April 14, 2021

Thriving with a Local Austin Hive

by christopherabdo

This is a story I wrote, to help put together what is I'm hoping to move towards as a Thrive-Hive member.

This is a story I wrote, to help put together what it is I'm hoping to move towards as a Thrive-Hive member. 

Chad lived as a bachelor, longing for a relationship. Moving to Austin from Dallas, Tx, he was hoping to find a community in Austin of people that were open-minded and maybe even meet the love of his life. When he was able to move into a small house with a large backyard, he soon realized his dream of having chickens could be a reality. 

After spending a small fortune, working tirelessly every weekend, he finally got his chicken coop and fenced in an area so it was all set up and ready to go. As his chicken venture progressed, he manage to fight off hawks, figure out chicken coop cleaning (dreaded task), picking the right chicks and all the other things that go along with having children chickens. 

After patience and hard work on his own, he got his first $3000 dollar egg. The rest would be nearly free, for as long as he cared for the chickens. There was something missing though. He felt more connected to nature and life through his interactions with chickens, he felt like, in caring for the chickens, his brain got a much needed rest from the complexities of modern life. Although he loved his chickens, he felt a little tied down, he really couldn't go on trips, because there were no "chicken sitters". Although he felt quite self-reliant, farming his own protein-rich eggs...he also felt vulnerable. What if his chronic migraines kicked in like that one time he was in bed for a week? Doing everything on his own, the chickens would perish without him...and there was more than that...

Experiencing the delight in gathering his own eggs, was bittersweet. Here was something so fun, that makes you feel like such a part of the cycle of life, that he enjoyed, but always alone. How wonderful would it be, to share these joys with others? 

As a successful business executive, he soon realized a pick-your-own egg enterprise could be a profitable one, and he be able to share these joys. So he went through the details of everything it entailed, got all his ducks (or should we say chickens?) in a row, was ready to sign on the dotted line...and then realized...he would be giving himself a second job, with customer complaints, accounting, FDA regulations, and all the ups and downs of running a business. That meant more time on the computer, hunched over punching numbers, more time away from the actual chickens for paying customers to enjoy his chickens without him. 

Something was amiss. This wasn't what chickens were about for him. A business was wonderful, but no matter how successful it ever became, it somehow wouldn't feel like enough. 

It just didn't quite fill that need for being part of community, for connecting with others, for simplifying his life. 

Then he joined a Thrive Hive, a group of neighbors that help each other grow and raise food and gift each other the bounty. The neighbors, living close by, create closed-loop ecosystem relationships to support a gift economy based on living soil. 

So as part of the Thrive Hive, Chad wondered what he could really give, besides eggs? Turns out he could actually give a shit. Or actually a lot of shit, chicken shit, to be exact, which the enthusiastic composter Ruben happily cleaned the coop to obtain! 

As the Hive got to know the chickens, they had a blast learning the ins and outs of chicken care, and soon Chad could actually go on his beloved camping trips, with help from the Hive to babysit the chickens, a break for Chad and a fun diversion for the group. 

Between the new freedom Chad found going on trips, the help cleaning the chicken coop and being able to share the joys of chickens with his neighbors, a deep sense of belonging, gratitude, freedom and joy began to well up into tears running down his cheeks as he realized it had been months since the last time he had felt lonely. He found friends, and he found a way to truly contribute. 

Soon Chad was able to supply eggs in abundance. While all this was happening, other areas of Chad's life began to change. Different hive members with different skills were gifting him things he couldn't buy at a store. Sarah used his coffee grounds and those of the group to grow mushrooms for the whole hive; Chad thought he hated mushrooms, until he tried her home-grown oyster mushrooms. Bob loved growing cut flowers, and would make big beautiful bouquets for each person's birthday. Shannon loved growing fruits, and soon the whole hive got to try fruits they'd never heard of before...like the Peruvian apple cactus, that can take the Texas heat and only needs some winter protection, or the Palo Verde, which is actually a bean that has a delicious flavor that reminds you of edamame, only so much better. Janice, another hive member, wasn't much for the outdoors, for getting dirty or growing food...but as a retired chef she LOVED cooking, which made everything better, food that would normally go to the compost pile was transformed into delicious potluck meals, pickle preserves and the like. 

When COVID hit: the Hive didn't seem so affected. There were inconveniences, but when food and water was was sold out at the store, everyone could share with each other. There was no discussion of masks: they knew instantly they needed each other, they were family and not going anywhere. 

When there was an ice storm, a power outage and a water outage...and whatever oversights that one person had in their personal preparedness that was graciously covered by another. They grew closer together. What was a fun, thriving community...now was a community that realized its own resilience it had been playfully building all along. This resilience was not made by hard work alone, or by competition, or by the grim and fearful preparing for worst-case scenarios (although there is value in that!) but by inter-dependence, collaboration and celebrating the gifts nature brings when we take smalls steps together as humans to find our role in the ecosystem. Starting where we live, with what already have, with what we can sustain and with what we can joyfully share. 

Instead of the constant, unending plight of the self-reliant farmer/prepper, we can share the work together in a way that supports both self-reliance and interdependence: this is the most resilient place to be...and how humans survived for so many centuries: as a tribe. 

Instead of quitting your job and living in an eco-village, where you could lose a lot of your agency and privacy, you can find a middle path, by working with others in your neighborhood. 

Instead of Chad trying to turn his eggs into money, (not that there's anything wrong with that, but why not add abundance in other ways as well?) he turned those eggs into gifts that did so much more than simply feed a few people, they were the seeds of transformation of many areas of his life: ecology, health, community, meaning, time freedom, resilience and a deep joy that he can't quite put into words yet. 

Looking back, Chad could have started his business, hired employees, gotten all this systems in place so that eventually he could circle all the way back to simply caring for the chickens and "hanging out" with his employees when he picked eggs. But it wouldn't have been the same, would it? 

And surprising things happen, in ecosystems and communities, when they grow better together. The Hive secretly got together a list of potential matches for Chad...and that's how he met Pat, the love of his life. The hive also helped jumpstart Sarah's mushroom business, which wouldn't have succeeded as quickly and easily had she not had the gracious love and support of her Hive members trying the great and not-so-great results of her mushroom experiments. 

This story is the vision I'm working towards; but its not my vision... its a piece of our vision, and I'm curious to see what we could do together. Its also a gift I'm offering to you. I hope you can take this, see the fertile ground for beauty it can create in your heart, and who knows: maybe it will come back to me, or the many others who would love to receive whatever you create, or perhaps we'll live close by and create something together. 

But for now, if you live in the Austin area you can subscribe to the Thrive-Hive mailing list, and let stories like these and the deep desires for your life simmer in your heart and mind. When you're ready, let's take the shit we've been given and grow some real gifts together.

Sign up to Learn More about Thrive-Hive Events in the Austin Area and What We're Doing to Make This a True Story. 


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