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Arts and Culture

Jane Ciabattari on the Delights of the Rural Life

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Posted on Jul 9, 2009
bookcover

By Jane Ciabattari

As Alice Waters hovers in the wings as a muse for the Obama era, inspiring the White House garden and healthy school lunches, the fantasy of a pastoral life far from derivatives and emissions and other excreta of our times abounds. Right on track are these two memoirs—journalist Jonah Raskin’s “Field Days: A Year of Farming, Eating, and Drinking Wine in California,” an account of organic farming in Sonoma County, and novelist Brad Kessler’s “Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, a Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese,” a chronicle of learning to raise goats and make cheese on a farm in Vermont. Each provides vicarious and delicious adventures for those of us more likely to buy locally at farm stands or plant a garden patch than respond to the call of the land at full bore. 

In the process of writing these memoirs, both Raskin and Kessler made drastic shifts in daily routine, and followed an imperative to digest a universe of new information, much of it nonverbal. Paramount for each was a personal quest—for healthier living, for connection to the land, for simplicity—or, possibly, simply for peace and quiet.

 

book cover

 

Field Days

 

By Jonah Raskin

 

University of California Press, 344 pages

 

Buy the book

 

book cover

 

Goat Song

 

By Brad Kessler

 

Scribner, 256 pages

 

Buy the book


Raskin, author of “The Radical Jack London” and “American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ and the Making of the Beat Generation,” sketches Northern California’s organic farming lineage quickly, beginning with Jack and Charmian London, who settled in Sonoma’s legendary Valley of the Moon in 1906 and grew much of their own food. He includes Warren Weber of Marin County’s Star Route Farm, and makes it clear that Sonoma County’s farms have supplied Alice Waters’ restaurant kitchen for decades and impressed Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement

“Field Days” begins as a search for “the perfect farm,” and is in some ways a meandering, a gathering of facts to fill a reporter’s notebook (numbers of acres in organic farming in California, an on-the-ground update of the state of farmworkers’ rights, a survey of organic farms and wineries in Northern California). When Raskin finds Oak Hill Farm, the pace quickens. “ … Even at first sight I felt a sense of being enclosed and protected within the Oak Hill world that surrounded me, and I wanted to embrace it in return.” He has found what he calls the “hero” of his book. Filling in the profile of Oak Hill Farm becomes the centerpiece of his labors. As it turns out, he mentions offhandedly, this is hallowed literary ground, with legendary food writer M.F.K. Fisher’s house within view.

Through July and August, Raskin spends his days laboring in the fields at Oak Hill Farm. The work is transforming. At day’s end, he writes, “I felt exhilarated and clean at the core of my being. … I felt younger and more energetic, and I developed a deeper connection to the earth and a more meaningful sense of place than I had had for years. In the 1950s, when suburbia came to Long Island, I felt displaced. Now, in the Valley of the Moon, I felt reattached to the earth and infused with a new appreciation for the land and the soil. Belonging was uplifting.”

Day by day Raskin learns techniques taught by the fieldworker pros—gently dropping baby leeks in bunches of three into rows 18 inches apart, harvesting raspberries and melons, learning to use a wheel hoe to plant cauliflower and cabbage, cutting flowers. (“I learned to know what made a bouquet by touch and a sense of beauty beyond calculation. … I had the feeling of being in a picture; here, again, was an aesthetic experience of the kind I wanted. Diego Rivera, who loved to paint flowers, might have captured these sunflowers … on one of his canvases.”)

He is sumptuously specific as he describes the pure physical pleasures of the harvest. At one point he prepares a dinner of tomato soup from tomatoes he’d picked and roasted with basil and olive oil, Oak Hill corn on the cob, a whole chicken with tarragon, with Oak Hill red and yellow peppers. Another evening, at Tierra farm, the executive chef from Millennium restaurant serves a black bean and smoked onion torte, a ragout of Tierra’s beans, soft polenta with chipotle-glazed beets, pumpkin crostata with white pumpkin mousse.


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By KDelphi, July 15, 2009 at 1:15 pm Link to this comment

RAE—what retirement pension?

I grew up about as “rural” as it gets. Rich real estate investors and agri-business people who , know nothing (and care nothing) about growing food, (or the land) bought it all up when the kids (us) couldnt afford to keep it , when our families died off.

My father resisted the mighty Mall dollars all of his life, only to have the family lose the land when he died and left medical debts, despite “health insurance coverage”. He was also conned into selling off his life insurance and
“investing in the stock mkt”....he was not a stupid, man (PhD in Human Engineering, taught Statistics and other things)—-he was lied to. He’d roll over if he knew the debt his fricking financial “
advisor” left us…

None of the farm kids I grew up with are farmers. None.

