Sunday, November 7, 2010

Good days

Yesterday was simply a good day. Nothing remarkable happened. I had turned 25 two days before. I woke up to sunshine. I wore a vintage Pendleton wool shirt. I ate a bagel for lunch, and after lunch I took a nap. I listened to a recording of Maurice Sendak's 1993 interview on NPR's Fresh Air. I read some wonderful children's books.

In the evening, I made soup with potatoes and kale from the garden. I drank a blueberry beer, which made me slightly tipsy, and I painted my fingernails coral pink. I stayed up late, but not too late. I slept well.

Nothing remarkable happened, but I was happy, and in my happiness I remembered this poem:

The Life of a Day
(Tom Hennen)

Like most people or dogs, each day is unique and has its own personality quirks which can easily be seen if you look closely. But there are so few days as compared to people, not to mention dogs, that it would be surprising if a day were not a hundred times more interesting than most people. But usually they just pass, mostly unnoticed, unless they are wildly nice, like autumn ones full of red maple trees and hazy sunlight, or if they are grimly awful ones in a winter blizzard that kills the lost traveler and bunches of cattle. For some reason we like to see days pass, even though most of us claim we don't want to reach our last one for a long time. We examine each day before us with barely a glance and say, no, this isn't one I've been looking for, and wait in a bored sort of way for the next, when, we are convinced, our lives will start for real. Meanwhile, this day is going by perfectly well adjusted, as some days are, with the right amounts of sunlight and shade, and a light breeze scented with a perfume made from the mixture of fallen apples, corn stubble, dry oak leaves, and the faint odor of last night's meandering skunk.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The UPS Man

This morning the UPS man pulled into the drive and around, hitting the horn to get the dog out from under his wheels, his classic rock turned up high, and when he walked up to the house and smiled at me and said good morning, I thought that today, today with the sun burning away the dew and the wind blowing through the open door and the music loud, today I would be happy to be a UPS man too.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Goodbye, Summer

(first light at the fair, via minnesota public radio)

During the last weekend in August, I did my last summer "thing" - I went to the "Great Minnesota Get Together" with Aaron and one of my best friends, Erin, who was visiting from Ohio and had never been to a state fair. We wandered through the animal barns - rows of rabbits, chickens, and geese, freshly groomed heifers and steers, sheared sheep, sleeping hogs. We sat on the curb, ate cheese curds, custard, peaches, and donuts, and watched the crowds. We admired artwork and antique printing machines. We watched draft horse hitches in the hot, still coliseum while eating cotton candy that melted on our fingers. It was hot, sunny, and perfect. After 13 hours, I fell asleep on the way home.

I felt like I was grabbing hold onto the last days of summer with a feeling almost like panic. I was not ready for shoes or wool sweaters, for the dressing of layers. I was not ready for the winter I know is coming. I was not ready for shorter days. I was not ready to feel cold.

But tonight, while Aaron and I took an after-dinner walk along the bike trail, I felt suddenly open to the change. The leaves are beginning to turn. The landscape is changing from hot greens to warm yellows, reds, oranges, and browns. Flowers still bloom. The corn is drying in the fields. The air is lighter.

There are parts of me that are still mourning the long days of summer. But I am also looking forward to riding my bike through cooler temperatures. I'm looking forward to soft flannel, long-simmered stews, homemade bread that warms the kitchen while it bakes. I'm looking forward to gathering around the table with family and friends, hearing their stories, giving what I can.

Friday, August 20, 2010


The flies came with the rain.
I lie on the couch, reading.
They are at my mouth and ankles
and the bend of my arm -
places of thin skin.

Above my wrist, its blue veins,
they cross the bridge of my fingers.
I wave my hand over the book.
The dog snaps at them
in her sleep.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Aaron says these things that make me smile

"We're not poor. We just don't have a lot of money."

"What would you like for dinner?"

