Friday, May 18, 2018

Skills, people, skills. Practical skills.

I pulled into the barn just as he pulled up to the upper fence line in his ATV.  With a dog (do not bring your dog to someone else's farm), he crossed the fence (electric, or supposed to be), with a bucket, and started calling for the horses.  WTF.  I thought, I better go up there and see what this dude is about.  On my way, I called and found out that almost assuredly he was the rich "developer" who'd bought the adjoining property and completely, like I don't even know a term for it anymore but made a mockery out of expanding and redoing the house he'd bought.  He's about to do the same with the land it turns out.  SMH.  Anyway.

Oh, he'd be made fun of later for his "bravery" in entering a field with four horses in it with an entire bucket full of treats, but no one but me would tell him to his face this is a stupid thing to do.  And even I wouldn't use the term "stupid".  "The situation that you and I are in right now is one of the most dangerous positions one can put themselves in with horses," I said.  Eventually I said, "This horse will become downright aggressive if you keep doing that."

Here's what he said.  "Do you know my daughter?"  With further explanation of why I should know his daughter, which was because she'd shown, rather big time. BFD.  I really don't care.  I'm into horsemanship.  "My daughter, Blah blah blah."  Look mister, I don't care who your daughter is, or who you are for that matter, I'm trying to make sure you don't get killed.  When the electric fence popped a horse in an adjoining field whose curiosity had been aroused by his bucket of treats he said, "Wow, that's on?  It wasn't on yesterday."  Sigh.  Yes, the electric fence is on.  Except when it isn't but it not being on is not a good thing and hopefully never stays that way for long.

For a girl child born in the early 60s deep in the Appalachian coalfields, I had a very privileged upbringing.  I know what it is like for someone to hold that privilege against me.  I don't want to do that to this guy.  But he showed up a few weeks ago in a fucking Ferrari not believing that the guy who owned a couple hundred acres adjoining his could possibly live in this humble a house, so we'd already not started off well.  Ok, mostly I call him Mr. Ostentatious.  But this interaction, with the bucket and the horses in the field longing for me think he was ok in this situation because his daughter showed on the A circuit was something else again.

This interaction, with the bucket and the horses in the field insisting that I must know his daughter because she had shown horses and I should therefore infer that it was ok for him to be here in this field with this bucket and these horses was him wanting to be ok because of who he was and who he knew rather than for the skills he had. 

Anyone with any horse savvy at all would never put themselves in that position.

And a little horse savvy, a little animals savvy, is not rocket science.  Like a little electrical wiring and plumbing and basic auto repair isn't brain surgery.  Growing some food, it isn't rocket surgery.  Cleaning your own toilet, sorry but that is the beginning of morality.

Skills, people, skills.  Practical skills.

Friday, May 04, 2018

What are riches for?

"You just seemed so happy and excited," she said.  And I had been.  It had been a different day, an out of the ordinary day, and I'd had a little tiny bit of money to spend and we splurged on a few singletrees, a vintage bike, a good pair of work boots, an adz.  The boots were truly needed, the singletrees will come in handy, the bike was cheap, the adz promises new adventures.  For us, this is a bit of opulence, petite opulence perhaps.

"You know, if you accumulate some money, somebody just tries to take it," she said.  Although in this case it was not identity theft or fraud but just the IRS auditing a farm write-off.  And Trump claims that "people of wealth" are involved in payoffs all the time.

And the question I have is, what are riches for, anyway?  For opulence?  For show?  For someone else to admire?  To make someone else do your bidding?  To accumulate yet more again?  For security?  For one-upmanship? Does it take money to have free will?

Riches are for one thing.  This is Biblically true and morally true:  to share, to take care of others with.

"If he can afford it, more power to him," is the most immoral common modern saying there is, and yet rarely does a week go by that I don't hear it, usually when I'm remonstrating some conspicuous consumption.  If he can afford it, who did he exploit the money from?  Because a single person can only create so much and no more.  A family might work together and SHARE but a person is just a person and

We all need a bit of opulence.  A needed pair of work boots is an opulence when you haven't been able to afford them.  A bar of chocolate.  A beer.  This is why so many poor people smoke -- an affordable opulence.  If you've had beans all month, are you really going to deny them a bit of a tough cut of steak?  Or a birthday cake for a kid, even if food stamps buys it?  Can you imagine the BMW Prius convertible Mustang driving mum thinking a birthday cake an opulence?  Naw, not going to Italy to see the Caravaggio in person is a hardship in her world.  Well fuck that shit.  That shit is immoral.

