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when you fantasize about big fields with rows of vegetables even though you have no idea what it would actually be like to be that kind of farmer. You love that bucolic scene in your head so much, you bring it to life in glass.
When you slather thick, brown grout over the stained glass fields in the foreground, you think of mud. So much so, you almost forget where you are.Â Then, you remember.
You take photos of it, the happy place in your mind you just made public for the world to see. The pictures never do it justice. You put it on Etsy and imagine that some other urban farmer will see it and want to hang it on their wall. Because they dream of the country too.
when you realize that you could produce just about everything you need for a pan of lasagna in your backyard. It was in the process of making my mom’s recipe for a special version of Christmas dinner that I had this epiphany. It was while I was looking over the ten year old index card, which I had scribbled on while my mom dictated her method for this childhood favorite. It was while I made my shopping list for that lasagna that I suddenly realized how far I’ve come.
The rectangular box of frozen chopped spinach was replaced by bunches and bunches of fresh spinach and chard from my winter garden. Homegrown garlic and shallots too!
The sauce that would have previously come from a supermarket jar, came instead from a jar in my pantry. The roasted heirlooms that I added from my freezer were the icing on the cake.
The egg that would hold together the spinach ricotta filling would now come from one of my backyard hens.
The once hard, generically wavy lasagna noodles that used to separate each cheesy layer were swapped out for locally-made fresh ones.
The once rusty, but it-will-do casserole pan that I used to use was replaced this year by a beautiful colbalt blue Le Creuset, a vessel I never would have appreciated as much as I do now. Besides being a very special gift, it represents my ever-growing experience in the kitchen, with its lifetime guarantee, and all the family-style meals I have to look forward to.
I just can’t help but compare my life as an urban farmer to that pan of lasagna. It’s been building over time, one layer after the next. The cheese and the homemade noodles will be the next ingredients to be made by my hands. Is the meaty filling just around the corner? I don’t know what else is in store for me, but if what the future holds is half as good as the abundance I have now, I will be more than grateful. For the lasagna and all the lessons I learn along the way.
If you’ve never experienced the joy of accomplishing more than you can imagine, plant a garden.Â ~Robert Brault
This morning, I watched this You Tube video of a soft spoken, peaceful-looking woman humanely killing an old laying hen. Lying in my bed, with my laptop on my belly and the covers pulled up to my chin, I watched with hesitation as she put the hen in her lap, petted and tapped its head to calm it down, slit its throat and then broke its neck and ripped its head off.Â The hen looked like a Rhode Island Red, like Lucy, and all I could do was imagine myself taking those same steps with her in my lap, wiping blood and feathers off my red Hunter boots.
Alexa, this farmer lady, who admittedly teared up while she slaughtered the chicken in the video, said she doesn’t get attached to her chickens. But how does she do it? I know people say not to name them, but seriously, even without names, how do I not get attached to my close-knit flock of four? I mean, really, even if they didn’t have names, I’d still probably talk to them.Â How do I not get attached to the first chickens I raised from balls of fluffy down in my bathtub?
Sometimes I feel like Fern, from Charlotte’s Web. Like as a 32 year old, I’m going through the motions of a little girl that is just realizing what it takes to get that everyday food we eat to our table. The toughening up has to come sometime for a girl that grew up thinking that chicken came from the meat aisle of the grocery store in a shrink-wrapped Styrofoam package. I guess that time is now.
I suppose I have a choice. A choice to avoid the tough process altogether or get someone else to do the deed, but that feels like a cop out. That feels like choosing the route of disconnectedness, the route I’ve been avoiding with my daily food choices over the past three years.
I could choose, of course, to forgo eating meat altogether, which would also mean forgoing some of the delicious food experiences I enjoy so much. Bacon and pulled pork would be sincerely missed. You’ve heard me say before that if I couldn’t kill my chickens myself, I would be vegetarian again. A statement, not meant to be extreme, but rather to show my respect for the animals I eat and the courage it takes to be part of the process that transforms them into food. A commitment to eating animals that have been treated and processed with as much respect as I would be willing to demonstrate with my own animals.
So today I sit, prematurely (it won’t be time for awhile still), thinking about what mental strength it will take to harvest my birds and wonder if I really have what it takes. I wonder if what I’ll really need is to have a little patience and compassion with myself, knowing that the first time won’t be easy and that tear up I most definitely will. But that I’ll cowgirl up and will have enough pluck (pun intended) to be with my girls until the end. And I’ll earn my title as urban farmer with the best of them.