I write this blog to be a pause in the storm; to document. The plan: go down to part-time Nursing work in order to spend two days a week working on the land. The goal: passively learn all about being a steward of the land, move my body, and meet people who rely on plants and animals. Incorporate what I learn to the art house I live at; chickens, Earth and metaphysical lessons. These sort of days will create a buffet-bounty of food for thought; all of which I would like to share, with you, in my monthly posting to The Collective.
I live in the Ozarks. I’m thirty. I’m a community health Nurse. I live in a 28 ft camper. I help run a local art house. I’m single. I’m in an all lady folk band. I’m scared almost half the time. I’m going to do it all anyways.
It was a warm day in May. I cranked up the truck and boogied North to volunteer for the day at a family-run farm outside Springfield. They were known for selling butchered animal parts to local grocery stores and farmer’s markets. Wild seeds hung in the air, blew into the truck. I was preparing for a 160-chicken-slaughter-kind-of-day.
“Does killing chickens make you uncomfortable?” Farmer Joe asked when I met them the week before, a meeting arranged so the couple could feel out if I was a nut. “I killed and ate off a deer this whole past year, I hunt, I eat what I kill,” I said point blank. “I’ve had backyard chickens, and they have all died from opossums, dogs, cats, or owls.” I’d been around death. After all, as Farmer Sally, Lady of The Farm, reminded him, I was a nurse.
The farm was down a gravel road, barns scattered about housing various animals. There was even a school bus used for housing chickens. A general store sat in the middle of the plot, cute and tidy, with hand painted letters on the door.
This family was some sort of religious, but in the wholesome we love one another and focus on service kind of way, and borderline on back-to-the-Earth-Libertarians. The couple did that thing that old people in love do, they catch eyes, they hold each other in little ways, they pay attention to the other. Their older daughter had traveled the country WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) , and then traveled Europe WWOOFing with her husband and their baby! We talked about birth politics, midwives, and food politics. Their younger daughter was fiercely independent. She was the one who stood at the beginning of the line and did the wiliest of the cutting. Farmer Joe glowed with pride, “She has the best hands for the job, better than anyone bigger or any man’s.” Their grand kids and church friends were there standing in a line passing the parts from hand to hand, carving and cleaning in stations.
We all laughed a lot about how it was a gamble meeting someone from the internet (since that’s how I found these wholesome farmers). I could be crazy, or they could be crazy! Then everyone would laugh in that maniacal way, under a plastic covered work area, wearing plastic aprons, pulling chickens apart to throw into a giant container of ice water.
Some Things Said & Learned:
“Don’t slit their throat, only their jugular veins, then put them in the cone upside down while they die. If you cut their throat they will suffocate and break their own bones struggling in the cone.”
“Hold them with both hands! Chickens are slippery!”
“When you clean the gizzard you have to be graceful with the knife, or the rocks will bust through! Chickens keep rocks in their gizzard to help with digestion.”
“Don’t bust the gallbladder! Green goo will go everyone and it tastes awful.”
“Separate the lungs, heart, gizzards, and necks. People eat/ use all those parts.”
We kept at it for 11 hours. Everyone descended into crankiness. It was the kind of crankiness which only family can settle into… where the humans become the chickens, pecking at one another. One of their church friends, a teenage girl, began having fainting spells that more and more resembled seizures. I caught her as she fell, ripped the plastic apron off her, got her out of the plastic sheeting overhead that was amplify the rays of the sun. I noticed scars on her sweet wrist from before she had been adopted. I assessed her, cooled her off, and talked with the family. They took her into town. They said God had sent me there, and I was meant to be with them. As a spiritually minded person, this always comes as a deep compliment. And I agreed, I was meant to be there.
Storms rolled in, and storms rolled out. The plastic sheeting whipped back and forth at our backs and rain fell sideways. And still we butchered.
At the end, I got back in the truck with a freshly butchered chicken to take home, and a bag of goodies. I was covered in dried chicken blood, and also by my own period blood (surprise!). I agreed to come back every week to learn about stewarding sheep, pigs, chickens, and cattle. I was very grateful for my time with this family.
Back in Springfield at least a hundred people were celebrating National Donut Day at Krispy Kreme. I joined the line that wrapped outside the building. My body felt like it was buzzing with 11 hours worth of learning. I thought of the sweet teenager who fainted from a possible eating disorder. I took half a dozen glazed beauties to a parking lot to talk the day out with my friend Sarah, who was parked there waiting to get a Grub Hub order for her to deliver. We passed the chicken parts back and forth, discussed the butchering process until it stuck into memory.
