A Cat is a Cow is a Chicken is My Aunt
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It’s onto Chapter 2 this week. If you missed the discussion on Chapter one, you can join in and find it here.

“No civilization has ever been in this state of environmental ignorance.”

“Today we can live day to day, even a lifetime, without thinking about air, soil, water, lumber, and energy.”

In this chapter, Joel talks about the balance of treating animals respectfully and yet remembering that they are not humans. He says, “Animals do have rights, but that does not elevate them to humanhood.” He talks about a visitor who came to Polyface and then proceeded to question the farm’s compassion for the animals because they were outdoors in the weather and some days were uncomfortable for humans.

What do you think? Are animals better equipped for varying weather than humans?

Later in the chapter, he says that an educated person should know a few things about farm ecology.

The examples he includes are:

  • You don’t need roosters to lay eggs.
  • A cow with a horn  is not always a bull.
  • The difference between hay and straw.
  • How to herd cows.
  • Trees grow out, not up.
  • The differences between a cow, heifer, bull, steer, finisher and open cow.

Less than a century ago, every American knew these things. Why have we lost them today?

Are they something that you need to learn or do you already know these things?

 

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About Sheri Salatin

Sheri is married to Daniel Salatin. She is the marketing director at Polyface Farm and stay-at-home mom of three children. Sheri is passionate about clean food and is enjoying working the land along side her husband. When not farming, Sheri can be found reading, writing, sewing, baking and serving in her church family.
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14 Responses to A Cat is a Cow is a Chicken is My Aunt

  1. Tom Carey says:

    Recognizing the descending hierarchy on the homestead is important: Family, pets, domestic livestock, neighbor’s unmanaged livestock. My respect for pre-existing wildlife is huge. I guess the wild animals squeeze between pets and domestic livestock. But the neighbor’s peacocks roaming far and wide, causing destruction wherever they tread are considered target practice (as sanctioned by County Animal Control). Friends are asking to come over and hunt peacocks for their Thanksgiving bird. By all means!

  2. PeterPansDad says:

    Are animals better equipped for varying weather than humans?
    I lost two hens and 7 broilers in heat this year. As Joel points out in the chapter the broilers are more sensitive to heat in their last two weeks. The bad day came early for those animals and I must accept the blame. It was a management issue and I’m still learning. That said, the animals do quite well in the heat if I have done my job. Yes, they pant. Yes, my pigs’ ears got sunburned. Panting is not unnatural, nor is a sunburn. Further, if my bedding is clean and I offer plenty of fresh air without a draft, winter is no problem. Weather is not the concern. It all comes down to me. Am I giving the animals the care they need to thrive even in July?

    Why have we lost [a basic understanding of the natural world] today?
    Because meat comes wrapped in plastic. We don’t participate in birth, life and death. We just take the plastic off and throw it in the microwave so we can make it to soccer, karate, scouts, swimming and baseball on time. Even the microwave is too slow!

    You can’t do it all. Something had to give. Ultimately, we traded knowledge for trivia. My collegues could fill books with sports stats, American Idol contestant data or funny lines from movies. We can’t stop our brains from sponging up information. We need to be more selective about the types of information we allow to percolate in there. Because of our lack of selectivity we have lost much of our mechanical ability and ingenuity, much of our mental reasoning and cyphering ability, our ability to read and understand literature and as a result, I believe, we have lost much of our moral authority.

    Are they something that you need to learn or do you already know these things?
    We’re well along the way. Unfortunately we’re losing much of our local knowledge base year by year. My 93 year old great-aunt can cure a ham but lacks the energy to participate. How much information can I glean out of her generation before I’m expected to take over?

  3. Grace says:

    I had a small epiphany this summer watching the life of hens in their egg-mogiles. I think this experience changed my perception of hens. I noticed these hens are somewhat less tame or less domesticated than backyard chickens. Their lifestyle is so close to living wild and the more I watched them, the more it seemed they relish this life. Really. Confidently, they deal with all kinds of weather patterns, severe wind out here in the country, heavy rainstorms, snow, even flooding. Still they rummage through fresh pasture everyday and often we find them scouting for worms deep in the forest. Their lives may be shorter than most backyard hens but it’s rich and their egg yolks tell us that this is so! Overall we’re their caretakers, but seeing them so fulfilled living this sort of “wild” experience changed my perception of the life of a chicken. I no longer feel a pulsing desire to feather their nests! Animals have a lot to teach us, sometimes we just need to step out of their way.

