Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Northern Agrarian Tours the South.

The Month of May is always a busy time, and this May was busier than most, as we traveled a couple of weeks ago. I actually wrote this two weeks ago, but have just had a chance to post it now.

My lovely wife and I are homebodies, but as her family is scattered from Massachusetts to South Carolina, we periodically need to meet various family obligations. So for the first time in two years, we spent a night away from home---actually four nights. Our destination was The South Carolina Low Country between Charleston and Myrtle Beach.

One of the reasons we don't travel much is that we have many responsibilities here. Leaving overnight forces us to call upon friends and family to watch over our livestock. They don't seem to mind, and are competent at the task, but every time I leave I feel like a new mother leaving her baby for the first time. I fret and worry the whole time.

Another reason is that I believe that my home country is superior to all others and I see no reason to leave it. However, I do understand that many other people feel this way. The peculiar love of ones home countryside was understood so well by Kipling:

God gave all men all earth to love,
But, since our hearts are small
Ordained for each one spot should prove
Beloved over all;
That, as He watched Creation's birth,
So we, in godlike mood,
May of our love create our earth
And see that it is good.

So one shall Baltic pines content,
As one some Surrey glade,
Or one the palm-grove's droned lament
Before Levuka's Trade.
Each to his choice, and I rejoice
The lot has fallen to me
In a fair ground-in a fair ground --
Yea, Sussex by the sea!

I rejoice that my own lot has fallen in the middle ground between the Ohio River and Lake Erie.

The final reason I dislike travel is I don't ever feel like I have anything to get away from. When I get tired of my off farm job, I work at home in the garden or cutting wood. By the time I am sick of that, its time to go back to my off-farm job.
We don't need to go to the park, because we have our own park at the back of the farm. My wife and I both enjoy being together for simple things: going to town to buy groceries and beer, or going to buy bedding plants. For a big treat we take a day trip.

When we travel, we try to avoid large Cities. We took The Interstate through West Virginia and western Virginia (near Galax. Then we cut through the heart of North Carolina, through towns such as Yadkinville, Salsbury and Rockwell. The area is interesting to me because there was once a fairly prominent Pennsylvania German presence there.

Here is a great country store we stopped at south of Mount Airy; friendly proproetor and a great selection of Case knives.

The South is not ideal sheep country, and we saw more meat goats than sheep in the Carolinas. However, we did see this nice flock that had some Tunis among them. This was interesting to me, as Tunis were the breed of choice in the South before the Civil War.

I find the Low Country interesting, because it is the natural world there is so foreign to me. None of the tree of plant species are familiar.

The soil is very sandy, and I am somewhat amazed that anything grows.

I appreciate the low country, but would have a hard time adjusting my agrarian skills to survive there. However, I do like the local people. On Sunday morning, I attended early Service at All Saints Anglican on Pawley's Island.

The Parish was extremely warm and hospitable. Like many of the parishes in western Pennsylvania, the folks at All Saints are involved in court cases with the liberal Episcopal Church which is more interested in their real estate than their souls. As this parish was deeded by The King for an Anglican church in 1736, I would like to see it stay in faithful hands. However, like many orthodox in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, they will continue to meet wherever they can, if they lose.

The church had a fine bookstore, and I spent part of the afternoon reading JC Ryle and John Rocyhana, while perched somewhat unsteadily in a Pawley's Island Hammock.

We also spent about 20 minutes at the beach, and both of us had had enough. While the inland low country is foreign to me, it is a place where real people have lived for generations and built lives. I appreciate that it has its own cuisine, crafts, and local culture. By contrast, the beachfront resort areas are what James Kunstler would call capitals of unreality. People are drawn to live there under an illusion that they can escape from labor and live a carefree lifestyle of golf and parties. Even the old people in the beachfront communities dress (and often act) like graying adolescents. There is too much traffic, too much noise, it looks like one restaurant for every 3 people. I cant help but think that if someone believes that Myrtle Beach is getting away from it all, their life is WAY too hectic. Give me my northern agrarian rat race any day.


Evan said...

I will second your thoughts on the beachfront. It's a strange and to me incomprehensible person who considers a beach like Myrtle to be a vacation.

That said, the human fascination with the sea is deep-seated, and there are plenty of beautiful tracts of seashore in this country that have not been taken over by the spring-breakers and the retirement-communers. Those islands of the North Carolina Outer Banks that aren't connected to the mainland by bridges, for instance, are phenomenally beautiful, and only sparsely populated with friendly and genuine people.

And in keeping with your thesis, my particular love is for the shorelines of the upper Great Lakes, which I consider my home.

I really love that Kipling poem, because it is so perfectly true. It is right and fitting that every man love his own land, and I find it a great tragedy when I meet people who have nothing but contempt for where they were raised. I myself have the heart of a wanderer and I don't know when or where I might settle, and yet this is a litmus test for me: you cannot trust a man who doesn't love his homeland.

My own first impressions of Iraq were of a miserable, squalid, desert wasteland. And yet talking with Iraqi Army soldiers, I quickly learned to see the desert and oasis, the valley and marshes in an entirely different light. Hearing them tell of their love for their homeland taught me to appreciate it, and in reflection made me love my own homeland even more.

dogear6 said...

