There are two lives I’d like to lead. One has opera. It is an urban life, a European life, with ballet and pastry and sleeper cars on Russian trains and holding hands with the fella along the banks of the Danube. It involves needing extra pages in my passport.

Radical Homemaking: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes. 352 pages. Left to Write Press. $23.95. The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen. 330 pages. Process. $16.95.

I had forgotten about the other life, almost entirely. Then about 50 pages into Radical Homemakers it came screaming out, my crazy Kansas genes. Kansas breeds eccentrics, like the guy who asked that after his death his corpse be displayed in his backyard in a glass-fronted case (it is.) Or native son John Brown, whose wild-eyed portrait is lovingly… More…

 

 

The Pennsylvania Farm Show is always pointing out that it’s the largest indoor agricultural event in the country, so maybe it makes sense to start with the buildings. The Farm Show is held just outside Harrisburg at the Farm Show Complex & Expo Center — a space, as its name suggests, dedicated to the Farm Show but supported throughout the year by car shows and rodeos and proms. Of course you can’t corral the Keystone State’s largest industry into one space overnight. It’s been an 80-year process that’s resulted in a hodgepodge of buildings with varying degrees of stylistic intent and temperature control. To say that to walk through the Farm Show is to walk back in time isn’t to be wistful for some diminishing agrarian way of life, but… More…

No one expected the comforts of home. Yet I did hope for something a little more pleasing. A little more, what, pretty? Maybe rolling fields, a big red barn, rustic flavor in that roadside-farmstand, bed-and-breakfast kind of way? But on this organic farm in rural Western New York there are no gently weathered chairs, no flowerpots or drying herbs or other signs of country artifice, just ragged ground and barns held up, it seems, by air.

My husband and I, and our friends, have become comrades in community-supported agriculture, members of a farm co-op that requires an investment not only of money, but of time. And this is our first workday. At the meeting where we’d learned about the farm, heard what was required of us and what we’d get in return, I’d looked around the room and felt suddenly aware of my lipstick. We were upstairs in a Quaker… More…