Excuse the f-bomb but this is serious.  Riches are for ONE thing:  To use to take care of others.  To give away.  Not to control.  Free will.  There's the real f-bomb: free will, not just for you but for those who think you are wrong, for those you think are wrong.  Someone asks for a dollar, or you see someone in need of a dollar, and it is no hardship to you to do without that dollar -- GIVE THEM THE DOLLAR even if they will spend it on MD 20/20:  give them a dollar because THEY ARE A CHILD OF GOD JUST AS THEY ARE.  I AM A CHILD OF GOD JUST AS I AM, heretic and all.  And if giving them that dollar was no hardship to you, then it is also no commendation of what a great person you are:  it is no great feat to give from wealth.

I know you think I'm going to hell but you might have noticed that I don't buy into that fantasy.  I realize that you don't know another way, another possibility (because I've been there too), you think that it is quaint that those Greeks believed in Zeus and Mount Olympus and all but it isn't like that stuff was REAL, not like Jesus and streets of gold and all that.  You think if a person doesn't believe that, they must believe something else just as ridiculous and far fetched.

But if we buy in to your story, the Biblical story, we ate of the tree of knowledge.  We know, already, right from wrong.  Some guy named God doesn't hold us in check but rather our own conscience and our own free will.  God doesn't bless the righteous and punish the wicked but rain falls on the just and unjust alike. When seeking the compassionate course, look in desperation's eye. Know that we all get tangled up in worldly things and ego and fail. But don't look toward worldly things and ego for guidance.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Pagan Fire

The day came when none of us work off the farm.  The day was some grey, it had rained overnight, a good day for burning.  We'd previously dismantled the old big hot house that appears as the bones of some beached whale or something in many of our photographs, and there was semi-rotted wood with nails to dispose of.  Burn in a barrel.

About half was done before the barrel was full of charcoaling embers.  The night would bring a full moon, the first full moon after the equinox.  Quite the appropriate time for Pagans to have a Fire.

Not that I'm averse to a bonfire for the sake of a party.  A party is a worthy cause.  But a party, like a gathering, or a show, or a vacation, or a religious ritual, or anything contrived, is not life.  Life is the daily, the small, the repetitive, the cyclic.  Life is how freely we give, how graciously we accept, sometimes how tenaciously we fight.  Live for a living.

This is our second spring fire so far this year, with at least two more needed -- one to finish what needs burned in the cornfield, and one to finish burning the remains of the hot house, and both to clean off for what comes next for both areas.  Six adults, and sometimes a seventh, can have a lot of projects going at the same time.  Not much remains idle.  Nothing is for show.  We don't do a lot of rituals, and mostly we rely on work and flow, not magic.

I stayed with the barrel as the fire burned down, everyone else went on about their tasks for the day.  It would sprinkle a bit of rain sometimes although the forecast said it was over.  The bare trees on the hill against the grey sky looked amazing to me, their pattern of lines branching and scalloping.  Youngest adult reappeared to water the dog.  #3 came on her way to graze in the garden for her rabbits and took a moment to feel the fire's warmth.  The day had turned cool after being t-shirt weather yesterday.  Husband went back and forth getting the correct tools to put the gas tank back on the rototiller.  I could hear the rain coming each time before it would get to me, but always very light.  The creek roaring.  The neighbor's 5 Pyrenees barking -- so that I knew husband was checking the mail then.  Various birds calling, lots of crows.

But then there was a sound like a bumble bee against a glass, except it moved around, and it took me a good while to figure it out.  There was one crow with a broken voice.  Flying around and around me.  Hello crow with the broken voice, hello.

Even after the two fires needed to finish in the corn field and the hot house, there's plenty other to burn.  We need to clean out the ditches.  I'd like to begin the transformation of the front.  It never all gets done.  What a small life it would be if we could finish it.

Sunday, March 04, 2018


"I like to think of hope as a fact," she said.  I was listening to the radio.  This was a promo for some show I'd never hear, a singer-songwriter writing whiny songs.  That she felt were hopeful.  "I like to think of hope as a fact, because no matter what you are going through, you do get through it."

