Chickeninity

I forgot how much this work likes to graffiti your hands and wrists, and, even in the off season, we all started getting poison ivy again. I figured it out. It’s coming in with the firewood. I’ve spent hours at a time just working and lingering in my pasture, one among the herd of eleven goats, and I discovered hoof issues, an abscess, and two, at my best estimate, a week from giving birth. Five more to kid after them, fingers crossed.

I built a new chicken coop in that time. Spent eight hours cutting midsized White Oaks and tracing them with a draw-blade until they were nude and pink. Night before last, around eight fifteen, Roan was in bed, my wife and I went out and carried every one of twenty five chickens to the new coop. After having helped me with this chore, she no longer eats chicken. For now. It is an ever-intimate experience holding a helpless animal in your arms that fully believes you are about to end it. I’ve been in this game a while though. I tuck one like a football between my belly and elbow and grab the other one by its feet dangling upside down so that I can carry two at a time. I care for the animals, I do, enough to separate my humanity from their chickeninity. It’s an awkward situation. I believe until that terrible day comes, the birds really just want their basic needs met and enough space to be left alone to chicken. I built that for them. It’s the best coop I’ve ever made.

Every chore was a domino in succession. Knocking that one out freed up the next old, disgusting, decade worth of shit filled domino to fall. A half an old tractor shed sequestered off a decade ago to put chickens in. It was hard, I’m still coughing up dust that probably has particles of my grandfather in it, but at the end of the day, the goats essentially lost a disgusting neighbor, annexed and upgraded their condominium and now have a whole building to themselves, to hopefully fill it up with healthy babies.

Having land is one thing, but going out and spending time there is the only way to keep it.

Simply Put

It’s about renovated bathrooms and kitchens and putting new floorboards down on corrupt foundations. We need a more solid base. Government hit the track running, declaring for us, by us, a bill of rights more for us than by us. I believe in balance. Two way streets. Other than signs and painted lines and flashing lights, every road goes both ways. No matter who or what says otherwise. Remember that. We need a Bill of Rights, over authority, for government, because without it, they’re keeping us arguing over simplistic basic functions of human society established outside of time. Beyond constitution and revolution and justice systems. Food. Water. Shelter.

We’re launching missions into outer space, subsidizing single crops and mandating the price points of others. We are arguing decisions that are only to be made by trained, certified doctors. With no other natural resource for them, we’re policing medicine, as if people seeking health were criminals.

I don’t care the color of tile we choose for an upstairs bathroom if the concrete left corner of all of this is sinking into ever-softening earth. When there are termites enjoying the joists for breakfast, we should not discuss building new nooks to take meals in watching the sun rise. While gravity takes bites out of the high rise and everything metal gets dressed up in rust.

We, the people, need to write rights for our government to operate by, and before we’re all provided the resources to reasonably feed, house, and water ourselves, there is no higher priority on the agenda.

The founders knew a bureaucracy would be so confounding to the common people we’d fall under it obediently confused and subservient as if legalism was a new kind of steeple, for what is an altar without a gavel to bang it and summon up unsettled verdicts like they were lingering spirits. I don’t want to argue the way things things have been done. The founders invested the lives of our ancestors in the pursuit of freedom and left slavery in the system. Their ideas, their version of quality, is moot. We need to take our way of life down to the root, and start again.

Representation is the curse that has beleaguered this nation. Representative currency. Representative government. Representative freedom. And since its establishment, it has kept farmers, landowners, food producers, too tired and too busy to build any kind of revolution comparable to the first one. We need an agricultural economy, built locally into the infrastructure of every corner of our country. Barter based. Community supported. Democratically governed.

Everything else can remain the same, but the economy that dictates the prices of new Mustang convertibles or used iPhones or shiny logos on tennis shoes should not be the same one that determines the price of food, medicine, life giving water, or me and you. That economy already existed long before America, before Europe, before anyone conceived of something so big as a continent enough to name it. A farming, agricultural, basic, solid, slow changing and frustratingly consistent system at the bottom of our big, grand, shiny, plastic, expensive, current one.

