Posts Tagged by Animals
|July 26, 2011||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
A couple of weeks ago, Joshua was out of town. He normally moves the sheep each day, but with him gone the job fell to me. I walked out one morning with Dylan in a Moby wrap. I fed the pigs. I let the chickens out. I moved the fence so that the sheep could walk from one paddock to another. Three sheep bounded happily over to the new forage. The fourth sheep… where’s…? Baby Jeebus!
Oh, fuck. That’s a dead sheep.
When we first got pigs last year, I joined a mailing list discussion group for small-scale hog farmers, soaking up all the knowledge I possibly could. Someone on the list had a pig die and others that were sick and was troubleshooting the problem with other group members. Somewhere in the thread, someone stated that when you raise pigs (or any animals, really), no matter how knowledgable you are, sooner or later it’s three in the morning and you’re out in your pasture with your animals dropping dead for an unknown reason while you desperately try to save the rest of them.
This truly terrified me. I crossed my fingers hoping I could at least get through the first year with no mysteriously dead pigs. If they’d dropped dead the first year, I wasn’t sure I could do it again. I obsessed about every little mark and mannerism. No serious health issues popped up; the first year went smoothly.
We had a couple of chickens disappear last year, maybe to dogs, maybe to something else. That was sad and frustrating, of course, but didn’t involve dead bodies. This year some of the chicks died for this reason or that, but that wasn’t really unexpected. Loosing a couple of chicks is par for the course, and I’m not too attached to the chickens anyway. They’re small. They don’t have names. The dead ones still got to be food by being fed to the pigs.
Jeebus was another story. Jeebus was more the sooner-or-later scenario I’d been warned about. I had a carcass to deal with and three other sheep to figure out how to protect from the unknown cause.
Me trying to manage the carcass would have been comical, if not for the subject matter. Jeebus probably weighed about 40 pounds, which is manageable for me but just barely, and, as I said, comical when a 13 pound baby is also along for the ride, and I’m trying not to get any ooky on me. Since the cause of death was likely overheating, I also had to find a way to create shade for the other sheep in the middle of the pasture.
Anyway. The short version of the story is it all got handled, with no harm done to any other creatures, just a lot of sweating and stressing on my part in between slightly frantic phone calls to Joshua. Sometimes on a farm or homestead, what’s happening now is difficult and sad.
|June 3, 2011||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
|May 24, 2011||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
|May 19, 2011||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
There’s a particular type of experience that comes with having a caring relationship with animals, whether they’re people or non-human animals. It’s the experience of having one kind of plan for your day, and then something happens with the animal and your day goes in an entirely different direction.
This happens with friends. You think you’re about to sit down for dinner, but your friend calls and is stuck an hour away with a flat tire and can you come pick ou up? Well, yes, of course you can. It doesn’t much matter what your plans were, this is what’s happening now, because you care about this person, and that’s just the way it is.
It happens with children, of course, to a grand level. You think you’re going to have one kind of day, with these plans and those plans, and then your baby has a fever and what you’re really doing is rocking in the rocking chair and singing to your baby for the next 48 hours because ou is miserable and that’s just what’s happening now.
And I didn’t realize how often it would happen with farm animals. A couple of days ago, I had just helped out with the sheep and fed the pigs and done something in the garden, and I was hot and tired. I declared that I had to go inside and rest. On the way in the house, passing the chicken coop, one of the broilers was dead. This was not completely unexpected. The breed of broilers we have don’t live very well very long, and they were near their expiration date. It was really hot outside, and Joshua and I had speculated that they might have problems with the heat. So, this chicken wasn’t ill or diseased in any way. It just dropped dead, and it had only been dead a couple of hours at most, which meant it needed to be processed and put into the freezer. Now. So I was hot and tired and sore and “had to go in”, but this was what was happening now. There’s just no questioning it.
On other days, things are going along smoothly, in their routine, and then the sheep have escaped or the pigs have escaped, and what’s happening is that they have to be rounded up again. We have a perimeter fence now to help with this problem, but it’s still going to happen now and then that animals have to be wrangled back to their paddocks.
Or in the simplest, tiniest scenario that happens around The Wallow, you think you’re about to do (whatever), but what really happens is an adorable kitty cat begs to be picked up and what’s really happening right now is you’ve got to dole out some serious kitty love.
