This is the only major collection of Abbey’s writings compiled by the author himself: in his own words, ?to present what I think is both the best and most representative of my writing?so far.” It serves up a rich feast of fiction and prose by the singular American writer whom Larry McMurtry called ?the Thoreau of the American West.” Devoted Abbey fans along with readers just discovering his work will find a mother lode of treasures here: generous chunks of his best novels, including The Brave Cowboy, Black Sun, and his classic The Monkey Wrench Gang; and more than a score of his evocative, passionate, trenchant essays?a genre in which he produced acknowledged masterpieces such as Desert Solitaire. Scattered throughout are the author’s own petroglyph-style sketches. This new edition adds selections from work that appeared shortly before Abbey’s death: a chapter from Hayduke Lives!, the hilarious sequel to The Monkey Wrench Gang; excerpts from his revealing journals; and examples of his poetry. A new foreword by Doug Peacock?Abbey’s close friend and the model for the flamboyant activist Hayduke?offers a fond appreciation of this larger-than-life figure in American letters.
Edward Paul Abbey (January 29, 1927 – March 14, 1989) was an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues, criticism of public land policies, and anarchist political views. His best-known works include the novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, which has been cited as an inspiration by environmental groups, and the non-fiction work Desert Solitaire. – From Wikipedia
I never met the man called Edward Abbey, but I once knew people who knew him, and I always felt that I had reached into at least some part of his realm through reading many of his books and published works. In the end, his words have always left me with a grin, and I would guess that is exactly what Ed would have wanted. I can see that sly, rascally smile of his even now, in my mind’s eye.
Those are the kind of friends that I like to have in my life, and I call Edward Abbey “friend”, as much as anyone else I know. A friend can lift a heavy burden in the darkest times, sometimes with words alone.
The unrelenting assaults on environment and human nature are legion, but there is hope. There is always hope. Edward Abbey tried to tell us that.
He always had a way of keeping it real, while reminding us not to sacrifice our human soul before the madness of it all. Be quick, he might say, to immerse yourself in the enveloping salvation of the natural world.
And so I say, take heart. When the problems of the modern world lay heavy on your brow, and the latest insults upon the natural world threatens what’s left of your faltering sanity – think of Ed. With all of our problems and faults, he never gave up on the inexhaustible courage of the human condition, nor the limitless capacity of mother earth to right the ship, and heal.
Perhaps above all though, Abbey would have been the first to defend your right to wander freely upon the wild lands, or to do whatever you wished in your own backyard. He had a thing or two to say about guns, government, and monkey wrenches too, if I’m not mistaken.
Edward Abbey, we miss you so!
“One final paragraph of advice. Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast…a part time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half for yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the griz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards”.
“When guns are outlawed, only the Government will have guns. The Government – and a few outlaws. If that happens, you can count me among the outlaws.”
Jonathan Troy (1954) (ISBN 1-131-40684-2)
The Brave Cowboy (1956) (ISBN 0-8263-0448-6)
Fire on the Mountain (1962) (ISBN 0-8263-0457-5)
Black Sun (1971) (ISBN 0-88496-167-2)
The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975) (ISBN 0-397-01084-2)
Good News (1980) (ISBN 0-525-11583-8)
The Fool’s Progress (1988) (ISBN 0-8050-0921-3)
Hayduke Lives (1989) (ISBN 0-316-00411-1)
Earth Apples: The Poetry of Edward Abbey (1994) (ISBN 0-312-11265-3)
Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness (1968) (ISBN 0-8165-1057-1)
Appalachian Wilderness (1970)
Slickrock (1971) (ISBN 0-87156-051-8)
Cactus Country (1973)
The Journey Home (1977) (ISBN 0-525-13753-X)
The Hidden Canyon (1977)
Abbey’s Road (1979) (ISBN 0-525-05006-X)
Desert Images (1979)
Down the River (with Henry Thoreau & Other Friends) (1982) (ISBN 0-525-09524-1)
In Praise of Mountain Lions (1984)
Beyond the Wall (1984) (ISBN 0-03-069299-7)
One Life at a Time, Please (1988) (ISBN 0-8050-0602-8)
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness: Notes from a Secret Journal (1989)
Confessions of a Barbarian: Selections from the Journals of Edward Abbey, 1951–1989 (1994) (ISBN 0-316-00415-4)
Cactus Chronicles published by Orion Magazine, Jul–Aug 2006 (no longer active,)
Postcards from Ed (book)|Postcards from Ed: Dispatches and Salvos from an American Iconoclast (2006) (ISBN 1-57131-284-6)
Slumgullion Stew: An Edward Abbey Reader (1984)
The Best of Edward Abbey (1984)
The Serpents of Paradise: A Reader (1995)
We generally have several used and collectable Edward Abbey Books in stock.
You can find a current list Michael Patrick McCarty, Bookseller, HERE.
“Reads like a crime novel . . . each chapter ends on a cliff-hanging note.”?Seattle Times
When residents of Boulder, Colorado, suddenly began to see mountain lions in their backyards, it became clear that the cats had returned after decades of bounty hunting had driven them far from human settlement. In a riveting environmental tale that has received huge national attention, journalist David Baron traces the history of the mountain lion and chronicles one town’s tragic effort to coexist with its new neighbors. As thought-provoking as it is harrowing, The Beast in the Garden is a tale of nature corrupted, the clash between civilization and wildness, and the artificiality of the modern American landscape. It is, ultimately, a book about the future of our nation, where suburban sprawl and wildlife-protection laws are pushing people and wild animals into uncomfortable, sometimes deadly proximity.
$11.10 USD In Stock
Lions and Bears in The Backyard, Oh My!
Many of our followers are aware that I have done a lot of security work over the years, and I still do. I’ve spent many sleepless nights on one type of patrol or another, and I’ve learned to notice many things that most people miss in the world all around them.
Last night I missed a chance to see a big mountain lion moving just a short distance from my solitary post. It was reported to me by an excited and breathless observer, who apparently had some trouble believing his own eyes. He just had to tell somebody, and I’m glad it was me.
The sighting took place on the black top and concrete of a two-track bridge over a cold, clear river in western Colorado, not far from the unfenced yards of several exclusive homes and the manicured grounds of a large country club and golf course. It seemed an unlikely spot to find such a magnificent predator, or so he thought. For his part, the tawny beast was no doubt chagrined to find himself caught in such an exposed and vulnerable position.
The lion enjoys good company as he hunts. Coyote, the all-seeing trickster grows more bold and opportunistic with each passing year, having learned long ago to take advantage of the nonchalance of the family pet. He may have learned it from the big cat. Likewise, encounters with black bears are increasing, as are people and bear conflicts. As a result we receive many complaints about coyotes and bears on the property that I roam, and it looks like it may become particularly bad in this time of terrible drought.
After all, we are surrounded by the rocky mountain west, with national forest and other undeveloped lands close at hand. Still, a mountain lion report is big and electrifying news which will surely surge throughout the small community by morning. This creature rules by stealth, and it is no surprise that most people have never seen one outside of a zoo or animal park.
I have been quite fortunate to study them several times in my adventures and wilderness travels. I’ve spied them without them seeing me, and I’ve noted their reaction when they realize they haven’t seen me first. I’ve hunted them several times, and have found myself standing with the bawling hounds under the killing tree, with an angry and snarling cougar above. I’ve followed their distinctive paw prints over hill and dale, and on more than one occasion found their tracks following me. I love to watch them under any circumstance, and to see them do their thing for any amount of time is an awe-inspiring experience that marks an indelible impression. I can see a stalking cat right now, in my mind.
What I don’t like is this long-tailed ghost watching me, particularly when Idon’t know it. I have absolutely no doubt that it’s happened, countless times, at close range and but a primordial fang away. I’d take a bet that it’s happened to you too, if you have spent any significant amount of time in puma country. Fates can change quickly, as the tip of a cat’s tail twitches, measuring what to do. But of course, we will never really know, and it only adds to the mystery and magic of it all.
I would have explained this to my wide-eyed mountain lion man, if I could have gotten a word in edgewise. There are some noteworthy visitors out there in the black night, just out of reach of headlight beams or human consciousness.
Think about that the next time you enjoy a hike on a shadowy mountain trail in a quaking aspen grove, and the hair on the back of your neck stands up for some unknown reason. You may wish to honor that sense. It’s there for a purpose.
Keep it in the back of your mind the next time you go out at night to check on your chickens or other animals in your backyard or back forty. Catch a breath, and take a second to wonder about what just made a nearly silent footfall, behind or above.
The possibility of a lion nearby reminds us of the wilds at the edges, and grounds us in the realities of the natural world. It’s an unsettling thought for some, and one that many of us have to live with when we spend time in the places that we love. Still, I would rather live where I live knowing that a mountain lion lives here too, rather than in a place known to have no mountain lions, and wishing that it did.
It’s a reality I am happy to accept, in the hope of but a quick glimpse, in the corner of an eye.
Game trail cameras are an invaluable tool for those wishing to document the comings and goings of our wild neighbors, particularly in those magic hours between dusk and dawn. Strategically placed, they can capture a delightful display of animal movements not otherwise observed. It’s great entertainment, with the promise of true surprise within easy reach. My anticipation of the next photo or the next video can barely be contained. You never really know what you’re gonna get…
We use several cameras scattered about the property, which we move on a regular basis. Our main interest lies in the activities of the creatures with two legs. We watch for trespass, intrusion, and foul play. That, of course, is a story for another time. Animal sightings are the bonus feature to the main event.
Today’s review of the image collection was no exception. They held the usual cast of characters. Marmots, foxes, and inquisitive raccoons. Wandering pets, and the occasional biker. One frame held the faint outline of a bear in the shadows, and another the up close face of a young mule deer.
And as you may have guessed by now, one camera captured a video segment of a mature lion on the prowl. At first there was nothing but the wide emptiness of the night, then the world lit up as the beams of infrared caught the ghostly figure like the flashes from an electronic campfire.
He was big and long and solidly built, with well-defined muscles that rippled on his bones as he padded easily back to who knows where. No doubt he had used this route before.
