Welcome

Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

April 28, 2008

In Vitro Meat and a Food Crisis

In the little bit of news that I catch in between songs on the radio over the last few days, I've heard about something being called In Vitro Meat (Really? Can't anyone come up with something more...appetizing to call it?) that is supposed to help solve the problem of the planet's desire for meat based proteins. Then I heard about something that I knew was coming down the pike, the global food crisis. Allow me a moment to rant will you ?

Is it just me or does anyone else find it crazy that in a time when we are beginning to learn about how having our global economy and by proxy global food supply inextricably linked together may not in fact be an optimal situation. When the monoculture of our food supply in it's current state is not only not sustainable, but is a precariously balanced thing that could, at the least bit of blight or infestation, collapse and send not only us but the global populations into a further culinary tailspin. That at this time there would be people sitting down to have a serious discussion of how to "manufacture" the flesh of animals, in a petri dish for human consumption?! If companies like Monsanto are already being allowed to patent an organism (seeds and plants), then certainly you have to know that whatever company is able to meet the challenge being, at least in part, sponsored by PETA will be the patent holding, protein supplying, Soylentesque company that will be supplying most of our food. That is madness people!
We need to diversify and decentralize. We as consumers, and I mean that literally as in "we who consume food", need to begin to take responsibility for more of our own diet. If we are able to provide ourselves with even two or three meals a week from our own own land then not only will we be reducing our dependence of foreign oil and foreign foods, but we will be freeing up the foods that we were consuming for those in need of anything to eat. As for the In Vitro meat, it just can't be a good thing. We can't replicate an egg, how are we going to replicate a chicken? We need to consume less meat. That's really all I can say about it. Note: I did not say NONE, just LESS. We would not only be doing the environment and the food crisis some good, we would certainly be doing ourselves some good. I know my waistline agrees.

The more people we can get to at least begin to understand this the better. Share your passion for growing with your friends and associates. Help others to build their passion for it and learn from them, and you'll probably come away a better person not to mention gardener to boot.
P~

Organic pest control

This weekend we made a trip into town, (SLC) to visit with some family that was visiting from out of town, and to stop by a really good Greenhouse/Nursery, MillCreek Gardens. The reason that we went out of our way to go there was to pick up, oh, eighteen hundred or so workers to help around the garden and yard.


There are approximately 1500 ladybugs in this package. It cost me $9.99 , and I feel will be worth every penny. These little guys were released at dusk (as per instructions on the package.) around our 4 fruit trees, near the raspberries and strawberries, and some in the flower beds. I look forward to having a lot of visits this year from lady bugs while I work in the yard.
This morning I was able to catch a glimpse of this little lady, still catching a nap on a blade of grass. By afternoon, they were on the move, and much harder to find, but no less they were there all right.


I also picked up a cocoon of praying mantis that should carry in the neighborhood of three hundred manti. Between these two I should be able to make a pretty good dent in the aphid population around here. I've done this before in a previous home and loved the surprise of finding a mantis or lady bug every once and a while. This is really the type of gardening that I am enjoying lately. It's a little slower, and not 100% effective, but it will make a big difference, and makes a lot more sense to me, and it helps to build a healthy ecosystem in our yard. If you've not tried this before I encourage you to take a look around to see if you can find them where you are.
P~

April 24, 2008

Wal-Mart...walk the walk!

Some of you may remember last fall when I posted a letter that I had sent to Wal-Marts corporate office regarding the use of the reusable bags that they are selling and some commentary on why I sent it. The jist of it was basically that while I am happy to see Wal-Mart making efforts to reduce their impact and to encourage greener living practices. I am concerned about it becoming little more that window dressing and would like to see them actually support the people who make those decisions. The previous post on this explains it best so I won't re-write it here. Well it's been over four months, and I have seen, not surprisingly, no change. As I said before I know many of you would sooner cut off your arms before shopping at the "Evil Empire" but we have to accept and admit that Wal-Mart wields more power in shaping consumer shopping habits than probably any other entity out their and as they go, so goes the retail nation.
Last week, I found Green Beans post about the super heroes in our midst. I've been reading about BurbanMoms personal action in her child's school, and about Ms. Terry's crusade to get Clorox to take back their used filters and of course everyone knows there's the omnipresent and over-achieving activism of Crunchy Chicken and her, too many to name, challenges getting people, myself included (No Impact week '07), to get up and actually try something new. It's with this in mind that I've decided to try and get in touch with my inner activist as well.
As I said in the previous post, I like the fact that Wal-Mart is making the reusable bags available, and for a very reasonable price ($1.00 apiece). They also seem to be making a concerted effort toward making some more sustainable choices. However like so many things in the area of lifestyle change, and don't be mistaken it is a lifestyle change to get people to use reusable bags, unless it is relatively easy many people won't do it, more often than not myself included.
I've written a letter to Wal-Mart to try to draw attention to the fact that although they are providing the reusable bags, they are not actually facilitating the use of them. Unfortunately, I'm just one person, and no matter how much noise I make, I'm not going to be able to turn this ship alone. But I would like to be the trim tab, and see if I can start the rudder to moving.

