Hello, KuKd'ers and Inquisitive Guests!
First, let me reassure (or disappoint?) you: despite the title, this post is not about farting.
According to a smudged red-ink blurb on our calendar, Kevin and I are scheduled to fly to Ireland with our bikes in...oh...seventeen hours. And what have we done to prepare for this trip? Zero. Zilch. Nada.
It's an embarrassment, really, how little thought I've given to this trip. I'm a Murphy, for fuck's sake, born and bred! Kevin is 99% Irish too, with a tiny sliver of French "LeMoine" sperm thrown in the mix several generations ago - nobody knows how or where that occurred. Shouldn't we take this "grand return to the Irish homeland" a bit more seriously? I'm sure I'm the first American-born "Murphy" who has EVER bumbled eagerly around County Cork in search of long lost relatives from ten generations ago, right? I ought to be prepared for the fanfare with which I am sure to be greeted by my weathered ancestors still living in stone houses nestled in the emerald hillside.
The thing is, our bags from our recent 10-day east-coast bike trip are still unpacked, it having been just a few short days ago that returned bleary-eyed and bruised-arsed from THAT trip. Nobody in this household, except for maybe our dog Tebow who is currently snoozing and farting contentedly on the futon, has time to do things like dig around for passports, reserve a hotel in Dublin, make some sort of "plan" for this Ireland trip. So the "plan" for now is to stuff a bunch of still-dirty clothing into backpacks, arrive in Dublin jet-lagged and dazed, and hop a train immediately to somewhere else.
County Cork, probably. You know, where all the weathered-faced Murphy ancestors will be waiting for me outside their stone houses.
BUT, before I traverse the Atlantic Ocean, a few thoughts from our last sojourn, during which we cycled for 7 days from Washington, D.C. to Pittsburgh along a bumpy, butt-busting bike path dotted with trees and primitive campsites.
First, let me start with the subject that dominated my thoughts for much of the trip, and continues to haunt me as I sit here sipping Dark Elixir, its caffeinated goodness making my blood veins vibrate. It all began with an innocent jar of bean salad:
The bean salad itself, which I purchased giddily from a local farm market along the Allegheny bike trail, was ho-hum (as Kevin grumpily predicted it would be). I wanted it to be much more than it was. But I quickly forgot about the mediocre taste, for it was more the label that drew me in, causing all sorts of harebrained schemes to swirl around in my head as we bumped along the rest of our week-long, ass-bruising bike journey. These thoughts still haunt me to this very day.
Now, notice the two strapping, healthy young hunks on the front of the jar: Jake and Amos, each with a hefty basket of produce on his arm, their fresh-scrubbed faces bright against a sunlit backdrop. Definitely an Amish gay couple. Just look at them. What else could they be?
I've always had a deep fascination with people of that ilk - religious groups who wear starchy, old-fashioned clothing and live a traditional, farming, bread-baking, cow-milking, bonnet-wearing, horse-n-carriage-driving lifestyle. That would include Amish folks and "ites" of various sorts, like Mennonites and "Hutterites," who apparently live in colonies in parts of eastern Washington (I only recently found out about the latter from my friend M).
Here is a picture of some Hutterites:
Aren't they awesome?
The thing that fascinates me is the lifestyle, not the religious aspect of these groups of people. The flat-out, in-your-face rejection of many modern advancements of the digital age. I like that they make their food from scratch, and do so many things the old-fashioned way. Something about this sort of existence seems so refreshingly, romantically... real compared to the totally easy, order-everything-online sort of life that I and most of my friends have.
I grew up in various suburbs of various cities. Just a regular, mainstream life. But starting back in high school, I began constantly seeking out rustic-lifestyle, farm-ish experiences, because I somehow developed this notion of that as something real and want-worthy. In college, I spent a summer on a communal farm in West Virginia, and later as a sheep-herder in Switzerland. In Uzbekistan, I got to help my host father feed the family flock of sheep, which I enjoyed. After moving to Seattle, I began volunteering at a farm for abused animals. I stopped doing that when I was well into my pregnancy with Zachary, for fear that I might get head-butted in the belly by a pygmie goat.