A house loomed large here too, just out of camera range. I know, because I set the camera there myself.
My reaction was sharp, and visceral. It’s one thing to hear someone else talk excitedly about their sighting and personal experience. You want to believe, yet, there’s always a little room for doubt in undocumented reports. It’s quite another matter when you actually see a lion for yourself, or have indisputable evidence in hand.
Real is real, and but a moment away from memory. It is undefinable proof of the untamed mystery of our realm, accessible to all just inches from the comforts of our daily routines.
I shall do my best to stay out of the big cat’s path and unseen wanderings, yearning, for his eventual return.
Hunt well, my friend.
*Update August 27, 2013
There is not a week goes by that someone does not ask if we have had any puma reports, and I must say, I’m a bit anxious myself. The leaves in the high county are beginning to turn color already, far too early it would seem, and it won’t be long before the early snows are as high as an elk’s belly and the mule deer are headed for the lower valleys along the river. The big cats are sure to follow, and it is then that there is a fair chance to record them on a well placed trail camera. We hope that the hunting is good this season, for us, and for mountain lions everywhere.
Just about everyone with a most basic understanding of the natural world knows to stay away from the back-end of the black and white critter called skunk. Forget that little fact and they will be quick to leave an indelible impression upon your person. Or ask any family dog that has disregarded that squared up stance and upturned tail and suffered the indignity of a well-aimed spray. Unfortunately, this is a minor inconvenience when compared with the real damage often inflicted by their front end.
Skunks possess powerful forelegs which they use to burrow and scratch about for food. Digging and the churning of earth is really what a skunk is all about. They are also great fans of a free or easy meal and a frequent backyard visitor. A poultry dinner is top on their culinary hit parade, and they are notorious nighttime raiders of the barnyard and chicken coop. Their tunneling skills are legendary and deviously effective, much to the chagrin and unmitigated consternation of small animal breeders and poultry keepers for hundreds of years.
I was reminded of their penchant for tragedy when I entered my pigeon keep a few days ago. The telltale signs of the obvious break-in were written plainly on the ground, as was the bloody aftermath. Once again, the scene screamed of dastardly polecat, and the wind held the last remnants of that unmistakable and musky perfume.
I soon discovered that my favorite bird was among the casualties, and it hit me like an unseen blow. He was the biggest of our Giant Runt’s, and he had always been scrappy and bold and proud. I had bred him down from a successive line of top-notch parents and he had never let me down in the squab producing department. We called him “the bomber”, and I had always looked for him first amongst his comrades.
Skunks have an uncanny ability to make it deeply personal in some unpredicted way. We have probably lost more birds of various kinds to them than any other predator, though I have worked hard to stem the tide. Once locked on to a target they can become incredibly determined, often working for several days to accomplish their clandestine mission. You have a full-fledged skunk problem when they do, because they will not give up without a fight. They can be incredibly bull-headed about it all. Once joined in battle they generally need to be forcefully persuaded to see the error in their ways.
They are also extremely good at pointing out the errors in yours. An unwanted entry means that you have not done your job as an animal husbandman, whether you care to admit it or not. It means that the cage or coop is not built as well as it could be. Or perhaps that small repair you have put off has returned to haunt you. In the end it is your fault and your’s alone, although I cannot say that the acceptance of such responsibility can make one feel much better.
It would be easy to hate the skunk out of hand, but I refuse to accept such an easy fix. A skunk is a skunk after all, and he is just doing what he must. They are a necessary and vital component of a healthy ecosystem. Perfect in design and function, they are more than beautiful in their own way.
Still, I am sad for the loss of our pigeons and it will be some time before I can stop myself from looking for the big guy. I have no doubt that he faced his end as best he could, with dignity and noble character. In my mind I like to picture him wedging his body in front of his mate, staring his adversary down and delivering a solid shoulder punch or two before being overwhelmed. At least I’d like to think so.
It makes me wonder what other beastly trials and backyard tribulations take place under cover of the dead black night.
You Might Also See Nuisance Wildlife Laws In Colorado and Coping With Skunks
— *Historically, skunks have been classified in a subgroup within “the weasel family”, or Mustelidae. Biologists began to understand that they had been misidentified all along. They were assigned new classification in the late 1990’s, and now belong to the family Mephitidae. So you see, they never were a weasel, after all.
It is a heady and perplexing question, to be sure. Like the classical philosophers of old, I do not have an acceptable answer, either. I’m not even going to try.
However, for more and more people across this land, a more appropriate and timely question has evolved. They now ask themselves if perhaps they should acquire some chickens, which could provide some tasty eggs for their morning breakfast. People are now looking at their backyards with fresh eyes, searching for a handy and level spot to erect that new chicken coop. Unfortunately, the next question becomes all to prominent and leaps to center stage. “Is it legal, they ask”? Now there’s a question! Again, it is also not so easy to answer in simple terms. This can of worms is large, and it holds more slithering things than your well-tended compost pile.
For lack of a better term, the backyard chicken movement is exploding across the country, much to the chagrin of local jurisdictions and the faceless bureaucratic machine. It is a suburban, and increasingly urban phenomena. Well informed citizens are demanding high quality, locally grown food. Imagine that! The local food movement continues to gain momentum, with more followers and practitioners every day. It’s a national issue now, and it is not going away anytime soon. But it starts on the local level, and chickens are a big part of it.
For example, the city council of a small town near me, recently voted to consider new draft code provisions relating to chickens within the city limits and residential neighborhoods. Apparently, it is currently illegal to keep a chicken. Who knew? Well, several of the residents who testified did not. They had been keeping chickens for years, without issue. No one had bothered to discuss it with them. For some unexplained reason, it was time to come out of the chicken closet. They now wished to tend to their birds legally, with favor, and approval.
The city council was quick to state that it was a land use matter, and as such, falls within their purview. It’s all about zoning, you see, and it’s not about how you live, but where you live. It’s all about proper consideration, and planning. It’s about rules and regulation, and lawful ordinance. It’s about monitoring and control, enforcement, and penalty. I don’t think the entire, sordid show is about chickens at all.
Typically, an ordinance relating to poultry keeping will determine how many hens you can have, and where and how you must keep them. The birds must be contained and quiet, the coops must be secure. The installation of electric fencing can be required. One must mitigate for noxious odor, and control predators. The birds cannot be allowed to roam free and spread disease, or attract a wandering skunk. Above all, the noisy and offensive rooster is not allowed. They might disturb the neighbors, and it is simply too much for the controlling mind of the clerk. On and on it goes.
I don’t fault our nearby chicken keepers for trying, in fact I applaud them. It’s a noble and just cause, and they have done their best to work along the only route available to them. It is the manner in which we fight that disturbs me. The documenting newspaper article talks of how the group promises to play by the rules. One person is quoted in saying, “I’m confident we will be 100 percent in compliance”. “Compliant”, says she? The article goes on discuss the good points of chicken raising, of how it can educate children as to where their food comes from, while having fun. It touts the economic benefit that could be brought to the revenue of the hardware supply and the gardening store. It balances these ideas against the potential downsides and complaints, and makes the case that perhaps it is not a foolish idea, after all. “Foolish”, indeed. Imagine the foolishness of someone with the audacity to supply their own food.
The residents of Denver, Colorado begged for their right to keep animals some time ago, and now they live under some of the most draconian laws imaginable. Their ordinances require a permit to keep poultry on property. A fee is demanded, and stipulations must be met and maintained. Once permitted, the property is subject to inspection and multiple visits by more than one controlling agency. They arrive when they wish, without appointment. The property must be properly posted, and the neighbors so notified. Permits are subject to renewal, at the government’s discretion, with annual fees. Violators will be prosecuted. Does this sound like some type of preposterous science fiction movie, or a town, or city, near you? We are talking chickens here, and not about some dangerous and toothsome creature from outer space.
I want to know who gained the authority to decide that the chicken limit stops at four, five, or six. When did they decide that? Was I asked to voice my humble opinion? What made it so important to come up with such a law? Were the parameters based on some well thought out scientific study, funded with the public dollar, and performed by some chicken police think tank? Has anyone considered that roosters are an important piece of the poultry puzzle? If I am not mistaken, they are a vital and necessary component of procreation, and life. Though infertile, a willing hen will bless you with the miracle of an egg without the help of a male. A rooster is required if you wish to replenish your flock. Is it new life, that they despise?
The message they wish to send is clear. How dare you think of enjoying a private egg or two, for yourselves, in peace? You are a criminal of the worst kind, guilty as charged until proven innocent. Your fine, and punishment, is what we say it is. And oh, by the way, the chickens now belong to us.
It is a proverbial, in your face case, of the foxes guarding not one, but all of the hen houses. I like foxes, and I would prefer to preserve their good name. The truth is, they are not foxes anyway, as that would be too tame a description. Bloody tongued wolves would be more like it, circling impatiently in the dark night, eager to blow your house down. The devil is always in the carefully crafted details of the hidden contract, and they administered and diverted our rights away many years ago.
Yet, the wheels are wobbling on the fatally damaged, corporate driven shopping cart. We are taking our chicken coops back, one backyard at a time. They know it, and they cannot allow it. They are desperate, and they grow more terrified every day. We know the truth, and can see the madness of their souls. They hold power over us because we empower them. We didn’t even show up for the fight.
My advice is uncomplicated. Don’t give it all up to them so easily. Refuse to grovel before the beast. It’s sad and pathetic, and it makes us look small. Compliance is not an option, and the monster’s cravings are insatiable. Do not give them the satisfaction of obtaining what they seek, nor allow them the sustaining succor of our fear.
It is time to bypass the lowly denizens of the city council, and their ilk. The time has come to dress down the petty and falsely officious policeman of your subdivisions, and expose the multitude of local tyrants and self-important snitches.
It is time to ignore the directives from the “authorities” on high, or the blather of the party line. They do not have our best interests in mind. If they did they would encourage and help, and not preclude or impede. It’s time to stop playing their dishonest game. Why should we? They don’t play fair, and they never have.
