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The weather has given us a break, and the girls and I took a hike this past Saturday. It was lovely. We got home and both the girls fell asleep by 6:30 and didn’t wake up again until the next morning!
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’m wonderfully optimistic about the year to come. I think I’m finally coming to an understanding of what it means to let go and let God. To kick off the new year, I have decided to start a series of posts on things we have a right to know about (in fact in many situations our life depends on it), but for whatever reason they are kept “secret” whether through planned secrecy or by tactful exclusion of information.
John and I spent the evening on the couch last night watching our new Netflix arrival – Food, Inc. . I’ve been waiting on this movie since it came out a while back. This film demystifies our current system of industrialized food and the problems that arise from our expectation of fast and cheap food.
It was a little over a year ago now when a prolonged illness of mine prompted me to switch our diet to a traditional foods diet as proposed by The Weston A. Price Foundation and authors like Sally Fallon and Nina Planck. Since then, I have noticed a tremendous change in my health and well being along with that of my husband and children. I have lost and maintained a 100 pound weight loss (though I was already losing weight before changing my eating, I contribute most of it to traditional foods). I have more energy. My gums no longer bleed when I brush or floss my teeth. But, the most noticeable for me is my relationship to food. I no longer fear food making me fat, because I know that what I am choosing to eat is real food and not something fabricated in a factory. I enjoy my food and I eat plenty of it. I’m eating things the diet industry tells us will make us obese and sick – butter, bacon, red meat, and whole fat dairy.
This approach to eating (I don’t call it a “diet” in the terms of how most of us view the word) has changed my life so completely that I can’t help but get excited about sharing it with others. However, all to often I have noticed people don’t want to hear the truth about where their food comes from, and I tend to get tuned out. Instead of accepting that there is a problem here and we are in need of huge change as a society, they continue to eat from the conventional store shelves food that more often than not is some kind of factory made variation of corn or soy bean products and they wonder why they are sick with things like diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, or obesity. Why is that?
The fact of the matter is that we have a right to know where our food comes from and under what conditions it is being processed for our consumption. Our food is life. What we put into our body directly affects how we are able to live our life. However, now that our food supply is being controlled by just a few multi- million (billion) dollar corporations that treat their farmers and factory workers like second class human beings, who don’t care at all about the health of the animals they process for meat, and treat our meat, produce, and dry goods with a variety of chemicals to give them unnatural shelf lives, we are being kept in the dark of food practices that if they were public knowledge would incite the citizens of this country to demand a change.
The truth is that 1 in 3 children in this country born after 2000 will develop diabetes. 1 in 3 children in this country are either considered overweight or obese. Low-income Americans (under $30,000) a year find it hard to afford a healthy diet. This comes along with the idea of fast food being cheap. You now can buy chips for a lesser price than a head of broccoli, and then there are dollar menus at fast food restaurants. The question of food availability also arises. Living in rural Appalachia, I find it extremely difficult to find food I feel is appropriate for my family, and I have to make too many compromises.
Our country is facing an epidemic that is inexcusable. We owe our children a better chance at a healthy life than this. We owe it to ourselves as well. While industrialization has brought about many good changes in our way of life, when its principles are applied to certain more personal areas of our lives, we find we are detrimentally affected by its lack of concern for the greater human good as opposed to the low cost production industry holds so dear. A few profit from the loss of many.
After viewing this film and others like it, I can’t help but encourage others to become informed as well. Know where your food comes from. Know that in one pack of ground beef there is meat from 50-100 cattle. Know that most chickens raised for commercial slaughter for companies like Tyson never see the light of day or feel grass under their feet. In fact, they are lucky to be able to bear their own body weight on their brittle legs. Know that the tomato you are buying that is so pretty and red was shipped to your location in many cases over thousands of miles, and picked while still green. It was ripened chemically. Know this, and decide to change it. There are farmers out there with answers to this problem. We can have normal, affordable, healthy food. We can live without the fear of food related disease. Arm yourself with knowledge. Then, cast your vote for the foods you want every time you choose your purchases at the grocery.
In honor of Native American Heritage Month and our own Cherokee lineage, we took a family outing today to the Native Nations Mini Pow-Wow at a local community college. It was such a blessing to be there and to take the girls. November is filled with many important and beautiful holidays that I rarely hear mention of this being Native American Heritage Month as well. Everyone in the hollers and hills around us are preparing for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Today, there was well deserved honoring of our Veterans. Other Waldorf homeschooling families were celebrating Martinmas today, as they do in the Waldorf schools across the country.
For some reason, I didn’t feel the calling to pick up Martinmas for our family this year. Though I do seek to follow the basic tenets of a Waldorf education for my children, I wanted something for us that was our own – something I didn’t have to research and contrive a meaning for myself in order to attempt to translate it for my children. So much of what was right about my childhood was the diligence of my grandmothers in teaching me from where and whom I came. When I had no self esteem at all, I still held great pride in my ancestry. I want my girls to know exactly who we are and that there is a rich and distinct culture within our own family and within our own part of Appalachia. I firmly believe that this will prepare them to be confident and tolerant adults able to communicate with and love the people they meet. They will know themselves well enough that even when they are unsure of their path, they will know at the very least how they came to be.
There were many tribes represented from all across the United States from the eastern woodlands tribes, the plains peoples, and even the Pacific Islanders. We saw hula dancers, tepees, various native dances and songs from the represented tribes. I participated in as much as I could. The best part for me was talking to a Mohawk Iroquois man. He explained to me how the Cherokee who resisted/escaped the removal (Trail of Tears) joined with the Iroquois for protection. He called it genocide, which is what I’ve always thought it was. He spoke of how their family/clan system was set up. He told me how the clan mother was revered even more than the chef, and in fact the chef answered to her. This made sense to them because no one exists without a mother to bring them forth to the earth. He explained to me the beaver bowl of rights and how Benjamin Franklin was key in bringing their ideas of place and government to the colonies. The man explained that Franklin got it all wrong though. He turned it into a Bill of Rights for the white Anglo-Saxon male. He left out women, men of other races, and importantly Mother Earth and the animals and plants that were created for us to co-exist with. All of those people and living things lost their rights. That is when things fell apart. When there was illness, and not enough food. Polluted waters, and fighting over land – real wars. This really made me think about the situations facing eastern Kentuckians with coal mining. (I’ll leave it at that for now. That topic would be a whole other post.) But, apparently we are the 49th happiest state with only West Virginians being sadder than we are. That really hurts my heart that things are so out of focus for many of my fellow mountaineers.
I loved walking the girls around and showing them the artifacts, regalia, and pictures that were on display. They enjoyed seeing the wooden baby carrier (I forget what the woman called it. It wasn’t papoose.). Deladis got a kick out of the fact that we have one too, only not wooden. I found myself tearing up a little explaining to her that our people lived in log homes and stayed put a little more than the plains tribes. Our People. I wonder sometimes if I even have a right to say that. I look in the mirror and search for the characteristics that I saw in my great grandmother on my father’s side and the pictures of her mother. I believe that it is in my soul if not in my outward appearance, though I like to believe there is something of them in me.
The girls relished in hearing the drumming and seeing the dancing. Ivy nodded her head to the beat. Deladis was so excited she covered her face when she saw a man in full regalia doing the chicken dance. He did take on the soul of that creature perfectly. 🙂
So, in remembering a piece of our history, I feel like we are moving forward as a family. Homeschooling for us is not about sticking to some set of rules, or adopting practices just because a curriculum says so. Waldorf for us is about acknowledging our relationship with the Mother Earth, with God, and paying attention to the natural blessings of changing seasons, weather, good harvests, and the animals. It is about learning our place in that world and existing harmoniously as much as we can with what is natural. What is natural to us right now, is grounding ourselves in our rich history, and using that foundation to move us toward the future with a postive light.
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