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Gardening in Three Worlds: Mai Zong Vue was born in Laos. She helped her grandma garden there. “I used to tag along,” said Mai Zong. “My favorite thing was when she’d cut a fresh pineapple and we’d sit and eat it in the little shed by the garden after we were done.”
When the Communists invaded, Mai Zong left her first garden at age 7 and moved to the next garden in Thailand. The Thailand garden was different. It filled a space three times the size of a regular room. This garden fed their family—parents, five children, and a grandmother. This time Mai didn’t just tag along. She worked.
When she was in her teens, she moved to her third garden, in America. America again was a change. [Mai’s family planted] this garden so they could have fresh vegetables and not store-bought that came from who knows where. These were vegetables to put in the freezer (a very new concept to Mai and her family).
The Hmong use plants to eat, to flavor recipes, and some even for medicinal uses. Green mustard is from all the way back in Laos. It is a spice and is very common in Hmong gardens. Cilantro is like parsley. Mai Zong brought her cilantro seeds from Thailand. It is used in soups and on fish to give flavor to a dish. Yellow squash in Laos was cut in half. The inside was eaten, and the outside dried and used for a dipping gourd. Snow peas are usually eaten raw by the Hmong. “Once you plant the peas it takes a while for them to grow. That’s why you can plant faster growing plants on top, and they will be harvested by the time the peas start to grow,” Mai Zong commented.
Over the years, gardening has changed for Mai Zong, but she has also kept traditions going.
Mai Xiong Vue is a folk singer. She also is working for the Wisconsin Arts Festival in Washington, DC. She has presented in many different places.
Outside almost any Hmong house you’ll find a garden. This is for many reasons. One, elders are afraid food [other vegetables] might have poisonous chemicals. Two, it saves money. And three, it’s fun!!!
Cilantro is similar to parsley, except it has a stronger (and some say better) flavor and smell. At some places, they call it Chinese parsley…. One thing that is very good is a kind of boiled squash soup. It goes well with rice…. Also the Hmong plant a black kind of sweet corn. The ears are quite small, and the stalks don’t get more than a few feet off the ground. It is very good to eat. Boiled soybeans are delicious. If you let them dry out, you can make drinks. Or you can use them for seeds. Chili peppers are to rice like ketchup is to hotdogs.
Mai Xiong is pregnant. When she has her baby, she will drink a lot of warm water with lots of herbs like lemon grass. She will eat only certain things for a whole month, in a recovery process. [The Hmong believe that] otherwise, when she gets older, she might shake. Or something like that…
Here in the United States, we have things like potting soil and Miracle Grow, but back in Laos and Thailand, all they had was real manure. Their fields used to smell horrible. The best kind was fresh from the cow. It was wet then, so it watered as well as fed the plants. Mai Xiong said even though it smells horrible, she would go back to manure if she could.
An interesting fact about Hmong culture is that after a woman gives birth to a child, she can eat nothing but lemon grass, chicken, and rice for one month.
Chili pepper and rice are served with every meal. They are like bread and potatoes are for some families.
There are many differences between gardening in the U.S. and in Laos and Thailand. In the U.S., you turn on the hose and presto! Water! But in Laos and Thailand, water had to be fetched from the stream in a bucket.
The Hmong people would plant squash and cut the squash in half, take out all the seeds, wash the inside of the squash, let the inside dry and it would be good to carry water in a bucket. Mai showed us a basket that they use to carry tools to the garden, but the basket can be used for any other kind of materials, too.
Mr. Wagler told us that Mai was cousins with Pakou…
Mai talked to us about planting the “Hmong way”—without machines, with sharp hand tools that the blacksmith makes, and with fresh cow manure…. She plants cilantro, squash, green mustard, snow peas, sweetcorn, cucumber, soybeans, chili peppers, and lemon grass. Since she grows them herself, they are money savers, and no chemicals or fake colors are on them…
Mai works with the mental health programs to help refugees from all over. She is also a Hmong folk singer. She presents at Hmong festivals and celebrations. She also loves making presentations for children at schools…
Lemon grass is a type of plant you use to spice or flavor your food. Mai uses it for tea, chicken, and pie. After women give birth, they have to have spice in all of the food they eat. If they don’t, it is said they will be weak when they get older. It is a tradition. The Hmong have believed this for centuries. Mai is pregnant and she said she will be having a lot of lemon grass.
