The last post was on chickens, and one of the chickens pictured was Nugget, who was then our smallest chicken. Well, turns out she…um, wasn’t a she. We brilliantly deduced this after watching her grow into an enormous (our largest) chicken with beautiful neck feathers, mount her fellow hens at random times, and attempt to crow often. All was well, except for the last of those, especially when it began at 4:30 a.m. just a few feet outside the Burts’ bedroom window. The poppy seed chicken casserole was most excellent, and we are very grateful for the life and sustenance of our dear Nugget. Note to self: do not name chickens until positive of chicken’s future.
As an attempt to leave a legacy, Nugget did manage to thoroughly and constantly enjoy the last week of his post pubescent life, so we are currently incubating most of the eggs that were laid in the 2 weeks following his demise. (After a rooster and hen date, and you know, get to home base, the eggs will be fertile in that hen for about 2 weeks.) Below is a picture of a baby chick growing inside one of the (fertilized) eggs. Click on it to see it larger…it is truly amazing.
A fertilized egg at about day seven
Lastly regarding chickens, we did get a new one back in October, a beautiful white cochin pictured below that has feathers all down her legs. It was sort of a free birthday present, and that puts us still at 9 chickens, seven of which are laying quite well. We’re getting between 4 and 7 a day! Mmm fresh eggs.
Burts with new chicken
As you know, Daniel is an optometrist. He’s currently enjoying the challenges of updating fee schedules and starting to accept medical insurances and considering new equipment for automated visual field testing and anterior segment photography. Well, he’s mostly enjoying that…but he’d rather be gardening, building a chicken coop or piece of furniture, working on home improvements, etc. It’s just that those things currently pay very poorly. However, he’s figured out a way to be more fulfilled at work…aquaponics. It’s the combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil in some sort of structure where nutrient rich water flows past the roots for food). Basically, the fish and decaying food produce ammonia, which is toxic to fish in large quantity, which bacteria turn into nitrites, which more bacteria turn into nitrates, which is plant food, which when eaten by the plants helps to filter the water for the fish, which is wicked cool. It’s a very natural and ecologically proven system that is an almost perfectly closed, cyclic system. Having already an aquarium, he built (with the help of his friend Justin) an aquaponics system that cycles the fish water to and from a growbed above the aquarium, and currently is growing kale, arugula, rhubarb chard, and radishes (not sure if radishes can grow in aquaponics, though). Those were seedlings he already had, but we’re mostly excited to start growing some tomatoes and broccoli and peppers. Many veggies do very well in aquaponics, and you can grow them year round indoors! Will post pictures soon, it’s not quite completed.
March Haiti trip. It’s time to start preparing for the ol’ trip again, and the main thing we’re doing differently this time is where we’ll be staying. We talked to Daniel’s uncle David and let him know that we’ll be staying with locals this year, specifically with Derival Archange (translator from last year) and his family for at least part of the trip. We’re super excited about that, but Daniel needs to really start brushing up on his mostly nonexistent French. Archange was very excited, you could tell, on hearing the news that we’d like to stay with them. He even said something about finishing two rooms for us before our arrival…we had to let him know that wasn’t OK, that we could stay in whatever accommodations they could provide. We really like the idea of staying with our brothers and sisters there at their humble abodes instead of at their equivalent of a Hilton…has always bothered us when we’re devoting a week to help some of the poorest people in the world.
Conference in Arkansas. Dave Pritchett, who we met last year at Haiti, has invited us (as a community) to come speak at the Peace by Piece Conference in Searcy, AR, this coming February. Peace by Piece Conference We’re really excited to go and meet like minded people interested in intentional communities and how many Christians have found them extremely challenging and helpful in their journey toward living in an alternative kingdom. We’ll be doing two classes, “Community Formation: Our Story,” and “Breaking Free: Exploring Alternative Economies.” You should come! There will be a lot of amazing speakers there, and we can’t wait to mingle and learn with everyone.
Because we had to be listed on the list of speakers for the conference, and because “Some people who lived together in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood in Nashville” didn’t really have a great ring to it, we decided it’d be good to come up with a name for our community. One of those things we’d put off for a while because not everyone could agree on “the people’s front of Chestnut Hill” or “being intentionally together in Chestnut Hill.” :) So, after much deliberation and brainstorming, we finally came up with a name. One of the things that somewhat defines our community is the location of Chestnut Hill, so we wanted to incorporate that, and in the end we looked up the genus species for the Chestnut tree, which has a really rich history of restoration in America. The Chestnut tree was nearly wiped out by a blight, but is making a comeback… obvious parallels to this neighborhood. So, we are now officially “Castanea.”
Community life has been wonderful, but also difficult. We (the Burts) went from having an entire apartment of about 700 square feet to just having one small bedroom to ourselves, and even that, with its sloped floors and slanted, drab walls, wasn’t nice enough to really feel like a place of relaxation and rest to Amanda. It produced a lot of stress within our marriage and made it difficult to fully enjoy community life. We have also had to constantly deal with the complexities of living together with others, the common chores of dish washing and cleaning, questions of commitment and responsibility, etc. We by no means have learned enough to write a book, but we are getting there. First, we realize that we need more room for at least us and also for Amber, who also has an even smaller room. Second, we realize that we’ve neglected to keep Christ at the center of our community, and that makes it tough. There has to be some self sacrifice to make communal living work, and for our Christian community that comes through the example of our Lord. To get so busy with daily chores, raising chickens, or gardening, that we don’t have enough time together to read scripture frequently, keep prayer in our personal lives and life together, I believe means that we’re relying too much on our own efforts to make community work, not enough on the sustenance, forgiveness, and grace of God. We’re making efforts and frequently discussing how to make these changes and keep these vital components at the core of our community.
Community has so many draws. If you want to live in a poorer neighborhood and be a person of God next to houses of ill repute and drugs, there are safety questions, and living together in community necessarily brings some safety in numbers. There’s the daily challenge from community members to not give in to the pressures of the world, whether materialism or careless use of the environment, and accountability to see everyone as children of God. Then there’s the sharing of things and resources and getting away from the idea of ownership. Then, along with the sharing of resources, there’s the sharing of sicknesses….oh wait, that’s not a draw, but it did happen this week. Almost all of us were knocked out for a day or two by a stomach virus. Some of us had a time of bonding in the living room watching movies and being sick. So cool.
Gardening has obviously slowed a bit outside since it’s getting down in the twenties frequently, but I’ve got a hoop over my outside beds so hopefully we’ll get some swiss chard and radishes yet…doubt the kale’s gonna make it to be big enough. Also have garlic going pretty well, so next year we will be ready to make tasty meals and fend off vampires.
It’s been a real stretch turning this blog into 12 separate updates, but it’s too late to turn back now, so number eleven is a summary of our roomates’ lives: Josh is currently working with Hands On Nashville and 2nd Harvest, but because of his desire to be more present in our community will likely be giving up both at the first of the year in search of other meaningful work that will allow him to be around more. Amber is entirely debt-free as of a couple months ago and has a gentleman caller. Brent’s flag football team won the championship game, and he continues volunteering at the Campus for Human Development with things like drum circles with homeless people, washing their feet, etc. that are arranged (I think) through his social justice curricula at Trevecca Nazarene University.
Lastly, we may be finally buying a place in the neighborhood soon. No details yet, just know that all of us are super excited and hopeful about an unbelievable possibility that’s just come up. Seriously, we’ve had an offer in on a house for over a month now and they’ve been ridiculously slow about accepting said offer…now, we’re starting to wonder if God confused their language and caused their phones to stop working or something so that we could do this other thing. :) Peace, everyone.