I, Raven Aurora Naramore, not named for the Edgar Allen Poe poem, but for Raven Lange, an author of midwifery books from California, was born at home, with a host of midwives, in 1976 in rural Lawrence, KS. My idealistic, back-to-the-land, guru following parents were living the simple life of wood stoves, composting toilets, and no birth control. There were 6 kids in the end, each boasting a hipped out name that we all kind of grew into. I always felt like we had an idyllic childhood, but if you ask my siblings, you would think that we grew up in different houses with different parents. We were wild things, un-watched heathens who roamed the country side and the woods making up games and getting dirty, with constantly runny noses, snarled hair and dirty fingernails. We actually did a pretty good job of taking care of ourselves. My mom used to say that from the time I was about 4 months old, I would cry until she gave me to my siblings who would prop me up with blankets in an apple box, where I would be dragged around where ever they were playing until I was tipped out because they needed the box for a boat or just simply got knocked over from being dragged over the gravel road.
My parents were farmers-in a sense. My dad had 5 acres of organic wheat (before there was any expensive certification process) and my mom had a small herd of dairy goats and a ½ acre garden. My parents' lives revolved around growing food and children in abundance, and to that degree they succeeded marvelously. We had really good food when I was growing up, which was eaten around a hand made eight foot mahogany farm table. We had fresh milk every day, yogurt and goat cheese, we ate seasonally and froze the rest. I never once saw my mother can anything, but we had a chest freezer that only had vegetables in it since we were vegetarian, it was pretty much all we ate. We went to the food coop, to which we were early members, where we would get beans, beans, beans, tofu, millet, yeast, brown rice (I don't ever remember having white rice and to this day prefer brown) and on a good day smoked Gouda cheese and Panda licorice. In addition to growing wheat, we had a flour mill and after the harvest the country sounds of cicadas, hawks and our pack of 8 dogs would be drowned out by the hum of the stone grinder and fine white dust would fill the air and cover my dad's black hair, face and overalls. The best part of the flour mill was, of course, the bread dad would make with that flour-the smell of yeast mixing with goat milk, manure, dogs and kids.
We sat down together every night around the table, mom at one end and dad at the other with the kids in assigned seats along the sides. There was always a dog or two nearby to eat whatever hit the floor. We grew most of what we ate and meals in the summer were virtually the same, steamed green beans, boiled potatoes, sweet corn, stewed tomatoes, onions and squash, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. Only now looking back on this meal do I know that is peasant fare was fit for royalty. Everything picked at the height of flavor, no trucks, no middle man, just the rich Kansas river valley dirt, water and the labor of our own hands. But, of course, I complained about eating such good food; “Why can't we have macaroni out of box?” Why does our spaghetti sauce have broccoli and eggplant in it? Can we buy Kraft singles? Even our soda (I actually grew up calling it pop, but was ridiculed so intensely by my East Coast kin, I turned my back on my Midwestern colloquialisms) was different. We got to have Blue Sky cola, lemon-lime, or root beer. Every person's can allotment was stacked on the bathroom floor under a piece of duct tape with their name on it. Some members of the family would drink theirs right away, but not me- I would make it last for months, or at least until my brother Cody, who had drank his ages ago, would start pilfering my stock, then it was time to drink up. We were only allowed one kind of cereal that had a sweetener in it, CW Post Granola, and we loved it. It was gone usually before the day was out. There was also my mother's favorite, Grape Nuts, which to this day still seems gross. Grape Nuts were not eaten for breakfast, but as a before bed-time snack, when we would watch television together and no one could hear because of all the damn crunching in the room.