God is bigger than denominations, -and yet!..

Story time:

I was working with a new elderly client with Parkinson’s over the weekend. As is often my custom, I scoured this woman’s bookshelf first chance I got to clue me in to her possible interests (and beliefs). From flipping through a few books and noticing a bible or two, I determined she was catholic and so, just assumed she probably grew up with that religion and it was likely more cultural and ritual/duty-based than anything else.

Then Sunday came around, and this client (being rather housebound) watched a Sunday TV service by a Catholic priest… I have to say though, this priest’s message was so right on, full of condensed and clear truth, and pointing to Jesus and the heart of what Christianity is about more so than most other teachers I have ever heard in all the churches I’ve visited. A Catholic priest, of all people! He made it clear he was not trying to convert people to any particular denomination, or even tell them that they should start going to church. Being clear also, that doing good or participating in any catholic rituals are not what will earn us any standing before God. But just pointing them towards learning about and choosing to follow Jesus and immitating his sacrificial love in the best, most down-to-earth, simple (though knowledgeable), and non-church-language-y way (which I find a particularly rare thing). He was explaining the good news of the gospel of the Kingdom of God! And EVERYTHING he said resonated as true and scriptural -and inspiring/challenging- to me!

On top of this, I got chills when, as the priest explained the catholic “Corporal Acts of Mercy” (to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to give shelter to the homeless or travellers, to visit the sick, to visit the imprisoned, and to bury the dead), my client recited these to herself under the priest’s voice. She knew these things by heart because (as I learned about her and her late husband from our conversations over the weekend) she had been living out this love for others in her own way for years and years in some beautiful ways.

Wow! I am always encouraged when I discover there are followers of Jesus sharing the Truth -and living it too!- in the most unexpected places.

Have any of you had similar experiences?

God is bigger than denominations, –and yet!!– He is not above stooping down to our level and making Himself present even in the most empty, ritualistic, or culturally clouded and isolated denominations we have created for ourselves. Throughout my travels, I have met several others who believe God is calling them to stay present in their ‘dead’ churches as a light to others. I am growing in admiration for people like this catholic priest, willing to stand (often) alone in speaking truth and pointing to Jesus.

Why are you friends?

Can you say that your life is grounded by the rich support of this third type of friendship?? (This is God’s design for us. But it does not come without honesty and vulnerability.):

“According to Aristotle, there are three kinds of friendship: friendships based on usefulness and advantage, those based on pleasure, and those based on goodness and virtue. … The third type of friendship is quite profound. Here, friendships are formed around a common vision of virtue and the good life, and friendship serves to sustain, foster, and strengthen each friend in his or her commitment and progress in a life well-lived.

“Very much like Aristotle’s third type of friendship, New Testament fellowship is a means for developing commitment to and advancing the spread of the kingdom of God and the gospel of Christ. While New Testament fellowship is valuable for its own sake, nevertheless, it must always be a means to these ends as well. When we meet for fellowship, we should have something in mind and ought intentionally to seek to foster our mutual commitment to advancing the cause of Christ and the spread of the gospel.”

~ J. P. Moreland in his book, Love Your God with All Your Mind

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Call it coincidence? (I won’t)

As my life post-WWOOFing unfolds, sometimes I just have to step back and marvel at everything that has come across my path to lead me where I am now. In this post, I’ll share a glimpse into just one aspect of my life that I cannot help seeing God’s plan and direction in.

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Never thought I’d see myself in scrubs!

April 25, 2018

Last spring, I experienced some sores on my face that got me really worried about my health. After getting reasonably stressed from quick internet searches, I eventually stumbled upon some information that suggested a connection to poor digestive health. I then realized, after a little reflection, that there was also this link in my own condition.

Well, this eventually led me to discover the research of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and her gut-healing GAPS nutrition protocol. Not too many days had passed before I was sold on the value of what she was sharing and bought her book “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” to understand her research more thoroughly. Her highly educated background and successful clinical experience helping others in major ways certainly did a lot to establish her credibility. But beyond that, I was most impressed by how her research was all motivated by a mother’s desperate love for her son, who was diagnosed with autism. She is promoting no products or partnering with any industries. Instead, her protocol is simple. It takes major discipline to follow(!) since it is based on a specific carbohydrate diet. But the foods recommended are all the closest things to nature that one can find. -Non-processed foods, animals raised naturally and away from antibiotics, produce grown without harmful pesticides. It seemed that everything Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride was sharing lined up with God’s design and tied together only the true aspects of all the other healthy diets/health ideas I’d heard about in the past. In fact, this woman’s message was so close to nature and something she so freely wanted to share with others that she has her own farm/homestead in England and invites WWOOFers (just like me!) to live with her and learn!!

