Earthy Farm and City Chic

Dwindling Country Vibe

Cyndi WatsonOnce again, this former New Englander has encountered lessons by default. Lessons that only several harsh winters, dirt driveways and wild scary animals could deliver to a non native woman that the country adopted can learn. I call these lessons "hazards." I have been honored to gaze over seemingly endless fields of wheat, corn or tobacco undisturbed for hours while my pets frolic about in those fields. Life in the country is a dream to some.

About six years back, I never conceived country life. I dismissed country life as everything hillbilly-ish. I never desired to pick up a pair of cowboy boots, or muck boots for that matter. I thought little of photos of blue heelers running in tall grasses as uneventful. To me, days or nights that included a drive down to the ocean’s edge were ideal and easily attained.

After spending years picking up chickens to raise from chicks, reading up on what it takes to keep happy chickens, and reading online all the ways I can grow my own foods, I reluctantly may move to a more citified town. The move would mean I may be considered a country woman, but I will be upgrading to a more citified address at the town center. The move is bittersweet for sure.

barn through the fence | photo by author 

Photo: Cyndi Watson

See, no one explained to me all the hazards of country life. The chickens, the feed, the cows, the cow feeding via the largest formula bottles I have ever seen, or the thousand-degree farmhouse temperatures in the summer months. Not one person ever could explain to me this- because when I moved to Kentucky, no one knew me, and I did not know anyone, so conversations were limited to passersby. Idle country chit-chat led divulged little of the secrets of rural life.

Like why old farmhouses often come with long dusty driveways on which no one seems to mow that little green patch in the middle of the driveway? Not a soul I ever had a conversation with during my rural living ever explained why no matter how high you raised the thermostat during the winter months, it was still so chilly I needed three layer shirts and heavy booties just to feel halfway warm. All the kind smiles and hello’s in passing never spoke a hint to how alone one can feel way out in the country when the storms plow through the fields, and you may find yourself feeling like Dorothy in the "Wizard of Oz," or even the Witch.

The hazards of country life are found quickly when your European-made car drives down the dusty driveway and falls into an invisible ditch- a ditch that seemed to appear overnight because it wasn’t there yesterday. That same European car encounters a thick piece of fencing that is hidden in the thick grass along the edge of driveway that jumps up and scrapes along the lower side of car. I should have bought a truck. You think I would have realized I needed a truck. Except, I am not a truck kind of woman. Kentucky makes you a truck-loving woman so there is little point in protesting. It just makes sense.

The hazards of country life are its rock-laden bumpy dirt roads, it’s many-years-rusted barbed wire fencing, the weird out-of-nowhere rain storms, and the way the breezy crops creep up into the recesses of your citified mind and nestle in. It is unfair how beautiful the rural life can be. You move into the rural area to experience a new place, a place totally unique to what you have experienced before, only to discover you can adapt, fall in love and be country.

I think that was the biggest hazard of the country life I have experienced so far. How deeply the country life embeds itself within. I know I am only moving a town over, a county over, but it really is a world away from the old graying barn and windy but hot crop fields I to which I have gotten so accustomed. The scary wild animals that crept into my yard and stole away each one of my dozen or more chickens over the past 12 months without even a trace.

This holistic coach gone country isn’t a phase either. I’m feeling I am still Cyndi, the Cyndi of New England. I am just that much more knowledgeable on gardening, old houses and what it really takes to be a real life farmer. Another hazard of the country experience is I know I will never be a real life farmer. I am and will be many things but not an actual farmer. What I will be is a woman who admires the hard work, care and survivalist nature of all the rural farmers I met while I lived in the country.

idyllic country scene

Photo: Fotolia/volgariver

My So Country Recipe

Cyndi WatsonI'm always going to be "city" at heart. I don't set out to change completely something I love. Country people are interesting in their own way. The country makes you more knowledgeable about the weather and its immediate effect on crops and animals. Living among the trees, rolling green fields, wild animals and raising livestock helps you adapt to co-existing better than say a city girl like myself. I can still remember when I experienced my first sultry summer in Kentucky. I learned that in old farmhouses, insects rule as do animals, and I discovered a use for the word critters. In all my life, I never used the word critters – now I had found a valid reason to.