Hope at Yule is faith, and faith is what you believe in that you know isn't true.  Hope at Yule is a head down slog, one foot then the next.  Let's have a party, in fact, lets have several because there might not ever be another chance.

Hope at Imbolc is something you can almost smell but not quite identify.  It is not the parking lot outside of Little Caesar's; it is not upwind of your neighbor's grill; it is not french fries even when the oil is fresh.  Hope at Imbolc is remembering that I knew what my mother's perfume smelled like.

But hope when the coltsfoot blooms, that is a fact.

"What looks like a dandelion on top of an asparagus stalk?" he asked.  "Oh, that's coltsfoot," we answered.  It only looks like that for a day or two, the whole bloom takes maybe a week, maybe two?  Then it has leaves that resemble a colt's foot, both of which vary a good deal in size and outline.

After coltsfoot it will all come hard and fast.  The season of behind already will start, grown from the season of there's nothing I can get done.  I haven't checked for birthroot yet and won't gather any but I always love to admire it.  Tennessee iris are up in droves but not bloomed yet.  Will I catch and remember a sarvis tree or three this year?  Will the grapevines grow?  How much of the orchard can we get cleaned out?  Front pasture?  Milk?  Rocks on the road?

Coltsfoot likes to grow on waste places.  It grows where not much else will, there, amongst the gravel and rocks, unnoticed.  What plants you are drawn to will tell you a lot about yourself.  I like being a waste places girl.  There are so many waste places plants -- mullein, canes, elderberries.  There are too many waste places.

This cattail may not be a waste plant, but it is a survivor, still standing, against all odds.  Babies are sprouting all around it.  The light was hitting it beautifully and it called to me.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

love your food

This is Ferd at a few days old.  You can't not love that.  It took him until day 3 to take his bottle.  That was a tough and tense couple of days, sadness held at bay with hope.  Then when we switched him to a bucket, that took until day three again.  Again, he could die, and his dying would be a sadness. And then the horns.  He's going to be a bull, and a dairy bull at that.  Notorious.  He could kill you with or without horns but we dehorned him as we thought they could hasten our death.  But dehorning isn't a painless process without risk of complication.

I spent hours and hours thinking about him getting on that trailer.  See, we do this without all the "proper" equipment.  If  he did his job and if both cows are pregnant and if I get them both milking nicely and if I can sell one as a homestead milker, then I might use that money to buy some proper equipment and deal in AI (artificial insemination) instead of bulls and castrate any boys born on their day of birth and still have to rely on the generosity of friends to provide a ride to the abattoir.

I spent hours thinking of how to get him on that trailer, how to prepare him best I could; what all could go wrong and how to stack the deck against it going wrong.  Feed him there, get gates set up, practice with the trailer doors. In the end it is that same old tried and true pressure and release that works, and at the very moment when the human thinks, "oh he's going in the right direction; let's increase the pressure and make him do it," is the moment when all pressure must cease absolutely and with its cease he will walk on in.

This is Ferd in the trailer, eating.

Of course I love him.  Of course I thank him.

People seem a little more accepting of killing a chicken.  "I couldn't do that," is usually what they say.  But with Ferd, they said more of the order of, "You can't NAME what you EAT."  Well yes I can, although at times it has been named Tamale or Stew.  Ferd we named to invoke that magic, and that's pretty much who he was, always calm.  But we still didn't walk freely in the field after a certain point -- always have an exit, always have a stick.  People act like carrots don't scream when you pull them from the ground but mostly they've never pulled a carrot, much less eaten it right there with carrot-ness filling their sinuses.

I'm not saying it is all equal, but I am saying that there are choices to be made.  Local is better, more whole is better, less processed is better, home grown is better -- for the grower, for the taster, for the community, for the earth.  I am saying that connection is better, and you better believe I'm connected with those brown Ferd eyes having petted his head hundreds of times.  I am saying that love is better, and isn't usually what you think of as love, at least it is not only that.

I asked the husband, "Why do I get mad when people say, 'I hope he won't get in the trailer,'  'I hope he runs away,' 'You can't name what you eat"?  And then I answered my own question, forcefully, "Because they eat.  By gawd they EAT."  And they don't love their food.  They don't even know their food.

