Thursday, November 13, 2014

thoughts on hardy stock and breaking the law

Would you break the law if you knew that everyone was doing it? What if you knew, too, that you wouldn't incur consequences?

Most anyone I know would say -- not me! Maybe to save the life of another, or unwittingly, or in tiny ways, but for personal gain? Not me!

This is where I want to tick off all the ways where we routinely go against the rules, big and small. My favorite is crossing the street on a red light when there is no traffic. I'll never forget this scene: it was in Fukuoka, Japan, some dozen years ago. I was standing with a small group at a corner, at night and there was absolutely no vehicular traffic. Nonetheless, everyone waited for the light to change. My customary impulse to break that rule was so strong that I could not, could not resist the pull to place my foot on the street before the light turned green! Not only do I appear to violate this rule of the road routinely, it seems I can't NOT violate it, even when there's social pressure to obey.

There are no traffic lights around the rural roads that twist and dip around the farmette where I live and when I go out for a walk, I make a point of walking into the traffic, like I know the law requires. But there is another little area of rule violations that I dabble in and as I step deeper into the fray with this particular activity, I'm just a touch surprised how seemingly indifferent I am to the fact that here again, there is a law and I am either breaking it, or at the very least, participating in someone else's lawlessness. Sort of like an accomplice to a crime.

I'm referring to renting through AirBnB. I've stayed in rooms or apartments rented under the table, so to speak, in a number of places -- Berkeley, Dublin, New York, Paris, Warsaw -- the list is not short! I know the rule on when it's legal in Ireland, because an AirBnB person there explained it to me (but I didn't check if she was right or if she followed it). I pretty much can guess that in the other places the rentals were in violation of local ordinance.

But everyone is doing it!

Well now, there's an answer! Truth is, though I think the laws should be adjusted to permit some form of space sharing, for the most part, I understand the reasons behind the rules and in any case, it's not up to me to decide if the rules are good or bad. Is it? Or maybe it is? By massive violations, we are making a statement that change is needed, no?

Phew. I feel better. This still doesn't explain my feverish desire to cross a street in Fukuoka on a red light, but at least in the case of AirBnB -- I'm making a statement! (Of sorts.)

I write about this as I tidy up my plans for a trip in a few weeks (AirBnb, yet again) and, too, as I consider the possibility that in the years to come, AirBnB will play a huge role in my travels across the ocean.

And you know that it must be a gray day, here in Wisconsin, because thoughts of travel are with me from the minute I wake up this morning.

Gray and cold. I push Ed out of bed.  
Your turn to let the cheepers out. I make that up. We don't take turns. Ever since I agreed to let Oreo, (the batty rooster that's Ed's beloved pal), remain at the farmette, I laid this condition: you let them out in the mornings! I don't want Oreo to attack me at sunrise! Of course,  Oreo has, for now, settled down and frankly, none of the chickens are especially energetic at sunrise or otherwise. An attack would require a lot of running and flapping on his part. He hardly seems geared for that since the weather turned cold.

Ed dutifully gets up and stumbles out toward the barn, half asleep going out, still half asleep coming back inside.

Okay. Time for us all to move this day forward. I get up, look out the window...
Oh! You didn't tell me there was a bit of snow on the ground!
That deserves and receives a grunt. I can get the guy to open the coop at the break of dawn, but this is not the time to look for dialogue.

I go out, with my camera, because you know, those first dustings of snow are always so special!


The cheepers don't share my enthusiasm for it. They're out of the coop, but they absolutely show no interest in leaving the barn. Drafty as it is, at least the barn doesn't have snow on the ground.

Chickens hate snow.

And yet, they need exercise. I take out grains to entice them out. One stumbles to look, pecks once, retreats, as if to say -- not worth it.


I nearly give up on them. At breakfast (in the kitchen today), I tell Ed -- they're stuck for the season in the crappy old barn! 


But as we look out the window, we see that they are moving toward us. Perhaps they spotted the light in the kitchen window. Tentatively, gingerly, they are making their way to the farmhouse.


Bravely, so bravely, they step along the half frozen path (we are now at the beginning of a two week spell of complete, bone chilling cold). I go to the farmhouse door to greet them.


I feed them raisins and seeds and nuts and they peck away, but still oh so tentatively. As if their carefree life has been blasted out from under their feet and they have to figure out afresh what's what.

(Butter pecks at the potted mums  -- is there anything that's living left in this world?)

But here's the amazing part: whereas all chicken people I know by now have given up on regular egg collection (you can force hens to lay with lights in the winter, but we're not going to do that), our girls are still going strong. Against all odds, breaking all rules, so to speak, they're giving us three eggs every single day.

Hardy stock. We've got a lot of that floating around the farmette these days.

(note Isie boy behind the glass door: he's still a little intimidated by the whole cheeper deal)

And that's a good thing.

P.S. to the NYTimes piece from yesterday: I really enjoyed your comments here and, too, the comments of NYT readers after the piece itself. I especially recommend those to my demographic: if you're thinking you may be a grandparent soon, go back to the article and find out what young parents are saying about the whole grandparent schtick.