Posts Tagged ‘vegetarian’

Why I became a vegetarian

June 17, 2009

I have always loved animals and have always been concerned about their welfare. I remember my brother being not-so-nice to the neighbor’s cat, who later became our cat. And he was not always nice or gentle with our cat Pookie, who was supposed to be my cat, but ended up suffering from Stockholm syndrome and loving my brother more than me. But I digress. I also feel compelled to say that my brother outgrew that stage and now is an upstanding soldier, pet-owner, and dad.

In high school I wrote a paper about animal rights. I even tried to talk my anatomy and physiology teacher into skipping the cat dissection. He wasn’t convinced, but at least he seemed to take my concerns seriously. I remember another girl in the class jumping on the animal rights bandwagon, but then when we did dissect the cats, she played with the intestines, putting them around her neck like a necklace. The teacher commented on how that didn’t seem to go along with her earlier argument against dissecting animals, and I had to agree with him.

After dissecting a cat, I could not eat lamb because cutting lamb reminded me of the connective tissue we had to look at on the cats. It totally grossed me out. I also didn’t care much for chicken when I was growing up. I finally did start eating more chicken in college, but it always had to be boneless and skinless. So I wouldn’t say I ever ate a lot of meat, but I wasn’t close to being a vegetarian. So, I don’t think I was ever a big meat eater. I was always picking, not caring much for seafood or fish (except tuna and swordfish), pork, or chicken. We didn’t eat lamb while growing up, but I did eat some when we lived in Philadelphia. It’s not that I didn’t eat meat, because I did. It’s just that I was picky and probably could have lived without it if I’d decided to.

I guess partly there was the slight aversion I had to some meats that contributed to becoming a vegetarian. It was also a huge moral issue for me, and still is. Sometimes it just feels wrong to kill animals for food. And then there are the health issues, which was somewhat of a motivator for me. Supposedly vegetarians have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and lower incidences of heart disease. I could give you links, but all you have to do is google that to find information and studies. I now question those studies, or at least question whether it is healthier for me to be a vegetarian, but that is for another post.

So what finally made me decide to do it? I met someone else who was a vegetarian. I’ve known other vegetarians and vegans, but for some reason this friend made the idea stick. She wasn’t pushy about it or anything. She just mentioned it and gave me information when I asked. That alone did not make me do it, though. What really happened is that shortly before Thanksgiving I had a horrible dream about little baby Aidan somehow being what we were roasting for Thanksgiving. He was on a little spit and everything. It was a vivid and horrible dream. I knew that I was not going to be able to eat turkey on Thanksgiving! I was a little sad because Tom makes a divine turkey, but I just could not eat it. I did eat some green beans with bacon in them for that meal, so becoming a vegetarian was a gradual process. Most meats I gave up cold turkey, but I did slip up a few times. I once ate jerky and totally did not think about it until the next morning when I woke up and had jerky stuck in my teeth. And I remember one time eating a pizza with chicken when my dad was visiting, but that was just after Christmas. After that, it was pretty easy and there were only a few slips that were mostly accidental.

For me, the hard part about being vegetarian was that I had to decide where to draw the line. Some people call themselves vegetarians but they still eat pork or fish or chicken. For me that was easy since I didn’t miss those foods much anyway. But then there are cheeses, and some of those are made with rennet, which comes from the lining of a calves stomach (though it can also be vegetable-based). So I tried to eat only vegetarian cheese for a while. Oh, and what about marshmallows or pudding or jello? Those have gelatin in them, which is an animal product. And then there are shoes and clothing made from animal products, not to mention the animal ingredients in beauty products and many other foods you would not think of as having animal ingredients in them. For a while I thought I’d someday be vegan and give up dairy and eggs and anything else containing animal ingredients. Now, here I am living in the country and questioning being a vegetarian at all. Sometimes it’s funny how things change.

Farm plans

April 1, 2009

For those of you who don’t know, we have 75 acres. Only 16-18 of it was in crops last year. The rest of the land is woods, a creek, and some other clearings, plus the house and lane. Our land is hilly and the crop areas are not completely flat. There are four separate areas that are tillable and all of it is Highly Erodible Land (or HEL for short, because someone had a sense of humor). We knew that if we rented the acreage to a farmer, we wanted it to be organic.  There are many reasons for this: we have a well, the crops are close to the house and we have kids and don’t want to move to the country only to die of cancer later in life because of pesticide exposure, and, well, it just makes sense to do things organically. It’s best for the soil, the environment, the plants, and the people or animals who eat the plants.

