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Thursday, August 27, 2009

It All Began with Bean Salad

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!


Michelle said...

Seven day bike trip...I'm in AWE! That rash looks PAiNFUL!!!!

I hope,despite your lack of planning, you have a most AWESOME time in Ireland. I have always wanted to go there. Bring back lots o pics!

Have fun and be safe!

Megan said...

I grew up five miles away from my grandparent's farm. They were practically Amish... my grandfather hung out with and traded horeses with Amish people.

The farm included at various times; cows, horses, chickens, geese, pigs, sheep, dogs, cats, and peacocks.

Yes, I have driven a team of horses strapped to an old fashioned manure spreader.

So...basically, been there, done that, over it.

I want to buy some land near a lake and start building a camp; cabins for my friends and family to stay in, big party cabin, mess hall. It is a pretty regular fantasy.

So I get it in a way, but this girl's farming days are OVER! Disco farming sounds intriguing though.

*~*Lis*~* said...

First - was that some boob I saw in the rash pic? Sweet!

now the farm thing. I live in NH, we've got "cities" if you will - but not like real cities. I lived here my whole life - 'cept for a few years in CA after high school. I always lived in one of the "cities" we've got up here. just about 6 years ago after the first KD we packed up and moved into the country. I'm talking real country - I live in a home built in 1756, I have four neighbors. One is a single guy, one is a farm with 150 chickens, 3 cattle, 2 goats and a few hundred bees. The other is a dairy farm - a real honest to goodness working dairy farm.

I love it! My kids love it - most kids have to wait for the fair to see the stuff we see everyday! My 3 year old tells me almost daily she wants to be a farmer when she grows up - I have a feeling she either will be or will marry one :)

As for us - we don't have enough land to actually have a farm, but we bought 4 chickens a month ago and are putting in a coop now. I'll let you know how it goes! I also cook most tuff from scratch and make my own bread :)

Enjoy Ireland - its some place I alwasy wanted to be able to go!

Tina said...

Not that I would be invited or anything, but let's just say that if I were asked to attend one of your country-farm-disco parties...I would DEFINITELY be there!!! Have fun in Ireland! xx

Karen said...

You know, the benefit of having a country-farm-disco party would be that given the right expanse of acreage no neighbours would be around to complain.... Enjoy Ireland. No wonder I like your chatty blog and humour so much - I'm a Murphy, too. Family moved from County Cork (*of course!*) to Nova Scotia to New York State to Manitoba....and now I'm in BC. Have a Guinness over there for me, will ya? Hope you have a lovely time.

Karen said...

I am passing on an Honest Scrap Award to you because your writing has resonated with me and I admire your honesty. Check it out on my blog and pass it on....

[note that there is this super funky image that goes with it but I can't seem to get to post on my blog - sigh - at least not at the time I write this message - but it is on Mirne's blog and she passed the award to me]

Shaz said...

OMG! Mon! You and Kev have FAR too much energy! I tried a bike ride a couple of months ago when we were out on a game farm, I got about 200m's into the bush, all hot and sweaty and decided it was far too much work and turned around and headed back and hitched a ride on a Landie round the farm.!
ahahaha, I feel really lame now!
Enjoy your Ireland trip!

amylynn said...

Monica- Helping people become farmers is sort of what my job is about. If you want to research a little further and talk to some experts, Washington State University Cooperative Extension should be able to help you. We achieved the land dream, and still working on the actual farm part. Have fun in Ireland, I've always wanted to go.

Stephanie said...

Hi Monica!
LOVE your blog. I live in the land of the infertile but that is not WHO I am, although that took lots of therapy to fully understand!
Have fun in Ireland and I love the idea of farming and have a facination with the Amish (who live nearby) that borders on obsessive sometimes. I wanna be able to live like they do, but how do I give up air conditioning and tv??? Oh to be more evolved!
Have a great trip. Glad I found you!

the misfit said...

I love your summer itinerary. Have so much fun! Also, hobby farming is not that uncommon at all, for one; and, give it 5-10 years, and all your cool city-dwelling friends will move to the suburbs with their 2.5 children. (I have this same debate myself - if we move further away so I can buy a house, no one will come to see us! But then one of my single friends said, "At some point, the party will be over," and I realized that HE understood that eventually all of these people will be married with children. Except me, of course. So I can't plan around them. Seattle might work differently, of course, but there is always that.)

