Monthly Archives: August 2012

Guest Post: A Marvelous Tool

Today’s guest post was sent to me by my Columbia River Gorge friend, Jim Tindall. Jim is a librarian for the local middle schools, which explains his admiration for the table of contents and index in Get Your Pitchfork On! He was the subject of my previous post involving chainsaws.

A Marvelous Tool

By Jim Tindall

While Get Your Pitchfork On! is an entertaining curiosity to the country dweller, which I am, it is truly crafted for those who have never had to prime a pump or negotiate with rodents living in the heating system of one’s rig. Encyclopedically written, it is a marvelous tool to assess what you know about the real challenges of country living.

I have both learned and re-learned a lot of information reading this book, from the practical like selection of farm implements to the spiritual, such as knowing the inevitability of your dog’s proclivity toward the “exquisite debauchery” of rolling in rotting flesh.

There’s tremendous value in this book, for reading a few hundred pages potentially could save you thousands of dollars. For example, in Chapter Six: Sustainable Power, Athens writes: “The best green power is conservation. It’s a good idea to explore conservation strategies before investing in green-energy infrastructure. As one friend put it, ‘You must be prepared to basically own and operate a private energy company.'”

There is surely a great convenience in having the power company maintain everything to your door; imagine the many sets of expertise you must have not to electrocute yourself.

This is writing that reveres nature. In Chapter Twelve: Wildlife, pests and predators are addressed. Cougars and bears are a reality, at least in the Cascades. Coincidentally I was driving the road that passes Athens’ former farm, and something big came upon the road just in front of me. I braked to see no less than Elsa from Born Free pass a few feet before my compact car. The cougar was THAT big!

As you contemplate a move, you must give plenty of thought to exactly how you intend to interface with nature. While big animals, carpenter ants, and yellow jackets may be real obstacles to tranquility, wild fires, floods, and wind events are far more unpredictable and require your attention in transplanting from an urban to a rural universe.

My hat goes off to both the author and the publisher because they have accomplished what many who work with nonfiction neglect. Both the table of contents and the index are superb. One does not need to read a whole book to glean what one needs at the moment, and Get Your Pitchfork On! is highly useful for this reason.

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Tutu Therapy

In 2008, Mike and I were struggling financially. You probably were, too: there was a recession going on. I was getting for-real depressed.

That July, Mike had a freelance video production gig (thank goodness!) that required travel. While he was out of town, I drove to the Wallowa Mountains with my friend Laura to visit my other friend, Jon. We had a great time—just what I needed—and I dreaded returning to reality. On our way out of town, Laura and I stumbled upon a big rummage sale being held in a parking lot. I found a child’s pink tulle tutu for 25 cents.

For some reason, I bought it. I have never owned a tutu. I never took ballet lessons. Laura looked at me like I had finally cracked.

I’m a petite gal, so it fit just fine. I made a tentative leap in the air, imagining myself graceful. I found that when I put the tutu on, my worries disappeared! The silliness of a grown woman who is not a ballerina wearing a tutu overcame my concerns about the things on the house that needed fixing and my fears about the future. I was wearing a tutu! Leap! Leap! Twirl!

Inspired, I created a photo essay that I posted on my Facebook page. Today, a friend turned my attention to a man who is posting photos of himself in a tutu to raise breast cancer awareness. I felt a bond with this man right away. I highly recommend tutu therapy!

Here is my photo essay, entitled “Tutu.”

Life is hard. Wearing a tutu makes things more fun!

Chopping wood is more fun!

Gardening is more fun!

Mowing is more fun!

Now I just need to wear my tutu during business meetings, balancing the checkbook and washing the dishes!

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Raising Rural Children

One of your motivations for moving to the country may be to raise your children in a way that seems more natural and authentic. Wouldn’t it be great to scoot your kids out the kitchen door, saying “Don’t come back ‘til dinner!” They may grow up with a better understanding of the circle of life than their urban counterparts. They may be more self-reliant and responsible.