"You're my little furnace. You're my toasty girl." (I exude an incredible amount of heat when I sleep - I'm better than an electric blanket.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Picking Tomatoes

This, dear friends, is a Green Giant tomato, and it's one of my favorites. I know you won't believe me, but it smells like BLTs. I can press my nose against it and pick up not only the sweet scent of tomato, but also mayonnaise and peppery bacon. It is truly amazing.

A few days ago, while making a tomato salad for dinner, I bit into a Black Cherry tomato, sighed happily, and was about to tell my mom that if I ever lived in a place where I only had room for one tomato plant, that would be it. But it came out like this: "If I could only grow one kind of tomato, well, no, if I could only grow two kinds of tomatoes, no, if I could only grow three kinds of tomatoes..."

I have since come to the conclusion that I will always need to live in a place where I can grow at least four kinds of tomatoes: a Black Cherry for snacking and salads, a Flamme for oven-roasting, a Speckled Roman for sauces, and a Green Giant for sandwiches.

There's a reason they call tomatoes like the Green Giant beefsteaks, and here it is:

In my opinion, anything that I can pick from its vine, sniff happily, and put on toast is a very good thing.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Have a Seat

because I'm about to show you something pretty cute:
This is a keet, or baby guinea. I have thirteen others, and yesterday was so hot that they stayed out on the porch, no heat lamp necessary.

I hope they'll grow up and become tick-eating machines. They also promise to be better guard dogs than our two canines. Hannah, more often than not, is caught by surprise during a nap and lets out a couple of barks after the fact to try to cover her embarrassment.

Even without their loud "buckwheat" call, I think they'll stand out. The cuteness factor won't last, and while their feathers are beautiful, guinea fowl heads are fantastic and decidedly strange:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


On Sunday, Aaron and I celebrated our 1-year anniversary. One year!

After at week at a family reunion at Gull Lake, near Brainerd, we headed east and spent the weekend in Duluth.

We walked through Canal Park and watched the lift bridge. Completely by accident, we made our reservations in Duluth during the Tall Ship Festival.

We waded into Lake Superior. It's apparent just from dipping your toes in that the lake is experiencing record high temperatures (15 degrees above normal) - the water felt no colder than Gull Lake.

On Sunday, we decided to hike a short distance on the Superior Hiking Trail along the hills overlooking the lake. We crossed Coffee Creek.

We hiked past an abandoned park, an old apple tree, and views of the harbor. It was muggy and hot, but also wonderful.

Happy anniversary, honey.

Dear Aaron,

When I look back on our wedding day, I remember this: you squeezing my fingers as we stood facing each other, your thumb stroking the edge of my hand.

Your Grandma Jane told us last week that it's said that the first year of marriage is the hardest. That can't be true. Certainly we had a bit of a rough start as we learned how to deal with, and share, our first grown-up responsibilities. Those first few months were hard, we agree, but what I find amazing is how we helped each other grow, and how, as we strove to better our relationship, we bettered ourselves and each other.

Now things are simply, and in every sense of the word, good. When, one year ago, I cried as I read my vows, I could not have imagined how much my love for you would grow. It's grown with every meal we've cooked together, every walk we've taken, every story we've shared. It's grown every time we've argued and reached the other side, it's grown with every bit of laughter.

I can't explain how much comfort and love I feel in our marriage. I know that, no matter what, you have my back. I hope you know that I have yours, too.

When I look ahead, I see so many adventures waiting for us. I can't wait to share them with you.


Gull Lake

What I want to remember:

The wind that filled my mouth during boat rides.

Sitting with Aaron and his brothers at the end of the dock - talking, sharing a cigar, and watching the moon pass over the lake.

The burnt-orange moon, and how quickly it came up over the horizon.

A little girl with blond pigtails straddling a skateboard and propelling herself along with her feet.

The loon that surfaced near the shore, and flapped its wings to smooth them. Their calls, which I think are one of the most beautiful sounds on earth.

Laughing as we used bed sheets to toss a water balloon back and forth over the tennis nets.

