Country Living Series

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Modern Man vs. Country Man

About a year ago, I posted a column on WND entitled "Modern Man vs. Country Man." It remains one of my favorite pieces ever. For those who missed it, I thought I'd reprint it for your edification. So, without further ado...

Modern Man vs. Country Man

Are you tired of reading bad news? Are you ready for a bit of light-hearted humor? Look no further. Today's column is designed to make you chuckle.

As most readers know, my husband and I live on a small farm in a deeply rural area. As such, we often find ourselves in gentle, good-natured competition with urbanites and occasionally offer some genial jabbing. This is one of those times.

I found an article published a few years ago in the New York Times under their "self-help" category entitled "27 Ways to Be a Modern Man," which offered sage advice defining Modern Manhood.

Needless to say, the writer's definition of manhood was so hilariously at odds with the rural men of my acquaintance, I decided a rebuttal was in order. Without further ado, here's Modern Man vs. Country Man:

1. When the Modern Man buys shoes for his spouse, he doesn't have to ask her sister for the size. And he knows which brands run big or small.

(The Country Man doesn't buy shoes for his spouse. He knows she's all grown up and can buy shoes for herself. Besides, my Country Man thought it was a little creepy for a husband to say something like, "Surprise, honey! I bought you a new pair of shoes today!")

2. The Modern Man never lets other people know when his confidence has sunk. He acts as if everything is going swimmingly until it is.

(The Country Man has lapses of confidence like anyone else. He's only human, after all. But it just means he works harder at fixing whatever it was that affected his confidence.)

3. The Modern Man is considerate. At the movie theater, he won't munch down a mouthful of popcorn during a quiet moment. He waits for some ruckus.

(The Country Man seldom sees a movie in a theater – they're generally too far away – but he holds doors for women, carries heavy packages, and otherwise behaves like a gentleman.)

4. The Modern Man doesn't cut the fatty or charred bits off his fillet. Every bite of steak is a privilege, and it all goes down the hatch.

(Agreed. The Country Man would do the same, since he's the one that raised the beef.)

5. The Modern Man won't blow 10 minutes of his life looking for the best parking spot. He finds a reasonable one and puts his car between the lines.

(The Country Man tries to avoid going anywhere he would have to spend 10 minutes looking for a parking spot.)

6. Before the Modern Man heads off to bed, he makes sure his spouse's phone and his kids' electronic devices are charging for the night.

(Assuming the Country Man's children are steeped in electronics, he thinks it's their responsibility to charge their own devices. If a Country Man wants to courteously charge his wife's electronics – assuming she has any – that's fine.)

7. The Modern Man buys only regular colas, like Coke or Dr. Pepper. If you walk into his house looking for a Mountain Dew, he'll show you the door.

(A Country Man drinks what he likes. If you don't like what he has to offer, don't drink it. But in most cases there's always beer. Just think beer.)

8. The Modern Man uses the proper names for things. For example, he'll say "helicopter," not "chopper" like some gauche simpleton.

(The Country Man, far from being a gauche simpleton, frequently continues to use the jargon he learned in the military where "chopper" was a regular part of the lexicon. Now let's back up: Who are you calling a "gauche simpleton"?)

9. Having a daughter makes the Modern Man more of a complete person. He learns new stuff every day.

(The Country Man knows ALL children are blessings. He teaches his daughters to be ladies and his sons to be gentlemen. He does NOT teach them boys can be girls and vice-versa.)

10. The Modern Man makes sure the dishes on the rack have dried completely before putting them away.

(The Country Man is often so busy doing chores like cutting firewood, feeding livestock, building structures, hunting to provide meat for his family, and other manly responsibilities that putting the dishes away isn't even on his radar.)

11. The Modern Man has never "pinned" a tweet, and he never will.

(Ditto. I'm not even sure what "pinning a tweet" is, and I'm thankful my Country Man doesn't know either.)

12. The Modern Man checks the status of his Irish Spring bar before jumping in for a wash. Too small, it gets swapped out.

