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My son’s friend, we’ll call him Joe ;)—protect the innocent and all that—was sitting at the bar in my kitchen. 

Well, I was picking a chicken. Now when I pick a chicken, I pick a chicken. Partly because I feel like I kind of owe it to the chicken; honoring the life by using every bit; partly because I’m kinda cheap and if I’m going to buy a sustainably and humanely raised chicken, I’m going to get every bite then I’m going to boil down the carcass with a handful of herbs from the garden and make the best broth in the world! Then to the compost with the rest.

Anyway, so yes, I’m really getting at that chicken. 

And Ca…I mean Joe…is really squirming.

“Do you have to do that with your hands?!”

“Well, if you’re afraid of my hands, you probably shouldn’t eat in my kitchen, honey.”

“It’s not that. Well, not completely. But isn’t it just kinda gross… having your hands all up in that dead chicken?”

Ah! Teachable moment. I’m not sure it took root, but it went something like this:

By using my hands to live my life, I’m connected to my life. Even if my life at the moment is picking a chicken. Because my hands are working to feed my family. Work connects us with resilience.

That’s about the end of that convo. I mean, teen male— keep your message short!

But this idea of hands and connection continues as we seek to live deliberately and teach others these lessons. By using my hands and my labor to clean the chicken coop (OK I use a shovel, gloves, a kerchief, and wash my hands A LOT), I’m connected to the warm bedding and clean water for “my girls” and the quality and abundance of the eggs they provide for my families (and my pasta dough:) And yes, it’s true. I do sometimes sing the “goodnight ladies” song when they finish ranging and tuck in for the night. Song connects us to gratitude.

By using my hands , alongside the hands of friends and GVSL class members, to pick pears for pear jam, I become part of the age old cycle of bud, fruit, ripening, picking—and providing something wonderful for our Canning 101 folks (you know who you are!) to learn from and take home to their families.

And through this, we are connected. The pear trees on my little homestead are now connected to their families and their sustenance. 

And when our collective hands reach out to stretch and fold the dough, hold, hug, dry a child’s tears, offer a sourdough sample, greet a new GVSL class, member, we are connected. 


That’s everyday alchemy! The combining and joining of things to become different, more rich, more sustaining.

By the way, that boy, uh, Joe, is a man now, but he still likes to eat in my kitchen! 

-- Mary Holman-Anderson


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