Wassail, traveler, and welcome to The Gable Grey -- a place of retreat, of renewal, and of resistance: a tree-shaded refuge in Dark Times. Now pass the threshold, and rest from journeys! For a cold wind is blowing; and here, if you wish, you may hear tidings of the world without...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Embarrassment of Food

(Photo:  Wikipedia.)

The image above is of chicken eggs, specifically eggs from the breed officially called Dominique, known locally here in the Deep South as "Dominicker."  (I prefer the latter term, and will use it and the diminutive Dom in this post.)  The eggs in the picture are not from my birds; our four hens are just 2 1/2 month-old pullets.  Discovery of our first egg will be a celebratory moment.

So we have chickens, four hens, of the Dominicker variety.  It's an old breed, the oldest known breed in America, brought here from southern England in the early colonial period.  They're dual-purpose birds, meaning they're good layers as well as being good to eat.  Their feathers ("hawk"-patterned) were prized for pillow-stuffing.  Most of what folks in my area call "Dominicker" are actually Barred Rocks, or Barred Plymouth Rocks, developed from the Dom and known for their single comb, instead of the rose-comb of the true Dom.  Dom hens are gentle, and ours are remarkably tame, willingly perching on one's arm, or even head (I do not allow the latter on my person, though my wife and daughter think it funny.  They will not think so when they have to clean chicken poop out of their hair.)

  (Image: Wikipedia.)

I chose the breed for the above reasons, plus with the added notion that I would be safeguarding an heirloom breed that was at one time in danger of extinction.  Also, I had a rooster and hen as pets for a while in my early teenage years, really just loaned to me from my good friend Shelby, who went on to a career in poultry science.  (I suspect I had a pair of Barred Rocks.)  The rooster was combative, ornery, belligerent, and pugnacious.  I wonder what eventually happened to the old villain, after their return to Shelby's huge flock.  I suspect he was murdered, or some other suitably bad end.

I did not get our current mini-flock to keep as pets, though they are seen as little more than that by the wife and child, and by most other observers.  I got them for the eggs they will lay.  I'd like to get more Dom hens, at least doubling the flock in the next year; a dozen would be ideal, but that would possibly compromise the very nature of my stealth flock.  I've gone outlaw, having these chickens in a town that still has an ordinance against them, and don't yet want to test my civil disobedience with the local apparatchiks.

A question I often get, after someone finds out I have chickens, is "Why?"  I used to answer, "For the eggs."  That, apparently, is laughable, since that answer is usually followed by another question:  "Why don't you just go down to Wal-Mart and get some, when you need them?"  I have no answer to that, without going into a long spiel about Peak Oil, and holding forth on the current collapse of Western industrial civilization, both of which are still alien topics to most folk; so I have changed my answer to the first question to, "Uh, it's something to do."

It's a shame I have to do that, really.  Why should I be embarrassed about having chickens?  Why should I have to explain why I want to grow my own food?  The answer to both questions is, of course, that I shouldn't.  The ones asking the questions should be the ones to be embarrassed.  It is a sign of just how far removed average Americans are from reality that they cannot fathom why anyone would want to fool with raising livestock and vegetables for their own consumption, or eventually for selling locally.  What they cannot yet understand is that, more and more in this country, life will be about producing things to eat, not making money to buy Value Meals and frozen pizzas.  There will come a time, shortly, when remaining urban livestock ordinances will be ignored, as people will need to have their own sources of protein to hand.  It will be cheaper to grow your own tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers than to buy them trucked in from hundreds of miles away (this is already happening).

It is difficult to proceed with this lifestyle, when most of my countrymen still just do not get it, and are willlingly mired in the fast-fading illusion of life in the Oil Age.  It is like a drug-induced stupor from which they will not willingly be shaken out of; and peer pressure, as any kid who grew up in the drug and alcohol culture of America in the past fifty years knows, is difficult to stand up to.  You become a nerd, a geek, a weirdo, a freak... when, in reality, it is the other way around.  But I long ago came to enjoy the status of eccentric outsider, so I will continue on this path.  It is the only path, I have concluded, that has any kind of future.

(Photo:  Wikipedia.)



  1. You're a man after my own heart, Chris: "But I long ago came to enjoy the status of eccentric outsider, so I will continue on this path. It is the only path, I have concluded, that has any kind of future."

  2. High praise, coming from you, Guy! Thanks.


Whiles carried o'er the iron road,
We hurry by some fair abode;
The garden bright amidst the hay,
The yellow wain upon the way,
The dining men, the wind that sweeps
Light locks from off the sun-sweet heaps --
The gable grey, the hoary roof,
Here now -- and now so far aloof.
How sorely then we long to stay
And midst its sweetness wear the day,
And 'neath its changing shadows sit,
And feel ourselves a part of it.
Such rest, such stay, I strove to win
With these same leaves that lie herein.

-- William Morris, from
"The Roots of the Mountains"