Here is the letter that I've written:


To whom it concerns;
Recently, the Wal-Mart Corporation has begun to take steps toward becoming a more sustainable member of the global retail community. As a conscientious consumer, I have noticed and appreciate this. One of the things that I have noticed along these lines is the availability of re-usable bags at Wal-Mart stores. The reason for this letter is to draw your attention to a problem with the use of these bags at many of your locations.
Because of the layout of the cashier’s island at many Wal-Mart stores, it is very impractical to use these bags with any convenience, let alone ease. The carousel style plastic bag dispenser that is in many of your stores does not allow for the cashier to fill the bag, and as customers there is no surface for us to place the items on while we bag them ourselves. Many of Wal-Mart’s competitors still have these options available, and some even offer a small discount to their customers that choose to use this option.
I hope that Wal-Mart Corporation is not being caught up in the green-washing movement sweeping the country or merely offering these items as another opportunity for a small impulse sale. I would like to see Wal-Mart continue to try to reduce their environmental impact, but would also like to see support for the things that they offer as solutions.
Some things that Wal-Mart could do to further facilitate the use of reusable bags would be to provide a table style checkout area similar to traditional style grocery stores where baggers are present, perhaps limit a couple of lanes to reusable bags at least during peak shopping periods and offer a small discount for recyclable bag users.
Wal-Mart is talking the talk. What I would like to see is for them to walk the walk by taking these suggestions under advisement and looking for ways to improve their shoppers experience while also improving their over all sustainability and reducing their environmental footprint.


What I'd like to do is to encourage you to also send an email or written letter to Wal-Mart if you agree with what I've said, whether your a Wal-Mart patron or not. You can even copy and paste the above letter too if you like, or put it in your own words. If we can get together enough people to really make someone at Wal-Mart take notice and take action on this, I think that we could have a huge impact on the number of people that decide to at least try using re-usables. Remember what I said, As Wal-Mart goes so goes the retail nation.


Feel free to link to this post if you like and use the banner at the top. In fact I will follow this post with the code needed to link to it, should anyone want it.

link files.

Do I know if anyone will want these? No, am I making them available? Yes.






Image tag: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_sl1TL5LFN_o/SBA1d3rh6rI/AAAAAAAAA2c/IikvtZMiLec/s320/WalkTheWalk.gif
Link Tag:
http://apaetoday.blogspot.com/2008/04/wal-martwalk-walk.html

April 22, 2008

Earth Day 2008 (post II)

EMy family and I spent the majority of Saturday at a local venue, the Ogden Nature Center to explore, play and learn more about sustainable living. We arrived less than an hour after the event began and were awestruck by the number of people that were there already.
This was the scene in the courtyard where a part of the informational booths were located. I have to say that I was very pleased that the booths at this event were not for retailers of "green products" by and large, but rather were primarily for information and education. We took a few minutes to talk with some nice guys representing the local Sierra club, dropped in on a composting class that had surprisingly few people at it and bought the boys a couple of "earth day necklaces to help support the Center.
One of my favorite parts of the center, and one that was not there the last time I visited on a field trip with one of the kids, was their Straw bale visitor center and Center offices. I really loved everything about it, and got a couple of good ideas to put away in the back of my head for use one day when I design our next home.
The boys were able to get in a little climbing; it's one of their favorite things to do. This is the first time we've been anywhere with a climbing tower that didn't cost an arm and a leg to use, in fact this one was free.

We also got to enjoy some local musicians and a group of kids that have a Celtic dance troupe. We've seen them before and their always fun. Plus we all love the Celtic music.

The last thing that we did was listen to a presentation from the Forest Service about caring for out Riparian habitats. Here in the Mountain West, our rivers and streams are really our life blood. Learning how our actions can have either a positive or negative effect on them is definitely an important thing.
It was a great day and a lot of fun. I hope that through events like this that we can help to get our kids motivated to learn more about being more sustainable. While I was there I was able to hook up with the volunteer coordinator and learned more about being a volunteer at the Center. We may "adopt an area" of the center and make it our own to care for, or even help with some of the projects there. I also offered to share my knowledge and experiences, for what that means, with others. I am certainly passionate about the things I am doing, and think that being involved with a place like this would certainly be a blessing.
I hope you all had a great day yesterday, I'd love to hear about what you did.
Till tomorrow,
P~

Earth Day (post I)

Happy Earth Day everyone!

