The Noisy Non-Self Sufficient Rural Life Exposed

I read a few too many issues of “Mother Earth News” in high school and college. They fueled dreams of living a self-sufficiant ecologically responsible life in a cottage or cabin on a quiet country road with wildlife next door and neighborliness abounding among the two-legged locals.

Not so much.  I have parts of that vision: the house on the three acres ( a very conventional very large stick-built brick affair designed and built by Hubby for his midlife crisis, even though I assured him I was fine with the red speedy-car-go-beep or the 23 y.o. blonde options) on what was a rural road when we bought it (now used as a shortcut between the major roads running to the north and south of our land).  

I hate to burst your bubble, but it’s a lot harder than they lead readers to think in the self-sufficiancy department. I’m good at planning and pointing, but not much else.  We would be effed if we were to rely on my questionable gardening skills and my utter lack of desire to hunt or to process animals for food. It’s very possible to have a bountiful fruit and vegetable garden in small spaces.  Two of my friends who live within city limits are avid, adept gardeners who have raised impressive amounts of produce in their yards. I have access to an organic farm that sells at one of the local markets, so I buy from them as much as possible. They have plans for a farmstand this summer. I hope so. The wait between market days is a long one, indeed.

In the quiet department, there are the mourning doves at daybreak. Their gentle song begins as early as 4 AM. It gives way to the shrieks of the starlings, crows, and sparrows engaging in territorial battles. We also get coyotes with alarming frequency and proximity to the house. There have been nights when the howls sounded as close as if they were trying to break in through the back door.

Non-wildlife noises abound as well. Farm machines lurch through the fields bordering ours, grinding their gears as they spray agricultural chemicals on the field. Riding mowers alert us to who is doing yardwork on a given day. Semis trundle up and down the road. On weekends, our road gets turned into a drag strip due to its extensive straightaway that runs a mile until the curve bends to the right and into the utility pole at the end of the road.

There are times, however, when the sounds are stilling, calming as a hand on the heart. In late summer when the corn is high and the wind blows at night, the rustling sounds like secrets. So do the evergreen boughs and maple leaves as they dance in the wind.

And there are times in the middle of night when I wake up due to my own internal nose to dead silence. Sometimes I’ll get up and look out the window at the stars, at the shadows of the evergreens stretching across the front yard.

In those moment, I remember why we moved out here in the first place.   

Simpler Fare

An empty sack cannot stand up; a starving belly will not listen to reason. Creole proverb.

I reread parts of More with Less recently. If you’re not familiar with the cookbook, it was originally published in the ’70’s by the Mennonite church. No matter your spiritual orientation or lack thereof, it gives food for thought (pun intended) about cooking and eating and shopping and how one’s choices can impact the world at large.

With food prices going ballistic for everyone, the wisdom will help anyone’s groceries stretch a little further in a relatively painless manner. The meals and meal planning are pretty simple, relying on ingredients that can be found in the supermarket, even in recipes that came back from Africa and Asia when postings were up. Many use little meat, and the ones that do combine it with veggies, pasta, or beans to make it go as far as possible. There are plenty of veg-friendly selections included, such as baked lentils and soups.

The recipes that have become staples chez moi are the Indonesian fried rice (it includes curry), Vietnamese chicken noodle soup, and West African groundnut stew (a curry with peanut butter in the sauce). Oh, and don’t forget the skillet cabbage and green bean stir-fry. 

In addition to the simple recipes, the book includes instructions on how to make homemade chicken stock, soap from cooking fat, and other green ideas. They also encourage the making of soup to avoid wasting anything.

If you’re looking for a reboot, this just might be your book.