It is time to slip the chains of the oppressors, and throw them back at their flimsy facades. Take a stand, and stare the predator in the eye. Do something disobedient and bold, today. It’s been done before, many, many times. Our acts cannot be separated from the revolutionary history of the sleeping giant, the once free people of our United States.
Let us rise from our knees and stop asking for their permission. It is not their’s to give. It’s that simple. Go out and get a chicken or two, and perhaps a rooster to go with it. Let its morning crow announce to the world that you are awake, and ready. It all starts with a chicken and an egg, on the home grounds of an independent, proud, and defiant people.
A willing and observant person can gather some extraordinary insights about the natural world in the most unlikely places. It can happen in the short time that it takes to blink an eye, no matter if that eye belongs to you, or to something else. Nature abounds with beneficial lessons and the teachers of true meaning are everywhere. I just happen to gain some of my clues from the clear-eyed and attentive stares of my backyard pigeon flock. You can learn a lot from an otherwise ordinary and common creature.
I spend a fair amount of time with this captive audience of one hundred in their outdoor aviary. I am their provider, and their lifeline from the outside lands. I supply them with their daily ration of grains and clean water, regardless of the weather or the many other duties or time constraints I may have. I fill their pickpots with grit and minerals. I break ice from their bowls in the winter, and suffer the same stinging snows and biting winds of the day. I clean their flypen and pigeon-house, and keep a sharp eye out for the telltale signs of distress or disease. I study them closely, and through it all, they watch me too.
I am a constant in their lives, and a spoke in their wheel of life. I have come to know of them and their world just a little bit, and they of me. It could be said that they would rather prefer that I was not involved at all, but I am a necessary intrusion they must tolerate, at least for a brief time.
Yet, they wait for me each morning and afternoon, the anticipation building as I drive up to the entrance doors. They mill about excitedly as I approach, ready to perform just for me. I touch the door handle, and they begin their wild jig, dancing like ecstatic puppets on hidden strings. They hop about and swirl their wings like crazed whirligigs, or slap their wingtips smartly as they launch from their perch for a short flight across the pen.
They chant their pigeon talk and coo even louder as I step in through the inner doors, to become completely surrounded by frantic birds, eager to fill their crops before the other’s. They push and shoulder for each speck of grain as if their life depended on it. Perhaps they bicker and fight to establish or maintain some imperceptible pigeon pecking order, or maybe just to remind themselves that life can be a struggle. You would think that they would know by now that their will be enough food for all comers, but it is a wild ritual that they simply must abide for reasons known only to the pigeon.
We have repeated this madcap scene a few thousand times and more, the pigeons and I. It has become routine, with little deviation from the usual suspects. That is until yesterday, when our normal interaction abruptly and inexplicably changed.
It was immediately obvious when I pulled up in my truck. The absence of sound or flashing wings struck me first, and what pigeon heads I could see sat on top of outstretched necks, alert, with searching eyes. They crouched in the classic manner of all prey, with feet tucked under their bodies, coiled and ready to spring out and away from impending danger.
The birds stood frozen and paid me little mind as I entered and searched the ground for an animal intruder. I investigated the pigeon houses and the nest boxes and found nothing. I checked every nook and cranny of their limited world and came up empty. I paused to scratch my head, and ponder this puzzling circumstance.
Hand on chin, I stared at the closest pigeon and wondered, determined to discover just why he would not fly. And then he cocked his head, and I saw his eye focus on something high as he grounded himself more tightly to his perch. At that moment I spied a wide, dark shadow moving across the dirt floor, and smiled. I knew exactly what belonged in that kind of shadow, as did my fine feathered friends. All I had to do was look up, to see just exactly what it was that had struck such all-consuming fear in their hearts.
I had no doubt that the shadow maker was an eater of birds, but there were several possibilities in this category. A red-tailed hawk maybe, or a gleaming eagle from the nearby river. In this case the black shadow belonged to an animal of equal color, with a distinctively naked neck. It was not what I expected to see.
The Turkey Vulture, or Buzzard as it is sometimes called, is quite common to the American West and many parts of North America. A six-foot wingspan casts a long shadow across the land, and he covers a lot of it as he travels. That great red and bald head is immediately recognizable from afar, and known by all. His sentinel like posture and hovering demeanor create and perpetuate his iconic image. It is a form often associated with death, and it is a meaning not entirely lost on my domesticated, but anxious, pigeon flock.
The Vulture is classified as a bird of prey, after all, even though he finds most of his meals by smell after they are already dead. I suppose that it is a distinction utterly lost on the brain of a pigeon.
Au Contraire, says I. Why not eat a rabbit, would be my quick and ready response? I am a great fan of this most versatile and willing animal, for several reasons. You may have a few of your own.
I’m talking here of the large domestic rabbits most commonly found in backyard hutches across the continents. Perhaps the question is moot, and you have already raised them and prepared them at home for yourself. Or maybe you have had them served up at your neighborhood bistro, or even found them on the menu of the world’s finest restaurants. The less adventurous, however, may need some gentle convincing.
I like the idea that when properly prepared each new dish can become one of the best meals that you may ever eat, while remaining quite good for you too. Rabbit meat is high in easily digestible protein, as well as B12, iron, and a wide range of minerals. It is remarkably low in calories and harmful saturated fats, but high in the desireable Omega 3 fatty acids. Most wild game is lean and clean, but this is particularly true of rabbit.
In fact it is so lean, that it has been said that it’s meat has as much food value as so much cotton, and that you could eat rabbit three times a day for many weeks and never gain a pound. That may be true, but if you did you might find yourself with the same dilemma once faced by many northern peoples, who developed “extreme fat hunger”, when forced to live on rabbits alone. There is even a name for this type of acute malnutrition, called “Rabbit Starvation”. Who knew?
Of course, our modern diets tend to favor the addition of many high calorie ingredients, so not to worry. More on that in a minute.
Our domestic rabbit of today has its origins in the European Rabbit that was native to the Iberian Peninsula. In fact, the ancient Roman name for Iberia, and modern-day Spain, was Hispania, or “Land of the Rabbits”. It is believed that the Romans were the first to keep rabbits in captivity for the sole purpose of meat production, starting in the first century BC. It would appear that they truly loved their rabbit dinners, and had better things to do than run them down randomly about the wilds. After all, they had legions of mouths to fill, and vast and waiting empires to conquer.
France was naturally colonized by rabbits from Northern Spain sometime after the last glacial period, which no doubt explains that country’s well-known reputation as rabbit epicures. Historical records indicate that French Catholic Monks were the first to bring rabbits under true domestication, about 600 AD. The need to keep a steady supply of procurable meat behind the safety of solid and cloistered monastery walls created the conditions that eventually lead to the establishment of the more than 200 breeds recognized today.
Rabbits were actually one of the last animals to be domesticated, but they made up for their late arrival on the scene in a big hurry. They were transported around the Mediterranean by the Phoenicians, were introduced in the British Isles and other parts of the northeast Atlantic in the middle ages, and made it to New Zealand, South America, South Africa and worldwide sometime after the 18th century.
Since then they have woven their way across a multitude of diverse regions and cultures, to become firmly enmeshed in the daily fabric of countless lives. Raising rabbits is now a big thing, with a current world-wide production of over 1 million tons. The domestic rabbit has become an important and reliable protein source, and is now considered traditional cuisine for billions of people across the globe.
Just ask the people of Malta, who manage to wolf down about 20 pounds of rabbit meat per person each year. Or perhaps talk to the Spaniards, who love their well crafted “Paella”, or the Italians, who make a mean “Coniglio alla Cacciatora”. You simply haven’t lived if you have not indulged in a perfectly prepared “Hasenpfeffer” from our German friends, or broken some crusty bread to sop up the juices of an exquisite “Rabbit Normandy”, made with Calvados and cornmeal. Ah…the French, who love their “Lapin a la Provencale” and so many other rabbit dishes, prepared with style and panache as only they can do. And you thought that fried rabbit bathed in the buttermilk of the American South was to die for, which of course, it is.
Rabbit is a valuable food source for many, but it wouldn’t be so popular if it didn’t taste so good. The meat is fine-grained and similar to poultry. The old adage that it “tastes” like chicken” is mostly true, but not quite. It is generally mild and faintly sweet, without a taste of gaminess. Though elusive to describe, it’s flavor profile is somehow more subtle, and complex. It speaks of the exotic, with a hint of mediterranean breezes and coastal plains, juniper berries and scrub, and soft, summer rain. Domesticated it may be, but not for too long compared to other homestead livestock. No doubt some free ranging memories and wild hopes remain.
So, give a rabbit a go. It is yet a blank canvas, daring us to be creative, humble, or bold. Wrap it in bacon, today, and drop it on an outdoor grill with a coating of bourbon and your favorite barbecue concoction. Sauce it up with butter and cream, and wine. Stew it down with beans and beer and throw it atop a plate of steaming rice. Invite some friends, and chase it with some well matched and lively spirits of your choice.
The ancestors of Hispania and the Catholic monks applaud you, and I can wholeheartedly guarantee that “rabbit starvation” will not be problem.
Recently, our food and farming related blog has been linked to some other fabulous and thought-provoking websites, for which I am truly grateful. Writers write, and it is nice to be read. However, my blogs most often show up under the category of “activism”, which gives me pause. It was not necessarily the focus of my intention when I began my blog.
I thought It might be a good idea to investigate the meaning of this thrown about word, so I looked it up in an online dictionary. The first definition of activism I found is as follows. It is “the use of direct, often confrontational action such as a demonstration or strike, in opposition to or in support of a cause”. One definition of an activist is, “an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause, especially a political cause”.
This being the case, I guess you could say that I “is” one. An activist, that is. I wish to eat high quality, unadulterated, nutrient dense food. I want to grow as much of it as I can myself, or purchase it from others that I know and trust. I wish to sell it or trade it to whomever wishes to obtain it, with a minimum of oversight and regulation. Call me crazy, but I don’t think the government should have anything to say about what I eat and who I provide with food.
