Defending the Country Stereotype

| 2/6/2009 4:55:46 PM

Tags: Cold Antler Farm, chickens, homesteading, country living, simple living, green,

Jenna and Chick
   By Jenna Woginrich

If you’re the first of your friends to move to the country, get some chickens and plant an organic garden there will be some inevitable social fallout. It’s not your fault, but you’re going to raise the eyebrows of some of your more cynical friends. While there are plenty of people out there excited about self-reliance, there are just as many folks jaded by the hype and greenwashing that society has been slinging at us ever since Al Gore shared his slideshow. As green living gets trendier, it can’t help but jump the shark. You just can’t blame people for rolling their eyes when oil companies air commercials about sustainability.  

Around the time your coffee table starts to fill up with seed and hatchery catalogs you can expect the occasional jab for subscribing to the country cliché. The suspicious will cross their arms and peg you as just another converted-starry-eyed-back-to-the-lander. With an air of certainty and rib-nudging judgment, they’ll announce that at the end of all your dirty fingernails and feed sacks you’ll learn nothing that hasn’t been learned a million times before. That the merits of country living have already been printed in thousands of books, seen in endless movies, and are currently being spouted as gospel by hundreds of others just like you, probably even at the same farmers market. They’ll start doling out references from old episodes of Green Acres. There will be melting glacier jokes. You know the drill, you’ve been there. These otherwise wonderful folks will point their fingers at your western shirt and call you another sucker for the country life.

Here’s the thing. They’re right.

Of course they’re right. Agriculture isn’t exactly new to the scene, and deciding to turn your life from consumer to producer (even if it’s just a few gardens and some chickens) is a step taken by throngs before us. There is nothing new, or special, or innovative about it. The Simple Life has been experienced by humanity since the fertile crescent, was, well... fertile. The results are ridiculously cliché. If you join the coverall club you’re not going to have any experiences that many of us haven’t already had, and will continue to have indefinitely. Sorry kids, this show is always a rerun.

But you know what I say to all this? So what. I mean isn’t that the point of all this? To get your hands dirty and join the secret society of tractors and baling wire? To be able to nod your head around the campfire when other gardeners talk about blight and potato beetles, and to learn the same sense of satisfaction of growing your own food? There is comfort in knowing you’re living a cliché. It means the results of the lifestyle are so stereotypical they’re guaranteed. And while it may not be clever — it’s clear that there are a reason some clichés stick around. Some are good enough to be true. Roll your eyes all you want son. This stereotype’s got some eggs to collect.

dana galloway_2
9/13/2010 12:18:29 PM

I will discribe to you my life, up at sunrise, but not before I hear the crows of the 2 roosters in the barn. The ducks seem to think this is their time to chim in as well as the guinnie hen. So now the barn yard is AWAKE with the exception of Livie the goat whom is due to kid any day with atleast 3 babies. So...time to get moving, waking the kids, letting the dogs out, pouring the only cup of coffee I will have the chance to drink today, Then it will only be 1/2 a cup so it better be strong! Out the door for the morning feedings everyone acts as though this is the first time they have ever been goodness! First are the horses they are the easiest, that way I can go in and out tof the corals collecting the eggs that were left the day before....then everyone else gets their breakfast (except me, still working on the cup of coffee). Now it is off to tend the gardens and see what was eating over night by the critters that appear after dark,not much today,a good thing, pick tomatoes, pick squash, and onions and what ever else needs to be harvested. OH man I have better hurry and get the wash on the line, that way it will be dry by the time I get home from "WORK".I failed to mention I own a Massage Business 15 miles away in town. 1 child to deliver the the High School, 1 to deliver to the College and awwwww the last one is Home Schooled. Then I remember it is Monday! But not any MONDAY this is the MOnday my husband comes home after being away for 10 days. A Dream fufilled

9/6/2010 1:55:38 PM

Hi -- I have been dreaming and planning a move back to the country for years -- and now it is finally almost a reality. I hope for a small home on an acre or two, where I can welcome family, garden, raise a few small farm animals, and eventually work mostly from home. I grew up in the country, and somehow my life choices pulled me away from this lifestyle. Now finally, I am packed up and diligently searching for property, to make this happen before it's time to plant spring peas! However, this kind of property comes on the market and is snatched up in a day or two, the best ones before I have even had a chance for a property-showing. How has anyone else accomplished this? I am narrowing down my search in location and property must-have-specifics -- working with agents in 2 states -- I have financing - have someone with know-how willing to do an on the spot pre-inspection -- I walk around entire places getting a feel for things, to see if I could live there the way I want to -- and always getting any other ducks in a row that I can think of. How has anyone else accomplished this? I am so excited, and am determined to make this happen -- thanks for ideas! Glenndora

