6/12/09

A Rural Secret










I have a secret. More and more these days I find myself wishing that I was a rancher. Shocking, I know. Who would secretly wish for such a hard lifestyle, up all night in blizzards pulling calves from their momma’s birth canals, hauling hay and water, living in isolation? I’m sure I’m idealizing the lifestyle. But I certainly do admire the personal strength it takes to live like that and envy the strong communities that can evolve in rural life. Echoes of this community filtered into the small church we grew up in. I can’t locate it now, but a recent survey showed that sense of community is much stronger in the Dakotas and other rural states than in more urban areas. Yes, independence and a don’t-tell-me-what-to-do attitude are also strong up there, but I think the sense of community stems from the fact that people really have to rely on each other in such extreme conditions as rural life demands, and this carries over into the town folk as well. A life lived outdoors also seems to have a profound effect on people’s realities. I do know that I have not found the same sense of community anywhere else I’ve lived.

I’ve read several memoirs this spring that have made me think a bit more about this. They include The Perfection of the Morning, Refuge, and A Country Year. I don’t know that I would recommend any of them as great reading, but I enjoyed them because they hit upon topics that I think often about. Refuge was certainly the best written of the group, but it and Perfection did annoyingly get new-agey and earth mother/goddess/wackily eco-feminist at times. I’m gearing up to read the memoir Buffalo for the Broken Heart, by a South Dakota rancher and noted fiction writer, and I suspect it will be the best of the bunch.

So, one morning my sister, stepmom, two-year-old nephew, and I visited Old MacDonald’s Farm in the Black Hills, where I had the time of my life with all the animals, especially the calves and goats. We pass so many herds of cattle and calves on our road trips that it’s always nice to actually be able to touch them up close. My other secret is that I am thinking more and more these days about what it means to eat meat and trying to figure out how to approach it in a healthy, humane manner. Orthodox monastics are vegetarians for a reason!

What are your thoughts on these topics?

9 comments:

peaceliving said...

Our thoughts (and crazy dreams!) are similar in this area! As for the eating of meat, have you read Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver yet? It perfectly sums up my ideas about eating meat and started me on the path towards local seasonal eating. It's wonderful! I'm sure your library will have it. At times it gets a bit preachy/propaganda-ish, but overall very inspiring.

DebD said...

I have no desire to be a rancher, but I do like the idea of buying beef as close to the source as possible. I've been fortunate that in the past I have had access to local pork, poultry (eggs and meat) and beef. But it is very pricey - especially for a large family. Right now I'm only buying local beef from a friend. I'd love to find a local source for pork because *nothing* tastes as good as small-farm raised pork chops, sausage and bacon.

elizabeth said...

I have been missing nature as well... for me I miss the hills in New England, the lakes...

Beautiful pictures!

I think the rural life is really hard; I hear also a homesickness for where you left...

Have you read Kathleen Norris' early book _Dakota: A Spiritual Geography _?

It is so hard to create and sustain community; I understand the desire and the struggle.

KatCollects said...

Ok first of all LOVE these photos. I love the bunny, of course : ) But all the animals are soooo sweet, I want them all. My Grandpa was a farmer, and I have to say some of my best memories of childhood came from being on that farm. I fed chickens, hauled hay, fed baby calves bottles (my own also because I was in cow 4-H). I helped my Grandma make homemade butter, homemade bread, and cut fresh flowers from her garden and watched her make pies from scratch. We had the best time playing in the barn and watching my Grandpa milk the cows, it was a good life. We have 5 bunnies now that I adore but not sure I could handle all the work that goes in to a real farm. As far as eating meat, that is something I struggle with. I was a vegetarian for awhile, and I am trying hard to get back there. I still eat fish and poultry. I only buy cage free eggs and will not eat beef or pork anymore. I am taking baby steps. I have a love for all animals so this is something I want to do for me. Ok, I rambled : ) I hope you have a good weekend.
Hugs,
Kathy

Mimi said...

I'd make a terrible rancher, but agree about local, fresh, and organic in our food choices.

And, have I raved about Mary Jane's Farm?

Marfa said...

Those photos are lovely...the girls enjoyed looking at them with me! We are driving through South Dakota the end of July, maybe we'll make an extra stop there!!! I'll have to look it up. I agree with you about wanting to have a farm with animals. We can grow veggies here, but we're in the city and so many rules about livestock here! I enjoy eating meat and am not looking forward to the next month (Sts. Peter and Paul fast), the 4th of July is always difficult.

Letters From Midlife said...

I think many people like the idea of a back to basics, back to nature type lifestyle. But it is hard work. For myself, I would like to live on a ranch but not have to do all the work! lol

Meadowlark Days said...

I loved reading all of your comments! Linn, I intend to read that book. Elizabeth, you are so insightful, and I've read Dakota. AND, I just signed up for a CSA today. I am eager to see how it goes. They also have a contact for grass-fed beef.

KatCollects said...

I just showed my Daughter your pictures, she wants the baby goat : )
Kathy