A food, water, and shelter economy. One that recognizes the inarguable fact that poverty is, simply put, just another word for death.

Project Local Inc

We have a lot of projects underway, mostly in the planning stages, but a few are in the resource-gathering phase. We’re building a farm unlike any other agro-business I’ve ever experienced, but still, at its core, a farm. With the weather being what it is, all or nothing for the past little bit, crop farming has been a precarious endeavor. Yes, I am working on gardens, and we will be doing quite a lot of crops, but I’ve decided to not depend on it as the initial endeavor for Project Local’s food production aims.

The first two major items we’ll be focusing on are eggs and goat dairy. I recently raised up over twenty Ameraucana pullets that were just moved to the outdoor coop last week, and about two months ago, we added seven new goats to the herd, five of which are high quality Nubian breed milkers, which have (as far as I can tell) been bred successfully. Meaning in a matter of months, we’ll be basically covered up in milk and eggs and bleating little baby goats that sound exactly like the wrong answer on a gameshow.

I’m looking for people who are interested in participating in these processes in whatever capacity they can manage.

We need milkers, bottle feeders, egg collector and cleaners, and general help repairing barn structures, and building a brand spanking new chicken coop from the ground up. I’ve been doing farm and labor work for a good while now, and I can assure you, no one who helps will walk away empty handed. Each work opportunity will be handled on an individual basis, consistent with the needs and offerings of whomsoever is doing the helping.

I’ve done the paperwork, we’re a certified public charity, so monetary and asset contributions will receive a receipt, and will be counted as a donation to a certified 501(c)(3), and qualify for tax deduction. Money is always helpful, but items and equipment are just as good, here’s a list of what we need ASAP:

Lumber
Chicken Wire
Building materials: Nails, screws, hinges, etc.
Bags of concrete
Electric Fencing Materials: wire, insulators, grounding rods, etc
Tractor attachments (if you can find or have them) mostly for an IH Farmall Cub tractor, primarily a Box/Scrape Blade
Wood Splitter
Wood Splitting Tools: Wedges, Axes, Mauls.

Also, time and labor is always needed, and will be paid in produce, eggs, milk, as well as wages.

I’m happy to teach anyone interested how to milk dairy goats, how to take care of laying hens, how to build simple lean to shelters, run farm equipment, and till and plant gardens.
For the past decade, I’ve been doing about a thousand things at once that all seem separate and unrelated, and I can guarantee you, they are not. If you’re an artist, an office worker, retailer, factory worker, landscaper, teacher, student, the ways are almost infinite and innumerable how the skills and talents and patience and strength developed on a farm will overlap with the rest of your life.

The purpose of Project Local is not contained purely within food production, but in the experience of working with the land, growing a vocational base of experience and skills, to proliferate back out into the, for lack of a better word, secular world. We start where we are, and project outward, like a vine, always knowing at any time we can return to that radicle, that base, of what all it takes to wrest a life nourishing resource from the land.

I guess you could say Project Local is an insurance provider of sorts. The parachute of food production is worthless if you don’t know how, and when, and where to pull the cord. That’s why I started Project Local, that’s why I am building my farm as a non profit. The aim is education, and there is only pass, no fail.

The greatest mistake you make on a farm will still end up feeding the chickens.

Let me know if you’re interested, we’ll work out a time for you to tour the farm, and we’ll go ahead and start building a team so that when the milk and eggs all hit in a few months, we’re ready.

I get to choose

My grandpa only ever knew me as a little boy. I only knew him as an old man. But every day I work on his land, I stand under his trees, hold his soil in my hand and watch it drift away in the breeze, he knows. He sees.

I’m no longer a little boy.

The old man is buried beside a church in town.

But when we pick up antiques and put them to work, when we give our backs to what we’ll never get back, we can no longer call it memory.

Eternal life might be secondary to eternal use.

That’s why I prefer stories to memories.