I remember seeing the biggest bumblebees I have ever seen, during the first summer here. I would just hear the humming of a bee or any insect for that matter, and I would jump up swatting and jumping around. If I pretended to be adaptable during my first year, I failed miserably. Four plus years later, I am baking country side dishes, gardening fuller plots of land and swatting a lot less. I think I have adapted. I have maneuvered chicken poo as if it was a landmine on my back patio and around the grassy area of the coop like a pro. I still do not consider myself “country" in any way. I am happy pretending to be a country-fied girl on the outside. I think it's called: immersing oneself in the culture.

Now, I'm cooking.

Grilled Onions 

Uncle Wilson's Grilled Onions

2 to 4 white (sweet) onions, skinned and peeled, ready to cut
4 to 6 pieces thick cut bacon
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon coarse natural salt
A baking dish that will fit 2 to 4 med-large sweet onions in it.

Cut the top and base of the onion off. Do not otherwise slice or cut it. Salt the tops slightly, if you wish to keep sodium down, omit. Set aside all the onions once they are done.

Grab the baking dish and line it with a bit of foil.

Set the oven to preheat to 365 F.

Take two pieces of bacon – you may use a thinner cut bacon but the thicker bacon imparts a better flavor and, of course, crispiness in the end.

Wrap the sides of the onions with bacon keeping the tops clear of bacon. (Although wrapping bacon over the top sounds like it would be a great idea too.) Use a toothpick, if needed, to secure the bacon and continue to finish all onions this way.

When all the onions are bacon wrapped with two pieces, pop them into the baking dish. Dust the top of the onions with the dried rosemary and any other seasonings you like.

Bake for 90 minutes, or until softened and translucent.

Once they are finished baking serve right away. This side is great with Grilled – anything.

I tweaked this a bit. Discover the original here.

Cyndi :)

Funny Farm

Cyndi WatsonI could give a hundred reasons why the country, ahem, rural life could be fundamental to helping a person 'come alive,' but I won't give a hundred reasons. Do you ever feel that the ride to your 9 to 5 is ugly? Do you ever feel the landscape looks gray? Maybe you want to rip your high heel shoes off and fling 'em in the next trash receptacle you see, but you won't because you are reminded how expensive those shoes really are?

Just so you know, well-made rain or mud boots aren't much cheaper! Still ...

I have been there. I spent countless hours driving to work the same way, seeing the same tall gray and glass windowed buildings and often the same homeless people on familiar corners. I found myself racing to the next traffic light in hopes I wouldn't catch a red one. I was always in a rush. After four years in my rural spot, I'm hardly ever rushed and if I am, it's because of my own sloth like movements.

Some really easy and fun reasons I gave up the city life and its rat race:

* Chickens – a big leap from pigeons on a hot roof. Chickens are the bigger and fluffier version of city folk’s pigeons in the park, and you can own a few right at home. No more wasting gas visiting the grass.


* Cranky Neighbors – Miles of greeny-ness and a whole lotta distance between you and your funky but annoying neighbor who blasts her alternative nation music starting at 11 p.m., just when you start feeling tired.

* Traffic Jams – You might find a trailer jam, or tractor jam - they don't even sound as annoying as they do funny.

* Animals – You can actually own, keep and care for a larger animal that is traditionally bigger than Fido or Kitty. It's great to see them roam free as opposed to being chained up daily.

* Birds – Betcha if you lived in the city way too long, you forgot that birds actually come in other colors besides brown, black and gray, and they eat other things besides French fries.

And lastly ...

* Solitude – Readily available as needed and it can be mixed or matched with anyone of the previous benefits to giving up the city life. Solitude is often offered up as a main dish of the rural life. It isn't rationed off in small bits so you fear you will forget it. Nope, rural life offers the natural means to meditate.

A bonus thought I usually have – I can experience the solitude with my pets, in the green fields, away from noisy neighbors, full of vivid colors, singing and colorful birds, away from traffic jams of any kind and enjoy an open sky with an open heart.


