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.