In Laos and Thailand they couldn’t just use regular dirt, because it needs fertilizer. So they used manure straight from the cow. Mai always thought it really stunk. But the Hmong believe in natural remedies.
Back in Laos, they didn’t have the materials to make a nice backpack. So what they did was make a basket and tie handles to it. They would use it to take tools to and from the field, or carry crops back to their houses.
In the United States, you can still see some Hmong gardens with the same kinds of vegetables as in Laos and Thailand. If you go to any Hmong house here in the U.S., you usually will find a freezer full of vegetables for the winter, when they can’t garden. Since the gardens here in America are so small, the Hmong can’t garden everything they want. So they form something that Mai calls a co-op of labor. That is when gardeners trade some of their vegetables for someone else’s vegetables.
Rice is a big part of Hmong culture and food. Back in Laos, they ate rice for all three meals of the day. Mint is another plant Mai uses a lot here. She uses it in food like salad, but also in other ways. In her house, she has a hole in the wall mice get through. Mice don’t like the smell of mint, so Mai plants mint around the hole outside.
Looking back on Laos and Thailand, and seeing what the Hmong are doing here, makes me realize how much the Hmong try to save and keep their traditions alive.
Mai Xiong has talked to community elders about their culture’s unique and traditional way of gardening.
The Hmong have been gardening for centuries. They gardened in China, Laos, Thailand refugee camps, and in America, for non-pesticide plants to eat.
Mai Zong Vue is a gardener at heart. As a toddler in Laos, she would follow her grandmother into the garden and help her water. Her grandmother would then give her fresh pineapple for a treat. Mai Zong described that pineapple so well I could practically taste it in my mouth! I could tell Mai Zong was tasting it, too.
Hmong people in Laos had to grow their own crops to survive. Gardens were very important. If there wasn’t any rain, there wouldn’t be food, and everyone would starve. They used fresh cow poop for fertilizer! I thought that was gross but I’m sure it worked well. Mai Zong told us the amount of land her family had was [very large]. One person couldn’t plow it alone, so they’d get together with friends for the day and plow one person’s land, and the next day they’d do someone else’s garden, and so on.
When Mai Zong was seven, her family went to the refugee camps. Since the rations they received were very small, they had gardens to help the family eat. The more members of the family, the more garden space they could receive. When Mai moved to America, there was barely any garden space. So the Hmong planted only a few things and then traded with friends and family to get crops they didn’t have.
Mai Zong showed us a bunch of different plants the Hmong depend on. Cilantro has a very strong smell and is used to flavor soups, salad, and fish. Green mustard grows quickly—you can see it pop out of the ground within two weeks! Soy beans can be eaten fresh, right off the stalk. Mai also showed us cucumber, snow peas, yellow squash, and black sweet corn.
Tools are very important. Mai Zong told us the Hmong names for them, Lao Dua and Lao Cavay. One looked like a hoe, with a wooden handle and a slanted, sharp shovel-like metal end. If you want to plant a seed, you dig a hole with the sharp end. The other tool was used to loosen the earth and hand-plow it. If you are lazy and don’t want to bend down, you can get one with a longer handle and work standing up!
Hmong gardening is a valuable tradition that should be passed on. As the years go by, adaptations will be made, but I hope some Hmong secrets stay the same.
Mai Xiong Vue told us that when she moved into her new house they had a rat problem. So they put mint all over the house and that made the rats go away because they don’t like the smell.
There is a tool Hmong people used in Laos and Thailand, that was also brought to America. It is used as a hoe. Lazy people supposedly use a longer version, so they don’t have to bend over. You don’t want to get caught using one if you’re an unmarried woman. Because that will probably make your chances for getting a husband zero because men tend to like woman who are active, fit, and un-lazy.
After hearing the presentation, I went out into the Randall Outdoor Classroom and planted some Hmong seeds in the raised beds. First went the cantaloupes. They went pretty deep in the soil, and one interesting thing I learned was that you can scatter chili pepper seeds OVER the cantaloupe bed. Then you put a little earth over the chili pepper and water. This is done this way because chili pepper grows faster than cantaloupe.
