For this week's Local Food Report, I talked with my friend Justine in Truro about hatching chicks. She's got a flock of seventeen chickens—give or take, depending on the raccoons—and last summer, one of her hens went broody. You can hear her story of becoming an accidental chicken breeder on the show.

When I was doing research for the piece, I pulled out my favorite book on raising chickens: The Small-Scale Poultry Flock, by Harvey Ussery.  It's an in-depth, practical book that covers every aspect of chicken husbandry from raising chicks to making and managing your own feed to dealing with aggressive roosters. There are several chapters toward the end on breeding and working with broody hens, and they've got all kinds of fascinating information.

First off, a hen that's gone broody is essentially a hen looking to start a family. She stops laying eggs and instead starts sitting on them and incubating them, and she won't get off until 15 days later, when they hatch. In wild birds of most species, this process is triggered when the female has found and mated with a male. Most birds only lay eggs that are fertile and will only incubate and hatch their own eggs. But after centuries of domesticity, chickens have had most of these natural tendencies suppressed. Most hens don't go broody—they simply lay an egg a day, fertilized or not, and then get up and leave the nest. This is good for egg production, because farmers mainly want to sell eggs, not hatch them. And unlike a wild bird, a broody hen will sit on any chicken's eggs—and even duck eggs!—not just her own. Which means farmers can isolate hens and roosters they want to breed, take these eggs, and set them under a different hen who goes broody and has good mothering instincts. 

According to Mr. Ussery, if you have between eight and twelve hens it only takes one rooster to guarantee virtually 100 percent of the eggs will be fertile. But even up to twenty five hens per rooster, most eggs will still be fertile. You can see why so many roosters hit the soup pot.

Certain breeds of hens are more and less likely to go broody—Old English Games, Nankin, and Silkies are three breeds favored as mothers. Hens are more likely to go broody in the spring or early summer, but it can happen anytime, and some hens will go broody multiple times a year. If a mother hen tries to sit on too many eggs—more than are comfortably covered by her body—all the eggs have a higher chance of mortality, as they need to be kept constantly at her body temperature to survive. Some farmers use a technique call "candling" to hold a light up to developing eggs at night. Broody hens can be aggressive, and the only time a broody hen will allow someone peacefully into the nest is at night, so farmers hold a light up to each egg to see if the chicks are developing inside. If not, they remove the eggs that are duds, because otherwise they can explode and the gunk can coat over and suffocate the remaining eggs, which need to be able to breathe through the membrane of the shell.

Once the babies are born, the mother won't make any effort to save a weak chick or an egg that doesn't hatch. She focuses all her energy on the healthy babies and protects them from the rest of the flock until they're big enough to fend on their own.

For now, we don't have any roosters. (Actually, for the foreseeable future—since our permit from the town very clearly says in all caps NO ROOSTERS!) But if a hen starts going broody, I could get some fertilized eggs from a friend to slip under her. At any rate, I find it all fascinating. Has anyone out there ever hatched their own chicks? Candled eggs? Raised chicken babies? Would love to hear more.


SALSA & KIMCHI // elspeth

I broke a jar of salsa a few weeks ago in the basement, reaching to put one last Christmas decoration away. It fell behind the shelving where we keep our pickles and wine and jam and dried beans and grains, and the glass shattered. It was awful to clean up—chunks of peppers and glass stuck behind a piece of insulation and on the back of a shelf and tomato juice and vinegar oozing across the concrete. I was furious with myself, but in a strange way it was also nice: to remember the hot day in August when I made it with my friend Audra, our girls running around sticky with peach juice.

Audra and her wife and their girls moved away a few weeks later, only twelve months after they'd come to town. We'd become fast friends, the kind of friends you make for life, and for both generations it was a move that left a hole.