  4. Heather Szklarski says:

    I know some of these things but as my husband and I start our little farm, we learn everyday. By experience and by reading about all the skills we hope to someday master. I did want to share a comment that a friend of my dad asked when we started raising laying hens on my parents land. ” So, at what age to the chickens start laying white eggs?” we have all brown egg layers and I thought he was kidding, he wasn’t. And this was from my dad’s generation (now in late 40’s or early 50’s) who I thought would have some experience with livestock. Ha!

  5. EllaJac says:

    Why have we lost this knowledge? Because those who *had* to know this were low on the totem pole. Who wants to stay there?? Become a [insert ‘more respectable’ trade, skill, or position here]! Because we can hire some “less-skilled” to bother with these things, so we can focus on the important things, like satellite tv. We don’t want our kids to have to eek out their existence in the dirt and poo, after all…

    I think I knew most of the things Joel pointed out, but only because I’ve been purposely studying these past few years, and attempting a lot of it myself. :] I did want to ask something though; Joel defines (I think, if I heard the audiobook correctly) a heifer as a female bovine that hasn’t had a calf, and a cow as one who has had TWO calves? Is this right? I thought one calf made mama a cow. What would you call a one-calf bovine?

    By the way, I LOVE this book. I adore all the how-to books, but this is an amazing look at so many issues, and written for such a wide audience. Bravo, Joel. 🙂

  6. Have to say, I was pleased to find out the difference between straw and hay. I had always wondered but never went any farther in finding out the answer. I’ve been studying alot over the years and learned alot but there is so much more to know. I’m envious of what was common knowledge before WWII. I’m not quite sure where the “dumb farmer” stereotype came from because there is so much to know to be succesfull at farming.

  7. Lynn P says:

    All I have to say is, I wish I had grown up on a farm and I’m wondering what I can do about it now. The lack of knowledge we as humans have now is saddening. I literally feel sick to my stomach at times, just thinking about it. And, I’m one of those people. Ugh! When did we get so way off course?!

  8. Annie Carlson says:

    We have lost them because we surrendered that knowledge on the altar of convenience.

    I have this knowledge because I was raised on a very diversified farm with parents, grandparents and great uncles and aunts that not only did all of those things, but wanted to teach them to others. For example, my brother now lives in TN and swears he can’t find decent sausage so he and his buddy are going to make their own from my great uncle’s recipe, smoking it themselves and everything!

  9. Shrader Thomas says:

    “Dont you need a rooster?” was the most common question on my little urban farm. Always made me laugh.
    This summer, when I was visiting Afton Field Farm in Oregon for their farm day, the whole group of us was standing by their Eggmobile listening to Joel speak. One of their roosters (“Russell Crow”) puffed up his chest and let out a big ol’ crow, scaring the woman standing next to me nearly clear out of her skin! She looked at me and said, “I thought they only crowed when the sun was coming up.” Oh I laughed so hard!

  10. Sheryl Lebman says:

    This chapter lead to a lively debate at the dinner table about mules vs. hinnies, and how to breed them. O course, it was only because my father spent a lot of time on his grandmother’s farm.

  11. Anna says:

    Its funny,
    I haven’t read the book I admit, but reading the comments is very telling on our society today. I spent a lot of time on my grandparent’s ranch and my parents were both raised on dairy farms and were raised with the “educated” farming approach of more commercialism and profitability. I therefore am often surprised at the lack of knowledge of how the world works by most of the urban and suburban population. The stories are funny, yet sad. How can one make wise decisions for the care of their families when he/she is uninformed? I am learning that the fabric and problems of our society are not merely spiritual and moral, as some would believe, nor can they merely be solved on a mental or educational basis. Neither are they purely physical and pragmatic, but the person is a whole and one is integrated with the other parts, and one person is not an island but is integrated with others and grows and develops and moves in relation to others. We are not hard bodied units but soft bodied organisms all mushed up against one another, we change shape according to the others around us. We influence each other for better or for worse. I pray I may grow better and help those around us to become better; better informed, more Intelligent, healthier in body and in soul.

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