Country Mice?

Hubs and I live deliciously close to Boston. Like, not at rush hour, we can be downtown amid skyscrapers and three hundred-year-old cobblestone in about fourteen minutes. Our town is suburban to be sure, but we have easy access to all the pleasures of city living. We love fancy pants funky vegetarian and ethnic restaurants, we love museums, we love sports, ballet, we love diversity of people, culture, languages that all mesh together in an urban setting. We love bringing our children to the city and do so regularly often opting for sports, library visits and parks there. We love that Boston is a walking city. No matter how cold and nasty the weather, the sidewalks and city squares are flooded with people talking, laughing or grumbling, out together, often consuming ice cream in the act of brushing the snow off their windshields or front steps in a collective middle finger to New England winter.

Man I love the city. I have mastered all fear of driving in Boston and Cambridge. I have looked Boston cops in the eye whilst receiving their common belittling authority trips in front of my children. I don't even let that stuff phase me anymore. I look at parking tickets as kind of a user fee for participating in this amazing privilege of being a Bostonian.

I have often felt that anyone who lives more than twenty minutes from any of these: an airport, a Whole Foods, an art museum, a non-chain restaurant AND at least four world-class hospitals is unknowingly living in some kind of purgatory.

A few years ago I remember visiting my sister and her family who lived in Armpit, Colorado where the only store was twenty five minutes away by a highway and the it started with a W and ended with "mart." I couldn't believe her life, her only access to food, clothing and the outside world was through this retailer. The airport was more than two hours away. Hubs and I sadly shook our heads So sorry for them. (They have since moved near San Diego and we no longer hold any pity for them. I try not to think about their palm trees and weather.)

Our children love the city too. They love when Daddy plays softball in the North End so we can hear the canon boom from Bunker Hill and watch the sunset and the boats out in the harbor. They love Boston Common, the Science Museum, playing in the Christian Science fountain. We love every time we are down town running into other Ethiopians. The girls love the press of crowds, people out and about. People walking feels more like Ethiopia. It feels more comfortable. More brown people, more people. It just feels good to be in the city for them.

But we are thinking about trading in the convenience of our current location and moving from the city. We are thinking about overhauling a few things.  Those who follow on FB know that for a few months my kids have been "interning" at a farm.


Basically, they do chores (read: it's all about poop removal with animals), and we get to learn what it takes to run a farm.


They earn the privilege of learning how to take care of animals, learn where our food comes from, and it supports our raw milk habit.


 Straight from the goat, sometimes.



My kids and I are fulfilling for them a fantasy and for me, a life long dream of animal husbandry albeit on a small, practice scale.


And something magical has happened: Some days, we show up at the farm, work for two or three hours, and my kids say 'thank you' to the farmer, and then we go home. Do you get what I am saying? They are saying 'thank you' for a carton of eggs they collected, and the pleasure of having two inches of goat poop stuck to their boots and having to have ticks picked out of their hair. 

My kids are working their butts off. They are out in nature. They are are learning what real food is. They are enjoying animals, respecting them, the earth, each other and feeling grateful for it. 

It has been life changing. And I wanted to say it has been particularly meaningful and therapeutic for one or two of the kids, but I had to scrap that thought because Hubs and I have seen positive changes in every single one of the children because of this venture.

Tsega and Brady, the Dysregulated Twins, are learning, slowly, how to regulate. They know they need to be calm around animals to not scare them. They are trying. They are learning to listen, to follow rules, to pitch in and help, to remember the routine of what is expected. They can catch chickens.


It is slow work to learn to be calm, but it is happening. It is miraculous to watch.


And as each week has passed, our postage stamp back yard has felt smaller and smaller and less sufficient. We love our house. Our home. It is a very cool house and fits our family beautifully. We cannot complain. We love that we can see Trader Joes' and CVS from the front porch and that closeness to the city we love.

