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Stirring the Cauldron…

One of the unexpected pleasures for me here at Chelsea Green has been discovering Jessica Prentice’s writing through her book that is now out. I can’t recommend it enough. I expected it not to be quite my style–too new agey to suit the crotchety old man personality that I’m trying to cultivate. But I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Jessica’s writing is glorious, her ideas invigorating, her intelligence irrepresible, and the fact that she is comfortable with seemingly new agey stuff like moon cycles just goes to show that I’m a jerk for excessive stereotyping. Anyway, she writes a monthly essay inspired by each new moon, and here’s her latest. Instructions for subscribing to her email list are at the bottom.

April moondark kitchen notes from Jessica Prentice

The moon is new! We have entered the lunar cycle known as the Egg Moon in
Old Farmer’s Almanacs. Eggs — symbolic of newness and rebirth — are
enduring icons of spring, when Persephone returns from the underworld and
the earth flowers again….

…During the past moon, a very exciting event has occurred in my life — my
book has been released!! Personalized signed copies of Full Moon Feast:
Food and the Hunger for Connection are now available through my website:
You can also order the book directly from the publishers:

Over the next moon it will be arriving in bookstores and online retailers.

The Egg Moon is an apt time for the arrival of something new, for the birth
of a book. And recently, I myself have been feeling a bit like a little
chick just emerging from a cracked shell: vulnerable and blinking, confused
by the newness of everything. There were many moments, as I awaited the
first shipment, when I wished I could crawl back into my shell and stay
there forever — or at least for a little longer! Just imagine how safe a
chick feels in there — contained, protected, supplied with all the
nourishment it needs. And yet the chick must, at some point, break out of
that shell or it will die. It must move out into the world, vulnerable and
needy at first, and become progressively more independent as it grows into a
chicken or rooster.

Publishing a book feels a bit like this to me. When I ask myself why I took
all the risks involved in putting the contents of my heart, soul, and mind
down on paper for thousands of strangers to see and evaluate, I realize that
it was — very simply — the next stage of my development as a person. It
was the next thing I was called to do in my life. A friend recently sent me
a quote from Anaïs Nin that touches on this same theme:

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more
painful than the risk it took to blossom.

I think that all of us feel this tension — between the safety of the bud or
egg and the need to blossom or emerge from the shell. Both springtime and
the new moon are times of beginnings and emergence. So this is a powerful
time to hear the call of what is next in your life, what is alive within you
that wants to come out into the world. You cannot keep it inside forever,
or you will perish.

I have also found it helpful to remind myself that the book is not about me.
Although it does contain much of my personal journey, I wove in this thread
primarily as a way to help connect readers to the real message that I felt
compelled to communicate.

That message is this: What we eat matters. It matters on every level. It
affects our health and the health of our planet. It impacts animals, both
wild and domesticated, throughout the world. It affects ecosystems and
communities; the biosphere and the ethnosphere. It is a primary way that
each of us walks on the planet, and how we experience the great and
mysterious force that is at work in the universe — the Spirit in which we
live and move and have our being.

I think it is vitally important that we become increasingly aware of our
food system and increasingly connected to our foodshed. The issues of how
to feed humanity are complex and multi-layered, and there are decisions
being made in boardrooms and offices that can have profound effects on all
of us, as well as on the earth that we are called to steward.

Recently, just such a decision came to my attention. The United States
government is considering a law that would require all food animals to be
registered with an identification number. The National Animal
Identification System, or NAIS, is the brainchild of an organization called
the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, or NIAA, which is made up
primarily of factory-farming conglomerates such as Cargill, Monsanto, and
the National Pork Producers, as well as the corporate producers of animal
identification technologies.

The system would be a nightmare for small-scale farmers, for people who want
to live a traditional rural life or grow some of their own food, and for
anyone who wants to teach their children about animal husbandry. One
Wisconsin mother, Cheryl Eggers, imagines what 2005 would have been like if
NAIS had already been implemented:

Along about March of 2005 my brother and his wife moved to town and
gave us 3 hens as pets for the kids. He had to file 2 sets of paperwork, one
to notify the government of where the hens were and one to notify them that
their premises was no longer keeping animals as they were moving to town.
Total forms – 4
I, within 24 hours, had to file 2 sets of paperwork, one to obtain a
premises identification number, giving name, social security number,
address, and GPS number with the state and feds. I had to file 3 forms for
the hens. Total forms – 4
Then my husband said, if you have to be here to feed 3 hens, why not
get a few more. So we went in with the neighbors and ordered 100 chickens.
They then had to file 1 form setting up a premises and 50 forms for owning
the chicks + 50 forms since they would be ‘off premises’ boarding at my
house. We had to file 50 forms reporting our 50 new chicks. Total forms –
Four of the chicks died in the first week, I had to file 3 incident
reports, my neighbor had to file 1. Total forms – 4

One year and many forms later, she concludes her story:

One of my chickens liked my neighbor. Every day she would make a
beeline for his barnyard … I had to file 1 report for her leaving and one
for coming every day. Oh we tried to keep her home, but she was a little
escape artist! 90 forms X 2 = 180 for that one chicken. Total forms – 180
I had 3 chickens die for no apparent reason or from injury from
other chickens, or one punctured himself on a wire. Total forms – 3
This year we have filed 499 reports, tagged all animals, purchased
the equipment and software to do this and it hasn’t even been 12 months
since we started. All we wanted to do was have a few animals to teach the
kids a little about responsibility and grow some of our own food.

You can read the whole story here:

It is clear to me that the only reason for this kind of bureaucracy is to
discourage families or communities from being food-self-sufficient. Big
business wants us to rely on them for our food.

You might be thinking that large corporate farms would have an even greater
burden of paperwork than families or small farms. But this is not the case.
If you control a flock of birds or a herd of animals and always keep them
all in the same enclosed area as factory farms do, you are allowed to give
the whole flock or herd just one number. You would need to file one
additional form when you took them to the slaughterhouse. Because these
animals don’t have access to the outdoors, tens of thousands of animals
under the factory farming system could require just a handful of forms. And
of course unlike a household or small farm, agribusinesses have offices set
up equipped with computers, software, and office assistants to handle all

NAIS is a travesty of public health and a tragedy for animals and people.
Animals will pay for it with increased confinement and decreased mobility.
People who eat animal products will suffer for it because eggs, milk, and
meat from factory-farmed animals are deficient in nutrients and dangerously
high in artificial hormones and antibiotics.

The real reason I wrote my book is to do my part to prevent travesties such
as this. The more we know about our food system, about nutrition, and about
traditional, ecological, and humane farming systems, the better prepared we
are to fight policies like NAIS.

To learn more about the USDA’s NAIS proposal, check out this government

To learn more about the problems with the law, check out these sites:

And if you haven’t already watched it a dozen times like I have, check out:

Meanwhile, on the Egg Moon, say a prayer for the chickens. Let’s do our
part to make this a better world for them to break out of their shells and
live their lives — one where they experience sunlight and pasture and
shelter, as well as the husbandry of human beings who see them not just as a
commodity to be sold, but as a living being to be cared for.



* * * * *

Copyright Jessica Prentice 2006
Please feel free to distribute with my name and website attached.

* * * * *

Check out Jessica’s book, Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for

For more from Jessica Prentice, including a Seasonal Recipe Box and over 3
years worth of New Moon Newsletters, visit:

For more on Wise Food Ways, including Cooking Classes and Full Moon Feasts,

For more on local eating in the San Francisco Bay Area, visit:

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Francisco Bay Area.

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