Ferd had a good life, and an honorable death; a purpose, and he was loved. Quite honestly, for what more could any of us ask?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

winter squash

I didn't capture, here anyway, the beginning in the garden, or the end on our plates.  I even missed the final step of a piece of cheese melted on the top.  But this is my favorite method to fix winter squash:  slice them, clean out the seed cavity (and the chickens love those seeds), spray with a little oil, pre-bake a bit turned upside down, turn over, fill cavity with diced onions, cover with diced bacon, bake until bacon and squash are done, top with cheese, melt, eat.  If you are using a normal oven, it would be at 350 but in a wood oven, well, it would be obvious why they call a cooler oven which is what I had most of today a slow oven.

It was a good squash year.  We have a couple buckets of acorns, some butternuts, and some others including a pink oblong thing that was prolific and tastes good.  But acorns are always my favorites.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

practical is beautiful

Never in my life had I seen this, no matter that I've eaten and cooked and seen cooked potatoes all my life.  Potatoes that you wash, then peel, then cook.  Although I stopped peeling all but mashed potatoes pretty quickly when I became chief cook and bottle washer.  I even tried to not peel those but went back to it.

But then Spice World came into our lives and along with it Indian food that we wanted to make at home, namely samosas and kachoris.  Enter youtube, enter a 111 year old woman teaching how to make samosas and kachoris on youtube.

And this is how she peeled potatoes which is now how we peel potatoes that need peeling.

1) wash and boil whole.  The advantage here is that you lose almost no starch or flavor in the boiling.

2) take them out of water and let cool until you can handle them and basically rub the skins off.  The old woman just did this with mainly her thumbs.  We tend to use the back of a knife.

3) use.  Your mashed potatoes might be a little lumpier, or might need more milk/cream/butter than you've used on the past, but they will taste better, even if you are using boughten potatoes.

I don't know, maybe I'd just missed this somewhere along the way, but this was new to me and ever so useful.

(Potato peelings are exceptional rabbit food)

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

high on the mountain

Last night we got the little truck stuck on the steep part of the road.  By "we" I mean the husband.  By "stuck" I mean, basically, sideways, back wheels in ditch, bumper against bank.

This morning Mack came, since he had to come get daughter #2 for work anyway, and pulled it out.  Much easier than the come along.  Then he came for coffee.

This afternoon we figured we'd better get some work done on the road.  It has been put off, it has been neglected, we've had other priorities (plumbing the MIL's house for example).  If we're getting vehicles stuck, we've got work to do -- or we have to start parking down at the road.  The truck is tricky to drive up anyway, with that light hind end.  But a rain shouldn't make it so we can't get up.  It had taken me two tries, and I was in the van.

One of our crew was at her town job.  One I interrupted his money work here.  I put supper into a place it could wait.  It wasn't a hard supper anyway, but if I were to have someone for coffee (a delight but an unaccustomed one), rock the road, AND have supper, it had *better* be 1) easy and 2) hearty.  The brown soda bread would be hearty, the soup made on the snack rotisserie chicken easy.  Also, cheap. 

We've sometimes thought rocking the road as a team defined our family.  Of course putting the 900# round bale into the field for the large animals defines our family.  Work together for the betterment of all; don't kill each other.  A 900# bale that starts rolling makes the latter real.  Really real.

You know, if I had Mack's equipment and an extra thousand bucks, I could have the road whipped into shape right now.  Heck, it was built in just a week.  Well, really only the valley of the shadow of death and the steep part were built; the rest was pretty much there.  But you know what I'm saying.  We don't have the money. Lawd the money that would run in to.  Who needs to go that bad? I guess someone who'd have to pay all that money.  Instead of getting to do it with each other.

36 buckets of rocks, two shovels ditching.  I think we made quite a difference, plus it will help prevent damage next time it rains.  Tomorrow, big breakfast then also rocks.  Then plumbing and library.  Then poker ride.  I should pay bills somewhere in there.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

middle of the road

I was on my way home after work, a little bit late, grilled over a fire burgers waiting on me when my neighbor stepped out into the road and flagged me down.  A little small talk about the draft horse auction and probably some other things then he said, "Look, I watch what you do on Facebook and I think about it" (so do I -- I love it when people have good arguments that make me reconsider or refine what I think) "and I just want you to know . . . .  Look, I voted for Trump."