There are a lot of plants that we helped Mai Zong Vue plant. Cilantro, green mustard, lemon grass, and a type of pea. We hoed and dug deep. Then we put the peas in. We gently covered them up. On one half of the raised bed, right over the peas, we sprinkled green mustard. On the other half, we sprinkled cilantro. We mixed the soil up a bit and then stuck one lemon grass stalk directly in the middle of the raised bed.
Union Oriental Market
I walked into the Oriental Market and smelled fresh food and rice. I’m telling you they fit more things in that store than in Sentry. There were: drinks, soda, beer, milk, tortillas, Durian fruit, mustard greens, tofu, bean sprouts, coconut, fish, fish sauce, other kinds of sauces, like soy sauce, bamboo, dried mushrooms, rice (lots 25 kinds), drainers, monster pot (5 times as wide as me), flowers on a stick, brooms and Ramen (57 kinds), movies, books, candy, pots and pans, dolls, bell, decorations and chocolate.
Vue has a book printed in Hmong letters about religions. If you fail school, you can’t go to school any more. If you pass school, you can keep on going through all the grades.
It (Union Oriental Market) is mostly for Asian people, but other people come there, too. There is one place with tons of rice, one place with tons of hot sauce and one place with tons of Ramen noodles.
When I first walked in the door of the Union Oriental Market, I thought, “Oriental?” It looked like a normal grocery store to me. Especially when we passed the first food stands, stands with snacks like peanut butter crackers. Then, milk and frozen fruit. Still normal. But a closer look at the frozen fruit showed things not sold at an average store. For example, Durian fruit. You don’t often see that in a store, or maybe it is just me.
Vue says the big pot is for your community and I can even fit in the pot. Vue said when he was a little boy he didn’t have a metal lunch box so he had to use a wooden lunch box that was made with a kind of stick.
His store has everything from baby bananas to Durian fruit, to mustard greens (no fat!), to frozen foods (whole fish included), to Thai foods. Why, even dishes and at least 50 different kinds of Ramen noodles!
I saw some of the most interesting pots and things I have ever seen there. Some pots were made of wood and we saw a HUGE metal pot (about 1/2 a door), and Mr. Yang told us it was for special occasions, and for village meals (definitely not for house use!).
Vue is a big collector of books. He has a huge amount of books about distinctive Hmong culture, from the written language to marriage.
Vue Yang is a very, very nice man who owns an import store that has a lot of the tastes that we don’t have in this country, like a lot of different Ramens, a lot of sodas that we don’t have. But the highlight of his shop is Asian foods, like rice, spring roll sheets, meats and mustard greens.
They have to go to Chicago to get some of the food. But they got some frozen fish from Thailand and Asia. There are kind of bamboo baskets that they use kind of like lunchboxes to carry rice and chicken and other foods.
There is also a steamer and I think it is made out of bamboo and you put a pot of hot water under it and let the steam come up because the stuff is already cooked so you don’t need water. There is also a crusher which is a bowl with a thing that looks like a pounder to crush the things. It is made out of wood.
There are lots of rice bags and one of them weighs 100 pounds and I don’t know how they carry them out.
It was a long ride from Sheboygan to Green Bay. When we all got into the Union Oriental Market there was fresh food everywhere.
Then he pulled out these books that were in Hmong. There was an ABC alphabet in Hmong.
One fruit that was there was a Dorian fruit. It has some sweet flavor to it. There were some “Hmong” vegetables. One of them was called Thai eggplant.
He has handmade brooms used for sweeping the dirt floor back in Laos. The brush part of the broom has hard, non-ground wheat like bristles.
Hmong also like rice. Vue has a selection of rice, but the favorite is one that is medium size rice.
Vue also talked about Hmong marriages and funerals. Vue has a book about dating and marriage. In Hmong culture it’s not just two people. It’s two families, two villages and two clans. In Hmong culture when a woman gets married she loses her clan name and gains her husbands clan name. (unless she wishes to have both).
Now Vue will talk a little about Hmong funerals: Hmong funerals last much longer than American funerals because the Hmong use rituals to send the spirits to the after life which take days to perform.
Frozen fruit from Thailand that had big spikes all around them. All kinds of sausages. I wonder how they tasted.