Amy said...

Have a great time in Ireland!

I came home from a beach weekend with an annoying and mysterious rash on my back. One center spot about the size of a silver dollar I've dubbed "the mother ship" and all the alien babies that have spread across my back. Sucks and I hope it goes away soon.

The icecream cake looks awesome - may have to try that before summer is over.

KuKd Chick said...

Wow, I'm glad the farming idea isn't totally out there, that others have lived it / thought about it / are there to help people do it. If this one is still on the market when we get back, I'll probably drag Kevin out to see this farm, just so he can visualize it. Y'all have given me some hope! Here's to farm disco parties and air-conditioned farmhouse kitchens.

Amy - eek. Hope you didn't catch your rash from reading my blog.

Misfit- I like your logic. Yes, the 5-10 year plan is a good one. And yes, the moving-out-to-suburbs thing (VOMIT!!!) is definitely in the stars for a lot of our friends, god help them. While they're out there, they should at least come to my farm disco parties.

The Gonzo Mama said...

Hutterites: We got 'em. Yup. Right here in North Central Washington. They're awesome, and so "of the earth." Their dirty little secret? They check out DVDs by the armload at our library. When they come in, I know that everyone, Mama and her fourteen children, are each going to take out their maximum three movies.

I ask you - who can watch that many movies and still grind masa farina and wheat for scratch-baked bread?

Janette105 said...

Another Murphy commenting, although now I'm a BREW, I'm so envious of you going to Ireland!! We had a lovely 7 day drive. None of that bike-riding shit...that's like exercise...ew. I hope you have a WONDERFUL time. We were there 2 years ago this month and had 6-1/2 days of nothin' but sunshine (and a 1/2 day of rain). I hope you're as fortunate, although maybe a little more cloud and less sun since you'll be doing that exercise thing I mentioned earlier. Ew. Pub food never gets old. Oh, and try a Strongbow if you like cider. YUMMY!

Rebecca said...

I dream about the farm-life too, even though Lance and I are too of THE MOST CITY (and I mean real city - New York City) people I have ever known (um, how would anything get fixed around the farm house without a super to call?). And from the perspective of our 500 square foot apt in Brooklyn that cost well over $300k, that farm sounds like a total bargain!!

Anyway, what I really wanted to say is that the disco-farm parties are not actually out of the realm of the Amish!! You HAVE to see the documentary Devil's Playground - when they turn 16, Amish teenagers are encouarged to experience the "English" world and so go through this whole party phase, which often includes drinking, drugs, sex, and rave-like parties in the barn (bonnets and all) called "rumspringa."

SO FASCINATING!!! You can read more about it in this NPR article: but definitely rent Devil's Playground when you get back from Ireland!!

Parenthood For Me said...

I get the farm thing. My husband feels the same way. have fun on your trip.

KuKd Chick said...

Gonzo Mama - are you SERIOUS? 1) you have Hutterites, and 2) they rent DVDs? WOW!!! Yeah, I bet they sneak in trips to the grocery store too for corn flour and other staples. Can't blame 'em really.

Rebecca - DOUBLE WOW! Rumspringa - that is awesome. I'm going to research that. They don't have sex do they???? Noooooo!!! That would totally destroy my pristine image of them!

The Gonzo Mama said...

Well, you know, I don't actually know if they do or not, since they're always checking out armloads of book on spinning their own wool and whatnot. Meh. I wanna go hang with 'em for a couple weeks and check it out.

The Gonzo Mama said...

Wait... Greg is telling me they are Cooneyites, not Hutterites. Damn. Now I have to Wikipedia that shit. *sigh*

The Gonzo Mama said...

Oh! But guess what... he's wrong.

We're agreeing to compromise and say they're Mennonites, which would explain the DVD player.

Fireflyforever said...

Loved the bean salad comments! And ouch for that rash - hope it's improving.

Enjoy the Emerald Isle.

And I nominated you for Honest Scrap too but I see that Karen beat me to it:) You are popular!