Aaron and I sitting at the end of the dock, dipping our feet in the water while I read aloud from The Commitment.

Turning off the lights in the cabin and sipping a whiskey ginger while we watched a thunderstorm.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Planning Meals

We've reached the glorious time of year when the garden no longer suggests a menu - it demands it.

On Monday morning, my little sister leaves for a year abroad in Japan. During the last two weeks, my mom and I have been making her favorite foods - puff pancakes, homemade pizza, Jucy Lucy burgers, meatloaf, lemon linguine. But tonight the garden is throwing in its vote as well. So along with our lasagna, tonight we'll feast on cucumber salad and roasted green beans.

Had I been able to stop myself from eating every last one, we might have had berries over ice cream for dessert.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


There's something about chipped, pink fingernail polish that makes me feel so freakin' cute.

When I was about five years old, I used to "paint" my nails with Crayola markers. Instead of chipping away, it smudged, and that wasn't nearly as satisfying.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Learning to Say "No"

Do you remember when he said that I could get a cow? Well, I'm beginning to come to terms with the fact that despite my love for bovines - for the swirl of hair on their foreheads, their wet noses and cloven hooves, their hot smell, dark eyes, and (perhaps most of all) their large, wide-spaced, fuzzy ears - a cow just isn't in the cards. When I look at it financially (small incomes, large student loans), when I look at it logistically (the length of time we plan to live here, in the country), I can't fit in my little dream Jersey or Guernsey in a way that makes practical sense. It's hard to be a grown-up, because you have to be the one to tell yourself "no." I've been looking for ways to soften the blow, first by being grateful for what I have (such as a coop full of chickens), and secondly by collecting old photographs of women and their Daisys, Bessies, and Buttercups.

I suppose what I'm doing today isn't so different from imagining horses into my life as a little girl. When I look at these old photographs, I imagine the affection, joy, and frustration that comes with knowing an animal intimately. I put myself in these women's shoes for a moment. Of course it's not the same as chasing after my own cow, barefoot and cursing, or feeling the rough tongue lick the grain from my hand. But looking at these old photographs make me happy. And if I look for the silver lining in all of this, that small happiness comes without chipping ice out of water buckets in January or stacking hay in July.

1, 2, 3

Out to a Movie

While browsing through the local antique mall yesterday afternoon, I learned two things:

1. Our small town used to have its very own movie theater where, as our entertainment guide assures us, you and your date could catch Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley, John Wayne, and Jimmy Stewart, all in the month of August.

2. Junk mail used to be much more fun.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I don't need this,

but I want it. I want it very, very much.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My chickens...

... are beautiful.

Every morning after letting my feathered teenagers out of the coop, I gather up the feathers left behind on the straw floor. They feel like little presents. Walking back to the house, holding my little bouquet, I think, these may not bring summer indoors like pink zinnias and yellow snapdragons, but these Buff Orpingtons and Cuckoo Marans, the Speckled Sussex and Wheaten Ameraucanas, they're just as nice.

That feather in front? That was left for me by my dear Lulu. I'm head over heels.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

July 15


Mayson and the pigeon

chicken tail

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lack of Imagination

My husband believes in magic. It's something I love about him. Last night as we were driving home, we saw a black cat walk into a corn field. "Hello," said the cat. "I'm off to kill some wildlife, and maybe drive another species of bird toward extinction."

"Now, how do you know he's going to do that?" asked Aaron. "Maybe he's gathering a few ears to make popcorn."

"Oh, Aaron, I'm fairly certain that cat isn't going to make popcorn," I said in my "now you're just being silly" voice.

He smiled and said, "Katie, your lack of imagination is disappointing."

There's a low, wet place along the river where a thick grass grows sparsely, and at almost perfect intervals. He wants so badly for it to be a garden created by someone who, in protest of our industrial food system, took a hoe to a bit of state land.

