A Cup of Coffee and a Chat

Reader Contribution by Jill Clingan
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Last week I remembered, at practically the last minute, that our town’s farmer’s market was opening that day, so my daughter and I left the dinner cleanup to the boys and headed into town to see if anyone happened to have any vegetables for sale. No one was selling veggies yet, unfortunately, but I did pick up a small pot of fennel and another of chives to add to my garden’s collection of herbs. 

As I meandered among the few vendors who were sitting at their tables of crafts and plants and baked breads, I started talking to a woman who worked in the office at my son’s elementary school. She asked me if I had written on my blog recently. I shook my head and mumbled a sheepish “no.”  “A bobcat killed one of our chickens and ducks recently,” I said, “and I just haven’t really wanted to talk about it.” Her reply surprised me. “Oh, but you should write about it! Your readers will most relate to you when they hear your story.” I told her that I was afraid that the more traditional and stoic of chicken owners would roll their eyes at me and smirk a bit at our emotional attachment to our chickens. She assured me, however, that most of my readers would feel the same way I did, or that they would at least understand how I felt.

So that assurance, dear reader, is what I am counting on.

I forced myself to break out of my writing slump last week when I wrote a scheduled post for a different blog. Most of those readers are not chicken owners, though, so I can count on the reassurance of their chicken inexperience and the relative novelty of the tales of our rural life.

But you, Grit readers, are the professionals. I’m out of my element when I am around you. You are fearless farmers and hardy homesteaders. I have this image of you in my head as completely self-reliant, self-sufficient folk who raise your own food, sew your own clothes, and creatively repurpose discarded materials. You probably slaughter your own chickens, too. 

I fear that I may not live up to your ideals.

We have a garden, yes, but it isn’t doing so great this year. It has been so wet here that our plants are basically drowning in a tilled up pit of mud and chicken poop. 

If it were up to me to clothe my family, we would all wear trash bags with holes cut out for the head and arms. (I thought about making said trash bag clothing items and taking a photograph of my family modeling them, but thankfully thought better of it.)

I don’t really creatively repurpose discarded materials, either. I’m more likely to call a spade a spade rather than make a craft project out of it. 

And we just can’t kill our chickens. When they stop laying we will open up the Clingan Home for Elderly Hens, and when our chickens die, like Gracie Gold the chicken who was not carried away for lunch thanks to the fit I threw at the bobcat in my front yard, we bury them in our pet graveyard down by the creek. 

Bottom line: I think my insecurity has gotten the best of me, and thus I quit writing. I have this image of you in my head that is probably partly true, but only partly. 

And even if you do grow all of your own food and sew all of your own clothes and make craft projects out of rusty spades and eat your chickens, I bet we have some common ground.

I imagine that we both love that feeling of coming in after working hard outside and admiring the effort represented by the dirt under our nails.

I imagine that we both pause sometimes to examine a new plant or an interesting-looking bug.

I imagine that sometimes we both stop mid-sentence as we try to figure out a strange bird song.

I imagine that we both find that our souls untangle after some time spent trekking through the woods or digging in the garden or sipping coffee in the early morning to the serenade of frogs.

I imagine that we both could sit down over a cup of coffee and cake on my back porch and swap stories of our adventures. I bet hours would pass, I bet the coffee would be down to the cold dregs and the cake eaten to crumbs before we stood up to reluctantly say goodbye.

So, you’ll be hearing more from me again. Grab a cup of coffee. Slice yourself a bit of cake. And let’s edge our chairs closer together for a commiserating chat.

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