Living The Turkey’s Dream

I got up early, dressed in several layers of clothes and gathered my large cooler, homemade ice and large baggies before heading out to the LTD Farm. I gave myself plenty of time to get there on the icy roads. I drove east on 94 to Baldwin, WI and took a left. After making several left and right hand turns on a dozen slippery and hilly dirt roads I found myself in front of a home being greeted by a dog. Parking in a very small driveway I got out on the foreign soil of a Wisconsin farm. Khaiti came out of her house. Seeing her photograph several times reassured me I was at the right place.

We made introductions and Khaiti brought me out back where I met Andrew who was hard at work. She gave me a quick overview of the farm and brought me over to meet the turkeys I have been watching grow on facebook. The turkeys were broad breasted white turkeys, a common domesticated turkey grown for Thanksgiving.

Khaiti and I talked about their 39 acre farm, while Andrew fought with the water hose in 20 degree weather. I wanted to take in as much in as I could, asking questions about what the animals ate and how the harvesting process worked. I knew how the basics worked. I saw an awesome video of turkey harvesting at LTD Farm done by The Perennial Plate in 2010. The way things went that day was very similar to the video.

I was able to choose a turkey, I got one of the black ones and it was a boy. Khaiti covered the bird with a heavy paper bag that had a small hole cut at the bottom so the head could stick out. She walked it over to a small patch of hay started to lay the turkey down, calming it. She didn’t give me a choice in cutting the turkeys neck and I didn’t ask to do it. I was able to hold the turkey. Khaiti held the turkey’s head and very calmly and respectfully cut its neck. Khaiti continued to hold the turkey’s head and I held the very powerful bird until all the life went from its body.

Andrew then brought the turkey over to a small building and hung the turkey up by its feet so we could all pluck the feathers. I was the only customer there the whole time, which was such a treat. I was able to ask questions and get to know the couple a little bit. I let them know I’d love to have a small farm like what they had; they were very encouraging. Plucking the feathers was a long process. By the end we were standing in a large pile of the dark feathers.

Andrew then took the bird down so they could gut it. They asked if I wanted to, and I hesitantly said sure. They were ready to go, having done this several times. I quickly said they could do it and they got to work, showing me what was what in the turkey. Khaiti pulled the heart out in about two seconds and put it in a bowl. Andrew took off the head, leaving the neck. Khaiti then pulled out the liver showing me how healthy it was from the vegetables and organic feed the turkey ate.

I helped wash off the turkey and put it in a cooler to lower its temperature. I grabbed my good innards and put them in a baggie along with the turkey’s feet for stock.

While the turkey cooled down Khaiti took me to see the rest of their animals. They have goats for milk, ducks for eggs, pigs for meat and the turkeys. I have rarely been on a farm and it was nice for me to watch the animals. I couldn’t help but to smile when Khaiti and I walked up to the pigs and they got really excited to see her. The pigs were pretty young and the looked really cute and cuddly. The pig’s ‘pen’ was very clean and littered with large holes the pigs were taking turns digging.

Khaiti and Andrew are trying to be as self sufficient as they can be. They have vegetables and perennial plants they give to their CSA share holders. What they don’t use themselves goes to the animals. Then the entire farm’s waste is composted and put back into the soil. All their animals looked very happy and had plenty of room to be animals.

Khaiti and Andrew are a young couple living the dream. They are both hardworking and they have a passion for what they do. They have a respect for their land and a love for their animals. It was an absolute pleasure to be able to see their farm.

Khaiti helped me load my turkey into my car. I shook both of their hands when I said goodbye and left the farm with a very quiet spirit.

On the way to the farm I couldn’t stop questioning our culture’s view on food. On the way home my questions were silenced. I felt at peace. I understood that what I have been longing for is a connection with ethical small businesses. I have been fighting the Monsanto’s and the Purdue’s in my head. It was time for me to see people live my ideals I only hope to achieve someday.

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McMe

A video of animal cruelty popped up on my facebook feed today, three times! Here it is. It shows a factory farm where McDonald’s gets their eggs. A lot of the comments on the post have been anti-McDonald’s, some of the have been pro-vegan.

I am not pro-McDonald’s, but they are not the problem, I am; Most of us are. All restaurants that sell animal products, unless you know they buy from sustainable and ethical farms, treat their animals like products and not animals. I don’t buy ALL my animal products from local farms. Because of that I am indirectly promoting the abuse of these animals by buying that Egg McMuffin, or that fancy breakfast at the upscale place in my town.

Do I like the abuse of animals? Of course not. But it’s not that big of a priority of mine when I am hungry or when I want to have a nice sit-down meal with my family. It’s easy to turn my head to the treatment of animals because I don’t see it.

