Lessons from the farm: we are so disconnected

by brenda on April 10, 2012

I’m saying we as in me, you, all of us. Farm life has made us realize how disconnected we are. What are we disconnected from??

Our trash.

Where does it go? Every week we set a can out at the curb and a truck takes it away and we never have to think about it again. Recycle? Don’t recycle? Recycling is for the hippies and tree huggers, right? No.

I was reading Charlotte’s Web to the kids today and came across this:

“Below the apple orchard, at the end of the path, was a dump where Mr. Zuckerman threw all sorts of trash and stuff that nobody wanted any more. Here, in a small clearing hidden by young alders and wild raspberry bushes, was an astonishing pile of old bottles and empty tin cans and dirty rags and bits of metal and broken bottles and broken hinges and broken springs and dead batteries and last month’s magazines and old discarded dishmops and tattered overalls and rusty spikes and leaky pails and forgotten stoppers and useless junk of all kinds, including a wrong-size crank for a broken ice-cream freezer.”

I wrote about this once upon a time: imagine if everything we threw away had to be on our own property. Imagine it! Wouldn’t we prioritize what to throw away and what to keep? What to put effort into fixing?

This brings me to something else we are disconnected from:

Our stuff.

It is so easy and cheap to buy new things, why fix anything? We’re not thinking about where the broken down, wasted, old, unwanted, unpopular items are going, so why not buy whatever new is striking our fancy at the moment? Why fix the shirt with the single missing button? That would mean a trip to the store to get a button & actually putting work into it. Besides, it’s not cool anymore anyways–and it’s easy to buy a new one, right?

We are blessed (or cursed?) with places like:

  • The Dollar Tree
  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Etc.

We can buy whatever we want whenever we want it. We can have perfectly organized homes, and re-decorated homes with every new trend. We can accessorize with shoes, and scarves, and hair thing-a-ma-bobs and umbrellas and purses. We can buy CDs and movies, and video games galore. Our kids can play with whatever kind of toys they can imagine see on TV.

We have not met the people who made the things we buy. We barely communicate with the people who sell the things that we buy. Entire industries are built around buying raw materials, making items, shipping items, driving items, stocking items on store shelves, and selling items to customers. There are people involved with the entire process, and yet we’ve never met any of them. We don’t know their stories. Frankly, we don’t care, we just want what we want, when we want it.

We don’t make anything for ourselves.

We don’t know what kind of labor went into the products we buy. They’re there for us, for our convenience (right?), and we don’t have to think about any of the details.

We’re also disconnected from:

The true cost of things.

In this age of things-made-in-China, we have no clue how much things really cost. We buy junk for pennies, and it breaks, and we buy new junk. We never know the true cost of the stuff we buy. We think we should be able to buy whatever we want whever we want it and as cheap as we can possibly get it.

How much does it cost to buy a plastic playhouse for your kids? How much would it cost to build a wood one? How much effort would it take to make it yourself? What is the incentive to being industrious anymore? Frugality, these days, means purchasing items that were made in China from big name super stores.

We are disconnected from:

Creativity.

Where is the joy in buying cheapo items that were made in another country? We’ve lost the delight that we might find if we made things for ourselves.

No wonder so many people are on anti-depressants these days. Seriously! We were created in the image of our Creator, and creating is a way that we express who He made us to be. When we trade in our creativity for cheap stuff, we forfeit an important part of ourselves. Of course, people are depressed!

We are disconnected from:

Hard, meaningful work.

Most laborers now days have sedentary and/or mindless jobs. We don’t produce anything worthwhile for anyone. Everyone seems to be a middle man, or the boss of the middle man, or the low guy on the totem pole, assembling a small piece of a big puzzle that really amounts to nothing in light of human survival and accomplishment. We’re depressed because we’re literally not doing anything with our lives. We’re not providing for ourselves in any way that is meaningful or useful (if this economy failed, what would your paycheck give you? Really? What would your skills, after years of laboring, reward you with?). We’re consumers, and most of us have no clue how to produce anything for ourselves, for our basic survival. We’re completely lost without the “system.”

Our food.

I posted about the cost of raising soy free, corn free eggs. Since most food animals are raised in confinement, our cost might seem outrageous to many of you. Your tax dollars are paying for your food so that you (don’t think you) have to. The government subsidizes corn and soy, and of course, it’s in everything: in the feed that our animals eat, in our cereal, protein bars, candy bars, chips, breads, yogurts, sour creams, sodas, juices, etc., etc. It’s cheap food, true…but not really.