The topic of food freedom and government over regulation is an activist’s dream, or should I say, nightmare. Who would not fight for the god given right to gain sustenance for one’s self and their family? If you would like to continue eating, and thus living, you probably don’t like the idea of someone blocking access to your food. Voice your opposition, and you may be on your way to becoming a food activist. It is as natural as breathing, and I will not let someone cut of my air supply.
Call me naive, but when I became involved in the local food movement I did not realize that it was a political cause. I found out soon enough. The battle for food freedom will begin on the farms of your neighborhood and the gardens in your backyard, but it will be taken to your community halls, and the meeting rooms of your town trustees and county commissioners. It has already escalated far beyond the local level. It is the peoples’ cause, and it will be heard.
I am an active food activist now, and if that is my new label I will wear it proudly. I doubt that I can turn back anytime soon. I am honored to stand with you. We have a lot of work to do.
It must be fair to say that human beings strive to be liked by other humans. Most of us not only want this, but need it. We crave acceptance and approval like a potted plant thirsts for water and nourishment. For some, it is most uncomfortable and worrisome to know that another person not only dislikes them, but despises them. Hatred aimed and focused in your direction can be a devastating and brutish weapon, and it can knot and shrivel your innards if you let it. A man who tells you different is either completely oblivious or tragically dishonest to himself. I know, for I’ve experienced such mind numbing hatred from another person for the last several months. It does not lessen the confusion and pain to know that it is all because of pet dogs and dead chickens.
My wife and I raise rabbits, squab, and chickens for our family table on our small acreage in the rocky mountains. It is a mostly simple and worthy task. We enjoy the daily chores and the opportunity to be more closely involved with our food. It gives us purpose and slows the spin within the ever tightening death spiral of the ruler’s world, hoping that our example will encourage others to change their ways or stay the truer course. Our part is small and the hour late, but we can only hope that a small awareness in ourselves leads to better days for all. Hands on food and an honest meal can do no harm. Some people, however, seem to have a genuine knack and desire for havoc and chaos. It is the promise of the end of something fine and inherently pure that drives them.
We have tried to be respectful and considerate neighbors. It’s not that hard to do. Large tracts of open space surround us on three sides. To our north lies the Flat Tops Wilderness, and mostly other wild lands up to the Canadian border. We favored our closest neighbor and built our bird pens and coops about as far away as possible to reduce the chance of conflict or complaint. We tried to inform them of our plans, and offered to resolve any problems in advance. We built and repaired hundreds of feet of border fence without thanks or any offer of assistance. Instead, we offered ourselves to them if needed, and eggs from our happy hens, and other backyard bounty. We owned up to the joys of “manure management” and odor control, and in fact adored the results it produced when applied to our gardens. It mattered not at all, for their dogs came anyway and killed them well, without consideration or remorse.
The same dogs have come several times over many months, as we were never quite able to completely finish the fence or predict the direction of their campaigns. It didn’t matter that in Colorado it is the dog owner’s responsibility to control the wanderings of their dogs. It didn’t matter that our property possesses the proper zoning, and that we had broken no laws. It didn’t matter that we have always limited the amount of time that our birds have free ranged on open pasture, and under a close eye at that. It never mattered that Colorado is a “Right To Farm” State, or that our property was once a poultry farm long before we, or our neighbors, thought to live here. What matters is that our chickens are still very dead, and that our neighbors apparently hate us beyond all measure of rationality and reciprocity, because we had the audacity to ask to be compensated for their loss. Until then, I never imagined that chickens and farm animals could generate so much disdain and consuming hatred within a human soul.
Of course, the officers of animal control responded to our calls, the police consulted and reported, and the court evaluated, and judged. We have been monetarily compensated to some extent. But still, somehow the compensation never comes close to filling the emptiness left behind. Money does not heal all of the damaging wounds of the violation. It does not compensate for the destruction of one’s peace of mind, nor aid in the eternal quest of a lost ideal. We don’t ask for much. But we would occasionally like to hold the world of deceivers and brain addled man-children at bay for a few precious moments in time, and latch on to something real long enough to remember what that is.
It’s a life’s work to look evil in the eye and make it blink, without first succumbing to the overwhelming need to fall apart and scurry for cover. In my case, it certainly does not help when your chicken hating neighbor is every bit of 6′ 6″, and them some, and looks like he could still hold his own on the college basketball court. He has no doubt held off countless opponents from an uncontested spot beneath the basket. I would not like to be on the receiving end of a slashing and blindsided elbow. To say the least, my neighbor is a rather intimidating fellow, and his body language and practiced glare would make a snarling badger turn inside out and pass himself in panicked flight. Like all petty enforcers and sadistic bone breakers, he is used to getting what he wants, or destroying and discarding of what he does not. He has made it clear that he does not wish us to have the pleasure of our poultry. They will be gone, of that he is sure. In his mind, there must be an angle from which to triangulate, and an actionable course to pursue by whatever means possible.
Still, I must stand my ground in the face of the onslaught. Farms and farming are suffering under a withering and unconscionable attack in this country, every day, from every direction imaginable. Big business and big government collude and conspire against us, with malice afore thought. Little government works overtime to impress their corrupt handlers, with some special attention for anyone who points out their dirty workings. Urban and suburban values collide with escalating force as the job market and the economy implodes, leaving the common person to pick up the crumbs from their festering carcasses. You would like to raise and sell some poultry from your own property, you say? Well, we don’t think so! And by the way, it is now illegal for your own children to labor on the family farm. Can you hear the screams of the founding fathers as they claw to escape from their earthly graves?
We let it get this bad because we never saw it coming. A good person cannot think through the mind of a plotting and scheming beast. For example, we simply cannot originate the concepts of flouridated and toxic waters being promulgated to wash down chemically saturated non food, while at the same time making it illegal to have a home garden as they dream up new ways to criminalize the art of self-sufficiency.
As with others locked in this terrible struggle, I will stand and fight because I must. Like all proper dinosaurs I will see my end soon enough, and can only hope that it is a good end. Or perhaps not, and instead grow wings like the modern bird that they became, and fly through the bombardment unscathed. I will fight for my right and your right to become just a little more self-reliant and defiantly independent, and help you hold up a big, bold, fistful of empowered personal dignity towards the light.
After all, like many of you I have already pledged to spit in the eye of the county health department, the USDA, The FDA, and any other alphabet soup agency or freedom hating tyrant who may dare to fight fair. They hate us too, and their rabbit punches and dirty boxing skills are legendary. The enemies of the borderlands are vast and most cleverly devious. They lurk at the edges of our lovingly protected world, while hungrily plotting the death of our way of life. Compared to them just how bad can one really giant fire-breathing neighbor be?
Our intimidators and bullies simply cannot prevail, and we refuse to own their hatred. Our will, and the will of the land will not allow it, and our travails and hardships will be replaced with joy and forgiveness. Here’s to hoping, and praying, that our injuries can only hurt for a little bit, and that things will look much better when it’s over. Together, we shall grow stronger at the broken places. We have the power of the chicken and the spirit of her barnyard friends, and the righteousness of the good fight, on our side.
Yesterday my neighbor’s dogs killed several of our cherished chickens, again. I discovered the disquieting scene as I left for work. The story was easy to read in the thick mud, as was the trail leading back to the home of the evil doers.
I feel some responsibility because I had let them roam unprotected for a short time outside of their coop and flyway. On the other hand, it was not my fault at all because the dogs were well within the boundaries of my property. Colorado law clearly states that a dog owner is required to control the whereabouts of his animal so that this type of thing could not happen. A landowner does not have to fence the problem dogs out – the dog owner must fence the dogs in and prevent them from entering someone elses property. An uncontrolled dog can be cited by Animal Control as a “dog at large”. If it kills poultry or livestock, well, that’s a whole other ballgame.
I did not have enough time to deal with the chicken carnage at the time. So today I walked across my field to our bird pens to do just that and came face to face with a magnificent red-tailed hawk. The bird stared at me fiercely as only a raptor can, while deciding if it must abandon the prize. The hawk looked disgruntled, and guilty, as it grudgingly took off. But it needn’t have worried. I knew he had not done it. I left the chicken there, on the ground, for the hawk’s return.
I am sad for the loss of our chickens. They were our best young layers and had the best chicken personalities in our flock. I am happy though that I was able to steal such a close range look at the hawk. I love to observe birds of prey. He’s got to eat too.
I don’t fault the dogs. They were just being dogs, and some will kill chickens if not discouraged. I do have issues with the dog owners, however. They have been consistently disrespectful of our property rights, and have demonstrated little regard for the joys of poultry. They had been warned.
In this case, the marauders and culprits will be dealt with appropriately by the court, as they should. I hope the dogs fare better.
The red-tail is welcome to his dinner. I hope I see him again soon, under better circumstances.
For most of us, frequent trips to the grocery store are a necessary and common activity. It’s what we do, and what we’ve always done. When we get there we expect to find rows and rows of neatly packaged food stacked high, far, and wide. Hell, we demand it! Most people believe that it will always be like that, and of course it will be, right?
Well, maybe, and then again, maybe not. For the most part the supermarkets are still there. Yet, for some time now something seems terribly amiss. It has become harder and harder to fill that shopping cart with an adequate amount of high quality, nourishing food, especially if you take a moment to read the tiny print of indecipherable contents on the label. No doubt you’ve tried, and grown increasingly uneasy.
And it doesn’t take great powers of observation to conclude that the packages grow smaller while the price climbs higher with each successive trip. It’s the terrifying tale of the incredibly shrinking dollar, and it is probably not going to get better anytime soon. The effects are devastating and cruel, and it’s a painful thing to watch. It’s quite obvious that something’s gotta give.
From our point of view it is time to think out of the proverbial box, or in this case, the shopping bag. If you agree, think rabbits. They can help, and not just a little, but a lot. They are ready, willing, and able to work on your behalf. It’s what they do. Raising rabbits might be one of the best way’s to stretch your food budget, in the midst of what can only be described as a salvage economy left for the once great middle class.
Rabbits make a lot of sense for anyone that is interested in providing some, or most of their own food, for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few:
They are quiet, easy to raise and care for, with minimum space requirements.
One buck and three or four does can provide enough meat to satisfy much of a small family’s fresh meat needs for the year.