These things are just part of what it means to care for another living being. You’re not in charge anymore. Things aren’t always on your schedule. The universe inside your head that plans for what’s happening next isn’t always the most important thing.
It’s tempting to react to these situations as annoyances. I mean, chasing sheep around the neighborhood isn’t my favorite activity. But the truth is that they don’t really bother me all that much, because it’s so matter-of-fact. This is what’s happening. There’s no choosing or bitching or getting out of it or wishing it was different. It just is. These are my sheep. Of course I’m going to help get them back where they go. These are my chickens. When it’s time to process them, it’s time to process them. This is my cat. Of course I’ll love her when she needs it. This is my friend. When ou needs a helping hand, of course I have one to give.
Rather than being annoying, I can even see these situations as benefits of a kind. Priorities can be tricky. Knowing what you want and what you care about can be hard to figure out sometimes. These moments provide a certainty. These are the moments that make it crystal clear what matters and what doesn’t matter. And that certainty itself is valuable to me.
|April 5, 2011||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
The last few days have brought a lot of animal adventures, and by “adventures” I mean stressful situations.
A few days ago, during the first sheep-wrangling practice session, Buck (our ram) cut his leg on a cinder block in the barn. Joshua and I had some trouble determining how bad the cut was, but it was bleeding non-stop, so we tried to take Buck to the vet. After we got Buck into the truck (another stressful activity all together), our truck died! Great time for the starter to give out! The vet came out to us instead. The cut wasn’t too bad, but the vet treated him for pain, applied some topical stuff, and wrapped the wound up. That was a stressful night all around. Trying to handle the sheep in the first place was kind of stressful, and then we worried about whether Buck would be okay, with a vet bill and a broken truck on top of it all.
You can kind of see Buck’s bandages here on his right front leg:
Yesterday, a storm blew through our area and some really impressive wind was starting to kick up. Joshua was looking out the window and saw the entire coop that houses the baby chicks lift up and blow backwards several feet. He ran out to secure the coop and check on the chicks and found that one had been crushed between the coop and a wooden box inside the coop. He came in with the wounded chick and I started quick-Googling for the right medical treatment – the chicken had a prolapsed vent. We started on a treatment, but the chicken looked to me like it was rapidly dying. Liquid was dripping from its beak and it was losing consciousness. We reasoned that if it was crushed enough to have prolapsed parts, it probably had other internal damage as well. We fed it to the pigs.
Today’s animal adventures started with the doorbell ringing at 8:30am. A lady says, “Do you have pigs?” Yes….. “Little red ones?” Yes….. Our pigs had escaped and were a block away in this lady’s yard. We grabbed the truck, a feed bowl and feed, and headed up to try to recapture our pigs. They happily ran up to get some feed, but they were NOT interested in being grabbed. After trying to snatch one a couple of times, Joshua decided to just try to walk them home, leading them along with the food bowl. Down the road he went, eventually landing the pigs safely back in the approved pig area. Turns out the electric fence had been left off, so at least that means the fence probably still works to keep them in – as long as I remember to turn it on! The only damage we’re aware of is to our own herb garden. I hope there aren’t any angry neighbors with rooted up yards or gardens. The woman who came to fetch us wasn’t mad at all. She’s kept pigs before herself.
Here are the four pigs snuggled into their hay on a cold night. Don’t let them fool you – these are naughty, naughty pigs!
The next adventure started for me when I heard Joshua yell my name from somewhere on our property. I found him in the yard holding a dog down on the ground. Joshua was okay, all our animals were okay, but Joshua had been bitten by the dog. He had reacted well – pushing his arm into the dog bite and pushing the dog to the ground until it submitted before taking his arm out of the bite – so that the dog’s teeth didn’t even break Joshua’s skin. We called animal control to come get the dog and outlined for the officer our continual problems with neighborhood dogs. I hate to get the law involved with my neighbors, but I don’t like the other options, either. Several dogs roam free in our neighborhood, sometimes as a group. For a variety of reasons, it makes me very nervous.
