OK, let’s see if I can pull off this post. If not, I blame it on whatever little beastie went after Amanda’s computer. My intention is to bring this around to the Regency era. (waving of hands.)

Country Living

I live in the country, and the other day, I tweeted the picture you see here. (Blogger isn’t letting me add images right now so I’m off to fetch the embed code from my flickr account . . . BRB) snowonSonomaMountains_20110219_1

OK! I took that picture from the deck of my house this past weekend. What I was thinking at the time was that there was SNOW on the mountains. SNOW! Around here, we call them the Sonoma Mountains, even though everyone knows they’re really just hills. The snow level has to be down to 1500-2000 feet for there to be snow on the Sonoma Mountains.

I tweeted the picture thinking everyone would be all, OMG, that’s SNOW on the Sonoma Mountains and that one or two people who live where there is actual weather would tell me to grow a pair. (Hey, I stood on the deck in my jammies and slippers and took that picture! It was kind of cold. Sort of.) I just looked up the elevation of my town. It’s 12-400 feet. That morning, the house was about 30 minutes and 1500 feet of elevation from SNOW and 30 minutes and let’s say 12-400 feet of elevation from the Pacific Ocean.

Instead of the comments I expected, many people on twitter said they wanted to move in with me. Because, as I had actually forgotten in my excitement over SNOW!! on the Sonoma Mountains, our house has a spectacular view. In fact, most of that side of the house is sliding glass doors that look onto variations of that view. Mostly without snow, I should add.

Which Got Me To Thinking

If you live in a city, it’s easy to get divorced from nature. In the US, most of us aren’t getting our food from a garden or the farm, or the neighbor’s farm. We get eggs from the store, not chickens. Our meat comes from the meat department, not from the butchered pig we raised.

When we eat a delicious melon, we don’t save the seeds so we can plant them and eat the same melon again next year.

When we go outside at night, we can’t see the stars and for many of us, we can barely see the moon.

We have declining variety in our food because we stopped saving seeds to plant.

A few stories

We have chickens at our house, and my son has grown up on fresh eggs from chickens that roam around during the day eating what comes naturally to chickens. Eggs from chickens like this taste different. They look different — the yolks are an intense golden-yellow-orange. They behave differently in recipes.

Then a coyote ate the chickens — during the day! and we had to buy store bought eggs while we waited for the weather to warm up enough for us to buy new chicks, and then for the chicks to turn into hens and then for the eggs to get past the tiny pullet stage . . .

The first time my son saw scrambled eggs from store bought eggs, he wanted to know what was wrong with them. Because they were anemic looking. They were pale, pale, yellow instead of a strong yellow. They didn’t taste all that great either. Compared to real eggs.

Fresh vegetables from a garden are kind of the same experience.

Not Lambchops!

When I was a kid, my folks had one of our lambs slaughtered and my mom fed us lamb chops shortly thereafter. We all sat there, in silence, staring at our plates. No one moved to so much as pick up a fork. We were all thinking how we’d watched that lamb gamboling in the field. My mother sighed, took away the lamb chops and fed us Cheerios for dinner.

She could do that because my father was a physician and she had been to the grocery store to buy food. We didn’t need those home grown lamb chops for survival. It’s astonishing when you think about it.

The Regency!

And all that got me to thinking that if you don’t have electricity, you know what dark is. You know there are degrees of outside dark at night and how incredibly bright a full moon is. You can see the stars at night.

Even if you, in the Regency past, do not yourself farm, you are aware of the seasons of farming and what that means for the food that can be easily put on your plate at a given season. Your mode of transportation is your own two feet or powered by an animal who must be fed, watered and cared for.

In the developed world of the 21st century we’ve gotten very far from nature, and every now and then, I get reminded of that.

Since I write stories set in the past, I think it’s a good idea for me to occasionally take a few moments to think of all the ways I am divorced from nature and all the lore we no longer know– because we have no reason to care exactly when the full moon is, for example — and that people in the Regency did know.

Not that I’d give up my civil rights, vaccinations or my iPhone. But it’s interesting to think about.

What do you think we miss most from that past? What modern invention could you least do without? Let’s take medicine off the table on that last one because everyone chiming in with “Antibiotics!” and “Emergency Room Staff” would get dull pretty quickly.

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Elena Greene
11 years ago

Carolyn, what a great view! I’m pretty lucky, too. No far vistas, but our house backs up to woods, which are very pretty covered with snow and we enjoy watching the deer.