Rabbit meat can help keep the doctor away, too. It is high in protein, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, B12, iron, and a wide range of minerals.
It is remarkably low in calories and harmful saturated fats, and free of antibiotics and other chemicals. Rabbit liver is an “original” health food.
The meat is nutrient dense and about twice as filling as chicken. A little rabbit meat goes a long way.
Feed conversion rates are excellent for domestic rabbits. They convert calories to body weight much more efficiently, and cheaply, than other animals, particularly beef.
You can supplement their diet with your table scraps or garden wastes, or what you might have growing in your fields or about your neighborhood. In fact, many people never have to buy any type of commercial feed product.
They are easy to barter for other needed or desirable items, or sell as breeding stock to other people.
They are easy to butcher, process, and package.
Recipes for all parts of the rabbit abound. Stew it, grill it, bake or fry. The possibilities are endless, and it tastes great too!
Their droppings are fabulous for your garden, and you can sell the coveted manure. They also provide great food for your worms.
The rabbit skins can be made into many kinds of useful clothing.
Now you know why the rabbit has been called the ultimate homestead animal, or even “the new urban chicken”. I agree with each and every reason just mentioned, and can add a few more.
I despise shopping as a matter of principle anyway, and I consider any opportunity to avoid a trip to the market a celebrated victory. It saves money on gas and car expenses, which add up in a big hurry these days.
Why drive a car for several miles to pick up some groceries, when you can simply walk out your back door and grab some fine ingredients for your table? We like to pick some spinach and fork a couple of potatoes on our way back from the hutch. It’s called lunch, and we didn’t have to wait in a long line of frustrated people or suffer the indignities of a surly clerk. You might guess what we think of the self-serve scanning machine.
When you finish your meal, throw all of the leftover table scraps into your worm bin under your rabbit hutch. Bend down, and stir around until you have a pile of worms for your handy coffee can. Grab your trusty fishing rod, and head for the closest lake.
Have some fun, and relax. Spend a few hours in the fresh air and sun with a friend or a loved one. Catch a batch of scrappy fish for tomorrow’s meal. Save the offal and other bits from cleaning your fish, and give them to your chickens. They need some protein too, and it makes for happy and vibrant hens. Gather their bountiful eggs in the morning, add some selected produce from your garden in the backyard, and enjoy a comforting, leisurely breakfast.
Later, take a brisk walk along a quiet road to invigorate and tone. You’ll have the time, because you won’t need to shop for food. Be sure to wave at everyone else as they pass you on the way to the supermarket, and try not to flash a big, self-satisfied smile. No point in rubbing it in.
Challenging economic times call for ever more creative survival strategies. Food costs have exploded across the land, forcing families to squeeze every last penny from their rapidly devaluing dollars. Housing costs are another matter altogether and a home mortgage can be a terrible burden to bear. Just ask anyone who has lost their home through random hardship or the disappearing job. At times it seems a most unsolvable puzzle.
A man named MC (“Radiator Charlie”) Byles of West Virginia had a solution to these type of problems in the early 1940’s. In this case his answer was large and red and proud, and particularly delicious on a slab of steaming homemade bread with salt and mayonnaise.
A homespun gardener and inveterate tinkerer, he wanted to build a better, and bigger tomato. And build it he did. After several years of propagation his tomato plants could produce, mild, meaty, and delicious fruit of immense proportions. People flocked to his door for a look at a 3 pound tomato, and he was happy to accommodate them. Never one to miss an opportunity, he sold his seedling plants for $1 each and paid off his $6,000 home mortgage in a few short years. He named his new creation “the mortgage lifter”, and a backyard gardening legend was born.
That legend lives on today, and for good reason. Imagine paying off your property with the fruits of your backyard labor. Think about what life would be like without a house payment, or a weekly grocery bill large enough to choke a horse. It’s an inspiring and encouraging idea. It gives me hope. It can be done. Marshall Cletis Byles would tell you so, if he could.
I tip my gardening hat to him, and to the unbounded energies of his creativity. I’d say it’s time for many of us to take another look at his game changing idea. Perhaps it’s possible to follow his example and do our very best to lift the grinding weight of the mortgage from our backs. It may be an overly ambitious or unrealistic plan, but like him, I must try.
There are many ways to get there, and perhaps you have already begun or are well on your way. Our version of the “grocery lifter” comes in the form of rabbits and squab. Others beat back their bills with a small flock of geese, which possess the marvelous ability to efficiently convert grass to many pounds of tasty meat. The addition of a few pigs can provide miraculous results for your larder, particularly if you are a fan of pork and pig fat. Pigs, like tomatoes, have often been refered to as mortgage lifters. My neighbor has added a couple of steers to his small pasture and plans to keep one for the freezer and sell the other to cover his costs.
You may have an entirely different idea, but the intention is the same. I think it can be any animal or plant that works for you and fits your particular set of circumstances or comfort level.The important thing is that we all do a little to help ourselves and contribute to a more self-sufficient life. Every bit of food we can produce at home takes power form the corporate controlled food model. It gives us a reason to get up in the morning and keeps us grounded in the small satisfaction of a job well done.
So let’s hear it for the backyard gardener, the keeper of hens, the canner, and the prepper. Give thanks to the independent farmers and agricultural workers everywhere. Let’s revel in the joys of animal husbandry, fish farming, or beekeeping. Put a little bit of the farm and the old-fashioned barnyard back in your everyday life. You won’t regret it.
We can do it. We are doing it. Let’s decentralize, and unplug from the controlling grid. We must put our heads together, and our families and communities will follow. Let’s keep our friends close, and our enemies at bay. It’s the mortgage lifter revolution, because the very definition of mortgage is death and we must throw off the chains of that grim and unforgiving reaper of sorrows.
The spirit of MC Byles, like his seeds and giant heirloom tomatoes, live on. It can be seen in the successes of backyard entrepreneurs across the continents. Sometimes the path to independence and the bounty of a joyful life starts with a simple seed, planted in the welcoming and living earth of a backyard garden.
Long live the mortgage lifters and the backyard heroes, and the unlimited promise of a new day!
———-Do you have a backyard hero? Tell us your story…
“There’s nothin’ in the world that I like better than
Bacon, lettuce and home grown tomatoes Up in the morning and out in the garden Pick you a ripe one, don’t get a hard ‘un Plant ’em in the springtime eat ’em in the summer All winter without ’em’s a culinary bummer I forget all about the sweatin’ and the diggin’ Every time I go out and pick me a big’un
Home grown tomatoes, home grown tomatoes What’d life be without home grown tomatoes There’s only two things that money can’t buy That’s true love and home grown tomatoes
You can go out and eat ’em, that’s for sure But there’s nothin’ a home grown tomato won’t cure You can put ’em in a salad, put ’em in a stew You can make your own, very own tomato juice You can eat ’em with eggs, you can eat ’em with gravy You can eat ’em with beans, pinto or navy Put em on the side, put em on the middle Home grown tomatoes on a hot cake griddle
If I could change this life I lead You could call me Johnny Tomato Seed I know what this country needs It’s home grown tomatoes in every yard you see When I die don’t bury me In a box in a cold dark cemetery Out in the garden would be much better Where I could be pushin’ up home grown tomatoes”
From “Home Grown Tomato”, By Guy Clark, Sugar Hill Records, 1997.
Robert Rodale was a pioneer in the fields of organic gardening and local food production, as well as a giant in the publishing world. His words often ring more true today than when he wrote them, which is a gift in itself. I have reproduced some excerpts here from a small volume in my collection, which hold even more power given the fact that they were written in 1981. It provides another insight into the current discussions of the merits of gold as an investment, compared with the ability of an individual or family to provide food for one’s survival in the face of bad times.
For many, those bad times have visited their neighborhoods already, so they definitely hit a little too close to home.
“…we are heading into a soil and food crunch. I am convinced that the days of surplus farm and food production are almost over. My guess is that you haven’t heard or read about that possibility anywhere yet, except right here in these pages. But it is bound to happen…”
“The disruption of normal social and economic activities caused by a worldwide food shortage would probably increase the attractiveness of both gold and soil as investments. But I feel that if you compare the relative merits of each, soil is clearly the winner. And because of the shortage of food that is likely to occur within this decade, soil will soon replace gold as the most talked about and symbolic thing of enduring value.
This is going to happen because people have always put a higher value on things that are rare. Gold has always been rare, and will remain so, even though more is being mined all the time. But soil has never before been at short supply on a worldwide basis. Erosion and encroachment of deserts have ruined the soil of large regions, and their have been famines caused by bad weather. But never have people had to contend with the thought that, on a global basis, there isn’t enough soil to go around. Within a few years that will change. Soil will, for the first time, become rare. And worldwide television and news reports quoting crop production statistics and high food prices will carry that news everywhere.
A new symbolism of soil will develop. Until now, soil has symbolized dirt in the minds of many, especially city people who have little or no feel for the tremendous productive capacity of good soil. I think we are going to see that attitude change rapidly. Access to good earth will become the greatest of all forms of protection against inflation and a much stronger security blanket than it is now…”
“When you spend gold, it is gone. Soil properly cared for, is permanent…”
“I want to make one final point. Suppose you do have a hoard of small gold coins at home, and a food shortage develops here in the U.S. Hopefully, the cause will not be war, and it may not even be an absence of food in central storehouses. The shortage could be caused by transportation breakdowns, most likely a lack of fuel to carry food from farms to processing plants to supermarkets.
Where would you take your gold coin to buy food? In postwar Italy, as in this country several decades ago, small diversified farms could be found near all towns and cities. There were even truck farms within the city limits of New York. All are gone now. Many americans would have to walk or ride their bicycles for hours to get to a farm, and then likely would find an agribusiness operation with bins of one or two commodities on hand. Spending your coin would present a real challenge.
So the best fall back possession is not gold, but a large garden and a pantry of home-produced food.”
From the introduction by Robert Rodale, in the book titled “Fresh Food, Dirt Cheap (All Year Long!) by The Editors of Gardening Magazine.
