Spring?

Last year we started our CSA deliveries in mid-March.   Tomorrow is the first day of April and we have nothing to deliver.  It’s been cold most of the month and nothing is growing.  Worse than that, it’s been too wet to work our gardens, so even the things that would grow in this weather aren’t in the ground.  And this morning it’s raining.  Sigh.

Of course this is a mere inconvenience for us and our members.  I can only imagine how devastating something like this would have been in the days when people’s lives depended entirely on what they could grow. 

But I know this will pass.  Soon our gardens will be overflowing with food and we’ll be missing the moisture and cool air.

Yesterday morning when I went out to check the soil I was treated to a warm welcome from the goats and chickens.  The deer on the edge of the woods were more suspicious of me and the geese honking overhead were completely indifferent. 

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In the grand scheme of things, a few weeks delay in planting is just no big deal.

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Two completely different foods.

“Although from the outside an industrial egg looks exactly like a pastured egg selling for several times as much, they are for all intents and purposes two completely different foods.”

Michael Pollan, from In Defense of Food

I’ve argued that point numerous times on this blog.  Of course, anyone who has ever compared an industrial egg and a farm-fresh egg does not need to be convinced.  Nevertheless, please indulge me while I say a few more things about this.

This is a photo I took a few years ago of a freshly cracked egg from the grocery store and a freshly cracked egg from our farm.  These shells of these eggs may look the same, but the part we eat is entirely different.  Read more about the comparison HERE.

Egg comparison

Recently someone asked me why the yolks of our eggs are orange, not yellow like factory eggs.  Although I knew it was because our hens have a superior and more natural diet, I couldn’t be more exact than that.   I’ve since learned that it is because our hens get beta carotene in their diets from eating grass and other freshly growing green things–something hens in battery cages will never do.

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When compared to factory eggs, real eggs not only look better, they taste better and have more health benefits as well.

There is another compelling reason to favor real farm eggs, which is less-often discussed.  Industrial eggs are products of systemic and industrialized cruelty to animals.   To get the millions of layers they need, the industry artificially inseminates eggs then hatches them in enormous incubators.  The day-old chicks are then placed on a conveyor belt and sorted by sex.  The male chicks are tossed alive into giant meat grinders (or thrown into large containers to die more slowly).  After having their beaks cut off, the females are transported in crates (containing hundreds of chicks) to large brooding areas until they are large enough to begin laying.  Then they are placed inside battery cages in long rows, stacked on top of one another.  They are fed the cheapest feed that will enable them to produce the most eggs in the shortest time.  They never see sunlight, or any living thing other than one another and the unfortunate people who work in these facilities.  They never stretch their wings, take a dust bath, scratch in the dirt or see a rooster.  After about a year, when their egg production begins to drop, those who have survived this hell will be killed and made into soup.

That too is part of the cost of delivering those cheap, pale yellow runny eggs to our tables.

Hawk and Heron

There are three ways to get to our house from the paved road.  The longest of the drives passes our pond and winds through some woods.  We call that one “the pond road.”

Yesterday afternoon I took the pond road out.  Once I was out of sight of the house I disturbed a red tail hawk, which swooped down in front of me then soared away.  Hawks are fierce-looking predators and a danger to our chickens.  But they’re undeniably impressive and beautiful creatures.

A little further down the road I startled a great blue heron, fishing on the edge of our pond. These big birds are graceful in flight, but lift-off seems to require a lot of effort.  I smiled as I watched the heron’s launching.

I’m glad I saw these birds.  They reminded me that I’m given pleasures like that many times every day.  Nature, it seemed, was telling me to chill out.

I was driving down the pond road because I had to go buy more hay.  It was the third time this March I’ve had to do that, after having never bought hay before.

After a mild winter, this March has been unseasonably cold and wet.  On Monday it snowed.

The grass in the pastures isn’t growing.  We haven’t been able to plant most of our gardens and the things that we have been able to plant aren’t growing.  We’re probably going to have to delay the start of our CSA.  To say that it hasn’t been a good month for farming would be an understatement.

So I had plenty of reasons to be grumpy and dissatisfied.

But the hawk and the heron helped me remember that for every one of those reasons, I have hundreds of reasons to be joyful and content.

Every Creature

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”

Revelation 5:12-13

Every.  Creature.

Think about it.

Specialize

It seems hard sometimes not be be overwhelmed by all the need in the world.  There are so many issues and so much social injustice, it seems to me a person could lose his mind (or become hopelessly resigned) if he tries to engage all of them.

There is also the problem of short attention spans.  It’s common for the world (or a community) to be motivated to action by some dramatic or spectacular occurence (such as the Haitian earthquake or a massacre at a school) only to lose interest over time, as new dramatic or spectacular events occur.  We have seen that happen with Haiti, as we predicted it would.

When something you feel very strongly about captures the public’s attention, it is exciting.  When the public later forgets about it and moves on to the next big thing, it is frustrating.

But, to be fair, we’re all prone to do it and in truth there is just too much suffering and too many injustices to be fully informed and engaged with all of them.

So what to do?

I read this post on the Relevant Magazine site and it resonated with me.  Part of the author’s advice was to “specialize” in a cause.   That is, choose an issue that means a lot to you and make that your focus.  Ideally you will feel that you are in some sense intended to make that cause your work.  That is to say, it is your calling.

I’m trying to take that advice.  For me, it seems that my calling is to challenge our industrial food system, to try to offer an alternative to it and in so doing to contribute to improving the health of our community.

That doesn’t mean I won’t engage other issues and causes.  But it does mean I’m going to try to stay focused, doing the best I can to make a difference in the world.  I think it’s possible to stay aware of many issues, and to be passionate about them.  But for most of us mortals it’s not realistic to expect to make a meaningful difference in the world on more than one or two.  At least that’s what I’ve been feeling lately.  Any different thoughts on this subject would be very welcome.