Grit Blogs > Life in the Fast Lane

The Country in the Boy

Andrew WeidmanWhen I met my wife and we decided to travel the road of life together, I took her home to meet my family. Home was a small dairy farm in Dutch Country, Pennsylvania. Dad raised everything from dairy cattle and sheep to guinea fowl and geese; Mom liked to say that all we needed was a peacock and a jackass to get a zoo license, and that we really did operate a ‘Funny Farm.’ After my family met Jessie, my sister confided in my then-future mother-in-law that she always knew I’d marry someone from ‘the fast lane.’ Twenty years later, Jessie and I still laugh about ‘life in the fast lane.’

Making Hay
Amish farmers bale an August crop of hay in nearby Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. 

These days I live between two worlds, one industrial and the other agrarian. Maintaining heavy equipment in an aluminum mill keeps the lights on and food on the table, not exactly a homesteader’s first choice of a profession. Which brings us to confession No. 2.

I’m not a homesteader, not by a long shot. We live in Suburbia, just on the edge of a Metropolitan center, admittedly a small one, but metropolitan nonetheless. As close as we live to the city, we live just as close to the country. The farm where I grew up lies five miles to the north, Town Square, five miles south. On a quiet morning, the lowing of cattle drifts in my bedroom window. Ag tractors, semis and Amish buggies pass within earshot of the house on a regular basis.

The only ‘livestock’ we keep are three mixed breed dogs that are more like family than pets, and the garden has gone by the wayside, a victim of a swing shift job with long hours; but I still manage to keep my hands dirty. We have a small orchard of trees I grafted, and gooseberry bushes grow along one fence line of our property. The beds in our yard always have something blooming during the growing season, no thanks to any lawn care service; and if the need ever arose, we could ditch the yard and be able to grow a sizeable portion of our food supply.

Our cocker/poodle, Sophie, and one of our Yorkie/poodles, Scamp, love working in the yard, watching it, that is.

In the past 40 years, I have watched a lot of territory transition from rural through suburban to urban settings. My children have friends who grew up in neighborhoods where as a teenager I helped my dad bale hay. Farms that once grew corn and wheat now yield McMansions, seemingly overnight. More and more once-busy Dutch bank barns are being used as oversized garages or quietly return to the earth, victims of disuse and decay.

And yet, all is not lost. We can still purchase eggs and fresh produce, fruit and homegrown and butchered meats directly from the growers, as easily as from the supermarkets, sometimes more easily. I may not maintain a farm, but my children still know that food doesn’t come from the grocer’s, nor heat from the furnace.

The sun sets in a stunning display over the country skyline. 

At one time I traveled a fair bit with a construction job. The more places I saw, the more beautiful this place became. I love it here. It’s true, you can take the boy from the country, but you can’t take the country from the boy. It’s quiet here, this ‘living life in the fast lane,’ and I love it.