I actually have another post that I’ll be putting up this evening with a report about the earth day activities that my family and I participated in on Saturday but it was such a full weekend, and I hadn’t posted anything at all so I felt a little out of touch. I Had to get on here to encourage everyone to enjoy and at least have an open mind toward Earth Day. Like my family was in years past, I know there are a lot of others out there that are just running on auto-pilot from day to day and really not giving much thought to the world around them or how they impact it. While I’m not necessarily your iconic, poster-child greenie or anything, I have to admit that my crunchiness has certainly increased of late. For those of you reading that may just be beginning to take stock of your impact on the world, or beginning to increase your sustainability be warned, this type of lifestyle change may be habit forming and can in fact permeate every part of your life; let me elaborate:

 

HOME: When my wife and I decided last year, after some health related concerns were brought to light (asthma and related allergies), that we needed to make some changes in our home to help create a healthier environment for our children, we began with a move over to all natural/organic cleaners. We learned that a clean house doesn’t have to smell like a pine forest of a grove of lemons, it just has to smell “clean” (i.e. no smell at all). If we do add scents it’s through natural herbs and oils, and used sparingly. We also had some home renovations that we had planned on for some time that were not only pushed up, but were looked at in a new light. We removed the carpet from our home in all but the bedrooms, and replaced it with hardwood. On the front end, using red oak was not the most sustainable choice because of the time it takes to grow, but over the years, never having to replace the carpet and throw the old in the landfill, not to mention the air quality improvements to our home make it a much better choice. We chose a low VOC, water soluble sealant for the floors and have made use of the scrap for various other home projects in order to reduce our waste. We’ve also re-painted almost the entire interior of our home with ZERO VOC green seal certified paint. Using this type of paint will not only add no off-gassing chemical particulates to our interior air quality, but will also help to seal in any of them from the original paints and building supplies that were used or applied when building the home.

FOOD: One of my goals last year was also to lose some weight, and to generally get myself into better shape. As I began to watch what I ate and exercise more, I read and learned about what it was exactly that I was eating. I wanted to find out about my food chain, and my place in it. I read Michael Pollan’s “Omnivores Dilemma” and was shocked. My wife and I began to slowly move our family towards more healthful eating. We, or more to the point, she began to make many of our foods from scratch and we tried our hands at canning and preserving some of the foods from our modest garden. Today, we have nearly doubled the total growing area of our garden, planned to grow crops that we use as staples and that we can easily preserve for use later in the year. We’re raising chickens at home to provide us with organic eggs and meat and are continually learning about ways to improve our diet by eating less meats, more plant and locally produced foods when we can.

Outdoors: As I said, we’ve significantly increased the scope of our home food production through our garden and livestock keeping. Our yard too has begun to find a balance between the natural world and the cultivated one. Last year, for instance, we made the decision to not treat our lawn with any weed control other than picking them, and used no pesticides at all. We noticed a marked increase in not only the number of beneficial insects but in the balance between them and the nuisance insects; this year I’ve already seen a larger number of bees than from this time last year. We made some landscaping improvements last year too and rather than buying a bunch of new items, tried to make use of recycled and re-purposed materials whenever possible.

 

So you can see, even for a family that wasn’t making the decision necessarily to “go-green”, once you start really looking into the way you live, and how your choices are really impacting your family and the world around you, it’s hard not to let that way of thinking creep into all facets of your life. Was it hard? That’s really the question isn’t it? We’re so conditioned for ease and quickness in our modern world that sometimes it seems like making changes would take away from our quality of life. I admit to you that yes, sometimes it is a little harder. It would be easier to buy my produce than to grow it myself. It would certainly be easier for A~ to run out and buy bread every couple of days than it is for her to make it. But I submit that the benefits so much outweigh the inconvenience that the net gain is substantial. I lost over 20 lbs last year without dieting, my kids have discovered the pleasure of warm bread straight from the oven and our family health has never been better.

If this your first year paying attention to Earth Day, don’t get too caught up in the hype. By that I mean not to get depressed or nervous by the reports of all the crises in the environment and what you need to do to fix the world; that’s a lot to take on by yourself! Take a look at your home and your lifestyle; “Think globally, act locally”. It’s a cliché now to some degree, but it still holds true, make the changes in your home and in your life and take things a step at a time. You’ll be surprised at how much better and more “in tune” you feel with yourself and the world and what a difference individual action can have.  If you’re a seasoned greenie, crunchy to the core, let me know what you’re planning for the year. Where did you come from and what are the lessons you’ve learned? I have so much more to learn, and enjoy the global community we’ve all contributed to building here online.

Be well…Namaste

P~

April 19, 2008

Feeling Cocky (when good birds go bad.)

So my last post was asking for help decideing whether or not all of my cockerels are indeed cockerels. By the way, Laura and Kim, thanks for your input. I've watched a little closer since, and I think you're right. They are all cocerels but definitely submissive to Joe. They will do a lot of the same posturing and flapping that he does, and will stand up in a "fight", but eventually back down to him. I thought I'd drop in a little video to show what I've been talking about. As soon as the sun starts to lighten the garage (that's where the outlaws are until the city ordinance passes.) Joe starts piping up.

video

So? Was I exaggerating? That's a bird that just aching for the pot in my opinion. We'll see how the ordinance passing goes this tuesday. Maybe I'll grant him a reprieve if they'll have to stay in the garage for a little longer, but if the law passes and they can go outside he's definitely a goner. So I guess I'm pulling for him to get the ax. (Of course I'm not really gonna use an ax.... geez.)Thanks again for the input ladies. Gotta run, big earth day events planned for today. More on that later.
Oh and by the way, the action I mentioned I was going to take will be a little longer in coming, I wanted to think it through a little more.
Have a great weekend all.
P~

April 18, 2008

you call it...


