Archives for posts with tag: western

In Western New York (and upstate as well) you always know when it is summer.  Every time you get in the car you’re bound to pass a farm stand or two with summer harvest bounty.  Zucchini, Summer Squash, and endless tomatoes fill the my meals every day.  Here and there you can still find some cherries or a few late berries.  Vegetables from a farm stand are different than the store.  They are warm, fresh, and simply holding them gives you a little thrill.  Every dish tastes better with fresh, locally grown food.  But it’s more than that.  You support local growers.  For example, peaches from down the road instead of across the country. (I look at the stickers on the fruit.)  But this food brings us together.  It brings family and friends around the table, campfire, bonfire, and so on.  It helps us make memories that last a lifetime.

My family has been making a conscious effort to shop at local businesses as much as possible.  We feel that it not only helps support our neighbors and community, but it helps rural poverty.  Here, and many other places like it, are so poor that they barely hang on.  The difference is that nobody talks about it.  Rather, they didn’t before recently. The falling economy has gotten people talking more about their hardships. It can be little things, like the price of milk, or bigger things, like the cost of heating oil.  I know many people who heat their homes with electric heaters over the winter because they can’t afford heating oil.  I guess that if I can help support them, I will. 

Besides, I have been on a journey to get healthy over the last year or two.  I have given up soda, junk food, and fast food.  I have been working vegetables into my diet (because I was one of those kids who hated them.) Shopping at the farm stands makes me eat better, which makes me want to cook more.  And then I buy more veggies.  It’s a fantastic circle!  We all could be a little more healthy, right?

I guess I just want everybody to be happy.  Myself included.  It isn’t always easy, but every little bit helps.  Lately that little bit is Zucchini! 🙂 

Thank you for reading.  I hope you have a wonderful morning/afternoon/evening!

One of my family members is a drug addict.  For over ten years, this family member was addicted to pain medication.  The doctors gave her more and more pills for her pain, never thinking or caring about the fact that she was completely dependent on them.  The fault lies with both the addict and the patient, in my opinion anyway.

Last year, my family member overdosed one night, and was hospitalized.  They went into rehab, but checked themselves out after a few days.  It was about six months before this family member went back to rehab, on her own dime.  We were proud of them, and we offered all the support that was needed. I was cautiously hopeful.  All I want is for everyone, family, friends, and so on, to be happy and healthy.  Isn’t that what we all want?

My family gave this family member money when they needed it.  It started out occasionally – a little here for gas, or to help with the phone bill.  We understood and wanted success through this journey in their life, so my family helped when needed.

Then things started to get bad.  This family member had problems at work, and more problems with their ex-spouse.  Money got tighter when there was only one income in that house instead of two.  This family member began to borrow more and more money.  My family obliged.

And they are still obliging.  Despite all the history, and despite the fact that the family is becoming divided over this.  The money borrowing began once or twice a month.  It escalated to every other week, then every week, and now it is every day.  Every day the phone rings and I wish they wouldn’t answer it.  I wish that they would let it go to voice mail.  It isn’t the money that bothers me (though it really pisses me off!).  It is the fact that my family member never wants to be with us.  They never want to have coffee, or come over for dinner, or host a movie night at their house, and so on.  They never even call to see how we are doing.  That didn’t bother me as much long ago, when they simply ignored us all year.  But now, it feels like to them our only worth is a bank account.

It hurts that my family gives them money when we know they are using again.  They gave away signs here and there, accidentally sending us text messages that were meant to other people, or tremors, mood swings, weight gain/loss, etc.  They ask for more and more money, and my family gives it to them.

It hurts that my family is going through this again.  My Father was an alcoholic for many, many years.  I know what it is like to see someone deteriorate.  The difference is that my Father wanted to be around us.  He played with me when I was a child, took care of me, cooked for my mother and I. We went to the zoo every year.  Birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, weekends, phone calls every day: all I have is memories of how much my father loved me.  That means more to me than his vice.  It means more than all the bad times.

I don’t know where I am going with this.  I am so angry, so hurt, and so frustrated with this whole situation. I wish this family member cared about what they were doing.  I know they will never make it up to my family.  They will never even say thank you sincerely.  I am afraid they will never pay my family back all the money they have manipulated out of us.  And that is what they do – manipulate.