WWOOFing trip almost called off

After learning about GAPS, I, of course, tried it for myself. But because it was spring, and the first violet flowers were blooming… when I saw the first violet, I just couldn’t keep myself from plopping it in my mouth (though the GAPS protocol calls for no raw food for at least several weeks). Though I stuck with it for only a week, I saw and felt noticeable improvements in my health, and adopted many of Dr. Natasha’s recommendations longer term.

I was so impressed by the healing potential of what she described that I had this desire that all of my friends and acquaintances struggling with the (many) issues linked to digestive health could finally find healing and relief as well. In fact, just over one month from my planned journey, I remember telling friends that I was really considering the possibility that my time might be more worthwhile spent just finding several women who were struggling with their health, who would be willing to let me live with them and cook healing foods for them -but also to teach THEM how to cook for themselves and eat in a way that would allow their body to heal itself. I was on the lookout for willing women, feeling sure that I’d find fulfillment in that mission. I’d continue working as a freelance musician on the side, and spend what extra time I could around the woman, building relationship, trust, and introducing healing practices into her life. The idea excited me. But, time was running out. Though I reached out and even asked a friend to reach out if she knew of anyone that could use the help, it seemed that God did not want that path for me. Doors did not open. And so, instead, I continued preparations for an extended life on the road…

Many farms, home visits, and life experiences later…

May 10, 2019  in Oklahoma

I had just left my last farm in Oklahoma, and was spending several last weeks with a dear family in the same state, to get to know them a little better before heading home to Wisconsin. One morning, Abigail, a girl about my age, was visiting. We all passed the afternoon together weeding some flower beds around the property. As we were working, conversation made its way around to Abigail, and I tried to learn more of her story. After telling how she works at a nursing home, she casually made mention that she had gotten her CNA certification following two weeks of training.

Just Two weeks!?!

I was shocked. Having turned down nursing school to study music in college instead, I was under the impression that anything related to nursing involved intense and prolonged training, with extensive clinical experience. But two weeks? – This seemed like something completely manageable. My thoughts returned to some special people I’d met in a nearby under-staffed, underfunded nursing home in WI. Though it would undoubtedly be difficult, I still thought it would be purposeful to get to work in an environment like that. And to think, I could get a job like that after just two weeks of training!

That evening, I sat in the family living room with my laptop and researched training opportunities in Wisconsin for the month of June when I would be back home. Though there were definitely options, no good fit stuck out at me right away. HOWEVER! My training search somehow led me to a job search website. MyCNAjobs.com had a bunch of ads posted for caregiving jobs, I noticed. And strangely, many of these were saying “no experience necessary” or “no certification required.” Hardly believing that these were real job avaliabilities, I used the website’s one-click apply for caregiving with at least 8 different companies.

Well what do you know, the next morning, I got a call from one of them, and I was able to set up an interview for the day after I was set to return to WI. That all happened quickly!

May 22, 2019

I had hardly gotten used to seeing WI license plates everywhere again before I found myself in an office, going through an interview (that could not have gone better, by the way), and was accepted the next day. Also, right after the interview, I got a surprise call from another company I had applied at in OK. I set up an interview with them for the following day and was also accepted. (Thankfully, because it is the company I ended up with.)

June 5th – July 5th, 2019

From my first day on the job, all I found was fulfillment in the work that I had gotten into. And looking back over my past year, I could see how God had used all of my farm experiences to make caregiving such a natural thing for me.

I had spent a year always showing up on the doorsteps of strangers, learning to be comfortable with the uncomfortableness of entering another person’s home and life and routine. -Learning to find ways to make my presence helpful beyond just the farm work, through cleaning up the house, doing the dishes, or splitting cooking duties. I picked up many interesting cooking and housekeeping tricks, as well as learning how to be at ease with the unfamiliar and to make conversation with just about anybody.