But it was also a friendship cemented on food and place, and those kinds tend to hold. We saw each other in Boston just before Christmas and at our grain and bean CSA pick up a few weeks ago, and this past week here for a walk and some bike tuning instruction and tuna melts. We talked about the proper placement for brake-pads and the best chain lube and the terror that is currently being an American and the parent of a child in school. And we traded jars of kimchi, because last year we made it together but this year our versions are different.

Audra taught me about keeping a food notebook—I'd always kept one for the garden, but I'd never combined it with writing recipes down. Most recipes I use are from cookbooks or blogs or the Internet-at-large, and I catalog the ones I like well enough in my recipe box and weekly column and here. But I now see that there are some recipes that are more organic and fluid and have an element almost of oral history, and that these belong in the garden notebook—the ones that are big and annual and have to do with big leaps of effort to preserve. Just after Christmas when I had time and the right ingredients I called Audra to reference her kimchi notes from last year, and then I pulled out my garden notebook and wrote it all down.

For confidence' sake, I'm going to give you the 2017 and 2018 amounts. Both batches were very different, and both were excellent, and sometimes it's a boost to see that written down. You can see how little it matters if you're off a bit here or there—what's really important is that the salt matches the vegetable weights. Otherwise so long as you follow the gist you can chop and wait and jar and lump kimchi in with the small stuff, and sweat something bigger, something else.

KIMCHI 2017/2018

If you’ve never fermented anything and you don't have a knowledgeable friend to start alongside, I highly recommend the book The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz. It’s a great reference and an excellent confidence booster. That said, once you realize it’s all about salt and patience and pungency, it’s hard to go wrong. The single most important rule of thumb is to add 1 heaping teaspoon salt for each pound of vegetables. This is why quantities here are measured in weight rather than cups. If you have, say, 9 ounces of ginger instead of 7, nothing should go wrong—just try to keep the general proportions similar. And try to buy very fresh and moist looking vegetables—the longer they’ve been in storage, the less water they’ll have in their cells, and you want them to have plenty. You’ll need a 3-gallon crock and a kitchen scale for equipment. One last note: be sure to work with generally clean hands and surfaces, but don't get nutty with worry about it. The 2018 version filled a 3 gallon crock and yielded around a dozen finished quarts.

amounts 2017 // 2018 

5 ounces // 7 ounces ginger, peeled
8 ounces // 7 ounces hot peppers, seeds and stems removed
1 pound 12 ounces // 1 pound 3 ounces peeled garlic
1 pound // 1 pound onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 and 3/4 pounds // 4 pounds carrots, peeled and grated
14 pounds // 9 pounds Napa cabbage, very thinly sliced
5 and 1/2 pounds grated turnips // 1 pound purple cabbage, very thinly sliced 
----------------- // 2 ounces scallions
always ! 1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt per pound of vegetables

First make the “paste.” Put the ginger, hot peppers, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until they form a smooth paste. This is your base, the flavoring for the kimchi. These plants also slow down bacterial growth, which is good for keeping the kimchi relatively shelf-stable and preventing rotting. You can’t really go overboard in terms of safety, it’s more a matter of taste. If you like things really spicy, feel free to add more hot peppers—this makes a kid friendly kimchi, so it’s not particularly spicy.

Set the base aside and start working on chopping. Depending on how distracted you are by other tasks, it takes a long time to slice and grate the remaining veggies—likely a few hours—one reason it’s more fun to make kimchi with a friend! As you chop, put the veggies in a kitchen bowl that fits on your scale. Weigh the bowl ahead of time or zero out the scale if it’s digital, so that you get the weight of the veggies without the bowl. Keep a notepad nearby and make a tally for each pound of veggies each time you fill it up and put the veggies in the crock. As you work add a heaping teaspoon of kosher salt for each pound of veggies, including the paste. Once you’ve got a good mass of veggies in there add the paste and mix everything around with your hands. Keep chopping, adding, salting, and mixing by hand until you’ve exhausted your veggie supply—remember, all the veggie weights don’t need to be exactly as written above as long as you’re adding the teaspoon of salt for each pound.

