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Posts Tagged ‘urban farming’

A single week's fruits and vegetables from com...

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As I prepare my last batch of hot pepper jam for this season and plot out the holiday baking madness for the upcoming season I am also preparing to put our garden down for an extended rest.   That’s right, for Garden Season 2012 we will not be planting anything in our garden plot.   Does that mean this Farmgirl has given up only 3 years and 6 chickens in?  On the contrary,  this Farmgirl has been inspired by a great book that I picked up at my local Tractor Supply  The Backyard Homestead:

This book is a must have desk reference for anyone who wants to start a backyard homestead or begin to dabble in producing  their own food from scratch.    Upon purchasing this book I had some AHA moments about  being a bonified urban homesteader.    I have not mastered anything mind you (as clearly illustrated by this year’s less than bumper crop of carrots and beets),  but I do feel that I have a good handle on growing vegetables in a garden.    So 2012 our goal is to make our yard a well-rounded food bearing garden retreat.   We would like to add apple trees and perhaps some pear trees.  We would like to clear out the random and useless rock garden next to our pool and create a blueberry patch.   We would like to plot out a location for  raised strawberry and raspberry beds.   Perhaps a deck and real live fireplace and/or bread oven.   Perhaps a door yard full of berries and nuts.  Boxed herbs and of course a handful of containers loaded with tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.  Oh and maybe, just maybe we might actually get that compost system set up that we have been threatening to put into operation for 3 years now.

So,  you ask what will these homesteaders do for fresh and local produce next year?   Well, we will start by getting a full share in our CSA, Maplewood  Organics.   My final calculation after this last pick up of what we received for this season was nearly $350 of organic potatoes, peppers, onions (which, I might add, organic onions were going for $2 a lb. today at the grocery store) brussel sprouts, broccoli, tomatoes, fresh-cut flours, swiss chard, kale, radishes, lettuce, green beans and more.  Given that, I am super excited to see what a full share will garner us.  Of course there is always our local farmers markets and farm stands where buying in bulk is encouraged.  Having  just filled my belly with Gluten Free Lasagna made with delicious homemade tomato sauce, we will make sure to do whatever it takes to get our hands on fresh tomatoes.  So. long story not so short, we will do what our ancestors have always done and give our garden plot a rest after what can only be described as a “challenging” season for growers across the nation.    We will fill it with winter rye,  and host a potato sack race over the top of it for leap year in July!!!  We will build the backyard homestead/haven of our dream and in 2013 recreate the veggie magic of old.   And by then, ideally, I will be picking my first apples from our own tree, making my own soap, jewelry and clothes (try to contain your envy) and munching on homemade yogurt and string cheese.   At the end of the day, homesteading is an attitude and a lifestyle.  Gardening is a huge part of that, but anyone can grow a vegetable, a true homesteader grows and decorates an entire buffet.

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It was the best of nights, it was the worst of nights. Due to an impromptu business trip I was left to care for the house, our child, the dog, the cat, and of course the chickens or “girlies” as we refer to them by myself.  Have I mentioned that I also have a full-time job? Yeah, it was a little overwhelming but on the whole we managed just fine save one little incident. My first evening of caring for the girlies I went to collect the eggs hours before dark set in. For those of you not in the know, chickens generally go to roost once dusk descends.  Ideally, you want to collect these eggs before evening as reaching into the coop while the chickens  are roosting can be, well, awkward to say the least! Nevertheless, I was reaching in to get the eggs well before dusk and discovered that I could not reach them through the hanging food container, so in my infinite wisdom I took the food container down from its hook and continued my quest for the eggs. I retrieved them, celebrated, and then attempted to rehang the food dish. This is where things took a turn toward the Hitchcockian. I struggled for what felt like an eternity to find the hook with little success when I looked up and was faced with this in quadruple:

Curious and Scary

It would seem that the ruckus I was making caused the girlies to come take a peek at the person not Nate breaking into their home.  Suddenly, the space got very small as these 4 girlies invited themselves into my personal bubble.   The closer they got the more panicked I became.  In a moment of sheer frustration in the elusive hook, I dropped the food causing a chain reaction of screaming, feathers and birdies flying.   Once I uncovered my head, I realized that I was not only covered head to toe in straw, but also that all 6 girls had returned to the scene of the crime to figure out what had occurred.   I found myself slamming the door shut to avoid having any escapes and breaking out in insane laughter as I pulled straw from my hair.  With the help of a friend some hours later,  I was able to hang the food and had a week without further incident.    I imagine any neighbors who got a glimpse of me got a good chuckle.  So the moral of the story, don’t make any sudden movements when 4 chickens are in your bubble and wear sweats in case you too find yourself covered in chicken dust and hay.   On a more serious note in regards to chicken care and egg collecting, I learned today that washing the eggs when they come in from the coop is not the no-brainer  I once thought.   As it turns out, the eggs are coated in something called bloom when they are layed.   This protects them from a lot of bacteria including salmonella from crossing the shell into the egg.  If you wash them off, especially with cold water you not only wash off the bloom, but you also create a vacuum in which bacteria gets sucked into the egg more readily.   While the little germaphobic gnome that lives in my soul will not let me put dirty eggs in the fridge, I am more careful to always use a steady stream of warm water and dry the eggs completely before placing in the fridge.  Of course as always, I would recommend you cook your eggs all the way through to ensure safety, but at the end of the day, chickens in healthy living conditions with less stress are less likely to transmit bacteria to their eggs, but cleaning them appropriately is still key.  Visit Backyard Chicken Forum for more info and happy, less hair-raising chicken raising.

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