We grabbed a cart and pushed it through the doors. Peanut butter cookies were on display, pies and cakes, and even raisin bread with icing were all calling to the unsuspecting Marsh grocery shopper! We all know the layout; 1st is the produce, then the boxed and canned, the dry, the frozen, the meats, the breads, and on the far wall the cheese, milk, yogurt and eggs. It seems no matter what grocery store you enter, you already know the layout. Food is so easy for us to get these days…providing we have the money.
Our forebears, if they were alive, would tell a very different story…Up at first light, the family cow(s) would need milking, then a trip to the hen house for eggs. Chores around the farm focused one’s life on food, and our dependence. Planting, tending, harvesting and storing crops was an everyday part of life. Our daily bread required grinding wheat, yeast and baking – which required cutting and splitting wood. Chickens had to be fed and watered, eggs collected, and the hen-house cleaned. The pig needed slopped (a mixture of whatever was left from a meal…milk, potato peelings, grains, vegetables and any other various food scraps). One could see the interconnectedness of our lives to the planet. The pigs not only depended on us for their daily slop, they also depended upon the cow, the chickens, the rain, the soil, the crops, the earth. We depended upon the pig, the cow, the chickens, the earth, and so on. Rain on the crops was a blessing. A heavy dew in the summer meant a more bountiful harvest.
Some years ago my wife and I decided to raise chickens. We both love eggs, and looked forward to having “farm-raised” eggs of our own. So off to the local farm store, and we soon purchased five “straight-run” Barred Rocks. We excitedly introduced our new hens to their spacious (vintage 1920’s) chicken house – complete with outdoor free-range access. The chicks grew quickly as we tended them, and it wasn’t long before we realized that we should have asked the clerk what “straight-run” meant. Soon we were hearing what it sounds like when a baby rooster first attempts to crow (see “something to crow about”). Turns out straight run meant both sexes, and before long we realized we had three roosters and two hens!
Well, roosters were not part of our plan! At first they were friendly enough, but before long they began fighting to see who would “rule the roost”. Day after day the scuffle turned more and more intense! We knew given enough time, and age, the roosters would kill each other. Clearly, we had to do something. As we discussed it, we decided that it would probably teach us and give us good perspective to butcher and eat them ourselves.
Soon we were watching youtube videos on how to humanely kill and skin a chicken. And about a week later we endeavored to accomplish the task. Well, I could give you the details, but suffice it to say that all our lives were changed that day.
We go to the grocery and purchase boneless, skinless chicken from a freezer. Our roosters were alive, with bones and feathers. “A life for a life” they say…how far we have come from knowing how true this really is. Our forebears were tied to the land. They prayed for a favorable hunt, a bountiful harvest. Their lives depended upon it. Our trip to the grocery has made life more convenient, but it is robbing us of a connection to God which blessed our ancestors. The Thanksgiving holiday we celebrate is a reminder to us of the importance of harvest. We really seldom give the blessing of food much thought. That an animal gave its life that we might live is a horrendous thought in our society. But I submit that accepting our dependence is of great value, as only then do we see a greater plan revealed: it turns out that the most amazing lesson Jenney and I learned was one of discovery. When it comes to livestock and poultry, the young are born males and females. The females go on to lay eggs or produce offspring. But the grand design is one of provision…the males either die as they fight for dominance, or are slaughtered for our blessing.