Monday, March 20, 2006

City mouse? Or country mouse?

I am a very adaptable person. I love big, fabulous* cities with city excitement and city dining and city nightlife. And I love fast public transportation, especially if it goes underground. But I also really like the country and wildlife. And even though I'm not fond of suburbs conceptually, there are some that aren't so bad -- like the one I grew up in, for example, where you can still walk to the grocery store because my parents' house happens to be very close to it, and where you can hop on a running/biking trail that runs parallel to a long creek through the area, and through some parks and golf courses, where you can see blue heron and deer and those sorts of critters. I don't know that I'd like to be way, way, way out in the country, hours from the nearest city, though. One of my favorite spots in the world is my friend E's mother's house, on top of a ridge in Yorkshire, with fabulous views in every direction, and where's there nothing else but her neighbor in their semi-detached, a farm, a set of row houses, and a pub, but it's just about a mile up the road from the train into Leeds if you need to get out.

Anyway, the reason I bring all this up is to say that some of the nice things about living in these here parts are that a) the cost of living is low, and b) you don't have to go far from the city to get country or from the country to get city. So the Boyfriend and I have been daydreaming about buying pretty, countryside, wooded land on which someday to build a weekend house, one that's close enough to nearby Cool College Town for a good dinner out and access to the Whole Foods, should we want it, and also not so far from Rust Belt that we wouldn't use it enough or friends wouldn't want to come up.

Because we've been talking about this, on the last two weekends, when I've been on my way back from conferences and reading groups in said Cool College Town with my academically tonier friends at the R1 university, I've been driving around prospective areas. Along the way -- and also with the advice of Smartass Poet (who, while having a penchant for teasing the department medievalist -- and really, is there anyone who *doesn't* tease the medievalist, dammit? -- is actually a good guy) -- I discovered an area called [Immigrant Ethnicity from a Green Country] Hills, full of rolling hills, woods, and lakes. It's simply gorgeous. And with the help of the magic of the internets, I also found a realtor with a perfectly cheesy name based on a particularly evocative name of a town in said green country. The Boyfriend wondered if maybe we'd get a discount in such places, on account of my name very obviously belonging to said ethnicity. Sigh, if only.

My name did get me out of a moving violation ticket once, however, but that's another story.

So anyway, some of you may find this surprising and amusing, but the other night at dinner with the Boyfriend, Smartass Poet and spouse, and Victoria and spouse, I actually found myself agreeing with Smartass Poet that raising goats sounded kind of fun. No, really! And when I went on the realtor's site and found a 40 acre deer farm, I thought, "Oh, if only we could afford 40 acres! That would be so cool!"

That's right, I'm having visions of my life story as "Dr. Virago, Farmer Woman." Or how about "Professor by Day, Goat Herder by Night." Or perhaps the Boyfriend and I would make a good remake of "Green Acres." Omigod, if we *do* ever end up getting such a place, we *have* to call it Green Acres. (Hear that, honey?) [Update: Ha! Apparently the Boyfriend's grandparents' farm was once known as Green Acres. That does it. Whatever land we buy will definitely be called Green Acres now!]

OK, I'm getting silly now. There's not going to be any real working farm involved, for pete's sake. It's way past my bedtime, though, and I get giddy when I get tired.

*Speaking of fabulous, and totally off-topic, can I just say how excited I am to be on Michael Bérubé's blogroll under "Fabulous Ones (Comrades and Unclassifiables)." That's fabulous as in mythical, but then isn't that what a virago is? But the question is, am I a comrade or unclassifiable? Well, I've only met him once and according to this, I must be the latter: And (this last question bedevils all of us literature professors) what was I to do with those damned medievalists? Especially the ones whose blogs are full of thorns? But being unclassifiable also suits this virago. Being bedeviling: priceless. (Hm, though to be properly medieval, I need to get thornier! At least there are a few in my blogroll.)


Karl Steel said...

My fiancee hankers for a farm. She's excited for me to finish the degree and get a job and likely move, not only because she gets to quit her job finally, but because she imagines we can raise, yes, goats. But mainly chickens. The idea seems nice to me, too. I like goats. They're cute. They're delicious. Same with chickens.

I tell her: can we start with a large garden with a few animals before we upgrade to "farm"? She agrees. At least in public, she agrees.

So you're not the only medievalist with this hankering.

Dr. Virago said...

Goats are delicious, but I wouldn't be able to kill mine. I'd just raise them for the milk and make artisanal cheese, or sell it to cheese makers, for they are blessed. ;)

Maybe if we had some sheep I could stand to butcher a few lambs before I got too attached to them, despite their adorable cuteness. Sheep, as far as I know, don't get too affectionate with humans. Goats, on the other hand, behave too much like dogs, and I'd get very attached to them.