Anytime I get to choose.

The Two Sides

It’s wrong. Eating meat. Eating plants. Living things. Perhaps that is why the first step is fixing it. Cooking it down, quartering, seasoning, sauteing, anything that reduces the item’s resemblance to its original and generative purpose. Who it was. A recipe to change it into what. Eating meat is like presidential wartime powers. Probably something we started doing in dire need and without much hesitation at all, a habit upon returning to peacetime, we found hard to shake. A highly digestible, palatable, abundant protein source, that clearly loudly and often violently tries not to make it on the menu. What makes eating meat wrong is what makes human beings marvelous. Empathy. Witnessing an animal going through a circumstance that would be a crime if done to you. Do people think farmers don’t feel this? Meat packers, butchers, hunters, people who work in slaughterhouses. Someone could scream it at me long as the day they don’t, but I know they know killing is wrong.

Imagine, as an example, a gun set on a compass, aimed outward, able to spin in three hundred and sixty degrees. Perfectly legal. As it starts to turn. Nothing but trees and open distance backdrop. Legal. Forty five degrees. Ninety degrees. Still dusty distance and wide open trees. Legal, One hundred and eighty. Approaching three sixty. When just at the very end of the full circle rotation, there stands a perfectly innocent bystander, in direct line of fire of the weapon. Well shit, see now the whole operation is illegal. It’s wrong. It’s been pointed at a human. So the same perfectly legal life ending device, aimed a particular angle, enacts a new set of laws and legal circumstances and moral implications. What’s wrong here? The gun, the compass, the ammunition, or the angle, the direction, is pointing it without just cause illegal, because that’s really trivial and unlikely to work in any sort of preventative capacity. Is it spinning illegal?

Legalistic structures don’t illustrate moral axioms very well, in the same way that a two sided coin doesn’t make good decisions.

There are three hundred and sixty four degrees of deadly that are perfectly reasonably regulated but legal, and one degree that will cost you your freedom, all your rights, possibly your life, and of course, your memory, and whatever untarnished reputation you might have achieved otherwise.

This is too complex for right or wrong.
For heads or tails. Aces or deuces. For guessing. Gambling. For hope.

Almost all the animals we know are ones that made the team, drew the human eye, and manipulated a little life for themselves out of some form of overbred, hyper domestic, servile, obedient existence. We come to know the world, other animals, farms, gardens, nature, heavily and violently on our own terms, whomsoever made the cut and avoided being cut. Most of these animals are food that we eat. So much so in fact their meat has become synonymous with their names. They have no more life outside of humans, because of how far into the house of socioeconomic interdependency we’ve bred them. Changed them. Taken away all their options, and genetically rearranged them.

Suffice to say, we’ve already consumed them, on a special level, even if you’ve somehow never eaten a bite of meat, or given it up and swear it off for the rest of your time alive enough to grow hungry from living. Modern chicken only exists because of appetite, the many choices and dependencies of our ancestors. Not just mine. Or theirs. But yours. Few things are so universal, as this baseline fact, that all domesticated animals are Frankenstein’s of human fancy and invention.

Point being, no one’s innocent. Not eating meat doesn’t allow you to opt out of having this difficult conversation. It just means you’re full. Which is what makes this so hard. We all are. We’re full. Societally. And we’re saying eating certain food is wrong because we’ve forgotten what all we started doing back when we were hungrier. We may yet be hungry again.

It’s an easy, light coin to toss: wrong or right.
Much heavier, harder, less forgiving
is the dented chunk of metal with the two sides
starve or survive.

Breakfast

Pull up sliding and gingerly crunch into the same tire tracks.
Snow, five inches of new, ten inches of old.
I’m blinded by the absence of headlights.
I’m walking now on memory alone.

Slick and hardened ice where the big trucks drove.
To a giant red paneled barn door officially frozen closed.
With a shovel from the shop, the door is unlocked.
Welcomed by blacker than night.