As you work, since it takes a while, liquid should start coming out of the veggies. By the time you finish there should be enough brine that you can push the veggies down below the liquid level. Don’t panic if this doesn’t happen—wait a few hours, checking periodically, and keep trying to push the veggies below the brine. Once you can, weight them down so they stay there—I use a plate and a large mason jar filled with water—and cover the crock with a clean dishtowel. Leave it to ferment at room temperature, checking periodically, for at least two weeks. You know things are happening when you start seeing bubbles (this is CO2 being released). It should smell pungent and a bit stinky; that’s normal. Taste it every few days until you hit the two week mark. When you’ve passed two weeks and the flavor is to your liking, decant the kimchi into clean jars, making sure each jar has plenty of liquid and the veggies are still below the brine. Don’t tighten the lid all the way—remember this is fermented, and you don’t want the pressure to build up and explode—so leave the lids a little bit unscrewed. Store in a cool place. This time of year it should be fine in a cool spot in the basement; the fridge also works. Enjoy the miracle of fermentation!

I had some keep 6 months, I think Audra's kept it over a year. It truly doesn't seem to go bad.



Quickly, before the girls need picking up and the wood needs stacking and dinner needs chopping and a radio show needs turning in:

Unwrap a loaf of bread. Slice it thin, or as thin as the crumbly, homemade feel of it allows, and slather it with mustard. Dijon or whole grain, whatever you prefer. Cut two thick slabs of extra sharp cheddar and a sweet, juicy Macoun from the farmers' market. Cut off a few thin slices—three will do—and layer them on the mustard. Warm up a big pat of homemade butter in a pan. Transfer the bread and the insides together carefully, so that no cheese or apple escape, and turn the heat to medium, maybe medium low. Cover the pan. Wait—not a distracted wait, no telephone calls or writing or dish washing—just a few minutes, until you hear the faintest sizzle of cheese from under the lid of the pan. Open, flip, and wait again—less this time, a minute, maybe two.

When it's ready both sides are dark and crispy, verging on burnt but not quite there, and the cheese spilling out the sides makes crispy little lace edges in the pan. Now eat, with the rest of the apple and a bitter winter green salad and a glass of milk.

On Saturday, maybe again, with a beer.


Is this a recipe? Maybe, maybe not, but I like to give credit where credit's due, and the inspiration for this sandwich did come from a recipe, one found in The Apple Lover's Cookbook by Amy Traverso. "Pretty much anyone can make an acceptable grilled cheese sandwich," Amy admits. But the combination of sharp cheese, sweet apples, and tangy mustard is unbeatable, particularly with the remaining apple slices, a salad, and a few bread and butter pickles.

butter, for the pan
2 slices bread (I like our homemade Easy Little Bread but a nice sourdough would be good too)
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
2-3 slices of a crisp, sweet, juicy apple (I love Macouns, still available at the Orleans Winter Farmers Market!)
2 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, sliced

Warm up the butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Spread the mustard on one side of the bread. Layer it with apples and cheese, press the remaining slice on top, and transfer carefully to the pan. Cook, covered, for 3-4 minutes, or until the bottom side of the bread is golden and crusty and the cheese has visibly started to melt. Flip and cook another 2ish minutes until the other side is golden and crusty and the cheese starts to drip down the sides of the bread into the pan. Enjoy warm.


We begin again // elspeth

The upheaval of the last year was big. I would say bigger than I imagined, but that's not true. I have an active imagination, and it tends toward the worst. 2017 was roughly on course, or maybe slightly better, than I imagined it would be. The upheaval started out political, but for me as for many I know, it quickly got personal. As in: if I do not believe in this system, in what ways am I perpetuating it? How am I complicit? What can I change?