OK all you Chicken experts, I have a question for you. Which one is the cockerel (young rooster)?
My guess is the one on the bottom, was yours? Well actually they're both supposed to be but I'm not so sure. Back in February when the birds showed up, I mentioned that the company I ordered from included a few extra male birds for warmth. Both of these were extra birds, but three of the four of them that I got, look like the bird on the left. The one on the right whom I named "Ugly kid Joe" is the only one of the lot that has developed the larger comb and lobes. He's also the only one starting to get vocal. This morning, I was upstairs and heard some sound that sounded like a little dog barking. I asked the wife what that was but she hadn't heard anything. A little while later, we were downstairs and definitely both heard one of the birds "speaking up". Joe's also started puffing up and chasing the other birds around.
So my question to you is are they both roosters or just the one. Either way, he keeps up this attitude, he may be on my new rotisserie soon.
Tomorrow I have decided to take some action, and may be calling for your help on it.
Till then
P~

April 17, 2008

Thought for Today

I’m a man of the past

and I’m living in the present

and I’m walking in the future, stepping in the future.

~Peter Tosh - Mystic Man

 

Could I have said it any better?

Some days I feel like I was placed in the wrong century. I find my interests piqued far more often by an investigation of the ancient methods and practices than by promises of a shining new day through new technologies.

I wrote last year (Almost to the day) that I have found “Happiness is being where you are” (living in the present, enjoying our blessings, and wanting for naught), to be a great truth.

While at the same time trying to prepare myself for an uncertain future and being more mindful of my decisions and their future repercussions.

Thoughts anyone?

P~

April 16, 2008

GOOD NEWS!!

Syracuse UT planning commission passed Title X land use ordinance changes!

I just received an email from our cities Planning Commission Chairman to let me know that the Land Use ordinance with the amendment in it to allow the birds passed last night and is now on to the City Counsel. The chairman was a supporter of the amendment all along, and in fact was the person to initiate it. Having been an active proponent of the change, and having corresponded with the commission a number of times on the subject, he assumed that since I could not be at the meeting last night that I would want to know the answer, which I of course did, and am very happy about.

 

Now…where are those email addresses for the city counsel??? Time to start this wheel squeaking again.

 

April 15, 2008

A thousand words.

It's been said that a picture's worth a thousand words, so I'll keep mine to a minimum. Let's just say... it's done, finally, it's done.

Here it is, before and after putting the birds into it. They were a little unsure about what to do with all of the space, but a couple of them spread their wings and fluffed their feathers like they haven't been able to in the old box.

Above: The kids exploring their new digs. They haven't really figured out what to do with the ramp up into the hen house yet, but I gave them a little clue later.

This is the back of the hen-house where the nesting boxes are located. I made two side by side. I'm not sure yet whether I'm going to need to separate the two nests, but as for right now I have them open to each other.

This is the back of the hen-house, just below the nesting box. It's the area that was designed to be able to be pulled out for cleaning as well as for increased ventilation. I'm leaving it in for a couple of days, at least until the birds get used to walking on the wire.

Speaking of the wire floor. In the picture above you can see that half of the floor is covered with 1/2 inch hardware wire cloth. Actually it's all covered, but I have a piece of wood in there to get them used to it slowly. There's also two roosting bars. One of them is about 4 inches in front of the nests to try to encourage the hens to not roost on the nests, but on the bars instead. This should limit the amount of manure in the nests, and on the eggs in the future.

I told you I gave them a little clue later on. I helped a couple of them onto the ramp, and a couple came down on their own.


A couple of them just decided to hang out on the roosting bars. Here you can see the configuration of the two roosting bars.

Hope you all like! We are very happy with it. I will be adding the ability to put some old bike tires onto the heavy side of the coop so that I can pick up and move them if I want to. This should after all be more or less a very large chicken tractor. A~ is very pleased as well, and has said that she will let it go in the yard. :) Tonight was the vote at the planning commission too, perfect timing, so we'll see if it was able to go on to the next level or not. (fingers crossed.) I'll let you all know tomorrow.
P~

April 14, 2008

Bags-O-Flour and food storage

I posted a while back about Food Storage. It's something that is very important to us. We are not yet to a point where we could go without commercial stores, but we are moving that direction. I'm not talking about being free of them for everyday needs, although we are certainly reducing our dependence on them, I'm talking instead about getting to a point where if there were a catastrophe, or food shortage, or monumental rise in food costs for a prolonged period we would be less impacted than we would if we were like every "normal" family out there. I don't want to scare anyone, and honestly I'm not scared myself, but I am cautiously pessimistic. That is to say I don't have enough faith in the current economy and global stability to not hedge my bets.

One of the primary things that goes hand in hand with having food storage is eating it. If you store a basement full of whole wheat, beans, rice, oats, etc. but you live daily on wonder bread, take-out and Big Gulps, your setting yourself up for failure in my opinion. We eat a lot of the foods that we store on or in our regular diet. Beans and rice are regular dishes around our house and many of the other foods like oats, flour, sugar and the like are of course regular additions to almost everything. We spent a little time with a borrowed wheat grinder this weekend grinding about 40 lbs of whole wheat flour that A~ will be starting to incorporate more into our diet as well. We placed it into 10 one-gallon zip lock bags and are going to store it in the chest freezer for later use. This is not the optimal way to use your flour just for the record. It will have some minor nutritive loss from sitting ground rather that grinding fresh, but it will be minor, and since we don't yet have our own grinder, we are at the mercy of the kindness of our neighbor.