The “rural area” is unrecognizeable…it is full of “self-sufficient people” who “run into town” in a huge SUV to “buy necessities”.

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By knobcreekfarmer, July 15, 2009 at 9:03 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie,

Since I’m not rich, do not follow the rich and am surrounded by like minded old hippy types, who are not stoned all the time, that is whom I’m talking about. We are not necessarily “activists” but rather we are active in pursuing a sustainable lifestyle.

I got the jest of the review(s) but was more responding to the comments - a true representation of our diversity.

Another group that has bought up land in the country are the survivalists. You know the type - guns, ammo, two years of freeze dried food… the big thing these folks don’t get is when they emerge from their bunkers then what? I guess they’ll come shoot me and take my chickens for meat - rather than learn to cooperate for a sustainable future…

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By Anarcissie, July 15, 2009 at 8:43 am Link to this comment

so left i am right:
’... I don’t think this movement back to country life is simply about a peaceful and fulfilling lifestyle choice. It is certainly not the next trendy real estate scam. I truly believe, as many others around me in the surrounding rolling hills of southern Indiana, that the industrialized world and farming factories on wheels have seen their peek. ...’

It depends who you’re talking about.  Urban people have been going back to the country and engaging or pretending to engage in farming for millennia. Virgil, than whom few have been more urbane, wrote a sort of epic of farming called “The Georgics”.  Back in the 1960s, hippies began doing it when they woke up to the fact that they weren’t going to be able to transform the city into the New Jerusalem no matter how many drugs they took.  Activists today are interested in supporting and engaging in local agriculture though CSAs.

Ciabattari’s article appears to be focused on Virgil-class types: rich people who can buy second or third homes in the country, fly off to France to learn how to make “herbaceous” cheese, and write fatuous articles for the New York Times.  This is not very serious farming, generally; it’s mostly another exercise of dilettantism.  In general, rich people and those who follow and imitate them, finding their lives empty of meaning, seem to sniff around artists, show people, hipsters, radicals, dissidents, eccentrics and others who do have lives, to pick up on what they’re doing and play at it.  The process often involves real estate: hence the gentrification of the Lower East Side and Williamsburg, twenty years ago cheap, hip slum neighborhoods of New York City.  So also, obviously, the elegant approach to going back to the country chronicled here.  This sort of article serves their fantasy life.  And helps the real estate business, too, perhaps.

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By knobcreekfarmer, July 15, 2009 at 4:31 am Link to this comment

It is said that before “oil,” and the mechanized industrial farm, 95% of people worked at farming while 5% sat counting their gold and eating the efforts of others. Today less than 5% of the population grows the food the other 95% consume - while counting their cars, houses and gas grills.

I don’t think this movement back to country life is simply about a peaceful and fulfilling lifestyle choice. It is certainly not the next trendy real estate scam. I truly believe, as many others around me in the surrounding rolling hills of southern Indiana, that the industrialized world and farming factories on wheels have seen their peek. That as global energy decreases these mega food producing endeavors will collapse leaving us but one choice to survive. Move to the country and learn how to grow your own food.

I’ve gardened in my back yard for years. Never stopping to think about where the nursery gets their seeds and starts. Today, we live far from town surrounded by state forest and small farms. I am now focusing on learning the time honored practice of growing heirloom plants and how to save seed. The industrial farm supply corporations have made this harder and harder by literally copywriting life (seeds). Check out the documentary “The Future of Food” at you library sometime. Scary shit!

Last year we took the steps toward a sustainable life - not just peaceful rural living. Certainly not a snooty wine sipping lifestyle. This is hard work! I know that I can spend a pile of money on tools and spend hours of hard manual labor only to get in return food that I could have run to town to buy. But just knowing that I can do it is worth more than money to me.

Time to feed the chickens…

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By hippie4ever, July 12, 2009 at 10:22 pm Link to this comment

I agree—there’s nothing to equal the joys of a bountiful harvest; after the plants grew tall and flowered lushly, lazily, dripping resin onto the calyx. The period just prior to harvest is exciting, and yet calls for restraint. To those who follow nature’s laws and demonstrate patience, come the rewards.

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By CJ, July 12, 2009 at 7:24 pm Link to this comment

As I sit writing with the tube on, just now an ad for Chase Bank depicting what looks to be LA skyline at night while a girl sings some vaguely rocky tune concerning who or what she loves or doesn’t love. I think? Near as I can hear. Does she love Chase Bank?

Today’s word is “gentrification.” “…far from derivatives…”? Hardly, when nature was sometime ago also reduced to a hedge (so to speak) fund.

