Darkness…and Lights

One thing that strikes you pretty quickly, once you make the move to a rural property, is just how dark it can get at night. The lack of light pollution from nearby cities can make for much more beautiful star gazing. And it’s especially nice on nights where there’s something special going on in the sky: a comet, the relatively close passage of another planet, a meteor shower, or any other such sight. Some of my nicest memories from Illinois are of reclining on the windshield of our old dead Suburban and looking up at the night sky with one of the Yeoman farm children.

The recent “solar tsunami” meant that a big cloud of charged particles was headed toward earth, with the potential for some spectacular displays of the northern lights. Driving home from an election night party on Tuesday, we did notice something going on in the sky. It wasn’t the kind of aurora which was visible farther north that night; for the really cool stuff, you’d have to go way up from here. But by 1am Wednesday morning, we had lots of pulsing white strobes going on in the sky. It was an interesting sight, and something we would’ve completely missed if we lived in the city.

That said, there’s a downside to darkness: it can get really hard to find your way across a barnyard when it gets pitch dark at night. Even with a security light to illuminate one’s driveway, how do you go looking in the pasture for that lost sheep which didn’t come in with the others? Or spot the predators lurking along the fence line? Or investigate what’s spooking the ducks?

We’ve found that a big, rechargeable, pistol-grip spotlight is an essential tool on the farm. There’s nothing like being able to sweep a three million candlepower beam across the property, lighting up the treeline (and the eyes of any animal that might be looking your direction). Or searching a particular tree for any signs of a raccoon or possum. Or … or … simply having the power to turn any given section of pitch darkness into bright daylight at the press of a button.

They’re not even terribly expensive. Yes, they’re more than a cheap flashlight that’s only effective at close range. But I’ve seen good ones at Meijer or Wal-Mart for under fifty bucks. Yes, that may sound like a lot for a light, but it’s a good investment. We use ours nearly every night, and have never regretted having it. I can’t imagine living out in the country without one.

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