And so I started last year with a list. I accomplished or at least attempted many of the items on it. Some were small and some were big (keep a careful garden record; get an EV). Some had to do with food, others with community and volunteering. In retrospect, the big things were not necessarily the ones I thought they would be: the electric motor we got for our bucket bike was much simpler and also much more transformative than the electric car: not so much in terms of carbon emissions, but in terms of happiness. The local climate action group I started has morphed into a bigger, better, and more wonderfully unwieldy thing than I'd have thought. "Make something in a crock" turned out to be a resolution about friendship, not food. 

A lot of this last year for me was about walking outside of my comfort zone. I like to feel with others but I prefer to think alone; for me thinking, growing community projects with groups are hard. It challenges me, and I want to keep up with that challenge. But as much this year ended up being about  challenge, it was also about acceptance. I read a great quote sometime back in September about climate change, from an article on eco-anxiety published on Grist.org

"When you feel anxious and out of control in the face of a changing planet, choose the thing that you can do best and most effectively, and then don't let others ruin your faith in it."

It's good advice, not just for climate challenges but for life. There's a big sign above my desk these days. "EMBRACE WHO YOU ARE," it says. It's tacked up next to a photograph of my grandmother at 95 and a hand-drawn sketch of a farm Alex and I visited in November. Below it is a picture of us taken at our staff party in late September. Alex is holding his hand up to stop the camera, and we're jostling each other, laughing. It is late at night and we are in a bar. I put my pants through the laundry the next day without realizing the polaroid was in my pocket, and the picture is tattered around the edges, but our grins and our togetherness are unmarred.

I'm not making out loud or on paper resolutions this year. They haven't changed much from last year's list on the fridge, or the 2013 one still taped up behind my bathroom cabinet door. I know the things I do best and most effectively. Keeping the faith is the challenge, the thing to work on. It's the part that's most important, and also most hard.


9 BIRDS // elspeth

I've been cooking in snatches recently. After dinner, before bed, in the morning while the coffee brews. In these snips of time I've made lemon curd and rosehip jelly and applesauce and homemade bread and toasted pumpkin seeds from the two pumpkins we grew for jack-o-lanterns out front. In another snip of time we planted a couple of hazelnut trees in the spring through the Food Forest Initiative of Cape Cod and discovered one day recently that three tiny hazelnuts were ready for harvest. And two months ago, my friend Drew brought over nine chickens for us to raise for meat. 

Sally helped Alex load them into the moveable pen I built last spring when we got our six layers, before we set them up with a run and a coop. I bought an extra "hen hydrator" and got a few bags of meat bird crumble and in the moments before and after work we fed and watered and moved them. They were certainly a different breed from the layers—it's hard to believe that a chicken can eat and drink and excrete at such a pace. But eat and drink and excrete they did until exactly one week ago our friend Neily and I built a fire and brought a big pot of water to a boil and two by two slit their necks. If you don't want to hear about this, skip down a paragraph. I won't go into too much detail. But I will say it was both a challenging and satisfying day; going into it I had helped with the aftermath of killing a bird twice but had only a vague understanding of the steps. I now feel confident that I could do a reasonably good job of the whole thing, if I needed or wanted to, without help.

Besides the satisfaction, the best part about raising and processing our own birds has been the parts. Neily told me that in Jamaica near where he's from people will help a friend or neighbor kill their birds in exchange for the hearts and the feet and the livers and the other innards, which can be boiled and fed to a dog. Since he brought the knowledge and the rooster-catching-courage I gave him two birds and most of the parts, but I kept a few livers and feet for us. 

