You're at the library and you head over to your favorite book section. You are browsing the aisles carefully, quietly, trying not to bump into this chick next to you. Her arms are full of books she's already carefully selected and you notice she has one or two titles you've already read. They are good books, you remember them well. You consider telling her this but decide against it. Too weird. You're feeling like a weirdo for checking out her books (did she notice?Totally makes me self conscious when people look at my books!), so you grab the first book you see and start to walk away.
"Oh, that one is awesome," the chick says, quietly. She is still facing the bookshelves, has barely turned toward you, actually. She turns her head and smiles lightly before speaking again, "It's really good. Sorry, not trying to creep on you or whatever. Just thought I'd let you know if you like that book you'd better sign up for the sequels on the hold list. They are never in!" She makes a kind of weird, high-pitched chuckle and her face starts to flush. You smile back. She's just as uncomfortable as you are. You walk away feeling like you just met a mirror image of yourself, only on an opposite reading schedule.
That is what the Mother Earth News Fair was for me.
From Saturday afternoon until Sunday night, I was surrounded by hundreds upon hundreds of people who were just like me, but knew something a little extra, had an experience that was a little different from mine, and wanted to share it with me. I saw a chick in a hippie skirt get really pumped up about free tea at the Mountain Rose Herbs booth. Me too! I bought organic fair trade chocolate from a hot guy wearing blue eyeliner because why the hell not. I love blue eyeliner! My books were checked out by a lady who gave me invaluable advice for the book signing I wanted to go to. How did she know it was the most important thing ever to me? I sat behind a dude with the most envious, gorgeous dreads I've ever seen. I love dreads!
Despite my honest-to-goodness anxiety about having conversations with strangers, I found myself chattin' it up all dang weekend.
I met a lady who lived right outside my hometown (random because I'd traveled a little over 2 hours to get to the fair). She'd served in the military and outranked my ass big time, so I joked about going to parade rest and made her laugh. She told me about her dream to sell off her gardens and move north so she could live off the land in peace. Really cool woman.
You ever seen PS I Love You? You know the Irish guy she falls in love with after her husband dies? Billy or whatever? Well his doppelganger was there. He wasn't an Irish guy in a band, though. No....he was a vendor who custom built his own cedar chicken coops. And by chicken coops I mean chicken palaces. These things were gorgeous and amber-colored and smooth and smelled like the forest and built by a man with melon biceps who tried politely to hide his laugh when I tripped over my words trying to compliment him and a little bit of drool came out of my mouth.
I talked to a super-nice chick in the book signing line (yes, Joel Salatin signed my book ... I almost died) who inherited a farm and was working to become self-sufficient. She told me about a few other festivals in our area that she attends regularly and was genuinely interested in my fears about butchering my first bird. I mean she really felt my pain. And wanted to listen to me!
We visited hundreds of vendors selling everything from seeds to grass-fed beef, reusable cloth maxi pads to pans that cook without water, compostable toilets to beehives....I met a CSA owner who was so passionate about her produce and a book that showed her how to cook in season, that I snapped the 2nd-to-last copy of that book up immediately. Anyone who reminds me of me in the passion department needs to be taken seriously.
I stayed at an organic B&B, hostel, campground, CSA, and teaching facility called Wellspring. It was founded over thirty years ago by a nature-loving woman named Mary Ann.
We were greeted by beehives.
We stayed in a barn loft that'd been converted into bunkhouses.
We ran amok in hoop houses.
And rows upon rows of vegetables.
And of course I found some chickens.
I think the best part of the fair, however, was seeing Joel Salatin. More specifically, seeing my kid interact with Joel Salatin. You read that right. My kid not only met him, she helped him process some poultry.
Now I get some of you will think chicken processing is not all that awesome. I get some of you may think my kid shouldn't be seeing a chicken processed. And to that I say, you better not be eating chicken.
Chickens aren't dino-shaped, kids! ***one of many awesome one-liners from Joel
Joel teaches people how to be responsible consumers and farmers. He did a live processing demo at the fair to show hundreds how to process a chicken respectfully and humanely. He believes we, as humans, were never meant to kill animals on a daily basis. He said killing drains the soul...and he couldn't be more right. I take this entire killing business very seriously and as I type this, on the eve of my very first chicken processing attempt, I can tell you with 100% certainty I am nervous, queasy, and yep, a little sad that I'm going to take the life of another living thing.
But thank gosh for people like Joel, and events like the Mother Earth News Fair. Because at least now I know how to do it the right way, the respectful way, a way that's sustainable and healthy for everyone involved.
Including my kiddo.
Now when Joel processes chickens he uses a cone to calm the bird, makes a small incision to bleed the bird (they are upside-down in a dazed state when he does this - very similar to the lightheaded feeling you get when you stand up too fast), and once they fade away (less than 2-3 minutes), the birds are moved to the scalder. After they are warmed up, they are sent over to the plucker/picker. After the feathers are gone they are ready to be rinsed in cool water and cleaned.
Joel doesn't like to make a ton of cuts in the birds....so he never chops heads off. Instead, they are pulled off after the birds are bled, feather-free, and rinsed. Queasy people stick with me I promise I have a point. After processing a few birds Joel invited the kids, who'd been watching just behind him, to try pulling the heads off for him. One little boy stepped up to the plate but got a little nervous and freaked and went off to the side. Joel looked around him and there was my kid, my big girl, and he said "You wanna try?" and she nodded and quietly walked up there and in 2 seconds flat got the job done. The whole crowd cheered for her and Joel praised her and my heart exploded and I tried to take a thousand pictures and my mom whooped next to me and my daughter had this beautiful smile of pride on her face.
It was hands-down my proudest moment as a mother....and my favorite part of the fair.
Now if animals and processing meat isn't your thing, don't worry. They had a ton of other topics to learn about, including organic gardening, food storage, making your own lotions and shampoo, building an eco-friendly home, raising food-conscious kids, making jelly, I mean, you name it, it was there. I went to a seminar on building a home made of junk. The dude was awesome. I also learned how to tune into my inner vibrations and use my intuition to harness the power of flowers. True story! Flower essence post coming soon! Ha!
So I can't say it enough - the Mother Earth News Fair was the best, greatest, most incredible fair ever. I was truly surrounded by what I felt were my people. Everybody was so accepting, so excited about the same things I love...it was glorious. I came home with an exercised body and soul and a whole lotta stuff.....
Hoping they have it near me again next year. And if you're looking for something fun to do with the kids, consider going to this fair. They have seminars like "Dirt Building" and "Chicken POOP for kids" and "Build an Electric Car" and a TON of other fun things to do, plus anyone under the age of 17 gets in FREE. Schweet!
Happy to be home and excited to share some of my new-found knowledge with you in the next few weeks :) Any topics you're interested in? Let me know in the comments down below! Thank you, as always, for reading :)