And so, stepping into an elderly person’s life and home to become almost like family to them felt like the most natural thing in the world to me. Aside from the more personal, close-up care involved, I felt completely at ease just jumping right in. And what’s even better – I never dreaded going to work when my 24-,48-or even 72-hour shifts would roll around. I even often would leave work with a deep contentedness and fulfillment. AND, I would find myself thinking over my past shifts throughout the week, with satisfaction and pleasure.

After a trip back to Oklahoma in July and August, I went right back to work with caregiving as soon as I got back to WI.

A rerouted vision

I can’t help going back and marvelling at how God held in check my desire to help women through living with them and sharing the GAPS nutritional protocol way back in April of last year. And now, with much more diverse and rounded experience, He brought me across the right girl in OK to spark a search that led to a wide open door in caregiving –something quite similar to the vision I had earlier of how to help people through close relationship with them. Now, I get to show the elderly care and encourage them towards healthy decisions, and cook nutritious meals for them, if they are willing.

September 21, 2019

…finds me having just begun CNA classes to better know how to care for people in all types of situations. Here is just one more area that I can’t help seeing God’s direction and blessing in. Though training opportunities weren’t available during my short stay in June, I was able to find a great option for fall classes while back in WI that would leave me, still, with enough time to work and visit with family and friends on my days off.

Just two days in, and I have discovered that my instructor is an amazing person! Not only is she a believer, but she also is an RN who believes in a more holistic approach to medicine and health, openly questioning the effectiveness of many established medical practices as well as the motives behind the major health and pharmaceutical industries. In addition, she is just a joyful, interesting, loving, but firm person. I think partially because she is a believer, she’s been flourishing her powerpoint lecture discussions with personal stories and examples of how to go above and beyond the requirements to show patients/residents extra care and help them feel loved. I so appreciate her experienced perspective!

And today, I was so happily assigned to be part of her lab and clinical group in the days to come (rather than being split off with the other half of class to work with someone brand new to teaching). I am really looking forward to everything I will be able to learn from my teacher’s experience these next few months.

Coincidence?

What an interesting and rewarding journey this has been. A year and a half ago, I could not have anticipated what I’d be doing with my life now. In fact, I don’t think I would be nearly as prepared, had God not directed my steps in the way He has. I am thankful for all of the experiences. And, seeing His guidance in the past and present, I am looking forward even more to what is to come!

 

 

 

Why I traveled the country

Hello friends,

Today, I’d like to share a message that I found really valuable. Though I do not agree with one specific reactionary stance Matthew Milioni takes in it, everything else about his grander message is powerful. He is taking a familiar topic in the Christian circles, and forcing one to give it some serious, broad thought.  Here’s just one short clip to give a little glimpse into the message:

“Thinking about caring for God’s creation should be at the heart of our rejection of sin. That’s a very different motivation than trying to stay out of hell or trying to stay on God’s side. Trying not to be His enemy is a very different thing than seeing that He created an order in the world, and me becoming an advocate and a minister of the systems that God created.” [26:00]

 

To understand sin in this way is to see how it affects not only others and ourselves, but the whole trickle affect into the rest of God’s creation.

I particularly appreciate Matthew Milioni’s discussion here because he concisely describes what has given me the motivation to travel to farms and people’s homes around the country for the past year. I don’t think I’ve even been able to communicate my motivations as clearly as what he has just done.

But now, adding to Matthew’s thoughts, I can say that the deepest reason behind why I set off travelling was because of how I was learning more and more about what God’s order and design looks like. And it is a BEAUTIFUL picture! Where His kingdom is established in the hearts of people who are following Jesus looks radically different than what the majority has been led to understand christianity to be.

It seems that the majority of people claiming christianity have never gained an understanding of God’s design and order, and how He wants to heal and bring life and meaning and purpose to every area of our life. And so, a big motivation for my travels was to immerse myself in a few aspects of what I understood to be significant in God’s design – namely, ways of building community through closeness to and stewardship of His creation- so that I can better spread and draw people into the aliveness that God designed for us to experience in obedience to Him.

That’s a mouthful. Anyways, please listen to the message. I think it will both refresh and challenge you to take on a much broader kingdom perspective of what the Christian life is all about. How many areas of your life are furthering God’s healing design and order in the world?

Success!

Over the weekend, I was scheduled to work two 12-hour shifts, Saturday and Sunday, with a new client. Well, two people, really.