By not buying my animal products at a farm where I have a relationship with the farmers and where I am able to go see the farm, I am lowering the animals worth. I am not viewing the animal as a gift, but as a right. I am not thinking of the animal’s sacrifice, I am thinking how cheap I can get my meal.

I have killed two animals in my life, both chickens. One of them went to the farm where I went through the chicken processing class and one, from that same class, has been in my freezer for months. I am still too emotional to eat it.

I am scheduled to harvest my Thanksgiving turkey this Sunday at a small, sustainable and ethical farm. I have been thinking about cutting that cute little animal’s neck for the past six months. I absolutely do not want to drive one hour to Wisconsin to kill a turkey with a knife in 20 degree weather early in the morning. But it is not a choice of mine. I have eaten meat guilt free for 32 years. That turkey deserves my respect. I will look it in the eye and give it my absolute thanks for giving my family a very special meal before I take its life. It is a huge gift for this small farm to open its doors and have their customers help harvest animals.

I haven’t seen that many suggestions for preventing the abuse of animals. McDonald’s said they are not buying eggs from this farm anymore. But where are they going? How many eggs does McDonald’s sell a day? Will the farm they are going to, be able to keep up with the demand for eggs without lowering the animals worth? And if they are able to keep up with the demand, that means they are a large scale farm that is already selling to large companies. So is the animal an animal, or a means to make a product? And, where are the beef cows, dairy cows, broiler chickens, fish and pigs in all this?

Can our culture not eat as much meat, and spend more money on the meat we buy? I can buy a whole broiler chicken for less than $7.00. That’s crazy! How can farmers make a profit? Can we give up multinational companies that treat animals like products and support small businesses that have soul? Can we be accountable for gathering a portion of our own meat; hunting and/or raising and harvesting?

I eat meat and it is hard to transfer to eating locally, sustainably and ethically. I need to eat less meat. I need to cook more and I need support. I want you to come out to a farm to help me harvest a chicken or a turkey. I don’t want to feel weird telling people, “I am killing my own Thanksgiving turkey this year!” Can we form a supportive community that loves our land, animals and culture?

Plantain Seeds

I have Plantains all over the yard. I have been wanting to forage throughout the year so I was looking for a way to put these plants to use. I read in Healing Secrets of the Native Americans that Plantain seeds can be used in a tea for weight loss and lowering cholesterol. I was all over it and I went out and gathered seeds from the yard. The seeds are also high in fiber and a natural laxative.

It’s fun foraging for stuff. You need to have an eye for what you are looking for. The Plantain does not look the same now as it did in spring or summer. Today my yard was covered in leaves. I recognized the stem with the seeds standing up. I put my thumb and pointer finger at the base of the stem, pinched it lightly and pull my hand up gathering the seeds. I then put them in a bowl. After gathering the seeds I went through them to take out any unwanted debris.

The book says to put a teaspoon of the seeds with the husks in a cup, add a cup of boiling water and let cool. After it is cool drink the liquid with the seeds. Do this a half hour before you eat and it will help with caloric intake and high blood sugar levels. When you have to drink a teaspoon of seeds, it feels like a lot of seeds; I was able to get it down.

This is the first time I have had this type of tea and I don’t know what to expect. The plant is edible but does it help with weight loss? I need to be in touch with my body and how the plant effects me. I will need to use my whole half pint jar of seeds and go from there.

Home Cooking

I call this a Food Blog but I have reviewed my posts and I don’t have much of anything for everyday home cooking recipes. I like it like that! I make a good pizza but there are a lot of good recipes for pizza out there. I feel I wouldn’t be sharing the recipe so much as the experience of making it.

Last year I have a different view of this blog. It would be more foodie, more mainstream: Food Network meets Anthony Bourdain-ish. I could give you a good pizza recipe but I would have a strong urge swear or make fun of someone in there.

I want to write what I am inspired to write. Lately that has been foraging, political, non-Food Network stuff. We gave up our cable TV this past spring so I can’t hang out with Alton Brown and The Barefoot Contessa. If I did have cable this blog may have a different feel.

It might just be the time of year but I have thinking more of cooking comfort food: onions, carrots, garlic, celery, potatoes and meat. We have some guests today and I am making a pot of soup. Let me tell you what I will be doing.

Lentil Soup

1 envelope of onion soup mix
1 quart of homemade chicken stock
Water- eyeball
3/4 cup lentils
1/2 cup rice
1/2 cup wild rice
2 large heirloom tomatoes frozen and diced from the garden
Carrots- eyeball
Celery- eyeball
Spices…basil- oregano- thyme- parsley- salt- pepper- eyeball
Dash of apple cider vinegar
1 pound of diced bone in ham

Toss everything in a stock pot and cook for an hour or so

Dandelion Root Tincture

This past summer I asked the question, “Can I provide myself medicine from foraging for plants instead of going to the drugstore down the street?” I take a handful of different medicines along the course of the year. It’s all real basic stuff: Ibuprofen, antacid, athlete’s foot spray and 24 hour allergy pills.