One final adventure had yet to be tackled. It was time to take Buck’s bandages off. Joshua rigged up a catch pen in our barn stall so we could corral the sheep into a manageable area. The corralling went smoothly. Joshua got a grip on Buck and secured his leg, and I removed the bandages and inspected the cut. So far, so good. Since the sheep were so calm in the pen, Joshua decided to try to milk Big Mama. I opened the pen a bit and Joshua corralled Buck out of it so there’d be more room to manage Big Mama. Buck took off out of the pen at a run… found the barn door to the field closed… made a 180 turn and ran for the back of the barn… straight up a ladder of hay bales. I shouted at Joshua who was focused on Big Mama, because now there was a panicked ram kind of hovering over Joshua’s head, stuck in the hay. I got the barn door open, Joshua tumbled Buck out of the hay pile, and Buck ran for the field. Fortunately, Buck did not get re-injured in this little fiasco.
Most of the time, it’s pretty easy to care for the animals around here, but the last few days have been full of one thing after another. With all the injured animals, escaped pigs, biting dogs, and a ram who thinks he can fly, I could really use a couple of days with the animals where nothing interesting happens.
|March 29, 2011||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
This weekend was another huge happening at The Wallow. We got sheep!
Let me introduce Big Mama:
Mary and Baby Jeebus:
Jake is Big Mama’s baby. Baby Jeebus is Mary’s lamb. Jake is still nursing, but I haven’t seen Baby Jeebus nurse. While Big Mama is probably 2-3 years old, this is probably Mary’s first year. She’s much smaller. I might try to milk Big Mama, but Joshua and I have decided to wait and get Mary’s milk next time around.
Between the 5 sheep, the breeds in the mix are Katahdin, Dorper, and Barbados. All of these are hair sheep, so we won’t have to shear them every year. All of these breeds should do well on our small pasture.
Buck is unrelated to the ewes or their lambs. Many sheep breeders keep their rams separate from the ewes so that breeding can happen on a regular schedule. We’ve decided to keep Buck with the ewes. This means babies will happen on the sheep’s schedule. It also means we always have to be on our toes around the flock, because it’s not wise to turn your back on a ram. I got photographic evidence of Buck’s desirability as a breeding ram:
The sheep spent the last two days in the barn stall, nomming on hay and getting occasional corn treats from me.
Today, though, they got to start going out on the pasture for a few minutes at a time. Switching them over to pasture from hay is a slow process. Their rumens need time to build up a new kind of bacteria, otherwise they get bloat, which is basically your sheep blowing up from the inside. As a first time sheep owner, I’m very nervous about bloat, although I’m sure it’ll be fine. The sheep looooooove being out on the pasture, and so far, Joshua and I haven’t had any trouble herding them back to the barn. Between the two of us, we’re almost as smart as a herding dog!
That’s all the baby animals for The Wallow this year. We got the baby pigs, we got the baby chicks, and now we’ve got baby sheep, too. Well, that’s all the baby animals until the baby human arrives in May! It’s a good year at The Wallow!
|February 28, 2011||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
This is a cautionary tale.
On a homesteading blog that Joshua and I both read, a reader recently asked how to get started with various “green” and “getting back to the land” type ventures. The blog author suggested starting slowly so as not to get overwhelmed. Joshua and I agreed that that’s not really our method. We like to just jump on in when the time is right, picking things up as they come along. Joshua wanted to garden, so last year he started a 1000 square foot garden and planted everything he wanted to, ignoring advice to “start small”. I wanted pigs, so I read everything I could and then got two pigs. Yes, I educated myself, but I didn’t visit any other farms, get a mentor, ponder the situation for a couple of years first, or anything like that. No pickles in the house? Time to learn how to make pickles. Pants ripped? Time to learn how to sew. We just take things as they come and pick up skills and activities whenever it seems right to jump on in. We moved to The Wallow from the suburbs just over a year ago, and we’ve jumped head-first into pigs, chickens, gardening, canning, dehydrating, heating with wood, replacing paper products with cloth, composting, woodworking, homemade cleaning products, and a gazillion other projects that were new to us not that long ago. And all of this has run pretty smoothly.
Then Saturday night happened.
I’ve been obsessively checking Craig’s List, because I’m keeping an eye out for sheep and pigs for sale, and I saw someone giving away 10 roosters for free. We’ve often joked about how people give away perfectly good meat (when times get tough, those potbellied pigs are at the top of my list!), and here was someone giving away roosters. We’re getting chickens to raise for meat this spring, so killing and processing chickens was already somewhere in the future to-do list. We’d already had a full day of working around the house and planned to relax in front of a movie for our Saturday night… but there was this ad… and we have this philosophy of not going slowly… and so apparently this was going to be the night we learned how to process chickens.