I, on the other hand, am too grown-up for such things. I say to myself, "I don't believe in fairies," and I kill one every time.

I wonder why some of us, in our hurry to grow up, are so quick to throw out that sense of magic we felt as children. Aaron is giving it back to me, a little bit at a time. Now I imagine a bit of dialog for the Red-winged Blackbird chasing a Great Blue Heron across the falls. Sometimes, on my way to work in the morning, I imagine fairies on the cliffs along the river, hiding in the heavy moss and ferns.

This world needs more dream weavers.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Important: Perishable Live Birds

... was written on the cardboard box. The woman at the post office handed it to me, and I could hear a soft clucking. What was inside?
A Wheaten Ameraucana cockerel, a Blue Wheaten Ameraucana pullet, and a future of blue eggs and fuzzy-muff babies. Because, as Aaron said to me this evening, "If I can't grow a beard, I want my chickens to."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rock the Garden

The clouds broke. There were rows of color in the blankets spread over the hillside. A young woman danced. Laughing, the man next to her put his arm around her shoulder and kissed her forehead.

A little girl in front of us ate shaved ice - her lips were dyed blue raspberry. Across the street, a small group of people sat on a rooftop with their legs dangling over the side. There were dark trees behind the stage, and across the highway rose the basilica, warm with the sun. The air smelled like grass, beer, and smoke. The fringe on Sharon Jones' dress shook violently. In my beer-stained jeans, leaning against Aaron's chest, I was happy.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rhubarb Coulis

Yesterday Aaron and I made Straight from the Farm's Rhubarb Strawberry Napoleons with Rhubarb Coulis. What you feel when you look at Jennie's pictures is what I want to say about it - it was just as delicious as it is beautiful.

I doubled the coulis recipe and have a small jar of it left. This morning I swirled it into my yogurt and topped it with sliced strawberries and a handful of rolled oats. It was perfect.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I'm in love with this dreamy bedding by Patapri. But I also worry that if I ever get my hands on it, I'll never get out of bed again.

See more wonders in PataPri's etsy shop.

Friday, May 21, 2010

First Day Outside

We haven't had any chicken pictures lately, have we?

Last Saturday was their first day outside, and they spent it doing what they love best: eating and sunbathing.

I know I shouldn't pick favorites, but I have, and right now they're my Buffs. They're calm and friendly and their soft, downy feathers are so pretty.

These big guys are finally moved permanently out of the bathroom and into the coop. They love watermelon but don't think much of bread yet.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

May is Bike Month

A few lovely things that celebrate the beauty of human-powered transportation:1950 Barra Randonneur Bike Print (I want.)
Hand Carved Tandem Bicycle Stamp
Sushi Dish Set with Blue Bicycles

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thank goodness for fenders

Another rainy day. The light was gray. I slept in late. Had small bowl of soup for lunch, and a slice of cake left over from my baby sister's 18th birthday. Dressed. Slipped on my rain pants, my rain coat, the wide-brimmed hat that Aaron wears when we hike.

What I love about riding in the rain is the sound it makes on the river. Watching the beads of water drop from the brim of my hat. The way it makes me feel quiet inside. The birdsong that I would miss on a hot afternoon.

And then, just before I reached town, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Water rushed into the storm drains. I rode through the puddles. I listened to geese on the river. The world was as tangy and green as a Granny Smith apple. Everything shone with rain. The lilac bushes were heavy with it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


There's snow in the forecast for northern Minnesota.

Yesterday brought the kind of wind gusts that leave your ears ringing, that make you want to hunker down indoors and draw the curtains to create a sense of quiet. And so yesterday, with my ears ringing and a chance of flurries hanging over my head, I dreamed of late summer and heat.

I love the heat. It entices me into water. It takes the dreariness out of our sometimes light-starved rooms and makes them seem like shady oases. It's exhausting and sticky, yes, but knowing how quickly it will pass makes me want to run outdoors and hold the hot earth in my naked arms.

