Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Making Use, Making Do, Making things Right

You may remember I started this journey with thick rubber gloves, tongs and a package of Trader Joe's frozen chicken breast. 

Well, we're not in Kansas any more Toto. 

This spring we raised our own meat chickens. Fast growing things that required careful monitoring to ensure proper health. The garage flooded during some area wide flooding we had, and we panicked to get the little babes dry and to higher ground. We raised 30+ birds for ourselves and a few friends, marveled at how fast they grew and butchered then by 8 weeks. 

Last month, Mr. Bee butchered our first goat. (Not to worry, it wasn't Lula Mae or anyone you know. Well not too well anyhow. :/)

Desi was one of Lula Mae's babies from our first kidding. She was always destined as meat or selling but we gave her a name and treated her like the others, nevertheless. 

We also put one of the beautiful Pekins down. She suffered what my childhood best friend (turned Vet) surmises was a stroke common in older birds of this variety. 

With the meat birds it's almost easy. "Meat" is even in their name! I've still never done the actual slaughter but it's easy to get detached. You see them and think "wow this will feed us for many months. I wonder if those runts will catch up in size." (In the process if the objectification of meat, it's easy to understand the objectification of women.)

With the goats, it's a little harder. You feel weird taking the life of an animal who trusts you, who you watched enter the world, who is cognizant of its status as prey in the natural world. You tell yourself that it's okay because she's not a pet, she never was a pet, even though that's not entirely true. 

Then there is your pet. Someone you love deeply and powerfully. And it's so hard that you have the neighbors come over and take her life as part of a ceremony where you cry and they sing and you're pain feels so deep you'll never recover from it. Even though you will, and you do. 

We didn't intend to lose this duck so we had to make do and navigate the best way to honor her. E It seemed best to pluck the soft down from her body and let her flesh stay whole. We composted her body and look forward to letting her continue to nourish our lives in another season. I took the down, and combined it with other down I'd saved to fill Baby Bee's special blanket I finished for his 1 year birthday gift. 

I have to make sense of if all. If I'm going to eat meat, I have to come to terms with the fact that life is life whether I give it a name, call it my own or never distinguish it from its peers. It's all the same. It's my relationship to the animal in each of those scenarios is different. 

These experiences have compelled us to examine our practices: is it better to take one life that provides for several? Or take more lives from animals that feel less "evolved"? And how do we get the most put of each life? What do we currently consider waste and how can we put it to use? Can we buy meat at this time from, say, a grocery store,-or do we need to "know" the animals before we consume them? 

 We've come a long ways on this journey but we are no where bear arrived. I'm curious to see where we end up in our thinking. 

Preserving the Harvest

Mr. Bee and I are focused on expanding our food storage right now. We've consulted with neighbors, read books (like Indeoendence Day) and even found a second food dehydrator from someone down the road. 

There is something uniquely satisfying about taking something that should only last a moment, or a day, or a week and preserving it for a later time. 

Although my memory is less than spectacular on its own,  the moment I have something to hang a memory on it becomes nearly photographic. It becomes preserved almost indefinitely. 

Did you hear that Radio Lab episode last week? Yeah me too. And although I can't tell you what it was even about, if you replay any segment of it, I will suddenly be able to recall every detail. I will know exactly where I was during that portion of the show. I'll be transported back instantly. Even if it was four years ago. I'll remember word for word what Jad will say next, the color of my shirt if I looked down, the way Mr. Bee's face looked as he processed the information and all the colors of the cars around me if I was driving. It's like reliving the scene. (And thus, I find it very disorienting to ever listen to the same thing twice!)

As we can our shiro plum and basil jam to top winter toast, make applesauce for the spring, or blanch our greens to toss in soup on a soup cooking on the fire on an upcoming snowy day, I hope we are persevering the memories alongside. I hope we remember the joy of watching our first chard stems poke up through the ground in our newly built hoop house--long before anyone else had even purchased their seeds--as we open a jar of pickled rainbow stems.  I hope we remember laughing and picking Asian pears with Baby Bee on my back as we munch on dried pear rings and think how lucky we are to call them a "snack". I hope when we pop the cap off our apple cider at thanksgiving, we remember how our frost attempt exploded all over the laundry room leaving sticky residue and a yeasty smell to linger for days. 

I hope we remember to harvest and preserve the good days and that the memories are just as fresh, even after the seasons change.

Making the Abundance Last

I feel it in me again. That quiet persistent voice nudging me along. It's sunny now but it won't be forever. Or for long.

Winter is coming. 

Yes, eat those cherry tomatoes straight off the vine. Yes, pour some cream over those fresh blueberries and taste their freshness. Over indulge in watermelon for dinner tonight. And again at breakfast tomorrow. 

Then save a little. Take what you need for now and maybe some extra, but rember to save some of the abundance for later.

You'll need it.