Most amusing. “Field Days” indeed.

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By Leefeller, July 12, 2009 at 7:52 am Link to this comment

Sephard, yes the smugness is real, your last post pinned it down for me.  We also have the same kind of decadence around us, mostly vineyards. Winery folks are full of themselves, my weakness is I like wine, but one does not have to like the smugness surrounding its creation. 

Like your neighbor apple grower, I am proud of my strawberries, organically they produce slower and have much more flavor.  Over many years I had built a clientele at the local Farmers Market. having been semi retired (been trying to make hay and work in town)  and had not been to the market for 5 years, until I started growing strawberries again this year.(Got talked into it)  Many customers recognized me from before and remembered the quality of my past product. Reminds me of good restaurant, seems similar in many ways, until it changes owners or closes. People remember the good food and miss it with fond memories.

You know the bio self promotion thing has always bothered me as nothing more than people who are full of themselves. Sephard, thanks for the smugness report, I find myself in agreement with you.  We still have many old family farmers here, but that is going the way of the horse and buggy, as you mentioned.  My confused interpretation of your post describing smugness, was in organic farming itself, as opposed to your neighborhood opportunists. Now that is cleared up, this article does seem to have a smugness of it’s own.  I just could not pin it down until now.  Thanks!

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By Anarcissie, July 12, 2009 at 5:09 am Link to this comment


Sepharad:
Anarcissie, as always your perception is correct.

I wish.

’... every well-to-do or titled rich person in the country is swooping in to dispossess someone who actually has generations of family behind them.’

Yes, it seems to be a thing now, or at least it was up until the recent financial crisis.  Ciabattari’s article is not really about goats or even flying to the Pyrenees to learn about cheesemaking, but real estate.  It’s real estate advertising.  It’s pretty sappy, too.  I’m surprised to find it on this web site; as I said, it’s like something I’d expect to find adorning the New York Times to grease the wheels of exurban commerce.

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By Xntrk, July 12, 2009 at 1:49 am Link to this comment

What was the point of the article someone asked? I thought the part about Sonoma was to pay homage to Radicals like Jack London and Diego Rivera. I think the goat-farmer was thrown in for contrast. As for today’s small farmer, I think it is true he [they] are primarily dependent on another income, but that doesn’t make them less a farmer, it just makes life a bit easier.

I am not a farmer by the way. I am much too lazy for that. But, I have always lived in small rural communities a couple of hours away from the urban landscape. The commute was a bitch by the way, but the space and room to raise a few chickens and a bunch of kids was worth it. The dogs can bark without hearing from the cops, and the air smells good.

We moved to Vashon Island before we read Betty MacDonald’s Onions in the Stew. She wrote it on the island, after she became famous for The Egg and I. In the late 60s, Vashon was a mix of small farms and Boeing employees who commuted by Ferry [No Bridge]. Everyone had too many kids and no money, and were pretty radical. There was a Goat Lady, who didn’t make cheese. She was just another eccentric living in a shack with about 20 goats. We had a good mix of Hippies for leavening. Most of them tried farming by hand and discovered hoeing, weeding, watering, and putting in a large, productive, garden with hand tools raises more blisters than potatoes and corn. The communes failed, and the Hippies went on to law school and became typical Capitalists, btw. Now they vote Republican and own a helicopter if they still live on the island, which turned into Yuppie Heaven in the late 80s, early 90s.

On the Big Island we found a community that is so similar to Vashon in 1970, that it’s like living in a time warp. Tie-dye and grass never went out of fashion. The 2 lane highway looks about the same with ohia instead of alder crowding the shoulder. And, the local tavern is called The Alibi, which was the local watering hole on Vashon till it went up-scale. Instead of a ferry, Honolulu is an hour away by plane.

My mother close cropped her acre in Seattle when I was growing up. A boyfriend gave her a copy of Five Acres and Independence, which became her bible. She competed with the local Italians selling fruit [strawberries and raspberries] door to door. That is how I earned my first bike. That’s where I learned about chickens and splitting firewood. In the forties, in Seattle, it was still small farms on the outer edges. They hadn’t paved it yet.

I don’t envy the people who work the land and grow our food. They earn every dime they get if they are managing to avoid the Corporate Agribusiness format. At least here, you can make a living on an acre if you work your ass off. Of course, that acre costs a small fortune today…

I don’t think this desire for a more natural environment is a cop-out. The way things are going with the double whammy of Global Warming and Oil Peak, it is probably the wave of the future. I pity the poor kids growing up today who don’t know what a real chicken tastes like. Or how kill and clean one efficiently and humanely for that matter. What will happen to the cities if the power grid goes down for any length of time, or becomes too expensive for any but the wealthy? They’ll collapse without A/C and elevators, and transit systems. And the people in them will be mostly ignorant of how to survive off the land.