It was a sweet older couple, still doing all they could to stay living in their cozy home. The 89-year-old woman could walk, but it was just faster than a snail’s pace. And so, she needed assistance with walking and many other activities of daily living. But her husband, who fought to sustain his own independence in every way he could, needed much less assistance. Though he walked very bent over and sometimes struggled getting up from his chair, he still did everything he could to prepare breakfast for them both and to generally be a help to his wife.

It was a special treat to me that these two people were believers. I saw something different in their lives by the way they lived peaceably, with care and great respect towards each other. And, I also noticed something different in how the woman took an interest in my life. Whenever it was just me and her alone, she kept turning the conversation back around to me and my travels.

There was something special about the way she asked me questions. She was genuinely interested, and not just asking politely to pass the time. With the intent to listen and take advantage of the two days I was to be with her, she really did seem to want to learn about my story. She also commented on how she appreciated my character and personality. “I’ve never met such an interesting person before, I just wish you would be coming back tomorrow,” she said as we were saying our goodbyes. Aww.

I’m not sure how to write the above in a way that doesn’t sound like boasting. But, after a season of discouragement from life’s circumstances, it was just refreshing to get such affirmation and encouragement from someone who has seen more of life than I can imagine. Driving away that last evening, all I felt was pure joy and true success from my time spent with them. I got to show these two people undistracted care, show interest in learning their story, watch a Sunday service on TV and then talk about it with them, and cook them tasty meals that they truly enjoyed. But it was not just me blessing them. Their encouragement and appreciation greatly blessed me.

I do believe I have just about the best job in existence! The only catch is that, by contract, the caring and contact is supposed to stay within the bounds of my work shift. Well, I guess I’ll just have to make the very most of my time in each of these special lives.

To ‘honorarily’ become like family to the elderly. Constantly observing and learning from how they’ve lived and where it has brought them to today. -What a great lesson on life!

The one time

Just on the one day I walk into the woods looking for quick breakfast greens without bags or a knife, all sorts of other tasty things pop out at me.
Stumbling into this chicken of the woods first off just about took my breath away!

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After scouting out the whole park, I ran back to my car for a scissors and paper bag – the best gathering supplies I had on hand. This stand of chicken of the woods is probably the most tender and pristine (and largest!) one I’ve found yet.  I did not harvest from more than a quarter of the log, knowing that they were still growing, and other visitors to the park will probably enjoy the fungi encounter as well. But still, I had enough chicken of the woods mushrooms for multiple meals, and to preserve for later. I’ll revisit this spot later for more, and to see how/if they regrow around where I cut.

At another point in the park, I found just a small cluster of chanterelles. Little as it was, it still brought me great joy. And that’s because this is the park where I found my first chanterelles two years ago and learned to positively identify them.

 

70508056_10206147210637332_55518379355668480_oAnother find along a pond was some large stands of curly dock seed heads, prime for harvesting. I like to grind these up and sub them in for some of the flour in bakery recipes. They are related to buckwheat, and give things a similar flavor (in addition to much extra fiber).

 

Further on in the park, I found multiple substantial stands of wild grapes – with some of the first grapes to ripen!

And just as I was leaving the park, I came across this ornamental quince along the sidewalk in somebody’s yard.  Strange little shrub.

Well, though I was driving, in my head I was skipping all the way home just thinking about how I’d be able to use up this mushroom. This will be a very familiar sight throughout the rest of this week.

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Garlic mustard marinated carrots

It seems that spring’s tender greens and fragrant flowers are coming to an end all too soon. But thankfully, a few hidden spots in the undergrowth of shady woods offer the last tastes of cooler weather for awhile.

IMG_2014Spring has pretty much become my favorite season of the year. I’ve experienced three springs already this year (Texas in February, Oklahoma in April, and Wisconsin in May), but I am still not ready to let it go! And so, my favorite place to walk lately is through the woods where the seasons lag until the rising temperature forces the plants into their natural succession.

My eyes lit up this past week as I spotted the last violets in bloom in their coveted, cool spot under the forest canopy. A stately Jack-in-the-pulpit (not edible!) claimed its post along the trail. And wild onion scapes stood like slender green candlesticks ornamenting the wooded slopes.

One interesting find along Lake Michigan was a city park with Dame’s rocket flowers and seeded garlic mustard plants lining park edge. But just peeking past the shrubs, into the wooded area, I could see endless groundcover of young, tender 1st-year garlic mustard.

