Letting Go

It’s been a traumatic week since we discovered our time in our rental will not be another year. At the moment, Kim is struggling to arrange a time to close the sale of her chickens and ducks. I spent my first couple days of shock tearing down the greenhouse we built about this time last year. We still have no idea where we will go. 

The greenhouse has been a saga in itself, and to some degree I suppose I welcome the closure of disassembling it. A lot of hopes were started and nurtured in that project. Combining the chicken roost was the defining feature. A little cedar plank door did what it could to keep the wind off, but was not airtight by any means. The chickens were pretty spoiled to have a dry, heat lamp lit place to sleep. I will certainly miss my jumbo grade Americana eggs as much as the tiny little creme bantams. Alas, too many of our plants succumbed to the wet October rains that took us all by surprise. Cold and wet. What the drop in temperature and low light didn’t kill, the mold was sure to overcome. Cold and wet and moldy in a greenhouse. As an early winter ensued and all had been lost, rats came along scavenging overlooked chicken food. Finally, they nested up in the nice dry roost and started taking eggs from the nest box. 

Well, what about all that? It’s been a lot of time, money, and energy put in to something that resulted in a scant few tomatoes, mold, and rats. Was it a wasted endeavor? Doomed to failure from the start or driven there by inaction? Well, a brief summary of its life hardly lets on to the waves of emotions that have shaped it like the ocean floor. The screen door separating the chickens from the plants was one of the last design struggles we faced before I felt my frustration severing my connection to it all. Details withheld, much of the design and construction of the runs were subject to the same frustrations. 

Most of it now leans stacked on the side of the garage, destined for storage if we are lucky. It and so much other material collected for that backlog of projects may just be purged, the easy way by sale if we are at all lucky; the hard way by disposal charges being the more likely. It’s crushing to think of that coming true after its whole mode of being was by way of salvage. We tried, and had a promising chance of, doing the environmentally conscientious thing and making it work. A greenhouse to both reduce landfill and produce food in an urban setting. It was a great thought. 

It’s only been 3 weeks since my pinched nerve, and tying my shoes is still excruciating. I shoveled the compost pile down, filling in low spots in the lawn. Same with the raised bed along the fence, 30 ft of it. I started hauling out pots of moldy plants when Kim came to help. We spent an entire day cleaning out the inside and some of the back yard. The following day, the roof came off and most of the walls brought down. The yard here started with enough grass to need regular mowing, so I hope we can seed the bare spots and rest will come back. However, it has clearly been over grazed and it’s hard to come back from that. It’s hard to have to put more work into cleaning up after all the hard work that went to waste. It’s hard because we had our sights set on a seed swap and planning the year of growing ahead of us. What should have been a cleaning effort making way for a new year of gardening became a dead end of work just to avoid even more expenses. 

What’s more is that the greenhouse is only the first of many vanishing efforts we have to undertake. An entire wood shop of tools and materials is coming up next. As painful as letting go of the greenhouse and chickens has been for Kim, the business and wood shop will be as much for me. Mostly, I just walk away from situations like this. This one I have to also clean up. It’s difficult. We don’t sleep well at night, even on our new and far more comfortable mattress. We just don’t have any good options left and it scares the hell out of the both of us. 

Truth is, homesteading is not a pursuit of the kind of simple life that liberates you of 50 hour work weeks. It is only a pursuit of the kind of simple life that is far removed from the smoke and mirrors, hook and bait, shove and hustle of the city given momentum by those who profit by preying on the most powerful human emotions. It just requires more work to support your own system than to blindly buy into others. We cannot anymore. It was worth it while it lasted, but we just cannot. 

It’s hard to let go of the values and ideas that have been building and growing. It’s hard to accept that all of the life and love that this house and land contained is being replaced by a lawn that will most likely be manicured twice weekly for nobody and nothing other than maximizing the thickness of cash stuffed in a wealthy old person’s pocket.

I don’t want to let go of the ideological importance of urban agriculture, but I do have to swallow the bitter pill. From apartments to houses, the little bit of nurturing soil not yet covered with concrete is valued more for visual complement than for the sustenance it is meant to provide. 


Author: Goose Andeluse

Compulsive maker and fowl carpenter.

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