“I wish to have an intimate relationship with earthworms, and soil”. – Michael Patrick McCarty
Today I ate a homegrown cherry tomato, and I liked it. It was perfectly ripe, bursting with flavor, and it did not travel 1000 miles or more to get to my mouth. In fact, I picked it from my sun room, just a few steps from where I write this.
I ate it because it was good, and I could.
To eat it supports a system in which I believe, one that is right in so many ways. It is a local transaction, of that there is no doubt. More than that, it is a conscious and personal act. I tended and nurtured that small plant, and I studied it’s growing fruit with hope and anticipation.
To eat a tomato from the supermarket more than likely supports a system that I do not believe in. That tomato depends on chemicals, the corporate model, and long distance transport, steeped in diesel. It rarely tastes like a tomato either.
Thus, I so protest. I pop it into my mouth and I eat my cherry tomato which was just a second ago still attached to the vine. It is an inconsequential act, I suppose, but it still holds power. It makes me feel better. It may not change the world in any significant way this day, but it did change my world, and for the moment, that is enough.
This special re-print edition of E.H. Rice’s “National Standard Squab Book” from 1915 includes everything a person needs to know about how to raise pigeons for meat purposes. At over 400 pages, this book contains a mountain of practical information on how to raise your own steady supply of quality pigeon meat in your own backyard from only a very moderate investment. Included is everything the beginner needs to know about raising pigeons for squabs, including how to house them, how to set your own pigeon loft up, their feeding requirements, how to cure basic pigeon diseases, how to select breeders and how to process your own squabs. Also included are hundreds of letters from turn of the century breeders who raised their own squabs for the kitchen table, as well as for market purposes, who shared their own practical experiences on how they raised their own meat pigeons, along with hundreds of economic shortcuts on low cost housing, feeders, watering systems and other tips. Also included are expert answers to common and uncommon questions on the subject. This treasure trove of information is lavishly illustrated with period photographs. Note: This edition is a perfect facsimile of the original edition and is not set in a modern typeface. As a result, some type characters and images might suffer from slight imperfections or minor shadows in the page background.
Most people are quite familiar with the image of a pigeon, a bird commonly seen in the courtyards and barnyards across the globe. But did you know that young pigeons, or squab, are considered a delicacy by millions of people? Or that squab farming in the backyard or on the rooftop may be more common than you might think?
And oh by the way, just what exactly is a “utility pigeon”?
A good place to begin an investigation is with the origin of the word pigeon. It is “pijon” in old french, meaning “young dove”, and “pipio” in Latin, or “young chirping bird”. Another clue can be found in the definition of utility, which means useful, beneficial, or profitable. Our good friend the pigeon is all of that, and more, and can certainly meet those basic requirements.
Utility Pigeon is a general term that is broadly applied to describe any breed of domestic pigeon that is kept primarily for the production of meat. Sometimes referred to as “working birds”, they are capable of producing an adequate number of young, or squabs, of suitable weight and quality to justify their production costs.
By their nature, some breeds of pigeons are more productive, and profitable, than others. Pigeons in general have been intensively and selectively bred for many centuries, with many breeds falling in and out of favor along with the whims of the times and other developments.
The standards today include the King Pigeon of various colors, the Red Carneau, and the French and Swiss Mondaines, to name just a few. All can make excellent squabbing pigeons, though the White King seems to be preferred by many commercial breeders.
In fact, careful and judicial breeding with productivity in mind is the story of the Utility Pigeon. Notice that the very origin of the word pigeon emphasizes the young bird, or squab, which gives us some true insight into what the originators were thinking all along. Utility pigeons produce squabs, lots and lots of squabs, to our everlasting epicurean delight. They are the steady workhorses of the pigeon world. They work to live, and live to work. It’s what they do, without apology, nor complaint.
They are indeed a most useful and utilitarian bird.
Once easily found and gathered in the wildlands of times past, they have been a reliable source of animal protein throughout the course of human history. Pigeons were without a doubt the first domesticated poultry, preceding even the chicken, as is more commonly thought. Once domesticated, they became a favorite menu item for every culture and society throughout the world.
Most squab grown for commercial or backyard harvest weigh one pound or less, and present a perfect serving portion for one person. Since squab are harvested at 24-28 days old and hence have never flown, they are extremely tender when properly prepared.
A succulent, dark-meated bird, squab has a full-bodied flavor with an accent of the wild, without being too rich like a duck can sometimes be. Delicate and moist when cooked, it is considered a preeminent ingredient in cuisines as diverse as French, Moroccan, or Cantonese. They offer a taste and texture truly unlike any other bird.
A favorite of homesteaders and homegrown epicures, they can be easily raised and harvested, providing a welcome source of meat throughout the year.
I really can’t tell you exactly why, but pigeons have always fascinated me. Common may they be, but I never tire of watching them do their normal pigeon things. I love to see them on the wing, too.
Call me a pigeon fancier, I suppose. I raised them for several years, and one of the highlights of my day was always that first visit in the morning to feed them and to see how they fared through the night. They never failed to brighten my day.
I don’t have a flock right now, but I can tell you that there are some birds in my near future.
They seem such a necessary part of the backyard, or homestead, once you have experienced the joys of the pigeon.
Some insight into the nature of the bird can be gained by examining the definition and the origin of the word.
Any of various birds of the widely distributed family Columbidae, characteristically having plump bodies, small heads, and short legs, especially the rock dove or any of its domesticated varieties.
Word Origins early 13c., from O.Fr. pijon “young dove,” probably from V.L. *pibionem, dissimilation from L.L. pipionem “squab, young chirping bird” (3c.), acc. of L. pipio “chirping bird,” from pipire “to peep, chirp,” of imitative origin. Modern spelling is from later Fr. pigeon. Replaced culver (O.E. culufre, from V.L. *columbra, from L. columbula) and native dove.
If you have any doubt as to the character of the bird, I have always liked this excerpt that I found in “Home Cookbook Of Wild Meat and Game”, by Bradford Angier.
“The modern city pigeon is a descendant of the rock pigeon that in the Old World dwelled among the cliffs and crevices above the caves in which early man built his first fires. He has been with us since our emergence from the ice ages and has adapted as readily as ourselves to the artificial canyons of man’s first walled towns. He has known the Grecian palaces and the metropolises of Byzantium. His cold flat feet, adapted to high and precarious walking, have sauntered in the temples of vanished gods as readily as in Boston’s old North Station”.
Think about that, next time you contemplate a pigeon.
“Hold on to what is good, even if it’s a handful of earth. Hold on to what you believe, even if it’s a tree that stands by itself. Hold on to what you must do, even if it’s a long way from here. Hold on to your life, even if it’s easier to let go. Hold on to my hand, even if someday I’ll be gone away from you”.
— A Pueblo Indian Prayer
As many of you know, a mountain goat can perform some miraculous feats while living their everyday lives in the extreme and mostly vertical world of their home habitats. For them, every step can require unwavering courage in the face of uncertainty and ultimate disaster.
Sometimes…that’s exactly what it feels like to be a seeker of truth, and a prepper…
Somehow, for better or worse, this photo looks much too much like the road I’m on…
This March marks the 25th year anniversary of our launch into the business side of the world of used and rare books. And what a big, big, wordy world it is.
Along the way, we found out what it was like to run a mail order business with its printed catalogs and pay by good check, long before “Google” was a household name. We discovered the skills needed to successfully operate a brick and mortar bookstore on main street U.S.A., never imagining that such a hopeful enterprise would run into the concrete walls of the big box stores and mostly go the way of the dinosaurs. We rode the wave of Ebay, Paypal, and the internet bookstore, and watched the book world change in so many ways that it’s sometimes hard to remember why we became booksellers in the first place.
It has been a unique and rollicking adventure, though not recommended for the faint of heart. You might say we’ve handled a lot of books in those two decades, and I’ve got the creaky and complaining back to prove it. I don’t mind telling you that it is not an easy way to make a living, particularly in a world of ever-increasing electronic distractions and a struggling world economy. It is not a place for anyone wishing to avoid a challenge, or face a steadily rising and unending learning curve. A great memory doesn’t hurt a thing either, especially if you can keep it.
I can also say that I would not have changed a thing about the journey. We’ve met a lot of great people along the way – people who love the books as much as us – and more. Our conversations within the limitless universe of mind bending ideas and printed happenings have been epic, and I can still hear many of them reverberating in my head from days so long ago.
“Wow, you must get to read a lot”, is an oft-repeated phrase. Well, don’t we wish.
The life of a book dealer is a full one, and the motto “So many books, so little time” is the Bookman’s lament. We make a living one book at a time, and every decision to buy is based on our knowledge and experience and the ability to find a buyer and turn a profit, each and every time. Buy wrong, and die.
No wonder that “No pain, no gain”, and “risk it all” are the rallying cries of the fiercely independent.
Small matter, I say. It is the tightly focused hunt in the dimly lit bookstalls and the love of carefully bound volumes that drives us before the hounds. Perhaps you know just exactly what I mean.
To all of our customers and the cherished book friends we’ve made over the years – Thank You – and best wishes from the deep well of our book loving souls. It is your love of words and unquenchable thirst for knowledge that keeps us doing what we do. For that, we are most eternally grateful.
Here’s to another 25 years of black ink and the printed page, and the people of the book – God willing….
A lawyer I am not, but I do not require the skill of a legal sage to determine that the recent Obamacare decision has rocked the Tree of Liberty in this once great, united, United States of America. The so-called “Supreme Court” has delivered a devious blow, and I can feel the treacherous poison of that dastardly deed drill deep in her anchoring roots.
I have long since lost patience with all aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In fact, I’m angry, and I don’t like that. I’m even angrier because I know that I should not have to be angry. The “Act” was unconstitutional when it was rammed down our throats without our approval. It was unconstitutional when it was sent to the Supreme Court for consideration, and it’s still unconstitutional today, no matter what they say. Even I know that.
Obamacare was put into effect with blunt force trauma, like a doctor performing intricate brain surgery with a long-handled shovel. The procedure cracked the skull and killed the patient with the first big swing, as surely as a surgically placed bullet from the gun of a skilled assassin. In this case the assassin wore a black rope, and his gun was a black ink pen held behind a tall bench in the highest court of the land.
