The Days of Yore When Life Was Simple and Gran-paw Wasn’t a Bigot

Remember the days of Yore when life was simple and people were just good and wholesome and no one ever got murdered and food came fresh from the farm every single day and Grandma baked pies 365 days a year and no one had cancer or polio – SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! – you mean all that talk about polio crippling thousands of people and two world wars and a devastating economical depression and segregation were all LIES fabricated to sully the memory of the true glory of Yore?

I really want to love Mary Jane’s Farm magazine.  I love that Mary Jane Butters is a champion of organic farming and growing food and enjoying antiques and doing some stitchery while sipping juleps on the porch swing at the end of another idyllic day on the farm where all the pigs are clean and your back never goes out and every minute of the day is a wonderful new memory being made that you will stitch onto your memory quilt for your family to snuggle und – dammit.  Every time I read her magazine I feel the magnetic pull of the nostalgia it’s drenched with like heavy perfume that stays in your nostrils long after its trails have been cleared away by fresh air.  I get annoyed.  That magazine is painting a rarefied world where everything is in romantic soft focus and wisdom is everywhere to be snatched up and adored and nurtured and I’ll tell you something, if that’s what you’re looking for in life you better brace yourself for disappointment because it doesn’t exist.

I try to remind myself that this is how lots of people feel reading fashion magazines.  I love fashion magazines because I know it’s all about inspiration and design rather than the reality of what most people need from their clothing and what most real bodies look like.  I am unbothered most of the time by the unattractively skinny models because I am not fatter or uglier just because they are showing me their bones, I know this.  I don’t feel pressure to be skinnier because that’s what the fashion designers are showing me – I feel pressure to get skinnier because I’m obese.  True fact.

Mary Jane’s Farm is exactly like a fashion magazine for the homesteading crowd – it’s presenting a fantasy of cozy farm life and romanticizing the “Days of Yore” meant to inspire everyone to slow down and enjoy life more and reconnect with our pasts and get old fashioned.  Get in your pretty lil apron like Gran-maw and make your luv a cup of roasted chicory just like Gran-paw used to enjoy on the back stoop after the early morning tilling was done even though you know your grandma was a shrew and your grandpa still regrets the civil war and the end of slavery and uncle Mike was inappropriate with his daughter but whatevs, that was so much better than the complication of cell phones and fast cars and city life where everyone has lost their wisdom and the good life.

I stopped buying her magazines after the first few because every time I read them I found myself wanting to swear just because the writing was so gentle and cozy and clean.  No hard edges.  All hard knock stories are told in a dear and sweet way with such wholesome nuggets – dammit.  I can’t talk about this publication without slipping into that kind of grating fake nostalgia.  The only reason I’m bringing it up today is because my back is in pain and I was in bed doing nothing this morning so I pulled a stack of magazines from my bookshelf to weed through.  And I found the last copy of Mary Jane’s Farm that I bought a few years ago and I got sucked in by that mesmeric soft focus and then it just made me want to say mother-fucker in rebellion.  I don’t ever use that expression even when I’m swearing in earnest.  So I found myself thinking about why I’m so irritated by that kind of vision of homesteading and it’s because it’s much too idealized and I’m an urban girl with some sophisticated thoughts and tastes and I like the modern world and I like that I have plumbing and running water.

I’m interested in urban homesteading not being a farm girl.  I’m interested in keeping old skills alive that are still useful in a modern setting.  I want to dispense with all nostalgia for life that wasn’t romantic or mellow or remotely “simple”.  I don’t value all that gentleness, it just grates on my nerves.  I like people who live loudly and honestly and brazenly and swear when they crush their thumb with a hammer and laugh at themselves when they get out of hand.  It’s what I want to bring to my own site.  It’s what I want from others.

Yet I don’t want to destroy the enjoyment others have of Mary Jane’s vision, her cozy interpretation of life as it could be, or her gentle stories, because it’s just another way to find the same value in life that I am looking for (self sufficiency, organic living, and growing things).  I want it edgy and raw while others really need the quiet and sweet.  Let’s say it’s a case of respecting her gifts and what she’s bringing to a lot of people while knowing that to keep that respect healthy I just need to go my own way and tip my hat to her at the fork in the road.

So what tone am I looking for?  What inspires me and excites me?  Check them out:

Bad Mama Genny – She’s outrageous, funny, takes care of a bunch of cats even though she’s horribly allergic to them, and she makes cheese and booze.  What the hell else do you need to know about her?  I really want to live next door to her.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook – His writing is rich and poignant and has made me cry.  His posts on foraging are useful and thorough and he is solely responsible for making this vegetarian respect hunting.

The Midcentury Menu – Here’s nostalgia with the proper humor and edge to carry it off.  There is no vintage recipe too disturbing for her to tackle and force her husband to taste.

Hunger and Thirst – I became a fan when I read this blogger’s funny post about the greed of mushroom hunters.  Lots of foraging and written in a very personable way.

