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Schrader: Enjoying the good life in the country

The traditional American hymn to life in the wilds of the West talks about a home “where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”

It’s the kind of life that many city folks dream about, but never get to experience.

Lisa Bergeron had that dream, and five years ago she found just the place, 12 miles west of DeKalb on Rich Road, plus a couple more miles on gravel roads.

It isn’t quite the edge of the world, but if you consider Ogle County not far from it, she is pretty close to the county line.

Her job takes her back to Sycamore Road in the former Monsanto building, where she works as a grant writer for Northern Illinois University. But once she gets home to her small acreage and large yellow farmhouse, you’d never know she has two master’s degrees and is also an adjunct professor.

Bergeron reminds me of a 21st century Annie Glidden, another “pioneer woman” who was highly educated, could mix with people from all walks of life, but loved her farm and life in the country.

Lisa comes by it naturally, as her grandparents farmed south of DeKalb. She still has her grandmother’s large fountain running in her spacious, but well landscaped, back yard.

Living somewhat distant from her friends, she still finds them willing to make the trek out there to enjoy a summer bonfire, do some target shooting or archery practice, and even volunteering to mow her acres of lawn with a riding mower. Sort of reminds me the way Tom Sawyer got his buddies to whitewash the fence for him by telling them how much fun it could be.

She does not find the rural life lonely, surrounded by three big dogs, friendly neighbors, one of whom is a second cousin who farms the land around her farmette, and lots of wildlife. She can hear the coyotes howl at night, and sees lots of deer, foxes, rabbits, ground squirrels, and the dreaded badgers. She decided to buy a shotgun to keep the badgers from getting into a scrap with her dogs, since the dogs would lose that battle.

A self-taught “handyperson,” she relishes tackling large renovation projects, like the rundown farmhouse she purchased. Carpentry and other interior redecorating are just enjoyable hobbies to her.

Asked what is most different from living in town, she mentioned having a 183-foot deep well, septic system, generator for those inevitable power outages, and two liquid petroleum fireplaces to keep her warm when the electricity is off. Then there are those four-foot snow drifts that pile up at the end of the lane.

But it’s all a labor of love. Bergeron’s plan is for this also to be her retirement home in 20 years, and maybe by then she will have the house all finished the way she wants it.

Way out there “where the deer and the antelope play.”

• Barry Schrader can be reached via email at or at P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL. 60115. His column appears every other Tuesday.

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