By: Brie Vonyo
On Easter Sunday, I sat on my front porch with tea and a book in hand. One child was laying down for a nap while the other quietly played. This was the moment I envisioned when I decided to be a parent. The moment where your cup is full of joy (and a little caffeine) and you’re able to slow down enough to notice and enjoy a spring breeze. When your household is moving along the same current of life. Not choosing between one child swimming up river while the other is rafting away down stream, torn between who needs you the most at that very moment… all while you’re still trying to hold on to your tipped over canoe.
That juggle has been my common moment in recent months. Striving for harmony but settling in chaos. On the rough days where I feel everyone swimming in different directions, I feel ashamed and defeated by the “lack of _____”, lack of knowledge, lack of patience, lack of control… exhausted with my thought of, “someone else could do this better”. No matter how prepared I’ve felt for a situation, my children usually bring me something that pushes me to my edge. Challenging me to stay firm and breathe through it. This constant notion of adapting as a parent is simultaneously exhausting and stimulating.
The days that seem the longest have brought me the most growth as a parent. It is impossible to grow and change with out being challenged. Until you can accept being uncomfortable and vulnerable with yourself and your children, you’ll be stuck in the state you’re in. In Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, she states, “The real questions for parents should be: "Are you engaged? Are you paying attention?" If so, plan to make lots of mistakes and bad decisions. Imperfect parenting moments turn into gifts as our children watch us try to figure out what went wrong and how we can do better next time. The mandate is not to be perfect and raise happy children. Perfection doesn't exist, and I've found what makes children happy doesn't always prepare them to be courageous, engaged adults.” Once we expose our vulnerability with our children, we’re able to swim the current with them.
Parenthood will provide you with circumstances and experiences you have never dreamed possible. The amount of love and strength that runs through you is unimaginable. But we owe that strength and love to the moments that challenge us the most. As parents we’re in the ring… we’re bloody, worn out, and tired. It’s not the easy moments, drinking tea with quiet children, that allow you to expand as a human (those are just the moments that allow you to reflect). It’s in the ones that make you want to crumble and disengage. It’s the lowest and most difficult moments that the heroine experiences rebirth and emerges from her ashes.
“The willingness to show up changes us, it makes us a little braver each time… “ Brene Brown states. Because of this, I’m no longer striving for harmony but settling in chaos. Now, I’m striving for harmony but succeeding in chaos. And I can’t wait to see how I grow from it.
Leah is an RN at Mercy Hospital in the Pediatric ICU. When she’s not caring for the babies in the PICU, she dedicates her time to her kiddos at home. She loves to anchor her family around good, slow food… served with intention. She’s passionate about healing her and her kids’ bodies- and she knows that begins with the gut. Soon, she will be launching a business as a nurse health coach, placing an emphasis on mamas and their babes. You can find Leah on her blog, Blooming Motherhood.
Food mantra: Food is my love language. To sit and have a nourishing meal and conversation with a loved one...is my heaven. I actually get upset when my husband isn't hungry when it's time to eat. Ha!! Food is to nourish. To heal. To bring together. I am also really into eating with the seasons.
Style of cooking: Loosely following recipes and trying to convince my husband that I followed one! Haha. He always asks "Did you follow a recipe for this?" Because I never do. Sometimes it's a big flop. Other times he approves and we high-five over it.
Your food inspiration: Nourishing my children and family is important to me. I want my kids to thrive, and I believe wellness starts in the gut. Immunity, autoimmune, allergies...all of it can link back to the gut. I don't want my kids to suffer with allergies and asthma like I did. That is my motivation. Creating healthy guts from the beginning. It brings me so much joy to make healthy stuff taste yummy. There is a big lack of this talk in healthcare. I want to help change it.
WEEKLY ‘GO TO’ MEALS:
Korean beef and rice
Yellow curry, chicken on salads loaded up with veggies and avocado
Tacos - any variety, I am always trying to find a reason to have tacos
Some sort of crock-pot-soup creation with bone broth and whatever is in my pantry
Organizing your fridge/pantry to suit your needs: Most used items are on a shelf above where I prep (rice, oats, quinoa, etc). For the freezer, I try to keep an inventory on a sheet of paper inside. We never have a bunch of stuff in the fridge or freezer because I try to use up what we buy and not let things sit or waste.
Tricks have you learned to maintain a healthy diet with a busy lifestyle: Food is such a big part of my life. I think for me it's mostly about prepping in advance: meal planning, eating at home 90% of the time, and knowing that I have "go-to" snacks and meals that are quick. I actually keep a list of that in my kitchen so I don't have to think too hard or feel overwhelmed by the never-ending question, "What can I eat that is cheap, quick AND healthy." I have a meal rotation.
