Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Give Thanks

It is that time of year again and to remember all the sappy things that I am thankful for. 

I am thankful for Tillamook Huckleberry Ice Cream. I am thankful for casino buffets and antacid. I am thankful for clean socks and flannel pajama bottoms. I am thankful for fresh eggs, goat cheese and pita crackers. I am thankful for cheap red wine and brandy. I am thankful for Hitachi magic wands. I am thankful for the sound of children laughing in the schoolyard down the block. I am thankful for Netflix and Redbox. I am thankful for lazy Saturdays. I am thankful for good friends who feed me. I am thankful for growlers of beer. I am thankful for korean stores, liquer stores and my favourite coffee cart. I am thankful for friends that tell bad jokes. I am thankful for walks on beaches and camping under starry nights. I am thankful for long drives in the country and a cute boyfriend. I am thankful for hot water bottles. I am thankful for chocolate milk. I am thankful for short commutes to work. I am thankful for wool socks fresh out of the dryer. I am thankful for knitting needles. I am thankful for beautiful cookbooks. I am thankful for hot water and indoor plumbing. I am thankful for camping hatchets and tent patches. I am thankful for games of cribbage and checkers. I am thankful for an unsolicited smile. I am thankful for silly loud neighbors. I am thankful for delivery. I am thankful for an odd mix of a family. I am thankful for a niece and nephew that always make me proud. I am thankful that I don't always act as jaded as I think I am. I am thankful that even though I deal with idiots all day it hasn't rubbed off on me too much. I am thankful for wellies and a good rain coat. I am thankful for hot chocolate and a good book on a rainy night. I am thankful that I still have friends that I have know for about 25 years (that's a quarter century you know) I am thankful for stinky cheese, sweet figs and over-ripe persimmons. I am thankful for a good punchbowl of sangria (until the next morning at least). I am thankful for bus buddies who have become good friends. I am thankful for the smile I got from a little girl carrying her sun parasol on the same day as I was. I am thankful for the Vespa repair manual. I am thankful for cute frocks and high heels. I am thankful for musical theatre and symphonies. I am thankful for Voodoo Doughnuts everytime I go through Portland. I am thankful that I know how to get out of a car without showing off all my bits to total strangers EVEN when I am wearing a super short skirt. I am thankful for potatos from my garden. I am thankful for the kindness of strangers. I am thankful for dirty martinis and morning after pho. I am thankful for those nights I sleep uninterupted by my brain. I am thankful for a good schvitz. I am thankful for a bra that lifts AND separates. 

Mostly, I am thankful for all of you.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Autumnal Blues

In the autumn and winter there is a lot less to do in the garden. Maybe sow some cover crops or keep an eye on your winter crops like kale, garlic and broccoli, but otherwise work is much reduced. This is the time to actually enjoy the fruits of your spring, summer and fall labours.  The garden should be mulched and you should have got your winter and over wintering veggies in the ground, like garlic and shallots. Kale should be planted as well as broccoli.

Right now is the time to begin canning/freezing/pickling like a mad person. All the tomatoes you have should be dried, canned or frozen. You should be making and canning apple pie filling and apple sauce. You should be making and canning pumpkin and squash soups. It is time to prepare for the yearly apocalypse called winter. I stole my mother's dehydrator so I am planning on buying some apples in bulk and making apple chips for snacking.

You have to decide if you want to allow your chickens a rest for the winter. Over winter as the sun sinks lower earlier, chickens naturally produce less eggs. Usually you will get half the yield you would during spring and summer months. You can force production by added unnatural light, even just a light bulb in there coop a few extra hours a day will cause them to lay more during the winter months. I personally don't mind getting only four eggs a day as opposed to eight for a few months, but for those who might need the eggs this is a viable option.

In Seattle, our autumn starts in October, right now the rains have started and it's very quiet outside. I like this time of year. I break out the knitting and cookbooks and just enjoy the whole sensation of being home. The boyfriend and I cuddle up and get lazy.

As I write this I have an apply pie in the oven.

Dutch Apple Pie

Ten cups of tart apples, peeled and sliced
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1-1/2 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 - 9in pie crust

Mix apples with sugar and spices, put in pie crust, cover with the other pie crust  and cut vent slits. Bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees then lower to 350 degrees and back for another 30-40 minutes.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dead Computers and Double Yolks

My computer died on me the other week, a friend's fiance' was able to save some of the most important files but once it gave up that information it went tits up. So I have just been able to get back to posting.

