The Two Sides

It’s wrong. Eating meat. Eating plants. Living things. Perhaps that is why the first step is fixing it. Cooking it down, quartering, seasoning, sauteing, anything that reduces the item’s resemblance to its original and generative purpose. Who it was. A recipe to change it into what. Eating meat is like presidential wartime powers. Probably something we started doing in dire need and without much hesitation at all, a habit upon returning to peacetime, we found hard to shake. A highly digestible, palatable, abundant protein source, that clearly loudly and often violently tries not to make it on the menu. What makes eating meat wrong is what makes human beings marvelous. Empathy. Witnessing an animal going through a circumstance that would be a crime if done to you. Do people think farmers don’t feel this? Meat packers, butchers, hunters, people who work in slaughterhouses. Someone could scream it at me long as the day they don’t, but I know they know killing is wrong.

Imagine, as an example, a gun set on a compass, aimed outward, able to spin in three hundred and sixty degrees. Perfectly legal. As it starts to turn. Nothing but trees and open distance backdrop. Legal. Forty five degrees. Ninety degrees. Still dusty distance and wide open trees. Legal, One hundred and eighty. Approaching three sixty. When just at the very end of the full circle rotation, there stands a perfectly innocent bystander, in direct line of fire of the weapon. Well shit, see now the whole operation is illegal. It’s wrong. It’s been pointed at a human. So the same perfectly legal life ending device, aimed a particular angle, enacts a new set of laws and legal circumstances and moral implications. What’s wrong here? The gun, the compass, the ammunition, or the angle, the direction, is pointing it without just cause illegal, because that’s really trivial and unlikely to work in any sort of preventative capacity. Is it spinning illegal?

Legalistic structures don’t illustrate moral axioms very well, in the same way that a two sided coin doesn’t make good decisions.

There are three hundred and sixty four degrees of deadly that are perfectly reasonably regulated but legal, and one degree that will cost you your freedom, all your rights, possibly your life, and of course, your memory, and whatever untarnished reputation you might have achieved otherwise.

This is too complex for right or wrong.
For heads or tails. Aces or deuces. For guessing. Gambling. For hope.

Almost all the animals we know are ones that made the team, drew the human eye, and manipulated a little life for themselves out of some form of overbred, hyper domestic, servile, obedient existence. We come to know the world, other animals, farms, gardens, nature, heavily and violently on our own terms, whomsoever made the cut and avoided being cut. Most of these animals are food that we eat. So much so in fact their meat has become synonymous with their names. They have no more life outside of humans, because of how far into the house of socioeconomic interdependency we’ve bred them. Changed them. Taken away all their options, and genetically rearranged them.

Suffice to say, we’ve already consumed them, on a special level, even if you’ve somehow never eaten a bite of meat, or given it up and swear it off for the rest of your time alive enough to grow hungry from living. Modern chicken only exists because of appetite, the many choices and dependencies of our ancestors. Not just mine. Or theirs. But yours. Few things are so universal, as this baseline fact, that all domesticated animals are Frankenstein’s of human fancy and invention.

Point being, no one’s innocent. Not eating meat doesn’t allow you to opt out of having this difficult conversation. It just means you’re full. Which is what makes this so hard. We all are. We’re full. Societally. And we’re saying eating certain food is wrong because we’ve forgotten what all we started doing back when we were hungrier. We may yet be hungry again.

It’s an easy, light coin to toss: wrong or right.
Much heavier, harder, less forgiving
is the dented chunk of metal with the two sides
starve or survive.

Only after dinner

About once a day I sit down to write a post about how we could work together and across friendships and neighborhoods and families create our own food systems to potentially feed, house, and employ us all endlessly when the moment inevitably comes that we need.

I’ve farmed long enough to know we could dent the grocery bills of hundreds just making use of our backyards and right of ways and waste space. Hell, we’re already burning gas to keep down the grass. Crops or ruminants may actually be cheaper maintenance.

If we had that sort of back-pocket resource, we’d all be so much more free to pursue our dreams and personal agendas. If we knew we were fed, employed by a few hours of chores and housed, kept, even if no one wanted to take a chance on hiring us or God forbid the economy does what it always does, by design, every decade, recedes. (Considering America has never reached full employment, even at its best, hasn’t our economy been in prolonged depression from initiation?)

