Here a chick, there a chick

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Chickens, Compost, Home and Garden, Homesteading, Organic Gardening, Ron Ferrell, Urban Gardening | Posted on 20-08-2009

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by Ron Ferrell

As a farm kid, I was always fascinated with birds. Wild birds as well as domesticated birds stirred my curiosities with their beauty and amazing range of feather colors. I had geese, ducks, a variety of chickens, pea foul and pigeons, but my favorites were the peacocks, followed by chickens. Geese, pigeons and ducks were so nasty, but chickens had a terrific pay off — eggs. Peacocks ate lots of bugs and they were just beautiful.

 

As a middle-aged urban homesteader I’ve eschewed raising chickens but my neighbor Matt’s garden convinced me to reconsider my self-imposed “no chicken” rule. I call birds in a pen “predator bait,” so as a work-around Matt loaned me one of his electric chicken fences, and after much additional prodding from Matt, I decided to get a small flock of chickens for eggs, composting organic matter and soil building. My new flock of 26 Welsummer chickens, a heritage breed, have been on my property for a week now and they are maturing so quickly.

When I first released them into the electrified poultry pen, they obviously had not been out of a brooder house environment as they were not used to grass and all that open space. They just stood in a tight flock for a couple of hours before they started to venture out away from the fence corner. The chicken feed and water helped lure them away. 

I have been dumping various veggie matter over the fence, some of which the chickens eat, but the bugs drawn to the veggie pile seem to attract their attention the most. Yesterday I dumped the spent grains I collect from COOP Ale Works in Oklahoma City into the pen, and slowly the chicks began picking through the grains. This morning however, they were very actively eating the spent grains. Chickens are the ultimate composting machine!

The spent grains are high in protein with small amounts of nucleic acid as well as many trace minerals. In addition to the spent grains, I will be feeding my flock lots of vegetable matter from my kitchen and local restaurant sources. Apart from the effort of getting the spent grains and the vegetable materials to my property, they are free food sources for my chickens.

If you have any interest in keeping a chicken or two, check out chicken tractors. YouTube has several examples of chicken tractors, along with construction techniques, use and feasibility of use for city dwellers.

One of the most wonderful aspects of my chickens is they are so darned cute, playful and endlessly curious. I’ve placed lawn chairs and a cocktail table beside the chicken pen and in the cool of the evening I just sit, meditate and watch my beautiful Welsummers as they grow from chicks into beautiful chickens.

Urban agrarian market takes off in Oklahoma City

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Farming, Food and Drink, Local Economy, Local News, Locavore, Shauna Lawyer Struby, Urban Gardening | Posted on 24-06-2009

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by Shauna Lawyer Struby

Woohoo. I’m so excited to write this post. Here’s another great way to support your local farmers, ranchers, producers and eat healthy local food. Blooming on the Oklahoma prairie is the new mobile Urban Agrarian Local Foods Market. I’ve been hearing about and watching Matt’s progress on this project and am so thrilled to write just a little about this. Other great local food goodness is on its way as well. Bob Davis and I chatted on Facebook last night and the way is clear with the City of Midwest City for a new farmers market in that area.

Both Matt and Bob are absolutely passionate about local food and are stellar examples of what happens when people set their minds on being the change they want to see in the world. Kudos to them! Now let’s all get out and support them! Eat, enjoy, spread the word!

urban agrarian Urban Agrarian Local Foods Market

Local, sustainable food delivered with local, sustainable energy

· Sunday, June 28, 2009

· 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

· Across the street from Cheevers on the SE corner of NW 23rd and Hudson, Oklahoma City.

The Veggie Van is making a stop and setting up shop on 23rd street every Sunday for an outdoor market. All local food transported by waste vegetable oil. Displays are made out of recycled fence panels and if you get your stuff bagged, it is in a second-use bag from a local retailer. It is an official part of Sunday-funday in the historic district.

Products from local growers and vendors such as: Earth Elements, High Tides & Green Fields, Seasons Catering, Briarberry Farm, OM Gardens, Peach Crest Farms, Redland Juice Co., Rowdy Stickhorse, Urban Farms, Wichita Buffalo, Snider Farms Peanut Barn, Bob’s Best Bon Appetitin’ Bulgar, and others available seasonally. Plus local garden extras.

Questions: Contact Matthew Burch, matthewrburch@gmail.com.

