They’re Heeeere…

We now have a flock of six chickens.  I would like to say we have a flock of six hens, but…

Welcome home, um, girls?

Two of our chickens were hatched at my daughter’s elementary school eco lab.  They have been sweetly loved and cared for, hand fed and petted every day of their young lives.  One is orange, the other brown. Their names have varied from Lola and Zoe to Trick and Treat, but as their personalities emerge those names, which haven’t really stuck, will be replaced with monikers more appropriate, or at least more catchy.

These birds have been raised with love!

Problem is…we have no idea the sex of these birds. When I decided to increase the flock to 6 I contacted a local chicken breeder who agreed to look them over and see if she could help us determine whether we had hens or roosters, or both. We put the babies in a cat carrier, hauled them out to the boonies and…she really has no idea.  They are just too young to tell with any degree of certainty. Since the brown one is so pretty – and male birds tend to be the striking ones – there is a good possibility that it is a rooster.  Paige, the chicken lady, even attempted to use an old wives tale method to figure this out, holding the bird to see if both legs hang down or if one remains lifted.  But both of the chicks exhibited both behaviors.  Dang!

Why does this matter,  you ask? Because the city of San Diego has kindly adopted new ordinances that allow chickens to be kept within city limits – but no roosters allowed. Now, we already have two roosters happily residing in the neighborhood, so it is obvious that ordinances can be flouted with relative abandon.  But I am an earnest, rule-following (to an extent) kind of gal, and I love my closest neighbors and don’t want to disturb their peace of mind (or good will).  If we have a rooster, he will have to go.  And this makes me very sad because both of these little critters are gentle, love to be held, and funny.

You might also be asking why I am not worried about the other four birds we brought home yesterday. They are the same size (relatively speaking) as the original two and should also be hard to define gender-wise, right?  Well, no. The other four are Black Stars, a variety known as “sex-link” chickens, bred so that from birth it is easy to determine which are hens and which are roosters. With 95% frequency these chickens are born with visible markers specific to the sex. Black chicks are female, those with white markings are male.  Pretty simple and remarkably effective.

I keep trying to convince the other two that they are girls – think like girls! Act like girls! Imagine laying eggs! D’ya think it’ll work?

Crazy for Chickens

The chickens are coming!  The chickens are coming! From the moment my daughter and I painted the Laughing Place sign, I have considered my garden to be a little farm in the city. Hard though, to call any spot a farm when there is no livestock. Somehow I don’t think the dogs really count – we aren’t planning to eat them, or anything they produce!

So, I have felt like a bit of a fraud since starting this venture.  Sure, I can raise zucchini the size of a small boat, but a farm needs food-producing animals.  Or animals that produce wool, or something of the sort.

There is also the zombie apocalypse to consider. Think about it.  If the world collapses, the survivors will need basic elements to sustain life – food, water, shelter.  Just about anyone can produce some vegetables if they have the mind, but it is the individual able to provide protein who can command the best price.  Eggs = power in post zombie virus land! That is, if zombies don’t eat chickens.  The jury seems to be out on whether zombies simply stick to humans or occasionally go on the prowl for smaller brainz.  I would like to think that the chicken brain would seem insignificant enough for a zombie to ignore – but there is no way of knowing until the undead flesh begins to stir.

Seriously though, books such as Carol Deppe’s The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times suggest that raising vegetables alone may not be enough in hard times. In any event, it pays to be prepared.

So, the chickens are coming! This time tomorrow, we should have 6 hens in the newly purchased coop. And a new adventure will have begun…

If they don’t like our yard, perhaps the chickens will take their coop on the road.

When Life Gets in the Way

So, it has been 5 months since my last blog entry.  I have posted on projects and food, but seem to have gotten side tracked on posting about the garden itself.

I had surgery in late April, and before that just did not have the energy to keep up with everyday tasks, making the garden suddenly a chore – when before it had been a joy.

Six weeks post surgery and I AM BACK!  So much energy and raring to go in my favorite spot on the planet. There are new plants emerging, the strawberries are ripening, and for the first time I am harvesting big, wonderful onions.  Yum!

Though it is hard to hack through 5 foot weeds, and demoralizing to think about what I didn’t get done – no beets, no corn this year, say good-bye to dreams of spinach and lettuce – the work it takes to move back to a garden-centric life reminds me that for some a vegetable garden just isn’t possible. Health crises, time constraints, lack of space (though container grown tomatoes are an option for nearly anyone), etc. can become barriers to home-grown produce.

But…that does not mean that you can’t get really good, fresh produce! Farmers markets can be found in many communities, there are U-pick farms available from which to harvest your own food, and my favorite option – the CSA.

CSA, or community supported agriculture, programs allow non-farmers to subscribe for shares in a farm’s produce. The buyer pays a set price, and in return receives produce on a regular schedule. The farm benefits from a regular influx of cash, the consumer reaps the bounty produced at the farm with no work outside filling in an online form.

What can you expect from a CSA program? Good, fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies in a big bin, harvested and ready for pickup on a schedule of once every one or two weeks.

What can you find in a CSA box? A lovely surprise each time.

Receiving the produce from a CSA can occur in several ways – most supply through local farmers markets, some allow delivery to your door, and I am lucky enough to participate in a program that allows me to pick up my bi-weekly bin full of goodies where I work.

Since the produce isn’t trucked or flown in from distant regions (ever think about how it is possible to be eating oranges in the dead of winter in Minnesota? Those babies didn’t grow next door!) the fruits and veggies included in each CSA bin differ according to what is locally grown during the current season. Subscribers get a variety of foods, and have the fun of trying things that may never have made an appearance in their kitchens before.

More fun than you ever thought a Rubbermaid container could hold.

So, even if you find that a garden isn’t a practical addition at the moment, go out and find some fresh, local produce! Go on, it tastes so good…