When you get married if you get divorced you are rejected and you have to go through lots and lots of ceremonies to get divorced.
When we left Vue gave each child a free Ramen,. He had a basket full of treats for each kid to choose from and last of all some Botan Rice candy as we walked out the door.
Vue told us that two people of the same clan cannot marry each other.
When we arrived I saw from the bus window what looked like a very friendly man. He was a friendly man! His name was Vue Yang. Now this name is actually pronounced Vu Ya but that’s NOT what I’m here to talk about.
Someone always had to teach you the Hmong language until they wrote it down on paper. It took a long time but they did it.
There were some things that you wouldn’t see in every grocery store in Madison like a lunch box made of bamboo. “My mom used to throw some rice in there and some chicken and that was my lunch,” Vue said. There was other stuff made from bamboo, such as a rice steamer. “If you steam the rice in a bamboo steamer, it makes it taste better,” commented Vue.
After the tour Vue talked to us about books and his love of reading. he also explained that the Hmong had no written language until the war.
The Union Oriental Market is just like a market but it has culture mixed together so people can meet each other. That way you don’t have to be lonely.
One food that I saw there that grossed me out was when I was the white and blue bag of lion head in one of the fridge things with lots of meat and other foods that have to be kept cool or even frozen.
While we took notes at the Oriental Market, some kids stood but that was too hard for me so I sat on a BIG bag of rice. It felt like, almost sitting on my sofa in the living room at home while watching my favorite video.
There were objects too. There was a woven bamboo basket that said “Laos” across it in different colors. Vue said that when he had gone to school those were to put your lunch in. His mom had put rice in it mostly, but occasionally she would put a chicken leg in.
There was a thing like a mortar and pestle, used for grinding chili pepper and papayas. There was also an enormous pot, used to cook noodles in for big community gatherings.
Vue talked to us about how he plays the qeej at Christian church services. He believes it shouldn’t just be played at funerals and things because it is a happy instrument. He talked about how the Hmong sing. Each different kind of Hmong (Blue Hmong, Black Hmong etc.) has a different way of singing. Hmong call their singing Kwv Txhiaj.
There are many different kinds of fish, tiny bananas, a small kind of root, Hmong style baskets, Ramen noodles, ginger root and many, many, many, many other things.
Vue had nineteen years of school work. The school that he went to was somewhere in France.
The Hmong traditional wedding, you’ll have an umbrella, pigs, cows, chicken, and rice. If the girl marries a guy, the girl has to go to the grooms house. To open the umbrella, you’ll have to wait until the wedding is over.
When I went into the kitchen of the Hmong community center, there were three Hmong women making the food stuff for the inside of the egg rolls.
When we got to the kitchen, I and a group of kids went over to see a woman chopping raw meat into very small pieces. This was for the chicken noodle soup. Strangely, she chopped the bones, also.
We got to make egg rolls with a couple of Hmong women. A lot of us had never done egg rolls before so it was a little difficult at first but as you kept going it got easier and easier.
We started out with these packages of spring rolls. They are like tortillas but they are square and not as crunchy and burnt, so someone had to peel them off of each other.
The mixture to put inside of the egg rolls had little noodles, carrots, and some green vegetables. The mixture was really squishy on my fingers, but it felt good to touch the mix. While we made egg rolls the Hmong woman made rice and chicken soup with noodles in it. It didn’t take long for the Hmong women to cook the meal.
I wonder what it would be like having rice every day and having egg rolls a lot.
The stuff to put inside the egg rolls was already made. Our job was to actually get the stuff inside a thin sheet of slightly paper like dough, and roll it the way we were shown.
First, we took all the stuffing and put it on one side of a square tortilla kind of thing. Then we would roll until we got into the middle, tuck in the corners, and keep rolling ‘till there was just a little piece not rolled. We’d then dip our fingers into egg yolk and put the egg yolk on the piece of egg roll that wasn’t yet rolled up. After that we’d roll the rest of the egg roll. The yolk prevented the egg roll from coming unrolled. The egg rolls had to be tight or they would not survive the heat of the [oil].
First you take some of this egg mixture. I’m not sure what’s in it but I think there is raw beef, cabbage, and an egg white (save the yolk).
We had meat in our [egg rolls], but you can have them without the meat.