With “herbalist” recipes it’s easy for people to roll their eyes and not give them much credit. I have a handful of books with plant identifications and the plant’s medicine in them. It’s easy to look at these books from a Boy Scout or survivalist point of view and view them as novelties, discrediting them for any “real life” situations. Using plants as medicine is new to me and I question a lot of stuff including, how to make medicine and does it work.

I have taking some chances and made medicine from a few different plants. It hasn’t always been exactly the way I expected it to be, but I have been surprised to find results.

A tincture is basically a plant that you let soak in vodka for two weeks. There are some rules like: a certain amount of alcohol to a certain amount of plant material and a certain amount of time. I want things to be simple and I am exploring so I roughly followed those rules.

I read somewhere that dandelion helps with heartburn and I kept that in back of my mind until I was in a position to make medicine from it. With the dandelion root, I roughly chopped 1/4 pint of the roots and added 1/2 pint of alcohol and let it sit at least two weeks, strained and added to a dropper bottle.

I want to add one thing to that. You need to commit to buying good vodka. That is where the faith comes in. Good alcohol is expensive. Of course local/organic is the best but, you need to buy alcohol in a glass bottle.  Alcohol in plastic takes things from the bottle and that’s not good. I bought 100 prof in a glass bottle. Vodka is typically 80 prof and that is the minimum alcohol content for tinctures.   

I found a glass dropper bottle at the co-op and put an ounce of the tincture in that. I have been using three droppers full in eight ounces of water to combat heartburn. The stuff taste pretty hardcore: strong alcohol and dandelion root, but it works and I made it!

Well, I keep on asking myself if I could distill my own alcohol- Isn’t that illegal? I don’t know the process, at all. If I could make some hack alcohol distiller to make tincture- I would. None the less this is a victory!

Dandelion Root Tincture on Punk Domestics

Occupy Yourself

This past year, with learning about our unethical food system, I really began to question our government. How can our government allow international corporations, like Monsanto, to treat people and our environment so poorly? Why aren’t our food system issues a bigger part of the 2012 Presidential campaign?

People need to know about the unethical corporations and corporate greed. You need to see the environmental and political effects of these corporations. That’s what the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) demonstrations are doing. Showing the world a group of people are sick of the way things are being run and they want changes to happen.

With my feelings toward Monsanto I had to asked myself- what products does Monsanto have that I am consuming? A lot! My diet has been crap, I know it and I have not been able to get off my fat ass to do anything about it. I am supporting Monsanto! Not with my heart, with my actions.

My question is this: How do corporations, good and bad, effect your life? It’s a deep question! Cars, clothes, medicine, food, entertainment, etc… Are there any goods you buy that are not tied to a corporation?

Without HUGE policy changes in our country, corporations will not change without without a huge grassroots campaign. This means taking steps back from their products. Is that possible? What would something like that look like?

First and foremost not everyone would be on board with it. A small group of people would honestly live a life off the corporate grid and some people would do a very half-assed job at it. We would need to be a lot more “locavore.” We would need relationships with people who made the products we use- farmers, tailors, herbalists, carpenters, performers, etc…

If we think about those people who live off the corporate grid, what do we think? They’re outside the cultural norm. 

I put two and two together when I was thinking about this stuff. I want this blog to be: from scratch, local and creative. I want to see how I could live without the help of corporations. Look at my past posts; I made a drink from roots in my yard, I buy eggs from people in my neighborhood, I eat weeds, I sign up to kill farm animals with the guidance of local farmers, I want to make my own medicine… Yes I am outside the cultural norm, but I have a hunger to see what I can do myself. 

We need to ask ourselves some hard questions on how we really want to live our lives, what we buy and our desire to be free from corporate corruption.

The businesses run by corporations provide us something huge: convenience. We can go to the store to buy ready to use goods. That’s huge- That is America! It is very difficult to free ourselves from that convenience.

I don’t think we need to completely go off the corporate grid. We would need to know good and bad corporations and we would need to give credit to the ethical corporations out there.  

What would it look like to START to life off the corrupt corporate grid? We would need a deeper sense of community. Get out and start relationships in your neighborhood. We would need to develop skills or multiple skills to help ourselves and our community. We would need to be able to buy and sell used goods. We would need to be more active in the informal economy. We could barter for services. We would need to give back to our community with volunteering. Most of all we would need to draw back our materialism. Our culture loves stuff. It would be very difficult to deny ourselves some goods. We live in America, it’s our right to have too much. 

Unethical corporations and government can suck it. But it is going to be a huge, long battle to fight them. I am not saying we need to be all-in with leaving the corporate grid, but we need to take a closer look at some of these issues.