Saturday, February 16, 2008


I watched the movie "Fast Food Nation" last night.

I can't speak to its accuracy, but it definitely paints the act of stopping into McDonald's to grab a burger as something to feel guilty about. The film is a work of fiction – not a documentary – but it uses realistic and graphic footage of a meatpacking factory where the cattle are crammed in, electrocuted to death, and then sliced, diced, and shredded into burger patties as rapidly as possible by wage-desperate illegal immigrants.

I wouldn't say I enjoyed the movie, but it definitely gave me something to think about.

In contrast, I spent the greater part of yesterday afternoon at Howell helping to saw down a dead tree among a grove of Sugar Maples. When it wouldn't come down despite being cut almost all the way through (the top of the tree was tangled up and held aloft by other neighboring trees), I helped yoke a team of oxen – Chris and Jake – who were employed to pull down the tree by means of a long rope. When it finally came crashing down, the oxen then dragged the trunk back to the farmyard, where I trust it will serve its last purpose as firewood.

At the risk of sounding sentimental:

One of the things I've enjoyed most about my visits to Howell Farm so far is that every act is intimate. Need breakfast? Fry an egg from the henhouse. Need firewood? Harvest a dead tree and then get to work sawing. Fertilizer for the fields? Put on your boots and start shoveling. I don't think any animals get slaughtered for meat at Howell, but if they did, it would be an intimate affair, and the people who ate that animal would know where their burger came from. Somehow I think that makes a big difference between it feeling right and it feeling wrong.