Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Chicks in the Mail

Hey Ho. T-minus something very small until chick arrival. Woohoo. Last night we set everything up and made sure that the lamp would keep the box warm enough, etc. We are now just waiting for the phone call from our friendly Postmaster, who himself seemed very excited that we were getting chicks.

Speaking of making friends due to livestock: did anyone read this article? Michael Pollan’s latest New York Times piece. I read The Botany of Desire several years ago but I’ve only leafed through his books since then. The Botany of Desire is definitely a natural history page turner, a fantastically researched book, but I did not find myself at all moved by his overall assertion that plants use us much like we use them, and, well, for some reason I found myself kind of annoyed by his authorial voice or whatever you want to call it; a feeling that has stayed with me through most of his op-ed stuff even while I am totally cheering on whatever he’s writing about. This piece is more of the same – of course I am really into the idea that people should try growing their own foods. Everything he lays out at the end has been true for us: growing your own food is cheaper, you get great exercise, your neighbors come over and chat you up, the food you grow tastes better, you feel a connection to nature that is in a totally different league from being a weekend hiker, and people get inspired by seeing someone else walking out of the garden in December with a huge bowl of greens (our neighbor on the right borrowed the tiller we rented last summer and put in her own small front yard plot and the people who just bought the house next to us confided that they were worried about putting their garden in their front yard until they found a house next door to someone who had already shocked the neighbors). I think it’s his discussion of virtue in this piece that is annoying me (that, and the concept of the “evil Chinese twin” undoing all his virtuous acts – hello, this is not how we need to be talking about this issue). Different definitions of virtue talk about an “admirable or commendable quality” or a “conformity to a standard or law of right.” The admiration thing sort of suggests that there is an external audience aspect to virtue (annoying) and the law of right certainly suggests that with virtue comes the strong potential for implicit judgment (also annoying). This particular kind of annoying is possibly familiar to someone who has spent time in circles of people who are Very Vegetarian or Vehemently Vegan or Ardent Bicycle Commuters or what have you. All I can say is that for some people, being in the presence of “virtue” makes them want to join up and get some of their very own virtue, and for others (er, that would be me), it makes them itchy and scratchy and very inclined to eat bacon and ice cream. Obviously, there are limits to everyone’s contrary streak, but I guess what I’m talking about is the social aspect of these decisions, and how easy it is to get all jazzed on your own personal decisions about how to live lightly on this earth and not realize that you might have moved from enthusiasm for your own decision into lameness about other people’s decisions. I don’t know. If someone asked me what the main reason was for why I was hellbent to have a garden, I would tell them that it was because I just love spending time with plants and dirt. The chance to observe the life cycle of a plant is just so cool to me, and to be the caretaker of that cycle is something that just makes me feel fantastic. I know that this great feeling I have about it is definitely related to the “virtue” of local gardening, no doubt. But there are other ecologically responsible things I could be doing that I don’t, for various reasons, one surely being that for me, those things don’t hit me where the garden thing does. Anyway. God, can you tell that it’s been years since I’ve written a paper? This is totally a C paper. Yeesh. I guess I am saying that in the personal sphere you catch more bees with honey, by going about executing your personal decisions with more of an attitude of fun and love and enthusiasm, virtue shmirtue. Right. Anyway, I know he was writing about lots of other things, and damn, this issue is very complicated (the thing about walking making you hungry so you eat more killed me), but, well, this is my post about why his writing sometimes bugs me, so there.

3 comments:

queenbeehoney said...

Well, I actually started to read this article yesterday online, but got so irritated with him by page two that I bailed on three and four. (Those clicks to the next page always make you think hard about whether or not you want to invest another few minutes of your life.) So I went back and finished the article after reading your post. A loverly conclusion ~ grow yourself a garden ~ but a painful journey. Plus he makes it sound like anyone could do it; I wonder if he's doing his own spading, I wonder if he ever imagines what it's like to be 60 or 70 or 80.

How are my baby grandchicks doing? I could hear them peeping away on my answering machine yesterday!

Barbee' said...

Oh, how I envy you getting to have chicks! I found you on Blotanical and came over to read awhile.

I read Pollen's article, too. Long, but stayed with it. Was glad he brought Wendell Berry into the discussion.

I will pop in time to time to see what you are up to.

Alan said...

Enjoyed your post. I haven't had a good rant about that particular article yet, but...

Found you through Tiny Farm Blog. Looks like your having fun. I hope everyone doesn't become micro-farmers because we need some dentists and other useful folks too. (My brother-in-law is a dentist and he can't understand why I would spend my time farming on any scale. I can't understand how he can spend his days poking around in other peoples mouths. Guess there is a place for both of us.)

Cheers

Alan http://www.robertsroostecofarm.com/