I’d read a thing or two about processing chickens online. I’d read a couple of different methods for slaughter. I’d heard that plucking is a bitch. Joshua’s quartered a chicken for dinner before. Um, that’s not going to be enough. We crash-coursed by watching some YouTube videos. Welcome to the future of homesteading. We went to pick up the roosters, both extremely excited and both a bit on edge.
On the drive there and back, we mentally went over everything we’d need to assemble to get this show on the road. Once we got home, the proud owners of 10 roosters, we had to get started. We had to process the roosters right away, because we don’t have anywhere to keep 10 roosters.
Here’s the initial setup. The two cardboard boxes in the middle are the live roosters. Two coolers full of ice water to the left to put the dead roosters in. A table with a bucket to hold blood. The propane stove to the right with a big pot for dipping the birds in hot water prior to plucking. A big trash can to pluck the feathers into. Joshua’s about to hang a noose to hang the birds upside down for the slaughtering.
Here’s one box of the birds:
Joshua strung up the first chicken:
We both had to take a moment before he killed the first one. It’s a heady and weighty moment. I’ve heard advice for chicken slaughter to chop off the head or wring the neck, but Joshua’s reading suggested that slicing the throat is best for a good bleed. While the chicken almost immediately passes out, the heart continues to beat, helping to get the blood out, whereas it stops right away if you chop off the head.
As soon as it bled out (less than a minute) I dipped it in the simmering water and then started plucking:
While the first chicken went smoothly, the second one had a lot of twitching, which meant Joshua, me, and everything else nearby was splattered with blood. We ended up dropping the noose down into the trash can, so any twitching could happen in there and contain the blood. The table moved over to house a chopping block, since Joshua cut the heads off prior to me dipping them in the water.
Joshua also rigged a cover made from a plastic jug to hold the wings in which reduced flapping. There are better setups, but we were kind of making this part up as we went along. Some people have more sophisticated sleeves for the bird to fit into. Some people do this in their yards instead of their barn, so they care less about the splatter.
In any case, we charged through all ten birds. The routine became smoother as we went along. Hang up a bird, slit the throat, chop off the head, dip in water, pluck, then toss in the ice water.
It sounds relatively simple when written in a list like that. It wasn’t, though. Not at all. When we were done, Joshua said he felt traumatized. It took me a little longer, but an hour after we were done, I was hit with an emotional drop that left me curled up in the shower sick to my stomach.
Here’s a little more description on that list.
Hang up a bird: The roosters were docile in the box, but once you get a grip on its feet, it starts to put up a fuss. Once upside down, it completely calms down within a few seconds, but those few seconds still take some concentration, because you’re holding onto a bird that’s flapping furiously trying to right itself.
Slit the throat, chop off the head: This is a skill, that Joshua would have to explain since he did all the slicing. But in the meantime, an animal is dying, and while it might become routine in some sense once you’ve done it a lot, there is simply nothing routine about it the first ten times.
Right before the first one, Joshua said, “I’ve never killed anything but small animals before.”
I said, “Have you ever killed a small animal?”
“You know, just bugs and mice.”
“Have you ever killed a mouse?”
Right. So, neither of us had ever killed anything but bugs before. We were nearby for Hampie and Yorkie getting killed and saw them bleed out, but this had a whole different feel, I’m sure even more so for Joshua.
Dip in water, pluck: There’s no way to state this properly in words, but let me assure you that boiling chicken feathers is one of the most disgusting smells in the entire universe. I’ve smelled all manner of shit, vomit, and death before, but I don’t think anything compares to the boiling dead feathered chicken smell. Oh. My. God. Then the plucking is a nasty, nasty, painstaking process. At first it seems like the feathers are going to slide right off, but then there are the stragglers that you’re picking by hand. The shafts of the feathers are dark in the light skin, and if you press near the base of the follicle after the feather comes out, this dark puss-like stuff comes out. It’s like zit-picking except dead and all surrounded by the worst smell in the world.
It took us three hours to kill and pluck the ten roosters.
While plucking the first one, my back started to hurt. I changed up my positioning, but given my back lately, it should have kept hurting. I realized later that it had completely stopped. I believe the curled-up-sick experience I had an hour after we quit was me coming down off an adrenaline high. Once we got started, we just kind of barreled through, making scrunched up disgusted faces the whole time. Once it was over, we were in quite a state.
