Monday, July 25, 2011


Maybe it's the end of summer blues. The drooping sunflowers, the spindly tomato plants, the relentless heat baking my scalp. Do I really want to plant a bunch more seedlings for a fall harvest (aka fall dinner buffet for critters) ---? Or should I just stick to growing chickens. Do I want the next group of Rhode Island Reds brought over now to start raising, or should I wait until I get back from the Caribbean. Where I'm not going, but if I'm warming baby chicks I can't even pretend I am. 

Maybe it's the crazy chicken Itty Bitty who comes to my garage every morning and screams for 3 hours that jangles my nerves. Maybe it's all the random workers that cruise in and out of the farm.
The ones who say they want to work on Monday when they call Sunday but then call at 8 on Monday and say their other job needs them and could they come Tuesday and then they call back at noon on Monday and say they got off early and can they come now. To which I say, NO. No matter how much work I have for them to do. You have to maintain an aura of control and mystery as a woman boss in the day labor immigrant camp. I know I have neither but that's not the point. 

The Dearly Deported Calixto
Maybe it's time for a new lover. An oh-good-it's-raining-all-day-let's-stay-in-bed lover. Sigh. The last one who really made me want to hibernate got deported, I think some of you will recall. And others have been empty calorie replacements. A power bar for brunch instead of the eggs benny you really wanted. It's very disappointing. And so I've just decided to give up on brunch all together, if you get what I mean. So yea. Maybe I'm hungry. Starved.

Maybe it's reading about the tragic rise and fall of Amy Winehouse. Which is so not my usual fare. I am rarely sidetracked by rock stars and those who have to be crazy or smoke heroin to create magic, but looking at her before and after pics were compelling. The perfect train wreck. But it's painful and glam. Which I've been a little short on.

And lots of friends always say, what you're doing is so cool. You've got the life! And yes, it is interesting and more fulfilling for me than city life. But I'm having one of those weeks with too much chicken poo, too many feathers, too much digging, cleaning, marketing, water (too little from the sky or too much from broken pipes) too many bee stings, too many rocks in my boot. So when this very nice lady named Becky wrote and asked if she could come visit my homestead because she's planning on doing the same in the near future, I told her of course. But also told her to be careful what she's asking for. I said it tongue in cheek, but I really wanted to tell her this:

Dear Becky,
Just a couple things: 
Always make sure you turn on the lights when you go to the bathroom at night because sometimes there will be a mouse in the toilet swimming around and you will certainly not want to discover that after you've been seated. Also remember that said mouse and co. come in through the back door where you like to let the breezes from the west come in and where the wood pile has been stacked conveniently to stoke the fireplace that you will need for the insanely too long and too cold for Georgia winters. I don't know what your marital status is but last year I dated a tree surgeon to offset the cost of wood. This year I may upgrade to a logger, or better yet the guy who owns my propane company. 

If the chickens aren't making eggs, be sure to check for the big 6ft long rat snake who coils up in the shed. He eats the eggs, but also helps with rodents, so we have a deal. Also make sure the coop door is closed because the coyotes come to eat rodents too, but if they can't find them they'll eat the chickens unless there's a raccoon in there, then he'll eat them. And you'll think the rabbits are cute but then they'll eat all your Korean cucumber heirloom seedlings and you'll kind of wish the coyotes would eat the rabbits.
the infamous Mowgli

Your "gardeners" and helpers will be an array of characters from local color to immigrants of varying legal status. You will delude yourself into thinking you can DIY all of it. Everyday. Then you'll realize that it took you 2 hours to dig a hole and you'll want helpers. The Guatemalans are better workers for sure, so learn Spanish. And if you can, a couple words of an indigenous dialect. At the end of the day I've found it just as easy to understand that as the native tongue of the Appalachia. Some of them will like to stop by after hours. I'll leave it up to you if you want to entertain. But remember the winters. Central American boys put off a fair amount of body heat. The idea of "affordable" labor is bullshit. They want $12-$15/hr to run a shovel. But you'll decide it's worth every cent. Do NOT offer them alcohol. Just trust me.

There is not anything to do at night but you'll work yourself to the bone each day and will be glad that there are no social engagements to attend after 6pm. Thursday nights there is a Barn Sale and you can go mingle and get some livestock and you can wear what you always wear...jeans cut off at the knee and muck boots. Most folk will be younger than 16 or older than 65. So you may not be too worried about fashion, but it is hard to break the habit when you actually do need to appear in public. Keep a closet of "real" clothes. Practice walking in heels from time to time. 

Have fun and I'm sure I won't answer have cell service where I'll be on my barefoot cruise in St. Martin, but enjoy your pioneering woman experience and I'll see you if when I come back. 


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Slaughter House

There I was, slaughtering a chicken in the rain. Racing the lightening and the yellow jackets. My helper is my Mexican butcher who has skills in cutting but not so much in the neck slitting. I thought he'd be my man Friday. But with so many things around here, I am. So he's the foot holder, I'm the Matador. And eviscerater. It is gross, but I grow my own meat, and well, that's part of it.

He goes in to fetch the other stock pot of boiling water for the feather plucking and notes a press clip photo on the wall in the kitchen about one of there restaurants I had.

...he says, "Who is THAT in that article? You? Wow. How long ago was that taken!? You used to be pretty!"

Really? And we're done.

I don't know how to respond to that. I should at 44. Humor, would be handy, no? But somehow in the rain, with feathers and gizzard parts stuck to my face and my hand up the vent of a hen, I didn't feel 'funny'. Or pretty. I was however holding a cleaver.

Sure, this guy is a dumbass. Yea, but still. I don't want to be USED TO BE anything. I am now here and in the flesh and it's very, very valid. And I wonder if this is just the downfall of the human animal to be captivated by packaging. Certainly is a North American pastime. What is it...let's change it.

Spanx to squeeze in and lift up. Minimizer bras for the well endowed. Padding for the less than robust. . Heels for petites. Flats for too talls. Bleach. Dyes. Hair extensions. Tweezers. Acrylic nails. Tanning cream on the desk bound. Straighteners for the curled. Sedatives for the overly excitable, crunky coffee drinks for the chilled out.

We do the same to our food. So that most of it is "food" much the same way for most of my life I was a "blond"...

For the record, I'm not immune to aesthetics. I love beauty just like the rest of us. But I realize that just because I like brilliant musicians, doesn't mean I can hang in the orchestra pit.  I can still appreciate the symphony. I feel defensive in saying this but I like who I am now. No, really! Not a sit around in the mirror and admire my sexy ankles and good hair kind of way. But a, "this is cool that I am raising my own food launching my third business teaching people things meeting cool folk I feel really calm in my mind and productive sort of wise" way. And I've stop coloring my hair and that saves time, money and who knows what chemicals from seeping into my cranium.

I'm weary of all the packaging. The sneaky marketing of sinister foods lurking behind glossy boxes and cellophane, and the powdering, augmenting and contorting of women. It's time to get down to the real. No more falsies.