(Really? Irish Spring? This defines manhood? Ooookay. Whatever.)

13. The Modern Man listens to Wu-Tang at least once a week.

(My Country Man asked, "What the heck is Wu-Tang?" It seems this is a hip-hop group from New York City. My Country Man listens to 70s country-rock. I listen to classical Baroque. Listen to hip hop? Not on your tin-type.)

14. The Modern Man still jots down his grocery list on a piece of scratch paper. The market is no place for his face to be buried in the phone.

(Let's face it, the Country Man tells his wife to please not forget [whatever] at the grocery store. As for the Country Woman, it would never in a zillion years occur to her to look for a grocery list on a telephone. Telephones are for making telephone calls. Duh.)

15. The Modern Man has hardwood flooring. His children can detect his mood from the stamp of his Kenneth Cole oxfords.

(The Country Man's fixer-upper home often has 100-year-old hardwood floors by default. As for Kenneth Cole oxfords – pause while I gasp with laughter – try steel-toed boots instead.)

16. The Modern Man lies on the side of the bed closer to the door. If an intruder gets in, he will try to fight him off, so his wife has a chance to get away.

(The Country Man sleeps with a shotgun by his bed so both he AND his wife have a chance of "getting away." The wife, incidentally, has her own firearm in convenient reach as well. It's the intruder who's unlikely to "get away.")

17. Does the Modern Man have a melon baller? What do you think? How else would the cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew he serves be so uniformly shaped?

(Oh please. The Country Man picks his own melons fresh from the garden. After that, all he needs is a butcher knife to cut the melons.)

18. The Modern Man has thought seriously about buying a shoehorn.

(The Country Man buys footwear that fits and doesn't think anything else about it. But if he were caught using a shoehorn by his buddies, the ribbing wouldn't be worth it. Also, does it strike you that the Modern Man is a little fixated with shoes?)

19. The Modern Man buys fresh flowers more to surprise his wife than to say he is sorry.

(The Country Man surprises his wife with a fresh pack of ammo. Or a fresh pack of canning jars. Or a fresh bundle of 2x6s, after which he proceeds to build her the livestock feeder she's always wanted. Flowers? She can pick those in the pasture.)

20. On occasion, the Modern Man is the little spoon. Some nights, when he is feeling down or vulnerable, he needs an emotional and physical shield.

(The Country Man loves to spoon and be spooned. I don't know if feeling "down" or "vulnerable" or requiring an "emotional and physical" shield has squat to do with it.)

21. The Modern Man doesn't scold his daughter when she sneezes while eating an apple doughnut, even if the pieces fly everywhere.

(What?)

22. The Modern Man still ambles half-naked down his driveway each morning to scoop up a crisp newspaper.

(The Country Man shoots a bear from his doorstep while buck naked. Yes, really. One of our neighbors did this. The "buck-naked bear" has become local legend.)

23. The Modern Man has all of Michael Mann's films on Blu-Ray (or whatever the highest quality thing is at the time).

(Who the heck is Michael Mann and why is he important? My Country Man and I had to look this one up. Nope, neither of us has ever seen a Michael Mann film.)

24. The Modern Man doesn't get hung up on his phone's battery percentage. If it needs to run flat, so be it.

(Oh please. What's this obsession with phones? The Country Man remembers what life was like before the ubiquitous cell phone and is perfectly comfortable going hunting or fishing without one.)

25. The Modern Man has no use for a gun. He doesn't own one, and he never will.

(The Country Man knows a gun is a tool, like a chainsaw or a hammer. He owns anywhere from several to a lot. He knows he can protect his family, unlike the so-called "Modern Man" who would cry like a baby upon meeting A Bad Guy intent on harming his family.)

26. The Modern Man cries. He cries often.

(Cries "often"? My Country Man said "GAAK." Maybe the Modern Man met the Bad Guy mentioned in #25. The Country Man doesn't cry unless he's grieving. Otherwise he just takes care of things. Occasionally with a gun. See #25. Or #16.)

