This is my 1000th Lessons Learned post.
It took some time for me to hit my groove in this blog but here I am at the 1000th lesson I’ve learned from living with flocks of chickens and children in New Hampshire.
When I looked back at the beginnings of this blog, it had originally started off to augment a newspaper article I wrote at the time called “Simple Thrift” (hence the url.) I wrote about being thrifty and I wrote about ways to save money.
I also wrote about the life experiments we did as a family to figure out things. Like could our family of 8 exist only spending $100 a week on food (answer is yes, but sometimes not happily), could I hold a fun and captivating children’s party for under $10 (answer is not only yes, but I did it for $3 and change) and of course, could I ever declutter a household that held 6 kids? (Answer is yes, it took me 16 months but eventually I removed over 5,000 pounds of unnecessary “stuff” from our house.
The experiment that got us our chickens was when, for one month, we weighed every single bit of edible food we threw away (that which was refused at the dinner table, that “accidentally” fell on the floor, that was forgotten in the fridge.) Even with our awareness on the topic, we still threw out over 20 pounds of usable food.
That’s when a reader contacted me and said that she fed all of her kitchen scraps to her chickens who then gave her eggs. It was the perfect example of recycling. She offered me some baby chicks and on June 29th, 2009 this is what I wrote:
They’re here! They’re here!
Saturday afternoon, I packed up 4 of the kids and we headed about an hour north to a friend and reader’s (Caroline) house in Sandown to pick up our 8 newest little family members. That’s right, we decided to go ahead and get us some chicks.
And this was pretty much the extent of my chicken knowledge back then:
For the next month, these chicks will live in a boxed in area in our garage. That’s good because we don’t have anywhere to put them outside yet. We use wood chips in the crate, they eat stuff that looks like sawdust and they have continuous water. We also have a heat lamp over the crate to keep them warm.
I had no idea that my blog was going to turn into writing about life lessons I learned from our flock, just as I had no idea when I got our chicks, that they all had personalities and little life dramas of their own.
And that they would teach.
Since that day, I’ve used my experience with chickens to demonstrate important life lessons like:
- If you want to get that egg laid, you need to do the work. Sure, sure, you can lay it in the bushes but if no one can find your egg, then no one can appreciate your efforts. It’s okay to complain when you lay an egg, it hurts, but you get over it.
- Eggs are meant to be shared – what a world it would be if no hen ever allowed others to enjoy the fruits of her labors.
- There is a reason for hen scratching; it’s the way you dig through the dirt to find the good stuff.
- A flock is a very good thing to be a member of, especially when life throws you a curve.
- At the end of the day, despite the barnyard bickering, we all come home to roost.
My family has gone through the death of chicks (sometimes life stinks), care and feeding of injured birds (you take care of family members, no matter what), trying to stifle the crow of a rooster (virtually impossible, damn them), and recognizing that a life of servitude can be a noble existence. We’ve had to apply all of these lessons to our family through the good times and the not-so-good times that have included debilitating sickness with some of my children.
Through chickens, I have met others who share their lives with chickens. I have learned, my family has learned, and we have a new appreciation for our flock members who so tirelessly do their jobs without complaint.
Could we have asked for anything more?
And now some questions about my writing. Since starting this blog, I’ve written for Mother Earth News, Grit, Chicken Community, and Backyard Poultry Magazine. I’m also working on a few chicken-related projects along with my other freelance jobs (which includes a technology review column for parents.)
People are always asking me what I’m working on, They want to see a book. Soon, I promise you, soon.
1. What am I working on?
Actually right now I’m working on 3 different projects (all at the same time – go figure)
A Lessons Learned book based on my blog
The story of a son with Lyme disease and a little crippled chick and how they both taught me to
be a better mama hen.
A piece on the history of Maple sugaring in New Hampshire.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Experience. I write about what I know and often what I know is what I do. Many of my stories come from life experiences with my family. Also, because the kids live in the house (even the one who has graduated from college) and our chickens live in the yard, this is all an on-going life
3. Why do I write what I do?
I would sooner choose not to breathe than not to write. It’s a compulsion, it’s what gives my life purpose, and it’s what makes me happy. I write to teach and I write to understand.
4. How does your writing process work?
The easy answer to this is “butt in chair.” The more complicated answer involves switching schedules, saying no and carving out the time to get my writing in.
I have always run my life by the philosophy that “If the desire to write is not followed by the act of writing then the desire is not to write.”
Simple but profound isn’t it?
I want to be a writer and so I write.
A friend of mine, Gina, has been instrumental in inspiring, motivating, and helping me to organize and pull together my thoughts for writing, you can read about what she is doing on her blog.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
Also, join me on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two.
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