Things I’m Wondering

As I enjoy the chickens more and more I wonder more and more why people don’t have them in their backyards.  Hopefully as all of us bloggers talk about it more people will get interested and start doing it.  It’s a chore sure, but enjoying those eggs is so nice.

I’ve been wondering lately why the so called experts didn’t see this financial collapse coming.  Some of us dismissed, less fortunate people did.  How?  We used common sense to ask if things smelled right.  It’s amazing how often common sense works for most things.

I always wonder why people get so freaky about the weather.  It is what it is.  You just have to deal with it.

I wonder if this spring will be the spring where gardening really takes off.  Last year seed orders were up from the previous year, but how much more will they be up this coming year?

Along those same lines why do all the food donation places let people be so helpless?  People come to you for food, which is OK if you give them immediate help, but show them how to grow some food for themselves.  Why continue to make people dependent on food donations?  Where is the sense in that?

Same deal with the people receiving the donations.  Why would you continue to take what is given rather than looking for another solution?

I read a news story recently wherein a mother was complaining about not being able to find work, except overnight workshifts.  Her husband was laid off and she was formerly a stay at home mom with 4 children.  It made me wonder.  Was her situation really that bad if she was turning down nightshift work because it was nightshift work?  My parents worked all kinds of crazy shifts when I was growing up to make sure they were providing.  Sure it puts a strain on everyone, but you deal with it.  I wonder how much differently this lady might feel in 6 months.

I wonder how long it will be until I am full up with more wonderings.


13 responses to “Things I’m Wondering

  1. 1) some people don’t have chickens because where they live, doing so would be illegal (I can’t have chickens in my area)

    2) While teaching those who need food banks to grow their own food is a noble idea, and might work for a few, you must consider that many people rent (either houses or apartments) and therefor do not own land in which to grow anything.

    Community growing areas might be an option- but this poses its own set of challenges

    – finding appropriate green space in urban areas (not all green space is safe for growing food- I remember reading something about urban areas frequently being contaminated with lead, etc)

    -deciding who is responsible for the land, for the safety of the food, etc

    These, of course, are just a few thoughts off the top of my head.

  2. I wonder many of these same things. And I shake my head in frustration and despair at people’s willingness to make excuses for themselves and others rather than take action.

    Ordinances prohibiting chickens can be changed – and have been recently. But also, it doesn’t have to be “chickens.” Other birds can be raised for eggs (and meat), which are not prohibited by ordinances … like quail.

    Vegetables can be grown in containers on a balcony, a roof, or hanging from the eaves, or in raised beds so that contaminated urban soil becomes a non-issue.

    But knowing these things requires people not to make excuses, but rather to find answers – and that’s wherein the problem lies. It’s easier to depend on the “money economy” than it is to do for oneself.

    Maybe we should petition our food pantries to provide a 5 gal bucket full of compost and a packet of seeds to every family it serves – to get them started. Instead of the “Plant-A-Row” program, maybe we could get our County Extension Agencies to encourage food pantries to accept seedlings so that those families who might have received my tomatoes can grow their own.

  3. Please don’t take my comments as excuses, only some structural issues to be overcome. Your suggestions, Wendy, are quite good. The statement that it is easier to “depend on the money economy” tends to gloss over still other issues however, such as agency/efficacy, and tends to blame the victim rather than the system- which enables the dependence.

  4. Reading my own comment now I see that it appears I blame the system entirely – I do not – I do think individuals are part of the problem, just a very tiny piece of it.

  5. I must have spun my head a dozen times around this question, for me, it helps to get to the barest essentials.

    There are two issues at hand.

    1.) people are hungry

    2.) present conditions (be they social, systemic, individual) have created hungry people.

    any solution to the second must first acknowledge that the first exists and should be a priority. Its hard to teach someone to fish if they drop dead halfway through the lesson. That may be an exaggeration but I have been to some areas where nutritional deficit created serious impediments to leading anything close to a productive life.

    So I say, do both. Plant a row for someone else, so that they have the capacity to take that seedling and put it to use.

    as for not having chickens because of legality, or (I have also heard of insane housing covenants that prohibit anything but green grass) well, It would be easy to say the words civil disobedience because I don’t have those kind of impediments, but remember the harder things get, the easier it will be to change the system.

    Desperation and hunger bring out the rebels in all of us. Change will come, it just takes a reason.

  6. Ahhh, Matty. I always enjoy reading your blog. Keep it up. (And my how you have changed. To think 10-15 years ago we were splitting pounds of Long John Silvers and gallons of Mr. Pibb. And survived. We’ve changed for the better haven’t we?)

    Quick answers from your city-fied friend:

    1. Chickens: So for a few bucks for the chickens, a few more bucks for the pen, more for the feed, and the daily time to feed, water, clean out the coop and harvest the eggs I could get a few eggs out of the deal? Plus chickens stink (parents had a coop full growing up and I don’t remember a pleasant bouquet), the pleasure of chasing them chickens like Rocky and a few eggs? I bought a dozen eggs at the store yesterday for about a buck. I’ll pass. (I’d be curious to see Finance Matt do a cost/benefit analysis of chickens. 🙂 I understand the benefits (pride, better eggs, etc), but at what cost?)

    2. Experts: I think some did. (Didn’t Obama have a letter dated from ’07 about this mortgage stuff?) The issue was experts were considered nerds, biased or unpatriotic for speaking out of turn. Or they just weren’t listened to.

    3. Weather: People love to complain and it’s easy small talk.

    4. Gardening: Maybe. But I doubt it. In the end people are lazy and “busy”.

    5-6. “Teaching how to fish”/accepting help: While I doubt the person in need has the land to grow stuff, they would still pass. (Which is why the community growing land/town square a la the old days is a good idea.) Go back to the lazy thing. And many people come from a culture where accepting help is ok.

