Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I Didn't Mean to Write About Gravedigging Today

I was going to write an eloquent post about how starting to become an urban farmer has brought me out into nature in all its states. I went out to close up the chicken coop in a raging windstorm the other night. Today has me mulching in the chilly fall sunshine. On days when I otherwise would be bundled up inside, I am now compelled to be out tending to garden and animals. It's nice in a way, I think it brings a greater connection to nature that isn't dependent on sunny skies and mild temperatures. It brings me face to face with the way the world really is, which is not climate controlled.

Instead though, I'm going to write about another side benefit (if I can bring myself to think of it that way) of the urban farming lifestyle: being dragged into close contact with nature's lifecycles. We had a mysterious chicken death yesterday. I went down to check on the ladies, and there was Speeder, face down in the middle of the chicken coop floor, looking for all intents and purposes as if she'd just decided to take a late afternoon snooze.

There was no blood around the deceased, no evidence of flying feathers, no wounds, no other indications of sickness (do chickens vomit? I don't know, but I checked for that too). She weighed a healthy chickenly amount, her combs (or "cluckers" as the kids call them) were all nice and pink and not scaly, her feathers are glossy and golden (this photo was taken last week, and you can clearly see that she is a chicken in the prime of her life.) In short, she looks reasonably healthy, except for the fact that she's dead. At only two years old, she's a bit young for a chicken heart attack (do chickens have heart attacks? Maybe I shouldn't have fed them those buttered toast scraps), but my only other conclusions are possible spider bite, or maybe she happened to peck at something like the mushrooms and toadstools that are cropping up everywhere after all this rain.

Regardless, this afternoon saw me solemnly digging a grave, standing beside it with my children and saying a few words about Speeder's life, as well as chicken heaven (somehow, "dog heaven" sounds much more dignified than "chicken heaven".) Then I played Taps on the recorder (ah, the things you do as a parent) and shoveled on the dirt.

This wasn't a pleasant duty, but in a way it also brought me closer to real life. I've read about rigor mortis, but never actually felt it before (the time my mom put my hamster in the freezer so we could bury her in the new house we're moving to doesn't really count.) I've been able to turn my head from death in that peculiar way that we in the Western World are able to do. Like our climate-controlled houses, our reality-controlled lives let us slip past the harsh and often messy realities of birth, death, sickness, old age, dying. Instead, working with earth, plants, animals, getting our hands messy in the dirt of the world, we come face to face with bad weather, bugs and grubs, stricken plants, and yes, dead chickens. As I say goodbye to Speeder and tamp down the earth, in an odd way it feels like a blessing.

1 comment:

Rhonda said...

I've happened upon your blog and have just about read it in its entirety...
this particular post brought tears to my eyes.
I aspire to urban farm more in the near future.
It's a process and your blog has brought me closer to that.
Thank you.