Maybe I could give lessons…

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By Sepharad, July 11, 2009 at 11:16 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie, as always your perception is correct.

It’s been a long time since anything but factories in the fields (“Nation’s” Carey McWilliams’ brilliant description, not mine) grew in California’s great central valley, though there is an increasing number of small specialty farms and those people work their asses off just to keep even.

But along the central coastal Coast Range and in its valleys such as Napa and Sonoma, an overwhelming number of non-farmers have been moving in to pretend that this is how their families have lived for generations, and the market in researching and creating family trees is a growth industry. I don’t know whether it’s the climate or the proximity to San Francisco, but every well-to-do or titled rich person in the country is swooping in to dispossess someone who actually has generations of family behind them.

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By Sepharad, July 11, 2009 at 11:04 pm Link to this comment

Leefeller, one of the surviving apple orchardists lives down the road and grows organic apples on his own 12-acre plot, and takes care of other people’s apples for 50% of the net. He is not smug, just conscientous and hard-working, and proud of his apples (with good reason; they are tasty). He also has to supplement his income by working at night as a nurses aide in a local hospital. He can’t eat at the over-priced haute organic restaurants, he does not wear expensive organic green cotton clothing, and (along with his wife) is snubbed at the farmers’ market opening and closing events by the boutique small farm and vintner owners who have a lot of money to play with, never work their own land but hire everything out to migrant workers mostly, yet talk much of their feeling for the soil and living with the land and the seasons.  After the last harvest do in ‘08 he told us he was so embarrassed he wasn’t even going to go back this year.

He does not get written about in the small gazettes that churn out flattering bios of newly local growers for whom it’s just a sideline. The vintner behind us a Democratic lawyer bigwig fundraiser and with his wife spends winters in their chateau in Provence, France. He underpays his workers, and one Mexican craftsmen who also does fieldwork for this guy told me the man had commissioned some of his primitive wooden sculptures of animals, offering a substantial price, but when he presented a bill was never paid: the lawyer said that the sculptures were partly done on the vineyard’s property and so were included in his wages, and anything done on the property belonged to the owner.  His wife likes to have women friends up from the city at luxuriously-set al fresco luncheons. Wearing a frilly apron, she walks out to the huge heirloom veggie garden that a dozen workers labor over most of the year, picks a selection of vegetables in the basket, shows them to the gathering, vanishes into the kitchen then comes back out with bowls of food prepared by a large staff and presents it as her own. (Last year, after the last Marie Antoinette lunch event, the family was preparing to return to France when they found out several Mexican workers had taken vegetables from the garden—where they would have rotted—and actually had the men jailed then deported.) The daughter wrote an expensive colorful book about the bucolicness of living with the seasons but an SF newspaper book reviewer actually came up to look at this dreamlife that never existed and roasted the book thoroughly.

This family is an extreme example. The pretentiousness is not so stark in town, but there is so much living-on-the-edge visibly going on around the area that, juxtaposed to the expensive 100% organically correct lives, many guided by crystals and angels and preachers of simplicity who drive Mercedes and Priuses, there is a huge disconnect.

Residents of the river towns farther west have told us that the smug we’re-better-than-all-you-guys in this particular town is incomprehensible, that they hold in contempt residents of river towns and the small former lumbering and struggling orchardist town just a mile north of us. Such people go to Machu Piccu, up the Yangtze Gorge etc. on adventure excursions looking for transformative experiences when the most potential for transformation is right in front of them. The only thing I personally feel smug about is the ability to see through the mask, and even getting something small accomplished—but that’s rare.

Leefeller, you are probably one of the least smug people in the world, certainly on this thread. Me, I’m basically too uncertain to be smug about anything at all. Just grateful for all the people who’ve taught me to see land, not real estate.

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By Anarcissie, July 11, 2009 at 7:36 pm Link to this comment

Sepharad:
‘There’s country and country. “Real” country is where people make their living largely from land-related activity (developers do not count) unsubsidized by non-country careers. ...’

How “real” is that, though?  My impression of American agriculture is that, except for some specialty growers, most of it is highly industrialized not only with regard to machinery and technology, but in regard to social relations as well—the farmhand has become a corporate employee (temporary).

According to my perhaps obsolete experience, the people who run small farms either have jobs in town or bring a pile of cash with them—or have some source of funds that sends them a check now and then.  Unless those checks are pretty big it’s a hard go, nothing like Versailles.  That’s the thing they almost always leave out of Times articles, it would spoil the vicarious fun.

