We fed all the animals, collected the eggs and were present when the non laying hens got the chop. I can still remember holding my nose and screaming “Poo!” as I rushed through the laundry where he was plucking the carcasses. I ate them with the same gusto. We had snakes constantly crawling into the house and had to go and get the broom to shoo them out the door. I was awoken one night by my father and hustled down to the chicken pen to see an Echidna, the thing I remember most distinctly was how the moonlight reflected multi-colours off its quills as it lumbered away.
The land we owned had a large tree coverage and I remember my mother searching frantically one night for a baby she believed had been abandoned there, she said she could here the crying. We later learned that baby Koalas cry exactly like their human counterparts. I awoke most mornings to Kookaburras teaching their fledgings to laugh (no it isn’t an innate thing) The adult would start , the youngster would join in , the parent would stop and then the child would gradually run down like it had been powered by a spring that had slowly unwound.
On weekends we would either go on mushroom hunts with our little buckets and butter knives or fishing and oystering on the local river, the Hastings. When I was older my friends and I would roam the town, never going hungry as by then we knew all the vacant acreage with apple, mulberry, peach and nectarine trees or fields with cherry tomatoes or berries growing wild.
Years later the local council, who were as crooked as a barrel of fish hooks, saw a chance to develop my fathers land, rezoned it residential and pushed the rates up until he could no longer afford to keep it. He spent another twenty five years working as a mercer, retired and bought a farm where he now lives happily.
The point of these reminiscences is that I knew where my food came from. I had no allusions that our chooks, ducks and geese produced eggs that we collected and would sometimes end up as Sunday dinners. I understood where the fish, prawns and oysters we caught and collected came from and what had to be done to prepare them for meals. I admit I was a bit hazy about where Angela the cow had got to, but assisted my mother cutting up meat and taking turns to feed the beef we “had” into a hand cranked mincer.
I follow a number of people around the world on social networking sites and was moved to write these pieces because of two comments that had been posted recently. They exemplified the total disconnection that has occurred between our current generation and the real world (the one that has nature in it).
“Today’s society is far too removed from their food sources. My children (despite having tried to explain it to them) still think that the chicken that we eat and the animal called a chicken are completely different things.”
“Well, until I started eating my chickens I’d been a vegetarian nearly my entire life, and for the totality of my adult life. At this point I can say with certainty that I will never eat a factory-farmed animal, or an animal that wasn’t killed by me or a family member. I believe that if you want to eat meat you need to be willing to make the kill yourself.”
The disconnection with nature has occurred on so many levels, from play and food to elementary concepts like the recognition of the life/death cycle (which I discussed in another post) that it has become an integral part of the “un-nature-al” existence of a majority of the populations in so called “first world” countries and heralded as something other developing nations should aspire to.
I frequently long for the days before we became so developed and know intrinsically that once the power goes out, a lot of people will be learning the hard lesson that technology doesn’t define a culture and more importantly you can’t eat it. Any culture that loses its connection to the natural resources that sustain it will, in time, lose itself.