    7. Nightshift. I think the issue here is people think too highly of themselves. You are right though, I bet that lady’s story changes with time. Eventually though people have to pay those bills.

  7. I’m glad you got back on alottaerrata, because I was going to ask about the rationalization that I was reading in the first post.

    My biggest concern is that people are hungry but they don’t seem to be taking action themselves to alleviate the situation. Why is that? What is possibly going through their heads?

    The idea of having the food pantry distribute seeds is an interesting idea. I think I’m going to try to talk to the food groups and see what they think about that.

    My biggest problem is that the people in these situations don’t appear to me to be out searching for a solution.

    Sure there are problems with access to land at a rental property but I wonder how many people even ask? I own rental property and I would let my tenants plant a garden, if for no other reason than it lowers their living costs and indirectly, makes it easier to pay me their rent. I think most landlords would think the same thing.

  8. Ah Tom, you are correct. Chicken coops can smell, when they are not worked correctly. If something smells the coop is out of balance. It has too many chickens in a small area or needs more bedding. Yeah it takes time and effort, but not as much as people think. My eggs are $3 a carton, so I can get my costs back much more quickly. Not to mention all the great material for the garden.

    Hey, you have a gym membership right? I get my workout for free outside and I get some produce out of it. 😉

    Most people I know seem to be too busy to garden because American Idol and Dancing with Celebrities is on. That’s not really busy to me.

    I agree about people not prioritizing gardening, but it still seems unclear to me. You can be outside, working hard, eating for next to nothing and you don’t have to spend so much time at the grocery story. There are a lot of nice benefits.

    I wonder if some of this has to do with being brought up in a rural area vs. a more urban area? It’s wholly natural to me to see houses with gardens. I’ve seen them since I can remember. In fact the only place I didn’t see them was when I lived in KC, except my neighbor who was a “Master Gardener” (which consisted of hosing everything with chemicals. Some mastery.)

    Strange that we were writing comments at the same time.

    I had LJS the other day. First time since college I think. Been a while. Still smelled the same.

  9. Forgive my scatter-brained responses, I’m about 6 days from the end of my semester and buried with work, but this conversation is interesting.

    On why people don’t ask/pursue options such as farming on their own volition:

    This is where agency/efficacy comes in. My theory is that for many poor (and since many poor are urban) farming/owning chickens isn’t “on their radar”. Almost as if it didn’t exist. Many children don’t realize that baby carrots are not actually baby carrots. Many don’t know that carrots grow in the ground. (I’m not kidding, there are studies on this…somewhere) The vast majority of people do not connect food with the earth at all. It is connected to grocery stores and restaurants, food pantries and the like. We have become disconnected as a society, and this is even more true for those who live in urban areas who don’t have access to cars etc – they never *see* food being produced. They may not travel out of a few mile radius depending on their bus access. Their world can be very very small. In some areas this is changing. The low income neighborhood I live in recently got an urban farmer’s market and I believe some of the vendors even accepted food stamps. This is good! Still, it only ran for a few short months, was not well advertised, and kind of a pain to get to by bus. Where I used to live there was a program called City Seed which was amazing. Urban school kids were taught organic farming on donated land, and then sold their produce at the local farmers market (food stamps accepted) so they got to see the entire food production chain first hand. Hopefully these students will grow into adults who grow their own produce, even if it is just a few tomatoes.

    OK back to my statistics…

  10. I don’t think the issue is limited to people in poorer urban areas. I said: “… knowing these things requires people not to make excuses, but rather to find answers – and that’s wherein the problem lies. It’s easier to depend on the “money economy” than it is to do for oneself.”

    And that applies to people of wealth as well as people of poverty, and there are a lot of little suburban kids who don’t know that eggs come from a chicken’s butt or that potatoes grow in the ground.

    This past summer, I was picking wild blackberries with a friend of mine, and make no mistake, blackberry picking is hot, buggy, and sometimes painful WORK. It takes a lot of time to fill a quart-sized container, and one has to take a lot of care so as not to get stuck by the briars, which isn’t easy when you have to wade hip deep in the brambles to get to the berries.

    My friend said, basically, that it wasn’t worth all of the work, and next time, she’d just pay the $6 at the Farmer’s Market.

    She had the opportunity to “do for” herself, but it was easier to rely on the “money economy”, or to “buy” blackberries.

    The issue, in my experience, is not that (most) people don’t know, but that they are unwilling to find out, because it’s easier to let someone else deal with it.

    Matt, you have to tell me – is LJS “Long John Silvers”? I worked my way through college at LJS, and then was a manager for a while ;). LJS hasn’t made it this far north ;).

  11. Technically, your friend is *probably* right from an economic standpoint. It most likely isn’t worth it for her to do the work. This is assuming that she holds a job or could hold a job that would pay her more than minimum wage. Lets say it take her an hour to pick the same amount of blackberries she could buy at the farmer’s market for $6 and your friend’s time is “worth” $10 an hour. That means if she picks them herself she is “over paying” by $4.

    The reason I am focusing on the poor and not the suburban kids (who are equally disconnected, I agree) is because we were talking about food pantries.

  12. Oh, and I’m glad that your friend buys her fruit at the farmer’s market instead of the big box grocery store.

  13. Actually, the food bank in my city has an active food security program. They have two gardens and sell the produce (and accept food stamps for them). They give away free seeds and compost. They have gardening classes. And qualified people can get personal help setting up their own garden from staff there.

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