Friday, November 26, 2010

A Local Celebration

Happy Thanksgiving lovely readers! We are celebrating this holiday with my parents who reside in Hastings, Nebraska, a fairly small town of less than 30,000. They still live in the same house I grew up in, built by both my mother and father.

When I return to this neck of the woods, I dread the food. There are more fast food restaurants here than parks, which might explain why a good percentage of my parents' neighbors depend on convenience chairs to get around. Scary. I was bound and determined to find fresh food in this state for once and thus began my search for goods a solid six weeks in advance.

Local Harvest was absolutely indispensable. If you don't know about this site, you should. It can locate a sustainable farm, farmers market, or natural foods store anywhere in the U.S. It's through them that I got hooked up with the Nebraska Food Cooperative, who in turn provided me with a local heritage turkey, organic veggies, and other sustainably grown sundries that we would use for our Thanksgiving feast. To top it off, I ordered everything online and it was delivered straight to my parents' front door. We didn't even need to go grocery shopping before the big day. How awesome is that?

Ironically, in the heart of America's farmland, it's not that easy to find fresh, local, sustainable food. Big Ag and junk food crammed grocery shelves have left small family farms with a mere pittance share of the market. This land, nostalgically remembered for adorable livestock grazing the electric green back 40 and returning at night to a quaint brick red barn standing amongst waving wheat fields, is in reality a heartbreak. The soil suffers from severe nutrient deficiency and erosion under intensive chemical farming practices and monocrops. Farmers end up beholden to the bank, the seed companies, and government subsidies. Small farmers, who don't qualify for the subsidies, find themselves working full-time off farm jobs in order to make ends meet. It's a sad situation all around.

Maybe it's the romantic in me, pining for "the old ways", that makes me go out of my way and plunk down a few more dollars to purchase from the little guy who cares about the health of the land regardless of financial loss. I also just think it's the right thing to do.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fred Is a Man

And he's going to stay that way. The family jewels, as you can see in all their glory, shall remain intact.

Fred's new owners have decided that he is a real stud and thus will be pimping him out to the goat ladies who might need a bit of courting. All I can say is that he will be very good at his new career if the amount of humping he performs on a daily basis is any indication of  future job success (I will hopefully have video for you all next week).  I'm actually a bit concerned with all the mating behavior as male goats can become fertile as early as seven weeks. This isn't as much a concern for Ginger - she won't reach sexual maturity until seven months - but for the two adults in the herd. Thankfully, Fred has shown no interest in humping his mother and so far he isn't big enough to tackle Ethel. But he is growing fast. A couple weeks ago, both Lucy and Ethel were in heat and Fred spent half the day sniffing Ethel's backside and then throwing his head in the air with lips curled back, baring teeth, and sucking air in and out at a metered pace. At first I though he was doing his best imitation of Mister Ed until I realized that this is normal behavior for a male to determine whether or not a doe is in heat. God, he is such a man!

These aren't the only sexually dimorphic traits he has been acquiring. He's developing quite a bucky smell that you can't easily wash off your hands. And check out the start of his beard.

Ten weeks old and he has facial hair! They grow up so fast, don't they? And he headbutts anything. A fist.

The camera.

His sister's head.

No matter. It's all good. Despite all his macho manliness, he is still a baby who whines like a toddler for a little suckle on his mama's teat and then happily curls up for a nap with the family.

In other goat news, Ethel has been sent off to her farm of origin to be bred to an odd looking fellow named Flap Jack. He has the longest, shaggiest black hair I have ever seen on a buck and horns that swirl up and around in a pompadour. She should end up with some interesting looking offspring.

As many loyal readers will have noticed, we are on vacation in Nebraska for the Thanksgiving holiday while our super fabulous goat doula friend Monica and her family will be looking after the brood. Both her and her husband, Declan, grew up on farms in Ireland. Can't wait to hear about Declan's attempt to milk the goat sans milking machine. Should be a gas.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Guest Blog : A wee Irish lass is farm sittin' this week.

Top of the morning everyone,

Luna (black cat) has crept a tad closer on the bed, -within purrfect patting reach, to start our day with a gentle purr. No husband, no child, only animals..I’m liking this wordless space!..well....for now at leaast..
Fearing the Irish tea on this wee farm, might just not meet my regular fix at 7:30 am, I take on milking Lucy cold turkey!  Wellies, raincoat, rubs, tubing, jars, feed, wipes, “white” tray..I feel like I’m off to perform some grand operation.  Mind you, I need some milk for my cereal, so here we go, ….spread em!! Well, whaddya know?   A piece of _ _ _ _!  CAKE!.. seriously, she’s a pet.  The kids (ungulated ones!) got to have their cereal and milk thereafter, so one big happy farm thus far. And you know what? The tea is grand, some good brown bread with homemade marmalade, and she even has Kerrygold Irish butter.  No eggs, come on now girls.. we'll have to have a wee cluck later, girl-2-girl. This house is amazing, the supplies are endless in a household of glass labeled jars, from grains to goodies!. Hmmmm. I should weigh in and out of here!

A great day was had overall, Mr. Tink mind you, did a tinkle of another kind with excitement when I came back to the hse. at one point... Mr. Tink! Control your excitement. Bunny plenty hydrated as that is the job of wee Hugh Peter after school…so much so was the interest that she got a few nostril-loads by surprise, I didn’t know bunnies made such a high-pitched wee sneeze!..  Bless you..and all about you, Good night from itty bitty.  BTW, me husband is coming over early in the am to milk Lucy (he’s not to know about the “equipment”). Let’s see how the v. experienced Monaghan farmer get’s on!  Maybe he’s back at the hse. and getting some practice in tonight! 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fred Attacks

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Honoring Our Ancestors

Fall is an important time of year around here as we are busy with harvesting, canning, buttoning up for the winter rains, and planting fall crops.It is also a time of year filled with various celebrations and holidays that have great significance to us. As lovers of imagination and creativity, we of course adore Halloween, but it is also a time that we pay tribute to our ancestors and to our loved ones who have passed in the last year by celebrating Dia de los Muertos.

Although my husband's family is Mexican, they no longer celebrate the Day of the Dead. This tradition probably died out in his family as they attempted to assimilate into U.S. culture. My mother-in-law was born in this country, but she was raised speaking Spanish. The 1950s California education system was not kind to children who continued to speak their mother tongue and she was often beaten for communicating in her native language. In order to survive, assimilation was of the utmost importance.

We reclaimed this colorful celebration for the benefit of our daughter, as we think it is a wonderful way to open up dialogue about death. Though my husband and I are self proclaimed atheists, choosing not to believe in a supreme deity or deities, we do not lack a sense of spirituality or cultivation of the inner life of the self as one might assume. The fact of death is something we would prefer our child to come to terms with rather than fear. Reflecting on this is part of what you might call our spiritual practice. And what better time to contemplate this rite of passage, but in the season when crops wither back into the belly of their mother, trees shed signs of life, and the glow of summer leaves us for the dark. Here are some photos of our festivities.

This is our altar to our ancestors and loved ones who have passed. 

Ute and I made Pan de Muerto for the first time and it turned out great. I wanted to bake Frida Kahlo's version, but it required a dozen eggs! With only Sweet Pea laying, that wasn't going to happen.On another note, while watching a video on the Dia de los Muertos in Mexico, we saw a quote graffiti-ed on a wall "We eat from the earth and so in return, it eats us." Something to chew on with the yummy bread.

Every year, Ute and I get all gussied up for San Francisco's Day of the Dead procession. We love the ceremony, something that is often missing for us non church-goers.

Thursday, November 4, 2010