We decided to leave cutting up the birds until the next day. They were in coolers and really needed to be finished processing, plus Joshua was leaving on a business trip today, so they really had to get done the next day, even though we’d have been happy to take a chicken break.
Ten dead chickens. Time to get them finished. Here we go.
Joshua’s usually the one who quarters our chickens for grilling, so he got the knife-wielding part of this job, too. He’d cut the neck off and twist the crop out, then do some cutting around the butt to open up the inner cavity (while trying to avoid nicking anything nasty!) He recoils at the idea of intestines, but that doesn’t bother me so much, so I got the job of sticking my hand up into the chicken to pull out all the guts:
Everything – intestines, gizzard, heart, liver, etc – comes out in a big bundle once you find the right place to pull, and I kind of enjoyed poking around in there to identify all the organs. Joshua couldn’t believe that I didn’t mind touching it all.
Then Joshua separated it all. Legs/thighs and breasts for freezing, Necks, backs, legs, and wings for chicken stock. They sell a special tool to help you get the lungs out of the ribs, but we found that a grapefruit spoon worked really well.
Here’s the pile of meat for our freezer:
Plus everything going into the stock:
I wrapped up the freezer parts and labeled them. Labeling is crucial when you’re tossing stuff into a chest freezer, but it’s even more important when you can’t imaging eating chicken for quite awhile to come.
While Joshua was making the stock, I actually had to leave the house. The smell of dead boiling chicken was kind of haunting me from the night before, and the stock smell was completely overwhelming.
All told, we got 12 quarts of stock, 20 legs/thighs, and a little less than 3 pounds of breasts. Joshua was not happy with the amount of meat on the breasts. We went through a lot of trouble here, and these birds were not all that big.
The whole ordeal was about 24 hours from “OMG we own 10 roosters” to the sound of the canned jars of stock popping closed.
I’m seriously considering skinning the next chickens we kill instead of plucking. The skin of a grilled chicken is mighty yummy, but the equation looks a bit differently after how disgusting it was to deal with the feathers and skin. Next time we will do everything outside in the open. Even cutting up the cold, dead chickens was way too gross for inside the house. Joshua had to bleach the entire kitchen when we were done.
Yes, we will be doing this again, although ideally with bigger birds. This experience was a bit harrowing but also felt valuable. Next time I’ll be doing the slaughter because I have yet to kill anything bigger than a bug.
I will I not be jumping head-first into anymore big, new, homesteading projects anytime soon, though. This one took a bit out of me, and I need a break. Next weekend, I think I’ll take that relaxing movie instead!
|November 29, 2010||Posted by Issa under Uncategorized|
It’s almost 10:00pm and I haven’t made a post for today. Since it’s only two posts till the end of NaBloPoMo, I’m not about to end this day without a post! Fortunately, a glance through my photo folder turned up something to share with you.
Joshua woke me up from a nap the other afternoon by hollering at me to come look out the window. I started to be annoyed, thinking it was just something cute a cat or chicken was doing (and therefore something I can see anytime!), but it turned out to be quite worth becoming awake for:
Yep, that’s a donkey inside the chicken coop. It was busy eating their food. We know this donkey. She belongs to a neighbor and gets out all the time to go adventuring through the neighborhood.
Joshua closed the door of the coop to keep track of her while he took off to alert the neighbor:
That didn’t make the donkey too happy, though (shocker!) Almost immediately, she started to fuss around, and I realized that a couple of good kicks would ruin the coop entirely. So, I opened the door right away, and she wandered out and hung out in our yard until the neighbor came and led her off to their home.
|November 25, 2010||Posted by Issa under Parenting, Simple-Eco-Happy|
In case you missed it on Monday, click here to read part one of the review of the book Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care. This book gave me so much material to rant about, I broke it up into two parts. If you’re ready for another dose, here’s part two.
What’s next? Oh, yes. Fucking bottled water. I’m still in the 1st chapter of the book here – the one on pregnancy. You’re “Drinking for Two”, so the book recommends that you check the labels on your bottled water or filter your tap water. Wait, bottled water? What? Isn’t this supposed to be a book about being “green”? Why is it recommending bottled water at all? I quickly turned the page, hoping to see a condemnation of bottled water…and I found one. Apparently, you might want to avoid plastic bottles with BPAs. Choose bottles with these recycling codes rather than those recycling codes. No mention anywhere of bottled water as a wasteful disposable product, the corporatization of a local resource (sometimes to really creepy ends), all the other reasons not to drink bottled water, or that it’s just stupid. This is a huge fail that basically says to me that this book isn’t green at all. Period.
