Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The oldest web

Nearing the end of Colin Tudge’s The Tree, where he’s talking about agroforestry, I read that the chicken is the domesticated descendant of forest-dwelling junglefowl from SE Asia. I hadn’t known that, but just yesterday, while I was looking at the DK Eyewitness Handbook Birds of the World, I did a double take at the red junglefowl (galus galus: when the scientific name is doubled like this, you’re probably looking at the original, or the basis of the taxonomic structure for the genus). Now, that’s a rooster, I thought. And sure enough, Tudge confirms the genealogy. So they’re creatures of woods, eh? Then what the hell are we doing with them on the range? No wonder most chickens on big “free range” farms won’t leave the coop even if the door’s left open (yeah, that’s all the factory-farms have to do to call them free range). They don’t like predators coming out of the sky, even after all these centuries of domestication. Give them some trees to hide out under.

This all reminds me of Polyface Farm, detailed in Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma. Joel Salatin, the genius/farmer/libertarian nutcase there, has invented a mobile coop, so that he can move his chickens over the area his cattle (also originally forest creatures) have grazed. Three days after the cows have gone through, that is, just enough time for flies to lay their eggs in the poop and the maggots to emerge. The chickens feast on the maggots, sanitizing the paddies as fertilizer, and adding their own nutrient droppings to the ground. Salatin doesn't need any external inputs, most of which are petroleum based, of course. By the way, the grass grows better when it’s been grazed. But not too grazed. It’s so complicated and fantastically beautiful, like the planet itself.

BTW, my punji sticks are so far working at keeping the wild cat out of my pots.
This just in, like some kind of Python skit: the Catholic Church has just released its guidelines for automobile drivers. Pitiful… not for being a century late, but because what’s needed now is a bull condemning automobiles and calling anathema upon them as the crimes against the earth they are.

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