A Single Girl’s Guide To Country Living & House Features

Here’s how I kicked off the week. I already had a jump-start on feeling awesome with the successful Moonshine Lamp project that I knocked out over the weekend and I decided to continue on that theme and make this a “power week.” You know, serious productivity, no distractions, and a lot of getting shit done. I started out Monday by getting a head start on my chores and hauling my huge country garbage bin out to the road first thing in the morning, instead of doing it last minute as I was rushing off to work.

I threw a coat on over my pajamas and felt good, empowered, ahead of the game, I may have flexed my muscles a bit and felt a little like superwoman as I walked outside… right up until I happily slammed the door behind me and, thanks to my automatically locking door, stranded myself out in thirty-degree weather, in my pajamas, in the middle of nowhere, without my keys.

So awesome.

And I have to tell you, I stood just outside the door with my hand on the knob, mouth open in disbelief, and spent a good ninety seconds trying to process what to do next. The pervasive thought going through my mind was, “If only I had my phone…” Except, if only I had my phone what? Who was I going to call? I live 30 minutes from any family, no one has a key to my house, and all the Twitter updates in the world weren’t going to be able to wish the door back open for me. (Why I wasn’t saying, “If only I had my keys…” is still a mystery to me.)

So I hauled the garbage out to the road, did a few calisthenics to keep any important parts of my body from freezing off, formulated a plan B (break a window) and plan C (start jogging down the road in my hot pink polka dotted flannel pants and flag down the local farmer on his combine… to what end, I have no idea) and then started searching for a key I thought I’d hidden somewhere on the property in case this ever happened, but, of course, had no clear idea of where I actually hid it.

Somewhere in that 25 minutes of general insanity it occurred to me that I’ve been through some big life changes in the last six months, but up until this point I’d never actually taken the time to think through the implications of being single and somewhat isolated from the general public. For the last 5 years there has always been a partner to call on, or a close neighbor or family member just down the road, and to be honest, I got used to having that safety net.

The truth is, while there are plenty of friends and family members who would be there for me if I needed it, the only way I feel completely comfortable is being self sufficient. (From the girl who insisted on installing 14-foot long pieces of siding on the house all by herself, this is a shock, right?) And while I’ve been getting by on luck, it’s time to be a little more planful about my future life as a single girl living out in the country. So here’s my short list of must-haves I’ll be incorporating into Hillside Cottage for safety, comfort, and general quality of life.

1. Impossible To Get Locked Out Unless You Lose Your Actual Brain Door Hardware– At this point I’d say we don’t need any more context on why this is a good idea.


2. Door Entry Alert Chimes- I’m not a fan of of big security systems that require activation, deactivation, and potentially awkward explanations to local law enforcement. It doesn’t make me feel safer, and the truth is that even as a single woman, I’m not worried about being able to defend my home– perhaps you’ve heard, I’ve got good aim with a hammer. Okay, and I keep some heavy artillery around as a backup in case I miss. Regardless, I don’t need a full blown alarm system on my house, but since the main living space for Hillside Cottage is upstairs I have a feeling I could start straining my ears at the first sign of a noise on the main floor to determine whether or not to go on high alert. Some simple entry alert chimes will take the guesswork out of it.

3. Tractor/Mower – Well seriously, every country girl needs a tractor. More importantly, however, is the ability to plow myself out from under a foot of snow if winter around here starts acting like actual winter. Right now my big plan is to four-wheel-drive my way out of it, or just hole up in my house until spring.

This sub-compact tractor from Kubota can work as a mower, backhoe, loader, or post hole digger with the right attachments. I totally need one.

4. Generator – I’ve also been rolling the dice  when it comes to maintaining power in my rental. At least twice last year the power went out for 2 or more days, and I was in a much less rural area then. So getting a generator (and figuring how to hook it up to my panel) is high on the priority list, even though it’s hard to fork over the cash when it’s 50 degrees outside in February. Plus there are probably some other items on my Storm-slash-alien survival list that I need to start hoarding in the basement like a crazy person.

5. Bottle-less Water- This is more of an annoyance than a necessary-so-I-don’t-freeze-to-death item, but since all of my paper goods get burned, and my compostables go to the garden, my only recyclables are the dozens of plastic water bottles I go through a week. Dealing with hauling them to the recycling center was never actually my job before, but I can tell you this… it’s a pain in the butt. And even with a bigass softener on the house, the water where I’m at still has the distinct flavor of rusted nails. Or blood, if you’re feeling a little vampire-ish. So in an effort to save the environment and not end up buried in plastic water bottles, I think I need one of these:

6. Remotely Accessible Thermostat – I once left my house in the middle of January for a long weekend in Vegas and while I did not come back married to a stranger, I did come back to a house whose interior temperature was somewhere around 12-degrees. When the water in your toilet bowl is frozen solid, you know there’s a problem. And since there isn’t anyone to check on the house for me when I’m away, one of these thermostats that can be monitored and controlled via iPhone is not just a cool trick, but an absolute necessity.

Okay, and it’s kind of a cool trick.

7. Independent Car Battery Jumper– I actually love my big SUV specifically because I’ve owned it for the better part of a decade with no mechanical problems (which includes the time I accidentally drove it into a ditch, where it laid on its side until AAA came, and then once all four wheels were on the ground, drove off just like new). I’m not sure if you can use a tractor to jump start a car battery, but if not, it probably couldn’t hurt me to have one of these around… at least until I give in and buy myself a vintage pickup to take up the third spot in my garage.