"NOOOOOOO!" I said in mock surprise, laughing with him.  "I'm so surprised!"

"Yeah, I did.  I'm a conservative, I am."  I didn't get a chance to say right then that in many many ways I consider myself a conservative too.  He continued, "I voted for Trump but I just want you do know, you don't have a neighbor who is a neo-Nazi white supremacist.  I think Trump's an idiot.  I'm embarrassed.  But I just couldn't . . . ".

"Hey, I know," I said, "I didn't vote for Hillary either."  Because, hate on me all you want to, I could not.  Truth be told, if I had been in a swing state, I likely would have voted for her, but I wasn't.  So I voted my conscience.  The status quo is not good enough.  The status quo is not good enough.

"I just wanted you to know."

And we continued talking about a lot of the things we do agree on.  Like the importance of family, and time with your family; that "success" is something other than money; that choosing to live differently can be a little scary; that being informed and taking a stand is an effort.  Lots of things really, and there could have been lots more things too.

Now I'll tell ya, I get plumb exasperated at times with Trump supporters.  The whole "libtard" "Trump train" thing.  How can you possibly be a human being and support his, well, his evil, because that is what it is.  His behavior, his attitude, his proud ignorance is deplorable.  His baseless attacks, his habitual lying -- how can anyone defend that?  And he always has been this way and I won't get how that somehow got excused by people.  For conservatives, what about the whole tax issue?  That's so huge.  The whole Russia thing.  The whole believe the inauguration was the biggest on record thing (because I know people who really seriously buy into that because Trump equals Jesus, I swear).

But I also know at heart most of us have good hearts.  Trumpsters, Hillaryites, Bernie bros, Putinistas -- none of those, or at least very very few, really want to see children go hungry; very few want to see people have less opportunity just because they are not white (but to believe that whites have fewer opportunities is absurd, and factually wrong); people don't want to see bombs dropped on civilians or soldiers come home crippled or the US military be weak.  If there are children on our borders, we cannot turn them away, but we must examine the policies that cause them to be there. But to say, "Well, we can't save them all so we have to turn them away; after all they are not our problem," is itself evil and we have to recognize that, even as seeing children on our borders scares us in so many ways.

What we really have to do is look each other in the eyes and listen to each other.  The homophobic church needs to talk with gay people.  People who believe food stamps are a rip off need to 1) feed their own families on that budget and 2) talk to folks who get food stamps.  You know, stuff like that.  Are you a gun nut?  Are you willing to talk with someone who wants gun control?  Are you adamant that there should be more gun control?  Are you willing to actually look at the fact that pretty much all your proposals are already in effect?  Can we talk about violence in the culture instead of just about guns?  If you are a school teacher, are you willing to stay friends with someone like me who believes that schooling (not education mind you, but schooling) is in and of itself harmful?  If you are me, am I willing to talk with a vegan who hasn't grown her own food and who doesn't know that carrots scream when you take them from the ground?

Can we find the strength to do this?  Can we find the wherewithal to stand against white supremacists without thinking it weakens our position?  Can we find the gumption to not be threatened, not to live in fear, to know that love is not saying that word but an actual giving of ourselves; an actual, real, tangible vulnerability? A giving up?  An opening of the hand?

Well, there was that conversation in the middle of the road tonight.

I don't know.  I find myself standing against a lot.  I find myself saying "no" a lot -- almost like a parent.  "No.  This is not ok."

I've tried in my life to live differently, and I will continue that, and I will admit that it continues to be scary to do so.  I will continue to speak what I believe to be true even when people don't want to hear it (did you notice you are not happy with your boyfriend, did you notice that lemons are not actually local, did you notice that creeks die without riparian borders, did you notice your horse doesn't actually like you, did you notice all of your external trappings didn't change the way you feel, did you notice that Trump is a buffoon, did you notice your husband is a lush, did you notice?).

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Proof you can't poison your way to fertility.