Neily instructed me on chicken foot soup, which I'd tried at roadside stands in Jamaica the two times we'd been to visit. It was easy enough: for about 4 feet, he said, you use a couple quarts of water and throw in a few of the necks too for flavor (like you would for stock) and then add scallions, potatoes, thyme, carrots, salt, pepper, and dumplings rolled from water and flour. The potatoes and dumplings break down to thicken up the broth and the feet and necks give it a rich chicken flavor, and after an hour or two of simmering you have a thick, delicious soup. My girls remembered it from last fall, when Neily made it after we had to kill the roosters, and gobbled it up despite having been home for the slaughter the day before. I made chicken liver paté, too, the next night with butter and thyme and brandy and mushrooms, and Nora declared it "very yummy." Still, I couldn't bring myself to roast the one chicken we kept from the freezer until Saturday. 

When we finally did it was excellent: huge and juicy and flavorful and succulent. We ate it with friends at a house on the bay watching the sun set with beer and mashed potatoes and three girls and two babies, and it felt fitting. Some days I'm not sure exactly where I fit into the world—whether I'm meant to be a writer or a farmer or a radio producer or a business owner or a community organizer or maybe a bit of all of these—but I did enjoy raising, processing, and eating these birds. One day, I imagine, I'll know for sure. Or maybe not! But for now, this feels like as solid a knowledge as any.



Hello from here, where we are making pickles and eating homemade fudgesicles and hosting meetings with our dolls at tiny tables. (The smalls, that is. Topics covered so far: Getting Rid of Pollution and How to Draw a Perfect Pig with Flowers on a Farm). 

So far we can report: lacto-fermented garlic dill pickles are not as easy as we want them to be. We made a big crock, it started out well, bubbling and fermenting away. We moved it to a cool place downstairs, but then it grew a white film of mold. Also, despite the fact that we added oak leaves to add tannins and hopefully keep said pickles crisp, they're not. We read about all this and have two takeaways: we think we should have used smaller, whole pickles instead of spears, and we think next time we'll do them in smaller batches in glass jars, because according to someone's Jewish grandma if you ferment them in the light near a window the UV rays (check to see if modern windows are blocking UV rays?) will kill said mold. In the meantime we're eating refrigerator pickles, because they're foolproof and fast, but DANG! our winter lacto-pickle consumption is off the charts high and getting expensive, so we're hoping to do better soon. 

The refrigerator pickles we are making come from my neighbor Sarah, who in turn found them on Smitten Kitchen. They are called Easiest Fridge Dill Pickles, and this is 100% true. There is not much to them: you slice up a few cucumbers, throw them in a jar, and shake them up with some white vinegar, salt, dill, and garlic. You wait a few hours. You devour them with egg salad and hummus and bread on the beach, and you pat yourself on the back for planning such a delightful lunch. You drink a beer and go swimming. That's as hard as it is. 

While we're on the topic of easy summer recipes that use up things there are too many of in the garden, you should also make this.  It's a Zucchini Parmesan from Martha Rose Schulman over at the Fake News NYT, and it uses only five real ingredients and tastes delicious. Basically you roast zucchini with olive oil and salt until it's a bit tender but also crispy, and then you layer it in a casserole dish with tomato sauce and Parmesan, bake it again, and eat it up. I thought my mom was leaving some sneaky hard parts out when she told me those directions, but actually it's as easy as that. My kids tried to hate it but ended up loving it, so thank you mom and Martha Rose Schulman. 

Before I leave you: filed under Somehow Both Surprising and Not, conservationists in the Antarctic discovered a fruitcake that is from the Scott expedition, and they think it's basically totally edible. Yup.

See you soon.


JULY 31 & SOUR MILK // elspeth


We had a sick chicken recently. Before her illness the girls called her "other potato-head." She's the same variety, Americana, as the chicken they like best. But she's different enough from Herself to be distinguishable: she's higher up in the pecking order, for one, so her feathers aren't always ruffled and falling out. And she's always the last to come in from being in the yard, and her head is a bit pointier. She's also a bit of a grump. But she got sick for two days in early July, and now she has a new name: "Sicky Chick."

I'm not sure exactly what was wrong with her. She started sitting around and didn't seem to be eating or drinking or laying much, but on the advice of my friend Victoria I put oregano oil in the chickens water and offered her a bit of sour milk, and two days later she was out again hunting for earwigs. 

