Friday, September 5, 2008

Country living made "easy"

I just bought a copy of a book called "Country Wisdom Almanac", from some place called "Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers". It's one of these collections of relatively folksy bits of information that most people probably used to know, but have since been relegated to book sections for the urban folk-wannabees of the world. These are the people who currently enjoy the comforts of modern urban civilization while pondering wistfully as to when they might plow up their back yard to plant rows of corn, or make a chicken coop out of their garage. I have to admit, I am increasingly finding myself drifting towards that camp. Whether I eventually give up the deliciously-convenient life of the urban taxpayer due to personal choice (selling up and buying a bit of land with it's own artesian well and space for a herd of attack goats) or whether it's forced upon me (meteor crases into the earth, ending industrial civilization), I am increasingly attracted to the "son of the sod" scene.

Now of course, I'm not kidding myself. I'm still an urban-comfort junkie because it's not easy tilling soil, weeding a garden or scooping out chicken droppings. The plus side, as I envision it, is in knowing how to do stuff for yourself, with locally-available ingredients. Here's an example:

Know the difference between a "poultice" and a "plaster"? A "poultice" is a "warm moist mass of powdered or crushed fresh herbs" (according to the above-mentioned C.W. Almanac). These herbs (witch hazel, herbal tea, or maybe even something called "herbal tincture") are applied directly to the skin to relieve inflammation, draw out infections, relieve muscle spasms, and for all we know improve your love life do your taxes for you. "Plasters" are like a poultice, except the herbal goop is between two thin pieces of cloth. Now I can say, with confidence "Looks like you need a poultice applied to that. Ayup!"

How about building your own stone wall? The average city "dude" would probably say you just start heaping rocks on top of each other until the contractor comes to do a proper job. Not the nouveau-sodbuster though! There are actually different kinds of stones, ranging in texture from coarse, soft, crumbly and dense (much like the people many of us work with every day). Advise from the C.W. Almanac includes "If a stone looks doubtful for laying, pass it up" (great advice for all of us) and when lifting stones, "Grab the stone in what would be a normal position, and drop your rear another 2 feet. When lifting, hug the stone close". I can just see all those poor dumb city-folk, trying to lift their stones withuot hugging, and possibly caressing them, in the proper way.

I actually bought this book as a substitute for the book I originally wanted to buy. That one was out-of stock, but my store has ordered extra copies, and I shall soon add the knowledge of that book to what I already have. This other book (I think it was called "101 Things Your Grandparetnts Knew" or something like that) also includes information on how to make your own shoes, and how to dig a well. Rural bliss cannot be far behind. Poultice anyone?

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