Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Stray animals seem drawn to Ephemerata Gardens. Don't get me started on the cats. One morning a young black and white bunny hops around the morning glory patch. The neighbors were raising rabbits for food, had too many babies, and let a few go in the alley. We put the bunny in our chicken coop, along with another we find the next morning. They seem to be sisters; we never see them mate. A few weeks later we lift up the cat carrier top that serves as their makeshift hutch to find a dozen squirming furry bean-shaped babies. The father digs his way out of the coop and vanishes.

The local feed store buys some of the babies to resell as pets, and we give a few away. The two we keep--the mother and her albino baby--can't stand each other, so I build a new hutch with a wire mesh floor. The albino tunnels through the chicken coop's floor. Excavated soil mixed with hay and manure maddeningly blocks the door. Every few months I hawl out around fifty pounds of dirt to throw in the compost. Another poop chore, like the kitty litter boxes, often overwhelming. Keeping furry animals requires daily feeding and watering, cleaning up their excreta, sometimes feeling guilty of neglect or resentment at the extra work. Anxiety that a dog could break in and kill again.

We keep the bunnies more for their poop than as pets. In a pinch they could become food for starving vegetarians. The hand-me-down rabbits are our belongings, living objects with an instrumental value that serves our consumption habits. They are little solutions to the agriculture crisis of the loss of fertile topsoil. I try not to think of them as prisoners, vulnerable in the coop. Much more than means to ends,* they desire to tunnel and escape. They want to eat lamb's quarters, amaranth, and sugary carrots. They're so soft, except for kicking back feet, and completely silent.


* "Ecological crises ... present themselves as generalized revolts of the means: no entity--whale, river, climate, earthworm, tree, calf, cow, pig, brood--agrees any longer to be treated 'simply as a means' but insists on being treated 'always also as an end.' This in no way entails extending human morality to the natural world, or projecting the law extravagantly onto 'mere brute beings,' or taking into account the rights of objects 'for themselves'; it is rather the simple consequence of the disappearance of the notion of external nature. There is no longer any space set aside where we can unload simple means in view of ends that have been defined once and for all without proper procedure... 'No one knows what an environment can do,' 'no one knows what associations define humanity...'" Bruno Latour, The Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy, trans. Catherine Porter, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004, pp. 155-6.

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