02 February 2012

Country Lovin'

The weather has been refreshingly mild this week--mild enough for a few walks to the creek.  Sorry, the crick.  Apparently I've been saying it wrong my whole life.  Maybe one day I'll be able to pull off charming colloquialisms.  With a warm breeze on my neck and the intoxicating smell of grass, the sensations of spring provided a welcome respite from the typical Midwest January cold and grey.  It also reminded me of why I love the country.  It's easy to love the country when it's warm, but in the middle of winter, I need a refresher course.

the area down by the creek is a prime example of pastoral beauty

As someone who didn't spend any real time in the country until my twenties, I've been acclimating for a decade.  Falling in love with the country was much like falling in love with my husband.  It wasn't love at first sight.  It was better: a love that slowly, profoundly, and permanently takes over.  Also, like my spouse, the country is honest.  It doesn't have tricks.  It doesn't win you over with anything fancy, but with real heart.  It doesn't pull any punches.  You can love it with both eyes open.

Now that's a crick

The idyllic setting put me in a country state of mind and I began compiling all the reasons I love the country:

1.  We don't need to get into a car to visit nature.  Being able to walk down to the creek is a real luxury.  It's deeply relaxing to lose yourself in the sound of running water, the open space, the fresh air.  Being able to so easily escape from the sights and sounds of civilization is easy meditation. 

2. We don't have to wear pants around the house.  We can run from the house to the garage in underwear and no one notices.  If I felt so inclined, I could probably go for days, maybe weeks without even worrying about pants. That's not a welcome activity in most neighborhoods.  If I were a man, this category would be labeled you can pee outside, which I've noticed is quite an exciting privilege for them.  I'm admittedly jealous.  Either way, the privacy factor out here is definitely a bonus.

3.  There's wildlife.  OK, it's not like we've encountered the Blue-Footed Booby or stumbled upon manatees in the creek, but it's still cool to see hawks circling above the farm.  It was a great learning experience for Viv when a bird made a nest for her babies in one of our tomato plants last summer.  We checked on them every morning.  I almost stepped on an iridescent frog in the garden several times.  Just last week I saw thirteen deer. At once. I'm assuming that's good luck. There was a herd of them grazing in the field across the road. I don't know if you call it a herd, or if they technically graze, but you get the picture. My Father-in-law pointed them out and Viv and I ran to the window to see. Just as I was thinking "I should go grab my camera", my Father-in-law said, "I should go grab my gun". We both wanted to shoot them. Neither of us used our relevant equipment. It's a good thing because I don't have any deer recipes. I'm thinking venison braciole might be good though. 

psychedelic frog

4.    We can have a fire in our backyard.  In fact, we can have two.  Sitting around the fire at night with a 6-pack (read: 12-pack and an unexpected bottle of wine) is a great way to enjoy summer nights as a family.  We hang out, laugh, and burn stuff. Awesome.

fire pit

5.  That brings me to one of the very best things about the country: the stars.  We can actually see them!  I can now locate the North Star and the Dippers ah-thank-you-very-much.  We saw countless shooting stars while sitting around the fire this past summer/fall.  Who needs cable when you've got a fire and stars?

6.  We have  magical people next door.  No, not imaginary ones.  I moved to the country and I got an on-call handyman father-in-law that fixes drains, sinks, heat, and anything else that malfunctions.  And I got a fairy godmother-in-law from whom I borrow baking dishes, flour, and vodka.  I love the country!  In all fairness, not everyone who moves to the country gets these luxuries.     

Disclaimer: When we lived in the suburbs my mother regularly brought over dinner and wine and my very handy father surprised me with a pre-lit Christmas tree .  We're spoiled regardless of location.   

7.  We are surrounded almost entirely by uninterrupted space.  The country boasts its simple beauty when you can watch a storm roll in and out, see a generous stretch of rainbow, watch the sunrise and sunset, view miles of twinkling lightening bugs, and observe an ocean of soybeans undulating in the wind in unison.  Breathtaking. 

the ocean of soybeans
rainbow over the garden

summer storm rollin' in


8.  We can grow our own food.  What makes a freshly-picked garden tomato so good?  It's fresh.  It grew in the ground, not a hothouse.  And in our case, it's completely unadulterated.  Not only is it delicious, but I can feed it to my daughter knowing that I'm serving her something nutritious and uncompromised by chemicals and preservatives.  Because of this, I am now more apt to appreciate the simple meal.  Good ingredients don't need much help.  Perfect tomatoes sauteed with a little olive oil, basil, and a pinch of salt is the best compliment to any pasta.  Also, I'm learning as we get further into the winter that our preserved garden foods taste better than store-bought.  The canned tomatoes don't taste canned; frozen peas are sweet; the peppers in my home-canned salsa are still crisp and flavorful.  I'll gladly continue to can in my hundred-degree August kitchen in order to taste good food in January.

Viv knows a good tomato

I was happy living in the city, the suburbs, and now the country.  Each certainly has its advantages.  Upon beginning this post, I asked my husband what made him want to return to the country.  His answer was straightforward:  the land.  A decade ago I wouldn't have had much understanding for his answer, but I'm starting to get it.  It definitely gets in.  Aside from the beauty and other perks, it gave me my country man who taught me real country lovin'. 

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