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With mostly only violets and nettles available nearby for greens, I jumped on the chance to harvest some of this notorious invasive, picking only the smaller, glossy, more tender leaves from the garlic mustard basal rosettes. The recipe that follows is a result of this edible late spring find (adapted from FOOD52’s Korean carrot salad recipe) . . .

Garlic Mustard Marinated Carrots

2 lbs fresh carrots, coarsely grated

40 young Garlic Mustard leaves (or more!) – chiffonade/finely chop

IMG_20263 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch of ginger, minced

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cayenne

1/4 c. finely chopped cilantro

1/2 Red onion, sliced thinly

1/3 cup olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

  1. Prepare all ingredients, and combine firsts 8 ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Heat a large skillet, and add the olive oil. Drop in onions, and cook for about 3 minutes, or until onions just start to turn translucent.
  3. Allow onions and oil to cool as you juice the lemon.
  4. Pour the fragrant onions and oil over the carrot mixture and toss.
  5. Finish by adding lemon juice, and any other complimentary wild herb or flower you have on hand.

*Dish is best after sitting in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Flowers and Fruit – and inspiration from Florida

As I spent my first day in Florida researching the area and taking in the surroundings, several things popped out at me.

 


img_0301First of all, Florida seems like an incredibly nice place to live. Pretty trees, flowers in January, fruit on the citrus trees. The people I’ve encountered so far have been extraordinarily nice. Goodness, even the roads (pavement largely in pristine condition and perfectly lined with reflectors) are pretty here!
Aside from all this, some other things about the area really caught my eye. One is the beautiful Spanish moss that elegantly hangs from the trees. Of course, I am also enjoying the sight of palm trees – something I’ve never seen up close to before. …Hmm, I wonder if palm trees have any practical edible or medicinal use?…

 

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Look what I found while gathering pine needles – Yum!

But one more thing that struck me here is the pine trees. There is a type of pine – the Longleaf pine – that has ridiculously long needles. I’d have to actually measure, but some looked like they could even be close to a foot long!! I only saw a few of these.

But, more common, the Loblolly pine has appeared just about everywhere I’ve walked so far.

Immediately, I thought of how ideal these pines would be in making pine needle baskets. In my car, I brought with me some basketry materials from Georgia (some tree saplings I collected while doing pruning work around a garden). I was hoping to be more resourceful with my time and get to work on some natural/foraged craft projects during my travels. Well, now with lovely(er) Florida weather and the promise of prime basketry materials, I have new motivation to try my hand at creating little somethings out of nature.

And as I thought excitedly about getting back into basketry, this other thought flashed into my mind. What if there was a way I could create events in whatever area I am to teach skills like natural basketry – or even foraging! I have some research to do. And also, probably a lot of practice and prep before I’d give something like this a go. But the idea is exciting. -And, quite feasible, I think.

handmade Palmetto rose

Inspired by the pine basketry materials, I also researched using beach grass and palm leaves. It didn’t take me too long to realize there are sooo many things to make with these things!

Besides getting more practice on skills I want to improve on, It’s also really neat to think of using this to generate a bit of an income while travelling. It is rather hard for me to justify spending on what is not essential while travelling, if I am not making any money each month. So, if I am able to make just a little on the side, I would finally (hopefully) allow myself to do and see more wherever I travel. AND, if I am successful enough with this idea to the point where I can cover my monthly expenses (not usually much more than $100) – well, that would give me so many more possibilities! If I don’t have to worry about living off of savings, I could do something crazy like travel to a different country, knowing that I’d have a way to scrounge an income without yet being established, whenever I return home.

These are exciting thoughts.

Thank you, Longleaf pine, for the inspiration!

 

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Chicken processing day

After nearly a week on the farm, today was the day I’d been (nervously) waiting for. 25 handsome roosters needed to be butchered. Normally, hens are raised for meat. But JB img_9531and Heather had gotten 40 free heritage (male) chicks with their last hatchery order. So, being low on chicken because of predator attacks, they just had a go at raising roosters to fill customer orders. The roosters had lived a good life in the mobile chicken tractors, always on fresh pasture. But as they matured, they had gotten more aggressive. And so, this morning, these birds had to be butchered.

