Every year, more people move to Leelanau, looking for the quiet rural life. New neighbors are usually a blessing, but sometimes they seem a little lost. A few seem hell bent on turning Leelanau into the same place they left. You tend to wonder why they came here.
Rural America is not just suburbia with better scenery. It is not "the land that time forgot". It is also not the Great Frontier, waiting for someone to smart enough to exploit it. Things are different here, in ways that you may not expect or appreciate. The case of the Chickens Vs. The Condos is the most recent example, but it is only one.
This is an interactive post. I want my Leelanau County readers to help Brother Chris with his Extended Ed class for area newcomers. What do you think a person needs to know before they decide to move to Leelanau? I'll start, you can add your own ideas using the comments:
- Those hills of flowering blossoms and green pastures with black and white cows, although they are scenic, are actually working farms. You can expect to smell manure on occasion, and sometimes you may catch a whiff of Captan. You will sometimes find a tractor or cherry shaker driving down the road ahead of you, especially if you are in a hurry. During cherry harvest, when the weather is hot and sticky, you may be awakened at intervals throughout the night by the sound of cherry hauling trucks and their "jakebrakes". None of this is anything to complain about. Every year that we have a good harvest is another year that farmers can afford to stay in business and those hills aren't being sold off for subdivisions. If the rest of the world hits a rocky spell, you may be depending on local farmers for your sustenance. Support local farmers, both in spirit and by patronizing our fine farm markets and wineries.
- Working farms also need all kinds of expensive machinery. Farm machinery is built for service, not for style. It is not uncommon for a tractor or implement to remain in service for 20 or 30 years, or longer. Even disused machinery is kept around for parts or for occasional service, or even for sentimental reasons. Even non-farmers will keep an extra car around for parts or in case their main car goes on the blink. They may keep a boat on a trailer, hoping to one summer find time to use it a time or two. Don't move here and then complain about "junk" in other peoples' yards.
- Don't be afraid of the dark. If you really need a yard light, find a sky friendly one, and turn it off when you aren't using it. We know you're real proud of your new mega-mansion, but we don't need to see it lit up all night, especially if you've gone back to Florida for the winter. We'd rather see the stars.
- Leelanau is not a big city economy. It is a seasonal economy. Around the end of March you will find a lot of people quietly stretching their last few bucks until their income picks up again. Leelanau is also an area of underemployment. Underemployed people are those of us who can't find jobs that match our education. At least we can find work. Don't talk down to people! There is a good chance that your plumber or snowplow driver are better educated than you. By the same token, if you are moving here on the strength of your Master's degree in Russian Lit, it wouldn't hurt to learn to plow snow.
- People move here for the scenery. The smart people learn that the real treasure here is the community. Up north you need your community. Try not to piss off your neighbors. They may be the ones pulling you out of a snowdrift next week.
- Volunteer. There are all kinds of organizations doing all kinds of work with volunteers. Find a place where you feel comfortable, and then help, even if it's only a little. You will meet the most interesting people and you won't have time to cruise to mall and pine for stuff you can't afford on a local paycheck.