Food you make that you can’t live without: I've been on a big oat flour pancake kick... I make them in bulk. I add collagen and duck eggs so they are packed with protein and we can eat them as a snack with nut butter or breakfast on the go.
In the fridge: Coconut milk, cheese sticks, sauerkraut, duck eggs, apples, butter of some sort (I have been dairy free for my son's allergies but still feed my toddler grass-fed butter while I am on the Earth Balance kick), bone broth.
In the pantry: Dark chocolate chips, cashews, chips and salsa, avocado, almond butter, oats.
Kitchen tools: I am pretty basic. A good knife and cutting board. But my Blendtec did change my life.
Snack food: Apples + almond butter, nut thins + veggies in hummus, soft boiled duck eggs.
Best grocery store: Aldi and Mama Jeans
Best brand/item at store: Aldi organic pantry items (rice, beans, chips, salsa, PB, ketchup even!). Mama Jeans is by FAR the cheapest place to get IN SEASON local produce. Eat seasonally, locally, and you will get deals there. They have a quick sale section for produce needing to be eaten soon. Sometimes the stuff is not even ripe yet! I shop sales.
Best place to eat: Oh, sushi is my favorite. There is a new place called Craft Sushi that is very allergy-friendly. GF/DF/V options are abundant.
Best meal at restaurant: The salmon sushi bowl at Craft Sushi is my most recent favorite.
LEAH’S KITCHEN TO YOURS:
2 cups organic rice
1 lb ground beef, grass-fed
1/2 c Braggs liquid aminos
2 T toasted sesame oil
2 T sesame seeds
1 T minced garlic
1 bunch green onions, chopped
Soak desired amount of rice overnight, then cook before serving with beef.
Mix all other ingredients and marinate, in the fridge, for several hours or overnight.
Cook beef in cast -iron skillet on medium until cooked through.
Serve over warm rice and top with sauerkraut, kimchi, or any other favorite ferments.
I love this recipe because it takes 5 minutes to prep. I like to use my rice cooker after my meat has marinated in the fridge all day, so it's quick to whip up. I aim for everything I make to be nourishing and edible (according to my toddler), and checks both those boxes. It's a weekly dish in our home and I hope you enjoy!
Marie Kondo is trending right now and it’s not a coincidence. It’s the perfect time of year to lighten your load. In Ayurveda, we’re in the midst of Kapha Season, where we tend to feel a little sluggish, deal with extra congestion and feel the deep, deep darkness of winter. To combat these feelings, we live off an extra shot of espresso and have a Google alert set to find a decently priced plane ticket that will allow you to feel the sun soak into your pores.
A signature rule that Ayurveda depends upon is, “Like increases like, opposites balance.” Enter Marie Kondo. Sparking joy. Waking up. Letting go of heaviness that surrounds you. What better way to get out of the well worn rut of winter, than to re-organize and “Marie Kondo” your home? She’s helping to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)... it’s no wonder she’s now a household verb.
If you’re feeling the damp effects of Kapha, you’re not alone, we feel it too.
Our favorite Ayurvedic tips to combat this season:
Get outside. Period. It’s amazing what a bit of fresh air can do for your soul.
Neti Pot followed by Nasya oil. This is a great practice to plug into your morning routine. Neti pot with salt water (saline) will gently cleanse the nostrils. Nasya allows for lubrication of the nasal passageway but also prevents future pathogens from entering.
Marie Kondo your home. Still not sure what that means? The short version of it is…keep what brings you joy, donate what doesn’t, and clean out those dusty corners.
Cook light, well-spiced meals. Flavor meals with lemon, ginger, cayenne, cumin and cinnamon. They’re all warming and will kindle your digestion.
Raise that heartbeat. Now is the time to say hello to cardio or your favorite yoga class.
Stimulate, stimulate, stimulate! Move that lymph. Dry brush in the morning and get a massage by your favorite body worker.
In no time at all, we’ll be feeling the humidity of summer, begging for chunky knit sweaters and a book to curl up with. Pinky promise.
Michelle Billions is a mom of three who owns and co-owns two of Springfield’s staple businesses. Owning and operating The Coffee Ethic - Specialty Coffee Bar and Roaster and co-owning Cherry Picker Package + Fare - Restaurant, Coffee & Cocktail Bar selling food, packaged wines, and liquor. Whether she’s cooking a meal for her family or roasting your coffee beans, she takes pride in quality over quantity. She’s a believer in indulging in what you want but making sure it’s worth it. Meaning, no wasted calories and the quality better be excellent. Eat with the intention of enjoying what you are putting in your body rather than feeling guilty about it. Want the full fat ice cream? Go for it, but take a moment and relish in the sweet flavor. There’s enough in the world to get you down… food shouldn’t be one of them. We think she’s on to something.
