my rurality.


Although I have lived in a rural place for almost 5 years now, and although I lived in a rural place for the first 18 years of my life, I still find myself rebelling against certain aspects of it. Those 8 years in a very urban place will not let me live my quiet, rural lifestyle in peace. So this blog is to help me reconcile my draw to urbanity and my existence in rurality.


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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Working / Living / Driving / Living / Driving / Working

Working, independently at home or at a local coffee shop, is pretty much the only way that I could work while living out in the middle of farm country, saving I decided to take up farming. 

Unless I work at home and go nowhere during working hours or can walk or bike to accomplish all work-related activities, working at home still involves a good deal of driving. Way out here, it seems like those that yearn for walkability are few and far between, not necessarily because people do not like walking, but because driving is so infused into American culture and infrastructure that it takes a seemingly herculean effort to plan on not driving daily. It almost seems easier to pick-up and move to a city than to figure out how to live in a rural part of the country without driving. 

(That being said, I actually know a couple who does it.  Neither owns a car, they bike and walk everywhere on a day-to-day basis and occasionally rent a car for bigger shopping trips. It works for them and they seem to be healthier and happier for it, but even they admit that when/if they have kids, they are going to need to get a car.) 

Maybe that is why there is a brain drain from rural places; young people, after being driven around all through childhood in incredibly uncomfortable car seats, have decided that they are not going to take it anymore: sitting in a car, in traffic just to get to a job. That would be my personal motivation for wanting to take my brain elsewhere, if I had a job to which to drive. However, if people keep leaving rural places because there is not full employment opportunities and no public transportation, eventually there will not be anyone left, except those employed by private liberal arts schools in bucolic settings and the farmers, of course. Wait a minute...doh!  

When Generation Y inhabits the oval office maybe something will finally get done around here, but then again maybe not (check out 6/16 episode of The Daily Show's remix of Obama and the previous 7 presidents' promises to get the U.S. off foreign oil).     

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mow Lawning

One of my least favorite chores as a rural dweller is mowing the lawn.  First of all, I do not find grass all that appealing.  In my opinion, it is good for playing sports on and that is about it.  Secondly, caring for it requires using a lawn mower, which uses gas and oil, resulting in stinky, polluting exhaust, in addition to all the dust and tiny pieces of plant matter it spews into the air.  Thirdly, grass grows fast and to avoid looking like no one lives at our house (which is not really a good comparison because no one lives in the house next door, yet the grass is still cut weekly), requires using the aforementioned, undesirable lawnmower at the very least, every 2 weeks.

As I was mowing the lawn today, I was pondering an opinion piece I read this morning, by Vishaan Chakrabarti, on Urban Omnibus.  In the article, the author discusses concentrating the American people in cities as opposed to the potentially limitless sprawl of suburban developments.    So theoretically if most of the U.S. population lived in urban areas, we would be using less liquid fuels for transportation because there would be public transportation options in addition to the ability to walk; we would be using less energy for heating because communal heating is more efficient, more easily done and much more common in dense developments; and, we and the Earth would all be healthier and happier for all of those things.  According to Edward Glaesner and Mathew Kahn's calculations, it is true that a person in a city has a lower carbon footprint than a person who lives in a suburb.  The densification of the population does solve some problems, but not all.  And there are lots of people in the U.S. (and most likely the rest of the world) that do not want to live in cities.  

Like replacing fossil fuels, there is no silver bullet to become more sustainable as a country (a metaphor, which I hate, and is unfortunately now ubiquitous).  There will need to be and already are many, different small and large efforts to reverse the course of, until recently, unregulated green house gases.  The efforts that are currently being made are made by a small portion of the population: environmentalists (not as bad a label as it used to be, but still not palatable to many), who are usually folks that deal professionally with natural systems and/or folks who have cared for the Earth all their lives, taught to by tree-huggin' parents.  The rest of the population does not put reducing their carbon footprints at the top of their things-to-do list.  Honestly, I don't blame them.  Just living life everyday is hard enough without guilting oneself into feeling bad about driving to the store for a 1/2 gallon of milk.  Working, paying the bills, doing everything kids require for care, mowing the lawn - it's a lot of crap to deal with everyday.  Unless one does not have these obligations, how can there possibly be time to figure out how to live sustainably.  

It is a very daunting task; it seems like it may need something as dramatic as "O.K., we know that the desire for open land to call one's own has been engendered in the collective psyche of the people of the United States for nearly three-hundred years, but on the count of 3, everyone move to the nearest city.  1...2....3!"  How does that sound?  Absolutely awful to me.  It can't be all or nothing because then we will be stuck with the status quo indefinitely.  SO today, I did one small thing that makes my carbon footprint smaller: when my lawn mower sputtered and stopped, before I finished the middle of my backyard, I decided that I am going to let that grass grow.  Not until next time, but until it stops growing and then I will have a nice field-like patch, which is way nicer for me to look at then cut grass.  I did mow the front and a small area of the back where the picnic table, grill and playground are, but the big patch in the middle is my carbon credit.  

Thursday, May 20, 2010

first steps

I have taken a number of steps already to adjust myself to living again in a place where it is necessary to drive almost everywhere, where there are almost as many cows as people (2:3) and where a lot (it seems like a majority) of people here have  lived in the same place their whole lives as did their parents and their grandparents.  For example, my husband's cousin's children are the 10th generation in their family living in the same county, not even the same region, but the SAME COUNTY.  

However, I do not want you to get the impression that this is all about rural bashing.  If I disliked it that much, I would move.  There are many aspects of rural living that I love, and having straddled the rural/urban divide while in college, I recognize that there are misconceptions about both, as is very funnily illustrated in the 30 Rock episode, "Stone Mountain."

I will surely spend more time about why I choose to live here, but for now I will get back to my first steps:
  • Instead of living out in the woods, where I really did need to drive to get anywhere, I now live in a very small village with a couple of key amenities, like sidewalks, a public access lake, a post office and a playground.  
  • I went back to school and studied rural planning in order to effectively contribute to the rural place in which I live.
  • I now work from home, so I do not need to spend a huge chunk of my day commuting to a more urban place for work.
  • I make a point of going to cities occasionally to get my fix and whenever possible I do this by train.

Hello and welcome to my rural world.

Although I have lived in a rural place for almost 5 years now, and although I lived in a rural place for the first 18 years of my life, I still find myself rebelling against aspects of it. Those 8 years in a very urban place will not let me live my quiet, rural lifestyle in peace. So this blog is to help me reconcile my draw to urbanity and my existence in rurality.