Wednesday, November 21, 2012

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Our Creeping Ruralism

For some years in the 1980's, I volunteered at the Lakeside Nature Center, a rehabilitation refuge for Missouri wildlife. There, I helped feed and care for possums, owls, rattlesnakes, falcons, turtles, eagles, and a host of injured animals that needed to recuperate before being released. A few, such as Bubo, the blind great horned owl, were unable ever to return to the countryside. The thing is, "the countryside" in this case was Kansas City; over two million people lived within a twenty minute drive in any direction. Back then, identifying fox tracks and owl pellets in the wooded parts of town felt like possessing some secret knowledge. No matter how tall our buildings, I realized, "the country" is right there in their shadows.

Fuckin' 'ell! David Mitchell goes farming (video below)
Only now, the country is coming out of the shadows. And it's not just because Americans have a growing awareness of untamed animals in our midst. People are actively cultivating rural sensibilities in cities. In a search for sustainability, self-reliance, and a growing concern to know the origins of their foods, homeowners are uprooting lawns — both front and back — to install edible gardens. Some have begun raising modest numbers of livestock like chickens, rabbits, honey bees, and goats (San Diego has a new ordinance; one may own two goats — no more, no fewer). Pickling, jam-making, and meat curing classes are the hot new thing and where better for alumni of these classes to sell their surplus than at local famers' markets that are cropping up like field mushrooms? Writing in The Gaurdian, Paula Cocozza makes clear that this creeping ruralism is not confined to the United States:
Everywhere you look, the countryside has crept into cities and towns – the way we shop, eat, read, dress, decorate our homes, spend our time. Street food is sold out of revamped agricultural trucks, or from village-delivery style bicycles. City-dwellers are booking into a growing number of courses on rural life; urban bees and chickens are commonplace (though do keep up: ducks are where it's at now). And when Rebekah Brooks wanted to get the prime minister's attention? "Let's discuss over country supper soon."
Of course, as the guy who penned a how-to guide on home distilling, it's probably no surprise that I'm right along with them. When we met recently with a landscaper who tried so hard to push for succulents all over the property, she pushed back when I said they weren't for me. "They're drought-resistant," she explained. "They'll grow in your soil..."

"Look," I interrupted. "Here's the deal. If it doesn't end up on my plate or in my glass, I don't want it in my yard." She froze, hand in mid-gesture. "OK. Message received." Then she smiled: "Where in the country are you from?"

Where in the country? Why, Southern California, of course.

While we figure out the plant situation at the Whiskey Forge, check out David Mitchell (in a bit for The Mitchell and Webb Situation) after he gets bit by the farming bug and cannot believe the money to be made at it:

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