Friday, November 27, 2009

Pumpkin Bombings - Just Another Thanksgiving Tradition

So we ate our own turkeys. And I'm not sure how I feel about it.

Except that I know for sure it was better than buying a factory farmed white Tom Turkey with genetically altered breasts so large he can't even have sex.

I know that. At least.

Last summer we bought 10 Bourbon Red chicks. Our goal was to raise them healthfully and respectfully - and then eat them on Thanksgiving. People (not all) thought this was strange. Turkeys don't walk around - fly around - etc. Turkeys are these big round things wrapped in plastic.....they sleep in the freezer section of the supermarket. "Why, Why, Why would you want to do such a crazy thing?" said The People. The People have said this to us many times over the years about many different things. We love The People, though. And we are ever so happy to provide them with endless entertainment.

After losing some of the chicks due to the horrible heat wave during the summer, a few more succumbed to stray dogs. (I am not getting started about how people dump their animals out here in the country....or don't spay and neuter their animals - this is a Big Problem here.)

We ended up with 3 turkeys. We figure they were worth about $100 a piece.

The turkeys were obviously not as large as commercially farmed turkeys. For some reason, having turkeys so fat that they can't stand without breaking their own legs does not appeal to me. So we were afraid that we wouldn't have enough to feed our brood plus friends and relatives, but we did. We had an entire turkey left over. Was this the result of mindful and contemplative eating? Or the gross-out factor? (Despite our best efforts - our front lawn was littered with turkey feathers.) Or the fact that the meat was definitely not as tender as meat that has been bred for juiciness and then injected with more juiciness and sodium, etc? Hmmm....we'll never know. Of course, half of our guests were vegetarians. But half of our guests are always vegetarians. All I know is that we definitely had less turkey consumed.

I, myself, am not a big turkey fan. I have always been a slightly uncomfortable meat-eater. And I never crave a piece of meat. Ever. I like the sides, and maybe a little bite of meat. And (I admit it) it is the IDEA of a turkey roasting in my oven that I like. It is strictly emotional; especially around the holidays - of which we celebrate many. For example, nothing is more beautiful than a delicious Passover Roast. And I am very attached to having one. Eating it? A bite. Then I'm done. So basically, these animals die to give me a warm and fuzzy feeling. Ugh. I am a spiritual work in progress.

The boys, mostly Jules, did a great job taking care of our beautiful turkeys. And we'd all agreed what the turkeys were being raised for. Everyone (except Ellie) jumped on board with the idea of us raising our own Thanksgiving dinner. As a strict vegetarian for spiritual reasons - Ellie said, "No judgement, guys. But I'm not participating." Good girl. I want to be just like her when I grow up.
So on Wednesday everyone (but Ellie) gathered outside for a little thankfulness ceremony. Ellie says that she doesn't think an apology and a "thanks a lot" really makes an animal any more enthusiastic about being eaten.

It felt right that we should sit on the ground in order to be more connected with the earth - and so we did. We focused a moment on the way the earth felt beneath us....then we thought about all the animals and plant life that live here with us, sharing the earth. We talked about the circle of life. We talked about how the earth provides for our every need. We talked about how when a lion or tiger kills, it does so without anger or rage....We talked about the beauty of the turkeys, of how we had tried very hard to take care of them, and how much we appreciated that they were here.

For some reason, I was surprisingly moved by this. It felt like what Grace should feel like. I have always had a little problem with "saying grace". It isn't because I was never grateful or thankful - because I was/am. But whenever I sit down for a meal I am always aware (or at least try to be) of those whose tables are not overflowing with food. And then it seems silly to say "thank you" to the God-Man. Because the God-Man is supposed to love us all equally - so why does my table have food while others go hungry? So saying, "Thank you God, for this bounty...." always felt like "Thanks for once again making us your faves, God. If we keep thanking you enough, you of the big massive ego and all, will continue to make sure we do not suffer hardships such as hunger. Like other people sometimes do. The reasons of which we'd prefer not to think about." Now, I'm not saying that is what people are feeling or thinking when they give thanks before a meal. In fact, I know it isn't. But that was what I always heard in my strange little head. So for me, these were simply not the right words; not the right imagery. Any prayer that evokes the God-Man-Sitting-Behind-A-Desk thinking about what to dole out where......just doesn't cut it for me. But sitting on the ground with my kids thinking about the circle of life? That did cut it.

Yeah, the Religious Issues follow me everywhere.

Ummm...where was I before I just went off and possibly offended all of my grace-saying Christian friends and family? Oh yes. The slaughter. Everyone went and looked at the turkeys, walked among them quietly, and then Joel carried one to where Jeff had the "set-up" - out of sight of the other turkeys, of course. At this point, I expected most of the children to go inside, but they didn't. So then I felt as if I should stay, as well.

It was a peaceful and quiet operation. Jeff had done a little research to make sure his method was going to be the most humane method (it was). He is no stranger to participating in slaughter - he grew up on this farm and knows exactly what goes into fully preparing a meal. He had never before slaughtered a turkey, but he had helped his mom and dad with many chickens. He has hunted game and fowl and fished and cleaned and "dressed out" his own catches. He grew up eating beef his family raised - with the whole family gathered around the kitchen to cook and make their own sausages, etc. So he knew what to do and did it without any trepidation. I do not believe thankfulness ceremonies were common on the farm when he was growing up - so that was probably a first for him. And he went along with it just fine. Even managed to keep a straight face. *And might I add here that my macho man also bakes a mean pecan pie? He also is quite adept at hemming and altering Ellie's performance gowns. Quite the fella, he is.