7/21/2009 5:46:31 PM

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7/9/2009 7:48:16 PM

How very true many of these comments are, they ring bells and I particularly like the reference to "Al Gore's slideshow" my feelings exactly. Thank goodness many went there before us on the land and hopefully we can benefit from their advice, knowledge, sharing attitudes and generosity and in our time have something to share with the next wave. Nothing beats the satisfaction of a woodshed full of wood you cut yourselves, home grown eggs,vegetables and fruit.Remember the thrill when your first goslings/chickens/ducklings hatched? It's worth every raised eyebrow or smirk at your 'flannie'.Once I was criticised because I started looking like a farmer, these days my reply is "I am a farmer!" When you need baler twine,wire,those endless bits and pieces you need pockets and lots of them.Do they make women's clothes for real women who work on the land? I have found one of the hardest thing to be lack of understanding.I had a relative remark the other week "Ah you love your gardening" when I said I was busy because Winter is my big work time here in SA. Another had no appreciation that I couldn't meet a train 50kms away at any old time because I have geese to lock in for the night, birds to feed and responsibilities that keep me at home.It feels sometimes like living in a different world where the only people who really appreciate and understand are the ones who have the same lifestyle.Where ever they are in the world! Choosing this lifestyle is sometimes hard work and tough going but would you change it? The benefits,advantages and joys are without price and I'll carry on until they carry me out.

big sweat
4/22/2009 5:40:20 PM

Change, difference, alien attitudes or activities always upset folks. For whatever reason people feel compelled to judge before they try to understand. Given our current state of "crisis", or the "crisis" we're expected to buy into, I'd think there'd be more folks getting into modern Victory Gardening- if not for the common good, then for their own! Curious to see what the turn out is this year at our local Farmer's Market and how much interest there is at the community agriculture education center up the hill from my own home. That being said, our bedroom community here has long embraced a "getting back to the land" state of mind, and I expect the limited negative attitudes associated with those activities are going to be much less heard of in the future.

3/9/2009 3:51:07 PM

I am a city girl who moved to the country 3 yrs. ago. I now own 6 laying hens, 3 goats and will have 2 lambs arriving this June. My friends are all asking "Why are you doing this?" My answer is "Because I can" and this stops them dead in their tracks.

maeve m
3/9/2009 12:17:40 PM

When I moved out to the sticks, my friends chuckled and my family was horrified. My farm now seems to be the hub where everyone hangs out - even though we're the farthest away from where all the friends live. They're asking my advice on woodstoves and chicken coop construction. Ironic. The family still is a little eeked out by chickens and laundry on the line (that's what POOR people do!), but now that people are losing their jobs and such, they're starting to see that my lifestyle has put me in a position a bit less vulnerable. To my urban friends who aren't giving up their condos and iphones, I admit I sometimes play up the "hick" personae just to aggravate them ;)

2/19/2009 9:30:17 AM

I'm fortunate that I've always lived in the country, and my family has been gardeners for generations. My great grandmother taught my grandfather gardening essentials, and he in turn passed that knowledge down to me over 30 years ago. Now I am teaching my children the basics. I live in the southern U.S. where gardens are common, even on tiny city lots, so I get none of the "eye rolling" reportedly experienced by other folks. If anything, I get looks of envy and "I wish I had.... ." I have the feeling that the "eye rolling" conceals a health dose of envy for people that choose to grow their own delicious, health food supply- not dependent on food trucked in from farms hundreds of miles away, and sometimes grown by questionable methods. Happy gardening in 2009!

2/19/2009 8:17:26 AM

How wonderful to see others feeling the same as I... getting the same BS reaction from folks! Well, not great that we are getting the comments and eye rolling, but great to know I am only one of God knows how many... that yearn for 'the good life'. I wish I had people nearby to spend time talking and dreaming with...

2/18/2009 11:16:16 PM

You know I work for our local school district, and I have this great bulletin board in front of my desk where I put up pictures that represent things that I want in my life. Right now there are quite a few pictures of horses, (my child is into horseback riding and I'm loving playing with the horses), and I've included pictures of rural homes with acreage, which I'd love to live. When I try to explain to others my dreams of rural life, the chickens, gardens, canning, etc., they look at me like I'm utterly crazy. I can't explain why I long for these things, only that I do and I try to make them happen with apartment living. It's tough, believe me. My dreams just don't fit with others in my neighborhood, but I still can't seem to let my dreams go.... Kelly

2/18/2009 1:21:12 PM

Hey, a lot of us urbanistas are going 'country' with the garden, chickens and old-fashioned energy-hugging crafts like knitting and quilt making, too. Then there was the day I looked at the calf-length broomstick skirt I was wearing and said okay, fine. I look like my Nebraska grandmother. It's all good.

rik brooks
2/18/2009 1:09:17 PM

You should see my family! Until just this past year I was a high power computer consultant. This year I took a job as a Sr Programmer Analyst - a full time job working for someone else. I just started simplifying further. I'm building a cordwood house on my property that's so far out in the sticks that there is no electricity. I'm doing it all by hand. Planting crops (my turnip patch failed miserably last year). Slowly we are moving towards the simple life. My favorite times each week now are the Friday nights that I arrive at my farm with my wife and we sit around a camp fire with a glass of wine and talk about what we want to do that weekend and then on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I always greet each sunrise out there with a small campfire and write in my journal. One day that will be my complete life - can't wait.

2/15/2009 12:26:04 PM

You are quite right, author. I find many people judge and mock for what we strive to attain and our ideals. We must view these naysayers as so many nagging misquitos on a fine summer day. Will we let them get the best of us?

2/8/2009 10:26:29 PM

Jenna - thanks for again sharing some insightful wisdom. You are right - anytime you change your life, there will be fallout. It's worse when it's family. But I've finally reached a point in my life where I can respectfully tell them all that it's too bad. I am enjoying being an urban homesteader and working towards self-sufficiency. Yes, I cook my food from scratch, preserve it, and grow it. And I enjoy it very much. The naysayers need to get a life and leave mine alone.

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