 The chickens are now laying more regularly and I seems to have a range in colour and sizes.

The small, spotted, dark brown eggs are from the Welsumer, the medium light brown eggs are from the Buff Orpingtons and the pink eggs are from the Americaunas.

They are quite lovely, actually. The other evening I looked out the window and mentioned to boyfriend that one of the birds seemed missing. He went out to check their coop and yelled back that he couldn't find her.

I joined him outside and we checked the whole yard. The boyfriend thought she may have been eaten, but I said there wasn't any blood or feathers and that I didn't think anything took her. I looked under the porch and in the neighbors yard and finally I was out in the alley, when the boyfriend started laughing, he had found her hiding in the crotch of a cedar tree!

With fourteen eggs!  One was a bit larger and it contained double yolks, I love when that happens!

I had been wondering why there weren't more eggs and it seems that the chickens were smarter than me when it comes to hide and seek. But they couldn't outsmart the boyfriend.

A batch of eggs goes to my coffee pusher in trade for coffee. Another goes to the neighbor as bribery. Some definitely go into my belly and some more will be turned into pickled eggs by the boyfriend.

And now that I have a fixed computer I can tell you ALL about it! Aren't you excited?!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Zombie Apocalypse!

LEGO Zombie LOOSE Custom Mini Figure RANDOM Zombie 100's of Possiblities!
I am a news junkie. I am a slightly paranoid, apocalyptic minded, survivalist news junkie.

I should not be allowed to read news stories.

In the last week alone, I have read about three earthquakes, a hurricane and a 350 acre wildfire. Although, I do not believe that the world is coming to an end, it causes my imagination to run rampant and I start considering what survival in a "Mad Max" world would need. I just realized that my caching arsenal needs beer making skills...

When I start reading news stories that make it sound as though the world is collapsing, I start reading up on smoking sausage, raising meat rabbits and testing what plants grow best in my garden in the Pacific Northwest. I like being prepared, what can I say? I tend to over prepare. When I invite friends over for a potluck, I still provide more dishes than necessary just in case.

Like I said, I do not believe that there will be a zombie apocalypse. I do not believe that the world is coming to an end. I just like having knowledge that may not be as common as it once was and when the shit goes down, man, I'm prepared!

Maybe I read Laura Ingalls Wilder a little too much as a child. Or watched Little House on the Prairie one too many times(Didja know Jason Bateman was on that show as one of the many adopted Ingalls?)

Do I glorify farm life? Well... maybe a little. I know it is hard work. I know it is long hours with little income. I know that it is what I actually want to do. Do I want to do it during a zombie attack? Not so much. But at least I would have a shovel in my hand most of the time to beat and decapitate the living dead that might tread through my vegetable garden eyeing my cauliflower looking for a human brain.

The CDC has a zombie apocalypse preparedness list which covers the basics of what you would need at initial outbreak but what would you need for sustained long-term survival in a zombified world? Or even if the climate just changes enough that food shortages were to occur in larger areas?

If you are a meat eater, being able to slaughter, butcher and dress your own meat might be a good skill to have if you would like to continue eating meat. Being able to grow and preserve your vegetables by canning is a good skill. Raising your own chickens and rabbits and goats would be good for dairy, eggs and meat. Food foraging and identification skills are good.

Here are a few places that you could start to learn all these skill. Because when the zombies come you want to be prepared!

There are many classes/courses to be found on basic skill that were common 50-100 years ago and that have been lost because of conveniences of the modern age. But what if those conveniences were not feasible now?

If you are interested in broadening your self-sufficiency horizons, you should be able to find information in the areas you are located or online or even start at your local library.

It is always good to rely on yourself. Especially when the brain eating undead are after you.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Yes! We Can! Blueberry Jam!

Blueberry Jam

 Eight Cups Fresh Ripe Blueberries

 Eight Cups Sugar

 Juice of One Lemon

 Put eight cups of blueberries in large pot with lemon juice and bring to a slow boil. Using a potato masher, squish the blueberries.
 Add the eight cups of sugar, slowly incorporating it all in until it has dissolved completely.

 Boil mixture until thickened. Took about an hour for it to become the consistency that I wanted it to be.

You can check the cooled thickness of the jam by placing a plate in the freezer for about a minute then drop a tablespoon of the jam mixture on the plate and put it back in the freezer for another minute or two.

 Once cooled it should give you a true idea of the thickness of the jam.

Pour the jam into sterilized jam jars and process per your preferred method. You can find more information on canning at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

 My favourite canning tool is the magnetic rod used to pull the lids and rings out of hot water and to place them on the jars without having to touch them.

I love this thing!

Now to make cream biscuits to have with my jam!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I am home sick today and while lying in bed I heard a disturbance in the hen yard. A cacophony of clucks and squawks. I peered out my bedroom window and realized that one of the chickens was in the coop hollering as though she could bring down the walls of Jericho all by herself.

Being that I feel like a steamy pile of poo, I sent the boyfriend out to see what all the commotion was about. I could hear him talking to the "ladies" and then he let out a little woop himself! I got out of bed and went to the back door as he walked back towards the house, a big smile on his face, holding two tiny, little brown eggs! A couple of the ladies had finally laid their first eggs!

They are small and when we cracked them open they had vibrant orange yolks. It isn't unusual for first time eggs to be yolk-less but these first tried were beautiful besides one being slightly cracked on the top.

The egg shells were nice and thick so it seems that they are getting enough calcium in their diet, at least up to this point. If you notice that your eggs are thin shelled add calcium to your hens' diet. You can get that from your local feed store usually in the form of oyster shell.

I wanted the boyfriend to taste farm fresh eggs unadulterated, so I made a simple egg drop soup with some canned chicken broth we have in the fridge. Boyfriend just had his wisdom teeth pulled so there is a lot of liquid sustenance going on for the next few days and egg drop soup would be a bit of a treat for him.

The eggs taste like eggs. Like a stronger version of egg. Its very rich in flavour. It is rare that you taste eggs that do, in fact, taste as fresh eggs should unless you are willing to wait in line at the local farmer's market first thing in the morning and pay 5 bucks a dozen.

Boyfriend sucked it all down and was happy. The rest of the chickens shouldn't be far behind in their laying and I am excited to see the eggs the Ameracaunas lay. Those are the ones that are called Easter Eggs. Usually a blue, green or even pink colour!

I already have a few egg cartons provided by friends and neighbors. I am bartering with my local coffee pusher for coffee in exchange for eggs. If my calculations are spot on I should have about fifty-six eggs a week. Four and a half dozen or so a week, which is more than I will ever be able to eat so I will share and sell and barter and eat. But aren't they lovely eggs?

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Ode to the Potato

"They eat a lot of French fries here," my mother
   announces after a week in Paris, and she's right,
not only about les pommes frites but the celestial tuber
   in all its forms: rotiepurée, not to mention
au gratin or boiled and oiled in la salade niçoise.
   Batata edulis discovered by gold-mad conquistadors
in the West Indies, and only a 100 years later
   in The Merry Wives of Windsor Falstaff cries,
"Let the skie raine Potatoes," for what would we be
   without you—lost in a sea of fried turnips,
mashed beets, roasted parsnips? Mi corazón, mon coeur,
   my core is not the heart but the stomach, tuber
of the body, its hollow stem the throat and esophagus,
   leafing out to the nose and eyes and mouth. Hail
the conquering spud, all its names marvelous: Solanum
   tuberosumIgname, Caribe, Russian Banana, Yukon Gold.
When you turned black, Ireland mourned. O Mr. Potato Head,
   how many deals can a man make before he stops being
small potatoes? How many men can a woman drop
   like a hot potato? Eat it cooked or raw like an apple
with salt of the earth, apple of the earth, pomme de terre.
   Tuber, tuber burning bright in a kingdom without light,
deep within the earth where the Incan potato gods rule,
   forging their golden orbs for the world's ravening gorge.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Yes! We Can! Peach Jam!

Peach Jam
5 pounds fresh peaches
4 cups white sugar
juice of one lemon

Start a large pot on the stove to boil water. Rinse the peaches. 

You will need to remove the peach skins.  In order to do this easily without sacrificing any of the flesh, you can blanch the peaches in the boiling water for 30-60 seconds, then immediately dunk them into a bowl of ice water.

The skin should peel right off with the help of a paring knife. Slice an "X" into the bottom of the peach and this should help you to peel off the skin easily.

Slice the peaches in half and pit them. Chop the peaches coarsely and put them in a goodly sized pot and

Add Sugar!!  You also need to add the lemon juice at this time, this keeps the fruit from turning brown and adds a nice tartness.
(Some people will add pectin during this stage but fruit makes it's own pectin when cooked with sugar, so I don't think you need it. It is a binder and causes the jam to gel faster. If you have a bit of time and patience you will get jam soon enough without pectin.)

Let the peaches sit for an hour which will cause the juices to flow.

Bring to a boil on medium heat then turn to a simmer on low for the next two hours. Stir occasionally.

As the peaches cook a few of the smaller pieces will disintegrate and the syrup will thicken. The longer you cook it, the more it will reduce and the thicker the jam will be.

As the peaches get closer to done you will want to get your canning jars, lids and rings ready. You will want to wash the jars and boil to sterilize. You can find more information on canning at the National Center for Home Food Preservation. They are a wonderful resource on canning and food preservation.

Once the jam is done and to a consistency you like, carefully pour the hot jam into the hot jars, seal with the lids and rings and process in a water bath for 15 minutes.

Once your jam has been processed pull out the jars carefully and place them on a towel of cutting board. When you hear the tops "POP!" you can be pretty sure that they are sealed. If you don't hear the pop and lids still have give to them, sterilize a new lid, make sure the lip of the jar is clean and process again, otherwise use that jar first.

Refrigerate after opening.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Farmstead Meatsmith

Kickstarter Update #2: Momentum from farmrun on Vimeo.

Farmstead Meatsmith teaches people how to slaughter and butcher their own animals for their own consumption. They want to teach the world how to humanely feed themselves. You can help by donating to their Kickstarter Project.

They are raising funds to make instructional videos on Butchery directed by Andrew Plotsky. They will be having a benefit on August 7th at Island Meadow Farm. Check out the flyer below:

I believe in sharing good information whenever I can. I am not affiliated with FM, I just agree with their philosophy. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

How To Make a Food Waste Digester!

When I worked for Seattle Tilth, I had a chance to be on a popular gardening show called 'Gardening with Cisco' to show people how to make a food waste digester!

Watch and learn!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Home Is Where The Heart Is!

The neighbors down the block found my chickens! 

Two, a Buff Orpington and a Welsumer, are back home but, unfortunately, two succumbed to the raccoon scourge.

I would like to thank my lovely neighbors Susan and Pat for finding my girls!

I am so happy I believe I will now do the Chicken Dance! Won't you join me?


I like nature. It is why I like to garden. Gardening is a way for me to commune with nature. Growing things, getting dirt under my fingernails, digging in the ground are all ways for me to connect with my love of nature, my heritage, my culture, my humanity.

Yeah, I have moments of full on hippie...

Anyways, I like to garden. I like to go camping as well, which is what I was doing this last weekend when some schmuck stole my chickens. (hope you get pecked to death (hippie moment over)).

Camping is the total opposite of gardening. When you garden you try to make a mark, you try to coax the land into doing what you want it to do. You try to let nature have its way, but you try to make sure its way coincides with your way.

When you are camping, you are trying to let nature have its way all the time and leave no trace that you were even in it. The boyfriend and I went to Forks, WA.

Larger Map

I am sure that most people will instantly think of Twilight when I mention Forks, but the truth of the matter is that it is a lovely little town, close to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Rialto Beach. Twilight has definitely become infused with the small town feel of Forks, but it has also brought much needed tourists and work to the town. Which has lost many jobs due to the decline in logging in the area.  It is hard to go from one end of a block to the other end without seeing a shop named after the Twilight phenomenon.

We stopped in at the weirdest Thriftway on the planet. The Forks Thriftway is the main store in the area so it carries EVERYTHING. Camping, gardening, food, office supplies, clothing, BBQing... Pretty much everything you could need without having to drive 60 miles.

Rialto is about a 20 minute drive from Forks and since the boyfriend and I showed up on 4th of July weekend, it was packed. We ate then took a wander down towards Hole-in-the-Wall. The boyfriend wasn't up for the whole hike up the beach, which is about 4 miles in total, but we got pretty far before he wanted to turn around. If you have a chance, I recommend taking that hike, it is lovely and when you get to the destination, it is pretty impressive!

 I've been to the Washington Coast many times and I never get bored with the experience. I love the quiet of it. I love the grayness of it.  I love the feeling of something bigger in the world just past the horizon. Rialto Beach is serene, even when it is covered in tourists like a picnic blanket covered with ants in the summer time. It causes people to quiet down and become more introspective.

There were quite a few families on day/overnight hikes to the campgrounds up the beach and although my pictures looked solitary there were quite a few people walking up and down the beaches. If you are looking for the best time for solitary excursions, you definitely want to come in the winter. It is beautiful in the winter time, albeit cold, rainy and windy.

So it is a trade off. The winter storms are lovely to watch if you are snuggled up in a cabin somewhere in Kalaloch. But if you want a walk on the beach it can be a miserable affair. Or you deal with the crowds in the summer. I tend to like the winter more, but I am happy to come to the beach at anytime of the year!

The boyfriends parents have a bit of land right outside Forks, so we set up base camp there. The first night we heard mice and ravens and coyotes. The second we heard owls and herons. From the base camp it was a 15 minute drive to Rialto Beach.

You could hear the surf crashing in the night.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Chicken Thieves

I left for vacation on Friday.

In between the time I left and the time my chicken sitter came to lock up my birds at 8 that evening, four had gone missing. Some damn chicken thief decided to come into my yard and walk off with four of my hens.

Jokes partially on them, they haven't started laying yet. They are too tough at this age for meat and they aren't meat breeds, so they are not the best for a fried chicken dinner. But the fact that someone came into my yard and took my hens really pisses me off!

I am not in the mood to joke about it, and I know that people find it funny, but it is no funnier than someone breaking into your house and stealing your computer. I don't find it funny at all.

They stole two of the Buff Orpingtons and two of the Welsumers, including the one with the cool colour variation and if I get my hands on the bastards that took my birds, I am going all FRONTIER JUSTICE on their asses.

Anyways, if you are in the Seattle area and see my birds, call the police. Case# 11-214073.

Remember, not only are animals a predator and a threat to your chickens, humans can be too. Humans can be just as opportunistic as a raccoon. Keep your gate locked and when out of town, do not share the information with too many people.

Missing a toe.


The Buff Orpingtons


Thursday, June 30, 2011


I like my garden in the evening.

I like that when the sun starts to sink, the green in my garden seems to grow greener. The flowers that have closed in the heat of the day start to open and it feels like the world is sighing in relief.

My garden is my solace. It is the place I like to sit in and just watch. I get squirrels and flickers and Anna's hummingbirds.  Sometimes I get the neighbor's cat or a Collared Dove.

I like watching the neighbors from across the street as they work on their raised beds on their parking strip. A sweet young couple and it is fun to watch as they come outside and sit on their own porch and just enjoy their garden. I like sharing a beer or six with my neighbors and talk about how different a pea tastes when just picked off the vine and how the sugars in potatoes start to decay minutes from the moment they are picked. How the flavours are different from the store bought.

I like my neighborhood and I like my garden.

Speaking of peas, I tried using some older seeds to see how viable they were. They are viable, but stunted, they are just starting to catch up to some that were planted at approximately the same time in one of my friend's gardens. The potatoes have gone insane and need another batch of compost dumped on them. The shallots are just about ready to pull.

The boyfriend and I have been eating an amazing amount of kale and my collards bolted very quickly for some strange reason. If they bolted so quickly I am loathe to collect their seed since I am not sure if this is a common trait of this variety. Seattle has not even gotten close to it's warmest weather yet and they should not have bolt so quickly. Once collards bolt they tend to get bitter so I will pull them and get some salad greens in the ground and that should keep us in salad for the whole of summer.

The tomatoes are short but growing. A friend showed me that pinching the new growth in the "V" or crotch of the main stem. This causes the plant to put more energy into growing the fruit than into growing the foliage. There is some argument about whether this helps or hinders the fruit production. Some say that this makes the plants look tall and leggy, others say that it keeps air circulating around the plant and helps them to resist disease.

I figure I will try pinching the lower parts which will hopefully help keep the lower branches from dragging and the the fruit from lying on the ground. This only attracts bugs, slugs and critters.

The chickens are getting closer to egg-laying age and I have been collecting egg cartons from friends. The boyfriend built a new nest box for the girls and I built them a better roost so that they are more comfortable in their coop. They should start laying in August... Meaning that they are about 17 weeks old and should start laying at anywhere between 20 to 25 weeks.

In other news, the boyfriend and I ( take that I figuratively since I did very little) took the engine out of my Vespa Primavera125 this last weekend! I bought it as a beater last year and am VERY slowly restoring it. Not garden related, but still makes me H.A.P.P.Y!

Saturday, June 18, 2011


I am a early morning person. I get up and putz around before most people even consider getting out of bed. It is a horrible character flaw. The boyfriend can't stand it. I will vacuum at 5am.

I like mornings, when no one else is awake yet and I can wander around my garden before the hustle and bustle of the day. I check for any infestations that might have come out overnight (some bugs are much more active at night) and throw slugs into the street to get run over. I check under leaves and sip my coffee. I let the chickens run around for a little while if it is my day off.

It is beautiful and idyllic.

Most mornings, I am harried and trying to get a million things done before I run off for the bus, in the process barely getting dressed. So I enjoy my weekend mornings immensely. I do not have anything than needs to be done most of the time so I have the time to things that need to be done at a leisurely pace.

This morning, after I put the laundry in the washer, I will be making pâté de foie de poulet (ain't I fancy?). Chicken liver mousse doesn't sound quite as appetizing as pâté de foie de poulet. No they are not from my birds. Don't get in a tizzy. 

It sounds like it might be involved, but it really isn't. It's yummy and nutritious and yummy.


1/2 lb - Chicken livers
1 - small onion
1-3 - cloves garlic(depending on taste)
2 Tbsp - Bacon fat or oil
1 - bay leaf
1/4 tsp - thyme leaves
Salt and pepper(to taste)
1 1/2 sticks - butter (3/4 cup for those who use chubs of butter)
a bottle of port or a sweetish red wine
a bottle of cognac


Wine glass
Measuring cups and spoons
Large saute pan
Goodly sized food processor, blender or pestle (depending on how much work you want to put into it)

Step One: Procure chicken livers. Most grocers will carry chicken livers. You will find them neatly plastic wrapped on a styrofoam bed or in plastic containers.

Step Two: Rinse the livers

Step Three: Chop the onion and garlic. Heat cast iron pan with bacon grease over medium heat.

Step Four: Saute onion, garlic, bay leaf and thyme until onion is soft and just beginning to caramelize. Add chicken livers and saute until livers are seared.

Step Five: Pour yourself a cup of wine.

Step Six: Pour yourself another cup of wine.

Step Seven: Remove chicken livers from pan and deglaze using 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the port or red wine. Make sure to scrap up all the yummy browned bits. This adds flavour. Allow the wine to reduce to about half or less and return the chicken liver to the pan to finish cooking. Fish out the bay leaf.

Step Eight: Grab the food processor and pour everything in and pulse chop while incorporating the butter in 1 or 2 Tbsp increments. Add a teaspoon of cognac and salt and pepper to taste and pulse to a consistency that you like, I prefer it slightly more coarse others like it more smooth.

Step Nine: Pour yourself a glass of cognac

Step Ten: Just a bit more cognac

Step Eleven: Spoon the pâté into ramekins or a terrine and refrigerate until firm. Serve with slices of toasted french bread.

Step Twelve: More cognac.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

City Chickens

I had the opportunity to speak to City Councils about allowing chickens in city backyards around Western Washington when I was the Chicken Lady at Seattle Tilth. I have written to councils across the country by request about why chickens should be allowed in urban areas and I have attempted to quell the fears of lawmakers about keeping poultry in their fair city.

You want to really know the reason I advocate for City Chickens? Because on a food security standpoint it makes sense. Because they are quieter than dogs. Because they are no messier than any other animal. Because for some people they make great pets. Because it teaches children where their food comes from. Because it is part of our heritage. Because a fresh egg tastes different from store-bought. Because you can raise them to your own personal ethical beliefs. Because they make sweet clucking noises when they see your coming with grapes. Because you respect the chicken you slaughter for Sunday dinner more than your appreciate the package of meat you find at the grocers. Because it teaches you self-sufficiency.

My generation is really the first to avoid raising poultry in the backyard. My mother had chickens as a child, my aunts and uncles did too. My grandmother kept chickens. What is the difference about my generation? Fear.

Fear of getting dirty. Fear of what the neighbors might think. Fear of  keeping something that has always been considered a farm animal. Fear of the work it involves. Fear of avian flu and salmonella and chicken shit. Fear of killing a living animal.

The most common fear I hear is that a city will be overrun with wild birds, which, I admit, has happened in Florida's Key West. But this is only one place and this has not happened in any of the cities that already have a glut of illegal chickens. It is rare that a bird is let go in Seattle. Some do lose their ways, but surprisingly they find their way home a lot of the times. But just dropped off in a park? I have not heard of it. Laws outlawing releasing chickens in parks and wooded area will keep this down to a minimum and allowing humane slaughter and butchering will also keep this to a minimum. If you outlaw chickens, only outlaws will have chickens...

Check your local municipal code on whether you are allowed chickens in your area, if so, how many and if not, work to change that code. Some urban farmers get chickens when the rules explicitly do not allow them and were caught when a nosy or mean-spirited or uninformed neighbor tattled on them. This has one of two outcomes; the municipal code gets changed or the chickens have gotta go.

The thing I have found when researching municipal code is that most places will allow pullets(hens) but will not allow cocks(roosters). I don't advocate roosters simply because they crow. Sometimes at ungodly hours. And city people are no longer used to hearing a rooster crow in the morning. I actually find it somewhat pleasant, but then I am an early morning creature. My neighbors may not find it as pleasant. There are a few roosters grandfathered into the Seattle Municipal Code. But most municipalities do not allow them because the are loud. They have been measured  in the high 80 decibels. And because a pullet does not need a rooster to lay an egg, I don't feel they are necessary unless you are planning on breeding for show birds or are raising meat birds and meat birds are usually slaughtered before they start to crow.

Another reason I believe in raising chickens stems from an encounter with my lovely nephew.  Many years ago I asked my nephew, who was about 8 at the time, where his food came from... He said Costco. While true of a very superficial way, he had no concept that vegetables were grown in the ground and that eggs came from chickens or ice cream came from cows or that meat was a living thing at one point. At twenty-three, he has never been interested in eating vegetables and if he can get it through a drive-thru all the better.

I don't know that him knowing where his food came from would cause him to make better food choices, but it wouldn't hurt him either. It may help him appreciate what he eats more. But for any person, raising chickens or growing any food on their own might cause them to think a bit more about what they put into their mouths.

On a food security standpoint, I believe that everyone should have access to healthy food, grown ethically and with a knowledge of what exactly they are getting. Everyone should have access to organically grown, non-modified, tasty food.

I know that not everyone has the ability of garden space, but if your town has P-patches you can have access to have a little garden for you and yours. There are also organizations, such as Urban Land Army that might be able to connect people who have land that they don't use to people who want land to use. I know that not everyone has land to raise chickens on so I advocate for co-op bartering farms that will trade eggs or goats milk for services. For example, I suck at sewing, I can do it but I am bad at it. I am always happy to trade a couple dozen eggs for having pants hemmed.

Once the birds start to lay, I have enough chickens to potentially provide 70 or more eggs a week. Almost 6 dozen eggs a week and knowing me I will not be able to eat that many eggs a week. So I will sell some. I will barter some. I will pickle some and I will eat some. But I will still have about 300 eggs a month for the first year at least. But on a food security stand point that could potentially provide a dozen eggs each for 25 people. Not bad.

And lastly, you know where your food comes from. You know how it was grown, how it was raised, what you did or did not put on it and if it is up to your standards. The chickens I raise are being raised to my ethical standards. They are not stuck on a factory farm. They are in a big wide backyard, running amok, attacking each other, as well as, the neighborhood cats and eating organic foods as well as big juicy slugs and dandelion leaves. I know how they are raised. I know they are happy in their own way. They are not crammed into cages on factory farms and they are not in giant barns(this is the only requirement for the "Cage-Free" label on eggs or meat birds, "cage-free" does not necessarily mean that they are actually seeing any sunlight).

To each their own though, I do not fault anyone for knowing or not knowing where their food comes from. Food is, well, food. It is better than not having it. But if you have the means and ability to raise your own in some manner, I say give it a try.

Raise a tomato on your deck and see if you can tell the difference from store-bought. Try a fresh egg laid this morning, hell you can have a dozen from me once these girls start laying.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Break On Through To The Other Side aka Jail Break

I let the chickens out of their coop tonight. They had been cooped up since Friday when I went to visit my mother. My lovely friends Noel and Shawn came over to water them and feed them, but they were stuck in their little house while I was away.

The thing I want to talk about is the fact that chickens are spectacular break out artists. They will shoot through your legs at lightening speed and make a break for it.

On those little dinosaur legs they can make a g-turn that would make a skater proud. Tonight, one of the little $^%(*@ got through the fence into the neighbor's yard and tried to hide under his truck. I now have gravel embedded in my knee caps trying to reach under to get a hold of her before she jumped up into his suspension... It would have REALLY sucked to try and get her out of that. But once you get a hold of their legs, no matter how hard they flap they generally ain't going nowhere. They may flap but they ain't gonna fly!

 Have you ever seen Jurassic Park? Well there is this scene where a a flock of dinosaurs are running from a Tyranosaur. I hate to use that analogy but when it comes to chickens that is what you get.

Little dinosaurs.

They love the buttons on my flannel and they will all gang up on me to peck at them. I am sitting on the ground taking pictures and the next thing I know I am being pecked to death. Trust me if you were an inch tall, you would be a nice nutritious meal.

The Boyfriend named these the Chopitude Twins
I love watching the chickens wandering around the yard. They make sweet clucking noises and squawk as they jump at each other and when one finds a treat, a worm or slug, they take off running and try to get the others to chase after them. They are pure entertainment.

 They each have their own personality and some are more personable than others.  Some a friendlier and  some are more nervous.

I still refuse to name them because I don't consider them pets but I respect them all the same. They are farm animals and I have a tiny farm.  I make sure they are content and they make sure I get fresh eggs.

The boyfriend, on the other hand, keeps giving them names. I never remember them.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Nose Knows

You may not know it, but I used to be the Seattle Tilth Chicken Lady. Meaning I was the Coordinator for that program. I actually got into it because I wanted to keep chickens in my backyard. Now I just like showing people that even a nerd like me can do it and that it is easy. You can still take classes about City Chickens, as well as, goat herding and beekeeping at Seattle Tilth!

Today, we will be talking about cleaning out the coop.

When you keep animals, you must keep their enclosures clean. Chickens are pretty stinky critters. So when their coop begins to start smelling... Well, like a coop I have a couple of choices on what I will do.

Some people clean their chicken coops obsessively. I knew of a woman that went out into her coop and cleaned it daily. Meaning she swept every stray bit of poop up and replaced the litter daily. Some people clean once a week or once a month. I am a lazy person. I clean the coop when my nose tells me I need to clean the coop.

Don't get me wrong, I will throw down a bucket or two of fresh bedding on top of the soiled bedding once a week to cut down on flies and smells, but if the smell doesn't get to me at 20 feet, I ain't gonna clean the coop. Truthfully, chickens don't care. They are not fastidious creatures. They poop in their own water. Trust me. They don't care.

Once it gets to the point that the coop needs a cleaning, you can tell. It makes you want to clean the coop. You can hardly wait to clean the coop. You daydream at work about cleaning the coop! If the bedding stays dry generally smell is pretty nil. But once it gets wet, that poop and bedding begin to, let's say, ripen.

I let the girls wander around the yard and get the mucking out tools. Usually a shovel, a rake, a broom and a garbage can or big tub.

I put on the Wellingtons, put my hair up and go to town, figuratively speaking. I actually go into the coop and start from the corners and move my way to the center then out the door.

As you can see by some of my photos, my coop was put together with bits and pieces of things I found in free piles and from some of the houses being built in the neighborhood. All together I think it cost me about twenty bucks for a few 2 by 4s and the hinges and locks.

 Anyways, cleaning out the coop and re-bedding it with cheap pine shavings takes me about an hour, depending on how thorough I want to be, Most of the time, not that thorough. I take the time to knock cobwebs out of the corners because the chickens love chasing after the spider and moths. Once they start laying I will take time to clean out their nest boxes.

After I get all the bedding and poop out of the coop, I throw it into my Seattle composter and compost it. Chicken poop makes AWESOME compost! I am a bona-fide Master Composter (I used to even be the volunteer coordinator for that program). I even gots me a certificate proving it around here somewhere! If you want to be a Master Composter yourself you can find info on the program through Seattle Tilth here.

It is up to each individual person how clean they want their coops to be. I say be a good neighbor. If you can smell it, there is a good chance your neighbor can too. Chickens are pretty happy as long as they are warm and dry and get to scratch in the yard a little everyday. The cleaning of the coop is mainly for us humans. I clean the coop to be a good neighbor and to use their waste as compost for my vegetable garden.