I love eating egg rolls but most of all I like making them because it’s more fun making than eating them, I say, because you take more time making them, than eating them.
There is a very precise way of wrapping the egg rolls that I cannot put into words. It was fun making them, but it was even better eating them.
We dipped the egg rolls in sweet and sour sauce.
We also had chicken curry soup and sticky rice and regular rice. The difference between sticky rice and rice is you eat rice with chopsticks or forks and you use your hands when you eat sticky rice.
The egg rolls were very delicious. I never had such good egg rolls. I felt like eating more but I had one more thing to eat; the tasty Hmong soup.
The egg rolls were fresh, the soup was cool and umm, umm the sticky rice was good!
But in that time I was there, I had already learned how to make egg rolls. I learned how to roll them up and had gotten ingredients in person from a Hmong lady. I even made egg rolls at home for supper one day this week.
One very traditional thing which Hmong people have kept for many years is cooking, a specialty. They have squash-drinks, sticky rice, egg rolls, regular rice, salads and much more. The names are sometimes strange, but the foods are delicious!
A VERY important rule is that it HAS to be TIGHT! If it isn’t, it won’t taste as good when it’s all done cooking and ready to be eaten.
The Hmong women made spicy Thai soup and rice. I loved every bite of that meal so much. The next day I made egg rolls for dinner!
For a long time, Hmong people have been known to prepare a lot of food for a lot of people in a very short notice. Some Hmong traditional food is sticky rice. Sticky rice is rice in the shape of a hot dog, with no bun that you hold in your hand.
Nhia Cha and Mayhoua Yang opened the butcher shop because there are still Hmong refugees coming to America, and most of them are very poor. Nhia and Mayhoua have been down that path before, and they didn’t want other refugees to suffer the way they did. So they have very low prices—like a hundred pounds of meat for only ten dollars…
Mayhoua is the secretary at the Butcher Shop. Being the secretary isn’t an easy job. You have to sign in the people, take them outside to look for the animal they want, give them a coupon (receipt?) for the animal they want, go out and watch the animal get killed and gutted, then give the animal to the [customer]—all for only a very small amount of money…
A Shaman comes to tell the animal it will be killed and…sent with a person who died…to guide him to his or her new life.
You can get the blood with the animal. The blood is important for the Shaman to use in a ritual. When a pig dies, it becomes the guide for the spirit of a dead person, guiding it through all the places it has been to, and all the things it did. The pig is a guide because animals have a better instinct of where home is.
They ask you how you want the animal killed, by one electrical shock, or in the traditional way. They butcher an average of eleven animals a day, three of those in the traditional way.
The pigs were in a cage about two feet tall. There was a big chain that hung down above a blue bucket. A worker attached the chain to one of the pig’s legs and pressed a green button and the pig went up. The pig was screeching and thrashing. After about a minute, it started to calm down. We walked out, but I had my head turned and she brought a knife and passed it through the pig’s flesh into the heart. Blood poured against the bucket like an explosion from a water balloon hitting the cement. Now the pig was screeching as loud as a fog horn.
I was staring at a hog as long as me, cut in half. It was hanging by its hooves from chains in the ceiling. Its ears were flopping down, its eyes were closed, and its tongue was lolling out. On a table nearby there was another hog’s head. I got so grossed out, I went to the house…. At the house, there was a qeej player named Nhia Vou. He had recently come from Laos and was staying with Mayhoua and her husband for a year. Mr. Vou knew one INCREDIBLY useful word of English: “Hi.” He was extremely good at playing the qeej. The music was soothing. Whenever we had a question, we’d ask John, one of Mayhoua’s thirteen children. Mayhoua and her husband were very hospitable. Before we left, they gave us food and juice.
When we entered the butcher shop we were greeted by the smell of blood. Everywhere. I nearly couldn’t stand it. We met Mayhoua Yang, who is the butcher shop’s secretary…. She led us to the pig pen and told us about the procedure for butchering. First, the customer comes into the shop and checks in. Then they go to the pen and pick the pig they want butchered. The pig is brought into a smaller pen where it will stay until it gets butchered. The pig is picked up by one leg and hung on a chain. Once it is up, it is killed. After that, they flip the pig over into hot water, and then onto a drying rack. Once it is dry, it is hung up by its hind legs.
