When I was 16 years old and a junior in high school I went on an elk hunting trip to Noxon, Montana. I was anticipating a week of being in the great outdoors, sharing stories with the other hunters, and spending quality time with my father. Little did I know that my eyes would be opened to a way of living that I didn’t think existed anymore in modern America, subsistence hunting. Many hunters may hunt for sport or trophy, while others just enjoy the outdoors so much they crave feeling connected to it. But subsistence hunters hunt strictly to provide food for themselves and their families. Simply put, it’s hunting for survival. This makes me think of our ancestors as hunters and gatherers and the high stake life that they lived, never sure of their next meal. The people who introduced me to this way of hunting, and for them way of life, were at the time the 20-23 year old hunting guides at the lodge. For them hunting wasn’t a pastime or favorite hobby, it was how they supported their families and put food on the table. Look at it this way. A mature bull (male) elk weighs about 700lbs. Such an animal will yield roughly 200lbs of lean meat. This is enough to last a family of four an entire calendar year. All at the cost of one well placed rifle round or arrow. For reference a 1 pound filet from your local supermarket costs around $14.
The world we live in today is riddled with environmental problems. From threatening biodiversity loss, to irregular weather patterns, and all the other degradations that come with climate change. It is obvious that people want to help and make a difference, but so often it feels like hunting is overlooked as a legitimate option. I do acknowledge that hunting is not for everyone, and not everyone can hunt. But for those who truly love the outdoors, want to do their part, and are looking to feel a little more wild then the next step is to apply for a hunting license.
I take a lot of inspiration from the guides I met on that trip. But being a college student in eastern Massachusetts makes it a little difficult to follow this archetype of subsistence hunting. I hope to one day be able to call myself a subsistence hunter and truly live to hunt and hunt to live.
Growing up in my hometown in Connecticut the farming lifestyle was very foreign to many. It is rare to see sights of rural lifestyle such as stretched out acres of land or animals roaming. Yet somehow when we traveled just 30 minutes away from us to Grandma’s house it was like we entered a different world. Pulling into her driveway never ceased to amaze me as a kid. Peacocks, showcasing their beautiful vibrant feathers would walk right up to us, welcoming us as we got out of the car. As I entered the house the view took my breathe away every time. Through every angle of the house, the windows that spanned the entire rear, gave a glimpse of the backyard: a small piece of farming paradise. The hundreds of acres of land were home to horses, cows, ponys, chickens, goats, rabbits, you name it, my grandparents had it all.
Grandma’s house served as a symbol of togetherness for my family. It was the place we usually all gathered as Grandpa never liked to leave the animals for long, and it was the place my cousins who live far away always stayed. However, even though we were together it was the animals that brought out some of our best memories as a family. As the animals were raised on the farm, so were we. Just as we had milestones in our everyday lives, we had milestones on the farm as well. When we reached a certain age, we could learn how to horseback ride. When we had something to celebrate, we got to release pigeons into the air. When the baby goats were born, we each got to claim one and had to learn how to take care of it. Through growing up in this environment, I was taught many lessons about all kinds of animals, what they eat, how they sleep, the different sounds they make, etc. But what I cherished more than the lessons were the bonds I created with my grandparents and the newfound appreciation for my food. Every time we had a sleepover at Grandma’s, I would wake up the earliest in the morning just so I could walk down to the chicken coop with Grandpa and collect the eggs for breakfast. It was sort of him and I’s special thing we got to do together. I remember thinking how cool it was that I could taste the food on my plate and just by looking out the window could see directly where it came from. Everything we ate at Grandma’s tasted better, fresher but most of all made you feel more connected to it as you knew the story of where it came from.
As we got older, so did the animals, and so did my grandparents. The animals slowly began to die off and it became harder and harder for my grandparents to take care of them with their age. The farm eventually declined until there was nothing left and my Grandparents sold their land and eventually their house on it as well. Even though the farm is gone, the memories from it never will be. We will continue to sit around the table every holiday and tell stories of the time I got bucked off the horse into the chicken coop, the way my little brother would cry every time a peacock approached him would cry “no peacock no peacock”, or how my sister fell so in love with one of the bunnies we brought it back into our own home. These are stories I know will live on in our family. We will always look back at the farm and cherish our experiences as well as appreciate the things we eat and the animals they came from.
Pictured : My siblings and I with some of the animals 🙂
I moved to Meeting House Road the summer before my first year of middle school. For the first few years, the old white colonial that my bedroom window faced always seemed lifeless. Rumors of the house being haunted even circled the naive brains of my fellow neighborhood friends and I. I’m not sure anyone occupied it for some period of time. Then, during my high school years, a family of four with two big dogs moved in. Little did we know what kind of transformation our backyard view would undergo. It all started with a few small white planters filled with assorted vegetables and herbs. The neighbors were beginning a multi-year project of building a backyard organic farm. About a year after the planters came a chicken coop. These feathered friends would roam their backyard and occasionally find their way into ours. I remember the sounds of waking up and hearing their clucks to start my day. Soon after came more and more planters, a white farm fence, and a fully operating local organic farm.
This farm does not fit the mold of what you may typically visualize. The farm is located in an everyday suburban neighborhood on a half acre piece of land. You may ask why they would choose to farm in such a small, populated area. We wondered that too, so my parents asked them. The answer they gave is very intriguing, being that they wanted their kids to live a “normal” suburban life while also sustaining their passion for organic farming. Seeing their once barren backyard turn into a thriving farm full of life was very rewarding and I am excited to see what they have in store for the future. As someone who hasn’t been exposed to that type of living before, it was very eye opening to watch them engage in such a lifestyle.