The sour milk is a new thing around here. The girls (human girls) don't always finish their milk at the table, and I hate throwing it out. It's important to offer it, I think, but it's raw and unhomogenized and doesn't save well, and so I end up pouring half of it in the compost more often than not. I was reading about something else in Darina Allen's Forgotten Skills of Cooking the other day, and she offered a solution. She said her household always has a crock of sour milk going: you simply leave raw milk out at room temperature and it thickens up into a cultured dairy substance with a slightly yeasty but not unpleasant smell. The Irish use it to make soda bread, and I suppose I will now too, when I get around to it, as it really is as simple as leaving a jar of milk covered with cheesecloth on the counter. In the meantime Darina instructs that if it gets too sour, a person can feed it to her hens. She's right. They dip into it with their beaks and slurp it up with what appears to be pleasure, although pleasure on a chicken is a difficult emotion to read. 

In the meantime there's summer: the same long days at the restaurant but bigger girls with more of their own agendas. Sally's learned to jump off the dock into water over her head and swim back, and Nora has for the first time demanded a play date "with her own friends." The mulberries are ripe and we're headed blueberry picking tomorrow and planning on jam. The latest Bon Appetít is filled with amazing sounding things like pounded flank steak with zucchini salsa and green gazpacho, and with any luck I'll be eating them all and reporting back soon.

Happy almost August, friends.


SPRING PESTO // elspeth

I should really be in bed. But quickly: start looking for the plant below, and you'll realize it's everywhere. My friends Audra and Deb pointed it out to me; it's called garlic mustard, and once you taste a leaf, you'll understand why. Apparently in 17th century Britain it was served with salt fish to give it some flavor, and it's a good source of vitamins A and C. 

To collect it, we took a walk down the road to Bound Brook and found a bunch at the very end. Of course when I got home I realized it's all over my yard! And on the way to school! And on the hill by the library! Yeah, it's one of those plants. Deb and Audra took the leaves home and whizzed them into a traditional pesto with Parmesan, garlic, oil, pine nuts, and garlic—but with garlic mustard leaves instead of basil. 

We had it on pasta, I've been eating it on bread, and tomorrow I plan to use it to top baked haddock. Happy spring, friends.


Play with this. Think of it as an outline. Almonds and pine nuts work, too. Also: Deb says the flavor of the leaves gets stronger, in a good way, once they flower. We've probably got a week or two left, depending on the heat. Now's the time!

4 cups garlic mustard leaves
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil

Pulse together the greens, walnuts, cheese, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Then, with the motor running, slowly pour in the oil. Serve on pasta, toast, or as a veggie dip or a topping for fish.


EARTH DAY, GOING ON 32 // elspeth

A week from today, I'll be 32 years old. In a lot of ways, my world is exactly how I always imagined it would be at this age. I'm married, my husband and I have a house in the woods and a lab on his last legs and two inquisitive, loving, wild daughters. I have a garden, just like my mom's. I'm on the board of the farmers market. I work mostly independently, producing radio pieces and writing, and in the busy season I make up the difference by throwing myself into the loud, lively chaos that is managing a restaurant. 

But the bigger world now is not what I imagined it would be like when I was little, or at least not what I hoped for. 

It is not that it's so surprising. My generation has been learning about our problems since birth. We are aware that we live in a state of ecological overshoot. That sometime in the 1970s or 1980s, scientists say, we started using more resources each year than the earth can regenerate in a twelve month period. That eventually—maybe in the next decade or two, or if we're lucky a bit longer—this math will simply stop working, and we will no longer be able to carry on. 

And then, of course, there's climate change. The year I was born, the atmosphere contained 343 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Today, we're up to just over 400, and steadily rising. 

