On my way to the Cities I ritualistically stop after turning out of my driveway (usually around 3:30 - 4am), turn off the lights, and look at my farm on the prairie. I see the halo of the yardlight, the silhoutte of the farm house.
This morning there was no trace of my farm. It completely disappeared.
Agralite, our electric coop, owns and maintains the yard light on the condition it comes on automatically dusk to dawn-- there's no switch. I'd been stomping around because "what's the use of living on a farm way in the country if you can't see the stars for the yardlight." So we bought the yard light from Agralite ($50) and put a switch on the light pole which is about 100 feet from the house. It is switched off. It's nice to step outside in the early morning dark and see the stars. This morning, however, I left the house at 3:30 am and couldn't find my car 20 feet from the house.
When I stopped at the end of the driveway and turned off my car lights it was downright scary. Pitch black with no reference point of home-- no yellow glow from the farm yard-- no silhoutte of a house. I rolled down the windows thinking I could see better. Nothing but complete and still darkness. I rolled up my window and drove the 2.5 miles to the blacktop road.
That's when I realized that I didn't just put out the light for my family-- but I put out the light on another farmstead in Big Stone County. I used to see the light of our farm from that blacktop road. Now I saw an even larger expanse of black prairie-- depopulated--dark. A couple of our neighbors put out their farmlights lately (saving $10-$15 in electric per month). A couple months ago I actually missed the turn to the farm because the farm on the corner turned out their light which was my landmark at night.
Do you remember-- does anyone remember-- the nightime rural Minnesota landscape 30 years ago? As a child, sitting in the back of my mom and dad's Delta '88 cruisin' between Hayfield and Dodge Center, WCCO on the radio, driving home from grandma's -- my head against the glass looking at the series of barns with their lights on at 6 pm. All of them milking cows.
It's darker now on the prairie. This morning I saw one barn with lights on in 200 miles of driving -- one red barn with what I'll guess is one old farmer who just loves (or doesn't know how to stop) dairying. So I've turned the light off on my farm. One less light on the prairie.