Monday, January 21, 2008

Town Mouse, Country Mouse

I live in the maze of houses, cars, shops and office space that clog the San Francisco Peninsula. My house perches on a snug 6000 square foot lot, crunched in between similar sized lots, where sidewalks bustle with children on bicycles, parents on cell phones and members of the older generation with brooms. I can walk to our downtown and to my child's school. I have several year round farmers' markets within a 7 mile radius. My soil is dry, rugged and rocky - littered with one armed Rescue Heroes and discolored bouncy balls. I grow a handful of vegetables in my backyard and some cover crop on my sidewalk planting strip. My boys chafe at the lot boundaries and immature street trees, not suitable for climbing. I am a town mouse.

My parents live in the "country". Their older home overlooks "ag land". Their soil is fine and soft, rippling with silent worms and pecked by dozens of robins. Their neighbors call out greetings and share backyard produce. Down the street, a small farm sells fresh speckled eggs and organic vegetables for self pay. "Please leave money in the egg tin," a chalk written sign instructs. A mile in the other direction, an ancient mill harnesses a stream to grind local corn and wheat. Rotting winter squash, heritage olive trees and dormant grape vines stand sentinel along the quiet roads. Giant fig trees loom in my parents' yard, begging for a little boy to perch on them. Grassy vacant lots are spotted in between the homes and farm land. Walks ramble with the boys trotting eagerly ahead like puppies. I want to be a country mouse.

I am not alone, I think, in my desire to put down roots in the country. Not many of us can swing it, though, and, even if we could, there is not enough "country" for everyone. Besides, we cannot simply abandon suburbia. If we hope to effect change, it will have to begin where the people are and not where the wheat is. How, then, does a town mouse fulfill its country dreams?

We can follow the example of folks like those at Path to Freedom, who decided not to wait for their country acreage and converted their minuscule city lot into a thriving micro farm brimming with ducks, chickens and goats. Or we can look to One Straw Revolution to learn about "backyard farming" in the 'burbs.

As for me, I am trying to regenerate my sad suburban soil with cover crops and compost. Each season, I plant more fruits and vegetables on my little plot, slowly creeping into the front yard. I put trees in the ground that will one day be strong enough to support climbing boys. I'm building a community here. I am living my country dreams amongst the green lawns and whistling sprinklers of suburbia. You see, I am a town mouse . . . for now.


~mel said...

Your description of your parents' place was lovely! I am also a town mouse at present, who longs for a life in the country. And, I too have parents who live happily in their place in the country (I love going to visit!).

I found your blog a couple of days ago and have enjoyed reading. Your blog, along with so many others working to make changes in their lives, are very inspiring to me. Thanks!

Pea said...

I want to live in your parents' neighborhood. It sounds wonderful.

Raw Vegan Mama said...

Hello fellow town mouse!

I was raised a country mouse, one who couldn't wait to become a city mouse. Now, I have the city mouse life, to an extent, and all I long for is my old country mouse life again.

Do we always want what we don't have? I am not too sure. I love being able to walk where I need to, but I miss the freedom of having land.

I moved to Napa with my husband when we first got married. We longed to buy a place just as you described your parents home to be.


Wendy said...

Yes, yes and yes. I agree with all of it.

emaria007 said...

Would love to know where this mill is located! An alternative to the packaged grind on store shelves? Hooray!


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