I love the heat because it's intimate in a very physical way. In winter we draw inside of ourselves. We insulate our bodies from the cold - we build layers. In summer, we bare ourselves to the heat. Our bodies smell like yeast, our fingers swell. The heat draws out our sweat, the sun leaves its mark on our skin.

And so yesterday I dreamed of sun tea, vintage dresses, and hammocks at night. I dreamed of bare earth that burns your feet and grass that cools it. I dreamed a bead of sweat running down my spine, of seeking out shade, of lying in bed with my arms thrown wide.

But for all my dreaming, I'm not ready to let go of spring yet. The lilacs are blooming, and I bury my nose into their sent. I eat asparagus raw in the garden. This morning, I roasted rhubarb with vanilla and orange, and ate it over a bowl of Greek yogurt. And it was so good that I decided to shelve my summer dreams for the day. After all, in a few short months, I'm sure I'll be panting on the deck, dreaming of snow.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Joy Ride

One of the things I love most about riding my bike is that I feel intimately connected to the weather and the sometimes subtle changing of the seasons. If it rains, I get wet. I feel the cold spots on the trail where there's little sun during the day. Usually I must press against the wind, but today it's blowing from the southeast, so it felt pleasantly warm and didn't hamper my commute.

It's amazing how quickly the woods fill with green. Only weeks ago they seemed quite brown and barren. Then small white flowers cropped up among the dead leaves - thousands of them spreading across the ground. Then the flowering trees and shrubs - delicate pink and white blossoms. And now the lilacs are blooming, as well as purple flowers on tall stems and a multitude of dandelions. The spaces between trees are filling with green, and the rapid change makes my ride seem so much shorter, because I am constantly looking around me.

Today I saw, across a narrow corn field, a wild turkey tom displaying to a rather uninterested looking hen. It seemed like such a perfect Midwestern scene, and I would have missed it if I had taken the car. In fact, if driving I would probably only notice that the grass and cedars were greening, and that the trees were just starting to leaf out. I would miss the progression of wildflowers, the turkeys, the geese on river islands, the ducks that fly across my path in the city park.
image via paradise garage

I'm also taking a new bike to work. Last weekend Aaron bought his first-ever grown-up bike, a cream Linus mixte, and he is generously allowing me to ride it in to work in the mornings, so that he may drop off the car for me after work and ride it home. It is so encouraging to see companies designing good-looking, affordable bicycles already decked out with fenders, a rear rack, and a bell. No gradient color, no loud graphics. Just simple, clean design. It's a bicycle that makes you smile when you ride it. And the gearing is so nice and low that even on three speeds, I can bike up all the hills on my route without too much trouble. Now we just need to save up for a leather saddle.

Speaking of feel-good bicycles, Schwinn is running a TV ad:

Bicycles really do make the world a better place.

(via Urban Velo)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Today, a kind of sadness

I took this picture of my little turkey on Monday afternoon. This morning I buried him beneath a flowering wild plum.

When I heard last week that three poults were available for me to pick up, I was thrilled. I had read that as babies, turkeys are harder to keep going. With three poults, they would have company even if I lost one. I wonder if maybe through this first act - preparing myself for a fatality - I had already failed him.

On Tuesday all of them seemed bright and active, but I noticed that my lavender cross was making a clicking noise when he breathed. I've never raised turkeys before, so I believed that because he seemed healthy in all other respects, the clicking was nothing to worry about.

Yesterday morning, the lavender was lying at the edge of the brooder. He was extremely lethargic and couldn't stand on his own. He was panting and still clicking with every breath, and after a few protesting peeps when I picked him up, his head lolled back and he closed his eyes. I couldn't get him to eat. I dipped his beak in water but he wouldn't drink. I started to cry because I knew he was dying, and I was already running late for work. I didn't want to leave him alone.