Camille and Jasper soon became bored with the whole turkey thing. They each plucked a feather, when the time came, and then went off to do something else. Joel and Jules, however, helped from beginning to end. And these are boys who do not believe in senseless killing. These are boys who escort scorpions out of our house on pieces of paper....boys who don't tell me when they see a rattle snake due to the fear of it being killed as a result....boys who are not interested in hunting (although we are not against hunting).

Yet, I was not surprised to see how they participated with the turkeys. Because they are also somewhat matter-of-fact practical boys. And they love the outdoors and nature and want to learn how to function and survive within their own natural habitat - something we humans have basically forgotten how to do.

When turkeys were sitting in the fridge, waiting to go into the oven first thing the next morning, we felt kind of proud. Definitely pleased.

Our Thanksgiving Day lasts all day....with guests hanging out for Round Two. And for the kids the most exciting part of the day is the Perilous Pumpkin Pushover. This is a nonsensical holiday tradition. We don't know why we do it. I guess we do it because we can. We do it because there used to be a really old wooden bridge over the San Antonio River on our little dirt road - and one year we had a whole lot of pumpkins left over from Halloween and we said (I said), "Wouldn't it be fun to drop them off the bridge?" And everyone said, "Why yes! That would be fun!" And so we have done it every year since and yes, it is fun. Sometimes lots of people join us and there is a massive pumpkin bombing, other times (like this year) it is a smaller crowd. Either way - it is the climax of our Big Turkey Day.

Our lovely wooden bridge has been replaced by a concrete bridge, totally lacking in personality. But we pretend not to notice as we countdown and toss/roll/push/shove the pumpkins. Enjoy the pictures below.....maybe with a glass of wine 'cause people? We are now on the slippery slope that will soon land us right smack in the middle of Christmas. This might be your last chance to relax for awhile This is a picture of my boys with their friend, Harlan. Harlan has been here for almost every pumpkin pushover. I think he might have missed the very first one.

And Here is Ellie with her friend Wayne, who was home from UT.

This is the only picture with me in it - I'm standing next to Joel (he is holding a pumpkin and I'm holding a glass of wine.) There is actually one more picture of me but it is incriminating and I'm not putting it on the blog.

View of the San Antonio River from our bridge. This is the same San Antonio River that flows through the famous downtown River Walk.

This picture is of our old bridge - which we desperately miss.....but we had to make Progress by building a concrete bridge that vandals can graffiti. sigh. The pics below are of 2004, 2003, and 2002. I'm not in any of them - being the picture-taker. It seems that these pictures weren't taken all that long ago (and they weren't). Yet - all my of my kids and their friends have changed so much!

Sardine Mama


  1. Great post. you really believe that if you do away with faith it will take care of world hunger? See you this afternoon;)

  2. Well Cheesey Girl - there is a difference between religion and faith. I do think that without religion we'd have less world hunger because we'd have fewer wars and strife. But without faith? No. Because it is different (although sometimes it coexists with religion). Faith is elusive for me - for whatever reason. But as far as hunger goes - saying grace the way I'd been taught culturally, never came close to representing what it was that I actually wanted to say and what I felt.

  3. There is such a sad disconnect in our modern world when it comes to food. I have not yet raised any animals for meat, but I have produced my own food by gardening. It is a spiritual thing - miraculous.
    Loved this.

  4. I used to think the same thing about religion. Now I don't. I think we would have wars even without religion. I think religious groups are often easier to manipulate into war...that people are more fearful/reactionary when it comes to religion. I also believe without religion..humankind would still find reasons to divide. At it's best, though, religion should help individuals find the balance between a deep contemplative life and outreach/social action with the help (not pressure..which unfortunately happens all to often) of others. Does this always happen? Of course not..but that is the ideal. However, all said. I remember several times as a kid wondering why I was thankful for something that someone else didn't have.'s not an either/or.I'm a firm believer in both/and If you don't have..others still may not have...something to do with luck/free-will..and all that other stuff. Thanks for the tea!

  5. Yes, I believe you are right. People would still find something to fight over. I still have trouble with saying is like I don't have trouble being thankful (I'm thankful all the time) - but I have trouble thanking an "entity" who seems to have blessed me at the expense of others. That was why sitting in a circle felt right...contemplative...grateful.

  6. I'm all for circles! about Tiger Woods....

  7. grilledcheesechic,
    You are SO funny!!! I missed talking with you both on Monday.

  8. OK, not just funny but contemplative and spiritual as well.

  9. Love the idea of raising your own Thanksgiving meal... We live in the suburbs, so it's out of the question (oh darn) but what a great learning experience for the kids! And it's the little things like pumpkin pushing that your children will remember with huge smiles as they grow older...

  10. Hey, so I love your blog. I love all your posts, and I will have to return.
    And I really love what you wrote about saying grace. :) One can have faith and be a skeptic... nothing wrong with that.

  11. i think that with intelligent faith comes some skepticism. because really? i can't imagine *not* asking questions. that would be ridiculous.

  12. I am absolutely enjoying your blog.
    As a former (yes I live elsewhere now, sadly) Houstonian (born and raised until 22), I still miss a great deal of Texas, often.
    Your story of your children reminded me a bit of me, I could field dress a deer with out an issue, but could not kill it.
    I am enjoying all of the posts you have written as of late (all that I got to read). Thank you.