Recently, our food and farming related blog has been linked to some other fabulous and thought-provoking websites, for which I am truly grateful. Writers write, and it is nice to be read. However, my blogs most often show up under the category of “activism”, which gives me pause. It was not necessarily the focus of my intention when I began my blog.
I thought It might be a good idea to investigate the meaning of this thrown about word, so I looked it up in an online dictionary. The first definition of activism I found is as follows. It is “the use of direct, often confrontational action such as a demonstration or strike, in opposition to or in support of a cause”. One definition of an activist is, “an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause, especially a political cause”.
This being the case, I guess you could say that I “is” one. An activist, that is. I wish to eat high quality, unadulterated, nutrient dense food. I want to grow as much of it as I can myself, or purchase it from others that I know and trust. I wish to sell it or trade it to whomever wishes to obtain it, with a minimum of oversight and regulation. Call me crazy, but I don’t think the government should have anything to say about what I eat and who I provide with food.
The topic of food freedom and government over regulation is an activist’s dream, or should I say, nightmare. Who would not fight for the god given right to gain sustenance for one’s self and their family? If you would like to continue eating, and thus living, you probably don’t like the idea of someone blocking access to your food. Voice your opposition, and you may be on your way to becoming a food activist. It is as natural as breathing, and I will not let someone cut of my air supply.
Call me naive, but when I became involved in the local food movement I did not realize that it was a political cause. I found out soon enough. The battle for food freedom will begin on the farms of your neighborhood and the gardens in your backyard, but it will be taken to your community halls, and the meeting rooms of your town trustees and county commissioners. It has already escalated far beyond the local level. It is the peoples’ cause, and it will be heard.
I am an active food activist now, and if that is my new label I will wear it proudly. I doubt that I can turn back anytime soon. I am honored to stand with you. We have a lot of work to do.
It must be fair to say that human beings strive to be liked by other humans. Most of us not only want this, but need it. We crave acceptance and approval like a potted plant thirsts for water and nourishment. For some, it is most uncomfortable and worrisome to know that another person not only dislikes them, but despises them. Hatred aimed and focused in your direction can be a devastating and brutish weapon, and it can knot and shrivel your innards if you let it. A man who tells you different is either completely oblivious or tragically dishonest to himself. I know, for I’ve experienced such mind numbing hatred from another person for the last several months. It does not lessen the confusion and pain to know that it is all because of pet dogs and dead chickens.
My wife and I raise rabbits, squab, and chickens for our family table on our small acreage in the rocky mountains. It is a mostly simple and worthy task. We enjoy the daily chores and the opportunity to be more closely involved with our food. It gives us purpose and slows the spin within the ever tightening death spiral of the ruler’s world, hoping that our example will encourage others to change their ways or stay the truer course. Our part is small and the hour late, but we can only hope that a small awareness in ourselves leads to better days for all. Hands on food and an honest meal can do no harm. Some people, however, seem to have a genuine knack and desire for havoc and chaos. It is the promise of the end of something fine and inherently pure that drives them.
We have tried to be respectful and considerate neighbors. It’s not that hard to do. Large tracts of open space surround us on three sides. To our north lies the Flat Tops Wilderness, and mostly other wild lands up to the Canadian border. We favored our closest neighbor and built our bird pens and coops about as far away as possible to reduce the chance of conflict or complaint. We tried to inform them of our plans, and offered to resolve any problems in advance. We built and repaired hundreds of feet of border fence without thanks or any offer of assistance. Instead, we offered ourselves to them if needed, and eggs from our happy hens, and other backyard bounty. We owned up to the joys of “manure management” and odor control, and in fact adored the results it produced when applied to our gardens. It mattered not at all, for their dogs came anyway and killed them well, without consideration or remorse.
The same dogs have come several times over many months, as we were never quite able to completely finish the fence or predict the direction of their campaigns. It didn’t matter that in Colorado it is the dog owner’s responsibility to control the wanderings of their dogs. It didn’t matter that our property possesses the proper zoning, and that we had broken no laws. It didn’t matter that we have always limited the amount of time that our birds have free ranged on open pasture, and under a close eye at that. It never mattered that Colorado is a “Right To Farm” State, or that our property was once a poultry farm long before we, or our neighbors, thought to live here. What matters is that our chickens are still very dead, and that our neighbors apparently hate us beyond all measure of rationality and reciprocity, because we had the audacity to ask to be compensated for their loss. Until then, I never imagined that chickens and farm animals could generate so much disdain and consuming hatred within a human soul.