Aunt Peaches – Craft and DIY publications can get precious pretty quick.  I love any person who can make anything from anything and not be too cute or too cozy about it.  Aunt Peaches is funny, clever, down to earth, and not afraid of offending.

Thank You for not Being Perky – It’s all right there in the title.  Curmudgeons unite against the eternally happy curs we have to yell at every day!  Minnie swears, she’s honest, she grows vegetables, sews swimsuits, crafts, and is never smug and never precious.  Her stories about parenting are similar to mine and that is a rare thing.  She’s super cool and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her in person and spazzing out at her.

Now I have to go ice my back and watch episodes of Futurama with Max.  Philip is moving down to California ahead of us on Sunday and has a job interview on Monday.  Instead of freaking out I am thinking about how I can make good use of my time left in Oregon and the first thing on that list is to go morel hunting this weekend so I can take part in an urban homesteading challenge that Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook is doing with his friends of Sustainable Eats are putting on this month – check it out: Take The 2012 Urban Farm Handbook Challenge*

*Sustainable Eats authors wrote the Urban Farm Handbook and are doing a challenge this whole year, a different challenge every month with prizes for entering contests.  I haven’t been following it because I didn’t know about it until now.

6 thoughts on “The Days of Yore When Life Was Simple and Gran-paw Wasn’t a Bigot

  1. hobbit

    LOL over here………..grew up on a farm………..even when I got married we still didn’t have hot water in the faucet. Home was built in 1720 farm had 800 acres grandparent lived on the farm and spoke no english so our first language was french. English came in grade school. No central heating system in the 16 room house.Farn was in New England It was wonderful and I cherish every day that I had there. While my brother and I were away at college my mother sold the farm (my father had passed away) Both my brother and I continue to farm I just garden but, my brother also has sheep Life is what you make of it. Not everyone is cut out for this life. As long as you are happy where you are , that’s all that matters.

  2. angelina Post author

    I imagine farm life could be pretty rewarding and good – it sounds like you lived the real deal with no hot water and no heat! I hope you know that I don’t look down on that life I just don’t like reading about it in such a fuzzy light. Farm life is HARD from all I can tell. My husband’s mom grew up on a farm without running water in Louisiana and their life was not romantic and ideal. I just like to hear about things from a less fuzzy perspective.

    It sounds to me like you probably have a lot of great stories from your experiences.

  3. julie @ Happy Girl Sews

    I am so glad that I am not the only one who feels that way about Mary Jane’s magazine. I was given a subscription for Christmas a few years back. Every couple of months when the magazine came, I tried to like it, but I just could not get past all the rosey, everything is just perfect-ness of the articles.

  4. B.

    I do find myself having mixed feelings about MJ’s Farm Magazine. I think she’s adorable, & can only hope I look half as good when I get to be her age! She’s a homesteader, & has a good & true understanding of the land, animals, etc. But she’s one savvy business-woman as well….sort of a Martha Stewart for the more agricultural type of gal. I do know what you mean about the “soft-focus” presentation of the articles & so forth. It’s attractive & alluring, & sometimes irresistable in its pull. One wonders if such a life is possible. While paging through her magazine (or any, really, for that matter) I just always remind myself that every photo probably required a stylist to make it look that way, & that no matter how real & in the moment this activity or that recipe is presented, it is still just a peek at someone’s life….a slice of their work, showcased to make a point.

    I don’t mind seeing beautiful things, places, clothes, food….all that is something that really CAN help us in our lives, if we approach it the right way. Trouble getting a recipe right? Someone, somewhere on the Internet must have a remedy. Decorating woes? That old issue of Traditional Home I saved addressed a similar problem (even though the owners of those homes have more money & nicer built dwellings than I could ever hope to see!).

    But we, as consumers, can be so gullible sometimes. We read things & see other peoples’ blogs & such, & forget things, like the fact that their children are naughty sometimes too. And they throw up in the middle of the night. And their pets make messes. And their husbands’ businesses or jobs don’t always run smoothly. They have toilets to clean, & bills to pay, & they’re trying to lose weight, & they don’t always like their in-laws….all that. In so many cases, life is no better or worse, just being lived out in a different place. Or, as you said, “it’s just another way to find the same value in life that I am looking for.” I agree with you.

    Anyway… you’re moving soon! Excited?….Nervous?….Overwhelmed? Perhaps a combination of these. I’ll have to go & read a few of your recent posts to see if you’ve mentioned what’s happening along those lines. Best of luck with those morels! :o)

  5. minnie

    aw! thank you for the shout out!

    i so thought of you and Max when Jack was telling me about his new gun that shoots knives. ahahahhaa.

    I haven’t seen MJ’s farm mag but it sounds like i wouldn’t be able to handle it. i need some grit and truth in my entertainment. my bullshit detector is set to 11. :D

  6. angelina Post author

    This is why I love you and your blog so much. I’m the same way. You’d like the projects in MJ’s Farm if there were more swear words involved in their stitchery and gardening. I think you and I are the other side of the urban homesteading range and we’re all needed.

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