Here's Oliver, the piglet who was under my care every Saturday morning:
Anyway, inertia takes over eventually, and sucks most of us non-farmers back into a non-farming life, even if we think frequently about things like animals and bread-baking and cow-milking and rubber-boot wearing fun. I live in a city neighborhood, and drive to work and back. I go to bars and restaurants. Seattle is surrounded by fantastically gorgeous nature - including awesome farmlands hemmed in by mountains - and yet I find it all oddly inaccessible at times, myself locked down into city life by imaginary constraints. I don't get out into the mountains nearly as much as I'd like, and not for any tangible reason that I can think of other than little mental excuses that crop up.
So, back to the label of bean salad.
When you're on a 7-day bike trip along a nature trail, you have a lot of time to talk, and think, and talk, and think. So this label on the bean salad got me thinking about something that I occasionally think about with great passion and fervor, about once every six months or so:
I want to live on a farm.
I don't know how to be a real farmer, the kind who relies on farming as a sole source of income. I want to be hobby-farmer, if such a thing is possible: to live on a piece of land that inspires me, somewhere quiet and earthy and green, and to live a semi-Mennonite-ish, Hutterite-ish, Amish-ish lifestyle, minus the religion. I want to keep chickens and collect their eggs, and kill one or two of them each year and have a big stuffed-bird eating fest with all my friends around our wooden farm table. I want a cow to milk, more maybe two cows, to make my own yogurt and cream. I want to plant a small garden and learn how to jar and can stuff. That's about it.
At the same time, I love my teaching job, and don't want to give that up - not now anyway. So I want both things: my real-life job, and my farm-life life.
As I said, this mode of thinking is cyclical for me, and lasts for about a week of mad-talking with Kevin, searching on real estate listings, and making lists of things on cocktail napkins in hopes of devising a plan to realize this teenage-girlhood dream. So we talked about it on this trip, whether it's possible (it isn't, concluded Kevin - at least not at the moment).
Still, upon arriving home (indeed, one of the reasons why I still haven't unpacked from our last trip or given much thought ot Ireland) is that I spend half the day on Monday searching, yes, real-estate adds. And it just so happened that I found the PERFECT HOBBY FARM:
There's a 1940s house here too, but it's not as interesting as the land itself. This particular farm is perfect because it's 40 minutes from the school where I teach, so I could technically keep my current job, AND it's closer to Mount Rainer than we are now, so we could do more hiking than we normally do! See? Perfect!
Oh, I forgot to mention that it's $380,000 in money that we, um, don't exactly have. Minor detail - but certainly not one that escaped Kevin's financially-minded, marine-corps mind.
"Money shmoney!" I argued. "Who ever said you need MONEY to buy a farm?"
"Not now, Mon. Won't work. Plus, I guarantee you're going to hate having a 40-minute drive to work AND being away from all your friends, who aren't going to be as eager to make the hour-and-a-half drive from Seattle to come to your country-farm-disco-parties as you might think."
He's right, I know. Disco parties at the farm house was definitely a part of the picture (the non-Amish part), and yeah. Can't have a disco party if nobody comes. Still, I felt crestfallen. It was mildly consoling when he then said, "let's revisit the farm-concept in five years or so."
Oh, all right. I'm not good at waiting. I get petulant at certain times. This is one of those times. Luckily, I'm married to a man who listens, thinks, and THEN says "it won't work" - instead of just immediately jumping to the "no" part. At least there's that. And besides, I'm going to Ireland tomorrow, where I'm sure to get a good dose of sheepy, farmy goodness.
* * *
A few more quick updates before I think about thinking about thinking about packing for Ireland.
First, a bit of rash footage, for any doubters out there. I figured the top-inch of my butt crack has already made its way into this public space, so why be shy:
Here's me with my classy cinched-shirt outfit, giving Kevin that cranky-wife look: "Dude, you'd better not be including any of my midsection in this picture" (he KNEW the white mid-section was off photographic limits, but that didn't seem to matter):
The rash is basically gone now, thank the lord.
Next, the ice cream cake. Now look, nobody ever said that it would be decorated in a professional manner. "Yay" exclaimed the cake, in celebration to our friend G's successful completion of a triathalon AND his EMT-training course:
A cake-toast: to G!
Cuttin' it up.
The cake was of perfect, Baskin-Robbins-like consistency. I'm not sure if I'd do the organic cake next time, though: chemically Duncan Hines ultimately tastes better, in my opinion. Next time I'm doing vanilla cake with strawberry ice cream. The possibilities are endless!
OK, next post will be from the Land-o-the-Irish. Adios!