And growing season is almost over, and no protection for winter rains.  And that equals less fertility.  And it makes me sad.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

revisit: Littling Along

I don't think the photo will come, but it is just a photo of some canned pickled broccoli.  What I was thinking about was having written about "stepping out of the stream" -- surely somewhere I've written more extensively about that idea but evidently not here as this was the only post that showed up to that search.  Oh well.  I'm doing everything I can figure out to do, and some things I'm not sure of but figure trying is trying, to change the status quo, end racism/sexism/xenophobia, turn the county and the culture toward compassion, tolerance, live and let live, an it harm none, and responsibility.  But in the end, this year seems to be a good year for winter squash and I think it is that, growing food, eating real food, making do for yourself (and your neighbors) and simply stepping outside of the whole consumerist, travel hither and yon, vacate from a life you can't stand living without drugs, success equals money to buy a life status quo -- and making our own success, defining our own.  So here's this blog post from twelve (TWELVE!) years ago.

Littling Along
Four jars of pickled broccoli (with garlic but no hot peppers because we've got none yet). It doesn’t seem like much. But it is the basis of prosperity, opulence, plenty.

Harlan Hubbard in his book Payne Hollow described ‘littling along’ and I understood it in financial terms. It really begins with not needing much. But the real thing is that it doesn’t end with not having much.

As with so many things, it is a matter of perspective. Four jars of pickled broccoli. It might seem like so little, but it is so much.

Littling Along 2
After having been in town all day, I hadn’t fixed supper or had any brilliant ideas for it. After having been in the garden all day, neither did husband. So I asked him to bring up veggies to snack on. We had kohlrabi and carrots (misshapen but carrot up you nose good tasting) and cabbage but my special treat was a turnip. Husband cut the top off for me and handed the bulbous root and a spoon to me. I scraped across it, like you’d scrape an apple for a baby, and put the first spoonful in my mouth. Spicy, cool, smooth. My great-grandmother McFall used to feed this to my mother and my girls came around for their spoonfuls. My mother never fed it to me, but at least she told me the story so that it could be a tradition that didn’t die out.

And eating that turnip, scraping it hollow, I thought, imagine a time when scraping a turnip like this was considered a snack food treat. Seems a better time to me. Seems like a better set of values.

Littling Along the Fringe

Can I just say, the problem is the industrial model. Before I have said that the problem is consumerism, at base. Individually, I think that is the case. But the industrial model brought consumerism and its accompanying greed to a more massive level than it could reach without the corporate citizen. But people grow even tiny little gardens in rows, which is the industrial model. People are tied to time, which is industrial. People sell themselves, their time, their soul, themselves out, willingly, which seems even more sad than people being sold involuntarily. People dream of winning the lottery (or even more stupid schemes of getting something from nothing), which is simply a dream of going from exploited to exploiter.

Exploited or exploiter. That is significant.

But there is a stepping out of the stream -- out of the mainstream that is. Living on the fringe of society, as Harlan Hubbard called it. I think it is more than giving up one thing, like a car, or eating meat, or some of the junk in your attic, or any other thing. It is more than giving up a lot of things altogether. It is rather embracing something else, something different. Having a dream and manifesting it.

I don’t personally believe very many people are ever going to do such a thing willingly. I do not for the life of me understand why people want to stay in the dichotomy of exploiter or exploited. But I undeniably see by their own actions that they do.

Friday, July 07, 2017

you don't get to eat and not participate in blood sport

Mack mows hay with a hay bine.  A hay bine mows the grass and "conditions" it by crushing it.  Mowing the inside of the 20 acre orchard grass hay field (he'd done 10 outside passes the last clear drying weather), a full grown turkey hen went through the haybine.  "I don't know why she didn't move.  I stopped, of course, to throw the pieces out of the hay, and I expected to find a nest she was sitting but there wasn't one.  I mow in low second so I was only going 7 or 9 mph.  I've never seen one not move like that before.  I don't know why she didn't move."

A full grown turkey hen is unusual.  But mice are not.  Smaller birds are not.  I've heard of families of skunks being mowed.  Hay may be dehydrated grass to feed vegan horses, but it is not bloodless.  

No food is bloodless.

