Country Living
Monday December 11th 2006, 11:02 pm

I am reading a book titled “Getting Rid of Alders” which is a collection of some stories from the Rural Delivery magazine. This magazine was started in Nova Scotia in 1976 as a small classified ad exchange for old farm tools and machinery. It evolved into a magazine about country living and it’s challenges in rural Nova Scotia, with stories and country wisdom submitted by the readers. I thought the title was interesting because we are forever trying to get rid of alders at our summer cottage. This year we cut some down in August and we plan on pulling out the roots in the early spring, when the earth is wet, so they don’t grow back. Several letters to the magazine advised that the best time to cut them is about August 20, so I guess we got it right, even if we didn’t know it at the time.

There is an article about making Christmas gifts out of herbs. In the early fall, the writer harvests grapevines for wreaths which are formed into wreaths immediately, while they are still pliable, then decorated with dried leaves and flowers. Lavender wands are made by making bouquets of twelve to fifteen sprigs of lavender tied together below the blossoms with thread. Then the stems are bent down to cover the blossoms and the stems are tied together again, so they look like bars of a cage around the blossoms. They are then tied again to hold the stem end together. The wands are then decorated with ribbon or lace. These are used to decorate the Christmas tree and then given to visitors to take home to use as drawer sachets. They dry easily and remain fragrant for several years. Herbal vinegars can be made by bruising fresh herb leaves and loosely fill a jar with them. Then pour warm white vinegar over the leaves and cap the jar. Set the jar in a sunny window for two or three weeks, shaking it once a day. Strain it through a cheesecloth, add a fresh sprig of the herb, bottle and label.

An article was written about why so many people hate Christmas. It suggests that because parents spend most of their time and effort providing their children with a suburban-type environment, with all the appurtenances decreed by fashion and opportunities, they feel exhausted at the end of the year by all the duties they imposed on themselves. After a year of providing their children with the best they possibly could, they must for Christmas provide them an extra pile of material goods and forced cheer to earn their love once more, so they learn to hate Christmas. Christmas has ceased for many to be a celebration of something that makes them happy, and has instead become an occasion on which people expect to find a happiness which eluded them all year, and pay too dearly in that quest.

I have never experienced either farm or country living, except for going to the cottage during the summer. I notice that there is a great sense of community in the area where we have our cottage, which I have never seen in city neighbourhoods. They are always ready to help a neighbour in need. They have regular get-togethers of dime auctions, community and church suppers, fairs, talent shows and jams. Every community volunteer fire department has regular BBQ’s, auctions, bingos and fairs during the summer and everyone attends and participates. Most of them are either related or have known their neighbours for generations so there is a lot of history there. I don’t even know many of my neighbours on the street I have lived on for over twenty years.

Years ago growing up and living in the city was completely different than living in the country. In most cases, there were few conveniencies such as hospitals, shopping malls, recreation and movie theaters in the country, which were available in the city. Living in the country was much harder, but more rewarding because they enjoyed the simple pleasures in nature and community. Today I don’t think there is as much difference between the two, as many people who work in the city, commute to their homes in the country. The internet, satellite television and better highways make living in the country easier. The population in rural Nova Scotia is decreasing every year with more and more people either leaving the province completely or moving to Halifax to find work. The industries such as farming, fishing and logging are no longer available to earn a living.

I don’t know if the stories about country life in Nova Scotia are more romantized than they actually were, but it certainly sounds nice to live a simplier, more rewarding life with neighbours you can count on.