Monday, June 16, 2008

Why Chickens?


Inspired by Heather's DIY discussion at True Stitches, I will take a crack at answering that question.

Reason #1--Chickens=revolution. Heather quotes the anarchist cookbook Recipes for Disaster: "The raw awareness that you have the power to change the world is more important than any other resource -- it is the hardest one to develop and share, and the most essential. Giving your endorsement to political representatives, social programs, or radical ideologies will be of little avail if the fundamental problem is you don't know your own strength."

"Self-determination begins and ends with your initiatives and actions, no matter where you live. It must be established on a daily basis, by acting back on the world that acts on you -- whether that means calling in sick to work on a sunny day, starting a neighbourhood garden with your friends, or toppling a government. You cannot make a revolution that distributes power equally except by learning first hand how to exercise and share power -- and that exercising and sharing, on any scale, is itself the ongoing, never-concluded project of revolution."

Yep, to remind myself that I can do something about the craziness of the world with a little chicken revolution. And by the way, other equations in handcraftematics include:

Bicycling=revolution

Growing your own food=revolution

Knitting=revolution

Reason #2--To honor the value of food. Heather quotes Susan Strasser's book Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash, "In cultures based on handwork, handmade things are valuable without being sanctified as art; they embody many hours of labour. People who have not sewed, or at least watched others sewing, value that labour less than those who have, and lack the skills and the scraps that enabled so many women to see old clothing as worthy of remaking. It is easier to discard a ready-made dress, cut and stitched in an unknown sweatshop, than it is to throw away something you or your mother made.

Similarly, we are so far removed from the labor and means of production of our food sources in this country that we do not recognize its true value. We bitch when the prices go up, but the dollars we spend on food represent a miniscule portion of the true value of that food. Much of our food is produced at the expense of the health of animals, farm workers, and eaters, an incalculable price.

My family and I will know the value of the eggs we eat, because we will raise our chicks, feed them, make sure they stay warm and dry, watch them eat bugs, and gather their warm eggs with our own hands.

We will think carefully about how we prepare the eggs, wanting to cherish them because of all the work that goes into them. We will not forget about them in some back corner of the fridge, or throw them out because we got tired of them and didn't eat them before they went bad.

We will also share them with our neighbors as an expression of our gratitude for not thinking we're totally off our rockers for having chickens in an urban backyard. Perhaps our neighbors will cherish those eggs too, just a little bit more than the ones they bought at the store.

In so doing, we will have an impact on those within our realm, who might develop a little more appreciation of their food and its sources.


Reason #3--To subvert the consumer paradigm. In college I had a bumper sticker that said, "Subvert the dominant paradigm." At the time, I thought it sounded cool but I'm pretty sure I had no idea what it really meant. Now I interpret that notion in terms of consumerism. Everything in our country is presented as a consumer choice. We think we live in a democracy because we can buy more consumer goods than ever before. Never mind that in our real democracy, political candidates are bought and sold like so many tubes of toothpaste. I'd rather have a real choice between candidates who really stand for something than a choice between wintergreen or spearmint-flavored toothpaste or gel, with or without whitener.

Did I digress? Yes and no. Why is it that when we have a need, we think we must BUY something? How about if, the next time you or I have a need, we MAKE something instead.

I need a protein source, I choose not to eat meat (for reasons I'll leave for another post), I can't actually make eggs myself. But I can develop a relationship with some animals who can. In return for love and care, they will do what they naturally do, make eggs which I can eat and as an added bonus, create waste that will turn up the heat on my compost pile.

And I get to be, not a consumer, but a facilitator of the production of my own food.

I know I could never produce all of the food needed for my family.  I have a satisfying and meaningful career, and I don't want to become a full-time farmer. But being as close as possible to the origins of the food I feed myself and my family is deeply satisfying, and yes, revolutionary.

Here's to the Chicken Revolution!

7 comments:

mel said...

Awesome!!! And very well-said. Tad & I have been talking about overthrowing the homeowners association so we can have some chickens in the backyard too!

Nahoko said...

This is incredible. Some folks in our neighborhood used to have chicken. They were definitely "free-range"! I *REALLY* want to hear more about your compost. How do you have it set up?

Doodlebug said...

Great post! I've been a little bit blue lately wondering where I'm going with my desire to create and whether it's a form of burying my head in the sand politically. This post and the link to True Stitches has me thinking that creating in all its forms is something we need to reclaim, and it can indeed be a start to transforming our culture in a positive way. Thank you!

Heather said...

Ah, yes the seeds of revolution are sprouting! What a great post, I love how you're thinking - and doing! (And thanks for the kind words you sent my way.)

Kristin Nicholas said...

Lovely blog! Have fun with the chickens - they are a blast. I have raised them since 1988 and I never get bored with them - the cycle of the year, the little characters they are, and best of all - the fresh eggs.

Kakariki said...

High 5!!!

Darren (Green Change) said...

Too true. Reclaiming even a little bit of your own food supply really opens your eyes to how the rest of it is produced.

And there's nothing better than having your kids grow up thinking this is normal!

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