> jumping into life.

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Weeding all day: good work, but long. Strange muscles in my fingers are sore now, and I've gathered a new crop of sunburns and bugbites. Witchgrass had nearly overtaken the lettuces (the red one with the frilly edges is New Red Fire, the green one is Nevada, the red one with the midrib is Magenta, the oak-leaf is Brunia, the green butter-leaf is Silvesta and the last one is Red Tide). It took both of us together an hour and a half per row to clear the weeds out, then another half-hour to tame the re-may and get everything covered. Everything is dry; the rainstorms last weekend were the last we got, and one big storm they had predicted never materialized. We rushed out to put in a few more rows of transplants, believing in that rain that never came. They're near to dead now, and we don't have the time to water.

There is the theory that we got kicked out of Eden on account of the gardening. Farming can be a lot like playing God, and maybe he didn't like the competition. We're rainmakers, we're murderers, we're midwives, all. And we do rather more killing than life-giving, all told.

"This is a wire-worm. Kill it." And I do, slicing it in half with my fingernail, smudging myself with its pasty insides. We prune the tomatoes, hard, so many eager shoots sent to compost. In Arizona, twice I'd turned over with the flat blade of my shovel fat toads like clods of dirt, buried in the wet soil where the kale had been. Amazing that I didn’t chop them in half, lunging as I was blindly into the ground, where they hid blindly from the heat. I gathered them up in my hands, cold and still and strangely electric, and took them to the mint patch by the leaky hose, dropped each one into the puddle there and hoped the dog wouldn’t come by.

One time the dog killed a chicken when Kevin left the coop door open. We all stopped our planting to look over towards the sound of fear of death, outraged rooster, Kevin hollering at the dog to stop, stop, stop.

We took the chicken to the old classroom, three walls made of pallets and a trellis roof and a tarp. On the table, which was plywood on a stack of buckets, we plucked and cleaned and butchered the chicken which we thought was a rooster until we cut it open and found an egg inside.

One egg whole, in its shell: tomorrow’s egg. Beside it a yolk covered in a cobweb of bright veins, and beside that a smaller yolk, smaller and smaller down to the size of oats, or gravel; a constellation of potentiality.

The chicken was still warm when we cut it open; so different from a fish which is cold even before it dies. All day there were feathers and the smell of blood about me.

Once I almost chopped a baby rabbit in half, slicing at thistles with a scythe. We pulled gophers out of the traps by the dozens, tossed them on the compost heap with the weeds and the edges of bread from our lunch. Dead mice swarmed with ants in the outhouse; dead birds in the nesting boxes, live birds pulling young corn out by the root so that we must plant again, again, again. The bindweed choked the beans, the coyote gourd sank its deep root between my watermelons so that I pulled them up by mistake, and the blister beetles on the leaves of the eggplant were always stuck to each other in a miserable ecstasy of copulation and burnt my fingers when I smashed them.

Farming is systematic war as much as it is anything. Or: life is death as much as it is anything. The force of the cycle asserts itself bodily into the daily actions of living. We eat last summer's harvest, frozen and canned, last summer's chickens in neat plastic bags. We eat thinnings and sometimes weeds as they are pulled from the soil. We plan the death of the mean rooster. We crush wire-worms, cabbage loopers, grasshoppers if we can catch them. We muck the chicken coop. We live in a camper, and once a week our fresh water tank must be filled from the well and our blackwater tank dumped into the septic system. We are acutely, sometimes unpleasantly, aware of the inputs and outputs of most every aspect of our lives. We are wading through death and shit and so are you.

So are you.

Beautiful writing, Kat, about such a difficult subject. Thank you. (And I remember the pain of those little finger muscles from weeding.)

I came over from Beth's. She is correct, your writing is quite beautiful.

I've been working outside with my husband this morning. Nothing so difficult as you describe; we built a raised bed with stone blocks. It brings me closer to nature, somehow, though. Most of what you write about I just remember from working on my parents' farm. It's been a long time since I thought about some of the things that are your every day life.


Terrific post, Kat.

I think about these truths of farming when I read the self-righteous fulminations of Vegans. I wish I was vegetarian myself, I accept many of their arguments, and share many of their views -- and yet, no matter how careful, we live at the expense and suffering of a great many creatures. "Farming is systematic war" -- I don't think anyone who's worked on a farm could well dispute that.

I, too, came from Beth's and agree this is beautiful and at the same time, quite mind-blowing. One forgets, as an urban backyard gardener, just how huge the battle is grow our own food, that it is war! Makes my own fights with aphids and ants and slugs and snails miniscule compared to yours, yet quite shocking in the bigger picture. Thank you for the reminder.

I, too, was sent by Beth
This is a thought-provoking post, especially since I just finished my early-morning slug-slaughter-

In rural France the neighbours regularly kill their animals...
the neighbour wanders up my drive (his right of way) with a chicken hanging lifeless from his fingers,
another keeps a pig that he drags into the road to slaughter in spring and its blood runs down towards my house, a good friend offers to decapitate my own poultry if I am ever brave enough to keep them...
We all wage war and we all play god, it's a sobering thought


heh. at first i thought the sentence regarding the theory about getting kicked out of eden was actually about you and j leaving the first farm-i read it thinking you had been kicked out and that the farm had been called eden.

we got a thinker here, people!

shut up, i've been in france for three weeks and so my brain is all...trying to understand them all. no mean feat i tell you. and it's funny, because the places where i've been working have been very ag-heavy, i have been thinking a lot about farming, too.

when you have your own farm, can i be your cherry czar??

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