Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thankful Thursday Plus a Lecture To Myself

1-I am thankful that the snow that came has also gone. It's much easier to take care of hens without trudging through snow to get to the henhouse. I know we'll get more snow sooner or later, but I'd be pleased for it to be later.

2-I am thankful that Fearless Puppy and SillyDog keep the predators away from the house and away from the hens.  Silly dog is the huge undisciplined 2 year old Australian Cattle Dog / Dalmation mix on the left. She is fairly dreadful, but she means well. She is skillful at chasing deer away from the garden.   Fearless Puppy is the 11 year old  Schnoodle on the right. He's the best friend imaginable. We have coyotes living on the ridge across from us. They like to eat chickens. Fearless Puppy once held off a pack of 10 coyotes all by himself at 3am. Very Brave.

3-I am thankful I have a good stash of sewing and needlework materials. This proved Just The Thing when I broke the laces of my tatty sneakers. Rather than spend ten bucks on gas for a trip to town to buy shoelaces I crocheted some. Two strands of pearl cotton held together and crocheted as if they were a single strand makes a lace thick enough to be sturdy but not too thick to go through the eyelets.  As a bonus, the nubby texture makes them stay tied better. The original laces to these shoes were smooth enough that I had to tie double bows to keep them from coming undone and even that didn't always work.

4-I am thankful for VHS tapes, DVDs and Netflix and PBS.  Hand sewing is a quiet activity and I do a lot of it. Watching a movie or documentary as I work makes the time go faster entertains me and educates me. It is possible that it also keeps me from going stir-crazy, I'm not really in a position to be the judge of that.

5-I am thankful for newsprint.  Our local newspaper sells the roll ends of newsprint very cheaply ($3-6 depending on width). This is very handy for drafting patterns and tracing patterns from existing garments.  This week I copied one of my favorite aprons so I can make more of them. I also drafted a pattern to make some chemisettes out of old work shirts of my Daddy's that Mama had saved.  The generous size of newsprint rolls lets me draw out patterns without having to tape a bunch of sheets of paper together. It's cheap, so  if  when I mess up I can just start over.

Here's the beginning of a chemisette from Daddy's old shirt, I think it will be cute under my homespun  dresses and it will help keep my neck a bit warmer this winter.

6-I am thankful for my French Curve. It makes pattern drafting a lot easier and tidier. Although I bought it more than a year ago I just recently learned to use it from a tutorial here at Gerties Blog for Better Sewing. Gertie is amazing, and I've learned a lot from her blog. Go there. Get enlightened.

7-I am thankful for hippies, bohemians, beats and other artsy types of the '50's, '60's and '70's. Without their shining example during my growing-up years I might have spent a lifetime believing that I should be like "everyone else".  Yeah. Like I could have done that anyway.

8-I am thankful for Thrift Stores.  Not only are they a great source of things, they're also a great source of things with which to make other things.  Long ago I thrifted a skirt in 4 different black and white checks. It was ankle length and had an elastic waist. It was a rather straight skirt and not excessively flattering to my curvy (read pudgy) figure. I've refashioned it, cutting the four nearly straight long gores into eight wedge-shaped shorter gores to create a short shapely skirt. I also sewed little colorful patches at the intersections where the big checked patches come together, which cheered up the somber palette. Lastly I elimanated the elastic waist, adding a proper waistband and a zipper swiped from some old jeans, and stitched on a patchwork pocket. The skirt is now much more fun, much more wearable. Cost of project: $3.00 for the original skirt, the thread, zipper and bits of calico came from my sewing stash.
   I've also been embroidering some thrifted jeans for my partner's Wild Son. One of a kind clothes are the bestest!

9-I am thankful for eggnog. Sweet, tasty, comforting, and festive Yum. You know how when a friend or relative dies you suddenly feel like you never really appreciated them while they were alive? You feel like you should have spent more time with them while you had the chance? Like if you'd only known that they soon would be gone from your life forever you would have savored your time together?  That is how I feel about eggnog. I am returning to being a vegan, and there is one remaining serving of eggnog in the fridge. As The Manimal doesn't like sweet things I will be drinking said eggnog before this day is over. I will then rinse out the carton and put it in the recycling bin, and that will be then end. Eggnog will no longer be a part of my life. Goodbye Eggnog, alas I knew you waaaaay too well.