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By Leefeller, July 11, 2009 at 5:25 pm Link to this comment

Sephard,

A smugness of the self righteous organic folks is apparent, but I am not sure if we see the same degree of smugness.  As an organic farmer who barley makes it without smugness,  I have had to supplement my farming by working in town. Have always preferred to eat home grown foods which grow slowly and picked riper and fresher tasting, much better in my mind, than the coprolite chemical pumped foods found in the stores. My comment could be construed as smugness?

Made the mistake of trying to grow organic strawberries again this year and once again may find my self being lucky to break even by years end. Spring rains and a heavy attack of spidermites set us way back from the start of the season. It is my feeling, farmers must be masochists for to love the life and the lumps as they do. Farming is not for everyone but as a small farmer, I would not trade it for anything.

Nice post Sephard,  I find many folks unbearably smug, but not for the same reason you may be referring to, though the article does emulate a degree of smugness in it’s tone.

What smugness are you commenting on below?   

  “unbearably smug about their organic lives and wise spiritual practices’.

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By Sepharad, July 11, 2009 at 3:41 pm Link to this comment

There’s country and country. “Real” country is where people make their living largely from land-related activity (developers do not count) unsubsidized by non-country careers. Lifestyle tourists and retirees can delve into country pleasures, which, as the kids say, is all good but not the same country in which you might lose your farm after locusts kill the crop that was supposed to help catch up for the previous year’s drought.

Hippie era communes and other lifestyle country experiences are the opposite number of small-vineyard-buying retired CEOs. Both species thrive in Northern California.

My only experiences of “real” country are from my great-aunt’s Nebraska farm, a small barely-making-it farm in the Ozarks south of St. Louis, and stories from my grandmother of her parents’ pecan farm along a small river in southern Illinois near the ruins of the old French Ft. Chartres. My grandmother and her sister both grew up on the pecan farm, worked by their mother (who gave up being an M.D. in Germany for a red-haired Zionist who too independent for communal kibbutz farming). Grandma ran away from the pecan farm when she was 15, for the city’s opportunities, libraries, and large Jewish community. Her sister Bessie married an aspiring horse breeder and moved to Nebraska. When his favorite stallion killed him, not-yet-20-year-old Bessie shot the horse, sold all but a couple mares, and with the proceeds bought more land to raise wheat and corn. We spent the odd summer on her farm, astonished by the devastation of tornados and locusts and the funny rusty water from the tap.

We live 65 miles north of San Francisco in what used to be apple orchard and horse country but in the last 10 years has changed into boutique vineyard and tourist country. When we moved onto these three acres, there was an elderly apple orchard with a packing shed, 900 sq.ft., which we made livable and still live in (husband opposed to one more square inch of concrete or anything else covering the vanishing acreage in Sonoma). Planted 1,000 seedlings from Forestry Dept., 5 cents each in ‘88, and along with the few old apple trees that remain there now are 50-60’ redwood, pine, oaks. Added roses, a huge pond, horse arena and shelter paddocks. Became part of the vanishing wilderness corridor along feeder streams to the Russian River, a corridor rapidly disappearing daily under vineyards and McMansions.

Nice, but not “real country”—main income has been from a history magazine we edited and published for 15 years out of the house, and now husband’s used biotech/biomed research instruments sales. Everything depends on a one-and-one-half-gallon-per-minute well, 25 feet deep. 

Our not-real country has upsides and down: living in a small forest with bright stars and utter quiet, up. But down includes 65 miles between us and good doctors, used bookstores, non-mainstream movies, cafes where it’s Ok to sit for hours with the same cup of coffee and write or people-watch.

With a handful of blessed exceptions, dwellers in the smallish towns in our area are unbearably smug about their organic lives and wise spiritual practices; upscale versions, basic Marie Antoinette as milkmaid in Versailles.

As in the Missouri backcountry, where smart, well-adapted individuals whose families were there for many generations taught us kids surprising skills and were the best company. Same goes here, e.g., disciples of the last vaqueros, Jack Londonesque individualists, Native Americans off the reservation but not into casinos, curmudgeons with well-stocked minds who would not be caught dead eating anything with flower petals on it or Cowgirl Creamery cheese. These people are real country, not what’s in those fresh-picked hardbounds.

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By Anarcissie, July 11, 2009 at 10:21 am Link to this comment

ardee—What insults?

