Dirt, Sex, & Death
I know that all sounds dreamy, and to some of you it may even sound envious. But what a lot of food writers don't share is the story before the Pinterest-Ready spread. They either weren't a part of that process or don't want to upset the readership by talking about butchering the farm-raised birds. Folks want to see saturated photographs of beautiful, crunchy, people eating wholesome food Al Fresco, haloed by candlelight fireflies. Because just an hour ago I was outside in the woods behind my farm with a boning knife, blood on body and kilt, hunched over the unpleasantness of a large, dead bird. I had chopped off his head, was in the process of pulling off the skin, and at the moment I am sharing was trying to get it off the tricky leg bone while ignoring the mess of flies and gnats swirling all around me. I had to cut open the body cavity, pull out the entrails, and set them all into the small pit I had buried in the forest. The Earth must be fed, too. And while it is more likely small critters will get to the pile of blood, features, and guts plenty will flow through the soil and feed the forest's bed.
So there I was, hunched and sweating, trying to skin a bird. I have to stress that this process is not fun, certainly the least enjoyable part about raising backyard food. I don't like butchering chickens, but I have gotten good at it. These two went from live animals to resting meat in the fridge in under fifteen minutes. It's been a hard-earned skill I am proud of it, but I wouldn't want my mom walking back into my mowed forest paths to find me there among the carnage. I know she'd be disappointed to see her college-educated daughter gutting a chicken in her backyard. It just wasn't the plan she had in store for me. But I can't not smile when I think of the last time my folks visited me, just a few weeks ago, and my mother could not stop raving about the meal Patty and Mark fed her at Livingston Brook Farm. All we had was a roasted cornish cross bird, like the ones I had that just harvested, cooked in a rotisserie and served with homemade potato salad and greens from Mark's garden. She said she never ate a chicken so good and I'm pretty sure it was the first backyard bird she has eaten in her adult life. It was a meal to remember, a wonderful grouping of family and friends, but that night meant defrosting a bird from Patty's freezer that she and I butchered last autumn. In the local history of that meal was a day like this morning, unpleasant and smelly.
I want this blog to share the beautiful and the disgusting. There are plenty of places all over the blog to watch people living a seemingly perfect homesteading life, and who knows, maybe they are? But this blog is a place where cute chicks turn into epic meals and the story of that journey includes the heartbreak of predators, the smells of a gut bucket, and the recipes of the final product. The whole story is here, along with the reasoning behind it, and while that has caused me plenty of problems along the way I think there is value to be had in the earnestness of it all. If Cold Antler is to thrive it is not because people want to learn to raise their own dinner parties. It is because they want to know why they crave learning it. And can hear first hand along the way not what it means to be a homemaker, but to make a home.
Homesteading is not Pinterest. It is not the glossy magazine on your coffee table. It is not the books on your dresser, the tools in your shed, or even this blog;. Homesteading is the personal experience of making a small piece of land your everything. It is 40 acres and a draft horse and it is a pot of basil in a Chicago window. It is learning the wild and wonderful shapeshifting of going from consumer to producer, to being feral in a world of domesticated people. It is spending a morning slaughtering chickens while the neighbors drive past on their way to the supermarket. It is growing a vegetable curry over three months. It taking the time to put on a meal for two freinds with the excitement of a rock concert. It is being apart from those who turned their backs on what it means to get dirty, bloddy, tired and free. It is being closer to the earth that feeds you, and being okay with not a single other person understanding why. Homesteading is all this, and it is available to every human animal hungry enough to run past the pavement without looking back. It's dirt, sex, and death. It is sunlight, meditaton and birth. It's what we were meant to do.
It's worth dissapointing your parents over.
It's worth the laundry.
It's worth everything.