Since my family raises chickens, I’ve become alarmingly aware of how spoiled we are to think that we should be able to eat various chicken parts any time we want to. How many times per week, month or year does your family eat chicken breasts? Legs? Thighs? Wings? Do you eat the other parts of the chicken, or are you devoted to one particular part? Do you know how many chickens had to be butchered so that you could have that part that you prefer? Do you know how much labor was involved in that? Cutting chickens into parts (by hand) is not an easy job. I calculated that for our family of 9, to eat chicken legs (3 per person per meal) only 6 times per year, we would have to cut up 81 chickens. Wow. 81!! I had no clue! That’s only 6 meals in 1 year! Of course, if we cut the chickens ourselves, we would cut off the other parts and use them. But many people prefer 1 or 2 parts of the chicken, without giving thought to who uses the rest of the bird, if anyone.

Everyone has gone crazy over the pink slime issue. The problem is, we don’t know our farmers. We don’t know our butchers. We don’t know who is putting what into our food supply, either before or after the animal is slaughtered. We have no clue. We have expectations that our food will be good, safe, and cheap, but we don’t take the time to really learn about it. (Well, many of you do, but lots of people don’t!). Our food system is our weak link & a way that enemies could get to us. I’m not trying to scare all of you or talk conspiracy theory here. We as a people don’t ask questions. We don’t know where our food is coming from and what’s in it. The pink slime should not have been a surprise to us. We should know about the things that we put in our mouth and into the mouths of our children.

Our land.

Most of the animals that are raised for food are raised in confinement and fed government subsidized soy and corn. They’re not grazing the grass in the fields, so the fields have to be mowed with large machinery. Since the animals are being confined, their manure is considered a waste product. Often times, it’s stored in ponds. Isn’t that just lovely?

Since the fields aren’t being enriched with nutrients from the animals’ natural fertilizers (manure), people spray chemical fertilizers (petroleum) all over their land.

We are disconnected from:

The power of our food scraps.

Yup, you heard me right. Most people (except farmers) throw their food scraps into the garbage, or grind it in the disposal (which goes to the sewers). They have no clue that if they saved those scraps, farmers might be able to avoid buying government subsidized feeds after-all. Whatever the animals don’t eat can be composted. Composting is easy, and works so well! It takes a year (or less!) to create a rich soil amendment to help more food grow.

We’re disconnected, and yet, all of these subjects are connected.

  • If the people in the cities and neighborhoods saved their food scraps and gave them to the farmers, the farmers could buy less (or no) government subsidized feed.
  • If the farmers put their animals on grass instead of in confinement, we wouldn’t need petroleum based fertilizers (and might not be so depended on other countries–there’s more to that story, for another day).
  • If we knew who our farmers were and learned more about our food, we would not be alarmed by news stories about pink slime.
  • If we paid attention to how much we eat (and how many animals and how much labor went into the food that we eat), farmers wouldn’t have to over-produce to cover our wants. We want chicken breasts, so they grow more birds. There’s plenty of meat to eat, it’s just not what we want.
  • If we started getting industrious and creative, we wouldn’t need as many anti-depressants or as many things from China.
  • If we stopped buying so much cheap junk from China, we wouldn’t be filling our landfills so quickly.
  • If we stopped filling our landfills with so much cheap junk from China, maybe we would have more fields for animals to graze and we wouldn’t need to confine our animals for meat.

See what I mean? It’s all connected. And yet we have no clue. We go about our days,

  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Buying
  • Using
  • Living
  • Wasting
  • Throwing away
  • Taking for granted

the food that we have, the stuff that we have, this life that we have. We don’t think about the consequences of any of it. We are such self-centered people.

I don’t have solutions for you. These “issues” have been on my mind lately, and maybe they’ll come out more elloquantly in future posts. For now, I share my thoughts, raw.

What are your thoughts? What solutions do you see to this problem? How do we get connected?

photo credits: benkaf2, twicepix, 401K, Sean MacEntee, eutrophication&hyproxia, Eric Kilby, normanack

 

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Bbenson_5328 April 11, 2012 at 7:42 am

Very good thoughts … I plan on sharing these with my teen daughters to get them to think a little more deeply about some of the issues staring us in the face. We talk about things like this all the time but in many ways they still don’t totally get it. I think awareness is a key to these issues and as more and more people become aware of their food supply or what is in their food they will begin to talk to other people and the awareness chain will spread out one more link. I know for myself that I started on my real food journey almost 20 years ago but only with finding blogs about 5 years ago did my understanding explode with all of the various components of what makes up “real food” and then it spread out into related things like sustainable living and going green, etc. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

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Chara April 11, 2012 at 8:18 am

This is so well said! The exact thoughts that are in my mind and heart- you stated so eloquently! Sharing this with LOTS of people!

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Kristina April 11, 2012 at 10:15 am

I agree. We’ve created quite a mess for ourselves.
I love what you said here: “We were created in the image of our Creator, and creating is a way that we express who He made us to be.” This really rings true for me because I have recently started writing again after giving up for a long time and it’s so good. Even if it’s not like it used to be, I am so much more myself when I am writing.