The scientifically accepted future is terrifying. The natural state of the earth with present CO2 levels is one with sea levels about 70 feet higher. To reach this is not a question of if—geologic records show sea levels will rise this much if we do not reduce CO2—but a question of how soon. The same goes for ocean acidification, storm magnification, rainfall patterns, and rising temperatures. Even if we change course now, right now, we're in for a lot of consequences. And if we don't, what then? Maybe 2 degrees by 2030 or 2040, as many as 4 between 2060 and 2100. Famine. Extinctions. Violence. Drought.

In my imagination of today as a kid, we'd long ago changed course. But of course we haven't, or at least not fast enough. We're still just carrying on.

All of this makes for a huge psychological disconnect for my generation, for young people trying to plan a life. 

I'm not under any false impressions that no other generations have faced great challenges of imagination and morality, or that somehow we have it "worse." In so many ways, we've had such luck—a life of relative physical ease and security—at least so far. 

But I do think our challenge is unique in the moral confusion of it, in the way that we've learned about it in school our entire lives, being taught, subtly and overtly, that our way of life is wrong, that we are, each day, slowly poisoning the very place we depend on. And at the same time, how we've watched our teachers and parents and friends and selves continue to do these things, and listened as those who attempt to think outside this box are called "impractical" and "unrealistic." 

It feels like we might at least be unique in our confusion. 

But the good thing is that since November: suddenly, it's not confusing anymore. It's still complicated—incredibly, diabolically complicated—but the morality is stark. The only practical and moral way forward is away from fossil fuels, and no one in the highest levels of government is going to deal with this reality. It will have to be us.

Since November, I've stepped further outside my comfort zone than I ever have before. My entire adult life has been a subtle acknowledgement of the future I simultaneously hope and fear we will eventually come to: one where we must rely on ourselves and our neighbors a great deal more than we do right now. I have always been interested in learning the "real" way to do things—to preserve salt pork, to keep kimchi, to make a quilt. The way without refrigeration, without electricity, without sugar or vinegar or whatever cheat we happen to be using. Learning these things is what led me, in the first place, to local food.

But now that doesn't feel like enough. To put up solar panels, to garden, to raise chickens—these are all worthy and wonderful things if you have the land and the time and the money, and I will never stop wanting to learn. 

But what we really need is a sea change: a huge, collective acknowledgement of the trouble we're in by those in power, and an agreement to push our leaders to change course. I vowed at the beginning of this year to do two things I haven't done much of before: to take whatever action I can on the local and state and national levels to fight climate change, and to communicate my environmental beliefs more effectively with family and friends. 

So, here I am. The group I'm volunteering for on a national level is called the Climate Mobilization. It's less of an organization and more of a mission: build a WWII-scale mobilization to restore a safe climate. I found it right after the election, linked in a blog post. When I first read their stuff, it sounded kind of radical. They demand what they call "climate truth" and ask people to go into "emergency mode," a state of extreme focus, putting all of our attention and resources toward solving the crisis. But it also, immediately, sounded right. Like finally, someone came out and said it: we've been handed a world on the brink of collapse. If we want to have a future—for ourselves and our kids—we have to take this reality seriously.

There's a small but growing group of Wellfleetian and Outer Cape residents joining forces on a local level on this issue. We're hosting a climate science training at the Wellfleet Audubon tomorrow (4/23 from 10:30-1, for any last minute interest), and planning a series of climate-related events and political pushes over the few months. If you're interested in helping organize, let me know. Otherwise, know that soon we'll be reaching out community-wide. And thank you, as always, for being here.

(P.S., housekeeping: the kale soup I promised from so long ago was a bust. Blagh. Don't bother. And I'd like to share how to make kimchi and salt pork, because these are both new and exciting skills for me that I think you'd like too. I'll be back with those once I getter a better grip on the process. In the meantime, I keep cooking from my friend Sarah's new cookbook, Feeding a Family. So beautiful, so simple, so good.) 