We may never know the true motivations of the man who ultimately decided the fate of Obamacare. That may be between him and whatever god and judgements he may suffer. We do know that it is a complete and utter sham, and not even a good one at that. It is a gift from the dark side, delivered in full sunlight by a new world order as old as time itself, with a mission to create chaos out of the natural order of all good things.
Countries, like men, are the products of countless decisions which impact the makeup of the collective body, and soul. The soul can grow angry, which can make the body very sick. It does not wish to muck about the putrid innards of an angry and rageful man. Nor does it wish to live within the confines of a country so tragically damaged, and fatally diseased.
My level of anger is indescribable. A bucket of cold water in the face of it would not blunt it. It burns as hot as the primordial ember of the first man, who left the trees in search of god and human destiny. That first spark has not gone out. Forever on It waits, to burn out the eternal sickness for once, and for all. It was created just for that. It is part of my soul, and of your’s, and it will burn even brighter long after the body is gone.
Loyal readers of this blog are likely well versed on the importance of food preservation and storage. Many of you have been practicing preparedness for some time and perhaps you are equally skilled in the art of water bath and pressure canning, dehydrating and meat curing. If you’re adventurous, you may even have experience making cheese. However, I suspect that most readers have not ventured far into cheese making and, those who have taken the plunge, have likely experimented with softer/fresh cheeses such as mozzarella, chèvre, ricotta and perhaps even camembert. Indeed, these are the cheese varieties that most aspiring cheese makers begin with.
Those are all fine cheeses that are not difficult to make. They each have a very high moisture content of 50% or more which lends to the soft, creamy texture that so many love. However, since moisture is a requirement for the hospitable environment to support listeria monocytogenes, salmonella, e. coli and other pathogenic growth that you do not want to battle with limited medical assistance, such as in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, I would like to inspire you to make more shelf stable and far safer food in the form of aged cheeses…
The state of New Jersey was nicknamed the garden state in 1876, apparently because it was so obviously filled with so many good things to eat. Later, it became famous for it’s truck farms, which supplied a wide variety of agricultural and dairy products to the large appetites of New York City and Philadelphia. It was still pretty farmy and rural in 1958, when I came along. This was especially true of the southern part of the state, where I grew up.
We moved into a wonderful old house when I was about four years old, on what had once been a working dairy farm on the edge of the Wharton State Forest, and the soon to be protected Pine Barrens. The previous farmers had long since moved away, and the property was sadly neglected and over run with brush and debris. I don’t think my parents thought it was all so wonderful, considering the great work at hand needed to make a proper home for my bothers and sister and I. But it was more than wonderful to me, a young boy with adventure, and nature, close at hand, and just outside the big farmhouse windows.
It was a big, big world to explore, and our immediate acreage kept me occupied through the change of several seasons. After all, our towering and decaying dairy barn was full of pigeons and starlings and rats, and unknown animal moanings. Cottontail rabbits bolted from behind nearly every brush pile, and if I was lucky and quiet I could find a deer under our apples trees in the back lot, late in the evening. Every day held the promise of some new momentous discovery, and I was eager to escape the watchful eye of my mother each morning.
We built forts and played army, hide and seek, and tag, and other games. We fabricated crude animal traps and sat for hours in waiting. I don’t believe we ever caught anything. We hung upside down from trees, and dared our fates. We chased lightning bugs in the early summer evenings, and put them in jars, and watched them light up. We giggled and laughed for the fun of it. Sometimes, we just laid on our backs in the tall green grass and counted big puffy clouds. We did what all kids do when left to roam free, and the hours melted into time and childhood memory.
My mother let us have our heads, with some rules, of course. The big rule was that we were not to leave our property, or play by the roads. That worked just fine for many months, as I had no desire to leave her protective cover or test her motherly patience. That is, until the day I did.
Across the road stood an ominous tangle of tall, matted grass, impenetrable bramble, and forbidding brush that stretched to the forseeable horizon. It was dark and scary looking, and I had been warned many times not to go in there. Still, it beckoned and called, and I began to stare at it, and study. What was in there, I wondered? It begged to be investigated, and conquered.
I remember disappearing into there with another friend, one big, summer day. We steeled ourselves on the edge of the abyss, and dove in. We planned to stay together, for moral support, and of course immediately lost track of one another. I called a time or two with no result. My fear rose in my throat, and I wanted to spin around and jump back out. But my curiosity was stronger, and after some deep quick breaths I continued on, to face whatever lurked ahead.
Another step, and I was totally lost in a magical world of new life and unknown creatures. Any thought of time or past concerns receded into the hot and sticky air, and the sweat poured out of me and stung my eyes as I tried to take it all in. Insects buzzed in my ears. Small birds of all shapes and colors flitted all around me as I worked my way through the brush, and small things scurried in the leaves. Catbirds and mockingbirds called incessantly, pulling me on. A bobwhite quail flushed at my feet, disappearing through some unseen window into the open sky. There were so many birds it was impossible to see them all. Bluejays and meadowlarks called just ahead. Everywhere was birdsong and animal noises, so loud it was nearly deafening. I could not get enough. I had to hear and see it all. Nothing could stop me.
Still, fear was at the edge and began to pick at my adventure. Big black and yellow garden spiders hung in wide, embracing webs, and made me pause. Branches whipped my face and stung me silly. I tripped a few times and fell down. At times it was so thick I had to drop to my belly and slither like a snake. I hoped that I did not meet a real reptile, face to face, at least not then. Once, I became entangled in clawing vines so thick and sharp I began to panic and cry, as small spots of blood appeared on my skin. I wondered what in the world I had gotten myself into, and if I would ever be able to get back home. I thought of my mother, and what she would do if she knew I was here. Where was she? What had I done? Why had I left my house?
I freed myself from the briars and made one last push forward. I saw a clearing just ahead, and my excitement and sense of adventure returned instantly. I was fearless. I was brave, and I had won. A few more steps and I was clear of it, as I knelt to brush spider webs from my hands and pull leaves and prickly stickers from my collar.
I rubbed the sweat from my nose, then stood, and looked ahead. I could not believe my eyes, and the breath left me all at once! I gasped like a goldfish plucked from his bowl for the first time, with no past experience to cushion the shock of it. I had been transported to some other special place, in fact some other planet in a galaxy far, far away. It was the beauty of it all that grabbed me. It reached in and shook me, all the way to my toes.
Chickens of all shapes, and colors of the rainbow scratched gloriously in the yellow glow of the late morning sun. An iridescent rooster strutted about his hens, head high, and watching. Some bright, white ducks waddled across the yard heading for who knows where. A big blue peacock unfolded his massive tail and danced, in front of a hutch filled with giant, splotchy rabbits. Sparrows chirped and hopped about, no doubt looking for waste grain in the dirt. I saw a small pony in a stall in the shade of a big maple tree.
My feet could not move, nor did they want to. I knew I had stumbled upon an undiscovered country of limitless bounty. I stared at the dilapidated, drafty barn and the irregular lines of an old ramshackle house. Strange smells hung in the breeze, and the pIace had a feel all of it’s own. It was all so new that I had nothing in my small experience to compare it to. My mind struggled as it downloaded massive amounts of new data, racing to correlate and associate each new piece of information.
The place had the look and feel of a broken down but comfortable pair of old work boots.The buildings and yard had no doubt been hacked from brush like I had just come from, and was now losing the unending battle and melding back into nature’s turmoil. Vines and small trees grew under and through old farm machinery and scrap. Farm sheds were starting to list and fall, with sagging doorways and slipped siding.
Still, every aspect of this eternal homestead bursted with sound and smell, and life. I was mesmerized. I wanted to know what was behind the next outbuilding, and explore every nook and cranny of that place. I wanted to become part of it, and maybe stay there forever. Or wrap it all up, with all it’s parts and pieces, and take it home. It was part of me, already.
Emboldened now, I took a step, and it all changed in a big hurry. Just one step, and the big rooster spied me and let out a warning cackle. He clucked to his hens as he gathered them up, and steered them towards their coop. A cow bellowed from the deep shadows of the barn, as a small herd of kittens stopped their shadow boxing with each other and turned my way. Morning doves stopped cooing from the tops of the huge oak trees above us. I heard a goose let loose, honking loudly from the back of the barn, followed by the strange and stuttering exclamations of some spotted guinea hens as they lept for the trees.
Everywhere I looked was some animal head peeking from in and around countless hiding spots. They had me dead to rights, as if some great spotlight caught me in midstride and lit me up for all the world to see.
I heard a small dog yap, and then a screen door slam, as I saw her. On the barn side of the house stood a large, plump women, with an ample bossum, held in threadbare cloths. She stared ahead from across the barnyard, framed by the vibrant green of tall cornstalks with yellow tassles. She was middle-aged or more, matronly, and perhaps a little near-sighted as she searched for the cause of the commotion in her barnyard. Something was amiss, and she would find out what it was.
She knew the sounds and tone of her world on a normal morning. It was etched within her consciousness, and any change was as obvious to her as a brass marching band in her living room. There was a disturbance in the field and fabric of their existence, and an intruder in their midst. They were tightly connected, one and all, communicating perfectly through various and mysterious means.
The little terrier growled and shook, as it glared at me from between the safety of her stout legs. She wrang her hands on a dish towel as she methodically assessed the situation. Still as a statue, I hung with one foot in the air and waited.
apparently, I was not too hard to find. No doubt she just looked where every other animal in the world was staring until she found me. I remember seeing her see me, as a bit of surprise, and annoyance appeared on her face. I have no way of knowing what she thought, but I am sure I was not what she expected to find.
My exhilaration and thrill of discovery had instantly vanished, and I remember feeling that I had somehow violated her space in a way most painful. I was a varmint, an uninvited party crasher, a barbarian at the gate. This was her kingdom, and I was far past the edge of my realm. At any rate, I had already exhausted my supply of courage. It was all too much for a young boy on his first expedition from home.
