This year, Squawking Hawk Acres had the pleasure of hosting our first Thanksgiving. My family gathered from near and far, from up and down the west coast, and from all the way back east in Ithica, New York. My immediate family was there, as well as our extensions, my partner, my sister’s partner, my beloved grandmother, and a couple dear friends, sort of adopted siblings. Last year at Thanksgiving we had only been at SHA for about two weeks. My partner, Frank, and I were the only one’s here, still camping out on a mattress on the living room floor. The kitchen was not unpacked and settled in at all, and we certainly didn’t have a table big enough for Thanksgiving.
How much has changed in one year! Our house is now used to hosting large groups of people, our table, a beautiful heavy oak piece, a gift from my grandmother who bought it decades ago in Pennsylvania, expands easily to go from seating four to seating twelve (and sometimes more!). Our kitchen is not only unpacked and settled in, it is incredibly well used and prepared for all sorts of foodie activities, from drying and canning, to beer and wine brewing, to smoking fish, to baking, to cooking giant meals. We have dozens of plates. We have multiple 5 gallon soup pots.
Hosting Thanksgiving did point out a few things we are still missing- like a turkey roasting pan! Or nearly enough cloth napkins. But we made it through. We cooked the organic free range turkey, which was raised across the street, in our wok. A brilliant, last-minute, saving-me-from-a-moment-of-utter-panic suggestion from my resourceful grandmother. And we licked our fingers clean (we’ve since greatly expanded out cloth napkin collection). My family has something of a tradition around Thanksgiving, in that we do gather, and eat a lot of food. But our traditions are constantly changing and evolving with us, and I think we made some wonderful new additions to it this year.
We started the day with a group bike ride. It was a sparkling clear blue sky sunshine day in Ashland, and after boozy coffee and a quick breakfast we got seven of us out for a ride! We traced the green hills along the north side of the valley, through farm land, past cows and horses, and picturesque pastoral scenes of old red barns in empty hay fields. It was such a spectacular way to start the day that we all agreed it needed to become a regular piece of our Thanksgiving celebrations.
Once home from the ride we launched full speed ahead into food preparation. Frank lit a fire in our cob oven, and my sister and I got to work stuffing the turkey and stitching it up. We cooked the turkey in the oven in the kitchen, but it filled it up entirely we baked everything else outside in the cob- the extra stuffing, the roasted root vegetables, the brussel sprouts… Poor Frank was running back and forth all afternoon from the kitchen, food coming in and out in waves, as we attempted to have it all hot at the same time. The turkey cooked beautifully in the wok. My family has a whole host of different dietary restrictions, allergies, or choices, from omnivorous, to vegan, to gluten free, to sugar free. We run the gamut. But amazingly we all manage to accommodate everything. Gluten free bread for the stuffing, a delicious vegan pumpkin pie recipe- one made with a gluten free vegan crust, the other with wheat flour and butter. And everyone ate well!
Before eating we read a Thanksgiving Day Prayer, from the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois. The prayer acknowledges all the pieces of life on earth, the air water trees animals creator spirits, and calls them all together as one. This was a new thing for us to share. I’d heard the prayer at a women’s permaculture gathering two years ago and had been wanting to share it since. In the past my family has said thanks in our own words, going around and stating something that we are grateful for. I wanted to share the prayer, but was afraid it might detract from giving our own personal thanks. I need not have worried. After reading the prayer, while we were eating my family continue to list things for which we were thankful. At some point we started going around the table, listing them in alphabetic order; A is for Amazing Food, B is for Breath, C is for Community… you get the idea. And then between dinner and dessert my mom surprised us by passing out gratitude lists, which we each filled out and then read out loud to the group. It was beautiful to see us remind each other of more and more things. As each person read their list, other people would be scribbling additional notes on theirs; copying gratitude, so to speak.
The evening ended in the only possible way it could, with all of us sprawled out on the living room floor, moaning in pleasure and discomfort at our overfull bellies. I sure am thankful to be part of this family!