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.

1 comment:

jules said...

I can remember gatherings of the women, canning, snapping, making jam. I was too young then. How I long for that wisdom now, and the gatherings.