Monday, April 14, 2014

I Can't Do It Myself Experiment #2: Homemade Amish Cottage Cheese

Community. It's been a concept on my mind for the past couple years. In the last several months, as I have realized how much I can't do myself, it's been suffocating me, weaseling its way into nearly every thought. What is community? What is my community? Do I even have a community? Is community defined by geographic location? Or is community defined by ideals and values and shared interests? Or is it both? Can it be both?

Growing up in the wind tunnel prairie town of Watertown, South Dakota, I was obsessed with trees. No, not forests. Those don't actually exist in South Dakota until you run into the Black Hills National Forest (and by then you're almost not in South Dakota anymore). The closest we get to "forests" are these odd looking things called "shelterbelts" or "windbreaks," unnatural looking, eerily linear groups of trees started back in 1934 to protect animals, people and crops from the extreme wind and snow and the extensive soil erosion exacerbating the Dust Bowl.  They rudely punctuate the smooth flowing plains, looking a lot like someone tried to bury a gigantic comb, teeth side up, and quit halfway through.
I was always a bit unnerved by shelterbelts. The trees seemed so...indistinguishable. To my young, restless and recklessly independent mind, they were a metaphor for growing up in big-town South Dakota [FYI: Watertown (population 20,000) was NOT a small town; that was Bonesteel (population 280)]. While I loved growing up in Watertown for so many reasons, I always felt trapped in what I felt was stifling homogeneity.