27. People aren't sure if the Modern Man is a good dancer or not. That is, until the D.J. plays his jam and he goes out there and puts on a clinic.

(The Country Man does a mean two-step or swing. And don't forget slow dancing.)

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is a brief primer on the differences between the "Modern Man" and the Country Man. You're welcome.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Mission: Impossible

Now that the weather has cleared and Snoqualmie Pass is passable (on a dependent basis, that is), Older Daughter is progressing toward obtaining a nanny position in the Seattle area. Yesterday she had a phone interview with a respectable placement agency, which termed her résumé "impressive" and basically said she could have any job she wished. Next week, she'll likely be heading west to interview in person with both the agency and with a prospective employer.

In the midst of these plans and arrangements, Don found a hilarious "help wanted" ad for a nanny profiled on The Chive. (Warning: Some inappropriate language.)

It seems a single female CEO with twin ten-year-olds is in need of some household help. At first the requirements seem fairly straightforward.


But as the old saying goes, "But wait -- there's more!" Dig deeper into the requirements and they get weirder and weirder, bordering on creepy. ("Has room in their heart to love the kids and the mom" "willing to work out together in the home gym with the mom...")



Go read the entire job description. It's jaw-dropping. Essentially the nanny must be an Olympic athlete in several different sports, a computer whiz, a vegan gourmet chef, a college professor, a CPA, an in-house Human Resources manager, a Ph.D. in psychology, fluent in several languages, and be "civil-rights oriented." Oh, and she has to like kids too.

Of course a single female CEO with ten-year-old twins is going to need some household help. I get that. But I genuinely wish her the very best of luck finding a suitable candidate. To me, this sounds like Mission: Impossible.


Sunday, January 26, 2020

Eagles and coyotes

The other day a bald eagle swooped over and landed in a tree near our barn.


I mentioned to Don and Older Daughter that if we still had our chickens, I'd be out there guarding them with a baseball bat. An eagle could easily pluck off a hen.


But since our chickens now belong to some neighbors, we didn't have to worry about losing any to predation. Instead, we could watch and enjoy this majestic bird.



Then early yesterday morning, just as it was getting light, I looked up from my computer screen and thought our neighbor's dog was loose in their field. Turns out it was a coyote.


I watched it for quite some time as it wandered around, sniffing after voles and sometime digging for them.


Evidently he didn't find much, since he soon moved on. Once again, our chickens would have been vulnerable, but they're safe in their new home.


Coyotes and eagles. Just part of North Idaho living.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Trivia

I apologize for the blog silence! I've been busy with writing assignments, we're working on an enormous wholesale tankard order, and we're hosting the neighborhood potluck tonight.

So, as a placeholder, let me modify an older blog post and present some trivia:

• I’m left-handed but use scissors with my right hand (they didn’t have left-handed scissors when I was in kindergarten). My husband is also left-handed (including scissors), yet somehow between us we managed to hatch two right-handed kids. Go figure.

• I played the flute for many many years. Was quite good at it too.

• I used to dance ballet semi-professionally. That was many years and many pounds ago.


• When I was ten years old, my parents moved from New York State to California. Oh my goodness, I hated it there. I never did adapt to California. But living in California did give me one wonderful thing: my husband.

• I hate to cook but love to bake.

• I hate to sew but love to can.


• I hate coffee but love tea (except Earl Gray).

• I hate anything to do with crafts. No patience, I guess.

• I honestly don’t mind mucking out manure.


• I can’t set a mousetrap to save my life. I’m good at emptying them, though.

• I get seasick at the drop of a hat.

• When I was 16, I had an honest-to-goodness (and real freaky) out-of-body experience. I hope I never have one of those again.

• My favorite fruit is peaches. I like to joke that I’d sell my birthright for peaches.


• I adore broccoli in any size, shape, or form.

• I didn’t get my ears pierced until I was 20.

• I weigh too much. Working on it.

