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Hi everyone! I wanted to invite you to my “birth” blog today to check out a three part series I have been working on. The first post is on the history of childbirth in eastern Kentucky. I hope you enjoy it.
A gal has her first moon time and is initiated either gently or suddenly into womanhood. A woman experiences pregnancy and birth or feeling love for someone more than any love she has ever felt for herself or another – a different love – and she is initiated into motherhood. Today, I was initiated. I took another step out of the speeding rat race of the world back into the days when woman, wife, and mother were words for many other jobs as well.
Yesterday was a blessed and sunny day. We spent the day outside, enjoying our chickens who have finally started laying and setting. The house chickens have found a safe nest – their third try. The barn hens began using the nest boxes and sticking close to the barn.
The other day we found six of Little Girlfriend’s eggs in Lars’s doghouse. She wasn’t setting, so we ate them. She moved the nest under the old coop.
The girls played in the sandbox. I planned for a breastfeeding workshop I am giving soon, sitting next to them in a straight backed chair with my lap desk and the sun giving the perfect light.
This morning it was gloomy. The rain clouds came overnight. John was preparing to leave for the weekend, and we had just finished our pancake breakfast. Our neighbor, Brett, walked up on the porch in time to finish the last of the pancakes. He wasn’t coming to eat though. He was coming with photos of a hawk, down in the barn, killing our setting hen. Brett wasn’t able to stop it.
We work really hard at getting things just so. It seems to go better, then the natural world reminds us where we are in the scheme of things. It didn’t take me long before I had a plastic grocery bag in hand and shoes on my feet to walk down to the barn. I got there and realized the hawk hadn’t broken her skin, only her neck. I picked her up by the feet, put her in the bag, and brought her up to the cabin to be prepared for eating.
I used a Buck knife my daddy gave me to remove her head. She was our sweetest and prettiest hen. The knife wasn’t the type I needed, but the best I have. I tossed her bitty head, with cute tufts of beige feathers that stuck out from her cheeks, into the trees. I made a quick phone call to my dad for some reminders and instructions, and John and I took her to the creek to gut and pluck her.
I remembered my great grandmother, Golda Johnson, and her deep fear of chicken feathers. I remembered the story of my Uncle Vince ringing a chicken’s neck, and its body flying off and into my great great grandmother’s well, ruining the water. I remembered my grandmother’s (Ida Hansel) disgust at a chicken and her druthers of not fixing it to eat.
John stood by to observe, and I stuck the Buck knife into her soft belly slicing downward. The knife hit a shell. When I opened her, I pulled out a perfectly formed egg. The one she’d lay today. I set it to the side. With two fingers I began to remove her innards from the cavity of her still warm body. I understood for the first time how much of her little body was devoted to making eggs. To being a provider of life and food. I held her tiny, healthy heart in my hands a moment to look at its perfection.
Plucking was harder. It took me a minute to get the hang of it. I finished her in the house, after a scald in the pot. Plucked, drained, gutted, and washed, I placed her in a freezer bag to be fixed when John comes home.
I knew at some point we’d eat some of the animals we raise. Deladis took it well. She knows where her food comes from, and she likes meat. Ivy cried a little, but I think she sensed my downtrodden mood. I wasn’t ready to do it today. Not without numerous diddles running across the field following their mama. Not without a fridge full of eggs. I couldn’t let her go to waste. She wouldn’t leave her nest. She couldn’t run. In her death, she’s giving us a most healthy meal, and a perfect egg. Both will be prepared with love. We will consume her and know her. We will know personally our food.
I think of the Appalachian women whose job it was to kill and prepare chickens. Appalachians mostly ate hogs, but on a Sunday, fried chicken was a nice dinner, especially if you were expecting company. I wondered at their chore of feeding the chickens, holding them under their arms, gathering their eggs, wringing their necks, plucking feathers, and preparing them into a special dinner with all the love they had to give. It was the least I could do for our hen.
Later on, we stopped at McDonald’s after a prolonged doctor’s visit. From the drive-thru I saw a mama dog with heavy teats wagging her tail at every stranger that passed by, hoping for a bite. She hadn’t gotten anything, and she was begging so politely. Hungry to the core as only you can be when nursing a baby, and yet she begged with more humanity than some people I’ve encountered on the city streets. We got our food, eased the truck next to her, called her over, and the three of us females donated half of our meat portions to her and her pups, wherever she had them waiting. She ate without chewing, her front paws on my seat.
I’ve been initiated. It’s hard to wash the smell of blood from your hands.
I enjoyed this with the girls today. I wasn’t a fan of Dr. Suess as a child, but this really struck a chord with me today. Very pertinent, I believe. 😉
The last week (well, since Tuesday) I’ve felt like Death warmed over. Now, I ain’t been too far from home, so I don’t know if that is strictly an Appalachian expression, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it were. Us mountain folk love to discuss our ailments. I don’t know when that came about, but as long as I have been alive, it has been true.
It usually goes a little something like this…. You see Linda’s, Mamaw Flora at the grocery store. You go to church with Linda, so you feel you should say a hello.