Not all addicts are bad.  I said that earlier when referencing my father.  If you know someone who is an addict, please get them help!  But remember that you need to care for yourself too.  They are sick, and need help, but not everyone wants help.  

I wish my family member wanted help.  I am trying to get the family together and seek counseling.  It is hard because not everyone wants to.  I feel like the whole situation is too bad.  Everyone is so angry, so frustrated, and so tired of it all.  I don’t want my family to be angry anymore.  I don’t want them to be so stressed, because it is bad for your health.  I don’t have much family to begin with.

I don’t know if anyone had read this, but if you have, thank you for listening.  We all need someone to talk to.  Stay cool out there.

Off and on through my life, my family has kept chickens.  My Father started the tradition when I was only a child, but I remember marveling at the chickens on the other side of the fenced coup.  Unfortunately, a raccoon (or a similar rascal) broke into the chicken coup.  My parents found them in the morning.  The rooster’s name was Paddy.  He was mean to anyone who got close, but I remember him as being a beautiful rooster with long green tail feathers and a copper red body.

When I was a teenager in high school, I wanted to keep chickens again.  My Mother decided that it was a great idea!  We got one Road Island Red and five black chickens. Each one had a name that described their personality or feather colors.  This backfired a bit when they grew up and all the black ones looked the same.  They became ‘Sunny and The Girls’, since Sunny was the only red one.  I held them every day, meticulously cared for their food, water, and coop cleanliness.  They became lovely free range chickens that lived in the barn alongside horses and barn cats too fat to care about the huge birds.  Since I hand raised them, you could pick them up, pet them, and even cuddle them a bit.  We loved them very much and had them for many years.

A family moved into the run-down shack across the street and had a dog that liked to run away. He got a few of my chickens, but four remained for two years or so.  Eventually, they were gone too.  That’s the way of life.

Last year, my Mother got heirloom chickens that were supposedly the best free range egg layers.  I was very proud of myself that I spotted it in Urban Farmer and researched the breed.  They were nine chickens and a stow-away rooster.  They were… not as wonderful as described.  Only one still lives. My Mother named her, “Sweety Pie Chicken”

 

"What are you doing? Is it time for my close up?"

“What are you doing? Is it time for my close up?”

So, this year my Mother went to the store and told the shopkeepers, “I want smart chickens that are good for free ranging!” They were a bit confused, but they gave her their suggestions. It took her over an hour and a half to pick them out.  She got eight red cross breeds, and a White Silky (who is VERY feathery and ADORABLE).  The Silky was protecting a small grey chick from the others in the pen.  My Mother was so taken with the pair of friends that she took the little grey chicken as well.  She looks like a Dove, and she and the white Silky are inseparable. The whole flock has accepted Sweety Pie Chicken, and they are one big happy family.

This story is a big part of our lives.  Over the years we have learned from our mistakes, and it has made us better at our tasks.  We know the best way (or a very, very good way)  to keep our animals healthy and happy.

There's always one who doesn't want to go to bed!

There’s always one who doesn’t want to go to bed!

Many people go into the grocery store and buy the cheapest eggs on the shelf, even if they can afford something better.  These eggs come from chickens packed into tiny cages, with barely any room to move.  They have no life.  They are fed terrible food instead of their natural diet.  Chickens need to move, they need to peck, and they need to eat a variety of food.  These differences produce a rich, delicious egg that is filled with more nutrients than their counterparts.

But it’s more than that.  We are humans, and that means we have different brains that are capable of compassion and understanding.  Eating and egg shouldn’t mean that you benefit from another living thing’s suffering.  I would rather have my eggs come from chickens who actually can move, eat, and thrive in their lives. I feel that just because something is different from me doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be respected.  A Chicken gives us eggs, meat, and in many cases enjoyment.  They give us their entire existence.  That means they deserve our respect.

You can tell I have had this discussion before, mainly with people who do not value an animal’s life.  They see them like a paper cup: simply something that is theirs to use.  That is so heartbreaking.

It makes me sad that people don’t understand why cage-free eggs are so important.  My family’s chickens have a pen and a chicken house.  They would not be safe at night otherwise.  But they are out from early in the morning through just before sundown.  They explore the world around them: the trees, the Sumac bushes, the horse paddock, and so on.  And you know what?  I think that is marvelous!  I wish everything could be as happy as they! Don’t you?

This is what a Chicken Stampede looks like!