10-I am thankful for Middle Child's continual good example to me where diet and compassion for animals come together. She has fearlessly seen me through many bouts of  relatively healthy lacto-vegetarianism, interspersed with decidedly unhealthy omnivorousness, and has bravely led me to the vegan path.  Yes, eating healthfully without taking unfair advantage of animals is possible.  No, it is not necessarily easy. Yes it is worthwhile, for the sake of the animals, for my own health, and for the health of the earth.
(Note: You start out teaching your children, but eventually they become your teachers.)

There's my Ten Thankfuls.

Having now opened up the Vegan Kettle of Fish I will proceed to think aloud.
    Yes, I'm honestly scared of what affect my becoming permanently vegan will have on my relationship with The Manimal, who has recently been making plans for taking on more farm animals.
     We currently have around 16 chickens. Seven good laying hens, their noisy but charming companion rooster, a couple of bantam hens who probably lay eggs somewhere in the forest, and five noisy and not charming bantam roosters.
    We also have two un-petable rabbits living in the loft, which I can only describe as having been a Bad Shoppin Impulse.

  The Manimal wants more. A working farmstead is his dream.
  He wants us to get milk goats.  If we have milk goats they will have to have a baby each year to stay "in milk", but that is ok (to him and to conventional farm wisdom) because he also wants baby goats to eat (in curry).
   He wants us to get more rabbits so we can breed them and eat the offspring.
   He wants us to get some sheep for wool, but he also wants to breed them so we'll have lambs to eat.
   He wants to get a couple of pigs "to fatten". Piglets are soooo cute, and that sounds like a fun project, BUT you know the purpose if "fattening" pigs is not just so that they'll be cute and fat. It is so that they'll become ham, bacon, tenderloins, sausage.
   He'd also like us at some point to get a small cow so we could make lots of cheese and butter. Like goats, a cow has to have a calf every year in order to make milk. Why? Because the milk is not  supposed to be for humans, it is for Her Baby! The common practice is to keep female calves as future "milkers" and kill the male calves for veal, or raise them till their big and then kill them for beef.
   He wants some ducks and geese, also not just to look at. Sigh.

   I was brought up in a meat-eating  finish-your-milk-before-you-leave-the-table sort of mid-century family. I love cow's milk even though I'm allergic to it. I love to eat steak, roast beef, hamburgers, beef stew. I love pork chops, crispy bacon, ham sandwiches.

  I also love animals.

 I've had a few years of homesteading experience before moving to this valley. Long enough ago that it feels like a different lifetime, but still.  I know I'm capable of killing animals, I've done it before, years ago when we raised rabbits. I understand that everyone on this planet eats someone, one way or another....I get the whole food chain idea.
   I get it. But I don't like it. I think it needs rethinking.  I think the fact that humans CAN eat animals doesn't mean that we HAVE TO. I think I can find a way to eat well enough without eating animal flesh or animal products. I have other options.
   I learned on that long ago little homestead that I liked raising rabbits and that I could (with my seven-year-old son's help) kill them, butcher them and cook them. I also learned that to me rabbit doesn't taste good enough to be worth all that effort. What started out as an attempt to have uncontaminated meat for our growing family became an eye-opener for me in the amount of effort and resources involved in raising animal food.
  Now, a lifetime later I'm figuring out that I don't want to raise and eat any animals at all. I'm not saying other people shouldn't choose for themselves, I'm saying raising and eating animals is not what I choose.

 Pigs are known to be as intelligent as dogs for God's sake. How could I possibly kill an intelligent creature and eat it? Chickens are fairly stupid compared to mammals, but I find I don't want to eat them either, much less kill them myself and eat them.

   The Manimals's plan is to have someone else do the killing. Me, since he knows I can do it.
 His spiritual leader is dead set against them killing anything (pun unavoidable), but curiously is not against eating meat as long as someone else did the killing. This seems the height of hypocrisy to me.
 Our original plan, when we got the laying hens years ago, was that if any of the day-old chicks turned out to be roosters we'd keep one (because The Manimal likes the crowing) and eat the others. I would kill them (because I lack his 'religious' conviction) and he would clean and butcher them and cook them because he's the chef around here.
    His choices are his alone....I am going to play the girl card here. It is a woman's perogative to change her mind. I am hereby officially changing my mind about killing "spare" roosters or anything else.