As for activism, you’re right, it’s not hard to find people doing things.  You seemed to be proposing some overall standard, though, because you deprecated kale cultivation so vigorously.  No doubt there are people out in the country growing kale for the Revolution, or God, or whatever.  I’m not talking about the Versailles milkmaids here.  For my part, I would like to see a lot of people burn their plastic and stop working for The Man—a kind of long-term general strike.  You gotta prollem widdat?

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By ardee, July 11, 2009 at 9:37 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie, July 11 at 9:44 am #

ardee—What resistance?  What “needs to be done”, exactly?  These are not rhetorical questions.  I’d like to know what your plan is so I can compare it with dropping out, that is, “internal exile”, withdrawal from the existing system, and so on.  I assume we’re talking about the same physical universe here, one where the dissident are as yet rather few compared to the general population.

People are coming together right under your nose.A shame you are not in the loop.I would note, and include RAE in this , that we now have laws on the books in seven states making gay marriage legal. Noone can force you to find a cause and work for it, just as noone can castigate you for moving to a rural area and growing Kale. It is your choice and will be decided on how you envision your role in society.

In regard to your apparently rhetorical question about the Democrats, it seems to me quite a few people voted for them not long ago, so I don’t know what point you’re trying to make.  Sarcasm is a blunt instrument—maybe you should try switching to some other mode of communication.

Pot meets kettle, nothing gets cooked…you stated:

“I assume we’re talking about the same physical universe here, one where the dissident are as yet rather few compared to the general population.”

To your own self be true…..Your insults are blameless but mine are not, huh…Perhaps this glimpse into your blindness offers a clue as to why you have never been invited to join a group? Oh, and the remark about voting democratic was taken by me to mean you believe that I vote that way….

OK I am a caustic sort, New York upbringing and all that. But , yet again, people are doing stuff, look around if you are serious about getting involved. If you decide that Kale is the way to go, enjoy….

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By RAE, July 11, 2009 at 9:11 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie wrote: “I think the cities are a probably a better venue for one of my hobbies, low-key radical activism or “subverting the dominant paradigm” as some like to call it.”

I don’t disagree. Holding a sit-in or protest ain’t going to get you very far here in the sticks. But don’t hold your breath until much change comes in the “dominant paradigm.” The massive economic collapse in the US and elsewhere has hardly caused a hiccup in the criminally irresponsible carrying on that besets the elite. They hold all the cards - we “little people” are barely an annoyance yapping at their ankles. You see, until we get to be “big people” we’ll have very little influence for change, and once we become one of the “big people” we almost always find we have joined them as part of the problem. I have no idea what the solution is.

But, before I learned all that, I did my “time” as an activist - about 1976-1980 - gay rights issues - everything from parades to publications. Big fat lot of good it did. When I check in with some of the right-wing nut cases broadcasting from Bangor, Maine what do I hear? EXACTLY THE SAME BULLSHIT as these narrow minded bigots were spewing 30-40-50 years ago. They will NEVER learn because facts only confuse them. They have their biases and they intend to keep them safe from harm. Short of sterilization by age 10 of the entire lot of them I expect these noxious “weeds” in society will pop up forever.

As I said, I did my stint. Maybe, one on one I induced change. Unlike some, I decided that I did not want to make a career attending protest rallies and causing other fusses. My partner and I have “escaped” to the country much to ardee’s disapproval, I’m sure. I have long held the view that cities are toxic to humans and I’ve seen little to change that view.

I am NOT responsible for the mess the cities, the countries, the world is in. I don’t know who is but I do know it’s not me. I do not cause problems and I must have missed where it’s written that I should dedicate my entire life to solving them.

Yup… children are dying by the tens of thousands DAILY on this globe. But there’s no way I’m accepting responsibility for this disasterous situation. I have spoken against it. I donate toward relief. That’s all I’m prepared to do. I guess I am not martyr material.

Gotta go… the garden needs watering! You wouldn’t believe the big lush potato plants we’re getting this year. Wish I wasn’t so tired - those damned coyotes kept me awake with their sing-along concert in the bush outside my bedroom window last night.

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By jeronimo, July 11, 2009 at 7:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Rae’s comments cannot be discounted…  a proper connection to the small farm also could provide self sufficiency, the root of true freedom..  The small independent self sufficient farmer has historically shown to be the foundation of more benign political systems..
But of course cities have their beauties and challenges.. Although the modern city is degenerating into mostly challenges…

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By Anarcissie, July 11, 2009 at 6:44 am Link to this comment

ardee—What resistance?  What “needs to be done”, exactly?  These are not rhetorical questions.  I’d like to know what your plan is so I can compare it with dropping out, that is, “internal exile”, withdrawal from the existing system, and so on.  I assume we’re talking about the same physical universe here, one where the dissident are as yet rather few compared to the general population.