Another component to this food storage formula will be a our 100ft diet. That's right, the garden! What better activity can we all incorporate in our homes than some sort of freedom garden. Grow things that you know your family will eat through the year, and preserve what you can for later. Try a couple of new plants too, but in limited quantities. Biodiversity is a necessity in a healthy garden, but you don't want to take up a lot of your growing space with something that you may not like. Particularly if your on a small suburban lot such as ours. Next year you can expand if you like it enough.
I began this post with a little bit of doom and gloom; a necessity, I thought, to make my point. I hope you get the point that yeah there may be some instability in the world, and yeah there's a good chance it'll get worse before it gets better. But this blog isn't about the bad things that might happen, it's about the possibilities that we CAN make happen. It's about making the possibilities...Realities. They won't happen overnight, but they will come if we decide that they will, and truly believe in them. One thing is certain though. Do nothing, and you will get exactly that in return.
Be well all. Tomorrow should be a very good post for you chicken lovers out there. Ooooo... the suspense...Till then.
P~

Food Storage guide. - A fairly comprehensive guide to starting a family food storage program.

The boys are back in town...Spring is wonderful

This weekend, is the first one that I've seen the bees in the yard. Not Yellow Jackets, I saw a couple of those a few weeks ago, these were Bees. Ah yes. Spring has sprung and the Boys are back in the garden. I thought you might enjoy a little eye candy courtesy of the Macro lens...

It's amazing isn't it? How do they hang on like that?



They seems to really like the grape hyacinths on the side yard. Give them another couple of weeks, or less, and they'll be all over the first time we'll get our Lilac to bloom (We're so excited... we love lilacs!!)


I've found over the last couple of seasons that we've been moving to a more organic and natural way of tending our gardens, that I have had a marked increase in the number of bees from the first year we were here. Of course I should qualify that statement, I don't mean the first year, I mean the first real season as there was nothing in our yard the first year.
Here are a couple of the things sprouting up around my 100 foot grocery outlet.

One of the first of the 150 onion sets that were planted last weekend to poke it's head up.

The peas are popping up too. If you look at the background, you can see some mesclun mix that I plated under the trellising start to poke up as well. My hope is that by the time our temps here get too hot for the greens, maybe the peas will shade them... it could work?

Here we have a couple of sprouts from the same bed. Radishes that are growing along the front of the bed, and some spinach sprouts that are in rows inside the bed



I also managed to get a couple of the "leggy" sprouts from the peat pellets into some larger planters. Those are mostly tomatoes; Brandywine, Hamson and San Marzano, and a couple of butternut squash that my uncle sent to me.

I love spring... such promise for the future, life springing up all over... I hope you all had a great weekend and that your gardens are waking up as well.

P~

April 11, 2008

Oh...OK then?

Well you know that Summers just around the corner, or at least that Spring is in full effect when you start getting the knocks on the door from the lawn "Care" specialists. A~ informed me this afternoon when I got home that we had had three different companies stop by to talk to her this week. Two of them knocked on the door and gave her the pitch. She informed them that we are an organic house and didn't like to put chemicals on the lawn. They countered, as a good salesman would, with "You do know that we do have fully organic fertilizers that we can use?" Never the one to be outmaneuvered by a slick salesman, A~ parried with "We like to know where everything that we use comes from, so we only buy from local farmers and suppliers." Well, this was enough to convince both of the first companies that we were some kind of strange suburban freaks and deter them. While generally speaking what she said was true, we do like to buy from local farmers and suppliers quite a bit, we have never bought any fertilizers from anyone like that. But nonetheless, if they can't take no for an answer, they need to expect some embellishment right?

The last company to stop by had a couple of people walking around the sidewalk in front of our house looking and pointing at our yard when A~ saw them. She went outside and asked if she could help them with anything. After they gave her generally the same pitch, she and they exchanged much the same conversation as the previous ones. This company, to their credit, was not ready to give up just yet and made a final attempt to win our business by adding "Well you know if you don't like to use fertilizers, we do have some organic products that will kill those dandelions for you." What do you think she said? She tells me she looked them dead in the face and matter-of-factly said "We eat the dandelions, so we don't want any chemicals on them either." Oh man, I wish I could have been there to see the look they gave her when they finally said, "Oh... OK then... well, have a nice day...?!" Priceless! I love that woman!

You know I understand why their in business, it is nice to have a lush green lawn. It's nice to have large sweet tomatoes in the winter too, but are they really worth the price? God made the earth to run in cycles. The ground needs to have some down time too. People burn out and get sick when they run too long, getting up early and working till late, gleaning ever more and more production from themselves. I shouldn't think that the ground is any different. Is feeding it fertilizers to increase production and pesticides and weed killers to keep the diseases and pests as bay really much different than a person working too many hours and taking stimulants to "Stay alert", and vitamins and medicines to stay "healthy"? No. What happens to the people that do that? They get sick, tired, unhealthy and miserable, and over all their time and effort may increase, but their true production and quality level decreases. It's just not a sustainable way to live. Just the same, I may be able to grow things faster and longer with the help of some of today's finest NPK wonder drugs for the garden. But over time the ground will suffer, quality will suffer and the health of myself, my family and my friends will suffer. It's not sustainable. At some point, something has to give.