I want to write this post, but I know the reply, I know almost no one hears farm and thinks freedom. But I’m telling you, rice and milk was the great epiphany of Buddha, and Christ filled his career with food production and economic analogies and culminated it gathered around a dinner table, where equality is implied, reflexive, no longer good or right, where loving your neighbor is as simple as passing the plate. Equal share. You ever notice this? If you ever make it to the dinner table with a person, how the inequalities and social divides and economic distinctions disappear. No one divvys out portions based on anyone’s net worth.

Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe the answer waits at the end of all these earmarked budgets and policy debates and legalese liturgy. But I don’t feel crazy. And I’ve heard society sputtering ever since I came of age out of it into the world we left out of it. The real world. Universal, base need. Hunger. Thirst. Need for shelter. Starving for the culture that surrounds these things.

So, to sum up, every day I want to write this post that ends in dinner. That dinner becomes our primary goal. Food, the greater movement. All conversations, talks, arguments over divides and distinctions, only after dinner.

Toys

When people don’t think on timelines they think combines are a more practical way to harvest wheat. One farmer can go out and clean up a hundred acres without breaking a sweat. Until one of the blades break. Or some component deep down in the blocky engine. A tire retires on the early side of evening from a nice rusty screw stuck in its hide.

A sharp sickle at the end of a stick, what breaks first on it? Makes a human like a tree with a strong trunk and wide shade casting shoulders. Some of the most hardworking people I’ve ever known were afraid of shovels. Afraid of going slower. Garden hoes and self propelled push mowers.

Lovers of gadgets and vinyl seats and hands vibrated so long everything you touch for an hour afterward feels feather soft, or hands numbed altogether, blood shaken out from muscle clamped veins like clay spits out rain.

Toys. Tools.

This job would be easier if we had a skid steer. We should wait on the Bobcat. Hey man, if you let me bring over my gas powered stump parter we could stack this whole mess up faster. Until that rubber fuel line with the imperceptible cracks and spaces decides to come apart altogether. What about when you don’t slip your hand out quick enough, and you lose the most costly game of rock paper scissors ever. Just so we’re clear, we are always the paper.

Engines are the ugliest, dirtiest, rankest form of immortality ever engineered by mortal hands. The inspiration behind them seems the thinking of toddlers, banging blocks together, and having the realization one could turn wheels and tend flowers, if we could only trap and harness continuous revolutions of banging blocks.

I’ve always had bad luck with having people work with me, because they almost always go straight for my toys. Chainsaw. Weedeater. Tractor hovered over a finish belly mower. I’ve seen them break. There are thousands of dollars in contingencies associated with almost every single one of them that are invisible to anyone who has not paid for it.

This is why thinking on a timeline is so important. There is a point where the horse and steer surpass the tractor and combine and no till seed drilled planting and acres of insect and non-soybean armageddon. What we might call old technology, is a more redemptive, tried and tested form of immortality, with recognition of limitation and need built in. No moment of anger or surprise when the shovel handle breaks off right at the neck. No matter how slow I chop, or weak my grip, or strength in back, or numb my feet and fingers become, I have the means to repair all of them, or an ability to self-repair is built in to them.

If you can’t see why economy loves gas powered and oil blooded technology replacing wood handled and everlasting iron tipped tools, I don’t have the time or space here to teach it.

It is clear. It is comparing 10W-40 to water. Without a combine, how many people would be needed to tend those hundred acres. Just what is this half a million dollar machine intended to replace, a bunch of time and energy and stress, because in that regard, it is very much hit or miss. But consistently, regularly, dependably, it replaces what used to be an entire community of employment, housing, and opportunity surrounding agriculture. A massive, ever-expanding, predominately cashless economy built on trade, interdependency on land management and food production, cheap simple machinery and lots and lots of animals and people pursuing common ends.

A true example of something that fulfills all the expectations of the word sacrifice is impossible if not thinking on a timeline. A lasting farmer, in charge of an operation that will foreseeably still be running in two, or three hundred years, supporting a family, and a community, and a nation of communities, is impossible without making sacrifices today for that eventual tomorrow.

For all the modern conveniences, the bells and whistles of high tech agriculture, the returns and prices and community interest in farming is lower now than it ever was back when our great grandparents were chasing mules and lugging buckets of water up from the creek bottom.

What’s different is the prioritization they placed on timelines. Our ancestors sacrificed comfort, ease, access, because what they were building toward was greater than anything they could imagine within their lifetimes.

Whereas in stark contradiction, today, we buy gadgets, tools, air conditioned cab tractors so that one farmer can comfortably do the work of hundreds, and pay thousands and go into debt to repair their great giant community substitute. And to think I hear awestruck and wonderment from farmers about how little people understand what they do, or seem to care at all about the source of their food. And I know why. Because whenever you talk to a farmer, the first thing they tell you about is their toys.

Project Local needs your old camping gear!

Have any old water bottles, backpacks, vintage camping or hiking gear from the collecting dust in your garage? I’d love to take them off your hands and put them to use! Project Local (my non profit) is making beginner backpacking/survival kits to give away, and all donations are welcome, even broken items, I have a special talent for fixing busted backpacking gear 😉

Just comment here or send me a message and we’ll work out the details of getting stuff picked up or shipped out, and thanks for all your help!

(More projects coming soon!)

Life is Brian

What if the revolution doesn’t have to touch the system. Finds it isn’t necessary to replace any of the words we’re currently using. What if revolution did all of its work, instead, on definitions. Let me give you an example. Our definition of the word life is insufficient. We define it like it is a state. And any of us full on the food we just ate, knows the word life doesn’t functionally describe all the work we are doing just to keep alive. Life, as far as we know it, is a process. Every human you experience is somewhere in the midst of an ongoing equation we all share in. Adding water, hopefully in the right amount, to carbon-rich nutrients, boiling in a leaky furnace we’re always working hard to regulate the temperature on. To call this massive, overlapping story some vague and singular thing, like Brian, is misleading.

I hope that example helped some. Because the point I’m making is crucial.

You haven’t done anything for Brian if you set him down on land he doesn’t own, no job, no clothes, no home, no food. You haven’t helped Brian either, if you bury him in the clogged heart of a city where anything he might eat or drink will depend on little green pieces of paper in his pocket. You see, Brian is not an isolated occurrence. Brian is actually a complex equation. Anyone who claims to create a system intended to feed and assist him would do nothing more than protect the elements of that crucial pursuit Brian is perpetually caught up in. Same as the rest of us.

Brian is all he has. Selling him the basic necessities for his own survival, is by definition, a monopoly. We don’t have to change that one. But life, on the other hand, is a definition we will need to update. Let me do that.

Life is harrowing plotline, with complex villains and heroes, the dragons that seek you and monsters for your enemies. As soon as you settle, you’ll be spurred on by hunger, and as soon as you’re sated, thirst will wrest you from your seat and set you digging wells and chasing rivers.

We’re all free. Correct? I mean, I think I read that somewhere, buried by our country’s waxing constitution. So. If we’re all free. Then I suppose society’s intention isn’t really to police human freedom. It must have been created to assist us all in the tedious writing of this complex novel we call living.

Then why does all food cost money?
Why does all water cost money?
Why is housing one of the most expensive, and essential, resources to come by?

Hmmm.

Why would society set itself up, and establish economies around selling us products
we die if we ever dared to boycott.

Some big questions there. Our definition of life should be big enough to answer at least a few of them. And we are falling short. Life is not a state of being. The same way we discuss freedom. We act like we’ll fight one war and have it for good for all our family for all eternity.

Point being, if we have the right to life, we have free and equal access to the resources essential to even beginning to sustain a state one could call alive. Nothing needs to be rewritten, or changed. No new amendments needed. It’s just that word life.

We’re too close to see it clearly.
With a little adjustment to perspective, we could all come to know life
by it’s true definition. The full meaning of the word life.
And wouldn’t you know.

It’s Brian.

The Most Local Project

No matter the specific product, we are all in the business of ideas.
The farmer, entrepreneur, developers of worlds, one through three,
and the architects of our very homes. Minus a captivating thought,
some broad yet sort of singular gut impulse to generate,
we are a fairly static unchanging species.

The first tool put to use by the squat, ape-faced ancestors of modern humans was stupidity. Weakness. The reason we try and will not stop, is need. Tall mountains,
flooded rivers that will not obey their banks, changes in the weather.
This endeavor is both yours and mine.
To recognize and study the constant pursuit for the source of ideas.
Great, humbling and even exhaustively lucrative imagination.
Where would such things come from?

The same place as the minds that gave birth to them.
Inspiration is in our houses. With us where we slept.
Thrown out discarded with other objects we could have kept.

Yours. Mine. All of us share a piece of this project. Ourselves.
The sole source of this place’s most impressive life changing product. Us.
Where value has always come from. An entire universe begins and ends within.