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Amanda L April 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Amen Sista! Have you read Folks, This Ain’t Normal? Great book by Joel Salatin that addresses these precise topics in a more drawn out story. It’s so true. We are so disconnected and our lifestyles are simply not the normal that they should be.

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Heather Anderson April 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Great and thought provoking post! It is definitely time to examine our lifestyle choices.

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Jeff April 12, 2012 at 7:37 am

My lawnmower doesn’t start. I can spend $50 to keep this 13 year old mower alive or I can get a comparable new mower for $150, all to mow 1/3 of an acre. I actually decided to buy a reel mower on Craig’s List for $10 and I will donate the old mower to someonewho wantsto fix it. It does a great job and takes no gas. The odd thing is how out of place I feel in my upscale suburban neighborhood pushing my reel mower while my neighbors are on riding mowers or have a service doing it for them. We need to work to make it respectable to think sustainable.

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Sabrina April 12, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Great thoughts and very relevant to our time and culture. Keep being an agent of change for this generation and the one coming up! Thanks Brenda!

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ima @ KyndFamilyFarm April 13, 2012 at 8:31 am

Good word mama! Pulled the thoughts from my mind… not to mention evoking the question- how do you find time to compose such elaborate posts?? One of my fave bloggers.

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Pat Tolbert April 14, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Great blog post thanks for sharing, I stopped my garbage from being picked up about 8 months ago
started saving all the cans for planting garden seed for the garden, seperate paper and burn in burn
pit or barrel, give all scraps to chickens or put in the compost pile I have went
to the dump a couple of times which cost 20.50 instead of paying 327.00 a year for garbage to be picked
up. We have been rasing our own cattle for meat grass fed or hay with no herbicides or pesticides, longhorns
after reading history about them they are really good meat and what good mother’s they make.

Wardeh Harmon has a new book that just came out called The Complete Idiot’s
Guide To Fermenting Foods which is very healthy eating and you know what is in the
food, also Nourishind Days is good source.

Pat Tolbert

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Annie Sullivan April 16, 2012 at 6:49 am

I completely agree with you. We bought our small homestead last year, and this year I’m putting in our first garden there. I have compost bins working and will be able to add animals next year. I’m so excited about this chapter in our life, and about what it will teach our children.

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Drew Auman April 21, 2012 at 7:31 pm

You are speaking to the choir my friend!!!! By the way, I don’t follow a lot of blogs, however I must say I find myself tremendously compelled to check in on what you have to say on a regular basis. Also subscribed to your meal plan and your guidance is helping me a lot!! So thank you!

I have actually started a non profit to try to help people not just mindlessly throw things away called The reGives Network (http://www.regives.com) and to be honest with you I have had a bit of a hard time getting traction in a lot of areas. It’s a free service that anyone in the world can use to give things they no longer need and others can get the items locally if they can still find use for it, ultimately diverting items that would have otherwise landed in our landfills.

Unfortunately, a majority of people would rather just throw something away (Even if it still has value, rather than giving the item to a neighbor that may still have use for it or like you said spending some time fixing what is broke.

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Talbertgwen February 12, 2013 at 4:56 am

Great post.

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Christina Coldiron February 26, 2013 at 11:04 am

I could not agree more! We need to wake up and start teaching kids the value of good meals that were made by Mama and not the microwaves. I too believe we need to start somewhere and we are also buying a homestead with some land and we are gong to go in reverse I tell you! TV is junk! Our values and ethics are in the toilet as a nation and I commend you for your blog/website. It is a movement and more people are joining in than you think! Patriots alike are waking up all over this sleepy nation. God bless us and our food.

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Anonymous April 27, 2013 at 5:11 pm

I LOVE this post! You say it all so well. Reconnecting to the land and taking responsibility for the resources we use is the only way we are going to survive peacefully on this finite planet.

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LibertyL August 3, 2013 at 9:59 am

Beautifully written, and brings out from under a rock a lot of excellent points we should be spending more time thinking about…thank you!

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Country Boy January 13, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Interesting read. I do agree on a lot of your points actually. This country needs to be more creative, industrious, and responsible. My only concerns are some comments about farmers and farming. An example, the parts of the chickens not eaten by you and your family will be sold to someone else. You eat legs, someone eats breast, etc. Hope you get the point. Most of the scraps and left over parts go into nuggets, soup, and other uses. Another example is the petroleum fertilize. Most fertilize is actually mined[potash] or taken from the air[nitrogen]. Animal manure stored in “ponds” which are called lagoons, is applied to the soil at the appropriate time. I could go on, but I hope you get the point that some of the things we see aren’t actually what we think they are. I am and have always been a farmer. I take better care of my land and animals than most people could ever realize without being here. I would invite anyone to see how we really live. And I know this will draw a whole lot of criticism , but we do at the moment live in a free country. God bless and thank you

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