September 22, 2010

My Urban Friends - Part 1

Jeremy and I both work in downtown Portland. Over the years we have made many good friends who live a very urban lifestyle. They live in cute, very old and charming houses with tiny yards, near the hustle and bustle of city life. They can walk to multiple restaurants, shops and parks. They have access to public transit to take them anywhere in the city - no need for cars and it's a good thing cuz there is no parking. I maintain that I can live either rural, as I am now, or very urban, as I did in graduate school; but I won't ever live in suburbia again.

Over the summer nearly all our urban friends asked to come out the farm. In fact, last Christmas, when my office had a silent auction to raise money for charity, I put in a trip to the farm, to be reclaim in the spring, and it went for $50. So, we had guests most weekends - usually for an afternoon of children petting sheep and chickens followed by a BBQ.

The funny thing I've observed is that people seeem to like the idea of a farm more than the actual farm. This isn't true in all cases, many friends love the farm and have offered to clean the chicken coop. But it seems that all children love farms in theory, but not in really life. The routine of our visitors tends to go like this:
- Friends show up, exclaim about the beauty and bring stuff (wine, kid's bags, etc) in
- We chat and decide to head put to see the animals
- We walk down to the sheep and they get excited and start bahhing, loudly
- Children get scared of the loud, rowdy sheep
- I try to show them that the sheep are really fine, but the stay attached to mom and/or dad's leg
- So we try the chickens
- Children toss in scratch, I bring out Pearl, they pet Pearl, we gather some eggs
- And they are done and ready to head up for food

Two situations stand out as exceptions. First was my friend Carolyn. She wanted to go out with the sheep and cow (back when we had a cow). She got right up and examined them -no fear, lots of interest. Animals that are socialized the way ours are, like this kind of attention. I suspect Carolyn would have spent all day out there checking hooves and teeth - like an amature vet. Second, were our friends Tracy and Berkley and their daughter. Their daughter was totally freaked by the sheep and their intense energy. But Tracy, in her cute dress and flip flops (hi, farm), went right out into the pasture with Jordan and pet the sheep. Tracy later remarked, after I had finished walking around the beehive looking for dead drones that the girls could hold, "You have a very different relationship with the physical world than I do." That may be true, but she is a really good sport!

The opposit is my friend Jen. Jen is the ultimate urbanite. She lives in the heart of Seattle, loves fashion, is always dressed in classy-trendy outfits and tells me often how crazy I am to be farming. When she came down to visit she arrived at night. As she drove up the driveway, Junior welcomed her with a loud "BAHH". The combination of dark, clouds/moonlight and animal noises made Jen say "It's like we're in The Hills Have Eyes." I said "Good lord, it's a farm!" The next day I forced her to gather eggs with me. She was not loving it, but was a good sport. In a few weeks she is bringing her niece down to visit the farm. Jen says her niece loves animals and is really comfortable with dogs and cats. We'll see how the child handles the sheep and chickens.

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