|Revolutionary Birds Lead the Way for Sustainable Yard-Stead Ag|
When I look out my kitchen window, I see seven girls dressed in plain black and white with just a touch of red on their bonnets. They chatter all day long and love to sunbathe. They pick at each other, they eat non-stop and don’t gain weight.?
These girls are industrious if querulous farmhands. They have a lot of fun, but they mostly study on the subject at hand, which is agriculture in this case. I like that in a teenager — focus. But these doyennes of my yard-stead are black and white American Dominique chickens — with rose-red combs and wattles. And they are intent on one thing only, making our breakfast every morning and giving us darling little nitrogen packages, otherwise known as "poo" that makes our vegetables and small fruits grow like a well-tended Amish garden!?
The Amish are known for their self-sufficiency, just as Thomas Jefferson’s America used to be known — a nation of farmers who grew most of their own food. These yeoman farmers would have never engaged in the risky financial games many Americans have played with their homes in recent years. The Amish,?like our farming ancestors, know and knew what is real;?they continue to grow their own food and wisely conserve their land and resources.?
I regard my home in a different way than I have in the past. Real estate investment potential and borrowing power not-withstanding, I view the soil around me as my ancestors used to regard theirs: it is possible in a very small space to produce a great deal of organic food to feed my family at a very low cost. We get a lot of sunshine, exercise and laughs in the deal as well. Anyone can do this whether in a regular-sized yard, a sunny apartment deck or an acre.?
Back to my Amish teenagers. My husband gave them to me last spring when they were just six weeks old as an early birthday present. They will be a year old in May, so in chicken years, they were teenagers this blustery winter. And they weathered the snow in the South just fine because they are a hearty, American-heritage breed. Through many vicissitudes including trouble with zoning and having to move them several times, I have held on to Isadora, Rosebud, Blanche, Sophia, Marie Antoinette (she used to be named Madelaine, but that is another story), Pearl and Ruby, because they are the "thin edge of a wedge."
What is this "thin edge of the wedge" where my seven Amish teenagers sport playfully in the fresh air and sunshine all day? You may also imagine, if you are so culinarily inclined, this as a wedge of a delicious leek and bacon quiche made with orange-yolked eggs courtesy of my modest, twittering teens. My feathered friends represent to me the cutting edge of my efforts to create a perma-culture of life – chickens, bees, vegetables and small fruits like blueberries, strawberries, jujube and blackberry, together with my freshly-ground wheat and bread, form a healthy, organic and low-cost diet for my loved ones.?
The problem most Americans will come up against with their yard-stead is outdated zoning laws needing to be challenged and changed like Georgia did with the recent passage of their "Right to Grow" law. During the debate process, it became crystal clear this is an issue Democrats and Republicans can unite on because it is an issue that goes beyond ideology, farm policy or globalization. It is the basic human right to feed oneself and those who rely on us.?
My Revolutionary War ancestors would be appalled by a country that won’t let citizens take care of themselves with a few chickens in the backyard. They rumbled over tea. I am fighting for eggs.?You would think I was cooking up meth, not eggs Benedict.?
In these hard economic times, some people need to get real. Otherwise, "let them eat grass!" I know my chickens do and that is why my eggs are so rich in omega-3 and are a fabulous source of nutrient-dense protein. I can turn my back on the teas I savor, but this scratch-cook really cannot do without eggs.
Like a rising tide across this country and many parts of the globe, others like me seek to be increasingly independent
Mothers and fathers, everywhere and in every age, want to feed their children. On this all of us can agree.
However, we can’t even have backyard chickens in most of the municipalities in this country. Americans want to feed themselves and, somehow, this city-girl turned urban-farmer wants to shout "feed the people and ask questions later!"
Because we are all at that point. I am glad our first Lady is growing food on the White House lawn. It is the people’s house. It is a good use of all that grass. I think I will ask her if she will ask her husband to pardon my chickens.
They pardon turkeys at the White House. Do they pardon chickens? What is the fax number?