All people are a local project.
And where our feet touch down, meet and grip ground, is an ancient foundation.
The first. And because this structure has been around so long,
it has not been given due consideration. The human being.
Our local project. An invaluable resource.

One that we do not have to go too far or dig too deep to retrieve.
It lives with us, in our homes and wherever we work.

The soil that cradles our most prolific pursuit is thought.
It is our most local product.

We Project Local

We will no longer sift gold from local creekbeds or uncover vast oil fields or coal mines deposited in our shrinking foothills. The successive eras of quickly discovered and translated riches are over. Not because the resources no longer exist, but the places they remain have been overlooked. Local has been overlooked. In a specific location, all dots get connected. The true cost of corn growing directly beside the produce stand, where it has to be marked up a bit to stimulate a profit. This is where milk is pasteurized and chicken coops fill the air with stink. Where the composted filth of previous seasons is laced into the soil of this year’s garden. How was the product made, where does the waste go, what direct effect does such complex manufacturing have on people’s homes, lives, property? These questions need to be brought out into local light. Because it is being dumped into our moving waters, buried in lands filled with garbage beside our neighborhoods. No matter its distant source. In my opinion, these are places where treasure can be found. But for now, we are still intent on calling it trash.

New industries are going to be close to impossible to establish in a small town. Recreational services like restaurants and grocery markets require an almost insurmountable initial investment to get off the ground and running successfully and with sustainability. The sheer, jagged amount of capital required to realize an entrepreneurial dream is crippling. There are many directions in which to grow and change in order to foster local, community-based balance. One is a path mentioned already, and is happening at home whether we recognize it or not. Connecting the dots of seemingly separate business strategies and markets into complementary shapes. Like constellations. There may be several billion miles between the stars of a growing family farm and a country-style restaurant. But with a simple line drawn, these two ventures couple nicely into a single business.

Most mainstream, corporate chains actively obscure the connection between their products and the locations these products are made. Local communities can not only embrace this, but benefit greatly from being a stone’s throw from the fields and pastures that fed and coddled their merchandise. The scraps and leftovers could healthfully feed farm animals or even be composted and become meals for the coming years. If the restaurant struggles through a few rough seasons, food could still be directly sold at markets by the farm, as well as picking up catering events and holding festivals seasonally. It would allow a small level restaurant to spread out its image across several nearby locations, and control the pricing of food on the menu more intentionally, since they actively participate in its development.

Through intimate, hands-on recycling and gentle reuse programs, local businesses can compete at quality and pricing with any mainstream chain, creating within a range of diverse products. But, for the most part, initially, local communities need to take back our food. The agricultural economy of an area like ours is truly the beat of our heart. And the best way to cut costs while simultaneously increasing quality is to realize what others in your industry consider waste, treats as a burden, pays to have hauled away or destroyed. Decrepit technologies, food scraps, unused lots of grass, ancient looking buildings with busted out windows. This is what we have in abundance, and there are a lot of people who will only ever know it as trash. Project Local is first to examine value in a different way, to find or make it in a place where others have stopped working. Even stopped looking.

True local does not begin down the road or where you like to say you are from. It is home. Where and how we choose to live each and every day. Here we discover the foundation of any economy is community. The most abundantly valuable resource at our disposal currently is one another. And there is no such thing as waste. At least not in a well-connected place.

Farm or be farmed.

The farmer kills chickens when he or she is hungry.
And Japanese beetles when they are too. Killing the corn.

The farmer still does it.
Crushes reflective bodies between finger and thumb.
Red guts wiped on long wagging green tongues.

The beetles keep on also.
Out around eleven and on toward dusk.

Man has a husk. Armor. Which can be pierced. Eaten into. Through.
And chickens, beetles, these things do too.

I suppose all farmers feel a little bit bitten. Harmed.
And maybe this is why they kill them all. Big or small.

Farm or be farmed.

The price of water.

Man, he was laying it on iron thick. As they do. Man. Men.
When they had something to prove. Back in the day.
But never dealt with it then. So here he is now.

Finger painting for about four young faces a pastel utopia
that somehow ends with him richer than all of them
and us somehow happy about it.

Like a toddler does, he said our heads had been brainwashed,
green paint between fingers and a dash of red on his cheeks.
See, these are the trees. There is the sun.
Here is you and me. Look closely. He says.
Closer so you’ll see.
Look at the expressions on your smudged finger traced faces.
I painted you smiling you silly young shits.

Brainwashed,
somehow liberally biased,
wonderful young people
who really are good friends and family.
Communists.
I love you. I really do.
I wanted to say that,
in spite of needing to.