• Without my glasses, I am blind as a bat – my vision is about 20/450.

• I adore writing (obviously) but I’m absolutely dismal at grammar. Any grasp of grammar is purely instinctive.

• I have a phobia of zero gravity. You know, the sensation you get on roller coasters and other horrors. My idea of the entertainment from hell would be to go bungee jumping or skydiving.


• When I was 16 I decided I wanted to become a field biologist after reading (about 250 times) Jane Goodall’s “In the Shadow of Man.” I still passionately admire Dr. Goodall. My dad took me to hear one of her lectures back in 1980 (a kindness I've never forgotten) and she signed my copy of her book. I majored in Zoology in college and Environment Education in grad school and worked as a field biologist for many years.



• One summer, while working as a field biologist, I stepped on two yellow jacket nests a week apart and was stung a total of 15 times. It gave me a terrible phobia of wasps that lasted about 20 years.

• I loathe tuna more than almost any other foodstuff on the planet. Even the smell makes me sick. I don’t care for celery either, largely because of its association with tuna.

• I have never touched drugs in any size, shape, or form (except prescription). I’ve never smoked. I drink one glass of wine (never red) about five times a week. I got drunk twice in my life (the first
time on red wine, hence the aversion) and decided never again.

• My ancestry is half Polish, half French. My paternal grandparents immigrated to this country around the turn of the (last) century. My mother’s people are Cajun French, descendants of the Acadians who were kicked out of Canada and eventually found their way to the bayous of Louisiana. My mother didn’t speak English until she was five and went to school.

• My husband and I tend to be obsessed with books. At one point we owned well over 5000 of them, though we’ve thinned our collection down to about 4000 or so.

• I love Baroque music and usually have it playing on my computer, quietly, all day long.

• Green is my favorite color.

• Don and I are coming up on our 30th anniversary. Where do the years go? He is my greatest blessing in life. Our kids are our next greatest blessings.

• I’m something of a jigsaw puzzle junkie. Doing puzzles relaxes me. I usually have one in the works at all times.


• I don’t like hot weather. I don’t mind cold weather. Hot summers are one of the factors that sent us fleeing from California.

• I’m an introvert and can go days without leaving home. Love our weekly potlucks, though.

So there you have it. Trivia.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Snow whomp

Whew, what a snow whomp we got over the past week!



It was no surprise when our driveway got drifted shut numerous times.


Ditto with the road leading in.


Don and the rest of the neighborhood men joined forces to clear the snow with tractors and plow blades. This photo is of our neighbor D., but everyone else pitched in over the last week as we got dumped on again and again.


Darcy did his part to "melt" some snow.


On one particularly dramatic afternoon, Don and Older Daughter and I took Darcy out walking during heavy sideways-blowing snow.



Can you see the white-on-white snow blowing beyond the tree?


We found out later that, at the height of this storm, our neighbor's cow finally had her calf.


Knowing this baby was due to be born at the exact wrong time of year, they had set up a cozy shelter for mama and baby, complete with heat lamp. The little bull calf is doing fine.



The neighbors' ducks seem to like the snow.


For some reason, the snow has triggered geese flying south. We've seen dozens of formations with hundreds (or thousands) of geese flying out in the last week.


Taking Darcy walking in the field once more required snowshoes.


After walking, it's easier to leave my boots strapped to the snowshoes. I had the bright idea to cover the top of the boots with plastic bags and rubber bands. As it turned out, that was wise.


Much of Darcy's twice-a-day exercise has been chasing snowballs, which means bounding over the fields.



This results in massive "jingle balls" of snow on his fur, some the size of cantaloupes.




Then he drags these into the house and spends the next hour chewing them off his fur, while we periodically scoop up the snowballs and dump them in the sink.



Right now the snow is about 15 inches deep.



So it's a winter wonderland out here, though we're on a slight warming trend. We'll see what the next couple of weeks are like.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Late or early?

Are you someone who is chronically late? Or are you someone who always arrives on time or even early?


