True Grit is under your fingernails

gardening, photography

By Amanda Cleary Eastep

The bunny is looking at me with black eyes from it’s fuzzball face. My heart begins a slow melt that seems to move to my mouth, which turns down at the corners, the lower lip protruding in a “that’s so cute I could cry” pout.

My daughter and I have wanted a rabbit for a while, but considering the space available in our condo, it’s a good thing the one gazing at me now is only on the page of Grit’s “Guide to Backyard Rabbits.”

What wonderful homesteading tips await me on the next page? Ah, recipes!

For…uh…rabbit.

Alice Bennett’s Crispy Oven-Fried Rabbit (Our Children’s Favorite)

Your children’s favorite what? Pet? Dinner?

My desire to one day have a 10-acre homestead will have to stop short of skinning Fluffy and stewing up some hasenpfeffer for the fam. It’s not like I’m a complete stranger to killing animals for food, or at least trying to take down a pheasant with a 12 gauge shot from the hip…thus, missing the bird but causing my then boyfriend to hit the dirt.

When I was a teenager, my family raised a small brood of chickens for eggs and meat. But chickens are only fluffy for a short time. Then they just start to look like BBQ sauce models. So when my grandmother set up the bloody conga line in our backyard, my education in self-sustainability reached a new level. That of feather plucker. Over the years, our “farm-living” consisted mainly of large garden plots.

And after moving into my condo five years ago, even that had to go the way of the last fryer. But something has been stirring in my heart this past year. The desire to once again look out my bedroom window upon acre after acre of swaying golden wheat; to tuck my hand beneath the warm tummy of a roosting hen and feel the smooth curve of a fresh egg; to plant, pick, and pickle like my grandmother taught me.

So this summer, at my daughters’ urging, I planted cucumbers in the small slice of sun that touches our condo patio garden and lettuce instead of impatiens in the shady spots.

This winter I started baking bread every other day even though I am surrounded by quick marts, super stores, bakeries, and major grocery chains. I regularly read Mother Earth News and Grit.

And recently I relished in the story of author Barbara Kingsolver’s family living off their land and what they could buy locally. In her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I jotted notes in the margins and made check marks beside important facts I might need to remember for when my husband and I buy our small dream farm. OK, so maybe I didn’t need to highlight the section on how to encourage your turkeys to mate, but I bet Kingsolver never imagined that future either when she was writing The Poisonwood Bible.

I haven’t analyzed this change in my life goals. Maybe it isn’t so much a change as a reawakening. I have always enjoyed hard work. Not the kind that happens in a cubicle and seems to wear out your spirit while your body turns soft. I mean dirt packed under my fingernails. Tired bones. Bloody feathers in my hair.

My friend says that you should do five things every day to reach a goal. I suppose if I were doing that many I would already be living on 10 acres in North Carolina. But there are two loaves of bread rising on the kitchen counter; I highlighted the seeds I’m ordering from the Seed Savers catalog for our small garden patch; and I mapped out the route for our June property scouting expedition to the Carolinas.

So, I say that counts as four things. Not a bad day’s work.

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