Of course, the officers of animal control responded to our calls, the police consulted and reported, and the court evaluated, and judged. We have been monetarily compensated to some extent. But still, somehow the compensation never comes close to filling the emptiness left behind. Money does not heal all of the damaging wounds of the violation. It does not compensate for the destruction of one’s peace of mind, nor aid in the eternal quest of a lost ideal. We don’t ask for much. But we would occasionally like to hold the world of deceivers and brain addled man-children at bay for a few precious moments in time, and latch on to something real long enough to remember what that is.
It’s a life’s work to look evil in the eye and make it blink, without first succumbing to the overwhelming need to fall apart and scurry for cover. In my case, it certainly does not help when your chicken hating neighbor is every bit of 6′ 6″, and them some, and looks like he could still hold his own on the college basketball court. He has no doubt held off countless opponents from an uncontested spot beneath the basket. I would not like to be on the receiving end of a slashing and blindsided elbow. To say the least, my neighbor is a rather intimidating fellow, and his body language and practiced glare would make a snarling badger turn inside out and pass himself in panicked flight. Like all petty enforcers and sadistic bone breakers, he is used to getting what he wants, or destroying and discarding of what he does not. He has made it clear that he does not wish us to have the pleasure of our poultry. They will be gone, of that he is sure. In his mind, there must be an angle from which to triangulate, and an actionable course to pursue by whatever means possible.
Still, I must stand my ground in the face of the onslaught. Farms and farming are suffering under a withering and unconscionable attack in this country, every day, from every direction imaginable. Big business and big government collude and conspire against us, with malice afore thought. Little government works overtime to impress their corrupt handlers, with some special attention for anyone who points out their dirty workings. Urban and suburban values collide with escalating force as the job market and the economy implodes, leaving the common person to pick up the crumbs from their festering carcasses. You would like to raise and sell some poultry from your own property, you say? Well, we don’t think so! And by the way, it is now illegal for your own children to labor on the family farm. Can you hear the screams of the founding fathers as they claw to escape from their earthly graves?
We let it get this bad because we never saw it coming. A good person cannot think through the mind of a plotting and scheming beast. For example, we simply cannot originate the concepts of flouridated and toxic waters being promulgated to wash down chemically saturated non food, while at the same time making it illegal to have a home garden as they dream up new ways to criminalize the art of self-sufficiency.
As with others locked in this terrible struggle, I will stand and fight because I must. Like all proper dinosaurs I will see my end soon enough, and can only hope that it is a good end. Or perhaps not, and instead grow wings like the modern bird that they became, and fly through the bombardment unscathed. I will fight for my right and your right to become just a little more self-reliant and defiantly independent, and help you hold up a big, bold, fistful of empowered personal dignity towards the light.
After all, like many of you I have already pledged to spit in the eye of the county health department, the USDA, The FDA, and any other alphabet soup agency or freedom hating tyrant who may dare to fight fair. They hate us too, and their rabbit punches and dirty boxing skills are legendary. The enemies of the borderlands are vast and most cleverly devious. They lurk at the edges of our lovingly protected world, while hungrily plotting the death of our way of life. Compared to them just how bad can one really giant fire-breathing neighbor be?
Our intimidators and bullies simply cannot prevail, and we refuse to own their hatred. Our will, and the will of the land will not allow it, and our travails and hardships will be replaced with joy and forgiveness. Here’s to hoping, and praying, that our injuries can only hurt for a little bit, and that things will look much better when it’s over. Together, we shall grow stronger at the broken places. We have the power of the chicken and the spirit of her barnyard friends, and the righteousness of the good fight, on our side.
Yesterday my neighbor’s dogs killed several of our cherished chickens, again. I discovered the disquieting scene as I left for work. The story was easy to read in the thick mud, as was the trail leading back to the home of the evil doers.