But sheep need a lot of land. Chickens don't, and I would have no problem whatsoever killing a chicken, but chickens just aren't very pretty or picturesque. Maybe I should stick with the idea of goats and goatsmilk.

And maybe I should learn a thing or two about gardening first and then move up.

Dr. Virago said...

Btw, if there's a job at Ohio U when you're on the market, apply for it, because that's a great place for living the life of a gentleman farmer. I've heard of *many* faculty there having small farms.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

I would never want a farm (nature frightens me) but I do live in a 1940s neighborhood christened "Green Acres." It's not all that green and the houses are very close together, but there you have it.

Also, I do find that having kids is a good substitute for having animals. You can't eat them, but you can raise and release them. Plus they have a way of collecting menageries: my son has taken over as his own the family mutt (a dachshund-beagle mix), and also has a Siamese fighting fish and a Spike Tail lizard. His sister is so far happy with stuffed animals in garish colors; that will change.

Dr. Virago said...

I find it hilariously ironic that nature frightens you, Jeffrey. Perhaps that's why you study its cultural uses? Are you trying to tame your fears?

I also liked the idea of raising and releasing kids. Te-hee!

Karl Steel said...

Btw, if there's a job at Ohio U when you're on the market, apply for it

If there's a job just about anywhere whose load is no more than 3/3, I'll apply for it. Sheesh. Even a place w/ no easy egress to the sea.

I have friends in Portland Oregon who have chicken in their backyard and grow their own hops to make their own beer. The merest scrap of yard can be turned into food, so long as someone's willing to put in the effort and so long as the old urban codes that were designed to keep out poor people (who might want to raise their own food) are no in effect.

As for killing the animals: that's what butchers are for. My CSA meat-farmers cart their animals off to the butcher and the animals return as flesh. Ah. Life. How delicious you are. Can't do that w/ kids unless you're trapped in a few highly select, and frightening, medieval topoi: but we won't get into that.

My father, who was raised on a farm, says he'd kill chickens even if he didn't eat them. But he's also the one who said, when Cobain offed himself, "more food for us!"

And now, 40 minutes to prepare to teach Heart of Darkness! Watch the fish-out-of-water medievalist do modernism! Oh that I were a chicken and my dad held the ax....but just for this afternoon.

Dr. Virago said...

Well, at least the cannibalism is right up your alley.

Btw, I know what class you're teaching, and I know you're supposed to make them talk -- which sometimes takes more careful prep than talking yourself. So good make them tallk. If there's a mini-me in your class, she'll go on for hours about that book. And she'll debate whether it's really a modernist text or not or whether it's really a warped romance. She will hijack the whole conversation and annoy the shit out of her classmates. She'll do that with 100 Years of Solitude, too. I was weirdly into Heart of Darkness at age 18. I was just plain weird at 18. I think I'm a whole lot less weird now, but also dumber, actually.

As for butchering -- yes, but that still doesn't account for the affection I *know* I'll develop for the goats. So, no butchering of the goats for me. They will die of old age in my care.

Oh, and my Boyfriend's mother, having had to care for the farm's chickens all her life, refused to have anything to do with chicken -- even prepackaged -- thereafter and wouldn't even have it in her house. Makes me not want to raise chickens.

Dr. Virago said...

That was supposed to say "good luck making them talk" and I meant it sincerely.

Karl Steel said...

I survived, and only a few, by which I mean one, or maybe two, seemed to participate in replicating the Africanist/Colonialist notions that Conrad complicated. Thanks for the kind wishes.
I suppose I haven't spent enough time around goats to know how affectionate they can be: I shouldn't be so glib about eating.

And now to take a subway home to where I live, Cannibalism Alley.

Dr. Virago said...

And now to take a subway home to where I live, Cannibalism Alley.

Tehee! I feel like I should say for the world at large and posterity that I wasn't implying that you practice cannibalism -- just that it isn't wholly unrelated to your academic and intellectual interest in meat and flesh and food and its boundaries and whatnot. I know you know that's what I meant, but still, no harm putting the record straight.

And only one or two colonialists -- not bad for underclassmen! That's a good day!

Anonymous said...

D. has lately been harboring fantasies of buying a farm and having a few goats; her thought on the latter is that we (by which I mean "I") wouldn't have to mow the lawn, since the goats would keep the lawn nicely mowed. I think she may be having romanticized delusions.

When we bought our house, downtown in Quaint Historic District, we had to sign a form saying that we understood we wouldn't be able to keep farm animals on our property. Coming straight from Grad School City, D. and I at first thought the realtor was joking; but now, we keep coming back to to the goat idea.