COMMON SONGS // elspeth

I have never been religious in the traditional sense. My grandfather, my mom's dad,  was an episcopal priest. My father didn't attend church growing up, and by the time he married my mother she'd had enough church for one life. And so I was baptized, and I went to services around the holidays a few times with my grandmother when she came to visit, but otherwise, I never had much experience with organized religion.

This has never bothered me. I have plenty of faith. The marriage between my parents cemented my belief in love early on. Their shared passion is birds, one it turns out I don't wholeheartedly share. But it meant I spent much of my childhood trailing behind them looking for rare species alongside my sister in the woods, on a beach, or in a canoe. Their love for each other and being together outside instilled in me a deep faith in the outdoors, in the logic and wisdom of natural systems. It taught me to emulate and honor truth, and I try and hope to do the same for my girls.

But recently, I've been thinking about religion. I've been wondering if in the celebration of secularization we've jumbled something crucial, if something important has been lost. I'm not necessarily imagining a return to church; as someone who's hardly ever been, I'm not sure what that even means. But from the outside, there are pieces that appeal.

There is value, I think, in gathering regularly. To putting our communities and their needs before our own, to singing loudly and learning, by repetition, common songs. To shuttering commerce on an agreed-upon day and giving everyone a chance to rest with the people we love. To bringing the old and young together; to wondering about common good. 

There's a group trying to do this in cities all over the world called Sunday Assembly. The founders say they wanted to create something like church, but open to anyone, of any belief, who wants to live better, help often, and wonder more. Assembly-goers sing, listen to talks and musical performances and readings, eat donuts and drink coffee afterward, and get together on other days to volunteer. For a lot of reasons, it's appealing.

We have five churches in our tiny town, all Christian, and most fairly old. One is known for its concerts, and another for the community suppers it runs in the lean season from October to May. 

Last week we went to one of the Methodist Church dinners. I couldn't tell you the first thing about being Methodist—I'm not sure if they have a minister or a priest, I have no idea if they sing during services, and I don't know what the collective feeling is on what happens after death. Sally convinced us to go; we helped cook one of the dinners once, a few months ago, and she remembered vividly the desserts and the after-dinner play time with friends. 

The place was packed when we arrived. Our friend Teresa was washing dishes. Three other people we know from town waved us over to their table, motioning us to grab plates and sit down. We got in line and heaped them with sausages and peppers and potato salad and coleslaw. The kids sat scattered, where they fit next to other adults, and I spent most of dinner getting to know a man I'd initially squabbled with over the seating arrangement. I discovered I liked him, that he is a passionate birdwatcher and biologist and soft-spoken and kind. I lost Sally at one point and discovered her upstairs in the nursery with a friend, funneling stolen chocolate milk.

Going transformed my day. I hadn't really wanted to get the kids dressed and out of the house again, but Sally had insisted. Alex came toward the end, when he got out of work just as things were wrapping up. It didn't matter that he was late; he still got fed. We were sent off with leftovers, and we put money in the jar because we could.

But you can't buy that kind of supper. Open and free to the community, it offers something no restaurant can. It's a place to be together, without judgement or prerequisites. And while I realize that has not always been the reality of religion, I think it has often been the goal. And I think the goal, however it's realized, still stands.

To that end, there's an interesting intersection happening right now between the Pope and environmental leaders. In September, Pope Francis said that to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against God, and implored Catholics to confess their environmental sins. "The world's poor," he said, "though least responsible for climate change, are most vulnerable and already suffering its impact." Last month, leading world scientists traveled to the Vatican to discuss how to save the natural world, with organizers stating that “the living fabric of the world, which we enjoyed in Genesis, Chapter II to protect, is slipping through our fingers without our showing much sign of caring.”

There are no easy answers. But it's a conversation we need urgently to be having, and I respect any leader who's willing to brave the truth, open up the conversation, and take a stand.

I'll be back soon, hopefully with a big pot of kale soup. 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.