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Susan McCorkindale's crash course in country-speak

Susan McCorkindale
By Susan McCorkindale
Posted on Oct 21,2008
Filed Under News , Community,

Noah Webster she's not.

But if you’ve ever entertained the idea of ditching the city or the suburbs for the sticks, Susan McCorkindale says you'll need to know some farm speak.

You’ll also need to know how to parallel park a pickup truck, but as she can’t maneuver her Mustang into a space without mangling the meters on both ends, McCorkindale thinks it best to leave that lesson to the pros.

For a crash course in talking “country” speak to Susan McCorkindale, a recent migrant of the concrete canyons of Manhattan to Upperville, Virginia, where she now dispenses tips to loyal readers of Local Kicks on finagling everything from manuevering her Ford F-150 into a Prius-size spot, to operating a combine.

This month, McCorkindale released a laugh-out-loud memoir about a city slicker who discovers that Manolos and manure just don't mix. A former marketing director at Family Circle, suburban mom and New York career woman is now a freelance advertising copywriter in the wilds of Virginia. But she still loves the New York Giants, Bruce Springsteen, and the Jersey Shore. This is her first book.

At her husband's prompting, McCorkindale agreed to give up her stressful six-figure job. Together, they headed down south to a 500-acre beef farm in Fauquier County. about 35 miles west of Alexandria.

McCorkindale never looked back. Well, he didn't look back. She did. A lot.

From playing aspot the religious billboarda on the drive to rural Virginia, to adapting to a world without Starbucks, to planning bright-orange hunter-resistant wardrobes for the kids ("We moved here to get away from the madness of Manhattan only to risk getting popped on our own property?"), this is her hilarious account of how a city girl came to love, or at least tolerate, country life.

In Counterfeit Country Girl speak, here are some pointers for Alexandrians who may just wish to chuck the ex-urbanite life for la douce vie of Middleburg, The Plains or other points west or south (otherwise known to chardonnay-swilling Northern Virginians as "the grits line."):

Susan's New Vocabulary

Barn – Large, airy building perfect for re-birth as a mini mall. 

Brush Cutter – Self-propelled lawn mowing device the user stands behind and “steers” into tight, often snake-infested bogs disguised by thistle and weed bushes. My husband’s screaming and cursing are usually my first clues that he’s using it in the high grass around the spring house. 

Bush Hog – Beloved by the testosterone laden, this “lawnmower” attaches to the back of a tractor and is pulled across the pasture. Perfect for cutting grass in swaths the width of an airstrip and keeping husbands busy between ball games. 

Bush Hog Repairman –
A frequent visitor during the spring and summer months when my better half inadvertently uses the bush hog to find tree stumps, rocks, and the rusted remains of long lost farm equipment.

Butler Building – A pre-fabricated metal building. Farmers use it to store equipment and protect it from the rain. Pigeons use it to roost in the beams and poop on the equipment which then has to be washed – usually with recycled rain water.

Chicken –
Feathered egg-laying machine that frolics in its own filth, snatches hot dogs from the hands of children and pecks fresh pedicures with a vengeance. Synonyms for chicken include fowl, pullet, hen, banty and flippin’ bird. 

Chicken Tractor –
A chicken coop on wheels. Makes moving the pullets to fresh pastures easy, and trips to the butcher a breeze.  

Cow – Massive ruminant (mammal with four stomachs) weighing about 1,500 pounds despite being a vegetarian. Can be used to simultaneously mow and fertilize grass, attract flies for chickens to eat and, ultimately, as the main course at a barbeque. Common cow terms include: heifer, a cow that’s never had a calf; calf, a baby cow; bull, a male cow; and steer, a bull caught hanging with the heifers and consequently castrated. 

Deer – Overgrown rodent with a talent for making Kamikaze attacks on cars. A perennial favorite of both hunters and auto body shops. 

Farm – A pastoral setting bedecked with livestock, tractors and barns, many of which are unused so why one can’t hold a Starbucks or Banana Republic is beyond me. 

Hay –
What some folks in the “sticks” make while the sun shines. The good stuff (yes, there’s such a thing as “good” hay) is snapped up by the horse folks who buy only the best for their million-dollar mounts. The dregs wind up at nurseries in suburbia where minivan-driving moms pick it up along with pumpkins for their Halloween decorating endeavors. Guess who pays the highest price per bale? 

Hydraulics –
In a nutshell, hydraulics is the science of operating machinery via the pressure created by forcing a liquid like water or oil through a narrow pipe. Kind of like shooting collagen through a tiny needle and into your lips to make them more luscious. Not that I have first-hand experience, but you know what I mean. 

Pastured Poultry – The practice of letting chickens graze where they like, as opposed to being confined in a coop. The organic farming militant to whom I’m married believes free-ranging fowl will make for a more delicious bird. I can hardly wait to conduct that taste test. 

Pickup Truck –
The local antidote to a minivan: a massive pickup with vanity plates and a dog to do the driving while you fiddle around with the gun rack.

Range Cubes –
The dog biscuits of the bovine world. Only cattle are not likely to “sit” at the sight of these snacks. 

Rotational Grazing – The practice of moving cattle from one field to another on a regular basis so the grass in the original field can regenerate. Think of it as going to a different restaurant each month with your friends, then working your way back to the first spot once the drink specials have changed. 

Skid Loader – A veritable electric chair encased in a steel cage with large wheels and a noisy, smoke-belching engine that drowns out your iPod. Used for a variety of farm chores – all of which involve a mix of mud and manure that splatters anyone within a 50-foot radius.

Tractor - The pickup truck’s big brother, complete with a never-ending variety of attachments, all of which can kill or maim in a never-ending variety of methods. Hardcore owners insist on open cabs so they can battle sunstroke and frostbite on even terms, while “softies” prefer closed cabs that muffle the screams of those about to be run over by the bush hog.

Tractor Supply – The Saks of the sticks. No Ralph Lauren, but a full selection of ladies insulated bib overalls, matching goatskin gloves and rubber muck boots. (Personally, I’m waiting for ones with a peek-a-boo toe before I even consider buying a pair.) The first stop for dual lid full-size truck tool boxes, llama food, cattle dewormer, ear tags and udder wash, if that’s what trips your trigger. And no, they don’t sell hunting supplies. 

Susan McCorkindale is a writer who lives in Upperville.
Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl
by McCorkindale, Susan
Format:  Trade Paperback
Price:  $15.00
Published: New American Library, 2008

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