There were some things that I knew when I lived in the city, things of which I was absolutely, positively certain. My urban routine was to step out the back door first thing in the morning, before even waking the children to get them ready and off to school, and I would call to my dogs.

Leashes in hand, my trusty companions leading the way, we would head out into a still-sleeping neighborhood for our morning walk. Some days I would notice that the pavement was wet, but there was no rain falling from the sky. I knew, without any doubt, that it had rained in the even earlier morning hours.

And again, in the evening, dog leashes in hand, I would head out the door after dinner to walk the mile circuit around the block. This time of year, it would be dark on our evening walks, but I would still be able to see smoke wafting up from several of my neighbors’ chimneys.

The wonderful smell of burning wood greeted my nostrils, and I knew, without any doubt, that my neighbors were seated in their living rooms, warming flames flickering in their fireplaces.

Over the past 16 years since we have come to call the creek valley home, I may not have pavement under my feet, and I no longer wear high heels that patter along on the sidewalk beneath my feet, but there are still many, many more rural things that I have come to know, without any doubt at all.

This time of year, when I wake up in the morning and slip out from under the covers, the first thing that I do is reach for the stove pipe that climbs from the basement all of the way up through the cabin’s vaulted ceiling.

If the pipe feels cool to the touch, I know without any doubt that the fire in the basement woodstove has gone out.

I know without any doubt that I’d better pull on my winter jacket, step into my wooden chore shoes and gather up an armful of wood from the wood pile to restock the stove.

Only with the newly added logs starting to burn after I have buried them in the stove’s hot embers will I return upstairs, put on the coffee water, let the dogs out and do those things that mark the start of my day. As I putter about the kitchen getting breakfast ready, in time I will hear the stove pipe begin to pop and crackle, and I know without any doubt at all that the fire has caught and is burning bright.

I also know that the pleasant chill of the morning will soon be replaced by a wonderful warmth that gently spreads throughout the whole house.

Perhaps, after the morning chores are finished, and before Greg and I start to work on our latest creek valley project, we might decide to go for a walk.

If I happen across a cluster of large almost neon green Osage orange spheres, I know without a doubt that if I look up over my head, I will see the craggily thorned branches of an Osage orange tree.

Farther along on our walk, I might notice that with every footstep we are treading on small crunchy trapezoidal shells. I know without any doubt that now when I look up, I will see the towering beechnut tree from which they fell.

I also know without a doubt at all that if I pick up one of the small nuts that the squirrels and chipmunks have somehow left behind, and that if I break open the diminutive dark shell, I will find sweet white nut meat that will almost melt on my tongue.

I suppose though that some of those things that I knew in the city have indeed followed me to the creek. When the creek water is running high, but no rain has fallen over the valley, I can be very certain that if I run into a neighbor from farther up creek, they will tell me that
it really rained over their place.

Similarly, when I see a spiral of smoke rising up over the ridgetop, I also know with certainty that our neighbors have a fire burning warm in their woodstove, and they will tell me when I run into them uptown that yes, they lit the season’s first fire.

Now that I think of it, perhaps the things that I once knew are really not all that different from the things that I know now. It looks as though I have simply replaced my high heels with a pair of sturdy work boots!

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio. Visit them at