The blackness inside a barn before dawn.
Noses shovel pine chips in the wings. Muzzled throats
rattle and a great fuzz feathered floppy bird croaks
like an old man lifting up off a couch.

At the end of three hundred blind feet I grip
the splintered lip of yet another door. Slide it
heavily from existence. Eager eastern newborn
light bursts past and two hundred pupils shrink back.

Morning has come.
With breakfast.

Only after dinner

About once a day I sit down to write a post about how we could work together and across friendships and neighborhoods and families create our own food systems to potentially feed, house, and employ us all endlessly when the moment inevitably comes that we need.

I’ve farmed long enough to know we could dent the grocery bills of hundreds just making use of our backyards and right of ways and waste space. Hell, we’re already burning gas to keep down the grass. Crops or ruminants may actually be cheaper maintenance.

If we had that sort of back-pocket resource, we’d all be so much more free to pursue our dreams and personal agendas. If we knew we were fed, employed by a few hours of chores and housed, kept, even if no one wanted to take a chance on hiring us or God forbid the economy does what it always does, by design, every decade, recedes. (Considering America has never reached full employment, even at its best, hasn’t our economy been in prolonged depression from initiation?)

I want to write this post, but I know the reply, I know almost no one hears farm and thinks freedom. But I’m telling you, rice and milk was the great epiphany of Buddha, and Christ filled his career with food production and economic analogies and culminated it gathered around a dinner table, where equality is implied, reflexive, no longer good or right, where loving your neighbor is as simple as passing the plate. Equal share. You ever notice this? If you ever make it to the dinner table with a person, how the inequalities and social divides and economic distinctions disappear. No one divvys out portions based on anyone’s net worth.

Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe the answer waits at the end of all these earmarked budgets and policy debates and legalese liturgy. But I don’t feel crazy. And I’ve heard society sputtering ever since I came of age out of it into the world we left out of it. The real world. Universal, base need. Hunger. Thirst. Need for shelter. Starving for the culture that surrounds these things.

So, to sum up, every day I want to write this post that ends in dinner. That dinner becomes our primary goal. Food, the greater movement. All conversations, talks, arguments over divides and distinctions, only after dinner.

Toys

When people don’t think on timelines they think combines are a more practical way to harvest wheat. One farmer can go out and clean up a hundred acres without breaking a sweat. Until one of the blades break. Or some component deep down in the blocky engine. A tire retires on the early side of evening from a nice rusty screw stuck in its hide.

A sharp sickle at the end of a stick, what breaks first on it? Makes a human like a tree with a strong trunk and wide shade casting shoulders. Some of the most hardworking people I’ve ever known were afraid of shovels. Afraid of going slower. Garden hoes and self propelled push mowers.

Lovers of gadgets and vinyl seats and hands vibrated so long everything you touch for an hour afterward feels feather soft, or hands numbed altogether, blood shaken out from muscle clamped veins like clay spits out rain.

Toys. Tools.

This job would be easier if we had a skid steer. We should wait on the Bobcat. Hey man, if you let me bring over my gas powered stump parter we could stack this whole mess up faster. Until that rubber fuel line with the imperceptible cracks and spaces decides to come apart altogether. What about when you don’t slip your hand out quick enough, and you lose the most costly game of rock paper scissors ever. Just so we’re clear, we are always the paper.

Engines are the ugliest, dirtiest, rankest form of immortality ever engineered by mortal hands. The inspiration behind them seems the thinking of toddlers, banging blocks together, and having the realization one could turn wheels and tend flowers, if we could only trap and harness continuous revolutions of banging blocks.

I’ve always had bad luck with having people work with me, because they almost always go straight for my toys. Chainsaw. Weedeater. Tractor hovered over a finish belly mower. I’ve seen them break. There are thousands of dollars in contingencies associated with almost every single one of them that are invisible to anyone who has not paid for it.

