Where the Land Meets the Sky

Etienne White

“I think one of your chickens is in my front yard,” read the text from a fabulous artist friend of mine, who lives in a village about 20 miles away from my farm.

“How’s that possible?” I texted back. “Not sure, looks like one of yours, can you come and get it? I must leave for a meeting at my gallery and my neighbor is worried it’ll get run over.”

It was true, a chicken was clucking up and down driveways and across alleys and roads, paying no heed to people’s property lines, running along lawns and through lilac hedges without any sense of “in-town” etiquette. And it was also true that this chicken belonged to me. The neighbor was an 87-year-old woman who was so worried for the chicken’s well-being she set up a chair in her garden and became a self-appointed “chicken protector.”

Concerned that my children and I might not catch this chicken alone, I immediately texted a girlfriend to see if she could provide some backup. My in-town girlfriend sent her husband up the street to find the feathered fowl before I’d even finished sending her a flurry of texts explaining the situation. She grabbed a cat carrier to put it in and began signing off all her messages with #chickenrescue2020. Her 3-year-old son got so excited about the chicken rescue, he grabbed his rope lasso, determined that was the very best way to catch a fast-running chicken. 

My children and I jumped in our car and made our way to the village. Upon arrival, we found our friends already at the scene engaged in serious chicken chasing, despite the fact the temperature was a balmy 95 degrees. Once the hen was caught and safely secured in the cat carrier, we stood and chatted, making friends with the neighbor, catching up with my girlfriend and her family, who I had not seen in so many months. It was soul-nourishing to be in community with friends and strangers who will collectively help when help, no matter the shape or size, is needed.

My artist friend had visited my farm the evening before for a socially distanced picnic outside. We hadn’t seen each other in six months, due to the pandemic. We teared up when we first saw each other, since we both wanted to hug so very badly. Instead we sat, 6 feet apart, under the stars laughing and catching up. When she left that night, neither of us knew she was taking a little piece of my farm home with her, in the form of a chicken roosting in the under carriage of her car. It is both a mystery and a miracle how it managed to hold on tightly for the entire journey back to her house. I wonder though, aren’t we all just a bit like that chicken, right about now? Hanging on for dear life, in the dark, on a journey with an unknown destination? Let’s all hold steady, and remember good things come to those courageous enough to make a break for change.

Etienne White lives where the land meets the sky on a farm in Iowa County where she raises grass-fed, Old English Babydoll sheep, as well as pastured chickens, a happy farm dog, a wily barn cat and her two spirited children. She works at the intersection of marketing and sustainability, leading efforts to create mass consumer behavior change, for the greater good of both people and planet.