Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, April 08, 2011

Green Acres ~ We Aren't There! (Yet)

by Kerry Blair

I firmly believe that avid readers find real life much more difficult than people who never crack a book and/or charge their e-readers. And if an avid reader is also a writer with a good imagination, well, in the eloquent word of latter-day philosopher Joe Garagiola: “Fergetaboutit.”

While I have long believed the above hypothesis to be true, I recently set out to prove it.

First I must provide a little back story.* One of the first books I loved with all my little avid-reader heart was Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. (While my family’s copy dates from 1903, please know it lay around a couple of generations before I picked it up.) Rebecca preceded both Anne (of Green Gables) and Pollyanna—both in creation and on my reading list—and remains in my view the superior of the three. At the beginning of the book a character says to orphaned Rebecca, “Why you poor little girl!” The eight-year-old replies, “I am not a poor little girl. I am very self-reliant.” She not only repeats those last five words throughout the book (Shirley Temple is adorable saying it in the movie!) she proves it time and again.

I have always identified with Rebecca, the spunky, self-reliant moppet who—despite an incredible talent and the promise of great fame and fortune—pined for an idyllic life on the family farm. (It is me all over, minus the moppet, talent, and guaranteed fame-and-fortune bits, I guess.)

Sunnybrook Farm was only the first of the literature of my childhood that convinced me that farms are idyllic places of blue sky, fresh air, brightly-colored produce stands groaning beneath the harvest, and sweet-tempered farm critters, jovially whinnying, clucking, and purring their way into your heart. No place on earth could be better! (If you harbor any doubt, you have only to remember how anxious Dorothy was to get back home. Clearly, farms are fabulous even in comparison to Oz!)

After decades of pining, imagine my delight when my husband and I moved to our very own farmlette in Dewey, Arizona. I had open land, already developed corrals and pens, a well full of water—and virtually no zoning restrictions of any kind. My vivid imagination, bolstered by years of living vicariously in the country in countless books—went crazy. What couldn’t a very self-reliant girl like me do? Of course, fiction alone isn’t enough to bring about the dream. Knowing that, I started where every Avid Reader does, mortgaging the new family farm to buy every book, magazine and pamphlet ever published on homesteading.

I learned more than I have in any period of time since my senior year in college. For one thing, I learned that gardening is ridiculously simple . . . in February. In an armchair. In front of the fire. It’s when you run outside on the first sunny day in March, shiny new shovel in hand, and discover that concrete is softer and richer than that “loam” you settled onto that truth finally reflects upon your senses. That’s when you begin to discover as well, Avid Reader and Spinner of Stories, that there is a whole lot of fiction within the pages of nonfiction and that life does not imitate art nearly as well as you wish it would.

In stories, geese lay golden eggs and bean sprouts grow like magic. (Even in less fanciful books, seeds started in little pots indoors bring forth rows and rows of summer produce.) In reality, geese eat, honk, poop, and guard their eggs with greater enthusiasm than that guy trying to hold onto Tripoli. Beans of the non-magical variety sprout a quarter of an inch, lose interest in life, and fall over dead. Books suggest sagely the planting of spinach, cabbage and peas “when the daffodils bloom.” Reality comes along and dumps five inches of snow on your three-inch-tall plants. (Not to mention the stupid daffodils.)

I hate to belabor this, but one more caution is worth mention. When absolutely everything you know about living with a horse comes from the pages of Pippi Longstocking, you’re going to need more than a brand new copy of Horses for Dummies to successfully cohabitate with that new 1100-lb “pet” you didn’t think you could live without.

Finally, do not get me started on goats. Not only have I read Heidi, I’ve recently perused almost one thousand pages on the how-tos of caring for goats. I am here to tell you there is not one single line (let alone paragraph) within any of those pages that suggests what you should do when a 65-lb Nubian doe jumps up onto the hood of your mother’s shiny white car and refuses to budge.

So, that’s the Friday Farm Report from Dewey. I haven’t stopped reading, of course. I’ll never stop reading. I have, however, found a few farm-friendly uses for books that the authors probably did not intend. Pleasures of a Handmade Life is exactly the right size to plug a crack in a hen house. And, as it turns out, if you chuck Raising Dairy Goats hard enough at the beastie tap-dancing on the Buick, you do get its attention.

*This, Fellow Writers, is also known as “Info Dump.” Editors hate it. I can only hope that faithful follower Kirk Shaw is too busy editing Covenant superstars Stephanie and Julie today to lurk around a boggy frog blog.

FYI: The goat pictured is not my goat. I could not get my picture to load from my phone, so I borrowed one from the web. (My goat it cuter.) Alarmingly this goat-on-car problem is more wide-spread than I imagined. I think I'll write my own book about goats gone bad and the people who . . . um . . . love (?) them.


At 4/08/2011 8:49 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

Kerry, if I'd even suspected you might acquire a goat, I would have been happy to give you real advice--the kind that doesn't come in any book. You have to be a little insane or have a much better sense of humor than I was blessed with to endure one of the miserable beasties.

At 4/08/2011 9:43 PM, Blogger Debra Erfert said...

Goats like to climb. I'm pretty sure its in their genes, kind of like cats. Have you seen those cat-climbs at Pets Plus? Those multi-level, carpeted constructions created to keep our felines spoiled? Well, to keep your goat from climbing on you mum's car, build a rocky hillside looking structure out of 2x4s, put a skin of metal screen on it, and coat it with Thinset . . . well, ask Rob Wells to come down and do it for you. Maybe he could put in on casters and enter it in their next parade, and borrow your goat for realism.

At 4/09/2011 11:33 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

It amazes me how goats can climb. I was very impressed at the zoo when I saw goats basically standing on the side of a nearly vertical cliff. How the heck do they grip so well with those hooves?

At 4/09/2011 3:59 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

You know, I don't mind the full grown goats. It's the kids who drive me crazy!!!

At 4/10/2011 10:04 AM, Blogger Melanie Goldmund said...

LOL! Well, I guess that's one reason why the Lord said that he would divide the sheep and the goats, putting the sheep on His right hand, and the goats on His left ...

I never reading Pippi Longstocking, but everything I know about horses, I learned from Dick Francis. And then I took riding lessons. The gap between fiction and reality is the reason why I am not a race-winning steeplechase jockey to-day *g*

No, but seriously, Kerry, I'm glad to see a new blog by you! :-)

At 4/10/2011 10:37 PM, Blogger Janice said...

I've been trying to teach my daughter about self reliance. She has a bad case of damsel in distress syndrome. I'm putting Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm on hold for her right now.


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