Dr. Virago said...

OK, someone needs to study the link between goats and academics. Is it just that they are easy to care for (I hear they are) or is it something else? Is it the rise of artisanal cheese? Because I know *so* many academics who either have goats or want goats (Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, above, obviously being an exception). Weird.

Sheep would probably be better lawn mowers. At least, that's how they behave in the cartoons!

Btw, WN, what are the cows up to lately? I love the cow updates!

Heo said...

Gee, I can't even get the Berube squad to notice my half-assed comments. (Theorists hate me, even when they don't know me.)You're so much cooler than I! By the way, if you ever have need of a thorn, I may have some extra ones floating around.

This farm thing is indeed weird. I've actually been scouting land between Microburg and nearest City that Counts. That probably has something to do with the price of your average 40-acre parcel of land being about $12 in that area, but there's also the fantasy that I could have a fabulous garden. (Just at the moment I have a moribund gardenia plant, but corn has to be easier, right?)

Tiruncula said...

Dr. V, I've driven between Rust Belt and Cool College Town dozens of times and never knew that area was there. I'll have to seek it out next time I do that drive.

I, too, want something fleecy that will crop my grass for me.

Dr. Virago said...

Tiruncula: it's actually west of "between" -- not directly between, in that vast space criss-crossed only by two-lane highways. In fact, I think the Hills area was about 20-25 miles west of the bigger highway that connects Rust Belt with Cool College Town, but closer to CCT than to Rust Belt.

HeoCwaeth -- they don't hate you, I'm sure. In fact MB is about as friendly to medievalists as a PoMo dude can get (when he's not teasing them). You just gotta be a bigger pest (or groupie, if you will), like me! :)

Karl Steel said...

Clearly the goat thing falls under the "something else." Remember that it's the job of us interpretatorians to find the most complicated explanation for any cultural phenomenon!

But here's evidence of the Grouchy Medievalist himself (New Orleans zoo, 2004) showing his goat love, bizarre profile and all. So far as I know, I wasn't even thinking about meat, human or otherwise.

Bardiac said...

When I was in the Peace Corps, my roommate and I bought a duckling intending to raise it for a special dinner. So we named him "Dinner Duck" to make sure we wouldn't forget. We still got a local farmer friend to kill him for us.

I've never spent so long preparing a meal as I spent plucking that stupid duck. If a chicken's half the effort, I wouldn't ever do it.

Heo said...

OK, today MB responded to one of my comments. Considering that odd occurrence, and the new-old news thingie -- I think he's eskeered of you!

Dr. Virago said...

Karl -- that's such a cute picture! Aw, see how much that goat loves that you're brushing him? I told you they were affectionate creatures!

Bardiac -- the Boyfriend is completely with you on this one. He said something along the lines of "why spend four hours plucking a chicken when you can buy one for four dollars?" Chickens don't seem to be a good time investment for personal use.

HeoCwaeth -- Ha! Somehow I doubt MB is "askeered" of anyone! He does, however, like to tease the medievalists. Your comments, btw, were hilarious. I love the idea of Marx in lederhosen.

Ancrene Wiseass said...

I love goats! Love love love them! Love them.

They are weird and smart and stubborn and affectionate and can eat tin cans! What's not to like?

I saw a bitsy pet goat wearing a ski sweater someone hat knitted just for him near Old Home Sod this fall and nearly fell over at the cuteness.

They may be delicious, but I cannot eat goats. I like goats too much. Cows, I can eat. I can't explain my prejudice against cows, but there it is. I also enjoy eating pigs, though I feel a little guilty about it.

Nice picture, Karl! Oddly, I also have a recent photo of myself tending to goats. Maybe I'll include it in the Kalamazoo Blogger picture exchange.

Dr. Virago said...

They are weird and smart and stubborn and affectionate and can eat tin cans! What's not to like?

Just like you, Wiseass! Uh, except the eating tin cans part (and do they really do that, btw, or just in cartoons). And you're only weird in the good way. :)

And damn, you and the Empress are evil twins. She has a weird thing against cows, too. She says, cryptically, that she's "on to them."

Ancrene Wiseass said...

Ha! I love being compared to goats. How excellent.

I do hope I don't smell like them, though.

And yeah, they really do eat tin cans. They'll eat almost anything (also like me). In fact, if you ever do end up getting goats, don't leave any laundry hanging out on the line near them. They'll chomp it right off!

Dr. Virago said...

Oh yeah, the clothing eating I knew about -- I once had a petting zoo goat chew a hole in a favorite pair of shoes in seconds flat. But tin cans -- ew!