Chickenversary!

My chicken adventure celebrated its 6-year anniversary last month.  I thought I’d share a few of the things that happened, and open this up for other similar musings – everyone welcome to join in!

(warning – this may be a long post [:p]  )

Seven years ago I got the crazy notion that a backyard flock was a good idea.  I blame my friend Sandy for this – she’s the one who showed me photos of her new chicks and turned me on to BackyardChickens.com.  ‘Nuff said.  Within a couple of weeks I had 4 chicks, growing in my kitchen, and was researching and building my coop.

By the end of that year I had 4 laying hens, with all the experiences that go along . . . making friends with poultry, learning their personalities, making friends with neighbors, sharing eggs . . . it widened my social circle (by 8) by adding the families that share my eggs (plus countless on-line acquaintances).

By the end of year 4, I had learned a lot.  I considered myself a success, with two of my original four hens still going strong and four more to join them.  Egg sharing continued, along with my education about backyard farming, urban homesteading and the wider world of food security.  I started realizing that I was lucky – I was illegal but getting away with it . . . while others were not so lucky.  So I took on the challenge of getting a local law changed, to allow more people to enjoy the backyard poultry hobby.  My world expanded again.  I added lots of local people who helped push the effort to get the law changed, and now hens are fully legal and accessible to many Pasadena residents.

In that process, I learned a LOT about local government, and gained a new, huge respect for those who run our cities.  We focus on national politics, but it’s the small, local decisions that impact our daily lives.  We forget that the city council is made up of people who are essentially our neighbors, forming policies that influence our drive to work, where our kids play after school, whether or not there’s a McDonalds nearby (love ’em or hate ’em).  It’s easy to blame them when things go wrong, without realizing they are only citizens doing what they can to keep the city rolling along.

Meetings are often attended by people of questionable sanity, with their own axes to grind, or by people who only want to complain.  Sometimes there is a crowd if a particular hot topic is to be discussed.  But many things happen at these meetings, that are fully public in order to allow us to participate, without any citizens taking any notice or concern.  If things go right, we take them for granted.  If things go wrong, we pull out our pitchforks.

We get the government that we deserve.

So if you have an election coming up in your local neighborhood, I beg of you, please exercise your RIGHT to vote.  Do a little research (it’s easy in the on-line world if you try).  Listen to the voices on all sides, regardless of political party.  Follow where the money interests lead – who is funding who.  Try to evaluate what is good for you, for your neighborhood, and for future generations.  Then, whatever you decide, VOTE.  Recent elections have had abysmal participation rates.  This is criminal, folks.  There are people who have died to defend our right to a citizen-directed government.  Don’t be lazy and complacent.  Fight back.  Get off your butt and vote.  If the 99% ALL voted, we wouldn’t have to worry about the 1%.

This rant is dedicated to two little fuzzy chicks, Pickles and Buffy, who created a dust storm in my kitchen 6 years ago, and are out there right now scratching, laying, and continuing to change my life.

Who knew hens could change the world?

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Wow . . . another year, wafting away

Here it is, 2015.  Time, and its passage, is such a human construct.  My dog doesn’t know it’s another “year”, and she wouldn’t care even if I could explain it to her.

My husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary, or 21 years together, tonight.  What made it special?  Nothing other than our intentions.  Otherwise, just a day like any other.  The point is, make every day significant, by knowing that it is the first, perhaps the last, and certainly the only day you have in that particular moment.

Time passes.  Choose, to change, or to remain unchanged. Be conscious of your choice.

What do you do when you’re hurting . . .

Do you curl into a little ball, shut out the world and wait for it to end?  Do you pretend it doesn’t hurt, grit your teeth and get on with other things?  Do you mask it with chemicals that dull the senses?  Or do you let it flow like an oil slick that engulfs all around you?

I ask because this week has been a week of pain, mine and another’s.  I observe and take notes, and I wonder – how do we help another who is in pain?  My own is purely physical – a pinched nerve that sneaks up on me, creeping from a nagging discomfort to a crescendo of teeth-grinding paralysis.  Vicodin is my friend, and my chiropractor is my savior.  However she’s out of town, so I am left to suffer and hope it resolves on its own.