Recently a friend tried to grow some tomatoes.  She went to the beach for a few days and came home to half of them having been broken by a groundhog.  You might know my thing against trap and release (one, it is illegal and two, the animal almost always dies, usually of starvation, anyway -- these things ARE territorial and if you are trying to grow food you just might realize that it ain't that sure of a thing to feed yourself).  You trap and kill when you need to.  I mean, it just is.  Certainly you can hot sauce and pee and bitter spray and rotten egg spray and put out pie tins or old CDs, but if you trap, you kill.  So I was able to talk her out of trap and release but she "can't" kill anything so she'll just not grow food.  Ahem.  Oh yes, she realizes "because she eats meat" this is hypocritical.  But I'm like, it isn't hypocritical because you eat meat:  It is hypocritical because you eat.  It is removed, privileged, precious.  And by engaging in this avoidance of your own participation in life (and death), you are avoiding the good as well as the bad and settling for the safe warm kiddie pool of life instead of the full, wild, dangerous, not always comfortable ocean.

Yesterday daughter #2 and I went down to the garden.  This was after taking care of two barns together and (me) washing dishes and (her) wood burning on a harp.  Daughter #1 is neglecting her strawberries and either we all work together to save them or we lose them for the year.  Hot, humid, sweat dripping into my eyes, down my sides, even my legs were wet with sweat.  Maybe I sweat more with menopause but it was hot and humid.  After we pulled weeds for awhile (untangling smartweed from strawberry runners is not exactly fun), clearing a couple square feet each and finding only one red strawberry but it had been bitten by a turtle, we plunged into the maniacal growth that is supposed to be the blueberries and orchard to pick blackberries and wineberries.  About a pint of each and we came home.  And went back to both barns for evening chores.

I share things like this for so many reasons.  For those who think growing food is easy and anyone can do it (ok, it is and they can), I want to show that it is also difficult, and uncomfortable, and failure happens, and skill and experience count.  For those who think it is hard and not worth it, I want to show all the different things you get from doing it, AND you get food!  And so daughter and I had done all these things, we'd sweated, and bent over, and straightened up, and rolled our necks, and were tired and thirsty -- but we'd also spent all this time together, had moved our bodies and kept them strong, had talked about various and sundry things, had gathered food for the rabbits, had contemplated eternity -- AND we had blackberries and wineberries.

And you know the blackberries and wineberries probably had not killed anything to grow.  They are reclamation plants and had grown because we haven't mowed where maybe we should have.  Deer have bedded in them, had their young in their protection.  But in the picking, there is still blood sacrifice -- briars require it.  They require it from you. 

Did you read the YaYa Sisters?  The most delicious part of those books was the summers at the swimming hole -- when it was too hot to do anything else.  That wouldn't happen now -- air conditioning.  I'm not saying that air conditioning is 100% bad or 100% to be avoided or anything but I am saying that we do lose stuff.  And it is true also that sometimes we gain stuff -- this medium of blogs is a gain, being able to eat mangoes is a gain.  But to be disconnected from death, human or animal, is to be disconnected from part of life and that is a loss.  And to be disconnected from death of animals is to be disconnected from the real although hidden life of plants.  And minerals.  And inanimate objects even.  Because if you don't "kill" things but you kill those other things then you deny their way of being alive just because it isn't looking at you.

I suppose I've gone fairly far afield here.  But it is a heady and a heavy thing to hold a live rooster in your arms, feel his warmth, feel him breathing, and then take that away from him and put him into your body.  AND THAT IS BECAUSE IT SHOULD BE.  It isn't awful or terrible but it is awesome.  And if you are in touch with that, chicken even from Tyson takes on renewed significance.  The deer eating my beets becomes my venison, as it should.  If you pickle some beets, you understand that there is blood in the very earth too.  But if all your beets come from a can, you can wonder, "Why the heck do they dye them that color anyway?"  Full disclosure:  I asked that once.

It is really about full participation.  Full presence.  I don't know that anyone can be at the top of a mountain and not be present for that view -- probably one reason hiking to the top of that mountain is so popular, because people have to be reminded how to be fully present like that.  But with other things, sometimes it is doing without that enhances that awareness -- if you've done without running water, you are forever more cognizant of what having running water means: if you've done without hot water; if you've lived behind a locked door; if you've been been hungry.  If you've truly participated in the procurement of your own food, it is a full participation, an awareness that you never forget and may long for.  I only peripherally participated in my grandparents putting up apples and corn and green beans, and yet a very early purchase for me was a small chest freezer -- so I could put up those apples and beans when they were in season. 

I was 24.  I lived by myself.  In an apartment. 

We still use that freezer.