He was still alive when I came home that evening, and while he was still clicking when he breathed, he was no longer panting. Mom dug up an eyedropper for me and I mixed a little honey with some water and starting feeding him a few drops every hour. He felt cold so I tucked him under my shirt, holding him against the skin on my chest.

He was just getting his wing feathers in - beautiful lavender feathers. I wanted to see what he'd grow up to be - to know if he was even a he. I told him to live because there was a big, green world outside that had all sorts of treasures waiting for him - new grass, insects, sunshine. I tried to send him positive energy, and I cried.

I wanted him to live, but selfishly, I also wanted him to die. I wanted him to do something, because I was drained and exhausted with waiting. Every so often the clicking noise would stop, and I would hold my breath, listening, but he was still breathing quietly. I tried to feed him a little egg yolk, but he wouldn't take it. He kept his long pink toes curled together.

Poor Aaron didn't know what to do. He came in a couple of times and kissed me, but he mostly tried to stay out of the way. He doesn't know it, but he did everything right. Without me asking, he brought my tomato plants in for the night and made up our bed.

I settled the poult into a box lined with a wool sweater, with a small dish of water and a little food. I climbed into bed and Aaron put his arms around me and said, "I'm here." I think at that moment, it was the most comforting thing he could have said.

I wanted to believe in a miracle: that when I woke up, he'd be wobbling around his little box, drinking and picking at his food. But when I looked into the brooder, he was dead. The edge of the wool sweater was pulled over his body like a blanket, and he was still warm and soft underneath the brooder light. I couldn't move him - it was Mom who finally lifted the box out of the brooder, out of the heat.

I went back to bed for a little bit. I thought, what if I hadn't put them on shavings right away - would he still be alive? Did he eat them? What if I had changed the water more frequently? Did it make him sick? And, what would he have grown up to be, with those beautiful lavender feathers?

I wrapped him in a paper towel and picked a small cluster of flowers from my mom's bleeding heart bush. I walked out to the hill where my horse is buried, my dog, my day-old chick. The apple tree and plum bushes were blooming. I dug him a little grave and lay him in it with his head facing east. I put the flowers on top of him, and I sat on my heels and cried. I told him how sad I was that he was only a baby, and how sorry I was that part of me had wanted him to die even as I was willing him to live. That wasn't really what I was asking for. I just wanted an end to the sadness.

When my Sussex chick died, I couldn't see the place in the brooder where he was missing. There were so many other warm little bodies, so many clamoring for my attention. But when I look in there now, when I look at my other turkeys, I see where he should be. And the fact that he isn't there breaks my heart.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Two Weeks

At two weeks old they look less like little kittens and more like dinosaurs, or vultures. I still love them impossibly much.
And here are the new additions that I brought home with my turkeys - four Cuckoo Marans. Three are a week old, and the little one stealing the camera is about 4 days old and impossibly fuzzy. Aaron named her (or him) Muff. I'm crossing my fingers that at least one will be a girl who will give me wonderful chocolate colored eggs.

Lunatic Farming

On Sunday, Aaron and I drove up to the University of Minnesota to attend a lecture given by Joel Salatin. Joel is a bit of a pioneer in sustainable agriculture and pasture farming, and he is featured in Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and the documentary Food, Inc. The lecture was titled, "The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer."

When I was a senior in college in Virginia, several of my classmates and I took a day trip to Polyface Farm as part of a class on food systems. It was one of the most inspiring trips I have ever taken, because it illustrated so clearly that what Joel preaches is possible. And that is, this:

That farming can be environmentally conscious, and not only that, but also environmentally beneficial, because carefully managed grazing can enrich soils and encourage the return of native plant species.

That there is a moral thread that runs from the field to the fork. While many in our agricultural system view life in a manipulative or cruel way, there are farmers out there who are allowing their "pigs to express pigness." By allowing a plant or animal to express itself, we can move toward respect in our food system.

That we can attract more people to agriculture by "romancing" them onto the farm - that is, by creating farms that are aromatically and aesthetically pleasing. And that instead of encouraging our brightest students to leave rural areas, we need to create a farming system that attracts them. Farmers are, after all, the stewards of our land, air, and water.