“Hello there, Flora. How you today?”
“Aw, not too bad. I got the arthritis so bad in my hip I can’t hardly get up and down. Linda can’t help me none… much. She had the stomach virus this week, and Fred (Linda’s husband) has been down in his back. He’s too old to be working underground, but he can’t retire. Not right now. But, we ain’t doing too bad. Can’t complain.”
So, I’ve felt like Death warmed over, folks. I’ve had the whole sinus thing going on, and I’ve just felt plumb wiped out. John’s been off his feet because of swelling and blisters from all the hard work he’s had to do these last weeks. Winter was rough on us this year. But, we can’t complain.
This week we’ve had visitors from Princeton University who said the trip to the cabins here to talk to John and George were the highlight of their trip. I haven’t felt like keeping up with the girls, but they kept up with me. 🙂
Ivy found the dress up clothes that Deladis never bothered with, and was a Princess for two days.
Deladis had to get in on the picture taking fun without really playing dress up.
Today, we were all feeling a little better. The girls went to stay with John’s mom last night, and husband and I got some much needed sleep. The sunshine this morning lured us out to the barn and the garden plot we’ll be sharing with our friend and now neighbor, Nathan Hall, for some work. Nathan has huge ideas of the real learned variety. He has somewhat of a degree in agriculture. We’ll have a nice organic garden this year. 🙂
This morning we spread nice wet and aged poopy throughout the area where we will plant over the next few weeks. The aged poopy came from the barn, and the nice fresh stuff, Nathan brought back from some where off.
This area will be disced and more manure spread as we go along.
Soon, we will be adding more animals to the mix. We’re looking for meat goats and some larger chickens for egg laying. We did get six eggs from our house hen yesterday! Crazy! They are tiny little things too. She isn’t setting though, so they’ll be breakfast.
It’s a beautiful day, and John’s Mamaw is celebrating her 82nd by cooking her family a nice old time dinner. I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend and being a little better than not bad. 😉
This sure pepped my mood today. Hope it does the same for you. 🙂
Betsy has posted an edited set of photos from the week she spent with us on her blog. Take a look if you are interested. 🙂
I’m not a poet, but this day is poetry.
Releasing bonds and feeling myself in the space I’ve been led to take.
My mind churned all night from happiness.
Today, I woke to warmth and joy filled little girls.
Walks to the barn, marveling at such tiny little hens,
Songs, rhymes, small peat pot green houses and quick sprouting seeds;
Digging in the dark winter full dirt,
Swinging feels like flying.
Mommy can still hang upside down from bent knees, climb a tree and feel it grasp me back, enjoy wind in my hair, relax in height, and allow the Fix-It-Up-Chappy to make me a star bellied Sneetch.
We rest with smiles and the relief that seasons bring.
Again, I’m here to apologize for dropping out for a bit. I haven’t been able to keep up here or with my own blog reading for a few weeks. My first class series begins this coming Tuesday. I’ve been making binders for the clients, studying, searching for and creating handouts, lesson planning. Shoot, I feel like a teacher again! I’ve met some great women that I probably would have never connected with had I not began this journey. I’ve been consumed by all the new work. It’s been really good.
I have been blogging on a birth blog that I started to accompany my services website. It’s informational in nature… about pregnancy, childbirth, and beginning parenting. I’m enjoying that.
Deladis has had strep throat. It was a phantom strep throat because her throat has never actually hurt. Weird. But, when she kept a fever for three days, I knew this wasn’t our usual little bout with a bug. She’s doing much better though.
John is off to Kentucky Crafted in Louisville. It is his biggest show of the year. I think this is his fifth year to participate. I’m so proud of him. He’s such a hard working guy and dedicated to what he does.
Tomorrow, I am expecting a photojournalist from Western Kentucky University to come out to the cabin. I believe she will be doing some documenting of my life. It’s a little intimidating. 🙂 John is usually the one being asked to share his life with the public, and I get to tuck myself away in the background. I don’t know what to think. This blog is about as public as I get from day to day. Can I still run around the property in my pjs? Oh, do I need to clean the whole house? Should I just go about life as usual considering it is a photo journalism project? Probably. 🙂
So many people come into Appalachia to photograph, video, create the people. I’m not sure what the draw is. Debunking stereotype maybe, or in some cases perpetuating it. This woman however is interested in more than just the whole Appalachian thing,which is good. She is interested in our lifestyle choices of homesteading, homeschooling, and our career choices. Maybe she’ll only get pictures of me handwashing dishes with my hair twigged up and in my pjs. Or, in my pjs dancing in the living room with the girls. Or, in my pjs trying to coax the chickens into the chicken area of the barn instead of hanging in the hog lot. (Maybe we should put a hog there.) Maybe I should get out of my pjs. 🙂 It’s hard to leave the sweatpants and t-shirts behind when you are doing work that is dirty. You don’t want to mess up your good clothes.
I’m excited about what’s to come. Hopefully when I find a balance, I can come and write here more often.