I feel some responsibility because I had let them roam unprotected for a short time outside of their coop and flyway. On the other hand, it was not my fault at all because the dogs were well within the boundaries of my property. Colorado law clearly states that a dog owner is required to control the whereabouts of his animal so that this type of thing could not happen. A landowner does not have to fence the problem dogs out – the dog owner must fence the dogs in and prevent them from entering someone elses property. An uncontrolled dog can be cited by Animal Control as a “dog at large”. If it kills poultry or livestock, well, that’s a whole other ballgame.
I did not have enough time to deal with the chicken carnage at the time. So today I walked across my field to our bird pens to do just that and came face to face with a magnificent red-tailed hawk. The bird stared at me fiercely as only a raptor can, while deciding if it must abandon the prize. The hawk looked disgruntled, and guilty, as it grudgingly took off. But it needn’t have worried. I knew he had not done it. I left the chicken there, on the ground, for the hawk’s return.
I am sad for the loss of our chickens. They were our best young layers and had the best chicken personalities in our flock. I am happy though that I was able to steal such a close range look at the hawk. I love to observe birds of prey. He’s got to eat too.
I don’t fault the dogs. They were just being dogs, and some will kill chickens if not discouraged. I do have issues with the dog owners, however. They have been consistently disrespectful of our property rights, and have demonstrated little regard for the joys of poultry. They had been warned.
In this case, the marauders and culprits will be dealt with appropriately by the court, as they should. I hope the dogs fare better.
The red-tail is welcome to his dinner. I hope I see him again soon, under better circumstances.
For most of us, frequent trips to the grocery store are a necessary and common activity. It’s what we do, and what we’ve always done. When we get there we expect to find rows and rows of neatly packaged food stacked high, far, and wide. Hell, we demand it! Most people believe that it will always be like that, and of course it will be, right?
Well, maybe, and then again, maybe not. For the most part the supermarkets are still there. Yet, for some time now something seems terribly amiss. It has become harder and harder to fill that shopping cart with an adequate amount of high quality, nourishing food, especially if you take a moment to read the tiny print of indecipherable contents on the label. No doubt you’ve tried, and grown increasingly uneasy. All manufactures use the best sealing equipment and make nice packaging to attract buyer’s attention, but the quality of product is what matters the most.
And it doesn’t take great powers of observation to conclude that the packages grow smaller while the price climbs higher with each successive trip. It’s the terrifying tale of the incredibly shrinking dollar, and it is probably not going to get better anytime soon. The effects are devastating and cruel, and it’s a painful thing to watch. It’s quite obvious that something’s gotta give.
From our point of view it is time to think out of the proverbial box, or in this case, the shopping bag. If you agree, think rabbits. They can help, and not just a little, but a lot. They are ready, willing, and able to work on your behalf. It’s what they do. Raising rabbits might be one of the best way’s to stretch your food budget, in the midst of what can only be described as a salvage economy left for the once great middle class.
Rabbits make a lot of sense for anyone that is interested in providing some, or most of their own food, for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few:
They are quiet, easy to raise and care for, with minimum space requirements.
One buck and three or four does can provide enough meat to satisfy much of a small family’s fresh meat needs for the year.
Rabbit meat can help keep the doctor away, too. It is high in protein, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, B12, iron, and a wide range of minerals.
It is remarkably low in calories and harmful saturated fats, and free of antibiotics and other chemicals. Rabbit liver is an “original” health food.
The meat is nutrient dense and about twice as filling as chicken. A little rabbit meat goes a long way.
Feed conversion rates are excellent for domestic rabbits. They convert calories to body weight much more efficiently, and cheaply, than other animals, particularly beef.
You can supplement their diet with your table scraps or garden wastes, or what you might have growing in your fields or about your neighborhood. In fact, many people never have to buy any type of commercial feed product.
They are easy to barter for other needed or desirable items, or sell as breeding stock to other people.
They are easy to butcher, process, and package.
Recipes for all parts of the rabbit abound. Stew it, grill it, bake or fry. The possibilities are endless, and it tastes great too!
Their droppings are fabulous for your garden, and you can sell the coveted manure. They also provide great food for your worms.
The rabbit skins can be made into many kinds of useful clothing.
Now you know why the rabbit has been called the ultimate homestead animal, or even “the new urban chicken”. I agree with each and every reason just mentioned, and can add a few more.