This is why thinking on a timeline is so important. There is a point where the horse and steer surpass the tractor and combine and no till seed drilled planting and acres of insect and non-soybean armageddon. What we might call old technology, is a more redemptive, tried and tested form of immortality, with recognition of limitation and need built in. No moment of anger or surprise when the shovel handle breaks off right at the neck. No matter how slow I chop, or weak my grip, or strength in back, or numb my feet and fingers become, I have the means to repair all of them, or an ability to self-repair is built in to them.

If you can’t see why economy loves gas powered and oil blooded technology replacing wood handled and everlasting iron tipped tools, I don’t have the time or space here to teach it.

It is clear. It is comparing 10W-40 to water. Without a combine, how many people would be needed to tend those hundred acres. Just what is this half a million dollar machine intended to replace, a bunch of time and energy and stress, because in that regard, it is very much hit or miss. But consistently, regularly, dependably, it replaces what used to be an entire community of employment, housing, and opportunity surrounding agriculture. A massive, ever-expanding, predominately cashless economy built on trade, interdependency on land management and food production, cheap simple machinery and lots and lots of animals and people pursuing common ends.

A true example of something that fulfills all the expectations of the word sacrifice is impossible if not thinking on a timeline. A lasting farmer, in charge of an operation that will foreseeably still be running in two, or three hundred years, supporting a family, and a community, and a nation of communities, is impossible without making sacrifices today for that eventual tomorrow.

For all the modern conveniences, the bells and whistles of high tech agriculture, the returns and prices and community interest in farming is lower now than it ever was back when our great grandparents were chasing mules and lugging buckets of water up from the creek bottom.

What’s different is the prioritization they placed on timelines. Our ancestors sacrificed comfort, ease, access, because what they were building toward was greater than anything they could imagine within their lifetimes.

Whereas in stark contradiction, today, we buy gadgets, tools, air conditioned cab tractors so that one farmer can comfortably do the work of hundreds, and pay thousands and go into debt to repair their great giant community substitute. And to think I hear awestruck and wonderment from farmers about how little people understand what they do, or seem to care at all about the source of their food. And I know why. Because whenever you talk to a farmer, the first thing they tell you about is their toys.

The Farmer – Opening Paragraph

Why don’t we think how little control we have over basic life everytime we set an alarm at night? What a nasty trick to play on ourselves. Set a digital trap to ensnare any shred of our senses first thing in the morning. This one first thing in particular, began at five AM, because I had to be at the farm by seven, and I had to have a half a pot of coffee in me before then. And I liked to read and write during that time. I love the early morning. Just as soon as I’ve slapped the sleep out of myself. The most productive hours, I call them, because of how they melt away without much mental cognition into small piles of finished projects and completed records. Beginning, middle, and end. Every sentence. Stacked back to back each paragraph. Every follow after chapter. Until you’ve created your very own titan. A champion the gods themselves must descend and deal with outright. Jesus Christ, we’ve been seeking out an honest terms contest with God for a long long time.

The Almighty Dollar

Modern money is idolatry. Its very existence is a social contrivance. Like a lot of human institutions, it is representative, more so than authentic. For our ancestors, one of the stupidest, and most dangerous form of savings, was money. The wealthiest derived that status through land possession, crop stores, timber, chattel. Money was a placeholder, a tool for conversion. Lots of things have been money. Metal. Salt. Beads. And now, green pieces of paper and your hard fought credit score.

It is a relatively recent development. Even just a couple hundred years ago, money didn’t mean nearly what all it means to us now. You could have no money to speak of whatsoever, and live on your land, and eat from it. This idea that taxes just take a percentage of something that already exists is false. Taxation requires any land owner or laborer to convert some of their time or assets into the almighty dollar. And considering one of those trade goods is priceless, invaluable, and rare, and the other is as cheap as you need it to be, we always end up losing out on the conversion. We’re taxed. Even people who can only work a little, and are on food assistance programs, they get taxed. The goal is for all of the economy to pass through this government sanctioned, printed, malleable tender. Even if it is being spat right back up on people left in unsustainable economic conditions. Our government has become a glorified middle man. Our ancestors wouldn’t understand this.

