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.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On Fear..

Fear will always exist. No one is truly, completely fearless; to be fearless is to be foolish. What matters isn't to release fear, but to weigh it against what you seek to gain and hold to that goal, through the pain and the anguish and the wrenched bones and shattered teeth. Hold fear dear, for it is what gives your actions meaning--the greater the fear, the greater we must be to overcome it. Without fear, life has no challenges; there is nothing to overcome, no victories to be had. Cradle your fear, like you cradle your mortality--keep it close to you, enough to smell it, to know it's there, waiting for you to falter from your path. Keep it close enough to you that when you triumph, it can taste your victory, and it can feel its defeat.
-M..

Friday, March 11, 2011

Great Joys of Life, Pt. II: Women

"Who does not love wine, women, and song, remains a fool his whole life long."

They're snarky, hateful, spiteful, argumentative, stubborn, loud, stupid, ignorant, and evil.

And yet, despite all these flaws, men are still loved by women. You probably thought I was going somewhere else with that, but it's true. I mean, women can be all those things, too. In fact, they're better at them than men. The point is that they're also many, many other wonderful things. Women are also smart, beautiful, stylish, funny, enchanting, and captivating. That's why we put up with them.

Ville Valo said "Women are always beautiful." I have to agree. Even at their fiery-eyed, viper-tongued, she-beast worst, they're the most utterly gorgeous creatures crafted by the Maker. Their mere presence in a room changes the atmosphere, charging it with a magic usually reserved for glorious sunrises and the blossoming of flowers after a rainstorm. When they smile, the room floods with beauty. When they cry, it's as though the very sky weeps. When they hug, you are truly wrapped in the arms of love.

I haven't had the best track record with women, honestly. I've dated the most motley assortment of liars, cheats, psychopaths, and sluts imaginable. They've been terrible to me, as I'm sure they feel I have been to them, and have caused me a great deal of trouble and strife (which, fittingly enough, was once Cockney slang for "wife"). I can't trust them as far as I can throw them, and yet I routinely delight in their presence. Why? Because they're captivating.

The song "Pretty Women" from Sweeny Todd illustrates this point nicely, as do any of the ten thousand other songs written to proclaim their beauty. Poetry was, I'm quite positive, invented to spread stories of their grace, loveliness, and heartbreaking tendencies. As Futurama pointed out, "All of civilization was just an attempt to impress the opposite sex." I am, for all the trouble it brings me, addicted to women: their presence, their warmth, their forms, their functions, and their faults. Each one of them is gorgeous in a unique way, so long as they stay true to themselves. And as much as they might be the cause of many of man's problems, they're also a solution to a great many. We love you, ladies.

"Next to the wound, what women make best is the bandage."