Before she could move or even say a word, I broke and took off like a cannon-shot into the world from which I came. I charged like the fox ahead of the hounds, and I scared the bejeebers out of a lot of birds and little creatures as I crashed headlong through the heavy understory. I don’t remember much about the journey, except that I completed the return trip a lot faster than the first one, and some skin was lost in the process. It took some band aids and a lot of hydrogen peroxide, together with some tender loving care from my mother, to make things right again.
I don’t think I ever told her about my true adventure or the woman in the barnyard. At the time it was far to big to capture and explain within the limited vocabulary of my youth. But, like all mothers, she already knew that I had been somewhere that I should not have been, yet had to be. It was a boy’s adventure, and mine to own, and hold. It is still there, when I need it.
I never did see the woman again. By the time I was old enough to freely wander the neighborhood, she was gone and her farm abandoned like so many across the south of Jersey. I never knew what became of her. I only knew that she was gone, and that somehow a way of life had vanished along with her.
I can still see her standing there in that place, with her animals all around. I wish I could talk to her and come to know a little of her life. I would like to know how long she had lived there, and if she had found herself alone as the homestead fell down around her. If I could, I would ask her if she had raised a family there, and where they had gone. I would ask her if she had raised a young boy or two of her own, and if they had brought her contentment then, and later, in her old age.
Most of all, I would apologize for my intrusion and hope it was not too much of a burden to bear. I would love to explain to her how she has stuck in my mind, and that I have not forgotten her.
Looking back, I wish things remained as simple and true as the bond between a mother hen and her chicks, or a mother and her boy. It would be grand if life was as safe and protective as an undisturbed barnyard, and as comforting as a farm at peace. I think I have hunted and searched for her barnyard ever since.
I will find it one day, somehow. I hope a small, wild child of a boy is just around the corner, and he will find it too.
Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 2-Quart Round French Oven, Caribbean
Shown in Flame Color
Shown in Flame Color
Also known as a Dutch oven, this updated kitchen classic enhances the cooking process by evenly distributing heat and locking in the optimal amount of moisture. With ergonomic handles and an advanced interior enamel that resists chipping and cleans easily, Le Creuset’s French ovens blend the best of the past with the latest innovations in comfort and functionality.
Colorful, long-lasting exterior enamel resists chipping and cracking; interior enamel is engineered to resist staining and dulling
Sand-colored interior enamel makes it easy to monitor food as it cooks, preventing burning and sticking
Oversized handles provide even weight distribution and a secure grip
Ergonomic composite knobs are heat resistant to 500?F
Built-in lid stabilizers provide a secure, no-slide fit
The lightest weight per quart of any premium cast iron cookware available
Each piece from our extensive range of high-quality enameled cast iron cookware is designed for ease and versatility of use, fitting in with all styles of cooking, all types of cooking appliances and any style of kitchen or dining decor. Please read this section before using your cookware for the first time. The information it contains will help you achieve the best possible cooking results.
Enameled cast iron is a remarkable and robust material that performs well with modern requirements for food preparation and cooking. Whether you choose to stir-fry, slow-cook a casserole, sear a steak or bake a cake, there is a shape that is suitable. Cast iron performs well for either slow cooking or high-temperature searing.
Cast iron can be used reliably on any heat source, including induction, and with any oven or grill. It has the ability to retain heat efficiently, which allows for use of lower heat settings in stovetop and oven cooking. On the table, a hot covered dish will keep food hot for second servings.
Cast iron can also be used to keep foods cold. A chilled dish becomes an ideal cold food server on a hot summer day. It can also be placed in the freezer for food storage or advanced food preparation
High heat temperatures should only be used for boiling water for vegetables or pasta, or for reducing the consistency of stocks or sauces. High heats should never be used to preheat a pan before lowering the heat for cooking. Cast iron retains heat so efficiently that overheating will cause food to burn or stick.
The vitreous enamel surface is impermeable and therefore ideal for raw or cooked food storage, and for marinating with acidic ingredients such as wine.
I have noticed that one of the most common superlatives used to describe the taste of a squab is “delectable”. Webster defines the meaning as highly pleasing, delightful, and delicious, and others add luscious, extremely pleasing to the sense of taste, and capable of causing desire.
Having now eaten a few, I must concur, and quite vigorously, at that.
My adventures in the world of pigeons and squabs came after reading “Raising Small Meat Animals” by Victor M. Giammattei. His chapter named “Raising Delectable Squabs” caught my eye, and I quote from the first paragraph.
It reads: “Curiously, few people today are familiar with squabs, even fewer have eaten them, and fewer yet have raised them. There’s no logic in this, for squabs are easy to raise, and their meat is the finest of all poultry meats”.
O.K., you have my attention, sir! I was one of the uninitiated, for at that time I had never eaten a squab either nor seen it offered.
He went on. “Squab ranks along with filet mignon, lobster, or suckling kid (young goat). It is found only on the menus of better restaurants and hotels, on steamships, in country clubs, and in some hospitals. It has been a dinner entrée for kings, queens, and other nobility since the time of the ancient greeks…Considering the ease with which they can be raised, the quality of their meat, and the modest cost to the backyard grower, there is no reason why the energetic family should be without squab meat – in the author’s opinion, the choicest of all meats”.
No reason, I asked? Could it really be that good, and how by the way had I managed to miss this enticing taste sensation? Sign me up, says I.
If this were not enough to convince me about the quality of squab, I have since found other interesting references. Philippa Scott, from her “Gourmet Game”, lists a recipe for “Trid”, or Moroccan Pancakes Stuffed With Pigeon. She writes: “In his “Moorish Recipes”, John, fourth Marquis of Bute, suggests that this dish might well have been introduced into Morocco in the time of Mulai Idris, descendent of the Prophet Mohammed, who fled to Morocco from Mecca, and whose body lies buried at Fez, the land of his exile. It is reputed to be the oldest Arab dish, and it is said that when the Prophet Mohammed was asked what he liked best in the world, he answered that he loved his wife above everything, but after her he loved “Trid”.
The chinese have raised squab for over 2000 years. Today squab farms are big business in china, with several hundred being operated with government approval and encouragement. They are also big medicine. The chinese believe that squab is not only delicious and easily digestible, but that the meat and broth can be used to treat a variety of health ailments. The ancient people used to call pigeons “the sweet blooded animal”, and can be used to cure anemia, weakness, and fatigue. It can be used to prevent high blood pressure, vascular sclerosis, and osteoporosis, just to name a few. Pigeon was the first kind of poultry to be designated as “green food” from the China Green Food Development Center, which means pigeon is the most clean and unsullied meat product to consume.
On the american scene, the use of squab may be a result of the people’s memory and fondness for the tenderness and taste of the passenger pigeon, and we know what happened to that miraculous horde. They ate them. Thomas Jefferson and the history of the United States are forever intertwined. Among many other things, Jefferson was a “foodie”, should there have been a such a term around in those days. He loved his land, his crops, and his meals provided from them. He was famous for his dinner parties and for his dinner guests. Squab was on the menu, raised from his own lofts. “Squab in Compote”, a french recipe, was one of his favorite dishes.
William Randolph Hearst, in his day, was one of the richest and most powerful men in america. Like Jefferson, he was also famous for his dinner parties and the extensive menus. The estate was well-known for its squab loft’s and squab dinners, served to other american royalty and celebrities lucky enough to be included on the guest list. If they were very fortunate, “Hearst Ranch Squab” a roasted, stuffed bird, would be on the table.
So folks, try a squab today. If it’s good enough for a prophet, an american founding father, and one of the world’s richest men, it’s good enough for me. After all, 1.4 billion Chinese, with a “B”, cannot be wrong.
By the way, did I mention that you can raise them in a small backyard? You don’t have to be born of royal blood lines either, but you can dine like you do. They are, a most “delectable” bird.
Trid: Moroccan Pancakes Stuffed With Pigeon
1 1/2 pound pigeon meat, cut into about 20 pieces. Salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, good pinch of saffron, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 stick cinnamon, 1 tablespoon chopped chervil,1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 3 large onions (chopped), 1/2 cup water, 1 cup olive oil, 3 heaping cups flour.
Simmer the meat, salt and pepper, spices and herbs, onions, water, and 1/2 cup olive oil in a heavy casserole with a tight-fitting lid. Make a simple dough with the flour and very little water. Work it thoroughly, then make it into about 20 balls about the size of small hen’s eggs. Flatten each on a lightly oiled board into a very thin disc. Cook each on a dry griddle, not too hot but cooked on each side.
Arrange 1/2 of these cooked pancakes in a oven proof dish, overlapping each other and coming up the sides of the dish. When the meat is tender, remove the cinnamon stick, and arrange the meat on top of the pancakes. Cover with the remaining pancakes. Pour a little of the cooking liquid over the trid, and serve the rest as a sauce.
From Gourmet Game: Recipes and Anecdotes From Around The World by Philippa Scott.
Squab in Compote
6 plump squabs, 2 tablespoons butter, i cup finely chopped onion, 1 finely diced carrot, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 slices diced bacon, 1/4 pound sliced mushrooms, 1/3 cup Sherry, or Madeira.
Truss the squabs. Melt butter in a casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid. Add squabs along with onion, carrot, and salt. Saute until delicately browned on all sides, turning the birds frequently. Next add the bacon, mushrooms, and sherry or Madeira. Cover tightly and simmer in the oven gently for 40 or 45 minutes or until tender when tested with a fork. Do not over cook or they will fall apart. Remove birds, and serve with the sauce on the side.
Hearst Ranch Squab
6 plump squabs, 3 cups bread crumbs, 4 eggs, 2 cups grated Romano cheese, 2 gloves garlic, 2 teaspoons chopped parsley, 3 chopped onions, pinch of marjoram, salt and pepper to taste, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 cup claret.
Drain squabs dry, cut off tips of wings. Mix ingredients, except oil and claret. Stuff birds with mixture and skewer closed. Brush birds with oil and place breast up in an uncovered baking dish. Bake in oven preheated to 400 degrees until brown (35 minutes). Brush with oil, baste with claret. Serve on thin toast with a Borderlino or California red wine.