I just wonder, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, why can’t we, as a community, simply take stock of our needs, and the ability of the lands within our regions to produce and meet that need. Instead of taxing our food producers and forcing them to convert their labor intensive products into money, why couldn’t some of those required taxes be rendered in providing food to the community, jobs, housing, even arts, culture and entertainment. I don’t know if you’ve read at all about what farms used to mean for people, but the idea of running a monotonous, one crop operation was almost unheard of. Very rare. Once, farms were cultural and economic institutions. Seasonal jobs to offer, cheap or even free housing for workers, hosting community events and celebrations. Fairs and concerts and markets.

Why would our government not want to send hungry people to this sort of place to get food, and possibly short term employment, or housing? They’re already taxing the farm, why not give a call, and ask, instead of these tens of thousands of dollars we were going to force you to render at peril of keeping your assets and freedom, there are three thousand people in your area on government assistance, what could you do for them?

That’s a good question, why exactly would our government not simply operate as a big picture, national seamstress quilting all the various agricultural regions together to form one solid, cohesive food system that could actually outlast the almighty, yet highly mortal US dollar. Don’t they care about us? Haven’t our leaders seen how currency is prone to inflate, and shrink back. I mean, by design, capitalism, our current form of economy, creates a recession or even a depression every decade. Don’t people lose all their savings even in mild recessions? Could we research what happens to the suicide rate during a recession, or god forbid, depression? People literally, and in more than a million ways, die with the dollar.

So this seems to me an insufficient vehicle to distribute basic resources we all require to maintain the little things, like breath, and open eyes, and a body that works, and a reasonable mind.

I don’t have some inscrutable authority to determine the rightness or wrongness of any issue, but same as you, I do have the ability to say there are some issues that truly effect all of us equally. Such as access to food, water, shelter, healthcare. Products we expire without. And knowing how many of those requirements exist naturally, easily on a farm, I wonder why our government talks about agriculture systems so infrequently.

Not really. I don’t wonder. I’m being ironic. It is because farms are true government. The first government. And that group of men who gathered up on the east coast and claimed to be this country’s new government, were mostly farmers. Problem was, they didn’t want to be any longer. So they became judges and congressmen and senators, and established a system that would allow their children to not to have to be farmers also.

If a farm is run right, and smart, a person could disappear into one like a black hole, and never be seen again, except for at a produce stand, strand of grass hung out from their mouth, while they turn a little bit of their best corn into petty cash, just to have some pocket money.

The base of our economy should be a barter based, agrarian community of farms, connected by foot trails and train tracks and highways like ivy vines all leading back to that rooted base. A productively laid back home place. People should be able to wade into it like a kiddy pool beside the high dive and sixteen foot deep end of the rest of the economy. Mark ups and tax rates are disrespectful and dangerous when they stand between someone and their survival.

Food, water, and shelter are not appropriate commodities for purely monetary economies.

Which, ironically, was the way it always was, even back when America was established. Everybody had a back-home and family farm they could retreat to when their city endeavors were taxed too high, or like we have now, a government that refuses to operate outside of its own self preservation. We literally have a system of government where our leaders can never make an unpopular decision, because they have to be elected again next season. Most of our workers are paid by the hour, so the harder and faster they work, the less they take home.

Why have I never read these ideas before? It’s like every other person who has this realization thinks forward, launches into new systems buried in the ideals of socialism, or the standardization and equality of communism. But I look back, just a few hundred years, and this is exactly the agricultural world our ancestors lived in.

Money was a trifling, mostly seasonal object for them, a vessel for trade, and security, so one could sit back and feel safe, and manifest their own autonomy while they lived off the food, water and shelter almost every piece of land on earth can provide.

But now money is being worshiped. This is beyond the borderline of idolatry.
The whole economy has become its sanctuary. And I really don’t believe in irony.

It’s just that survival is scary.

And money, the almighty dollar,
makes for a great place to hide.