I feel pretty confident with these additions to my already enormous tool collection, I’ll be set to take on anything life throws at me– whether or not I’m stranded outside in the snow in my hot pink pajamas.

What tools and equipment do you keep on hand for self-sufficiency?


17 Responses

  1. Locks like that are amazing – we have them at the office. Easy to program – add new code for new hires, delete code for terminations, add a temporary code for one time use, etc. I love not having to get locks rekeyed or get duplicate keys made all the time.

    You might want to rethink the drinking water option – that one means you are buying the 3 or 5 gallon bottles – big hassle factor (and the reviews didn’t look too good). You might want to look into a reverse osmosis filter. While they take up a good bit of space under the kitchen sink they really make a difference in the water.

    1. Great to hear about the locks Cheryl!

      As far as the water goes, I actually spent quadruple the amount of money I spent on my most expensive power tool on a top of the line water softener, and it barely puts a dent in the iron content of the water here. (And don’t even get me started on the methane issue!) No amount of filtering will make it drinkable, for me at least. Since I already haul two 24 packs of water in every week or so, I’m hoping dealing with one 5 gallon jug will be easier than 48 small bottles… but I do need to find a better small dispenser than that one!

      1. Too bad about the water – although maybe it will be better where you end up buying and the RO filter might work for you.

        My mother-in-law actually uses one of the water services to deliver the 5 gal bottles and she rents the dispenser from them. But it isn’t the kind where you have to flip the bottle onto the top. The bottle goes in the base and there is some sort of pump that attaches to the bottle with tubing to the spouts.

        I can’t remember if it does hot & cold or hot & room temp – but the hot is hot enough for a cup of tea (maybe not if you are a tea snob, but OK for me).

        Total size for it is maybe 15x18x48 and it needs to be situated by an electrical outlet.

        1. Not sure of my mother-in-law’s brand – couldn’t find it in a quick search of our local water delivery services. But found this one that is similar – Primo 900134.

          Primo also has tabletop models and a pump if you don’t want to get fancy.

          I’ve never used any of these – so can’t speak to their quality or performance.

  2. I second the RO filter systems. You can even get them so they are in the basement, er first floor for Hillside (?) and run up to the kitchen. That’s what we have. Love it. You only change the filters on ours once a year.

    Our van has the annoying propensity to kill the battery when the light switch gets bumped and left on (I finally taped it down). If I were single the independent battery jumper would be a first purchase. I also have to admit that saws don’t intimidate me anymore, but the idea of connecting those jumper cables up to the wrong spots freaks me out!

    Frozen toilet water–hilarious! Sure it wasn’t at the time…

    1. Oops–had to go put daughter to bed before I sent my comment and you responded to the other comment in the meantime. Ignore the RO comment.

      Although we had really hard water around here too. We put in a whole house water filter in addition to the softener and the RO filter. Whole house filter changes once a month and comes out red from rust in water too. Gross. But not clean-out-the-sink-drain gross.

      1. So, first, I just found your site and I LOVE IT!

        Now that that is out of the way…. whole house Iron filter is worth EVERY RED CENT. (I’m not typically a person who capitalizes for effect, so know I really mean I love your blog and that the filter is worth it). We had as much iron in our water as is measureable….like 20 grains, and that is just where the guy stopped the test…it could have continued. Most softeners, even very good ones, cannot handle any significant amount of iron. So, we went with the whole house filter. We went from orange toilet/tub a day or two after scrubbing clean to I haven’t had any orange deposits on anything since we installed it a year ago. I think they are a must have for any person who has a well.

  3. That sucks about the water. We have great water here. The only thing is it’s hard so we have a nice water softener. (I can give you some good tips for sizing, buying, and installing one if you are interested.)

    That tractor sounds perfect and the remote controlled thermostat is something I’ve always wanted but for no real reason.

  4. We had one of those big water jug dispensers when we lived out in the stick and had yucky water. We loved it. Every two weeks they came and picked up the empty jugs and dropped off new, full jugs. We just set them out on the porch and by the end of the day new ones would be in their place. It was wonderful. We used Crystal Rock as our provider, in case you wanted to look into alternative brands or providers.

  5. FWIW, you *can* still get locked out of your house with those keypad locks… I did, twice, at my former house. One of those instances was totally a lost-brain moment (predicated by the sleep deprivation that only newborn triplets can bless you with)… Was it 25687? 25678? And of course, the more you sit there and think about it, the worse it is. The second time was because the thing ran out of batteries. Of course, the odds of this happening at the exact moment you lock yourself out of the house aren’t great. Or are they?! To combat the first, I made sure I had a few people I could phone who had the combination written down. To combat the second, you should still keep a key hidden somewhere outside – or batteries! Other than those two remote contingencies, we LOVED our key-less door.

  6. Great site, I enjoy checking it everyday.

    May I suggest a “emergency bin/tote” with fuel, water, canned goods, first-aid kit, knife, etc. I have one setup at home with my portable heater,stove,and so on.

    Also – didn’t know if you had ever seen this site. I found it and have lost many hours to it since.

    Keep building!


  7. I had really hard water around here.my big water jug dispensers when I lived out in the stick and had yucky water.For more informaion any one visit my website “http://www.nuvoh2oreview.com/.I hope everybody get helps from here.

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