Saturday, March 26, 2011

Homesteading

Last year, my father decided that we needed chickens. We built a chicken coop, ordered two breeds (Columbian Wyandottes and Black Australorps), and got to it. Since about Thanksgiving, we've had a steady supply of the most delicious eggs I've ever had the pleasure of frying, scrambling, baking, or hard-boiling. The roosters crow every morning. And every night. And every time they get cocky. And everytime they think you've forgotten about them. The hens clucking is almost meditative, and they are much more beautiful creatures than I initially expected them to be. We also planted a garden, but due to soil conditions and weather, that went over like the Hindenburg.

This year, we're replanting--today we bought asparagus, strawberries, and blueberries--and watching our flock strut about their pen. My brother has started raising rabbits, a venture that seems like it may keep us in stew meat and enough fur and skins to keep a hobbyist happy. Now we're considering another addition: bees.

When we first talked about it, my father was the only one to jump to my side of the argument. "Daddy J used to keep bees out here," he said. "It's not that hard, and we all like honey." Since then, between discussions of pollinating all our lovely flowers and fruit trees, the rising cost of honey, the rapid disappearance of honeybees worldwide, and the profit one can turn from beeswax, only my mother remains unconvinced.

I've never been a huge fan of insects. I'm not afraid of them, as I am spiders, they just don't appeal to me. Bees, however, are gorgeous creatures. Their yellow-on-black bodies fill the sky with color, and their buzzing is almost zen-like in nature. I've been stung by them before, and it's much less annoying than a wasp or hornet sting, so I think I'll manage there (especially with proper equipment). I'm excited about seeing these interesting creatures up close, eating fresh honey (with all the health benefits thereof), and harvesting beeswax so I can finally start making candles.

Dad knows someone, an apiculture genius of some sort, that will help us get started. We plan on hand-crafting all the hives to save a little money there, as well. We haven't gotten a definite start date yet, and don't even know what all it entails, but this seems to be the next big step in our homesteading, right before pigs and dairy stock.

The rising cost of both food and oil (shooting transportation costs through the roof) shows through in the supermarket. All around the country people are attempting to be more self-sufficient to save a few dollars in this recession. I think there's more to it than that, though. I think that every family that starts a garden to help with their food bill, every college neo-hippie raising a pair of chicks in an Eglu on the roof of their apartment building, every rural amateur that says "Hey, we can handle a goat..."--each of these people are bringing us back to a golden age of interconnectivity.

It's not just that you can save money by growing your own, it's that you get a feeling of accomplishment when you do, and that pride quickly distills into humility when you realize that you can help others as much as you've helped yourself. Dad's original plan was to sell our cage-free, grain fed chickens' eggs for a few dollars a dozen, and he still may. But so far, the excess has gone to neighbors I'm not sure we've met before, to family, to friends, and sometimes to strangers. Giving away the excess we produce not only saves someone else money, but it cements friendships, feeds the needy, and brings us closer together. Taking a dozen eggs to a neighbor you don't know well opens the door for conversation, moving them into a dearer place in your life. Furthermore, when or if they begin to do something similar, they're likely to remember the sharing of your wealth and reciprocate.

This is in direct contrast to, say, internet social media, where the focus isn't so much about others but on our own ego. Facebook, Twitter, and 4Squared are all great if you genuinely use them to keep in touch, but more often than not, we find our desire to involve ourselves in another's life easily placated by a poke or a follow. Social networking is slowly making us less social; it gives the appearance of caring about people with literally the least amount of effort actually expended, which defeats the purpose.

Am I suggesting we all give up our computers and live like filthy hippies? Of course not; you couldn't read my blog, and hippies are disgusting, vile creatures. What I am saying, though, is that as counter-intuitive as it may seem, self-reliance and independence go further to cement our social ties than all the internet-inspired interconnectivity of the modern era.

Don't believe me? Come see me in a year. We'll talk about it over a farm fresh meal and a bottle of homemade mead. Suck on that, Twitter.

4 comments:

  1. Very well-written. I look forward to seeing you in a year!!

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  2. Indeed! I have a friend who has been raising bees and she loves it. It would never be an option for us, seeing as how I'm very, very allergic, but nonetheless she really enjoys it and finds it to be rather simple (although she's a very dedicated lady). I've been trying to find ways to grow herbs in our 3d floor apartment. The problem is that we only have east and west facing windows, and window boxes are also not allowed. It doesn't leave much room for really sun-necessary plants.

    I am looking to take up canning, with items from the local farmer's market, however.

    Good luck with it all!

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  3. Oh, and I feel you about the narcissism of Facebook/other social media. That's why I gave Facebook up for Lent.

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  4. I will admit to a terror of bees. However, I do appreciate what they make and help create. :)

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