We all know those annoying people who insist on rushing out of the house because they're obsessed with punctuality. Similarly, we all know those annoying people who are chronically late for any and all appointments.

So what gives? What makes someone obsessively punctual or habitually tardy?

A recent article in The Guardian entitled "Beat the Clock: The Surprising Psychology Behind Being Perpetually Late" didn't offer much by way of explanation. "There are probably as many reasons for unpunctuality as there are habitually late people," the article begins, and covers such possible motives as early childhood training, passive-aggression, a feeling of unworthiness, a reluctance to change gears, a sunny and optimistic disposition, or a sociable nature that enjoys chatting with anyone with whom they cross paths (thus making them late).

Those who are rigidly punctual in their behavior have been termed the "uptighterati" and "schedule obsessives." Such people are often counseled to slow down, dude. The author of this article describes herself "as an early person with my own set of neuroses" for whom being late would make her "ill with anxiety."


In another article (by a different author), the writer found herself in the casual professional atmosphere of Brazil, where the concept of timeliness was far more fluid. This came as a culture shock in more ways than one. "To members of the Uptighterati, like me, it’s almost impossible not to interpret the Brazilian attitude to time as a form of laxness, however enviable. But that judgment masks an unexamined assumption that punctuality is obviously the only meaningful temporal standard, which different cultures observe or ignore to differing degrees."

This author says "there’s something odd about the punctuality principle, which involves first mentally conjuring an abstract timeline, then trying to make reality conform to it. The alternative – often mistaken for slacking – is what scholars call 'task orientation' ... in which the rhythms of life emerge from life’s activities themselves. It’s less that Brazilians are failing to abide by a timetable, than that they’re successfully abiding by something else."

Here in the Lewis household, we tend to fall on the side of the "uptighterati" spectrum -- but that's only if we have someplace to go, which we often don't. When we're at home, working at our own pace and our own schedule, we're definitely in the laid-back camp.

Perhaps that's why I've always liked the old story about the successful businessman, vacationing in a foreign fishing village, who starts lecturing a younger local man on the secret of success. Instead of whiling his life away fishing and drinking and playing music with his friends -- the businessman says -- he should expand his fishing operation, hire employees, make millions, then eventually retire‚ so he can spend his days fishing, drinking and playing music with friends.

So what end of the spectrum do you hit? Are you early or late? And what's your logic/reasoning/motive behind it?

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Cheesy potatoes

One of our favorite family recipes is cheesy potatoes. Here are the steps for the perfect version.

I recommend a nonstick pan.


Start with potatoes. How many? That depends on your pan size, how many people you’re feeding, and how hungry everyone is. Three medium potatoes usually fills our particular pan.


Peel the potatoes, then grate them.


Then – and this is a critically important step – squeeze the juice out of the potatoes before putting the shredded mix in a bowl.


Next, grate some cheese. How much? That depends on how much cheese you like. (Despite the vagueness of these measurements, you’ll learn how much cheese you prefer through experience.)


Mix the grated cheese and the grated potatoes together.


Melt some butter in your pan.


Pack the potatoes into the pan, pressing down to make everything compact. Add salt and pepper to taste. Do not cover the pan.


Now here’s the hard part: Cook the potatoes on LOW heat. It takes something like 15 minutes to cook one side, but if you turn up the heat the potatoes will get too dark while leaving the inner parts uncooked. Be patient!

When the potatoes are browned on one side to your satisfaction, it’s time to flip them.


I slide the half-cooked potatoes onto a plate and add a touch more butter to the pan.


Then I flip the potatoes and let the other side cook. This takes a bit less time, perhaps 10 minutes. Don’t forget to salt and pepper (to taste) the second side.


The result is a delicious, crisp, cheesy plate of potato goodness.


A friend with many children who uses this recipe modifies it a bit. She has a griddle on her stove, and spreads a lot of grated potato/cheese mix across the griddle. This way she can feed all her kids at once.

However you cook it, enjoy!