As A~ and I began to change a lot of the things in our daily lives last year, there came a natural point where one thing led to another. Does it make sense to try to have a healthier home environment if your not going to eat healthier? Why bother to eat healthier if everything you buy is just full of tons of chemicals and growth hormones? Why grow your own food if your just going to mimic all the unsustainable practices that you're trying to get away from to begin with? And on it goes. This is why I refer very often to these changes as "the journey" that we're on. It really is a journey from one place, of relative ignorance of our actions and their effects, to another of greater participation in the process and connection to the world around us. Thanks for peeking in once and a while and traveling with us on it.
P~

Thought for Today

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a thought for today. I heard this song the other day and thought it would be a nice one to share.

 

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,

None but ourselves can free our mind.

~Robert Nesta Marley (Bob Marley) – Redemption Song

 

Remember, we are only ones in control of our state of mind. “They” cannot make us angry unless “We” give them permission.

Own your happiness and Be The Change.

P~

Sprouting progress

I am so tired, and just got out of a hot bath, so the post will be very short tonight.
A couple of the sprouting beds that we have going on in house this year.

We've never really been able to get a handle on the sprouting indoors thing. We do sprout a lot of things indoors, but have generally only had decent luck with beans, cukes, and Zucchinis. For whatever reason, we just don't seem to nail down the right date to plant them in advance so that we will have them for the season.

I do have a plan however. A~ and I were talking the other day and I said how much I wish I could have a green house; both to grow food through the bulk of the winter, as well as being able to sprout lots of sprouts in the spring. We are NOT the type to run out and buy a greenhouse, regardless of how well we can justify it. But we are the type to multi-purpose and re-use existing items to accomplish the same end. Some of the longer readers here may remember when we completed our re-purposed concrete project . In that post was this picture of our pergola that I built in the back yard a couple of years ago. What we decided to look into, is to add a temporary siding of sorts by wrapping a heavy gauge clear tarp around the outside of the frame of that pergola, and doing the same to the inside of the frame. This would give it a 4" airspace for insulation, and should allow me to grow through winter, as well as to start sprouts and harden them off in the spring.
Never too early to start thinking ahead... now, if I can only remember to rotate my sprouts tomorrow to keep them from getting any more slanted.
P~

April 10, 2008

Goings on.

You might have noticed the postings being a little thin around here. That's not because I haven't been doing anything, but quite the contrary. As I said earlier in the week the weekend was a busy one, and it hasn't slowed. I've been able to get a little work done each night on the chicken coop. It'll be a Cadillac of a coop when I'm done I think, a "Coop de ville" so to speak. So far I have finished the basic framing and completed the Nesting box addition to the end of the enclosure.
You can see that I made the coop to have the main hen house well off the ground. I plan to use the same basic method that I outlined in "Small-Scale Coop Care" to build a deep mulch in the bottom of the coop by slowly adding carbonaceous material (straw or sawdust) on top of each layer of manure and will slowly build up the depth of the base of the coop with a rich compost base. Having the hen house well off the ground will allow me to "uppen" the level of the floor and still give the birds enough room to mill about comfortably.
Here's what the nesting box looks like so far. I'm only making it a two birder, because I don't want to encourage bedding in them, only nesting for egg laying. The missing top to the box when finished will be able to be opened from outside to retrieve the eggs. I will be putting a roosting pole across the front of the box, and another in the center of the house and higher up. You may be able to see the metal brackets on the horizontal posts. These are there to allow me to use a removable tray for manure collection. The object of this is to work with the 1/2 inch wire mesh floor that I will be using (at least on half of the floor.) to allow me to close off the bottom in the winter to keep the warmth in while still having ease of cleaning. In the summer here it can get over 100 F regularly so this will allow me to remove the closed floor entirely in order to allow ventilation and breezes and will let the droppings fall to the deep mulch below.
Here is another view with the nesting box on the back wall where you can see fairly well the layout of the whole coop. The little square in the near wall will be the entrance, and the wall just to the left of it will be a large door that I'll be able to open for maintenance/cleaning. I should be able to get this done by the end of the weekend,if not sooner, then it'll be decorating time. I mean, if it's gonna be in A~'s yard it's gotta be relatively pretty right?

Hope you're all having a great week. Till tomorrow.
P~

April 7, 2008

Chickens 101 - pasting up

If you caught my post from yesterday, I mentioned that I wanted to talk about something potentially lethal to young chicks. Allow me a little digression first. Even before I received my first order of chicks, A~ bought me a very good book, "Living with Chickens". I enjoy it very much for it's simple easy reading. It's not a dry reference manual by any means, so if you prefer that, this is not the book for you. But if you like a good dose of solid information mixed with some personal stories and lots of great photos this may be a great book for you. I get no benefit from referring this book to you, but as I said before, good products deserve good word of mouth advertising. And enough on that...