Chapter Two was all about giving birth, so I mostly skipped it. I won’t be in a hospital for my birth (probably), so almost none of this chapter would directly apply to me. Besides, this book was already getting tedious.
I hopped over to Chapter Three, which is simply called “The Nursery”, at which point I burst out laughing. And this “review” is almost done, because that’s about as far as I could manage to read.
There are two problems with a chapter called “The Nursery” in a book about greening your baby. First, having a nursery is inherently consumer-driven and is inherently un-green. In order to have what’s called a nursery, you need an entirely separate room in your house. You need “room things” like a chair, a dresser, lighting. You’ll probably get window treatments. You might hang art on the walls. You’re going to put a baby in there, so you buy a special “baby bed” when you’ve got perfectly functional beds elsewhere in the house that would easily fit a baby. The baby’s going to be alone, so you need music-players and heart-beat-sound-makers and monitors and snuggly toys. It’s a ridiculously expensive, anti-green endeavor.
The second problem is the whole concept of a place you leave your baby alone is alien to the philosophy in which “being green” exists for me. I know that there are people out there who want to be environmentally conscious who are otherwise ”normal” (the targets of this book, apparently). I’m just not one of them, and so at this chapter, I put the book away.
There’s one more thing I want to bitch about first, though. I left this for last because it’s not just one sentence or section. Something that permeated all of the advice in this book was it’s ignorance (or avoidance) of the fact that people exist at different economic statuses. This book seemed to assume that money isn’t a factor for anyone. And this, more than anything else, highlights that this book is only for a very narrow set of readers.
When talking about lactation consultants, the book says they are sometimes provided by the center or hospital where you give birth, but if not, “you can hire a private one.” There’s no mention that the price of a lactation consultant can run you $50-$100 an hour. And no suggestion to check with your local WIC office or La Leche League for cheaper (or free) assistance.
The book recommends organic cloth diapers, organic linens and blankets, and organic clothing for baby with no mention of the fact that all of these items can be significantly more expensive than non-organics. No mention of alternate buying options, like thrift stores or used cloth diaper websites.
And the most grievous omission of personal finances comes when talking about organic foods. The book says, “Let’s all pull together,” to buy organic foods. All? I don’t think it means all, when there’s not even a passing mention of the increased cost of organic foods. And unlike a one- or two-time lactation consultant or the clothes and diapers you could find used, organic foods are hard to save on and buying food happens over and over forever.
Anyone who’s looked at conventional and organic foods in a grocery store knows that organics are more expensive. And plenty of articles and books on organics make room to discuss the price and the struggles people have to buy organic. So why doesn’t this book bother? My guess is just that this book isn’t written for those people. This book assumes that “green” means you can buy your way into greener choices. And that’s not very green.
In order for a movement to succeed, it needs to be accessible to as many people as possible. In order for a message to resonate with a population, it needs to focus on the different people in that population. Also, have a little faith that your movement can be accessible to everyone. If you think your philosophy can only be attained by a few, you’re not putting a lot of stock in your own ideas are you?
And at the very least, “green” needs to mean something other than “money”. Ideologically, money means more, faster, higher, farther, better, and all of these things are the antithesis of sustainability and environmental awareness.
I’m really glad I didn’t buy this book, but I am glad to have gotten some green ranting off my chest. I hesitate to give this book just one star, because some people out there are in a position to put in new expensive, organic flooring just because they’re having a baby. If you’re one of those people, great, buy this book.
But, in short, I think this book sucked. I don’t think it has anything to do with benefiting ourselves and our environment. I think it is just about trendy stuff to buy.
TWO STARS – Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care by Alan Green, M.D. with Jeanette Pavini & Theresa Foy DiGeronimo
|November 22, 2010||Posted by Issa under Parenting, Simple-Eco-Happy|
Within the last year, I’ve fallen in love with my library. I think I have ten books checked out right now, and I’m reading a few of them at once. The library enables me to read as much as I like without worrying about the cost or the waste. Lately, of course, I’ve been perusing the pregnancy section of the library. I came across Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care by Alan Greene, M.D. I’m not really looking for any guidance on “green” topics, but it is a topic I care about, and I figured I could at least review it for LoveLiveGrow. Plus, in the meantime, I might learn a thing or two.
