Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mother Earth News Fair

Like a greeter, a woodchuck sat in the road blocking the entrance to the parking area. The delay seemed appropriate. We were attending the Mother Earth News Fair at a resort in Seven Springs, PA. Finally, while traffic lined up behind our car, the woodchuck ambled off on it’s own business.

Although the name “Mother Earth News” evokes an impression of wackiness, the magazine is actually rather practical at least for those seeking a simpler life. According to Wikipedia, “Mother Earth News embraced the revived interest in the back-to-the-land movement at the beginning of the 1970s, and combined this with an interest in the ecology movement and self-sufficiency. Unlike other magazines with ecological coverage, Mother Earth News concentrated on do-it-yourself and how-to articles, aimed at the growing number of people moving to the country.” Their national fair reflected this distinctive by providing information with dozens of “how-to” seminars and demonstrations. Kit and I, avid culture watchers, were also interested in observing the diverse and likeable group.

Where else could you see Amish at the same venue as a religious group wearing full length purple robes and dreadlocks?

A recruiter from the American Association for Nude Recreation distributed illustrated literature and guest passes for a nudest colony. She challenged us to, “Come check us out!”

One man was demonstrating clothes lines as a “green” energy saver. Could this be be a new idea to the younger attendees who grew up with electric dryers?

Someone brought two half grown pigs and penned them on the lawn. Nobody seemed to notice or care as the pigs joyfully rooted up the resort’s lush green grass. Their porker snouts can flip out hunks of sod as easily as I could do with a spade.

Three earnest young men tinkered with their invention, the “Bikerator”, to use static bicycles generating electricity. Finally, they got it working. It takes a lot of pedaling to power a single light bulb. We wondered if pedaling all day to read at night was worth it.

A crowing rooster kept interrupting the seminar leader on alpaca ranching. The alpaca expert insisted that the recession has made alpacas affordable for just $5,000 each or “in some cases for free.”

One seminar leader was an MIT graduate who dropped out of engineering at a young age to pursue carpentry. We wondered if he was still paying off his student loan.

Solar power was prominently featured. Unfortunately, solar electrical systems are still very expensive to setup with a marginal payoff, if any. Kit commented, “You need green, to be green.”

For me, two massive Belgian horses were the highlight of the fair. Their purpose is removing whole tree trunks from woods without disturbing the environment by heavy machinery The giant horses were as gentle and as friendly as labrador retrievers. They were very curious about the strangers petting them and offering apple treats. Beats hauling trees for sure.

You don’t have to leave America to experience other cultures and meet interesting people. The Mother Earth News Fair was charming. And the Pennsylvania countryside looked like a nostalgic fall painting with brown corn stalks, apple orchards, golden rod in bloom, and colorful maple trees. Post-employment is going to be a lot of fun.

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