By Terri Smith —
It’s not easy coming up with public confessions on a regular basis. I usually sit in front of my laptop until the screen turns black trying to think of just what I’m willing to share. Today is no exception. I always try to think of things that maybe you yourself have had trouble admitting: admissions not too shocking but still worth reading. We all have confessions to make, but most of us don’t put them in the newspaper. But at last, I think I have come up with a confession that I probably have in common with quite a number of the inhabitants of the Cariboo.
Here it is: I’m sort of a hippy; I’m also a bit of a redneck. My friend Aimee said the term for this is “rippy.” Though I am not a fan of labels, this one is apt—or at least better than the alternative of, “hippy-crite.”
I, like many of the people I know, want to save the world. The senseless destruction of nature makes me sad and angry. I know that carpooling is the best option, and yet I love my truck and for a long trip I infinitely prefer to be on my own on the open road with my own choice of music and my own schedule. I’ll carpool if I must, but I won’t necessarily be happy about it. Especially if my companions are vegetarians. Not that I have a problem with vegetarians. I won’t buy meat from the grocery store. Our freezer only contains animals that were either raised here or by someone else who I know cares that the animal had a good life and a good death. But on road trips, all my scruples go out the drive-thru window and I often find myself finishing my A&W burger and fries before I remember that I wasn’t going to eat any more meat of mysterious origin.
I love beer, bonfires, and guns. But only craft beer from as local a source as possible. Bonfires should be built from scraps of wood from forest and yard clean-up, the ashes of which will later be composted. Guns are mostly for target practice on the cans since I really don’t like to kill anything and afterwards I will then very carefully gather them all up and take them to be recycled.
My wardrobe consists of a lot of secondhand skirts and organic cotton or bamboo shirts with pretty scarves and fancy toques. I like anything that looks like something an elf would wear as long as it’s organic and not made in a sweat shop. However, most of my days are spent in Muck boots, jeans, and a plaid wool jacket.
Coming across the dead stumps of old-growth fir trees makes me sad, yet I adore my chainsaw and a full woodshed of fir makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.
When we first started farming we made a decision to try to do as much by hand as possible so as to use the least amount of fossil fuels. If something could be done with a hand tool then that’s what we would use. But ideals don’t always line up with practicalities. The scythe we purchased in the first year has yet to be more than a novelty and we recently upgraded to the most powerful weed-eater we could afford. Rather than a tractor we planned on only ever using our beautiful, fuel-efficient rototiller. Six years later and I’m longing for a tractor: a nice big one, with a front-end loader.
Having ideals is great; whether or not one can keep to one’s ideals is another thing entirely. Before my mom and I started our chicken-sharing arrangement I would spend a ridiculous amount of time in the grocery store staring at the myriad options for eggs and not knowing which to buy. Did I want eggs from chickens who had the option of going outside (even though they probably never did), or eggs from chickens not fed other chickens? If a chicken is fed an antibiotic-free diet complete with flax seed did it still spend its whole existence in a battery cage? What is the difference between, “free-range,” and “free run?” Usually I would just feel too overwhelmed and not buy eggs at all. But on those rare occasions when we go out for breakfast I always order eggs Benedict.
Upon closer examination, hippies and rednecks have a lot more in common than might first be apparent. At the very least, they both spend a lot of time outdoors. The stereotypes for both groups can be pretty awful: hippies are supposed to dress in long skirts while they dance around barefoot in the forest with flowers in their hair, smoking weed and talking weird, flaky philosophy while eating nothing but raw, sprouted nuts. The stereotypical redneck dresses in camo all the time, drives around in a loud truck with big tires, drinks beer, shoots guns, and mows down whole forests while inarticulately voicing strong opinions against tree-hugging hippies. Neither of these images is very flattering or very true. I know hippies who drive big trucks and own guns and articulate rednecks who smoke weed.
Those confused souls who fall somewhere in the middle are my kind of people. To quote one of my favourite playwrites, “People don’t have their virtues and vices in sets; they have them anyhow, all mixed.” (George Bernard Shaw, Heartbreak House).
So, while I’m still going to cut down trees, I’m probably going to hug them first.
Terri Smith is an organic vegetable farmer in the Cariboo with Road’s End Vegetable Company. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Literature and a diploma in Art.