  For me it has come down to this:

    I will not kill any sentient creature for any reason other than to save my own life.
    My life is not being threatened with violence by any chicken, cow, pig, sheep, goat, lamb, or fish.
    I will not hire anyone else to kill for me.
    I withdraw my support from the meat and dairy industry which is for the most part quite hideous and is at its very best still quite unfair to our fellow creatures. As a mother if someone wanted to kill my babies and steal my breast milk I would have objected.  Cows do not "give" us milk, we take it from them. Chickens do not "give" us their legs and breasts, pigs do not "give" us their bacon. I no longer feel right about supporting and taking part in this huge system of raising enormous amounts of animals to use and to kill.
 I opt out.

      Fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds and nuts are plenty to healthfully support my body.
      I do not need more than that.
      I will not take more than that.

      I will learn to be healthy eating plant foods only.
      Starting now.
      Excuse me while I go serve that last little bit of eggnog to the cats.


    Rapunzel the Vegan


  1. Greetings, Ms. Mama!

    I like your crocheted laces!

    Isn't Gertie amazing? I seldom read her blog, as it gives me delusions about my sewing abilities. But I sure like the pictures.

    I too am truly, deeply thankful for thrift stores. They bring sunshine into my life. Also, clothes and silverware.

    "Note: You start out teaching your children, but eventually they become your teachers."

    I think the last thing we taught you was to say "that sucks." Hopefully veg eating will be a more rewarding lesson.

    "We also have two un-petable rabbits living in the loft, which I can only describe as having been a Bad Shoppin Impulse."

    As bad shopping impulses go, this one is equal parts understandable and hilarious.

    The Vegan Kettle of Fish would be simpler if you were single--- but the Manimal is a wonderful dude, so I'm glad you're together.

    Whatever you choose to eat, I will love you to bits. But naturally I'm tickled that we're thinking along similar lines!

  2. It's good that you taught me to say "That Sucks!" that I've seen Earthlings I've got just the right phrase to use.

  3. I love the crocheted laces. Make do and mend all the way. I'm a lacto-ovo vegetarian and sometimes I have fits of guilt about not being vegan but I really love cheese and I live in a dairying country where finding vegan things can be near impossible.

  4. CC-I'd love to feel all virtuous about being vegan and not "merely" vegetarian, but the fact is I'm allergic to cows milk. Allergic to lima beans too, but no one ever thinks you're a saint for not eating lima beans.

  5. Hey I LOVE your blog! It's funny and interesting :0D
    I have the same struggle about being vegan. I was recently vegan for a long time, and our household eats a lot of vegan stuff and some of us are mostly vegan. If you go vegan, watch the copper and zinc balance and read up on the signs of copper excess. Veggies have lots of copper, animal products lots of zinc. You need zinc to metabolise copper. So a vegan diet CAN create a situation where you have both copper starvation (because you haven't eaten enough zinc to process it) AND copper poisoning (because veggies have lotsa copper). I got some symptoms of this, went back to a mixed diet, and feel better for it.
    But like you I have a bad reaction from dairy foods.
    I care a lot about the animals - but how they live not whether they die; everything that lives has to die, so as well as farming being the animal's death it also is it's life in the first place. I purchase carefully to ensure that was a good life.
    'The China Study' is excellent on nutrition,here: so is this film:
    and this one:
    Am off to check out Gertie's website!

  6. Hi Ember,
    Welcome to my corner of reality.
    I've been reading your blog for ages.I found you through Magdalena's blog when I was first going plain. You make me think, which it good for my soul and my brain cells.
    So far being a vegan seems to be making me a bit plumper....but that could be Holiday related, probably too soon to judge.
    Thank you for the heads up about copper/zinc balance. I'll do some research on that. When I took the 30-day vegan challenge in August/September I felt crummy....physically I was ok, just a little fatigued but emotionally I was depressed. I know something was out of balance there. This time around I seem to be doing ok, but I clearly need to further educate myself about nutrition.
    You're going to get a kick out of Gertie, she's skillful and adventurous.


If you disagree with me try to keep it clean, or I'll wash your mouth out with homemade soap.