Monday, June 10, 2013

It Takes a "Bunny"

We are overwhelmed, at times, with nearly 100 acres to manage in one county and 11 at our residence. "Poor you," I hear some readers saying, but while such rural land is a blessing, if one plans to use the land for anything but scenery, a great deal of back-straining work must be done regularly and in all weathers. You can see what our land in Buckingham County looked like, from the photo above, in 2001. Today, thanks to a lot of family labor, the house looks very different indeed.

Ironically, I am trying to type with two very sore arms, the results of weeding, setting live-traps for ground hogs, and helping a contractor renovate an out-building into a usable and snake-free garden house and place to extract honey from our bee-hives.

That would never get done without having paid help one can trust. Try dealing with several 80' pine trees that topple in a snowstorm, all by yourself.

No one can do it all, and a first lesson of country life I've learned involves finding and sustaining community.

I read a great deal about sustainability and homesteading, and some on the fringe of these movements veer into what today the popular media call "Preppers," though I still prefer the term "Survivalist." There is nothing wrong with being prepared for natural or man-made troubles, but one curious fact emerges: many of these folks strive for self-sufficiency that seems improbable. If a chain-saw were to break, the game would be over.

Recently in Buckingham County we confronted about five-acres of waist-high grass that needed cutting. Had we time and equipment, we could have rolled hay.

Even with two passes of a rotary cutter, the grass near the house remained daunting. We'd contracted with our neighbor, Bunny, to cut the grass after that weekend, since renovating a city home to sell and maintaining our new homestead (and editing a book at night for publication!) take every second of my free time.

Bunny is the sort of African-American guy who is the anchor of a local community. Everyone within 20 miles of his home knows how capable Bunny is. His name is ironic, of course: he has reportedly rolled a refrigerator onto a blanket, flapped the blanket over the top, grabbed the four corners, and carried the refrigerator up a flight of stairs. He has helped me build a spillway, move huge logs and boulders, and generally keep our sanity as we do so much hard work.

As my wife despaired of the cut-but-still-formidable grass where the tractor would not reach, she heard another motor. Up roared Bunny on a riding mower with a weed-whacker in a cradle alongside it.  No knight of Camelot looked more heroic.

As I learn more about country life, I find that friendships like Bunny's are to be cultivated on their terms. He gives us cabbages and we give him honey from our hives. We pay him and let him hunt on our land, and he phones whenever trees fall or something else happens nearby.

In the City we had great neighbors and always looked out for each other. The terms of community are different in the country, but the rules don't change: it's a quid-pro-pro system and it works well. No one lives alone, isolated, and can get things done well.  It takes not only community and trust, but some anchors like Bunny, who can do nigh anything.

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