On production

Black bean flowers and babies

This morning, as I walked around in the gardens with my coffee, I thought, boy, this garden is looking mighty boring: about 65% of what is filling the garden beds now is beans. Dried beans, shell beans, green-ish beans: well, this girl loves her beans, you would think if you likewise were walking around with a hot cup of morning wake-up brew.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our food. This is nothing new of course; I am rather obsessed with our own food, and I’ve structured my life more or less around its production. The transition from food consumer to food producer though has been a fun one, sweat and aches and pains aside. But walking around amongst the beans, I thought about that alot, too: the notion of producer versus consumer. Am I one, or the other? Because in this house I am both: I am she who raises the food, she who prepares and consumes it with her family.

And it is in those mountains of beans that there’s some kind of answer for me. Certainly, there are a lot of beans (17 varieties, and yes I am crazy so please don’t remind me), so I obviously am tipping heavily toward production. But the consumer in me is the one who’s likewise craving that crazy diversity, that deep variety of choice of beans. The consumer in me was also the person who suggested that we get those Pekin ducks 2.5 months back, and it was the producer in me who produced a mass of feathers on Sunday. I wear the production hat very heavily on Bird Harvest Day. I cannot help but feel like some kind of monster when I lift that knife. This creature is NOT a “production unit,” its wrapped body in the freezer is no “production output.” Neither are those beans, but one doesn’t feel so awful about killing a bean plant.

Then I think about the birds themselves. I think I have another two or eight or twenty posts in me about becoming a Meat Bird Rancher. Let me just say that what makes me less of a monster and more of the compassionate vegetarian that I am at heart is the absolute truism that these chickens, guineas, geese, ducks and turkeys have a better life than most dogs and cats in this country. This puts them in better stead than much of humanity, frankly: their every need is met, whether that need is clean water or plentiful and nutritious food or secure shelter or a desire for dirt baths, bug-catching or garden scratching. They are fortunate creatures; this is a fortunate farm.

And the answer IS in the beans for me. The other 35% of what’s occupying the garden beds is the heart of what I am trying to do here: a little bit of this, a little bit of that; this particular week in August means beans are the biggest land pigs out there. In two months, it will be salad. Two months ago it would have been onions and peas. In other words, as both a consumer and a producer it’s diversity that I am going for: not mass units of monocrop production, no monocrops of poultry, either in terms of egg birds or meat birds. I could not look at myself in the mirror if I took away the individuality of these creatures, if I forgot about how these beans grew this year. Again, if we are going to eat meat at all in our house, I must ensure it’s been raised to standards that I would set myself, and the best way to guarantee that, for either meat animals or those humble beans, is to grow them myself too.

Gosh, no wonder I am obsessed.

9 responses to “On production

  1. I am right there with you, somewhere along the continuum between producer and consumer. But perhaps continuum is the wrong way of looking at it. Really, the two categories are overlapping bubbles. We are all, of course, consumers. We need to grow the producer bubble within that producer bubble significantly.

    I have laying hens, which I will get around to slaughtering in a few months. They too lead lives of privilege. I’m fortunate in personally knowing a small number of farmers who produce meat in ways that conform to my standards as well. So I can buy and eat their meat with confidence.

    I’m also trying to increase the diversity on my tiny parcel. Sometimes it’s as simple as not treating the lawn. Heirloom vegetables, bird and butterfly habitat, bat houses, and having mature trees all help out too. I feel that promoting diversity is the sacred duty of all land owners.

    Look forward to reading more from you.


  2. What a beautiful, thoughtful post.

  3. You are so far from a monster. I don’t eat meat and have no intention of eating meat, but I admire the respect you pay to your creatures. It’s a shame that the people who get their meat from the giant producers don’t know how their, chicken, cow, pig got onto their plates.

  4. I cannot imagine anything monsterous about you. The way you communicate your experience of the world comes across clean and clear. I’ve left you an award at my site, by the way.

  5. Ah, yes, Kate: the Venn diagram of one’s production/consumption hatwearing! You are quite right. Having land is a privilege, and it comes with great responsibility. We have been mulling over the long-term course for our land (close to 5 acres, of which we currently use only about 2.5) and it’s a fun puzzle.

    Thank you, Lewru. I really only started with how boring my garden looks with all those beans. I guess I got carried away.

    Thanks, Mrs. GH!

    Ah, Pamela, this is good to hear from you. So many people of my acquaintance are of the “well I could never…” camp and I often wonder: how is it then that you can eat, or do, something in good conscience? Intentions don’t matter as much as actions do to me, I guess. Harrumph.

    Alecto, you are a dear. Of course this is the site where all awards go to die. It is not that I do not appreciate it, I do; I really got a good hearty laugh at your write-up, for sure. It’s just that I…well, it is kind of like what I feel about many things: I don’t want to be perceived as bragging, or full of myself, or overly accomplished, etc. You understand. I *did* think of all the shitkicker shoes and boots I own, though; as an Asskicking Blogger you would see me best in my motorcycle boots. Or maybe my 30-year-old Frye round-toed cowboy boots. Pow!

  6. You don’t have to post it, you just get to have it and, um, I think you just did!

  7. I am a great admirer of your blog and your photos, and have learned a whole lot here, especially the day I spent reading your archives. I’m blessed with a year-round growing season, here in San Diego, but should we ever move north, or even just up in elevation, you have me convinced that a greenhouse is not just a luxury!

    I’m with Pamela above. I am a vegetarian and I have an enormous respect for those of you who actually raise and process your own meat, even for those who fill the larder by hunting (ethically). I wonder if I’ll ever put meat back on my table should I ever have a yard big enough to raise poultry.

    Also–one can never have enough beans!

    Thanks for your daily wisdom!

  8. Whew, Alecto: I do thank you, and thank you for being accepting of my non-reindeer-game playing self.

    Heidi! Aww! You made my morning. (And you must have been reading my mind: I have another greenhouse post brewing.) The weather in SD is quite wonderful, I do agree; I have a friend in Carlsbad and I am so jealous of her in February. And you know I thought the same thing regarding my own vegetarianism. If there came a time where I could raise some chickens, maybe things would change…and they have. Though I swear the egg birds are still my favorite critters. Maybe because they all have names? (And I agree with you on the beans! Thanks for telling me I’m not nuts!)

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