the survival enterprise

ON THE FRONTIER,  a woman I know has gone face first into the survival enterprise. They are planting trees along the property line to obscure the view of the farm by travelers and passersby, the fields have been turned over for crops, and a symphony of domesticated birds plays on from morning until night and again restarts at first light. Brahma, the fattest of the hens, escorts dozens of tiny black chicks around the yard. Named for the Hindu creator god, she has slow, deliberate movements, thick, voluptuous, golden-feathered thighs, and the youth gather around her wiry legs underneath, reassured by her confident mama strut. In the distance, the roosters are crowing, not only to announce the dawn, but to announce the coming of the new age. Soft yellow flowers sparkle in the sun among fat green blades of grass, and the trees are coming into full bloom. It’s a barn yard candy land. This is in the Deep South of the Estonian countryside. The Russian border is a jagged line crossing corners here and there, but on the other side of that border, there is just more forest and more countryside, more chickens and women in handkerchiefs. Few people here have the disease, but there is this idea that when, not if, but when everything crumbles, this will be the safest place. That’s why they need to plant the trees, to keep the hungry travelers away and out of their foodstuffs. This is not an isolated case. All across the countryside here, people are preparing for the apocalypse. They always have been, but now it seems palpable and they can taste it. And now they know that all of that work will pay off and mean something. That’s what they’ve been telling me. There is a brisk trade in chicks, and people circulate the latest explain-it-all theory.  Some people haven’t been to the shop in months, and a van makes deliveries of milk and cheese to the frontier survivalists. They don’t have time for shops because there is so much more farm work to be done, and they still fear the disease. Their only company are vetted visitors who have been in quarantine, and the chirping birds who serenade both day and night. “Isn’t Brahma a good hen?” the woman calls out to her young daughter. The girl stops with her watering can and eyes the bird. “Yes, emme,” she agrees. “Brahma is such a good hen. Just look at her with all of those chicks!”

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