I’m sitting in the pick up line at my youngest child’s school, debating what to write for my first blog for the brand new Ethical Omnivore website. I want it to let you, as a reader, know who I am, and why EOM is important to me. I want it to be a voice for sustainability. Mostly though, I just want to connect with you.
It’s actually kind of daunting. There’s a tightrope of making sure I speak well for the movement, while still letting the real me show through. I wanted to be a minister when I was younger, so I get a lil preachy sometimes, which is really hard to reconcile with my make-a-sailor-blush mouth. I’m on my best behavior for awhile though, which will surprise anybody who knows me, because I’m not known for having a filter. I guess I should just tell you how I got where I am today.
It all started with Bambi. I loved baby deer when I was little. I was absolutely convinced I was going to end up with an orphaned deer, and I was going to be its mom. One day we showed up at my Nana’s house, and my uncle told me he got Bambi for me. I ran to the backyard expecting a baby deer in a pen, and instead was greeted by a deer that he had hit accidentally, hanging from a tripod, waiting to be processed. That was the first time I really realized my food came from a living breathing creature. It didn’t help that I come from a twisted family and all the packaging was labeled “Bambi steaks”, “Bambi burger”, “Bambi roast”.
Flash forward to high school. The whole Bambi incident never stopped me from eating meat, but it did make me aware of what meat really was. Small Animal Care class in high school is what made me stop eating meat. As part of this class we watched a PETA video on animal testing and the slaughter of small livestock. I was traumatized. I gave up all meat, and used my spending money to buy products that weren’t tested on animals. I was completely horrified that these things went on in a civilized country.
Skip forward a couple more years, and I was suddenly a wife and mother. I started thinking about the gardens my dad planted when I was growing up, and the lessons I learned by raising and cooking our own food. I was no longer vegetarian, but I really wanted my kids to have safe healthy food. I decided the best way to do that would be to grow it myself. So I started a Farm Fund, which was just a fancy name for a mason jar in my closet, where I shoved every extra cent I had. I was determined to have a farm. While I was trying to build my fund though, I decided to farm wherever I was. Sometimes it was an herb plant in a window. Other times I had a full blown garden and small chicken pen, then back to gardening in 5 gallon buckets. I refused to give up.
I’d love to tell you I scrimped and saved and took my little jar into the bank and used it as a down payment on my dream property. In reality my husband worked his way up in his field until he got a position that makes decent money and he bought me a farm. He didn’t buy it because he has a deep desire to be a farmer though, truthfully he bought it more to keep me out of trouble. Turns out farming is exhausting, and doesn’t really leave a person much time to get in trouble.
We’ve been here on Elbon Mill Farm exactly one year. I’ve been doing the farm thing for only about six months though. I’ve learned so much in that short amount of time. I’ve learned that watching open pollinated heirloom veggies sprout from tiny little seeds at home is fun and rewarding. I also discovered that puppies likewise think newly started plants in cool little biodegradable cups are fun, and apparently delicious.
First animal I couldn’t wait to have again was chickens. Chickens are amazing! They scrounge for most of their own food, and I supplement with our kitchen scraps and a little bit of oyster shell and sweet feed. In exchange for the little bit of food I provide, they give me beautiful, fresh, free range eggs with the darkest orange yolks ever. Store eggs look anemic next to the ones my girls lay. And my birds are truly free range, none of this “access to the outside” that store bought “free range” eggs have. They roam 25 acres of pasture and woods from the time I let them out in the morning til the time they decide to go in the coop at night.
We also bought two goat kids. They have been a huge learning experience. Turns out, that despite being herbivores, goats have really sharp teeth. They like to lure you in by nuzzling your fingers and then…CHOMP! I think their teeth are like that for things like eating the wires on tractors or tearing into chicken feed bags when no one is looking, I can’t imagine those teeth are actually necessary for grinding plants. Both our goats are just pets. They are wethers we bought so I could learn the ins and outs of goat keeping before I invest in a good dairy goat that needs milked daily. Fresh raw milk is something I really want, but in our state it is illegal to buy, sale, or even give away. So if I want raw milk for my family, I have to produce it on the farm.
Besides the chickens and goats we currently have guineas, peafowl, dogs, cats, and kids (of the human variety). The kids have been an eye opener too. I worried they would be unhappy living out in the country without neighbor kids to play with. I worried they would become too attached to the animals to eat them. I worried for nothing. They run and yell and get dirty, they are happier than I’ve ever seen them. They’ve watched us process a rooster, and while they had a moment of sadness, they had no problem eating chicken and dumplings that night. They’ve helped me plant pollinator gardens, and collected seeds to save for next year. They aren’t just being taught about sustainability, they are living it.
Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned, so far, is how emotionally invested you become when you farm ethically. I cried when the pups destroyed my seedlings. I had put so much time into those little sprouts just to watch them be ruined in an innocent game between two pups. We had a marten break into the coop, and eat one of my hens while still in the coop. I cried thinking about how terrifying that must have been, not only for the one who was killed and eaten, but for the others, sitting there listening to it happen. Believe it or not, even tending a garden ethically is emotional. Every time I squished a bug by hand, instead of spraying deadly poisons, I felt guilty. But it did bring home the fact that no matter what I eat, plant or animal, something will die for me to survive. When you farm ethically, you are right in the middle of it, you are hands on-knee deep, and you know every plant and animal you are responsible for, which makes for celebrated successes and mourned losses. It’s not just business.
So, this brings me to where I’m at right this minute. I’m passionate about growing heirloom fruits and vegetables, without using chemicals. I’m working towards raising livestock that are healthy and hearty, without the use of antibiotics and hormones. I love teaching people the sustainable methods I’ve learned, and I love to write. I’m very happy to have found a place at Ethical Omnivore, where like minded people can give me advice, listen when I need to rant, and just be a support system for my sustainable journey. I sincerely hope that you find the same thing here at Ethical Omnivore. I hope this becomes a place to inspire you, recharge you, and a place where you feel at home.
Elbon Mill Farm