In regard to your apparently rhetorical question about the Democrats, it seems to me quite a few people voted for them not long ago, so I don’t know what point you’re trying to make.  Sarcasm is a blunt instrument—maybe you should try switching to some other mode of communication.

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By ardee, July 10, 2009 at 9:50 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie, July 11 at 12:36 am #

No, ardee, people who drop out, rurally or urbanly, are thereby weakening the imperial system, far more than some earnest fellow who toils away for capitalist masters, however often he votes for Democrats.
.....

Redux:

Liberal bullshit.

People who “drop out”, if that is even possible, are running away from what needs to be done. Do you honestly think ( if you even do) that those who rule this nation and this world give a flying squirrels ass if you sit quietly in your room or on your patch of wilderness? Does this opting out strategy weaken the rulers or weaken the resistance?

Who the fuck votes for democrats?

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By Anarcissie, July 10, 2009 at 9:36 pm Link to this comment

No, ardee, people who drop out, rurally or urbanly, are thereby weakening the imperial system, far more than some earnest fellow who toils away for capitalist masters, however often he votes for Democrats.

RAE—I experimented with rural life on the frugal side as a sort of mixture of escapism and survivalism.  This was back in the 1970s.  I was mostly in an area that had been invaded by rich hippies from Topanga Canyon, so there was lots of sex, drugs and rock’n'roll to keep people amused, but very little work unless you brought in funds.  You can’t eat scenery, so I finally had to leave.  Today, I don’t know if I would care to repeat the experience; I kind of like being able to bicycle to the Metropolitan Opera in 35 minutes.  Also, I think the cities are a probably a better venue for one of my hobbies, low-key radical activism or “subverting the dominant paradigm” as some like to call it.  But tastes differ, as Leefeller points out.

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By ardee, July 10, 2009 at 5:57 pm Link to this comment

Tiptoe through the tulips, yeah, while children die of dysentery by the thousands each day, while the world crashes down around our ears…Run away, run run away.

Liberal bullshit frankly.

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By RAE, July 10, 2009 at 4:41 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie: “If you go to the country, bring money.”

Perhaps you missed my point that it is 65% LESS EXPENSIVE to live here in the country than it would be to live in a city. Sure, we need SOME money but most of our entertainment, exercise, leisure pursuits and most of our utilities and some of our food is FREE. The retirement pension is plenty.

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By RAE, July 10, 2009 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment

Well, Mill… proximity to emergency medical aid was a concern… at first. Although the small regional hospital/clinic is only 10 minutes away, and there is an ambulance service, the nearest city hospital is 40 minutes away.

A heart attack, a stroke or other serious injury could be fatal with this delay. Life has to end sometime. When it does, the person directly involved almost never is aware of it. So what’s the big deal?

But… we are healthy - always have been. We choose not to have our lifestyles controlled by what MIGHT happen… there’s no end to that fear - might get hit by lightning - we have lynx, bobcat, cougar, coyotes, bears around here - might be out on one of our trails one evening and before you know it, I might be something else’s dinner. But the answer, for us, was not to tay in the city and risk death by bus or mugger. HUMANS in the city are far more dangerous than any animal here in the country.

I’ll take my chances with fresh air, wholesome food, and an awareness that extra care is required to stay safe.

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By Leefeller, July 10, 2009 at 4:23 pm Link to this comment

Why does it seem differences of kind, shape or form, become another platitude of “us and them”? Respect of differences in lifestyles, opinions and ideas could be a healthy start in a heeling which could be needed for us to survive on this flying rock.

Ones respect for others with different ideas does not seem so hard to digest, unless they promote those ideas as absolutism’s followed with a need to proselytize those feelings or ideas as the only rightious ones to exist. 

Respect should be a two way street. Now this may be one of those absolutisms?

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By Anarcissie, July 10, 2009 at 4:11 pm Link to this comment

RAE:
’... After retirement….’

Precisely.  If you go to the country, bring money.

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By mill, July 10, 2009 at 1:58 pm Link to this comment

Yeah, nothing quite like being an hour helicopter flight from the nearest trauma center when you’re injured or seriously ill.

Charming.

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By RAE, July 10, 2009 at 1:33 pm Link to this comment

I always chuckle when I hear or read of someone working dawn to long after dusk in a city JUST TO EARN ENOUGH TO MOVE TO THE COUNTRY!