I started looking for an organic farmer soon after we moved here in October. While there are plenty of people who do some organic farming in the form of community sustained agriculture (CSA) or personal vegetable gardens, finding an organic farmer who rents land was not easy. There are not a lot of farmers who grow organic corn and beans, which is primarily what is grown in Illinois. I mentioned to our neighbor that we were interested in renting it to someone who would do things organically, and that I had looked on-line to find someone and had had no luck. He mentioned he had a friend who does all organic growing. I did not realize at the time that his friend was exactly what we needed!

Enter Scott the Farmer, who is apparently the only organic grain farmer in the county. He’s the one who called me a hippy girl when I told him (confessed) I didn’t eat meat. He said that growing soybeans is bad for the environment (except the way he grows them, of course) and that tofu tastes really good fried in bacon grease. Then he laughed. He loves to tease me about being a vegetarian. He also called rendered pig lard “Illinois olive oil.” I thought that was pretty funny. He’s a great guy and we’ve been working with him for a month or so now, trying to figure out what we are going to do.

I think we first met with him sometime in January or February. Then I was supposed to make a phone call (something I really don’t like doing) and set up an appointment with someone from the Farm Services Agency (FSA). Well, I dropped the ball on that and it took me a month or so to finally call him back and set something up. That second time I talked to him, he told me that it is not in his interest to grow grains on our land. Organic corn and beans is not a big money maker in this area. Also, our land is not all that close to where he lives and planting and harvesting four different areas would just be a pain in the butt. He didn’t say it quite like that, but that’s what he meant. So his idea was to turn it into pasture for cattle, and possibly sheep and goats in the future.

So he has come out a few times and walked the property with Tim, trying to figure out what can be turned into pasture. Because the land is highly erodible, we have to be careful. What I’ve learned from him is that, having cattle will improve the soil and prevent erosion in most areas. However, some areas would be made worse by cattle tromping around. The soil fertility will be better after growing clover, alfalfa, and/or oats, and after having cows poop all over the place. In a few years we might do some grains, but he was thinking at least three years of pasture. He doesn’t want to harvest the clover/alfalfa/oats because harvesting doesn’t make much money and is harder on the soil.

Today (Wednesday) Scott the Farmer, Tim, and Greg from the FSA office walked the property. We (or Scott) can get money from the government to build fencing, water pipes, and dry dams. In order to do that, we have to have some animals already being pastured. So Scott is going to get some fencing and some temporary fence posts and is looking for a couple of calves to buy. Once we get that set up, we can apply and get some money to do more fencing and to get water to the pastured areas. So that is the plan for the farm. Soon we should have some calves in a small area. The rest will take a while, of course. I will keep everyone posted as we find out more. And, of course, when we have some calves, I will post pictures!

Why we moved to the country

February 23, 2009

I updated the About page. I didn’t start out intending that page to be about why we moved, but that’s what it ended up being about. So it’s sort of a blog post, but one that should stay in that section of the blog, I think.

I have a post going in my head about why I’m a vegetarian and why I think it doesn’t much sense anymore, at least for me at this point in my life. However, I still have a pretty serious aversion to meat, so that could pose a problem. Anyway, I’ll have to think more and write more about that.

In the meantime, here are some pictures (and some visual evidence for why we moved!):

The view from the front sunroom.

The view from the front sunroom.

In this picture you can see the corn in the distance, as well as a building (it might be hard to pick out, but it has a green roof). That building belongs to our closest neighbor, Jeff. He’s a great guy and we’re glad to have him nearby. Also, on the left, middle part of the picture you can see part of the yard where we are thinking of putting the garden. I’ll write more about that in another post because it’s been quite a lot of thinking and talking to figure out where the garden will go!

Aidan and Moira walking down the lane

Aidan and Moira walking down the lane

That’s Aidan pulling Moira in the wagon. That’s our lane, or driveway. It’s about 3/10 of a mile long. Near the house there is grass on either side. Then there are two juniper bushes, then a bit more grass, then some of the corn. After the corn is a little dip where it is currently a mud pit due to flooding. Then there is a little bridge over the creek, and then a bit more grass followed by the road. We need to work on the lane in spring. I think we are getting more gravel next week, but I have to talk to our neighbor. He knows a guy with a dump truck and I think he set it up for us. He said we need to lay more gravel while the ground is still frozen or the gravel will just get worked into the mud. So, tons of gravel will be coming our way soon!

Moira in a princess dress in the front yard.

Moira in a princess dress in the front yard.

This is Moira in her princess dress on the hill outside the front door. The house is to the left. That brown thing next to the trailer is a coop. The former owner used it to rescue pheasants. We were thinking of using it for the chickens, then thinking about building a moveable coop, and now are back to thinking of using it for the chickens at night. Again, that’s another post and one that has involved lots of talking and thinking over the months we’ve been here.

OK, I will post more. I have a couple of ideas in my head for posting, such as the issue of vegetarianism and the debate about how, exactly, to house the chickens when we get them.