It is too cold to cross-country ski so Kick and Glide is inside at the keyboard. I must admit that I am becoming a bit of a wuss. I prefer to ski in the blue wax zone (-1 to -10); I’ll ski in the green zone, (-10 to -15), but silver (-15 to -30) is just too darn cold. By the way, those temperatures for wax application are a generalization of the Swix company waxes. They do over-lap, so under certain conditions you might get away with using green at minus seventeen … sorry, way off topic.
I would like to come back to JMS and FFG’s questions relating to what is a positive image, or idea, of rural life. It is a good question and it has stayed with me, in part because I wasn’t really sure what the answer was. So I’ve been thinking of examples and I have a few that suggest what we already know, that rural life has changed, is continuing to change as we speak, and is too diverse to fit into one neat little definition.I won’t go into detail about these “examples” so that you can learn more about them on your own if you wish and make up your own mind. They do have things in common and while they do have old rural roots, they are each in their own right cutting edge.
My first positive example of rural life is Serben Free-Range, a local supplier of meat and eggs, owned and operated by Jered and Julia Serben (http://www.serbenfreerange.com). Julia has lived in several urban centres and now farms in Smoky Lake, Alberta. So she would certainly appreciate the contrast between rural and urban. She said it wasn’t easy to explain what rural life was because each person’s experience may be very different. She also said that rural life was too complicated to be captured in pictures, although she has tried. Serben Free-Range can be found at the Saturday morning farmers market at city hall in Edmonton and Julia’s book of photographs is on their table.
Here is some input from Julia herself, who also recommends the site FarmHer.com (http://FarmHer.com): “Here are a few other thoughts I have on rural life; things that I find strikingly different from (or superior to?) urban life:
—The relationships between and among families are complex and extensive. They are generations deep; layers of aunties and cousins and in-laws cast about the countryside. There is no urban equivalent, and surnames are irrelevant.
—The physical spaces in a small town carry a different social element compared with the equivalent urban spaces. Errands are not carried out solely for the purpose of acquiring goods, but to visit and talk. In contrast, urban shopping is cold and impersonal, and after years in a rural setting, it becomes almost eerie to be surrounded entirely by strangers when moving about the city.
—In a similar vein, the town ‘community hall’ has a different, and in my opinion, beautiful social element. The same physical space holds weddings and funerals, spaghetti suppers, Remembrance Day ceremonies, and graduations. It is more than just infrastructure.
—And finally, and most obviously, it is a beautiful thing to look out one’s windows and see the horizon. I doubt that people who have lived exclusively rurally find any of the above mentioned remarkable whatsoever!”
Back to Kick and Glide: The second example I have of positive rurality is the Waldron Grazing Co-op, in the foothills of southern Alberta, along highway 22, fondly referred to in AB as The Cowboy Trail. I found the story of this Co-op fascinating. Talk about running contrary to stereotype, but what these land owners have done is truly impressive. [Added by FFG: The Waldron Grazing Cooperative, a 54,480 acre operation with a 10,000 head grazing capacity, received The Environmental Stewardship Award (TESA) in 2010, in recognition of the Co-op’s sustainable management practices. Innovations include the delayed entry of livestock in the spring to strengthen the grasses. According to the press release issued at the time of the award, the Waldron protects the grasses, sedges, and trees of the range land from erosion, while using pasture rotation and timing to increase efficiency in grass utilization.]
The third example is one that I have recently written on, so I’ll just drop the name and you can decide what you think. In South Africa there is a movement called the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative, or BWI (http://www.wwf.org.za). It’s complicated, but check it out online and let us know what you think.
The above are all agricultural based examples of what I would loosely call modern rural life. Herring fishing on Grand Manan, or what’s left of it, may also be thought of as rural.
As a young boy, I lived on a mining property in Northern Quebec with five other families. It seemed rather rural at the time. So I ask, does rural simply mean outside of the city? The list is extensive and we will never arrive at a single definition, or even a consensus on a definition, but isn’t the mosaic fascinating.