Food Mantra: Eat the hell out of what's in season and have no wasted calories.
Style of cooking: Style? Hmmm. I would say healthy, quick, simple and eclectic. I love to try new recipes and have enjoyed exploring Indian food as of late.
Your food inspiration: Food that is in season, great restaurants, dinner club with my girlfriends, & my current cravings.
WEEKLY GO TO MEALS:
Grilled Cheese with Soup
Breakfast for Dinner
Lemon Pepper Garlic Chicken with Angel Hair Pasta
Fiesta Chicken with Poblano Peppers & Rice
The Saigon Peanut Chicken over Noodles and Greens
Lasagna with Salad and Crusty Bread
Chicken Masala or Curry with Rice
Chili of all kinds
Chicken Noodle Soup
Truth be told, I have really enjoyed treating our family to "Hello Fresh" or the "Blue Apron" deliveries. I have been doing this for about a year now because I realized I was really slacking in the meal-making department. I get two meals every other week to keep cost down and these meals 1. Teach my kids how to cook, 2. Provide us with plenty of leftovers, 3. Keep waste to a minimum (which I despise), and 4. You can pick healthy.
Organizing your fridge/pantry to suit your needs: Nothing ingenious! I just like to have the items I use most at eye level. I like to clean & organize (my kids help a lot with this as well), periodically so I don't get that special surprise from the furry moldy friend(s).
Tricks you have learned to maintain a healthy diet with a busy lifestyle: Balance is Queen. I very rarely buy anything super unhealthy. If it's not in my house, I (we) am not tempted to partake. Even with the fluctuating research on what constitutes a healthy diet, I have learned over time to choose what makes me feel healthy/good while understanding the importance of moderation & balance. That being said, I am not going deprive myself or my kids of culinary bliss on occasion just because it's "unhealthy". I don't eat what I call "wasted calories", meaning I try to eat only food that is worthy of the calories I'm about to put in this middle-aged body. We all deserve to "treat ourselves" and is a crucial part of the balance piece. I try to have snacks in the house that are not only healthy but easy to grab and go. Usually lots of fruit, veggies, cheese, salami, nuts, and granola bars. One last thing, I have always exercised and am 100% sure this has helped maintain the balance both mentally & physically.
Food you make that you can’t live without: Eggs (over easy) with Avocados.
In the fridge: Eggs, milk, cheese, fruit, veggies, yum-yum sauce, jelly, plain Greek yogurt, butter, cream cheese, some pickled items, a couple of craft beers, and flavored water.
In the pantry: Love that Trader Joe’s Corn Bread Mix, Peanut Butter, Avocados, Tortilla Chips, Olive Oil, & Salt/Spices, Pamela's Pancake & Baking Mix.
Cookbooks: Joy of Cooking, Family Binder- a collection of our favorite recipes.
Kitchen tools: A couple of sharp knives, coffee grinder & brewer (we use a Ratio coffee maker), non-stick small pan for eggs, tongs & a favorite spatula.
Snack food: Toasted Pecans with Ghee and salt.
Best grocery store: In SGF: Hy-Vee & Aldi. Otherwise: Trader Joe’s.
Best brand/item at store: Aldi has great avocados and it's hit or miss on fruit, and grass-fed ground beef at a great price. Trader Joe’s: Cornbread Mix, Clusters Granola, wine.
Best place to eat: Give me some of that: Rama Thai, Caesar's Old Mexico, Progress, Tortilla Perches, The Order, Golden Girl, Druff’s, Greek Belly & St. Michael’s.
Best meal at a restaurant: Ozarks Benedict from The Order or Moussaka from Greek Belly.
MICHELLE’S KITCHEN TO YOURS:
Lemon Pepper Chicken
3 Chicken Breasts
4 T Lemon Juice
4 T Olive Oil
Lemon Pepper Spice
Angel Hair Pasta
1 C Parmesan Cheese
Veggies of Choice
Start a large pot of salted water on high heat.
Take chicken breasts and cut into bite-sized pieces to marinate in lemon juice, olive oil and garlic for 30 minutes.
Put chicken and marinate in a pan and cook over medium heat.
Douse the chicken with lemon-pepper spice, salt, and pepper.
Once the water is boiling, add the angel hair pasta to cook (3 minutes).
Drain water out of pasta and add the chicken mixture (after it's cooked through) to the pasta. Add about a cup of parmesan cheese and mix thoroughly. If you want to add veggies, spinach, basil, and broccoli seemed to be acceptable to my kids. OR make a side dish of broccoli or spinach. Enjoy!