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Posts Tagged ‘Philosophical’

Rain On The Scarecrow

Agrarian Grrl's farm

Agrarian Grrl's farm

Preaching is hard. Farming is hard. Preaching as a farmer is especially hard.

For years, I have dreamed of owning a tiny farm that would provide enough food for my family to eat well and enough income so that, at worst, only side jobs would be needed to support our lifestyle.  I always dreamed of making it, even while fully aware that it was probably not reality.  It could be, of course, with certain sacrifices, such as no more of this or this or this.

This dream generally received one of two responses. Either people thought it sounded amazing, or more often, people would regale me with stories of friends or relatives who had gone broke as farmers.  I never listened to them, and I still won’t, primarily because it’s a dream, not my (current) reality.  But also, I won’t listen to them because I want to believe in the small, independent farmer, just like I want to believe in the small, independent bookstore, coffee shop, restaurant, or _____.

As part of the dream, I follow a number of small farm blogs. They range from the practical, such as Tiny Farm Blog, to the philosophical, such as The Raw and the Cook. There are also those that are evangelical farmers, the ones who seem to be doing it because operating a small farm without pesticides and GMO crops and with minimal mechanical equipment is serving a higher purpose than just damn tasty food. The best of those blogs was from Agrarian Grrl, a Canadian farmer.

Her posts, which came pretty regular, ranged from market updates to contemplative essays to rants against evil corporate agri-biz, especially everything Monsanto. Even when they were too heavy to really digest or nothing more than a hammer to a head (and there were a couple), they were thought-provoking, educational, and very much needed.  But a post two days ago hit the hardest, because it read like a farewell note. In short, the practical burdens of farming and weight bore on the shoulder of an evangelical farmer seem to heavy, and so she is going to focus on raising crops so she can, hopefully, make it.

Within that post, she gives a pretty good list of everything that is wrong with the current food system, most of which can be directly pinned on individuals, not corporations. But, enough: go read it yourself.  Thankfully, she has put up a couple of posts since this one, but even the thought that it is too much for even the most passionate person is, well, something I’m going to refuse to believe.

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Exubria Recast

Big house. Vinyl siding. Manicured lawn.  Two-car garage, maybe three.  Backyards to hide from neighbors.  Faux brick front.

Pavement for miles.  Parking lots.  Stores with acreage of stuff.  Stuff to eat, stuff to build, stuff to consume, stuff to waste.

Work in the city.  Drive on the interstate.  Eat in the chain.  Home.  Rinse. Repeat.

Suburbia spreads like bindweed, one interconnected, land-swallowing swath of humanity.  Beige blooms in the brown desert while its denizens stare at high-definition television shows about life in paradise. They bought their homes to live the American Dream, and spend the rest of their lives dreaming of escape.

Escape they will, fleeing to the latest and newest refuge. Maybe it’s the “green” subdivision with colorful houses, maybe it’s the high-rise condominiums with restaurants on the ground floor and a freeway entrance within walking distance.  Maybe it’s a boat, a cabin, an RV.  Or maybe it’s similar more of the same, super-sized.

America is a very young country, as anybody who has ever visited Europe can attest.  Many Europeans have houses that are older than America, yet we as Americans search for everything new.  We created a democratic civilization built with the most adaptable legal document ever created, yet we cannot adapt as a people to minor nuisances.  Need four outlets in every room instead of the one in that 50-year old house?  Buy a new house.  Ipod adapter in the car because you cannot listen to the radio?  Buy a new car?  Bored with the long-standing cafe run by your neighbor?  Hey, there’s an In N’ Out burger opening!

This ceaseless need to fulfill every want and desire has a number of negative impacts, most of them on a person’s soul.  But there are also smaller ones, such as the eventual desertion of the existing new for the New New.  That leaves behind empty homes, deserted lots, and discarded shopping malls.  Eventually, something will have to be done with them.

To that end, Dwell Magazine and inhabit.com are sponsoring a ReBurbia contest. Entrants proposed new uses for these existing buildings that litter suburbia.  While the impetus was the current economic crisis, which has greatly compounded the problem, this is a noble effort for what is going to become a continually bigger problem.

The focus of the finalists on sustainable energy, environmentally-sound travel, and bizarre urban agriculture (trellis gardening over parking lots, for example) is laudable.  However, reading through them still left me feeling empty because, once again, they are simply the New New.  A Big Box garden is great, but what happens when people tire of that?  Once again, empty building.

I want to know my neighbors, know their children, know the neighborhood.  As much as people protest otherwise, suburban development generally discourages community because community is not a cost-efficient method of building.  Cookie-cutter houses built on straight roads is cost-efficient.

All of these entries lacked possibly the most essential aspect of any home I live in: a front porch.  If you want to reinvent suburbia, embrace community.

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Full tank

In a very short time, I will be shifting my life almost 180 degrees.  I will be moving from the conservative, Mormon-owned and increasingly Mormon-focused Deseret News to the liberal, independent and locally-owned City Weekly.  I will go from supervising a team of five reporters who average about 20 years of experience to supervising a similar sized group of reporters who likely do not have a combined 20 years of experience.  I will be leaving a paper owned by the corporation who is handcuffing kissing gay men on their property, and joining the paper where one of those kissing gay men work.

About the only thing not changing drastically is the location: downtown Salt Lake. The offices are within two blocks of each other, I will frequent the same coffee houses, the same sandwich shops, the same bars.  I will still ride my bike to work most days.

It’s interesting how this new job has revitalized me in a lot of ways. Among other things, I started to get the itch to write again, which I have not had in a few years.  Though that has not really translated to novels or short stories, which are my real loves, primarily because I fear I will still not have sufficient time to really gnaw on my words.  Yet I still need an outlet, so I ramped up this blog.  It’s not my first blog, but it’s my real attempt at this type of blog.

Think of this as the start of a long road trip with me.  I aim to focus on political topics of interest to the rugged individualists of the Mountain West, which is the geographic area where I mostly grew up and where I currently live.  While I work for a Salt Lake City newspaper with an intense local focus, this blog is broader than Salt Lake and politics will be loosely defined and not rigidly adhered to in every posting.

Why Route 89 for a blog title?  Pull out a map of the West and follow U.S. 89.  I grew up, for the most part, in Mt. Pleasant, Utah, which has 89 as its State Street.  I went to college in Logan, which also has 89 as its Main Street (partially).  One of my favorite places in this country is the Yellowstone/Grand Teton corridor, followed closely by Glacier N.P.  U.S. 89 gets you within striking distance of those two places, as well as other incredible areas, such as the Canyon Country of Southern Utah.  Thus, reading this blog will, in some way, be much like a road trip along the spine of the Mountain West.

As with any good road trip, the company is an important element.  Feel free to participate through comments, but do so respectfully or risk being dropped off at the next rest area.

Now, it’s time to start the car, fire up the music, crack a beer, and hit the road.  Hope you enjoy the ride.

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