Sunday, April 24, 2011

Real Men Blanch Greens...and Other Shocking News

Just who IS that great-looking dude at the stove? He must be a real man, to be blanching his cabbage leaves before freezing them. Gotta confess, if blanching greens is what it takes to be a real man, then I only became a "real man" last Friday. Usually Amie has done this stuff, but I watch and try to learn. You gotta put greens in boiling water for a few minutes to start the cooking process, then bathe them in icewater to immediately stop the cooking before you can freeze them. Turns out, blanching stops enzymes in the food from continuing to do their work even in the freezing stage. If they aren't arrested, they'll produce weird colors, flavors, and tough foods. Who knew?I just finished reading Farm City, The Education of an Urban Farmer, by Novella Carpenter (if you can't handle some strong language, this book is not for you). In the book the author recounts the story of her urban farm in the ghetto of Oakland, California. From chickens (the "entry" livestock) and a community garden, to turkeys and ducks, to bees, to rabbits, and finally to pigs, Novella's story is both humorous and educational. For me, the book confirmed again some of the great things about urban farming: connection with creation, connection with community, respect for the life of God's creatures, and just knowing where your food comes from and what's in it.

If you've never grown anything, why not give it a shot? Oh yeah (shameless plug here), I've got some heirloom tomato plants for sale, if you're interested. They need to be put in the ground fairly soon, as they will begin to yellow if they stay in the soil blocks too long.
Last Friday we planted most of the summer garden. I asked some guys from the neighborhood if they wanted to help, and they actually showed up, ready to work! We planted tomatoes of 6 different varieties, three different kinds of melons, cucumbers, three kinds of beans, an herb garden, and some flowers. Thanks for your help, Kyrell, Isaiah (my own kid), Antwain, and Rakeem!Kyrell, whom was recently baptized , studiously placing a tomato in the dirt.

No, this is NOT "Ring-Around-the-Rosy." This is a fun game to play after planting the garden: "Hold-the-electric-fence-and-grab-someone-else-and-try-to-shock-them." Sounds fun, right? Actually, it was hilarious. And because the ground was soaking wet from a recent rain, EVERYBODY got a nice jolt from a few thousand volts. Farm fun, indeed.

I took pictures.

Somebody's gotta be the smart one around here!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Totally Grossed Out

I've been noticing some stray feathers in the chicken coop lately, so I knew something was going on, just couldnt' figure out what. Then a couple days ago I went into the coop and saw THIS:
What in the world is THAT? Scraggly, ugly-looking bird? I thought my bird was sick, so I took isolated her in our chicken tractor so she wouldn't infect the others. Dude. My stomach still turns looking at the pictures of this hen's backside, with the spiky projections coming out. Since then I've looked more carefully, trying to overcome my eebie-jeebies, and it gets worse. It's like she has a thousand plastic-handled paintbrushes growing out of her back. GROSS!
So I took my overturned stomach inside to research what was happening to this bird, and sure enough, it turns out she is just molting. Apparently around 18 months old and usually in the springtime, chickens lose their old feathers and grow new ones. I thought my birds were finished with this, because they all look like adults, but apparently they have to do this at least one more time before being "full-grown." Kind-of like adolescence for birds. Adolescence can be awkward!

Alright. I have eight more birds that will go through this in the next year, so it's time to put my big-boy-suburbanite-turned-urban-farmer pants on and care for my birds, even when they make me sick. I'm trying to see God's glory in all this, but honestly, I wish he had made feathers grow in a more appealing way. I don't have to struggle to see beauty in the Grand Canyon or a multi-colored sunset, but maybe my personal appreciation doesn't truly measure the wonder of a Creator that makes, not only beautiful babies and mountain lakes, but also THIS:

Naked chicken backsides: another reason to praise God? I reckon so.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Gettin' Me Some Chicks

On Tuesday I took our neighbor Jamere to practice his driving and forced him to swing by Tractor Supply to get some goat stuff. And what do you know? There were some hot chicks in there! Beautiful young ladies, oh yeah. So we picked 'em up and took them home. Here are some pics of these little hotties (under the heat lamp of course).

So we now have 6 more chickens in our little flock. These ladies (we hope they're all ladies...rumor is that one of them is a rooster) are Buff Orpingtons, which will grow up to be lovely tan colored and fat. Below is a pic of an adult. More eggs on the way! The kids in the neighborhood have loved the chicks. They've been looking at them, handling them, and learning to be kind to these small creatures that God has made. Stewardship of God's awesome creation means being gentle with these birds and caring for them, giving them food, water, heat, and a clean place to grow. Scripture says that God is aware when the smallest bird falls from its nest. How much more does He care for us? Bella is loving the chicks a ton. Several times a day she asks me to pick one up for her and let her hold it. It's just cute to see a four-year-old with baby bird. If only Justus were so gentle!

So here's our "critter count" so far: 15 Chickens 2 Goats 7 Humans (2 supposed adults and 5 hooligans) 1 Rat (He's actually not welcome, but he lives under the chicken coop. We call him Templeton...for now.)