Meanwhile, a co-worker is going through his own version of hell.  No physical pain on his part – purely emotional and stemming from a recent health crisis.  He seeks treatment but at this stage does not have a diagnosis or treatment plan.  So every day he comes to work, tries to be a “normal” person and in the process shares his pain with all who come in contact.  Since most do not know his full back story, it becomes a burden for all, a train wreck they witness but cannot prevent or assist.  Any offer of comfort or support to him only brings further and more fervent cries for help, which overwhelm his co-workers and make them withdraw for their own safety.

Pain is a part of life.  How to cope with it is the question, and the answer is constantly moving, changing, evolving, eluding us.  It is the cause of conflict between people, between nations.  Do we go on as though nothing is wrong? Do we ask for help but only accept the most attractive offers, rather than those (perhaps more effective) that require our own investment of work and effort?  Or do we quietly self-analyze, self-diagnose, self-treat?  Whatever gets us through the day on the path of least resistance is often the choice.  Is it right?  Others can see it, but we only know ourselves when we take time to reflect, after the damage is done.

All I know is that when I see someone hurting, I feel a deep need to help and solve the cause of their pain.  When I cannot, it causes me pain too.  Should I stifle my instinct to get involved, knowing that I will only add to my own burden?  I carry and cope with my own load well enough.  When I take on the pain of another, do I increase or diminish my own?

We’re all looking for meaning, whether we know it or not . . .

Meaning, and purpose, are at the root of all things.  Without them, our lives as conscious beings are simply existences.  Even for those who choose to simply exist, the choice should be a conscious one, and then that choice becomes a sort of purpose in itself.  We all have the power to choose, and in fact we are incapable of NOT making choices.  It’s the conscious part of the process that’s important.

So for today – what is the meaning of “A Single Blade of Grass”?  I chose that title because it resonates with me, as a symbol of what I find important.  I will ramble on about it, and I hope I get somewhere.

A blade of grass is one of the most tenacious things on the planet, a sign of life and hope far more powerful to me than a dove with an olive branch.  Picture the most wasted, desolate space you can.  Now add one blade of grass.  The whole picture changes.  That single blade has become a sign of hope, of renewed growth, of defiance.  Give a grass seed the tiniest crevice, and the least drop of water, and it will sprout, and wave in the breeze, and send its roots down deep.  In doing so, it has made its own environment better, providing a world of sustenance above and below ground.  It gives its soil better structure and the ability to trap more moisture, creating a habitat for the underground universe that creates more soil, and creating an opportunity for more blades of grass to sprout.  It gives the air above the gift of oxygen, and it performs the most perfect miracle of converting sunlight into food, creating a world above the soil that all other creatures can enjoy.  It feeds itself to the herbivore, who returns the favor with a gift of recycled grass, again building the soil that allows more blades of grass to emerge and prosper.

That single blade of grass creates a world, that expands outward, and (if allowed to) will take over any patch of ground, making that ground better, and providing an opportunity for all other manner of life to follow in its wake.

Aside from the physical transformation that blade has wrought, it is a wise teacher as well.  The blade of grass is not meant to resist forces which are stronger than itself.  It lays down before the wind, so it can rise again when the air is calm.  It shades its own roots, to sustain itself first, in times of heat.  It does not resist the teeth of creatures that eat, and grows back more lush after being cropped.  Yes, there are things that will kill it – all things meet an end.  But while that blade of grass is growing, it does so for itself and in the process sustains its universe and all that reside within it.

I will be that single blade of grass.

Look out world . . .

Here comes just what you’ve been waiting for  – another blog.  Egotistical?  Perhaps.  Extravagantly verbose?  Probably.  Somewhat entertaining, with lightning strikes of brilliance?  Dog, I hope so.  Wait, was that one?  For as you see, I cannot bring myself to cry to god for help.  So it looks like this is going to be a personal journey.   If it strikes a chord with you, you’re welcome to come along.  I hope you don’t mind my humming.

What’s the point?  Topic or theme?  Well, I’ll have to figure that out as we go along.  I don’t know nuthin – I just drive the bus.  Destination – out there.  Thataway.

For nature, crescent, does not grow alone
In thews and bulk, but, as this temple waxes,
The inward service of the mind and soul
Grows wide withal.

Grow or die.

This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

More breadcrumbs to come.

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