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From bird to meat

IMG_0018Once we caught the roosters, we would put them into the killing funnels. JB made it look so easy. But it’s a little more intimidating when you’ve got the large bird in your hands and have to flip him upside down without getting pecked.
IMG_0016With ease, JB demonstrated how to place a bird into the funnel and pull its head through. He did not cut the head off. Instead, JB carefully reached a knife into the chicken’s throat at a 45-degree angle to slit an artery and let the blood drain out. At this point, the bird (already calm from being upside-down) would relax more and quietly “fall asleep” over the next 30 seconds to a minute as its heart pumps the blood out of its body. It is clear when the chicken becomes lifeless because its legs and neck will give a final strong jerk before relaxing, at which point the eyes will close. At this point, they are ready to be moved to the next stage of processing.

Though I would not say that I was excited to take over this part, I did have a nervous anticipation to learn how to do it for myself. I ended up killing about 8 of the roosters. I was surprised that, aside from trying to catch the roosters and their minimal struggle once upside-down in the cone, the process seemed relatively gentle and calm.

The next two steps were Heather’s territory. Two by two, she dunked the chickens for about 30 seconds into 140-degree water (it had to be just right, or risk making the skin too fragile so that it rips apart in the plucker).

Then she put the birds into the mechanical plucker and sprayed them down as she ran the machine. Withing seconds, the birds were bare! Thank goodness for such a contraption, because plucking by hand could take a good 20-30 minutes per bird, they said.  With 25 chickens to process today, that would have dragged things on considerably! Once the machine had worked its magic, only a few feathers around the legs and neck had to be removed by hand.

At this point, Heather took the birds over to where JB and I were working, and put them into a big bin of cold water to chill until we could deal with them.

Cleaning the chickens

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A rooster after plucking

The cleaning process took, by far, the longest. And, because there were so many different steps, it took me about three birds until I could proceed without constant questions. JB was very patient! – And so happy to teach all aspects of the process to me! (As an aside: Most people who host WWOOFers are excited about the teaching opportunities. And JB and Heather were no exception. They included me in so much, showed me all the beautiful bits of the property, explained all of their farm challenges and joys, and happily, patiently, showed me processes like cleaning the chickens, growing and harvesting different plants, and preparing prized recipes with some of their produce).

 

 

 

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Photo-bombed by Heather

I first had to learn how to remove the head, the feet, the oil gland on top of the tail, the crop, and then how to separate the trachea and esophagus from the neck so it could pull easily out the back of the chicken with the rest of the insides. (Too much information? -You’d better stop reading here then.) These were all easily explained by demonstration.

But the next step was significantly more difficult to learn. Mostly, because it was all explained BLINDLY after JB instructed me to reach my hand inside the cut I made in the back of the chicken. I watched closely at the organs JB so effortlessly pulled out on his demonstration chicken. But when it came my turn, I still had no clue what all was in there when I reached in.

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A lifelike “squawk” came from the bird each time I reached my hand in this one. (I had not cut a wide enough opening, so the pressure inside had found a way to release through the bird’s trachea, I guess.)

The sensation of reaching inside a chicken is just about the most unusual thing I’ve ever felt. No, it was not gross or disgusting. Instead, everything inside just felt warm, smooth, and orderly.

… Until I started my attempt to pull things out. In releasing all of the connective tissue securing the organs in, I often ended up breaking the somewhat fragile liver (my favorite part of the chicken – so sad!). Thankfully, this did not affect its edibility. But after several long and messy attempts, I eventually got to the point where I could picture the positioning of things inside the bird and could confidently enough determine when I had removed all the necessary organs.

Only once (at the very last chicken) did I accidentally puncture the wrong thing – the gall bladder. Though nothing in the gall bladder is inedible, it does leave a nasty green stain on the chicken’s flesh that will not wash away if it is exposed for more than a few seconds. Because I was a bit too slow in realizing what I had done, I was not able to wash away all of the green patches on my chicken. But I’m just thankful I never had to deal with a punctured intestine. That would have been unpleasant.

JB brought up an interesting fact while we were cleaning, though. He said that, as disgusting as a punctured intestine is, when one person is working on gutting the bird, he can easily reach for the hose and clean the bird off quite well if that ever would happen. However, in the industrial system, he said that the gutted birds will soak in water that is something like 5% fecal matter. !!  As alarming as that sounds, I believe it though. I cannot imagine how  industrial machinery could be as careful to avoid such mistakes as puncturing the wrong thing – when even skilled hands slip up occasionally.

