I have just finished reading a very informative book by Jane Goodall on the subject of Food. Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating has led me to reconsider the way I buy and cook and eat food. Much of it is based on common sense and natural practices (What would a chimp choose to eat? Have you ever seen an overweight chimp in the wild?), and much of it exposes the insanity that is our factory food production here in the “civilized” world. How civilized is it to cram thousands of chickens together in a cage, remove their beaks so that they can’t peck each other to death, pump them with antibiotics and force them to cannibalize their own kind by giving them non-vegetarian feed? And then to slaughter them, ship their polluted flesh over thousands of miles burning fossil fuels, and eat it? I was not thinking about that when I bought Super Saver packages of chicken breasts at my local super market. I think about it now.
And here is the surprising gift of hope: my children have been thinking about this for years. I didn’t lead the way.
Here is another arena of hope: reclaiming, salvaging and recycling living space. My daughter and her fiance purchased a home that had been severely water damaged and mold and mildew infested. The inhabitants had moved out to hospice care and died; the house was abandoned, but the water wasn’t shut off. In the winter freeze and thaw, the pipes broke and flooded the place. What a mess! But Joe comes from a family line of carpenters and construction wizards. He has completely re-worked the house: plumbing, electric, heating, floor plan and surfaces. He’s gotten neighbors, friends and family involved in the labor and in donating fixtures. The final step will be relocating the back yard garden. You see, this house is just a few doors down the street from the one they’ve rented for the past 3 years. So, by their wedding date one year from this month, they will have their own home and garden. They are marvelous role models for sustainable living, and I am so proud of them! Yesterday I went down to visit and take pictures. They sent me home with a bunch of produce from their garden. I am so grateful and awed by how life unfolds. The next generation is certainly capable of taking responsibility and working hard in a sustainable direction. Let’s just hope many of them choose to!
I spent several hours today in the homestead that I will demonstrate and interpret for visitors to Old World Wisconsin. Tomorrow I will learn to light a fire in the cookstove and the bake oven and actually cook something. The house and land was purchased by Adam Schottler, an immigrant from southern Germany who had a larger farm nearby. He rented the house out until his son Matthias was married, and then he gave his son and daughter-in-law the property. The Wisconsin Historical Society acquired the house and a few other buildings from the period, and assembled them together to form a homestead for the museum. The restoration date targeted is 1875. At that time, Matthias and Caroline Schottler had 2 children. They had 11 children total during their marriage. Here’s a photo that shows the zigzag fence, the granary and pig pen, the barn, the summer kitchen (or bake house), and behind it, the house. The granary, summer kitchen, and house are all one behind the other in this photo, so you can’t see much of them. The wooden crossbar frame standing outside is for butchering hogs (which we’ll do in the fall). The green field in the background is planted with rye. I am supposedly going to help make a rye straw basket, and to raise dough in it for rye bread, which I will bake in the bake kitchen oven…an oven that holds 24 loaves at a time!