Ancient Inspiration In a Modern World

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Nature, Robbie White, Science, Urban Gardening | Posted on 15-12-2008

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by Robbie White

The
most gorgeous moon has been in the sky these past few days. It is
called the Long Night Moon. I understand why the peoples from more
agrarian times called it that. It hangs, glowing, in the sky lighting
the longest and coldest nights of the year. In days before electricity
much had to be done from sunrise to sunset. Lighting with candles or
lamps wasn’t always dependable. The reason the glorious December full
moon is visible for so many hours also has a scientific explanation:

“The
midwinter full moon takes a high trajectory across the sky because it
is opposite to the low Sun. The moon will also be at perigee later this
day, at 5:00 p.m. EST, at a distance of 221,560 mi. (356,566 km.) from
Earth…” http://www.space.com/spacewatch/080118-ns-moon-names.html

I
encountered the most recent Long Night Moon last Monday night while I
was completing some holiday errands. I emerged from a store that faces
west and was stunned to find the horizon aglow with the very last of
the day's sun. Several planets were visible just above the horizon, and
despite the well-lit parking lot, I could sense the glow of the
Long Night Moon behind me. As I turned to see the glow of the moon, I
did not think about how much closer this moon is than other full moons
of the year. Perigees and trajectories never crossed my mind. I felt
closer to the earth’s natural rhythms in that moment. I allowed the
huge Long Night Moon to remind me that no matter what name we give this
cold and dark time of year, the natural order calls to me.

As
I stood in the parking lot taking in the lovely view, my fellow Fresh
Greens bloggers, Jennifer Gooden and David Brooks, jumped into my mind
as I recalled that they wrote eloquently about the joys of growing
their own food. I thought about the gifts I have left to buy and
wondered how I could merge the two thoughts. Is there anyone on my
gift list who loves to garden? What gift would encourage their
enjoyment of growing the food they eat? Jennifer and others have
several good ideas in their blog entries.

What will I do with the long nights of winter before I can plant my earth boxes
again? I think I will dig out my garden dreams of less busy years and
dust them off. I will plan which lovely things I will grow on the
balcony of my urban home that has too much shade for a good garden. I
will even write a Christmas wish list (which I haven’t done in years)
that includes some gardening books.

I
am grateful to the ancient Long Night Moon combined with the ultra
modern tool of blogging that inspires me to look again at growing
things and gives me a fresh perspective on gift buying. It is not too
late to buy some gardening books or magazines or seeds. What inspires
me more is wondering if I could grow enough in the summer of 2009 to
preserve as gifts for next Christmas? If I plan ahead, maybe I could
purchase some local berries or fruit to make homemade jams to wrap up
next winter? How about some jars of zesty sweet pickles from Oklahoma
grown cucumbers? Other thoughts on next year’s giving fill my mind like
visions of sugar plums…. I wonder if there is a recipe for sugar
plums online?  Hmmm…

I wish you all a happy Christmas full of joy and peace and dreams of warmer days and growing things.

Winter Garden Dreaming

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Home and Garden, Homesteading, Jennifer Gooden, Organic Gardening, Tips, Urban Gardening | Posted on 05-12-2008

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by Jennifer Gooden

With last week’s freeze, I finally gave up on extending the growing season for my tomatoes, green beans, and other warm weather plants, at last giving in to winter. I still have a mix of cold-hardy greens out there, my chard, radicchio, mustard, and kale, but they take care of themselves. And so my 2008 gardening season is over. (Sniff, sniff.)

One thing I love about winter, though, is the time to plan next year’s garden. In my winter eyes, blinded by the cold and darkness, next season’s garden is always lush and abundant. There is endless variety—far more than my five raised beds could dream of supporting—and a complete absence of pesky mosquitoes, munching caterpillars, and digging squirrels.

It may not be realistic, but it gets me through the coldest months.

This winter, I have two gardening projects in mind.  First, I am going to put together a calendar for next spring. I plan to find a calendar to hang in my garage, right next to my garden tools. There’s a reason for this calendar. Despite my fondness for winter garden dreaming, somehow February and early March escape me, and I rarely get my seeds started as early as I could. This year will be different. Organization to the rescue!

The most significant date in spring garden planning is the average date of last frost in spring. I found that the estimates from different sites varied by as much as a month. I settled it by looking up the NOAA historical records for our area. The actual historical dates of last frost did vary, by a lot. In the past 40 years, the date has swung from March 9 to April 15; going back a hundred years, you can add an extra month on either side of those dates. Thankfully, a linear average of the last spring freeze is clear: March 30.

March 30 it is.

Given the importance of that date to all spring planting, the rest of the calendar falls right into place. My early spring calendar, February through April, is below. Note that my plants have been selected for a small urban lot, so you’ll find an absence of large plants like corn and okra.

•    February 15: plant onion sets
•    February 22: sow peas and spinach; start leaf lettuce indoors
•    March 1: sow radishes and turnips
•    March 8: sow beets; plant potatoes; start peppers and tomatoes indoors
•    March 15: transplant leaf lettuce seedlings outside
•    March 22: sow carrots and chard
•    March 30: average date of last spring frost
•    April 12: sow green beans
•    April 19: start cucumbers, summer squash, and melons indoors
•    April 26: transplant peppers and tomatoes outside

My second garden project is to collect more reference books. I currently rely on information gleaned from the internet, seed catalogs, and Square Foot Gardening, but I would like to know more about season extension, food preservation, perennial vegetables, fruits, pest management…you name it. There is much I don’t know.

This is where I need help. If you have a great gardening reference book, one you couldn’t live without, please respond to this post and let us at Fresh Greens know.

Thanks, and happy winter garden dreaming!