Hubby and I were invited to a birthday party yesterday, for a neighbor who lives down the road, and who is really the only neighbor we know very well – the fellow who tends to drop by and not leave – I wrote about him a while back. He is forty-something, and we were the only non-family members who came for his pizza-and-cake party.
We were dreading going, a little. They are a really nice family, but once we’ve exhausted the weather and the price of wheat, there aren’t too many things to talk about, and visits tend to stretch into long, uncomfortable silences. They don’t really play board games or cards, so there aren’t too many non-talking diversions available. However, we do like them as people, and certainly did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so we packed up a jar of pickled carrots (the birthday boy’s favorites) went anyhow.
There were a couple of cousins and an aunt and uncle, who all turned out to be really quite cool. The aunt (80) and uncle (90) still farm and keep a big garden, and she cans quite a lot, still. Also, they have traveled extensively, including backpacking Australia not all that long ago. And they’re talkers, which took the pressure off us. Auntie and I got to talking about different types of squash which grow well in the area, swapping canning recipes (I must get her recipe for canned chicken; everyone in the room was reminiscing fondly about that one), and discussing how best to store onions so they won’t rot. Uncle was regaling us with stories from the Depression. Auntie got onto talking about back when they kept livestock, and when Uncle sold her last milk cow on her, ten years ago. One of the cousins used to work at the office I’m at now, so there was a certain amount of shop talk, as well.
When we lived in town in Alberta, I felt like the only person who wanted to have a garden and make my own salsa. The idea of wanting to keep chickens and goats were shocking to our neighbors out there, who just could not comprehend why we would want to be tied down with livestock when eggs and milk and meat are so cheap at the store.
Out here, we fit right in. The old folks (and that’s most of the neighbors, really) nod approvingly when we talk about growing real food in a big garden, and having enough to eat even if there’s not much money in the budget. Everybody cans, at least a couple pints of jam and a jar or two of pickles, and nobody questions why one would plant a few apple trees and some raspberries. It’s just what’s done here. Not weird, or unusual, or even “hippy”; just how things should be. That’s such a relief, after explaining ourselves over and over to people who are just puzzled about why we’d be so crazy as to want to put all that effort in.
We have been very bad about getting out to meet the neighbors. We’re both quite shy when it comes to cold-calling, and we’ve been worried about being pegged as ‘those hippies up the road’. I don’t think we have all that much to worry about, though, if the folks we’ve met so far are any indication. Now, we just have to find a better way to introduce ourselves to the folks we have not met yet…