Country Mouse City Mouse 3-15-10
March 15, 2010
The Fence Post would like to introduce our newest monthly columnist … Angelia McLean’s “Country Mouse City Mouse!”
My first job was detassling corn in the heat, with bugs, covered in mud and dripping humidity of a Wisconsin summer day. Growing up in America’s Dairy Land gave me insight to farming and country life. I knew about the back breaking task of picking rocks, watched Holstein cows give birth and be milked, ran bareback with ponies through open alfalfa fields, and lived daily with the fresh aroma of manure. My sister and I left for the entire days on bicycles, combing the fields for “lost treasures” like old tires that my parents were not happy to see now in their yard. We picked hazelnuts and made forts. I often checked out periodicals and books from the library on farming and animal husbandry. Although I grew up in the country, I did not live on a farm.
As I’ve grown older, I have made butter, cheese and canned homegrown preserves. My children have been in 4-H, with my son owning a pig and we all compete at the county fair. We have chickens, rabbits and bees. My husband makes wine, and grows a plethora of garden produce. We own horses and belong to a farmer’s co-op. And just as country folks do with their neighbors, I too raise a hand in greeting when we pass on the road on my way to my horse. We don’t own a farm, live on a ranch, or dwell in the ‘burbs’ – we live in the city.
I don’t romanticize about country life and ranch work. My family descends from hardworking German farmers and I remember my grandma’s gnarled and arthritic fingers. Perhaps this is from whom I get my overwhelming desire to farm and own my own land. It hasn’t happened yet. Our livelihood depends on an urban lifestyle. Despite our location, we are devoted to growing our food, raising bees and sharing fresh eggs with our neighbors.
As I read articles in this publication or hear people speak about ranching versus “city folk,” they reveal a deep, ingrained idea that we are divided: That city folk don’t understand the country folk or the rural families can’t understand how we can live in the city. Some of this rhetoric even gets rather condescending at times. My article isn’t going to change viewpoints overnight. But just as our world has become more global and worldly of the ways of many different nationalities, so can the country mouse and the city mouse. There are plenty of us in snarled city traffic that want to get home to their home gardens and fresh eggs, as there are ranchers who long for a retirement with a condo! We aren’t dilettantes dabbling in ranching anymore than the farmer wants to see a big screen movie sometimes or catch an exhibit at the museum. There are certainly gray areas to our lives and livelihoods and the more we understand that we are more related as cousins, then the better off we will all be.
Supporting the idea of an “urban farm” has its own set of challenges. I hope to be able to share these tales with you through an ongoing journal of our ups and downs of city life with a country heart.