Times are tough and people are paranoid.
At least this is what the newspaper headlines and my friends tell me. It’s not that I’m tired of hearing about the economic crisis, but I am tired of hearing about it in the same old way.
When a friend called and asked if I would come over to help her prepare her new chicken coop, I was thrilled. I’ve never hauled hay before.
Now that it’s legal to keep chickens in the city, some of the dykes I know are determined to live off the land. Where once they were part-time gardeners, now they are fully committing themselves to an optimistic vision of sustainable food production, literally in their own backyards.
Yet this friend, a painter and a Gertrude Stein look alike who lives alone with her dog, is preparing for the coming depression.
As we carried haystacks from her truck to the outer edge of her garden, she pointed out that we have to take care of ourselves and each other because when things collapse the government is not going to be able to help.
I’ve never met an anarchist I didn’t like, but her scarcity mentality freaked me out. She is convinced that keeping chickens and growing her own vegetables is her only chance of survival. I thought I was paranoid for stashing water and canned goods.
My friend is well over the legal limit of chickens. Until we finish building the coop, the chickens are hanging out in her basement, under heat lamps. They eat, chirp and sit around. I held one and became immediately attached and didn’t want to hear about how my friend was planning on cooking it.
I know it’s my own urban bias but it was awkward to look my new fowl friend in the eye knowing that she’d eventually be smothered in barbeque sauce.
Yet it’s no less awkward that I’ve grown up so detached from my food sources that I think of chicken as something that comes plastic-wrapped in a Styrofoam tray.
Whether the looming economic crisis turns into a full-fledged depression or not, there’s something beautiful about my friend and her chickens. This is a woman who is proactive, making plans and looking to take care of herself and her community.
She is making environmentally sound decisions. She is aiming for self-sufficiency and a healthy planet.
Even if she is motivated by paranoia, my friend’s new lifestyle serves us all well.
I have been trying not to think too much about global economics. Instead, I’m picking up a few skills, learning how to turn chicken poop into compost and how to gather eggs without getting pecked. It’s a brave new world, even in the city.