Cyndi WatsonHere I am, asking how do I winterize my coop? I betcha I'm pretty late in the game huh, being it's almost April. I feel it's icy cold and the weather seems to be in a frosty-and-not-going-away-soon mode. Well, I am not going away either, at least not yet.

I have projects around the old farmhouse and projects in the next town over. I'm actually using my city girl gifts – to head up a small non-profit project. The project is to be an advocate for those who choose not to speak up, or cannot speak up for, what ever reason. The project also wants to share people's experiences in the area and help stamp out hunger. I know it's lofty. I even want to use my cooking gifts to join local farmer markets' to sell up some salsa, my way. Crossed fingers on that mini project.

All the while, keeping the farm up, caring for my animals, which seem to get dirtier and dustier by the minute from all the running around thye do on the property. Right now, this is some snow pictures to share with you quickly – my view of the farm. At least the dogs eat snow – so in that regard it's useful.

Snow Fall At The Farmhouse 

Old MacDonald Had A Farm and He Never Mentioned All This

Cyndi WatsonBeing the city girl that I imagine I am, I am still adjusting years later to my move to the Kentucky countryside. It is still a learning experience for me. I have my arms wide open for the nature and the opportunity to live at a slower pace. That song "Old MacDonald's Farm" is cute, makes it seem all giggles and bells on the farm front, doesn't it? The song should go into more details in its lyrics. Old Mac didn't mention foxes eat chickens. He didn't mention a small dog might disappear if left out in the vast acres of farm lands in which he roams. MacDonald did not mention never ever forget to shut and lock the doors of your coop or else.

He didn't even mention the cold drafty house would double in draftiness. If draftiness is even a real word that can detail how cold it can be inside an old farm house. Sometimes when I am alone at random times day or night I find myself reflecting on what it actually feels like inside a old farmhouse. I have often likened it to what it must feel like being locked inside a icebox for 10 minutes in the dead of winter. It's often that cold. MacDonald's song never mentioned how I would long for summer months – even though I loathe the hellish heat of Kentucky. 

My earthy farm, city chic essence feels more like being isolated on an island without the water, or the balmy trees (and warmth). I have had numerous chickens disappear over the unusually cold months of winter, and had my beloved pet vanish too. I look through the trees and out over the hills for hope. To see a little purple dot running along the hill side far away from the house. It hasn't happened yet. My Chihuahua has vanished and so have several chickens between last winter's start and this year to day. What has been on going and good is the animals I still enjoy. They still have the luxury of roaming, playing and sniffing around. My six chickens seem to be cautious but happy as they pick and pluck the ground for goodies.

Butta The Cat Hanging on  

I still have a love for the quiet, when not experiencing the harshness winter has shown me. I see the change in the trees, the ground soil and the wild animals seem all the more joyful. My cats still roam, catch and offer an occasional mouse or small bird by my back door – just to say I love you. city girl mama. The bobtail cat of mine seems to be coming alive in personality – out in the country. He's pretty boyant as he runs down the tree and onto my bedroom window screen. Country living, I couldn't beat it by living in the city. Could I? Either way, for now I will keep adjusting and learning as I stay here. I pretty much could teach Old MacDonald a thing about being city on the inside and living country life on the outside.

Crafty Farm Life

Cyndi WatsonThe farm has brought me so much discovery, that I can hardly place it into words here. Moving to Kentucky, leasing expansive farm land and living the good life has given me room to reflect. I am happy.

Even though my household is on one income, and it is often colder than I can care to admit, I couldn’t go back to the city life – not just yet. Moving out to the rural way of life has opened my heart to things I would have overlooked in the past, as pure wonderment, I feel inspired to be more creative.

I gaze out my window each morning and I can see hundreds of black birds that I haven’t identified yet as crows or not. They don’t strike me as crows – they are pretty large. Still they feast on the old crops of corn and perch in the trees like dark looming officiant, ever keeping watch of my goofiness, as I try to behave like a true country girl. I tend to the chickens, clean the coop, play with the dogs, and rake up old cobs of corn and their husks to fill the compost area with it. I see red birds, deep blue ones, and I even saw a baby owl perched in a tree late one evening.

