Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Not just a Farmer; I'm now a Rural Chick!

I've always thought of myself as a city gal. I love the buzz of urban activity, the way people hurry from here to there, the feel of concrete under my feet, the fabulous restaurants and shop-window displays to savor. The array of sights and sounds has always had a way of energizing me, from D.C. to Boston to New York to San Francisco.

As a gag, Sara sent me her high-school-vintage Lee overalls to me
when I still lived in SF, but was getting ready to move to the vineyard.

It's now been nearly seven years since our move from Silicon Valley and San Francisco up to Sonoma County, where my front "yard" is a few acres of hillside grapevines, a large vegetable garden, and a steep, wooded hill. My backyard reveals oak tree after oak tree, a west-facing view across the valley, and the summer pasture where the sheep (and dog and hen and barn cats) graze, nap, and chew the cud. I can't see my nearest neighbor, and the most prevalent sounds are crickets and frogs chirping and croaking, neighboring donkeys braying, and hawks screeching. Unless I leave the farm, and there are many days when I do not, the only people I might see besides Farmer John are the vineyard workers across the deer fencing on the adjacent property, the UPS driver, the propane delivery guy, and well, that's about it.

To be clear, while our home setting is decidedly rural, our property is just barely east of the city limits of Santa Rosa, a city with a population of 160,000. It takes only15 minutes to get to the freeway and about an hour to get over the Golden Gate into San Francisco. Easy access and egress were desirable characteristics upon purchasing our property and later quitting our "day jobs" to move up here and farm. I wanted to feel like I could easily go to and from the city to play or just to get "out of Dodge" for a spell.

But I've found myself gravitating to a different state of mind over the last 6 months or so, and I'm pondering and marveling at a new moniker: Rural Chick. It started late in the summer when Sally added me to an unlisted and private Facebook group called Rural Women Rock. Within about two weeks, there were 500 women in the group, all of whom were invited by some other rockin' rural woman. There was a flurry of conversation threads from women of all ages, all over the country, centered around rural life and our places therein. One post that I got a huge kick out of was by an Indiana woman in her mid-20s who was preparing for a "combine date," and was seeking suggestions about what she might prepare and pack into a dinner picnic basket. If you're wondering, as I did in a comment on the post, exactly what a combine date is, here's the response from a more "experienced" cattle ranching woman from Iowa: it's when your date consists of riding in the buddy seat of the combine (tractor) with your "friend." 

There were many conversations about blogging and social networking; it's where I finally realized that I had some things to say, and that's how my blog started! I was introduced to an eclectic collection of women's blogs, and really learned a lot about other people's agricultural interests and ways of life. We  talked as a community about the business of raising animals for food, canning fruits and vegetables, rural and farmer fashions, rural parenting, what we liked to drink after a long day of work, and just shared mutual admiration and support for a lifestyle in rural American communities. I was fascinated with the group, and enjoyed chiming in with comments. Alas, two months after its inception, the group imploded when an "outside" rockin' rural woman happened to buy the Rural Women Rock name, URL, and Twitter handle. Some of the inside women decided that they wanted no part of a group with a name that someone else had bought the usage rights for and would -- GASP! -- try to make a profit from. 

All activity in the group ceased, and another new "page" was formed, but the community aspect, where anyone could start a conversation, was kaput. I still follow some of the blogs, but found myself missing the camaraderie of the community, even though it had been with people I didn't even know! About a month later, I received a very cool invitation from, Deborah, my Sheep School and Lamb Camp partner, and it reignited my interest in communing with rural women -- in person! --  right in my own area.

How could I resist?! It was right up my alley.

Rural Chicks doing the Rounds of local Roadhouses! And they invited me! Who knew, when I said "I Do," that I would both identify with AND be identified by others as a Rural Chick! Can you tell I'm energized by this? Woohoo! The first meetup was in December, when 5 of us convened in western Sonoma County for "dishin', cussin', bitchin', and heehawin' " The only thing missin' in the list was drinkin', and we did that too. 

Other than all being women who live and work in an area that is somewhat rural, though proximate to population centers, we are all passionate about and somehow work in agriculture. After that first night out, I was excited to have some new friends, and we saved the date for a January outing. That follow-up outing was last week, and 13 Rural Chicks came a-Round for a date at a fancy local Roadhouse, Barndiva, in Healdsburg. [Full disclosure: it was actually not a roadhouse this time, but we had a great time sharing our work and interests, and vowed that the Roundups would continue, with an emphasis on real roadhouses (read, casual and cheap!) where we could be loud and linger without bothering anyone.]

Of the 13 "chicks," nearly all of us write blogs and/or a website about our lives and work in a rural, agricultural community. As a group, we farm winegrapes, olives, milk, fruit and vegetables, and pigs and chickens. We have sheep, goats, alpacas, cows and horses, livestock guardian dogs and an assortment of ducks, geese, and hens. We all love good food, advocate for local agriculture that connects our farmers with residents and restaurateurs, and we teach people how to get involved in agriculture themselves. I am so looking forward to developing friendships and new ideas together with this group of Rural Chicks. Who knew?!


  1. What an awesome find for you, Deb. And they are lucky to have found you, too!

  2. Yes, we are lucky! A farmer, a writer, a friend, and one heckuva Rural Chick! Thanks Deb!!

  3. Rural is as much a state of mind as it is a state of location.

  4. I say we wear overalls to our next Roadhouse Round Up! Great time & good laughs - can't wait for the next one!