Ever since I brought my three rabbits back to Brooklyn with the intention of breeding them for meat and using their wonderful manure for the garden, there has been a notable change in me. Mostly in the form of a new self-image–I see myself less as a precious city girl, noodling around with the idea of farming and talking big about it. Raising your own livestock for meat ups the ante a bit. Now when I look in the mirror I see a real urban farmer, an actualized homesteader tackling the essentials of living unapologetically. For once I don’t feel the need to explain myself to anyone and it’s a great feeling.
I wanted acceptance for so long because I had believed the naysaying. “It’s weird. You’re crazy. Go live in the country.” I thought maybe I was a little nuts, but now that I seem to have gained some approval from peers, I’m not sure what all the fuss was about. I’m just trying to get along on my own terms. How is that something I need permission from people for? It’s out there for everyone to do, if they want. I hope many of you reading this now go out in the world and find that thing that makes you feel crazy at first, but eventually powerful and big inside. It’s the only thing we all are truly entitled to, I think. The right to fight like hell for what we love. I fought and I believe I might have won.
Anyway, along with this shift in attitude, I’ve begun to feel a certain amount of separation from my peers…especially ones who don’t seem to take the amount of work I put into all of this very seriously but still have the cojones to suggest they get something out of it. I realize that this is mostly my problem to deal with and that it’s harmless, but I can’t help but get a little hot in the head over one comment that has been coming up a lot lately. One that involves people talking in a rather cavalier tone about eating my rabbits.
I want to explain something about that. Raising livestock, especially on a small and intimate scale, is very challenging. It is hard to love something, see it’s nobility and beauty and not only respect it, but know that you may mourn it when it’s gone. My rabbits are not, and will never be just MEAT. I don’t think like that and I am incapable of turning off those feelings. In fact, I don’t want to. If you want to offend me quickly, talk about my rabbits like they are just meat, my bees like they just make honey for us to eat, or my chickens like they are just egg making machines. I promise you, you won’t be invited to my place for dinner anytime soon.
With that in mind, I’ve got a request for the people who think that they can speak of eating the animals that I’ve spent every day doting on as if they are nothing but another meal they can pick up at some trendy Williamsburg eatery: Please don’t do it. These living things are part of my life, and when I decide it is time for them to feed someone, it will be the people that lent a hand in making all of this possible that benefit, not those that stand by marveling at the sidelines and contributing nothing more than an opportunity for me to say “NO”. I’ve put my heart and effort into all of this. I take it very seriously. A few special people around me do as well. They’ve opened their home to it, like my landlord has. They’ve taken time to help do nasty work like cleaning the chicken coop, scraping out the rabbits drop pans and turning the compost heap like my apprentice Ryan has done while I am away. They’ve come to teach me to do things I only have a rudimentary understanding of, like my friends Liz and Jerry and Tom have. It comes back to the same conversation many of us foodies have about respecting the work that farmers put into growing our food. Only, it’s not just work….it’s tears and love and guts too. Try not to belittle it. It’s hurtful.
If you want have a real conversation about eating one of my rabbits, offer me a trade of some sort… give me something you’ve put your emotions and time and hard work into and I will feed you. Don’t just expect that I’m going to just hand one over to you because quite frankly…I don’t like ANYONE that much.