I despise shopping as a matter of principle anyway, and I consider any opportunity to avoid a trip to the market a celebrated victory. It saves money on gas and car expenses, which add up in a big hurry these days.
Why drive a car for several miles to pick up some groceries, when you can simply walk out your back door and grab some fine ingredients for your table? We like to pick some spinach and fork a couple of potatoes on our way back from the hutch. It’s called lunch, and we didn’t have to wait in a long line of frustrated people or suffer the indignities of a surly clerk. You might guess what we think of the self-serve scanning machine.
When you finish your meal, throw all of the leftover table scraps into your worm bin under your rabbit hutch. Bend down, and stir around until you have a pile of worms for your handy coffee can. Grab your trusty fishing rod, and head for the closest lake.
Have some fun, and relax. Spend a few hours in the fresh air and sun with a friend or a loved one. Catch a batch of scrappy fish for tomorrow’s meal. Save the offal and other bits from cleaning your fish, and give them to your chickens. They need some protein too, and it makes for happy and vibrant hens. Gather their bountiful eggs in the morning, add some selected produce from your garden in the backyard, and enjoy a comforting, leisurely breakfast.
Later, take a brisk walk along a quiet road to invigorate and tone. You’ll have the time, because you won’t need to shop for food. Be sure to wave at everyone else as they pass you on the way to the supermarket, and try not to flash a big, self-satisfied smile. No point in rubbing it in.
Robert Rodale was a pioneer in the fields of organic gardening and local food production, as well as a giant in the publishing world. His words often ring more true today than when he wrote them, which is a gift in itself. I have reproduced some excerpts here from a small volume in my collection, which hold even more power given the fact that they were written in 1981. It provides another insight into the current discussions of the merits of gold as an investment, compared with the ability of an individual or family to provide food for one’s survival in the face of bad times.
For many, those bad times have visited their neighborhoods already, so they definitely hit a little too close to home.
“…we are heading into a soil and food crunch. I am convinced that the days of surplus farm and food production are almost over. My guess is that you haven’t heard or read about that possibility anywhere yet, except right here in these pages. But it is bound to happen…”
“The disruption of normal social and economic activities caused by a worldwide food shortage would probably increase the attractiveness of both gold and soil as investments. But I feel that if you compare the relative merits of each, soil is clearly the winner. And because of the shortage of food that is likely to occur within this decade, soil will soon replace gold as the most talked about and symbolic thing of enduring value.
This is going to happen because people have always put a higher value on things that are rare. Gold has always been rare, and will remain so, even though more is being mined all the time. But soil has never before been at short supply on a worldwide basis. Erosion and encroachment of deserts have ruined the soil of large regions, and their have been famines caused by bad weather. But never have people had to contend with the thought that, on a global basis, there isn’t enough soil to go around. Within a few years that will change. Soil will, for the first time, become rare. And worldwide television and news reports quoting crop production statistics and high food prices will carry that news everywhere.
A new symbolism of soil will develop. Until now, soil has symbolized dirt in the minds of many, especially city people who have little or no feel for the tremendous productive capacity of good soil. I think we are going to see that attitude change rapidly. Access to good earth will become the greatest of all forms of protection against inflation and a much stronger security blanket than it is now…”
“When you spend gold, it is gone. Soil properly cared for, is permanent…”
“I want to make one final point. Suppose you do have a hoard of small gold coins at home, and a food shortage develops here in the U.S. Hopefully, the cause will not be war, and it may not even be an absence of food in central storehouses. The shortage could be caused by transportation breakdowns, most likely a lack of fuel to carry food from farms to processing plants to supermarkets.
Where would you take your gold coin to buy food? In postwar Italy, as in this country several decades ago, small diversified farms could be found near all towns and cities. There were even truck farms within the city limits of New York. All are gone now. Many americans would have to walk or ride their bicycles for hours to get to a farm, and then likely would find an agribusiness operation with bins of one or two commodities on hand. Spending your coin would present a real challenge.
So the best fall back possession is not gold, but a large garden and a pantry of home-produced food.”
From the introduction by Robert Rodale, in the book titled “Fresh Food, Dirt Cheap (All Year Long!) by The Editors of Gardening Magazine.
“I wish to have an intimate relationship with earthworms, and soil”. – Michael Patrick McCarty