Fleeing the Cities

From the Moscow Times comes word that our family’s move to the country isn’t so unusual. Even in the former Soviet Union people are leaving city life behind in favor of rural values and relative self-sufficiency. The Sterligov family had much more serious things to flee than we did, though, and they have made a much deeper commitment to rural self-sufficiency. But it sounds like we’d have a lot in common, assuming we could bridge the language barrier.

The financial crisis has cost some tycoons their fortunes, but one of Russia’s first multimillionaires says he hasn’t lost a kopek.

That’s because German Sterligov, a one-time boy wonder of Russia’s young market economy, dropped out of the business world years ago and started raising sheep and other livestock on two farms outside Moscow.

“We’re in clover compared to the oligarchs,” Sterligov said on a recent weekend. “I’ve got 100 sheep, a horse, a cow, some poultry and goats.”

Now Sterligov, 41, is promoting an electronic barter scheme for commodities trading that he claims could save Russia’s foundering financial system.

But he has no plans, he said, to return to the traditional capitalist road, saying his luxury-loving former colleagues among the superrich will soon see the virtues of simplicity and self-sufficiency.

At Sterligov’s log cabin about 100 kilometers northwest of Moscow one recent afternoon, hens pecked grain from the snow in front of the porch as he scolded his four sons — aged 4 to 12 — for neglecting to feed the chickens properly and for “messing up the stove.”

Go read the whole thing. It’s a wonderful story.

H/T: Laurie

Most Astounding

Of all the astonishing news to come out of Illinois today, one particular item shocked me most. No, not that Rod Blagojevich aparently tried to sell an open Senate seat to the highest bidder. Not that the Governor taunted the press (a la Gary Hart) to try to catch him, just the day before. Not that the Governor used an unbelievable amount of profanity in his professional conversations.

Nope. All that is par for the course for Illinois politics, and those of us who worked on Jim Ryan’s gubernatorial campaign in 2002 are at last feeling vindicated today. (I can’t think of a man in public life with more personal integrity and higher ethical standards than Jim Ryan, and I hope he comes out of retirement soon.)

This news item was what most surprised me:

The bond specifies that Blagojevich will forfeit $4,500 on bond if he fails to make his next court appearance. He was also ordered to turn in his passport and firearm owner’s identification card.

Rod Blagojevich, perhaps the most anti-gun governor in Illinois history, has a Firearm Owner ID (FOID) card? Huh? When did that happen? This is the man who, as a state legislator, introduced a bill to raise the fee for a FOID card from $5 every five years to $500. Since an Illinois resident can’t legally purchase or possess a firearm without a FOID card, or even purchase ammunition, Blagojevich’s bill would have effectively eliminated legal firearm for all but the wealthy. And as Governor, he has supported a wide range of anti-gun legislation, and earned consistent “F” ratings from the NRA.

The story doesn’t mention whether Blagojevich actually owns a firearm or not, or whether the FOID card was a campaign gimmick designed to ingratiate himself with rural voters. But trust me: when I lived downstate, even our least politically active neighbors knew during the 2002 campaign that Blago was “that guy who tried to make the FOID card cost five hundred bucks.”

Obviously, that issue wasn’t enough to save the 2002 election for Jim Ryan. Neither were the corruption issues we raised about Blagojevich’s past. But many of us who have tried in vain to stop Rod Blagojevich in the past will be going to bed happy tonight. Vindicated at last.

But still wondering when — and why — he ever got that FOID card.

It’s 4am…

Hillary Clinton’s “3am phone call” ad has been on my mind all morning. What follows is The Yeoman Farmer December 8th version of that ad. I’ll leave it to my readers to determine how good of an advertisement this is for “buying that idyllic little place in the country”:

It’s 4:06am and Mrs Yeoman Farmer and the Yeoman Farm Children are safe and asleep. But there’s a Border Collie in the barn with the livestock, and he’s barking. The Yeoman Farmer awakens, and listens. It’s just the normal “Hey, I think I might have heard something” bark, so TYF rolls over and tries to go back to sleep.

Two minutes later, the bark changes to one of challenge and alarm. TYF is now wide awake, and thinking too hard about the barn to go back to sleep any time soon. He throws on some clothes, loads a .45 auto pistol, finds the high-powered flashlight (grateful he remembered to fully charge it last week), and heads to the barn to investigate.

Heaving open the half-frozen barn door, TYF is immediately met by a wriggling and energetic border collie. He braces himself, then flips on the lights and gives the barn a quick scan. And sees…nothing but livestock and barn cats. Pistol in one hand, and pistol-grip flashlight in the other, he investigates the deepest darkest corners and rafters of the barn. And sees…nothing. Followed by the dog, he circles the barn and illuminates the surrounding fields. Whatever had been in or around the barn seems to have vanished into the frozen winter air.

The livestock had seemed hungry, so he stashes the pistol and the flashlight in a car, then returns to the barn to get an early start on morning chores. He brings a couple of bales down from the hayloft for the sheep and the goats, smashes the ice on their water tanks, and puts some grain out for the chickens and ducks. He then pets the dog, tells him he’s a good boy, secures the barn, and returns to the house.

Pistol and flashlight are unloaded and checked and put away. The Yeoman Farmer undresses and crawls back into bed. As he tries to get sleepy, he remembers that December 8th is a Holy Day of Obligation, and Mass isn’t until the evening. And the kids will be sleeping in because they get the day off of school. With the animals all fed and safe and happy, and a light day at work, TYF decides he will sleep in, too.

