Thursday, October 15, 2009

What the heck is urbal tea?

A little over a year ago, I started compiling a list called "Why Bother?" which attempted to chronicle all the things--both big and small--my husband, Peter, and I were doing in our Brooklyn home to try to counteract what seemed like the inexorable destruction of the planet.

I called the list "Why Bother?" both to acknowledge the helplessness I felt, and to provide a response to those feelings. As post-middle aged people (Peter retired in 2007; I have a few years left to work, if I could find some!), we made it a priority to redefine how to live in the world, if only for the sake of our grandchildren.

My friend Louise, who at the time was working with me on a magazine start-up (that crashed and burned soon after the October 2008 market collapse), talked about these issues with me all the time. She and her husband, Andrew, come at these questions from a different perspective: they live on a family farm in rural Virginia and raise two school-aged children, Graham and Katharine.

But despite our urban-rural and age differences, we share common interests: serious travel (last year Peter and I took a four-month trip to Australia and New Zealand, while Louise and Andrew took their kids out of school for the year and spent half of it living and traveling in South America); serious gardening (even though we have a postage stamp back yard and they live on a farm); and serious cooking (not fancy but principled). We also share common values: respect for the Earth; a love of culture and cultural differences; a respect for the (well) written word; a belief in the common good.

Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand

Over the years I've pulled Louise into my work projects, which tend to focus on technology in education. And while it's a perfectly respectable topic and she doesn't turn down the work, she keeps asking me: Can't you get on a magazine that covers gardening or travel or cooking? I wish.

Well, why wish? Fact is, the economics of publishing today mean that we're never going to start our own traditional magazine (if Conde Nast had to close Gourmet, there's no hope for any of us). But why let that keep us back from writing on the things that we feel passionately about? Andrew, who is by far the cleverest of the four of us (but don't tell him I said so), came up with the name of the blog. Urb[an] [rur]al Tea [a blend, where city meets country]. (Or, as he says, "If you have to be so literal, you don't deserve the title.")

I promised I'd write the first entry—and I admit that it's a little serious, but it's hard to get something started with the exact right tone. (I predict that Louise and Andrew will be smart-ass funny, Peter will be deadly serious, and I'll try to be funny and only sometimes succeed.)

The intent is to share the ways we're trying to figure out how to live responsibly and take pride of ownership, at least, of the small patch of Earth we're given the privilege to inhabit. It's a conversation we invite you to join.

Peter in our Brookyn garden


  1. I look forward to more about urban farming! When the farm turns to ice, I am going to need tips on using the "sunroom" as greenhouse, and starting seeds...maybe a hanging tomato plant? Is that insane? Look forward to reading more. can turn it into a book! --makenna

  2. Great to know that even in New York people are becoming aware of the importance of sustainable living. It has recently become very big in Hobart (Tasmania, Australia) and suburban communities are started their own sustainable living projects.