Keep in mind that, while your own rural experience is being acquired in addition to your years as an urbanite, your children will draw solely from a rural frame of reference. Unless you take them into a city on a regular basis, they will not know how to access public transportation. They may have never seen a person of color. They may not know how to deal with panhandlers and roving mentally ill. Not to mention driving and parking—the chaos! The signs and restrictions! How does this parking meter work? Your kids will see city life on TV and in movies, but it will be a fascinating abstraction, not instruction.

While visiting Burns, Oregon, in June I stopped by Big R, a farming and ranching supply store chain. They have everything! Horse tack, rat traps, ammunition, cowgirl fashion. I bought a pair of Ariat lace-up boots while I was there in 2009 and still wear them on a regular basis. On the way to see the new boot styles, I passed through the toy section. The toys include kid versions of what the grown-ups use—in this case not miniature condominiums and SUVs, but replica rodeo equipment and rifles. Lifelike for the boys and pink for the girls.

Yes, this is a pink cattle truck!

Children on working farms and ranches get up at 5:30 in the morning to do chores. Before breakfast, before school. Yours may not, but keep in mind that that’s the norm. This might disrupt the usual sleepover schedule.

Your children will grow up different from you. There are a couple of ways this can pan out. They may take up hunting, even though you never suggested it. They may join a church you would never step foot in. They may be terrified of the pace and crush of the city and refuse to visit.

Conversely, they may adore the city (or their romantic idea about it), viewing their hometown as anything but the beautiful refuge that you painstakingly chose and sacrificed to give to them. Many teenagers “hate” their home regardless of where it is—suburbia, urban ghetto, 5,000-square-foot mansion—that’s just a normal process of differentiating oneself from one’s parents. Your children may feel imprisoned in their rural oasis, waiting to burst forth from their “backwards” country cage.

Most rural kids are encouraged by their parents to attend college, knowing it will give them a chance to sample a world outside their hometown. While some will stay in the city, many return after a few years to start their own families. Good parents try to give their children the best life possible. Try not to have too many preconceived notions about what that means.

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Summer Parties on the Land

When Mike and I lived in Portland, we threw hum-dinger Winter Solstice parties. We played ‘60s Christmas record albums scrounged from estate sales, projected the original Grinch cartoon on a wall in the kitchen, and walked around with trays of freezer-cold shots of Rumple Minze in our grandmothers’ crystal cordial glasses.

As the first winter in our new home in the country approached, we did the math: copious liquor + driving 70 miles + sunset at 4:30 = DUIs and possibly blood on our hands.

We decided to switch to a Summer Solstice party.

Success! The parties started in the afternoon for the children’s-bedtime-slaves and continued late into the night for the rest of us. We grilled like mothereffers: Sausages! Salmon! Veggies! Veggie sausages! Whatever people brought, Mike or my dad slapped on the grill.

In the evening there was a fire. The first year, we had an enormous bonfire fed by downed trees and unsalvageable lumber (documented by Pete in an earlier blog post). Subsequent years, with drier weather, brought smaller fires in a metal fire ring in the middle of the driveway.

The year of our final Solstice party, in 2009, Klickitat County’s burn-ban started extra-early. There could be no open flame of any kind, not even in the middle of the driveway. Undaunted, Mike set out an oversized 1970s table lamp, connected to a string of electrical cords, and surrounded it with chairs. Humans, primal creatures that we are, surrounded the “lamp-fire” all night.

Cowboy Dan croons in front of the lamp fire (photo: R Frestedt)

We moved our car and pick-up out of the garage to make room for strawbale seating, potluck dish tables, and games. We tried to set up croquet but our ground, even on the “lawn,” was too bumpy; it was too windy for badminton. Ping pong and foosball, on the other hand, lasted well into the night.

The beauty of throwing a party at your house isn’t limited to living in the country: You can get as junked as you want—because you’re already home! The beauty of throwing a party on your own land is that your friends can be there, too. When the sun finally set over our cedars and firs, the tents went up around the fields. A few people popped the tops on their campers. A few slept on the living room floor. All were welcome; it was much better than trying to drive home.

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