Run, Chicken, Run!
My backyard gardening buddy, Ellen, keeps chickens – Nugget, Dumpling, CoCo, and Pot Pie. They had been living in a small, plastic Eglu chicken coop. Functional, but frankly, their lives were not real high quality in there. Chickens love to have space to root around. They like a roost to sit up high on. And they love sunlight and fresh air. It occurred to Ellen she could vastly improve their quality of life, and have room for a couple more, if we could open up the coop and surround it with fencing and a wire roof. She has the perfect space next to her garage for such a chicken run, but how would she get that built?
Enter me. I love to build stuff, and so does my dad. Never mind that he lives three hours away. Never mind that he’d never met Ellen. At my request, he unflinchingly loaded up his truck with tools and drove 180 miles to help build a chicken run.
I took him to dinner the night before our big construction project, and just the topic of chickens brought up story after story about his childhood on a farm. It was really fun to hear him reflect on those early days of farm life.
Being around me and Ellen means there’s a lot of talk about Twittering and blogging and Facebooking. I’m quite sure this is the first time he’s been Twittered about! My dad’s not a computer Luddite, but he was not really clear why people blog. So, interestingly, our construction project got me thinking about blogging in a new way. I wrote him this:
You asked the general question, “Why do people blog?” I think one interesting reason for me is that it causes you to reflect on a recent experience. Knowing that a blog is at my disposal and that I want to write for it and that a few people may read it means I take that old quote to heart: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” (Socrates) I spend two days of my life with my dad and with my friend Ellen and with some chickens. It is worth taking a little time afterward to “examine” that. It makes you more appreciative of things. Now, you could examine life and not write it down, and you could also dispense with publishing it. Sure. But for me, the small “outside” impetus to publish is needed so that I pause and examine. I would likely otherwise just move on to the next project in life, whatever that is.
As for publishing versus writing a diary, well, I go back to the “tipping” thing. You can influence other people if you feel that is a useful thing to do. Hopefully I can formulate my thoughts a little about building a chicken run into a blog post that answers useful questions for others. Such as: Why do we give huge amounts of our time, effort and gas money to help other people? Why does Ellen want a chicken run? Why chickens? These questions and others will kick around in my head a day or two and I’ll write something up. It’s fun to examine life and share it with others. In the same way marriage and wedding rings are public displays of peoples’ commitment to each other (and not technically necessary for a life together), blogging is a public commitment to examine one’s life, hopefully in a way that does not end up being self-centered.
So why do we humans give time and effort to others? Big, looming, existential question. Seems like if I could answer that one, I could also answer the ol’ meaning of life question too. Yeah, maybe in my spare time!
Or, maybe the meaning of life is to help others and to examine it a little afterwards. I know for my part, what seemed like a nutty idea up front, building a chicken run, ends up having a lot of meaning, if you pause to notice it – it hugely improved the lives of the chickens; it improves Ellen’s life and gives her much better “chicken TV” opportunities now because the chicken run is large and comfortable and she can sit in it and hang out with her girls; it improved my life because I got to spend time building with my dad, and it was also a great way for me to get to know Ellen and Marc better. Oh, and may I say, dad and I also got a fabulous, home-cooked quiche lunch thanks to Ellen and her friend Laura, crust-maker extraordinaire. It takes a village to build a chicken run!
And there’s no question it was worth building.
You can read Ellen’s post here: Moving Is Exhausting.
And while I’ve got your attention, we’re very excited to have our first sprouts in our mini-greenhouses: