Foreword and Acknowledgements
There is a subtle war going on between the country and the city. People who have lived in the country all of their lives are seeing "their" territory overrun by outsiders with deep pockets who buy a rural lot for more money than a 100 acre farm sold for a generation ago. The family farm is disappearing in favor of the factory farm. Our supermarket shelves are laden with genetically engineered Frankenfoods and smog in rural areas can be just as bad as it is in the downtown core.
Against that backdrop steps the urbanite with a homesteading dream, a handful of seed catalogues and a composter. Such irrepressible optimism is healthy medicine for troubled times. It has certainly fueled my adventure for the past two decades.
Urban and rural people can co-exist, despite the disparities in the cultures. Good fences, mutual respect and knowing whose woods you are stopping in are all helpful in making the transition. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is just relax and be yourself.
People do try. For instance, in an affluent, urban/rural community close to a big city a same-sex wedding was planned for the child of longtime "weekend" residents who had inveigled themselves into the fabric of the community. It was a wedding that would see cattle ranchers and pork producers mingling with stock brokers and artists.
Not wanting to appear as rubes, members of the rural community were determined to celebrate the untraditional marriage exactly as they would the nuptials of any happy couple. City friends attending the wedding were terribly impressed by the level of sophistication they felt from the country guests. The flowers came from local gardens and the ceremony was performed next to a willow-lined pond on the wide expanse of the front lawn at the weekenders farm. Everyone agreed the brides were beautiful.
Afterward, a wedding supper was served under large white tents adorned with twinkling lights. A special chef had been brought in and the menu was displayed at each place setting. Reading it, the farmers in the crowd found their necks stiffening almost involuntarily. One spoke for them all when he was heard to say, "Mother, what the heck sort of wedding is this? Nobody told me they were VEGETARIANS!"
The people of my own community provide me with terrific inspiration and material. They are always honest, both with me and about me. An urban and urbane writer I know took my suggestion and stopped for exceptional baked goods at the Village Bakery in Mount Forest when he was touring the southwestern Ontario countryside. Slyly, he asked the proprietors if I ever shopped there.
"She used to," said Doug, the co-proprietor,"but she's on a diet now." It is hard to have secrets in a small town.
There is a story in this volume about secrets and a very special one that my father kept for half a century. Now my parents are also learning that they can have no secrets, since they have retired to Mount Forest. I get full and complete reports on where they shop and what they are up to. Still, they did surprise me by showing up on a float in the Santa Claus parade. Things can happen in a small town that would never happen in the big city.
My companion of the heart and mind, Stephen Williams, also known as Moose, appears in all his glory in these pages. Although I spent many years farming by myself while Moose provided the fiscal fuel, I am pleased to report that he is growing in both his knowledge of agriculture and his affection for it. The constantly evolving partnership that we share is one of the pleasures of aging.
And it is hard to accumulate any wrinkle that is not a laugh line when you are owned by a bull terrier. Wally the Wonder Dog continues to wag his way into the hearts of everyone he meets. His clownish charisma is such that when we visit the Big Smoke and stay at the elegant, dog-friendly Metropolitan Hotel, the management sends Wally gourmet dog biscuits.
My publisher Kim McArthur remains effervescent and playful, despite the responsibility of having received an award as Entrepreneur of the Year. It is a privilege to be a member of her stable of writers.
Now and then I meet a person who says to me, "I'm moving to the country and I am going to do exactly what you've done." I smile and wish them well, but – considering some of the things I have done in my two decades on the farm – I find it quite frightening. Hopefully, I can help such dreamers and optimists to avoid some pitfalls, but I am afraid there is no easy way to wrestle sheep.
Somewhere between Harriston and Mount Forest,