MANTI — Kate Talley knows that she should have been born 150 years ago, when every kitchen came with a butter churn and a cast-iron stove.

In the Victorian farmhouse where she lives in Manti, there's usually a batch of homemade bread in the oven and a pantry full of hand-canned tomatoes, pickles and peaches lined up in tidy rows.

Out back, you'll find a coop full of chickens laying fresh eggs for a hearty breakfast, but if it's a fried chicken dinner you're craving, you might want to try the local KFC. Kate learned last year that the art of plucking a chicken was better left to the pioneers.

Sometimes, she says, even the hardiest Rural Utah farm girl resorts to ordering takeout.

"I'm rethinking the whole chicken thing," admits Kate, 32, who moved from the West Jordan suburbs to Manti with her husband, Eldon, and four daughters last year, determined to create an old-fashioned life. "But I wouldn't want to trade anything else about trying to live the way my grandmother lived."

Kate was always interested in growing her own vegetables, knitting her own blankets and baking her own cakes from scratch. However, it wasn't until she found the Rural Utah Farmgirls chapter on the Internet five years ago that she decided to take her love of the simple life to the next level.

"It was so exciting to find women who believed as I do, that the skills of our ancestors are worth bringing back and sharing with others," says Kate, who has fond memories of learning to knit from her grandmother, Eliza Gean Wilson of Payson.

"She was so patient with me, so giving of her time," she recalls. "I remember sitting by her side next to the wood stove, smelling her lotion and feeling the papery-thin skin of her hands while she showed me how to knit and tat. She taught me skills that today have pretty much been forgotten."

Hoping to share a little of what she's learned since embracing the farm-girl life, Kate recently joined me for a Free Lunch chat during a break from hanging her laundry out to dry, mending her kids' clothes and whipping up a batch of slow-cooked beef stew.

On an average morning, she rises at 6:30 to feed the cats, chickens and horses, then gets her girls off to school while her husband heads to his workshop to run his handmade-knife business. With bread to bake, floors to sweep and socks to knit, every day is a full day, says Kate, who used to work as a preschool teacher.

"I worried at first about how my girls would adjust to this life after living in the suburbs," she says, "but they've actually embraced it. Now that life is slower, we have time to connect. Instead of racing to get fast food after a soccer game, we're making a meal together from scratch. It's brought us much closer."

Kate's daughters are relieved, though, that living an old-fashioned life doesn't require them to give up surfing the Internet or catching a "SpongeBob" marathon on television.

"That's the beauty of being a farm girl in 2008," says Kate. "You can hold on to the old ways but still have a few modern conveniences."

Like text-messaging and takeout chicken.


Have a story? Let's hear it over lunch. E-mail your name, phone number and what you'd like to talk about to freelunch@desnews.com. You can also write me at the Deseret Morning News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT.