At the Sanctuary of Joy we now have hens! In case you have not been following us before, we have recently moved to Italy, where we bought a piece of land with a small country house that needed a lot of restructuring [read more at www.sanctuaryofjoy.org/en/sanctuary-of-joy-new-home-in-italy/ ] and we are working hard to make the place (and our living style) as eco-friendly, sustainable and self-reliant as possible: we have solar-powered electricity and hot water, for example.

After a large chunk of the most important restructuring work in the house is finally done (but we also got more to do…), we set ourselves to also build a hen house and we involved the kids in the project, which has been a nice learning opportunity, especially for our son (who I am sure will now get busy with a tree house of some sort).

Then, when the hen house was ready, we bought the hens from a local farm that had way too many – sure they were technically ‘free range’ ones but it was so crowded in that place that the poor animals were constantly arguing with each other and battling for a spot to sleep on and for food! In the hen house that we built they have a lot more space and they seem to enjoy that – they almost seem puzzled they just get easy access to food without struggles. In a way you could say we ‘rescued’ them and gave them a better life. Since we are vegetarian, we also won’t be eating them but we will let them live as long as they will live; many of them, in other places, would eventually be slaughtered. Not here. With us they get fed good biologic food and we get eggs from them almost every day. Those you buy at the supermarket just aren’t as fresh – by the time you buy them – as the ones they make for us! This is yet another step in implementing our vision of self-reliance and eco-friendliness.

This change was not super-imposed by us adults but it was one my son’s dream to have a chicken coop. He is naturally very good with animals and he had been asking us to allow him to have chickens or hens once we would move to a place that had enough room for them. He has been patiently waiting until the larger works on the people house were done so we could dedicate time to building the hen house.
Now that they hens are here, both he and his sister are totally in awe: they wake up in the morning checking if they have laid new eggs and if they need new food; observing and feeding the animals is keeping them entertained and happy in the open air more than any videogame ever could. Sadly, these days we see too many kids not playing outside anymore and being stuck behind consoles, computers and phones all day long – often playing aggressive games, learning bad behaviors and becoming overly ‘busy’ – but, since we moved to Italy, our own kids play long happy hours in the open air and they have had no technology cravings whatsoever.

I could never forget a school mate of my son in America who was spending so much time behind screens that, once we invited him to play in our house and backyard, had actual troubles walking straight and interacting with objects and people in the physical world. I might sound like I am over-exaggerating but I found this kid’s condition scary: he was essentially ‘crippled’ by technology (ab)use, and he was just 9 years old! Or later, when we were living in the Netherlands, there were also kids that would never play outside, at least until the Pokemon game came out: then a bunch of them all of a sudden appeared out of their houses, following their screens obsessively, to the point that there have been cases of children drowning in the water ditches!

These experiences have been part of my (Daniele’s) decision to ‘retreat in the woods’ and quit my former ‘successful’ career in IT: after almost 20 years dealing with technology, I simply could not stand the burden and guilt I had accumulated inside of me anymore; I was aching inside: while I had always sincerely tried to do good things and help others, yet I could not get rid of the idea that the advances and innovation had been often useless and mediocre and that, all in all, I had been making the world a worse place, not a better one. If not directly, at least I had been an accomplice of the corporation’s agendas that provoked the bad changes I was witnessing – and that all are, I believe – in this society. I didn’t like the world that was being imagined, I wanted to make the world a truly better one, so I repented and turned my back to the job I was keeping out of habit (and out of fear) and made a leap of faith, reinventing our lives in a way that better aligns with our soul’s desires.

The above experiences might resonate with some readers who feel stuck in their lives and jobs – what fears are keeping you stuck?