Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Good Life? Simple Life? Hmmm...

Rene' and sister, Keeli, at G'pa and G'ma's
Sunrise was at 7:57, sunset at 4:33 pm.

Ugh- I hate not sleeping through the night, especially when I have to get up so early to go to work. 1:30 am wake-up call.  I just roll around remembering rep appointments that crept up, an upcoming interview, learning how to use more of the POS at the store, health issues, freezing weather and an uncovered daphne plant.  The daphne plant I could take care of RIGHT NOW, although it may have been too late. Thankfully, D can sleep through the light so I can read myself back to sleep. The hard part is finding something that won't make me want to keep reading until the alarm goes off.

The choice of the early morning read was Chickens in the Road, not a particularly good choice because it took two hours to finally realize that my eyelids were heavy enough to stay shut. One and a half hours later, the alarm goes off and I spring (well, in my head I spring) out of bed, grabbing CITR and my glasses and head off to grab coffee and a few more minutes with it before I hit the road for the bus and ferry rides that are nothing more than free reading time.

I have ALWAYS wanted to live on a farm.  We lived with my grandparents when I was very young.  A few acres filled with horses, rhubarb, tansy ragwort and summers full of canning jars, plastic jugs of drinking water (the well water had arsenic in it), feral cats, and running through the creek (crick if you are a Kirkpatrick from Spencer Creek) looking for frogs.  There were two barns, one for the horses and one for the tack, and electric fences buzzed in the night.  Grandma had grape arbors and a small vegetable garden.  We lived there for a few years until Mom could afford to move to town.

The effects of  "the house" (everyone in the clan knows that when you say "the house" you mean Grandma's little white house even though she's been gone a few years) have stayed with me all this time and I have only just, only this year, realized that I am way too old to actually leave my city ways and move to a farm and do all those farm things. That realization has made me kind of sad.  How could I suddenly be too old?

Thankfully, people actually DO make changes in their lives, at ages far earlier than 50-something, uprooting themselves and family and moving to the way outback to wrestle with chickens and snow, foxes and old orchards, learning to can beans without botulism and how to butcher a hog and then they WRITE about it!  Thank God for books and their writers! 

Chickens in the Road was great!  Suzanne McMinn was 42 and a popular romance writer, when she decided to move to West Virginia with her partner, 52, somewhere she could have chickens that could walk in the road.  Well, she got the chickens, and then goats, a cow, an uncooperative neighbor, snow, snow and more snow, and then mud, all mixed up with her children, an kind of odd partner (what was his problem?), and all the people who make up a rural community.

CITR is mostly a slice of life look at what it takes to live way out in the country.  She was lucky enough to have lived in West Virginia before, so she knew some people and had a safety net of sorts.  She'd done some canning and wasn't shy about asking for help, what she doesn't have is a very helpful partner or any real money.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I learned a lot, it was entertaining, and there are recipes for the food and crafts she mentions in the back.  (HarperOne.  Available now.  Hardcover, $28.99.)

But, one book about living a sustainable life, about supporting yourself with what you make with your own two hands, just isn't enough and I happened to have a copy of Bootstrapper, by Mardi Jo Link, on the shelf, too. 

Mardi Jo's life starts to unravel after her marriage falls apart, leaving her deep in debt on a farm in northern Michigan.  Deciding to stick it out with her 3 boys, she faces foreclosure, a bad well, feral chickens, and wins a zucchini contest that keeps the family in bread.  Over the course of the year she eventually begins to dig herself out of the depression and the money pit she's found herself drowning in, finding joy and love in the mud and defrosted remains of their only meat, getting creative with her few resources.  Her boys are the real heroes, here, although she deserves a lot of credit for raising them.  They are strong and caring boys, able and careful, willing to go along with the idea of the farm. 

Very good, funny, but not overly rah-rah!  It's hard being a single mom with three kids and she doesn't slack on the pity parties.  She is realistic about how difficult this kind of life can be.  (Knopf.  Available now.  Hardcover, $24.95.)

My other favorite book about living on a farm is Farm City, by Novella Carpenter.  This one has been out for a while and I still sell it to the people on the island who are thinking about getting chickens and starting a garden.  Novella moved to Ghost City from the Seattle area, a rundown neighborhood near Oakland, and started a farm. She started with chickens and bees and eventually expanded it from her house and yard into the abandoned lot next door.  The pig might have been a breaking point for any other partner, but obviously, Novella chose the right one (partner, not pig.  Well, maybe the pig, too).  She decided that if she's going to eat meat, she needs to raise and then slaughter the pig.  Chasing around fancy restaurant dumpsters for leftovers to feed the pig is funny, learning what goes into getting a pig ready for food is fascinating.  The part about the effects of live animals on kids in the neighborhood is amazing and surprising.  Give it a try, you'll want a beehive next!  (Penguin Books.  Available now.  $16.00.) 

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