Monday, July 25, 2011

Who am I? Marie Antoinette?

While I am all for eating cake, I otherwise bear little resemblance to the much-maligned and entirely beheaded former queen of France. But among her often-ridiculous affectations an possessions, she had something I am starting to understand the need for: a retreat in the form of a hobby farm village. It was a tiny, working mini-farm with a herd of 8 cows and one bull. The farm provided food for the parties that the queen held there, and gave her a chance to escape the intrigues of palace life and play peasant while it pleased her to do so.

Of course, the farm itself was run by a real farmer, appointed by the queen. She couldn't be expected to make the thing an actual going concern, could she? She'd get callouses or something. Of course, the fact that the queen amused herself by milking carefully washed cows was part of the reason she lost her head. Being frivolous while glaring class divides exist in your country tends to piss people off. Never mind that this was how she was raised, having been treated to gardens and menageries as a child. Le Petit Trianon was probably an immense comfort to a person whose main (and failed) function as a person was to produce a viable Dauphin.

Of course, I am not under the kind of pressure she was under. Nobody gave me much crap for being entirely unable to conceive. Actually, Marie Antoinette had several children, so she is well up on me there. But I'm still considered a mostly worthwhile person, I figure.

But this isn't about political pressure and class warfare. It isn't even about the indignity of infertilty. It's about goats.

Or rather, it is about farm animals in general. Whether it is inspired by Jacob's endless collection of books extolling the virtues of farm life (The duck says "quack"!), or the fact that I love fresh goat cheese, or the other fact that some of my friends are getting a chicken coop, I suddenly find myself fantasizing about having a few farm animals of my own. Not because I want to go back to my country-fried roots. I don't want 100 head of anything. I just want a vanity farm. Just a garden and few cool animals that would, given care, provide me with the makings of goat cheese and butter and eggs. Not like I don't buy that stuff at the farmer's market, anyway.

Animals are cute. They do funny things. There is something sort of sweet about the pugnacious affection of goats in particular. But I am dreaming if I think I have time, given my hectic work schedule, to milk a freaking goat or sticking my hands under a bunch of chicken butts for my breakfast omelet ingredients. Plus, there are the, um, poop issues. I whine about picking up after my labradoodle's messes. What would I do with the output of a 135-pound nanny goat?

But surely you can see the appeal. Living closer to the land and having your kid grow up caring about other living things. Having fresh food that hasn't been processed eight different ways before reaching said kid's mouth. The romantic idea of animals that come running when they see you, even if it is only because you are the one that feeds them.

Oh yeah. Feed. That shit's expensive. In what economy do I figure I live? One where they don't build houses right on top of each other? Not really.

So what is that feeling about? Maybe I am just craving a little extra space and a pastoral sort of arrangement. It sounds nice. But given the fact that I left the small town/rural area I came from for lots of reasons, shoveling manure among them, it probably isn't going to happen.

I have a lot of half-baked ideas lately. I'm trying to figure myself out. I contain multitudes and contradict myself daily. (Thank you Walt Whitman, for saying it best.) Who am I? Certainly not Marie Antoinette, but I can appreciate the no-win aspects of her life in that no matter what she tried to be, she lost her head because of libelous public opinion. It might be good to be the king, but it seems like being the queen kind of sucks. At least she had her farm, where she could pretend life was simpler. It was probably fun while it lasted.

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