I find myself doing some odd practices like collecting dead branches – as if I have a wood stove, which I don’t. I just think they have some usefulness I have yet to discover. Since the chill of snow has me inside more than outside these days, I found projects to occupy myself with.

Cyndi's simple chair project 

Enter the old school chair. I love re-purposing, redesigning and up cycling, and winter is the best time for some of these little projects. I found a small, school chair in a second-hand store. It was wood colored- stained and rather plain, too plain for my tastes. I went to work on it changing its plain blonde-stained wood color to a weathered white and black corner chair.

I thought it would be cute to add some handwritten words to it. When I wrote the words on the chair, I thought of my daughters.

Now, I still get out to the coop and still play around with my two dogs and two cats, but when it’s a near winter wonderland on the farm, I don’t miss the city or my hometown in New England. Instead, I feel creative and homey enough to turn one more shade of country. One thing I haven’t figured out is how to keep an old farmhouse from feeling so damn cold? I really love living in farm houses but since I lease property, how can I weather proof or insulate in small ways to keep the house toasty? After all, I have many more winter projects to do and the paint can’t be freezing up during the process. Ideas?


Disappearing Chickens

Cyndi WatsonIt's another month and a new week with GRIT. I was going to blog about the thousands of leaves frolicking across the lawn but I know everyone’s all set with that. I couldn’t possibly blog about Obamacare and how crazy people in my area are over the whole confusion, but that didn’t sound like a great match for GRIT. However, I do know what makes total sense to share with my fellow bloggers and readers on GRIT, chickens!

Let me first tell you my usual day routine. I get up early and I let the dogs in to say their morning wag and kisses, I set aside a few minutes to allow the cats to knead my chest and plop across my face, just to be sure I am awake, then it’s feeding time. When I head out for the day, I visit the coop. The coop is pretty dark at this time of the year, I hate the coop. The coop is dark and, well, poopy. My pretty chickens are usually cooing and gurgling and ready to break out. When I finally open the door a few roosters usually run past my feet, a few ladies fly down from the perch and others jump down from the nesting boxes like B-52 bombers, and I can forget playing with them – chickens might look pretty enough to pet or cuddle, but mine firmly dislike my attempts at cuddling.

Still they get cuddled and some mock petting goes on. What? You know what mock petting is, right? It’s when you bend down to pet the chicken closest to your feet, figuring she is giving you the opportunity to pet her. It’s when you just almost reach her pretty feathers that she pops off a few inches just out of your range, so you just hover there not actually getting to pet her = mock petting. What, you have never heard of it? Surely my chickens didn’t invent such a move. After the girls get table scrapes and some oats, I usually change out their water receptacles. Oh, the joy…

With the seasons changing once again, I forget that my chickens will be hunkering down for some chilly days and even chillier nights. I haven’t even begun to windproof their coop yet this season. Even though one keeps a fairly clean coop, it is never clean enough. Not until the chickens start to use a porta john (a chicken-John/porta-chicken?) or maybe if a chicken diaper is invented, it will be clean enough in the coop for extended visits. 

When I came home one afternoon, I noticed all the number of chickens running up to me seemed to have diminished. I can’t say when I started noticing the flock was thinning a bit, but it is apparent. Lady, Thing One and Thing Two, the three girls, the twins and one my husband named Cindy for some reason, were gone. I usually call out “Chickens!” and they all come out from wherever they are and run towards me or fly down from the smaller trees, but in the past day or so, fewer have been answering the call.


Photo: Fotokon/Fotolia

I usually shut and lock up the coop at night. I lease the farm, which I prefer because when you aren’t originally from the country like me, it can be expensive to run a farm. I have learned these old buildings can be a hella project if you don’t have experience fixing old stuff. Since, I am originally from the city, I tend to know my limits in terms of repairs of out buildings. I just don’t go there. If I could poll the remaining chickens, I am sure they would all vote for a newer, prettier and safer coop. Dually, noted.