And finally, that it should be our mission to bring beauty and healing to everything within our sphere of influence.

There are a lot of people today who don't want to think about where their food came from. They don't want to visit the CAFO where their meat was raised, and even if they did, in many places they wouldn't be allowed in. But I think many people enjoy watching the ballet that occurs on diversified farms where animals are raised on grass.

When I was walking through Polyface, it was incredibly clear to me that this was how I, or anyone else, could leave a positive mark on the world. I thought of the pigs that could clear the underbrush from our native oak savannas, the cows that could, through rotational grazing, calm thistles and encourage the growth of prairie grasses. Thriving rural communities, and, at its simplest level, good food.

When I imagine a future where such practices would be considered normal, and not lunacy, I could cry.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Conundrum

Yesterday I picked up three day-old poults. I'd ordered them with the intention of raising my own Thanksgiving turkey this year. I had originally wanted two, but the man who sold them to me had one extra, and he told me over the phone that he thought that once I got there and saw them, I'd want to take them all home.

He knew my weakness but not to its fullest extent - I wanted them all before I even hung up the phone.

So now I have three more downy babies, and one little problem. Because no one warned me that baby turkeys would be this cute - so wobbly on their long legs and hopelessly clueless, with large eyes and sweet triangular beaks.

If I have a hen or two in here, then goodness. I had dreamed of home-grown roast turkey, but come Thanksgiving I might be grateful instead for the makings of a little breeding flock out in the barn.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Small Inquiries

When they crowd around my hand, I like to rub my fingers against their chests. I can feel the food nestled in their crops beneath a thin layer of skin.

One of the little bantams bit Chickadee on the head last week. I think he found the experience very humbling.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Growing Food

I start tomato plants in my bedroom. They're growing wild, and every morning I have to do a little rearranging to keep the tops from brushing against the lights. When I touch them they release their green, spicy scent - one of my favorite smells.

Outside, the radishes, peas and spinach are poking their little green heads above the soil, and I dream of green salads.

I love food, and I love it even more when I know where it came from and who cared for it. When I eat a salad in a restaurant, I don't think about it in any agricultural sense. I may think about its taste and texture, but nothing about where it grew, and whose hands were involved in its planting and harvesting.

But when I make a salad from plants I've grown myself, or bought from neighbors, it has a story. I order the seed, plant it, water it, fuss over it as I wait for it to grow. And finally, I cut it, wash it, top it with sliced multi-colored radishes. Maybe I'll make a little dressing with blue cheese aged in caves an hour away. In this way, food connects me to my community. I am not only a consumer, but a participant in a cycle that begins every year with birth. And by this choice, I hope to have a greater understanding, as Wendell Berry writes, "that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines, to some considerable extent, the way the world is used."

This is why, when I spend money on food, I try to support my neighbors and agricultural systems that honor land, family, and animals. My family buys grass-fed beef and pastured pork and poultry because we want to know that the animals that died to feed us had good lives, and that they were able to live in a way that honored their cow, pig, or chicken natures.

This year, I'm raising some of my own meat birds. My chicks are my babies, my little darlings. I love them and I'll give them the best life that I can, but one day they'll grow up, and I'll pack most of my boys into the car and take them to Callister Farm for processing. I'll be sad and I'll miss them but I'll also be incredibly thankful. When I roast one of my own birds, knowing the part I played in its life and death, I will remember two things that Berry wrote:

First, "Only by growing some food for yourself can you become acquainted with the beautiful energy cycle that revolves from soil to seed to flower to fruit to offal to decay, and around again. You will be fully responsible for any food that you grow for yourself, and you will know all about it. You will appreciate it fully, having known it all its life."

And second, "Eating with the fullest pleasure - pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance, is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Study in Sleep

On Monday my chicks turned one week old. All of that growing up is hard work.