Last year in late July my parents decided that it would be a good time to redo all of the garden around our pool and in front of the house. They had asked the guy who usually does our landscaping, but he wouldn’t be able to do it for another couple weeks so my parents decided that we would do it ourselves to get it over with. By we I mean they planned to make me and my brother do most of the work. They had a massive pile of mulch dropped off and my mom went to the store and picked up a bunch of different flowers and plants. I was basically bribed to help them with the promise of money after the job was finished, but what I got out of this experience was worth so much more.
On this particular day it was sunny and about 80 degrees out which isn’t exactly ideal weather for mulching. This project also happened to take us about four hours. My brother and I switched off between gathering the mulch in a wheelbarrow and dumping it out in the gardens and spreading the mulch throughout the gardens so everything was even. Those wheelbarrows get a lot heavier than you’d expect, especially when you’re making the trip over and over again around the house. It took us about 1 1/2 hours to mulch around the front of the house and the small garden further out front and then another 1 1/2 hours to mulch around three quarters of the pool inside the fenced area. The remaining hour was spent planting the different plants and flowers my mom had picked up at the store.
When we had finished there was a very noticeable difference from before we started. What had previously just been some dirt and a few flowers was now some beautifully mulched gardens filled with blossoming flowers and healthy plants. Through all of the time, soreness, and sweat I had gotten so much out of this experience. It was so rewarding to walk outside each day and look around and know that I had done this. That all around my house looked so much better because of the work that I had put in. It really makes you appreciate it so much more. Sure we could’ve just waited the couple weeks until the landscaper could come, but I’m glad my parents made me and my brother do the work. Though it was somewhat hard work, I would gladly do it all again in another year or two for them.
Though this was just a small scale project, it gave me a glimpse at how hard it must be for people to run and maintain a farm or larger garden. I gained a lot of new respect for people who do stuff like that on a daily basis.
In high school there was one day each spring when the seniors would go on their trip and the rest of the school would go out and do community service. My junior year we decided to go to Whiting Farm and help them with some chores around the farm. When we arrived a few minutes after nine I immediately noticed the chickens running around clucking happily. After I stopped gazing at the chickens I looked around and noticed two giant greenhouses, it was only a minute before we were being shown inside. As I took a step inside I noticed these beautiful plants growing in rows, there were also others hanging from the ceiling. As I listened I learned that these beautiful pink, yellow, speckled red plants in rows were called poinsettias. It was amazing to see the variety and the beauty of these plants. They had another greenhouse which had a huge variety of flowers and other little succulents inside but the poinsettias really had my attention.
After getting to look at these wonderful greenhouses we split up into groups to begin our work. Half of the group split up and went to fetch the chicken eggs and clean the pen, I was overjoyed to realize that my group would be digging up and tilling some land that the farmers were going to plant tomatoes in. We took out the roots and rocks that we found and threw them off to the side and by the end of the day we were left with a large space of soil where the workers were going to begin adding compost and creating little trenches for the seeds. I was excited to have participated and gained a little more knowledge in something I had very little experience in.
From age’s one to five I lived in Monica hill New Jersey on about 3 acres of land. We had a considerable greenhouse along with a large garden that ran up the right side of our property. The greenhouse was about 10 feet long and 7 feet wide with 8-foot ceilings. We took advantage of all of the space and it was always cluttered with tons of plants and gardening tools. There was shelving that wrapped all the way around the upper layer of the greenhouse. We mostly had cactus and succulent plants up there because they don’t require frequent watering along with various potting buckets and trowels. Summer was my favorite season while living in New Jersey. We had so many plants and flowers growing on our property it brought all kinds of life. From butterflies and bees to birds and turtles so much wildlife was attracted to the garden. We grew buddleias and moon flowers which are shown in the third picture. You can see that the third picture was taken at night time. This is because moon flowers only open at night due to them mostly being pollinated by night-time flying insects.
We also grew tons and tons of tomatoes in the greenhouse. We would always start by sprouting the seedlings in aluminum trays and then we would transfer them to 5-gallon buckets with a support rod once they were big enough. The awesome thing about a greenhouse is that you can grow all year round and not just in a few select months. The sun’s raise get absorbed through the glass roof and walls of the greenhouse and the plants convert the sun energy into heat energy. We use window vents to control the temperature keeping it around 60-70 degrees. Greenhouses are an awesome way to take your gardening to the next level.
Composting is a very crucial and beautiful piece of art in our gardens. This is something that I was personally extremely drawn to and wanted to take the opportunity to learn more about it. To start us off what is compost? From the article Composting At Home they stated that “Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up more than 30 percent of what we throw away, and could be composted instead. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.” Compost is something that is available to everyone and can be done in your own home or even apartment! Not only can composting be a positive attribution to our world but also a new hobby for you to enjoy as we face our worldwide circumstances right now. With that being said we are able to reduce massive amounts of waste in our world with this quite simple task. Composting our leftover foods is an amazing way to make your personal contribution to nature and use what you already have at your fingertips. I personally find this astonishing that with just a simple task how much of an impact on the environment you can make. With just seven easy and brainless steps you will be on your way to composting as well. Attached at the bottom is a link on specifics to how you can achieve your attribution towards your garden. I hope that this inspires you to join me and my classmates in beginning a new hobby and adding positivity to our environment.