But the freedom, independence our kiddos feel while playing and working outdoors is magical and we just can't do that where we live. We cannot have chickens. We cannot grow a garden that would actually produce enough for this many people. Here, there isn't a remote possibility that someday we could have or ride with any regularity a horse, which is kinda an ultimate therapeutic lifestyle goal we've entertained since I was ten  since we realized anyone in this house with PTSD could benefit from it.



So we look at online listings for houses with land. Not just a big backyard. More than two acres. Room for animals if we wanted to go for it. Houses with barns. All of which means we'd be a little further from Boston. And it scares us because we want to have our cake and eat it on the T (the name for the train/subway in Boston.). We want to have it all. We don't want to move far, in fact, if we ever want to see Hubs who works downtown and our friends and family again, we must stay close.

The question that plagues these days: Can we be city mice and country mice? Can we have it all? Time will tell. The children almost dare not whisper their hope, because we very well may decide to stay put. It's hard to think about something and not get caught up in that, we are all trying to stay cautious. But they would embrace the space with the fury of children who desperately want to be out of ear shot and eye shot in woods belonging just to us, with no danger of cops being called on the mother who practices a bit o' free range parenting.

In the meantime, I am going to keep assisting with amazing feats such as sedating and debudding (burning the living snot out of horn buds) on baby goats the size of puppies.


Because I am learning too. I am grateful too. And who knows what the future holds for us?


K said...

I can tell you from childhood experience that growing up on a farm is magical. Just sayin'....

Ingrid said...

Love all of it (well, minus the horn thing... but that's the pretentious vegan in me talking)... can't get better than seeing your boys figure out calm. Make sure there's an extra room for when my clan comes out for a visit.

The Lost Planetista said...

We're country mice who toy with being city mice. We also toy with being tropical mice, but that's another story.

Paula said...

You know, my hubs and I used to live in Boston... and we absolutely DID NOT love it. You know why? (Besides the insane real estate prices and well, prices of anything really) For exactly the reasons you stated: for thinking that anyone who lives in a place different lives in "purgatory". My husband and I have lived all over the country, and nowhere did we encounter more snobbery against the Midwest than in lovely and historic Boston. We've always lived in nice suburban areas in medium to large cities; I can't even imagine what the typical Bostonian reaction would be to my current living situation in small town Nebraska. Heck, we live 8 miles outside of town. We can live anywhere we want and we CHOOSE to live in "Armpit", NE. Where my nearest retailer of any size is indeed the "W" place. I have to drive a whole half-hour to get to a grocery store with an actual deli counter. But we love our space, our town, our neighbors, our peace and quiet, our lack of outrageous traffic. I know you mean it all positively, but don't move to the country until you can embrace it and think of it as something better than backward and culturally bereft, but with more acreage. You couldn't pay me to move back to Boston... different strokes for different folks. Not necessarily better. Peace.

scooping it up said...

Paula, I am so sorry my post offended you. I do not pretend to represent anyone other than myself, I don't know what the typical Bostonian reaction would be to anything since I was really only talking about me, I am sorry for sounding snobbish. I've never been to the midwest and I don't know anything about it at ALL, but I do know this, many people DO want to live far from big cities and love it, I think that is great. We are looking at homes with land that are less than 40 minutes from downtown. I never said anyone was backwards who decided to live far from the city, and I know that everyone's definition of "far" is completely different. I had hoped my appreciation for that space and that distance and lifestyle came across since we've been spending so much time away from the city and are considering moving so as to enjoy it.

Z's mom said...

I have read your blog for a long time, never commented. First I want to say the obligatory, but very true, statement that I am full ow awe and respect for you. Second, I want to tell you that I noticed in these photos that Mimi and Fikir LOOK LIKE YOU. They really do! Go, look at the photos above...their expressions have begun to reflect your facial expressions. It is gorgeous. And so cool.

Jessica said...

Snobbish and offensive? No. Honest progression of your thoughts then and now. Yes.

I loved this post and the pictures are to die for. Especially Fikir's face with the pooper scooper. She's just radiating contentedness.

Also, you guys need to invest in some Bogs!! ;)