Thanks for sharing your trip with us. I really enjoyed seeing what you did.

The hubby and I also would rather stay home and enjoy our own place than travel on vacation. Our house and yard are very nice and we have a lot more fun with our own things than someone else's.

I do love being by the water, but I agree with Evan that the Great Lakes are superb. At one time, I could hear the difference between water lapping at the ocean vs. Lake Superior on some CD's that I have.

The Midland Agrarian said...

Thank you both for your thoughts.
Its good to know I am not alone in my feelings

Will said...

In reading your post I think that one thing most of us have in common is that each of us loves his or her own home the best! But it is noteworthy that we can all have a kindred spirit, and good will towards each other, even if we do not share the same specific section of the country, as long as we are united by the same Spirit.

Thanks for the link to "Prydain" - I am definitely adding yours to my blogroll.

The Midland Agrarian said...

"amen" to your comments.

I found your very interesting weblog via the Anglican Continuum site.

Enjay said...

I am a transplant to the South Carolina Low Country. I came here from a small Wisconsin farming town.
Most of the gardening habits that were deeply ingrained do not work here. I think most of my issue is timing, I can't wrap my mind around starting seed in January so I'm always behind for my area.
My garden is getting better each year. I'm learning to grow things that are better adapted to this area, and I find as I'm changing my garden, I'm changing myself. At this point I'm letting go of a lot of things and ways, but it's a fine balance between letting them go and losing them. It's uncomfortable, this molding myself and my habits, but holding on tight is just as uncomfortable.
Thank you for the opportunity for introspection.

The Midland Agrarian said...

Starting seed in January would baffle me too, I just start looking at seed catalogs in February. thanks for sharing your trials and progressions.

Steve W. said...

It really is a small world. You mentioned where I am from. I do want to point out that it is spelled Salisbury, but we pronounce it like you spelled it (with that Southern drawl, you know). My family has lived in this area since 1750 and I currently live in Rockwell, just south of Salisbury.

Where my parents live (and grandparents while alive) the soil is somewhat sandy because they live on a small mountain ridge. Most of the rest of the county however has lots and lots of red clay. The Catawba indians of this area were famous for pottery. Since I no longer have sandy soil, getting used to the clay has taken some getting used to.

You are correct that there were many German immigrants that came to this area and you can tell by all of the Lutheran churches in this area of which I am a member.

Speaking of the Lutheran church, we are currently going through the same type of things that your congregation experienced earlier. I only pray that we will do the right thing and obey G-d rather than men. My family have been a part of that congregation since before the War Of Northern Aggression (my great, great, grandfather is buried in the cemetery) and I would hate to have to leave.

Thanks for sharing your trip and sorry for the long post.

The Midland Agrarian said...

Steve W,
Thank you for the interesting post. Rockwell is a very nice town.

There is a well written history called The Great Wagon Road by Parke Rouse Jr. that explains how the Pennsylvania Germans and Scots Irish settled the Carolinas from Pennsylvania.

Your church situation is frustrating, but I think there is a new spirit of biblical orthodoxy reemerging in some of the mainline churches. Unfortunately, theological liberals are in most national leadership posts. There are a lot of Presbyterians (PCUSA) around here (including much of my family), and I hear the same concerns from many of them. Our local Lutheran church is Missouri Synod, and they seem very supportive of where our Anglican parish went.

RE: the War of Northern Aggression: I am of mixed feelings on that one. I am sympathetic to the Confederate's desire for local self government. However, one thing I did not write about was that towns we went through like Salisbury and Florence were prison camps for men of my family and neighbor's ancestors. Many local men were part of the "hard luck" 103rd Pa regiment, the majority of whom were captured in 1864. I thus have bitter familial memories of the "late unpleasantness"---much as many southerners do. The sad thing I see is that it was really a cousins war for Pennsylvania Virginia and the Carolinas.

Thank you for visiting. I will pray for your church as thy go through their time of troubles.

Steve W. said...

I will definitely look up that book as I am an avid history buff.

As far as mixed feelings on the war, I can definitely understand. The aggression was from those in power, both those behind the scenes and those in positions of power. I have definitely researched enough about that war to determine that the country lost its innocence and were subject to the powers that be. I also have empathy concerning the prisoners from the North. My great, great grandfather was captured and held twice. At Gettysburg after Pickett's charge (released on prisoner exchange) and Petersburg. The last time he was held at Cold Harbor until the end of the war.

It was a terrible war and one that I pray will never have to be repeated. But if it does, I'm sure that our families will be allies. :-)

The Midland Agrarian said...

Lost innocence is a good way to put it. The war destroyed the old agrarian New England as well as the agrarian South. Eric Sloane often lamented this. The retuning soldiers did not want the old life of the farm, and Dad who stayed home become a rube and bumpkin. Agrarian Pennsylvania survived until World War One, when the Pennsylvania German language was supressed.

"It was a terrible war and one that I pray will never have to be repeated. But if it does, I'm sure that our families will be allies.

Amen. :)

Thanks again for your thoughtful commments.