Saturday, March 27, 2010


I've seen a couple signs in the area the past few days: people advertising that they have FRESH EGGS for sale. (I'm ahead on eggs right now, so I didn't even consider it). And I saw a yard in town with a small flock of chickens in it.

I've heard that chicken-raising is coming back into popularity. (Just no roosters, please. Roosters in a town setting can get disruptive).

I actually find these kinds of things cheering prospects: the idea that people, instead of sitting down and complaining about how times are bad and everything costs more, or demanding that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE in the form, I suppose, of food-aid to the middle class - they're just going out and buying chickens.

No, I don't have time for it. I can barely manage the basic maintenance on myself, let alone keep other living creatures alive. (I nearly killed my plants over spring break. I was about half way to where I was going to go when I realized I had forgot to water them before I left the house).

I tend to think anything that pushes people in the direction of more self-reliance (or, if not exactly self-reliance, at least kind of-sort of knowing how to do things for themselves) is a good thing.

I realize in some cases it isn't cost-effective: I doubt I could raise enough vegetables to feed myself, even if working in the garden WAS my full-time job. (My mom, when I was growing up, had an enormous garden. We grew corn and tomatoes and cabbages and beans and peas and brussels sprouts and carrots...and now I realize just how much labor that involved. Then again, it was my mother's choice (and she was very adamant about it, I understand) that she wanted to stay home and not work outside the house when my brother and I were small. I wonder now the amount my parents saved on grocery bills: my mom froze and canned tons of stuff, we had fresh veggies (not that I appreciated them then!) during the summer and fall. I bet it was a big cost-savings, not to mention being better than what the little grocery store near us had at the time.

My mom also baked most of our bread, and taught me how to do the same. (I wish I were better about baking my own bread. But again, it's a time thing: I work full-time, and then some, if you count the volunteer work I do, outside the house, and it's a rare Saturday even that I'm not at least partly involved with stuff). Again, I'm pretty sure that saved money. (And it spoiled me for most grocery-store bread.)

But I think there's a lot of value in knowing how to do stuff...even if you don't have to or choose not to. I like understanding where my food comes from, even if that box of eggs comes from the grocery and not someone in my town with a few hens.

It's kind of like that Tiny House Blog I keep writing about....that's really a powerful fantasy for me, and in some ways, it's like a pressure-release valve. (I knew a guy once who said for him, the thought of suicide was a pressure relief valve - as horrifying as that sounds. He said he'd never actually do it, but knowing that if things got TOO BAD he "could," helped him to realize that things were not TOO BAD - or anywhere near it - yet. I'm not explaining it well, he actually said it in a less horrifying way). Thinking about how I could buy a plot of land out in the country and hire someone to dig me a well, and maybe have a septic system (or even, a composting toilet), and get solar panels to run the lamps and radio, and basically live off the grid as much as's like, I imagine, if things ever got way, way too bad, I could kind of erase my presence in the modern world and try to live like a pioneer, to do the subsistence thing with beans and cornmeal and what vegetables I can grow...I know, as I've said before, it's totally unrealistic and probably after the first month with no magazines and no Internet and not being able to order anything out of catalogs I'd go running back to civilization, but in some way, as I said, it's like a pressure valve...I admit as I drive around the area, I scope out plots of land: that one is too near other houses, this one has enough trees on it but it's awfully close to a stream and that could mean mosquitoes and maybe flooding, this one is too close to the road....

I doubt, as I said, I'd ever actually DO any of the off-the-grid things, even something as small-scale as raising a flock of chickens, but I like the idea in the abstract, and I like the idea of dozens or hundreds of people in my area deciding they're going to do little things that maybe help them weather bad times.

(Because I still think the bad times are going to get worse before they get better).

And so I feel a sense of solidarity with the folks selling FRESH EGGS or doing roadside farmstands or the like. Sort of a "you go, girl" or a "you go, man"....that they're trying to do something to make stuff a little better, rather than expecting someone else to do it for them.

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