One thing I miss is the peace and quiet there must have been out in nature before everything got motorized. Around here it feels like you can’t go out into the woods or to a lake without hearing ATVs, snowmobiles, jetskis or motorboats. I prefer paddling a canoe or kayak, riding a horse or just hiking on my own two feet.

What technology I would have trouble doing without? The internet, perhaps, because I have unusual interests and ways of thinking and can’t always find people close by who share them.

11 years ago

Well I live in the boonies so I get to see fun things like the stars and the moon every night. There are times when I go into my backyard, lie down on a blanket and just stare at the skies. It’s amazing how many shooting stars one can see even on ordinary nights. My highest number is 53 in one night. My family sits down to dinner every night at six thirty PM and we play board games before and after dinner. We’re all pretty good in the trivia area. We joke that the only reason we lock our doors is so people don’t put zucchini in our backseats. That’s a big problem for us: everyone grows more zucchini than they need and try to get rid of it. At my bank during the summer you get fresh, homegrown vegetables with every transaction: for free.

But I think I miss the niceness of the time period. I think there was a bit more respect between people and maybe I’m wrong about that because obviously I’m reading books that are written about calling people “Miss Stevenson” and “Miss Rachel” etc, etc. I miss the social niceties that people don’t like to practice much anymore.

Diane Gaston
11 years ago

Interesting topic, Carolyn!

Rachel, I think that’s lovely that even your bank wants to give away vegetables. And I agree with you about missing the civility that existed in the past.

Just for the record, my house backs up to woods, too, only you can see the townhouses through them in the winter. Still we have deer, foxes, opossums, squirrels, chipmunks, and a raccoon. And lots of woodpeckers, for some reason.

Elena, I’m probably like you. I’d miss the internet!!

Louisa Cornell
11 years ago

What a great post, Carolyn! And that is a spectacular view!

I am fortunate in that I live out in the country on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. I can see the stars and the moon at night and the noises I hear are usually night birds calling and owls at night – song birds and the flock of Canadian geese that nest at a nearby pond during the day.

I have to say I really do love it. I love to listen to the wind in the trees. I love the smell of the azaleas and my roses, wild honeysuckle and wisteria.

I am definitely attracted to the civility of the Regency era. And the idea that some things should remain between family and very close friends. I don’t need to know the intimate, scandalous moments of the lives of every stranger with access to a cell phone.

The internet is probably what I would not want to do without, simply because I get to visit so many of my friends on it!

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

What a lovely photo, Carolyn! I seldom get out of town, but I do miss the quiet and the beauty of nature. I would love to go live up in the mountains somewhere, at least for a while (though I’m not sure I would enjoy being a farmer…)

11 years ago

So, I scared away all the city folks. I see. Very interesting.

Yes, the zucchini thing is true. Also tomatoes if it’s been a warm summer. Fortunately, zucchini bread is delicious.

I would miss the Internet, too.

11 years ago

Two things I really appreciate:

1. Indoor plumbing

2. Central heating

I have never lived without these (except on camping trips), but I am old enough to have known many people who grew up without either. I could do without mot other modern inventions, even electricity, but these two I would really miss.

11 years ago

Thanks for the interesting post.
I have to have my mountain view to be happy. Luckily my husband feels the same way. I grew up in NE NY in the Adirondacks. I lived on a hill overlooking Lake Champlain and a gorgeous view of the Green and White Mountains. Real Mountains: ) We could see Mount Washington.
When we lived in Colorado Springs, we had a beautiful view of Pike’s Peak from our deck. We now live in NE TN, on a hill with a wonderful view of the Smokies.
We now have fresh eggs and a large garden for fresh fruits and veggies. My daughter raises a pig every year and it goes into the freezer. When we were kids we begged our parents to get a calf. Our selling point was they could butcher it when it was grown and we would have all that beef. My mom wisely told us that after looking at the calf’s beautiful, big, brown eyes, we wouldn’t be able to eat it. Luckily my daughter isn’t having that problem with her boys and the pigs.
Our family is very much an outdoors group. Canoeing, hiking, camping, backpacking, hunting, fishing, visiting parks, etc. all play a big part in our lives. It is really unfortunate how much most people miss with the light and noise pollution and the crowded living. Most have no idea just how spectacular the night sky is or the sounds of the forest are.
What technology could I not do without. It would be electricity. So much we have and do relies upon it. That is probably too sweeping a choice, but my first thought.

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