Instead of any education or pleasure, though, all I got out of this book were frustration, anger, and incredulous sputters.
The first clue that this book wasn’t going to sit well with me came two pages into the introduction. Greene wants to give a small example of a way to make a positive difference. Here’s the sentence that gave me my first sputter:
“…If every household in the United States replaced just one box of conventional facial tissues (175 count) with 100% recycled ones, together we could save 163,000 trees for our children’s world.”
First, I usually dislike examples that talk about what would happen if “everyone” did it. There are usually benefits to the individual regardless of what the masses do, and hanging your movement on the masses is a losing proposition. It’s a small gripe, as is my feeling that trees are a strange place to start when talking about conservation. Trees are a renewable resource. I don’t mind getting around to trees, but leading with them seems odd.
The great big fail, though, is recommending that you replace one disposable product with another. Disposable items are inherently bad for the environment, bad for your money, and bad for your state of mind. Especially when you’re talking about tissues, for crying out loud. I’ve written about reusable kitchen cloths, bathroom cloth, and menstrual products, but it doesn’t even strike me as interesting to talk about not using reusable tissues for your snot. Who does that?
Chapter One has a section called “Why Go Green During Pregnancy” where it talks about a tiny study of umbilical cord blood where each baby was found to have about 200 different industrial chemicals in the cord, including mercury, fire retardants, and pesticides. Greene quotes the report as stating that most of these are known to cause cancer, be toxic, and/or cause birth defects. Then he says something I whole-heartedly agree with:
“We are the environment; there is no separation. If a chemical is “out there” it may also be “in here”…”
I completely agree! It is impossible to live surrounded by toxic chemicals and not be affected by that.
However, the rest of this chapter goes on to talk about things that the mother can personally do (or not do): eating the right foods, drinking good water, not dying her hair, not breathing gasoline fumes, etc. These specific actions may be good on their own, but they don’t address the 200 chemicals thing. It doesn’t matter how many small adjustments I make to my choices – I have to breathe this air; I can only buy clothes at the places that are available to me, I can only live in the houses that are legally allowed, etc. I’m simply not in control of the amount and variety of industrial chemicals in my environment, and it’s mean to lay that on the individual. It reminds me of the Checklist of Fear – the irrational belief that if you put enough things on the list, eventually you’ll be safe. You won’t be. And you won’t make a huge dent in those chemicals by not dying your hair, either.
Next up is Greene’s poetic love of organic foods. One section asks “What Exactly is ‘Organic’?” and he goes on to provide some answers:
The word organic extends a promise of a food that is natural, pure, and brimming with healthy nutrients.
Organic farming is a method that honors our health and the health of the planet.
Organic fruits and vegetables are grown in fertile soil teeming with life. Organic farmers follow earth-friendly cultivation practices…
Organically raised animals are treated in a way that protects their natural development and behavior…the animals are raised in a healthier and more humane manner.
I know that’s what we’re supposed to infer from the happy little cartoon cows pictured on the sides of the packages and all, but I’m not buying it. I do frequently buy organic food, since I want that word to mean something, and sometimes it does, and I don’t know what else to do. But, in the meantime, I don’t get all doe-eyed over the myth. I’m not going to go into a full-scale anti-organics bitch here. Instead, I’ll ask a couple of rude questions and give you a couple of links. You can go digging for more if you like.
- The little organics label with your best interests at heart? Who owns that company? Kraft? ConAgra? Coca-Cola? Nestle? Do you think they have your best interests at heart?
- Are organic crops grown with care, or are they just grown “organically” until something goes wrong, at which point they’re sprayed down anyway and then sold as conventional crops? Is that what you want from the word organic?
- And the title of this Treehugger article says it the best: “Has the ‘Organic’ Label Become the Biggest Greenwashing Campaign in the US?”
Okay, this has turned into a LONG rant, so I’m going to leave the rest for part two. You can tune into part two on Thursday to hear the rest of the rant and find out what I rated this book.
In the meantime, tell me what you think about disposable products, organic foods, or any other green topics that come to mind.