Friday, January 28, 2011

Domestic Enemies of the RURAL Mom

Our friend Emily wrote this for us. She is a full-time student at 31, a proud farm wife, and the mother of three kids. She doesn't plan on growing up, but her job, if she ever graduates, will be teaching high school English--evidently she's a glutton for punishment.  We adore her and are so grateful for her putting this together for us.  You can check out her blog right here!

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I was raised in cities. Not ginormous cities like Louise described, but probably a good distance away from the burbs, as measured by instances of graffiti. So when as a teenager I moved to a small town I had never heard of in Idaho, a state that had a smaller population than the metropolis I most recently called home, I was justifiably shell shocked. Culture shocked. Just…shocked. But, once the weirdness settled into me I fell in love—with both the area and a farm boy, who I married and now I’ll die here. I love it. There are so many things that make our life wonderful and rare. However, we rural moms have a whole other set of domestic enemies that most people just don’t deal with or understand.

Grocery Shopping (or, stocking up for the zombie apocalypse)
Do you know how far I would have to drive if I wanted a T-Box? 70 miles--one hour, five minutes. Wal-Mart is a mercifully close 25 miles or half an hour-ish drive away. There is a grocery store in my own town, 8 miles away, but here’s the catch for rural groceries: they cost a lot more. Like $1.88 milk at Wal-Mart is $2.66 at the local store. This means that unless I want to spend half our money at the grocery store for a meager amount of food and toilet paper (I don’t even want to talk about diapers), I have to drive distances to get groceries.

With children, this is less a shopping trip and more an expedition to the Himalayas; with a strong possibility at least one of your children is going to be handed over to a Sherpa to keep. To be adequately prepared for the expedition, I need at least 40 diapers, except for when I had two kids in diapers and then I needed roughly 9 billion. Then there are snacks, spare clothes, list, coupons (the Cap’n would be so impressed), blankets, sanitizer, toys…I pack more crap to go to Wal-Mart than my ancestors packed to cross the Atlantic.

I don’t want to be driving 5o miles every other day just for milk or apples, so when I go, I get everything I will need for at least two weeks. At the end, my cart looks like I’m competing on “Supermarket Sweep.” My children, who started out looking like well cared-for, clean, pleasant tiny people look like…well…everybody else’s children at Wal-Mart, especially if this Wal-Mart is in West Virginia (I know, I’ve been there). I leave my home looking clean and put-together—I get back to it looking like a cult escapee.

Fuel (or, why I cry myself to sleep at night)
Fuel prices these days are a challenge for everyone. I can’t believe I’m a young person and I sound like a crabby old man; “When I was your age, gas cost less than a dollar, and you could get 5 nuggets on the dollar menu!” And that was only…well fine it was 15 years ago, but still. It seems excessive. Anyway, as I have already illustrated I have to drive to get anywhere. Drive a lot. I also do not live on a paved road, and have a long driveway that is also not paved but is frequented by tractors and cows. Plus, out here even a little bit of snow can be a disaster, because if the wind blows, there is nothing to stop that little bit of snow from drifting right up against the back of my car.

These challenges mean only one thing: if I don’t have 4-wheel drive, I’m stranded like a Donner for a good part of winter (which is roughly October to June) except I have satellite T.V. Distance+SUV=giant fuel budget. The kind that makes you wonder if you are personally going to get a tongue lashing from Al Gore (which really isn’t that scary, it’s just that people tend to follow him around with cameras, and what if they show up right when I’m getting home from Wal-Mart?).

Pests (Wild America, except with more rodents)
I fully sympathize with Louise here, except I have more critters. There are a lot of critters in rural America, largely because most of them have never been informed that this area has now been zoned for people, and even if they had, they don’t think much of The Man. We grow grain here. Grain is basically mouse food. Mice live in the fields, in the irrigation pipes, in old logs, abandoned cars, barns, equipment—everywhere. And as soon as it gets cold they are drawn to the warmth of MY HOUSE! It doesn’t help that I have cattle, and so surround my house with corn and straw and sweet molasses. My farm is basically a mouse Hilton. It is a constant, disgusting battle to keep these critters out. I am personally keeping the good people who make Bar Bait in business.

In addition to the rats and mice that infest the city, I also enjoy: feral cats, coyotes, skunks, beavers, mountain lions, huge owls, bald eagles (pretty, but taloned) and that’s just the wild animals. I also live with about 1000 calves. So in addition to the fear that my children will pet the wrong kitty and either get sprayed by disgusting bio-terror or rabies, I fear that the cows will get out and stampede my kids while they play in the sandbox. Do you have that, New York City? Plus, where there are cows, there are flies. Lots and lots and lots of flies. I love my cows, I love our life, but if I could kill every last one of the flies with just my mind, I would be more beloved around here than Larry the Cableguy.

There is so much that is awesome about out life—if I need something out of my car I can go get it in my underwear and no one will know, even if it’s at noon. We have so much room, and so much air, and feel connected to the land. My kids will learn to work hard and they’ll know where food comes from, building appreciation for the work that goes into making the safest food supply in the world. And by safe, I mean to eat, not to play with.

xoxo, Emily

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2010

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