I often reminisce about the times as a child my Dad would take me hunting with him in the mountains of New Mexico. This wasn't the hunting I typically see (and openly do not respect--even if I wasn't a vegan) in the Midwest where someone sets up a tree-stand near their food trap or blind and sits and tries not to fall asleep (or freeze to death) waiting for a animal to pass by while foraging for food in the winter and then the "hunter" snipes it with only the skill needed to not stink too bad, not fall out of a tree, and operate some kind of gun or mechanically balanced bow).(And I know that in some areas deer can be serious (even dangerous) "pests"...but there are much deeper and greater issues afoot there on that mole hill than can be addressed in this journal entry).
My memories of going with my Father hunting into the wild of the cold winter wilderness are deeply cathartic and still move my heart and soul in greatly important ways today.
When we went hunting as a family in those days, we would pack-in deep into the frosty winter woods on horseback into the mountains of New Mexico with all we would have to sustain us for a week or more. We would eat lightly and forage if there was anything to forage. We would build fires for warmth and drink strong dark coffee by a fire each morning before the sun was quiet ready to shed it's own sleeping bag.
During this trips my dad (who will never give himself any credit for the amazing teacher he is) taught me how to track animals, not get lost in the woods, how to respect the intelligence and the wild that is nature and generally be in awe and wonder at the depth of our often neglected tie to this type of raw wild.
These times taught me what it meant to live off the land (even if it was in short, brief bits) and be thankful for having "just enough" amidst the wonder of our own fragility... and honoring, with great understanding and a Spirit long-lost to the white man, the loss of life it took to provide meat for a family for many meals. My family would also make use of, or give away to be used, every part of the animal...nothing wasted...no life taken in simple greed or sport.
Now to be honest, someone could have looked at my little pale, slightly green face watching my dad gut an elk in the sun while eating my orange ....and known, "this kid's doomed to be a vegan..."--or at very least not be able to eat oranges or elk meat for a long while now. Ha! And they would've obviously been right.
Looking back with honestly and with a more "aware-of-my-own- heart" hindsight, I was sad for that animal. I can honestly say though that the memory is both joyful and sorrowful. Like any memory that continues to move us years after its creation.
I would only going hunting wild-life with my camera these days... however, I am thankful for and will never forget the visceral experiences I gained (and the wonderful memories I built with my Dad wondering in the wilderness) during those times that have deeply moved my life and influenced my core values about living, respect for nature and all of life.
The difference is night an day between sitting in a blind (which can be literal or metaphorical for our common Western Culture) and that of riding my strong, well-loved horse into the forest with a pack to spend a week tracking the paths of nature through a wild forest, eating only what we had brought or what we could forage (getting to drink sugar with coffee in it... like a big girl), feeling the fragility of our humanity in the sub-freezing temperatures of the living, singing night and watching an animal die at the hand of a human (even if used in a very ethical way) will forever be in my DNA.
I see sparkling reflections and gentle shadows of these childhood memories, that are overall still some of the most deeply cherished I have (wild moments in the woods with my Dad), and recognize their continual influence on my life today. As a growing homesteader that also values all life enough to eat, clothe, and purpose my life differently, I hold onto these memories and others with a strong gratefulness. The bitter of them and the beauty of them, it all moves me at a level greater than most anything else.
Kyle and Athena
Welcome to our Farmstead Journal. We warmly invite you to read along as we share the day-to-day successes and road-bumps we encounter as we learn organic farming, pursue our search for our own land and our passion for homesteading, plant-based/"veganic" eating and growing, simplicity and our continual journey of learning and growing as a family!