This was nice. Everyone needs to have chats like this.
You, and your flimsy words of food for the world.
And him. Yelling at you for considering it. Socialist.
Communist. Bleeding heart food is a right political
upheaval might be possible in a lifetime idealistics.
You possibilists. And your overactive imaginations.

And him.
Business man.
Watching profit margins like a weather report with the world on fire.
He knows we will get around to putting it out. Eventually.

It’s just that every year with the world on fire,
the price of water rises.

New Rooster #projectlocal

About five years ago, my father purchased fifteen fresh hatched chickens for me to raise. The end goal being a freezer full of meat that knew life before it met the knife. He was to take ten of them, and I took five. But somewhere along the line, I changed my mind and decided to keep at least one rooster for the farm. Out of fifteen baby birds that showed up at five thirty in the morning at the local post office, stuffed in a box, this single Rhode Island Red was the only one who made it past a year.

There are many common misconceptions about chickens. And roosters in particular. One is that it is impossible for two roosters to cohabitate, in the same coop, tending the same brood. It isn’t all the way true. In my experience, roosters who have known separate farms, separate flocks, at least a year or two apart, will most likely fight it out a few times, and if one does not give up, which one usually does, they will continue to be a problem. But definitely not a fight to the death all at once. I’ve seen years pass by between warring chickens. As long as one backs down at some point, they’ll go on neighboring. Also, if one bird is raised around a grown rooster, or two dibby roosters grow up together, they won’t even fight. As long as a hierarchy remains solidified, a rooster really doesn’t want to peck anything to death. This was the case with the Rhode Island Red. I had another rooster on the farm, but he was no threat, so they all got along.

Then five years passed by. My older rooster, affectionately called Big Daddy, got to the point his legs couldn’t pick him up anymore. So the young one inherited the whole flock of over twenty, all to himself, for about two years. Never intended to make it past six months. You go into farming thinking it is all about this ebbing balance between life and death. Then you find out they’re both in a three-way with time. And time has a way of making life and death trade masks. It made one out of fourteen, five years out of half of one, and what would have been a single meal into half a decade of crowing, strutting, staring down tree-lines and running off hawks. But time, like all other things, has limits. It can’t make an exhausted heart keep beating, or tired legs go a mile. And just a few weeks ago, home late from rehearsal, we found the Rhode Island rooster had died.

Now, on my street, some of our neighbors are gamehens and roosters. Partially kept. Partially wild. Roosting in this short thick Magnolia tree. They hatch eggs with no human interference. There are a ton of them. Mostly little screechy males who strut slow in the road and head tilt at car bumpers and crow. Randomly, about a week after my rooster passed away at his first hint of old age, I had one of those roadside neighbor to neighbor conversations in passing as I was getting home from work. And wouldn’t you know, she offered me to keep one of these for the most part wild roosters already roaming my yard for weeks. Of course I laughed at the idea of being able to catch one, let alone having one actually get along with my hens, stay in my coop, commit full time to my farm.

I thought it was laughable. I’m not exaggerating when I say there are seven or more of these little guys roaming up our street at any given time. But, to my disbelief, one especially small game rooster, the color of a slice of sunset, just started hanging around my birds. All the time. Stopped crossing the street every night to roost in his squat magnolia tree. Caught him sleeping on a perch in my coop, where he has now been staying every night. Completely committed to the flock. Now this is not a rooster I bought. Not a rooster I went looking for, or asked about. Not one I even want, really. But it helps to have him. He watches the birds, watches the sky, finds worms in the yard and cluck-struts to call them all over. They get along, and most importantly, he knows people are people and birds are birds. Because when that line gets blurred, it makes for a fighty rooster. He is small, much smaller than the others, smaller, even, than most hens. Which I think they prefer.

This story stands out to me in particular because of the effortlessness of this modest exchange of power. How a natural opening formed on my farm, and natural excess from down the road emigrated up and filled it. How no money changed hands. Just the mere utterance of an idea by a roadside one afternoon. But the universe was listening. And without much intention, one of its humble feathered counterparts perked up and answered the call. A new rooster, to replace the one who almost never was. A new voice, to sing to the sunrise. A seed of orange fire lit up in his eyes.

But why, why this one and not another, why this one but not all the others?
Every rooster learns to crow, even after the sun has risen.
But I think, somewhere along the line, this new rooster of mine,
he learned to listen.