The issue that I did want to take a minute to cover is called "pasting up"; you can see a picture of it below. It's a rather poorly named condition I think, as it really gives you no idea what it's all about. The reason I mentioned the Living with Chickens book was because it was in it's pages that I first heard about this problem. Chickens will have a tendency, I have found, to hunker down and not do anything when they are stressed. This is particularly true with your chicks, especially after transporting them, but really whenever their schedule is changed. One result of this is that they will often not drink enough water. (This reasoning is purely observational, and not based on any specific expertise, for the record.) This seems to be the cause of "Pasting Up", as I have only had it happen after some sort of shock to the birds.
What pasting up is, in essence, is an unusually thick and "pasty" manure that gets stuck to the chicks feathers around the vent area. In and of itself, this isn't a problem. However, if left unchecked, it can build on itself throughout a matter of hours and eventually close off the chicks vent entirely. The bird, in this case, will not be able to expel waste properly, and will get basically backed up. When this happens, the chicks will stop eating or drinking, because they are filled up. Chicks that don't drink water at least, don't last long. So what do we as responsible chick keepers do? Well, basically the same thing we would do for a baby that messed all over itself, clean it. The picture above is what a chickens vent should look like. I've found that a paper towel soaked with warm water will do the trick very nicely. The chick will complain very loudly, but it is for the best. you may even have to pull a couple of the down feathers that it's stuck to, but again, it's for the best. The bird I lost from the first order that I received was due to this. I didn't know what to look for for the first couple days, and when I found the pasting up advice I immediately knew what it was. By that point it was too late and the chick never recovered.

I know a couple of readers, and a some of the other blogs that I frequent, had had some problems with their chicks this spring. I don't know if this could have had anything to do with it, but since I know there are a couple of you that are looking into getting birds, I wanted to share the information and maybe save a chick sometime down the line. I would have liked to have heard about it sooner. Now that I do know about it, I was able to find it immediately in a couple of our new chicks, and so far no difficulties.
Till tomorrow all...
P~

Weekend wrap-up

WOW, I got a lot done this weekend. Sorry for no pictures but I honestly didn’t have the time to stop and get the camera, an unusual thing for me, I assure you. Here’s the breakdown for what got done:

 

• Turned over and hoed all vegetable garden beds and parts of the front yard beds adding compost where needed.

• Planted 150 onion sets.

• Planted multiple rows of carrots.

• Planted Norland Red and Yukon Gold Potatoes in planter buckets.

• Pulled and transplanted four Italian flat-leaf parley plants from last years garden into the front-yard beds.

• Placed 2 recycled concrete Pavers into garden beds.

• Ripped recycled 2x4’s into 2x2’s for use with the chicken coop.

• Completed rough framing of the coop, and cut the purchased ¼” OSB sheets into size for the hen house.

• And of course never wanting to neglect the family time, we managed to squeeze in a Grizzlies Hockey game on Friday and a trip to the community center on Saturday for some swimming for the boys and a little workout for Mom and Dad. Good Times!

 

Geez, I got a little tired just writing that list. Needless to say it was a very busy and productive weekend. At least I get to come to work today for 9 hrs and relax a little. LOL. If the weather holds, which is questionable, I’ll try to get some pictures up of the progress for those of you who may be interested. Otherwise, I will definitely have a post tonight about a potential Chick killer that I learned about while raising my first batch of little ones and that has reared its head again. So check in tomorrow morning for that, particularly if you’re thinking of getting some chicks in the near future.

Have a great day all.

P~

 

April 5, 2008

Web Ringers.

I just wanted to take a second and say hello and welcome to all the new readers that have been popping in from the Urban Homesteading web-Ring. I am so happy to have you here. I hope you're able to learn something from what I do, and more than that even, I hope you'll share with me so that I can learn from you.

For one reason or another, we've all started walking down an uncommon path. Let us be company to each other as we walk it and talk and share and see where we end up.
Take a look around, leave a comment if you like and please, hurry back.
Namaste.
P~

Ooops, I did it again.

Yep, we got more birds.

It wasn't really as spontaneous as it sounds though. The ordinance that I have been pushing for, and that I am still imminently confident will pass (hopefully this month!) will allow us to keep up to 5 hens. Although we currently have 7, only three of those are confirmed pullets. The other four should be males; I am still questioning whether or not that's the case though, there's a couple that just look "feminine" for lack of a better description. So anyway, we've been planning on going to the local farm store today for their advertised "Chick Day" and I'm glad we did. It was absolute mayhem there this afternoon, I can only imagine a Saturday afternoon.

The new chicks are Brown Leghorns, and will grow up to be very nice additions to the others. I currently have them in the basement, in the same type of box brooder that I used for the older chickens that we have. Speaking of which, this weekend I'll be re-purposing some discarded 2x4's into a new home for the chooks. They need a bigger feeder, and more room to... sorry for this... "spread their wings". Watch for a post on the building of it later this weekend.

As far as my other plans, there's prepping and planting potatoes, planting second beets, and prepping the other beds for future planting, weather permitting. I hope you all are expecting better weather than we are. I love the rain and the gloom, but it kills us when it always comes on Sat-Sun. Geez! Some people have to work all week you know?

Have a great weekend all.

P~

April 3, 2008

2008 Garden Update - Potted Potatoes

I've been planing to plant potatoes like this for a couple of years now, but have never gotten ahead of things early enough to do it. This year, thanks to a little planning and some good luck, I will get it done.
You can see the pots that I'll be using. They're approximately 18-20" in diameter, and about that deep. I was at a local small family nursery late last week, and asked the owner if he had any old large sized planters that I might be able to buy from him. As luck would have it, he directed me to the back of one of their workshops and told me I could have whatever I wanted from there. SCORE, recycled pot's for free!! Rule number one for effective scroung... er... um... acquisition of otherwise unused materials... (much better) is that you never know unless you ask. And please, ask before you take.
Anyway, so I got the pots. Now I needed some fill. I was able to get some fairly decent topsoil from a construction site that was in the neighborhood, and supplemented it with a nearly equal portion of compost. I also turned in a little vermiculite, and some straw to add to the tilth of the soil, and help with drainage.
Here you can see what I did at the bottom of the pots. I lined the drain holes with, and a placed a thin layer of straw at the bottom of the pot again to help with drainage. Soggy potato plants make for disease and poor harvest from what I've read.


Here you have a couple of the finished pots, filled halfway with the potting mix. I don't think I should need more soil than this, at least to start with. As the plants begin to grow, I will add more straw/soil mix on top to help to boost production, eventually adding a mesh frame to allow me to pack straw around the plants and continue growing up.
All together I have 9 pots to plant in. Here's my question for you; how many plants would you put in each one? I was initially thinking I could support three seed pieces, but is that too much? Any experience with planting taters in pots anyone? Comments are appreciated.
Till next time..
P~

April 2, 2008

Small-Scale Coop-Care

I've been reading this book, "Chicken Tractor: The permaculture guide to happy hens and healthy soil.", a little here and a little there, over the last couple of weeks. One of the concepts that I've picked up from it I've been using on a modified, smaller scale in the "Cardboard Chicken Condo"; the "Deep Mulch" technique. This method was conveyed in the book as a way of building garden beds through a deep mulching of one area with successive layers of manure and straw leaving, after some weeks, a deep mattress of well mixed compost with a solid ratio of nitrogen to carbon. (The essential elements of any good compost pile.)I've tweaked the idea a little to suit my needs, and have been very pleased with it.
Basically, what I've been doing, is rather than having to clean out my small temporary coop every couple of days, I started with a thin (approx 1") layer of sawdust. This was covered by a pretty consistent layer of manure within a couple of days, the time when I would have had to clean the coop. I know it's a bit gross, but the picture to the right was taken this afternoon, while the birds were on the other end of the coop feeding, and illustrates what I'm talking about. It's at this time that I take the opportunity to apply a layer to the deep mulch.

What I do is, rather than remove and replace the sawdust, I just add a thin layer over the top of it. It really doesn't need to be heavy, in fact I've found that thinner is better. If I put the new layer on too thick, it really doesn't make it any better, and all that does is fill up the coop faster, negating my effort at reducing the frequency of cleanings. Better to add a thin layer once a day that to try to go a few days with a thicker one, it just doesn't mix together as well. A thin cover of the saw dust is very effective at keeping down any odor, and the birds are happy with it. They will immediately begin to lay around on the sawdust, something they don't do when it's covered with manure. The birds also have a natural tendency to scratch around in the mulch which mixes it up, further incorporating the two elements and keeping the smell down.

The one other thing that I do when maintaining the coop is to break up the mulch before adding a new layer. After the mulch gets a couple of inches thick, I find that the birds have scratched it up into corners or mounds and have compacted the rest to a certain degree. I break this up and redistribute it evenly around the coop before adding the thin layer of new dust.
Now what I'm left with, is a well mixed bed of sawdust and manure that is just begging to go in the compost pile. Some of this I'll be experimenting with trying to make a high nitrogen, dilutable, manure tea for the lawn. ( I'll be testing it in a small area before doing the whole lawn.) I'll let you know when that experiment begins.
Hope this tidbit helps with some of you aspiring small scale urban chicken keepers.
P~

2008 Garden update

The sprouts have been sprouting slowly over the last week. Here we have a tray with a few cabbage, broccoli, and some cucumber stouts. The brassicas (cabbage and broccoli will go into the garden probably in another week or two at most. The cuc's not until near to mothers day.)

Things aren't coming up as fast as I had hoped; some of the other trays we have aren't nearly as full of sprouts as these, but I do have some tomato's coming up and some of our annual flowers have sprouted as well.

As I was saying the other day about never mastering gardening... well there you go. We get a little better every year. I just keep waiting for the year to come when I don't have anything to do in the late winter / early spring besides plant sprouts. Next year right? Always next year!

Glad to see so many of you are doing well with your sprouts this year. Looking forward to more updates.
P~