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What the birds look like once the whole process is done (-this photo from a previous processing day)

Anyway, while we were cleaning out the last of the birds and then washing and sterilizing all of the equipment we used, Heather moved to her inside station of packing the birds for sale. She would rinse and dry them, and then put them in plastic bags. By poking a tiny hole in the bag and dropping it into boiling water for just a few seconds, most of the air was pushed out of the bag. To finish, she dried the bags off, placed farm stickers over the air hole, marked their weight, and then into the refrigerator they went for 24 hours. Tomorrow, they would be moved to the freezer.

Tiring, but deeply satisfying

Tired and soiled from the day’s work, JB and I came inside – appetites quite still intact. But before eating, he weighed and packaged the chicken livers. Then he set aside all of the hearts for grits and hearts the following morning (a processing day tradition of theirs).

Though the work was not all fun, it was deeply rewarding. By practicing over and over again, I got familiar with every step of chicken processing, to the point where I now could confidently take a chicken from the coop to the dinner table, if need be. To be prepared in this way feels invaluable. I do not know whether I will ever be in a position to raise and slaughter my own chickens in the future (I hope so). But regardless, I feel so much more appreciation and respect for the farmers who do raise their chickens in a healthy way and butcher each one with care. Knowing all that went into the chicken’s life -and death- makes every bite of meat off the dinner table so much more special and valuable.

Now, I freely admit that, unfortunately, not every bite of meat I eat comes sourced from farmers like JB and Heather. But to have seen and participated in raising and slaughtering an animal here on their farm in a way that respects God’s design and honors the “chickenness of the chicken,” as Joel Salatin puts it – well, this has given feet to my values in a much more real way than just reading, thinking, or talking about the subject ever could.

If you knew how the meat in your fridge was raised and slaughtered, do you think you would be inspired to value and savor it? Or would you instead find only commodified animal factory meat, cheapened by mass production and irreverently killed without ever knowing the care or stewarding hand of a human? With your food dollars, you decide how you’ll steward the earth and the animals God has placed under our dominion. And even as far-removed from our chunk of the world as it may seem, what we support with our grocery budget comes with consequences. And I believe the just God who designed the chickenness of the chicken (or rooster) will not ignore our choices to greedily abuse and use His creation for our gluttony.

Perhaps, we do not need as much meat as we are accustomed to. Perhaps, we can adapt more conscientious grocery budgets, changing our diet to better reflect our fear of God. And perhaps, making do without what does not follow God’s design in what we eat is something we need to more seriously consider. To bring more and more areas of life into subjection to God’s will and design – is this not the journey of a follower of Jesus?

 

 

 

 

Wild winter salad

One thing that did not suffer from all of the rain lately in central Tennessee has been the young greens. All sorts of my little green friends have been peeking up – and even getting ready to flower, in the case of chickweed. They certainly are not missing any opportunity with this unusually warm and wet winter weather.

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Seeing how much new growth there was, the excitement of spring started to bubble up inside. So, with a friendly walking companion, I set off towards the farm’s shared spring with a salad bowl in hand.

One of the first things that caught my eye was some new growth of watercress. Heather had told me that watercress filled the spring during the warmer months, so I was hoping to find some new, brave growth. And sure enough! -Mmm, what an alive, spicy flavor. This will go into the salad, for sure.

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Right along the rock ledges of the spring, I found some healthy young chickweed.

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Chickweed lines the ledges of the shared spring

This is one of my favorite little weeds. Unfortunately, I usually didn’t have much luck finding it in quantity back in WI. It has a mild green flavor and is really easy to identify. All you have to do is gently pull on the stem. Once the stem breaks, you should see a thin elastic string still hanging on.

Another plant I was excited to see was garlic mustard. Surprisingly, I did not encounter it much at all while in North Carolina and Georgia. But happily, it grows here in Tennessee.

One last addition to my salad. Wherever I’ve been in TN so far has been covered with these thin little wild chives. They grow almost like grass in some places! So, I grabbed a large, large handful. The flavors these will add – mmm!

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Back at the farm house, I threw all these tasty edibles together with some garden collard greens and sliced turnips and topped it all with cranberries.

So thankful for all of the wild edibles that have been popping up around here. -Watercress, chickweed, garlic mustard, and wild chives in abundance. And as long as the weather stays so unusually warm, there will be many more salads like this to enjoy for the rest of my stay.

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