And ignore any additional barking the border collie might feel like doing. Because it’s now 4:30am, and all the Yeoman Farm Children are still safe and asleep. Does anyone really want to go back out to that frozen barn again before daybreak?

Saturday Morning at the Post Office

I stopped by the local post office at about 9:30 this morning, to mail a package. As the clerk was weighing it and printing up the postage, I heard a woman’s voice call out from behind a divider.

“Oh!” she exclaimed. “You’re here.”

The woman emerged from where she’d been sorting mail, and I instantly recognized her as our own rural mail carrier. “Since you’re here,” she smiled, handing me a bundle of mail, “You might as well take this now.”

I smiled, laughed, and thanked her for saving me from trudging through snowdrifts to the mailbox later that afternoon. “I love small towns,” I added.

Can anyone even imagine something like this happening in a city?

What I Like about Guns

Firearms are an essential tool on any farmstead, and it’s good to get comfortable with them if you plan on living in the country.

Of top priority is a good shotgun, preferably a 12-gauge pump. 10-gauge is overkill (but good for hunting Canada Geese), and 20-gauge or .410 may not have enough stopping power. When the dog starts barking his head off in the night at some predator, a 12-gauge is a wonderful thing to have slung over one’s shoulder when going out to investigate. Just a few weeks ago, I blasted a possum which Scooter discovered near the house. In the past, my Mossberg has easily dispatched everything from skunks to coyotes — and a blast in the air or the ground is very effective for getting the neighbor’s dog to high-tail it back to his own property.

A pump action shotgun is generally the most reliable. And if one awakens to the sound of an intruder in one’s house, simply working that pump action is usually enough to send the burglar sprinting for the nearest exit.

Which brings us to another important issue: isolation in the country is a two-edged sword. Privacy is golden, but criminals like privacy as well — and may see a country house as an easy target out of neighbors’ earshot. And it takes the sheriff significantly longer to respond to a call out in the country than in town (assuming the burglar hasn’t cut your phone lines, and you’re even able to call). In the meantime, the family needs defending.

We’ve fortunately never been the victims of crime, but with increasing economic troubles (particularly in this state), it’s hard to know when rising crime rates might touch us.

This is on my mind because just this morning a car pulled into our driveway and down to the back door of the house. From my office, I had a very clear view of it the whole time. I didn’t recognize the car, and there were several youngish people inside who I didn’t recognize. I placed a quick call to the house, and Mrs Yeoman Farmer said she didn’t recognize the car, either. And we weren’t expecting visitors.

I locked my office door and tried to think. What’s a guy living out in the country to do in a situation like this? The vehicle certainly didn’t look threatening enough to justify a call to the police. But were they casing the place? Sending someone to the back door to break in? Minutes passed, and the driver didn’t budge. Why was the driver sitting there behind my house with the engine running? There was simply no way for me to know, but not enough justification for dialing 9-1-1.

I decided to go out to the car and investigate, but the number of people in the vehicle concerned me. I was clearly outnumbered, and they looked to be in the prime of youth (also the prime ages for criminality). But I certainly didn’t want to stroll out to the driveway carrying a shotgun. Firearms are like golf clubs, and need to be used situationally. A long gun would’ve been far too intimidating and confrontational. That’s why I also keep a very small, easily concealable, semi-auto pistol close at hand in my office. I slid it out of its place, inserted a clip (but for safety reasons did not yet chamber a round), and slipped it into a pocket. Should I need it, it would be easily accessible…and a round could be chambered quickly enough.

Fortunately, that was completely unnecessary. The driver rolled down his window as I approached the car, and one glance told me everyone in it was harmless. A kid in a safety seat was playing with religious literature, and I could tell from their dress that these were some kind of proselytizers from a local church. The driver explained that “a friend of ours is inside visiting,” and I smiled and returned to my office…because I knew Mrs Yeoman Farmer, a highly trained apologist and catechist, would be skillfully handling everything the visitor might want to discuss. An encyclopedic knowledge of both the Bible and Catholic doctrine, coupled with a cheerful and upbeat personality, means MYF usually throws these kinds of visitors for a complete loop. She always invites them in, and they always depart befuddled. And they seldom come back to try again.

As I replaced the pistol in its hiding place and returned to my desk, I said a quick prayer and began offering up my work for the fruitfulness of MYF’s encounter with the visitor inside. Roughly 20 minutes later, the car pulled away and MYF jogged out to my office with a report: Jehovah’s Witnesses (or “JWs,” as we call them). We used to get them all the time when we lived in residential areas, but this was our first since moving to the country (which is another nice thing about living this far out of town). She gave me a run-down of the conversation, which I won’t trouble you with here. The bottom line, though, is it’s doubtful these people will be returning any time soon.

But back to the firearms…did I feel a little foolish for my overreaction to these people? Sure. And if that car does come back, I probably won’t arm myself before going out to greet them. But do I regret carrying a pistol this morning? Not in the least. Because it never hurts to think ahead, or to take prudent measures. And I felt much more comfortable approaching that car than I would have otherwise.

I was never a Boy Scout, but I do remain a firm believer in their motto. And sometimes a firearm is the most effective way for a guy who lives this far out in the country to “be prepared.”