This is what a Chicken Stampede looks like!

So, we are still up here, struggling against oppressive heat, still angrily mourning the tragedy of Treyvon Martin’s memory, debating Florida law, and wishing that something can be actually accomplished in Washington D.C.  We are here in Rural America, Chickens and all, struggling to have our voices heard.

On a happy note, it was announced today that the Lakeside Hospital was acquired, and is being renamed “Strong West”.  They hope to restore services by January.  Or so the news said.  I hope it is sooner.  Either way, it is nice to know that they didn’t completely forget us.  Why couldn’t they have done that before the hospital closed it’s doors is beyond me.  Perhaps it is a conspiracy to keep us dependent on this or that.  All I can say is that we will breath a sigh of relief when the emergency room is reopened.  Until then all we can do is wait.

Wherever you are, please stay cool, stay safe, and stay happy!

When people hear, “New York” they think of the big city – lights, cars, skyscrapers, business, stores, the crazy guy on the corner holding ‘THE END IS NEAR’ sign, and people as far as the eye can see.  The city has everything you need to survive (and many things that are just icing on the cake). Endless numbers of people move to New York City and others all across the world.  Some love it, some hate it.  But everyone has big dreams of what their life will be.  Whether it’s the next big music producer or an upscale chef with your own restaurant, New York City is the mecca of the Eastern Seaboard. That’s not anything new. It’s always been where the-next-big-thing hits the market.

But there’s so much more to New York – like, a whole state attached.  With people living in it – and cars – and color television.

I know that most people don’t think about that. Country!  That’s down south!  Farms! Those are out in Kansas!  I have heard it all.  Most people don’t realize that there are rural places in the North East United States.

I come from Western New York – right on Lake Ontario.  For 18 years of my life, I lived in the same house.  I graduated High school with nearly everyone who was in Kindergarten class.  My town has a Post Office, some houses, fields, woods, and nothing else.  ‘Going to town’ is a big thing out here… mainly because you have to drive about thirty minutes to the nearest grocery store. The corner store is 5 miles away.

I live in Rural America.

I graduated high school and went to college.  Small town kid in a big city.  I went out of state, far enough away from farms and livestock because I wanted to experience life in other places.  I earned my degree, bounced around a little, and worked in dead-end jobs that barely covered my rent and student loans.  I was tired, unhealthy, and not in a very good frame of mind.

And now I moved back home for good.  I have lived in several states and cities, with friends and roommates, near the streets and cars and skyscrapers and the hustle and bustle of people living on top of each other.  I returned home with no job and too much student loan debt – like so many of my peers.

Two months ago I felt like a failure coming back here.  I felt like I was worthless, like I wasn’t good enough to do anything.  Why can other people make it while I can’t?  Why?  There are many different reasons, but my mother didn’t care about any of that.  She wants me happy and healthy – and for me, that meant here in the middle of corn fields, horses, and the summer humid heat.

I have always looked for my place out here, but I never really fit in.  When I was younger I thought it was because I was meant for city living – and I met many people who agreed with me.  But over the course of seven years I have found that my place is out here – I just have to find it.

So, I am finding the beauty in rural, small town America (Small is a bit of an understatement).  People who are born in a small town grow up and leave.  They want bigger and better things, and rightly so.  The result of that is the rural community is dying.  Small businesses easily parish under the poor economic climate that has plagued us for over twenty years.  It is harder and harder to make ends meet.  The cost of living keeps rising while income stagnates or declines.  We have the same problems that people who live in the city have.  The difference is that out here, all we have is ourselves.

This past April, the closest hospital closed it doors.  It was in the nearby college town, 30 minutes away.  Now, we have to drive an hour to the nearest emergency room to receive care.  I heard the message loud and clear: We don’t care about you.  People who live in rural America don’t matter.  Just die, because you don’t even deserve a hospital.

I don’t accept that message.  I don’t accept the fact that the world is blind to us, our hardships, our people, and our community.  I don’t accept the fact that we are powerless to change that world view.  I don’t accept the fact that the world thinks we are worthless.  I don’t accept that we are invisible.

That’s why I am here.  I am on a journey to chronicle life out here in rural, small town America.  I am going to show you that we are beautiful, vibrant, and filled with sights, sounds, places, food, and more.  I am going to show you that the heart of America is worth saving.

Come on the journey with me.