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Eudaimonia: Egg sandwich

15 Jun. 2013 Posted by Scott Selliers

Living in the suburbs can do strange things to a person. But stranger still, are the things a person will do to escape living in the suburbs. But first, let’s consider the following John Muir pondering:

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."

For those of us feeling the crush of an existential void, the idea of the Universe as a cozy abode in which connections are the only things that really matter is more than a comforting thought: it is salvation. And a few brief years ago, I was a man in the suburbs starving for something to help make sense of the Universe and my place in it. The point of today’s tale is how an egg sandwich showed me how I am hitched to everything else, and how this realization set up what is fast becoming the greatest adventure of my life.

While I was away from our suburban-Houston home on business, my wife ordered an “urban farmer” chicken hutch kit. It was delivered ahead of my return with the sole purpose of transforming any raised eyebrows and verbal stammering into moot expressions of doubt. Pointing to a “sure honey, one day…” conversation we had a few weeks prior, she assured me that I was, in fact, on board with turning our relatively large backyard into a clandestine suburban farm. Of course, being on the HOA Board myself ( Boo! Hiss! ), I knew the rules against things like edible landscaping, native lawns, and, you guessed it, chickens in the backyard. But, having a sense of misadventure, a nagging feeling that something was missing in our lives and a young son growing up just as disconnected from his world as the next kid on the block, I figured Why Not? for the following three reasons: 1) our immediate neighbors on both sides would be cool with our little experiment, 2) we all need things we can look back on with fondness, and 3) the mandatory-says-the-HOA-that’s-who privacy fence would hide our secret mini-farm from general notice and legal action.

As the first batch of Tractor Supply Store-bought chicks grew, so did our interest in all things sustainably green: We began composting, we built raised garden beds and we started collecting rainwater. With inspiration from a few magazines and the knowhow granted by vague recollections we harbored from our Midwest childhoods, our backyard quickly became less about property value and much more about true self-worth. Before we so much as even tasted our first homegrown tomato, we noticed subtle changes in our priorities. Of course, it started with our budget. Line items such as Vacation and New Car Down-Payment were becoming extinct, while new entries, such as Garden Soil and Fruit Trees were making a bold surge into our spending habits. Before long, our son was spending more time with the growing chicks than he was with “Phineas and Ferb.” Although this was a great deal of change, the real change, for me, came with the first egg.

As I let the chickens out of their hutch and into the backyard for their evening bug harvest, I saw it: The coveted first egg. For those of you with chicken experience, you need no commentary concerning the emotional power of this event. However, for those of you without chicken experience, all I can say is that it falls somewhere between your child’s first few steps and getting a well-deserved promotion: you know life won’t be the same after but you feel no need to ever look back. After sending a few quick photos to friends and family, I took the prized possession into the house and placed it in one of the egg cartons we had been eagerly hoping to fill one day. Then came egg #2 and #3; in less than a week we had nearly a dozen eggs, but no one had yet been so brazen, or brave enough, to actually eat one of these little symbols of our new life. With some ceremony involved, one morning I cracked two open, fried them in a pan and made a trusty egg sandwich. Besides our wedding cake, no other eaten item has invoked the profundity of situation in my life as that humble egg sandwich. I knew, by virtue of my own stomach being full that you get what you give in this life. I knew deep down that I had been getting way more than I had ever really given, and that someone else out there has been making up the difference I owed. Once I became aware of this debt of mine to the Earth I called home, the concept of sustainability , once an objective notion, became a very subjective personal conviction.

Life very quickly became about finding ways to legitimize, justify and expand our farming aspirations. Weekend road trips were really just excuses to look at rural property beyond the suburb’s consuming sprawl. Visits to our home became less about drinks and conversation and more about touring the garden and watching the chickens’ tomfoolery. But more insidiously, life became about realizing that the suburbs simply weren’t going to work for us anymore. As Muir noted, our desire to expand our farming efforts was hitched to every other aspect of our lives, both personally and professionally. And that’s when Tennessee started calling.

When my wife’s job prospect in Nashville stepped out of the realm of curious inquiry and onto the pages of Pros & Cons, the only real deciding factor was land ownership free of HOAs, zoning and the hiding of our passions behind privacy fences. So, from the egg sandwich to the seven-and-a-half acres of beautiful land in Middle Tennessee, you are now caught up and running in the story of our change from an all-too-typical suburban family, suffering disconnect between ourselves and the world that sustains us, over to something else; something I will, over the coming blogs, be calling Eudaimonia . I would like to share, right here on Akin to Green , warts and all, the tribulations and triumphs our family is sure to have starting a sustainable mini-farm. As an armchair philosopher, I won’t be able to help little digressions into the Why-s that will be dictating our How-s , nor will I be able to resist opening the discussion to you for advice, commentary or outright condemnations of our methods.

Who knows, one day you might stop by for a visit; I’ll have an egg sandwich ready. But be warned, your life just might change forever.

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