Mayhoua showed us two horns. One was bigger than the other. It was a bull’s horn. She told us that the longer the horn, the better…. Once the ivory is worn off a bull’s horn, it is good for many purposes. You can use it as a bugle, for decoration, to draw on, and countless other ways. Mayhoua set the bull’s horn into a wooden box, with some other horns dripping with blood. Next she showed us a goat’s horn, also good for many different purposes. It is very good for curing fever. You get a horn without ivory, and put water in it. Then the sick person drinks it and it keeps the fever away. If a Hmong child’s soul is weak, they will cut off the tip of a goat’s horn and use it as a pendant. If you want to be powerful and magical, use a goat’s horn. Many Hmong people have it hanging in their home. Its stench also keeps away roaches.
Mayhoua said that when you die, you will be reborn. If you have a big, big goat horn, when you die you will be reborn and be rich and strong. If you wear a goat horn, you’ll be very safe. Spirits cannot come and get your soul.
Hmong's Golden Eggrolls
In a warehouse in La Crosse, down the hallway from the blacksmith’s shop, is a little room that holds a big business. When you walk in you see a counter, a stove, a freezer, a cash register, and racks for supplies. It looks like one big kitchen! And that it is—a kitchen for egg rolls. The smell of egg rolls is all about, and steam rises from the vats of boiling water in which hundreds of egg rolls cook every day. More egg rolls fill the counters, cooling off.
Tia Yang and her brother and sister own the company. Tia has another job as a shipping worker at a big business, and her siblings have second jobs as well. You might be wondering why the heck they keep so busy. Their reasoning? They wanted to start their own business, something from their Hmong culture they knew how to do, and making egg rolls was the perfect thing.
The business started a year ago, and it must be doing pretty well, because they will be moving into a bigger, better location. Future plans are to open up an area in the store where customers can sit and dine in, like at a restaurant. They hope to have other foods besides egg rolls—noodle salad, take out lunch, and dinners. They also want to hire more employees.
Tia told us they make 300-500 egg rolls per day! They make five different kinds: vegetarian, shrimp, pork, chicken, and beef. Some they make fresh and the customer picks them up right out of the oven, and some they freeze and you can buy them and heat them up.
Here’s how they make the egg rolls: first, you get the ingredients, put them in a big bowl, and mix them. (The ingredients are the same ones they used in Laos.) Then you roll them up into crust. You put them in sizzling water to cook. You have to let them cool for a while.
When we tasted them, they were great! I hope the Yang family’s Hmong’s Golden Egg Roll business does well, and keeps up the tradition of making delicious food!
When we walked into Hmong’s Golden Egg Rolls, we saw shelves and shelves of ingredients and sauces. Tia Yang, her brother, and her sister all own the shop. Everybody who works there has another job. They started a year ago because they wanted to have a place of their own. They are moving to a bigger place, where they will make other Hmong food as well as eggrolls. In their egg rolls they put cabbage, onion, carrots, seasoning, and meat for the non-vegetarian ones. Just family works there now but when they move they will hire more people. The egg rolls sell at $1.00 a piece. Tia can roll seventy to eighty egg rolls in one hour.
Mostly Hmong people buy egg rolls there. They cost $1 an eggroll, 75 cents for a frozen egg roll. Tia can roll out dough for 80 egg rolls in one hour. People mostly order the egg rolls for parties, weddings, and the New Year.
To stay in business they work hard. They get up in the morning to start work at 6:00 and make egg rolls until it’s dark at 9:00.
Egg Roll Factory
Crispy, brown, oily,
I hear bubbling hot oil
rising over soft, uncooked
Indochinese Grocery Store
One of our last stops was at the Indochinese Grocery Store. When we walked in, we were greeted by the pungent smell of dried foods and tea. They sell a wide variety of things, from incense to tea to toothpick holders.
The woman who works at the store is Va Xiong. Her husband’s name is Xai Xiong and their daughter owns the store. They have a little kitchen where they sell food. A lot of different kinds of people come to the store, mostly Hmong people. They sell pots, plates, spoons, forks, knives, rice machines, baskets, foods, fruits, drinks, toys, spirit money, sauces, desserts, jewelry, etc…. Down in the basement there were many cloths [fabrics] from many kinds of different Asian cultures. There was Hmong Chinese cloth, Laos cloth, Thailand cloth, Vietnamese cloth, Cambodian cloth, and American cloth. There were a lot of Laos blouses hanging from hangers. The blouses were many colors. There were traditional Hmong hats and clothing…. On the top floor, they sell Hmong videos. A lot of the movies have only people chanting to each other. On a lot of Hmong movies they have the title printed in Hmong letters with English subtitles.
Va Xiong showed us around the grocery store. There were noodles, chickens, fish sauce, fish, spices, rice, incense, Chinese candy and toys and more…. They have their own lunch restaurant with egg rolls, noodles and rice…. Va Xiong is a seamstress who makes Chinese and Hmong clothes. Her workspace is downstairs in a big room with lots of fabric, clothes, shoes and accessories. The fabrics were in bright pink, green, yellow, red, blue, and black bolts.
Upstairs was everything from ginger to soap, toothpick holders, incense and more. There were things from ALL OVER the world! In the corner was a very small lunch bar/deli, and there was also a display of Hmong artifacts. Some were hand-sewn decorations, a Hmong ball made for tossing, purses, and little metal trinkets shaped like elephants and other animals. Downstairs, there were yards of cloth, all with hand-stitched designs. There was also traditional hand-embroidered clothing. Va gets these from Asia when she goes once or twice a year. She sells them [here] to the Hmong. Va also sells a lot of American dresses, shirts, and skirts.
One shirt and pants combo might cost $160.00
Black Asian Chickens at an Amish Farm
On Friday, despite the cold, rainy weather, our last stop was an Amish farm outside Tomah. You might be wondering what in the world does an Amish farm have to do with Hmong culture?
On our spring trip, we visited an Amish farm. Aaron Yoder showed us around it.
We went through a muddy field to a small chicken coop. As we approached it, a smell of millions of feathers flying, and not cleaned up chicken poop.
Our bus lurched to a stop beside an old barn and farmhouse where we met Aaron Yoder, the farmer who lives there. He led us to the chicken coop, where in a tiny room were 600 small black chickens. They were covering every inch of the floor!
Aaron sells all these chickens to Hmong people who want to use them for funerals or other ceremonies. Aaron lets the Hmong butcher the animals right there on the farm. Aaron sells the chickens for only three dollars apiece.
Aaron has a whole little barn room full of chickens. You can see little black chickens laid all over the ground. The Hmong prefer the black chickens. Aaron thinks it is because that is the way they had them in Laos.
The Amish farm we went to was “Horse and Buggy Amish.” They had no lights, no phones, no cars, no air conditioning, no electricity. You might think I’m lying but I’m NOT!
He sells chickens to the Hmong people. He raises a special kind of chicken called special black chickens. His chickens come from Asia.
The reason the Hmong people buy chickens from him is because they are black chickens, the Hmong people like the meat, and they are raised without things like antibiotics and chemicals. Plus, the chickens are only three dollars apiece.
Aaron buys the chickens in town, raises them on his farm, and sells them to Hmong people when they have all grown up. Some of the chickens are butchered by the Hmong; others are raised for eggs and more chickens.
It’s a lot of work to take care of the chickens, especially when they’re young. In cold weather, Aaron has to get up in the middle of the night to put more wood in the wood-burning stove that keeps the chickens warm.
When the chickens are small they take a lot of care. He has to feed the animals, keep them warm, clean the barn, and every few hours he has to go and check on them, even at night.
You have to keep heat for the baby chickens to keep them warm. They need fresh air so they can grow bigger and taste yummy.
The Amish are pretty willing to raise the chickens for the Hmong and sell to them. Other Amish farmers sell hogs and cows and other animals. Aaron isn’t sure whether the Hmong are comfortable with the Amish or not. All he knows is that they will buy from them, and don’t act like they are nervous around him.
Aaron also has three or four brown horses with white strips on their noses, and in the barn there are a whole lot of cows, a small calf, several big calves, bunnies, and a dog!
I think it’s cool that the Hmong can get their chickens from another culture like the Amish.
That’s when we got on the bus BECAUSE IT WAS FREEZING!!!!! Then we headed back to Madison.