I too lived most of my working days in cities. Never once did I regret not living in the country. Who in their right mind would want to live that far away from what’s “happening?” Theatre, clubs, bars, restaurants, fancy clothes and cars… it’s an ADDICTION every bit as much as any narcotic. I was so busy living the “good life” I didn’t once realize I was living in an ARTIFICIAL ENVIRONMENT and my “happening” lifestyle was nothing but an endless round of ever-so-important diversions designed to prevent me from realizing it. It never dawned on me that living in most modern cities these days is like living in a toxic waste dump - everything is polluted - air, water, most food, and even the silence - the noise pollution is deafening!

After retirement it really hit me. Somehow I got “clean.” We bought, for a ridiculously small amount of money, a 150-year old farmhouse and barn on a small acreage and haven’t had clean hands since. There’s so much to do - so much beauty - so much QUIET (imagine NO sirens, NO gushots, NO screams in the night, NO road racing, NO traffic noise or jams, etc., etc.).

In fact, NO light! Most city folk have NO IDEA that the Milky Way is SO BRIGHT it can actually cast a SHADOW! There’s so much light pollution in cities you hardly even notice there are stars let alone a Milky Way!

In order for a move to the “country” to work you must get “clean” of your addiction to the toxic swill of the city. How you do it - IF you do it - is entirely up to you.

I can testify that now, whenever I NEED to visit a city for some reason, I can’t wait to get out of it. I cannot understand where my head was at for the first 2/3 of my life. But I’m sure glad I didn’t waste it all IN A CITY.

Oh yes… the cost to live in our country home is ONE THIRD as much as living in even a small, ugly, noisy, pigeon coop apartment in any city.

BUT… don’t let me convince you to move to the country… the only reason the country is so liveable is because YOU all live in the city. So PLEASE stay where you are… at least ‘til I’m gone.

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By KDelphi, July 10, 2009 at 12:47 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie nailed this one, in my opinion

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By godistwaddle, July 10, 2009 at 11:54 am Link to this comment

My dad, who loved gardening, had watched the depression destroy his father, who had a large farm in New Hampshire.  Dad always referred to his father as, “Poor Dad, had to give the town 50 acres for the town dump to pay his taxes.”

My father would have loved to farm, but when Grampa died, the four kids sold it.  Shouldn’t have—a Wal-Mart now sits on the site of the cow barn.

Farming is heart-breaking and back-breaking work, and living out in nature is a good way to become like your farm animals—stupid, ill-informed, and bored.

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By wagonjak, July 10, 2009 at 11:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Dogs of Bedlam Farm by Jon Katz is the most wonderful adventure of a city bred guy surviving on an upstate NY farm…a fun and fabulous read!

http://www.bedlamfarm.com/bedlam_dogs.asp

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By Anarcissie, July 10, 2009 at 11:35 am Link to this comment

Leefeller:
‘Farming is a way of life for some, small farming and living on the land can be a most gratifying life style for some, but to proselytize ones life style over others seems most prejudice and close minded, I love my life so the great life must be evangelized to all. Proselytizing may be a sharing of a need for more supporters?

It is possible I miss interpreted the article?’

These are rich people at play, as when the ladies of the court at Versailles dressed up as milkmaids.  What this herbaceous, grassy romanticism is doing on this particular site is beyond me; clearly, its appropriate venue is the Style section of the New York Times.

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By bernard martin, July 10, 2009 at 10:38 am Link to this comment
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I,too, live in a rural setting in the Amish country located in NW Pennsylvania. While the enviroment is more pleasing than the urban and surrounding sprawl areas, the people who are native to this locale are what constitutes the “conservative” base of the republican party in all of it’s reactionary,narrow-minded,bigoted,and fundamentalist, hypocritcal christian glory.

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By P. T., July 10, 2009 at 9:25 am Link to this comment

Farming takes place under different conditions.  My grandmother grew up on a farm in snowy Canada.  The family’s boys, who worked out in the elements, spurned farming when they became adults.  It was grueling work.

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By Leefeller, July 10, 2009 at 8:32 am Link to this comment

Farming is a way of life for some, small farming and living on the land can be a most gratifying life style for some, but to proselytize ones life style over others seems most prejudice and close minded, I love my life so the great life must be evangelized to all. Proselytizing may be a sharing of a need for more supporters? 

It is possible I miss interpreted the article?

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By Anarcissie, July 10, 2009 at 6:25 am Link to this comment

There seems to be a sort of media push to get people, at least the kind of people who read expensive fresh hardbound books, to go back to the country, or at least to fantasize about going back to the country.  There have been a couple of articles about the exurbs in the New York Times in a similarly romantic vein.  Is it the Zeitgeist, the economy, or a plot concocted by the government to rescue real estate prices?  Time will tell.

My nontrivial experience of rural life has been anything but romantic, but as they say on the net, YMMV (your mileage may vary).

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