially the former) have a bad habit of turning up dead down here. My openly and quite obviously -as in he can't hide -friend who lives in the hills a bit from here can't go to the store down the road from his house without being called faggot and almost gets into a fight about once a week. He has a lot less problems than most because a) his family's from there, there's about 50 of them and they won't take kindly to someone messing with one of their clan and b) he's 6'4" and as broad as linebacker. That's today of course, before things change. What things will be like when that happens is anyone's guess. I'm a country girl at heart, but not here. In good news, the heat wave has finally broken. It was only 92 here yesterday! I think rebuilidng community is going to be harder than a lot of people think. Most people in the neighborhood where I live (which is somewhere between urban and suburban) don’t even want to look at their neighbors. They won’t meet my eyes, they won’t wave back.

Also, which environment to live in depends on lifestyle factors as well. I don’t mean that lightly. I’m a lesbian, and while I don’t flaunt it, I won’t hide it. There are a *lot* of hard core conservative fundamentalists down here in the south, and in the rural and small town areas I would (quite literally) be risking my life living there. I’m not joking. Gay men and lesbians (especially the former) have a bad habit of turning up dead down here. My openly and quite obviously -as in he can’t hide -friend who lives in the hills a bit from here can’t go to the store down the road from his house without being called faggot and almost gets into a fight about once a week. He has a lot less problems than most because a) his family’s from there, there’s about 50 of them and they won’t take kindly to someone messing with one of their clan and b) he’s 6′4″ and as broad as linebacker. That’s today of course, before things change. What things will be like when that happens is anyone’s guess.

I’m a country girl at heart, but not here.

In good news, the heat wave has finally broken. It was only 92 here yesterday!

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By: Sue (coffeepot) http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6556 Sue (coffeepot) Wed, 11 Jun 2008 11:27:03 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6556 It is the country life for me no matter any problem. I have great neighbors. I will just have to get a horse /wagon. I never want to go back to urbania. never..never..never It is the country life for me no matter any problem.

I have great neighbors.

I will just have to get a horse /wagon.

I never want to go back to urbania. never..never..never

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By: Kim http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6555 Kim Wed, 11 Jun 2008 11:23:19 +0000 http://sharonastyk.com/2008/06/10/city-country-suburb-it-isnt-where-you-live-but-how-you-live-there/#comment-6555 Karin, 10 years ago we were the new kids here in our small rural town. It took a while before we were accepted and even longer before we were considered as belonging. One thing that helped is that we did as it sounds like you are doing. Tuck in and start. Let them see you are serious about rural life. Don't try to change them -- yet. A lot of people move the country and expect it to be "progressive" or get frustrated when their ideas aren't accepted. We have to remember these people have roots that go down deep and they won't take a shine to some city girl trying to change their ways. Just my experience. Kim Karin,

10 years ago we were the new kids here in our small rural town. It took a while before we were accepted and even longer before we were considered as belonging.

One thing that helped is that we did as it sounds like you are doing. Tuck in and start. Let them see you are serious about rural life. Don’t try to change them — yet. A lot of people move the country and expect it to be “progressive” or get frustrated when their ideas aren’t accepted.

We have to remember these people have roots that go down deep and they won’t take a shine to some city girl trying to change their ways.

Just my experience.

Kim

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