Tag Archives: chickens

Eating Oil, Eating Sunshine

Here is a fascinating presentation by Michael Pollan, journalist and professor at UC Berkeley. I know that the video is pretty long, but Pollan’s presentation doesn’t start until 23 minutes in and I really encourage you to watch the whole thing, even if it’s in chunks of 10 minutes at a time. Pollan gives an in-depth history of the food system in the last 70 or so years. I think this video is important to watch if you’ve ever wondered “How did we get to this point, when our agricultural system is so wasteful, pollutive, and unsustainable?” or “When did we go from small, self-supporting family farms to the huge, standardized, pesticide-ridden farms so common today?” Looking back helps explain our current situation by showing us how we got here. In investigating the choices and ideas that led us to our current food system, we have to ask: “Do these ideas still hold up and work well? Or did they ever?”

In Examining our past and understanding how we came to our current situation, we can think about how we want to move forward. We may praise pre-WWII agriculture because it was more environmentally efficient, taking its energy from the sun rather than petroleum. But does is this the exact way we want to proceed? We have to decide if it will work to revert to these old ways and if that way of farming makes sense for our modern times. Pre-WWII, when people were growing their own food, the diet was less diverse and the life expectancy shorter. My grandpa told me once that never even saw fruits like kiwis or banans for most of his life because everything that people ate was grown close to home. Nowadays, many people probably aren’t willing to give up the exotic fruits grown in Hawaii or the peppers from Mexico that they can get year round because of the warmer climate. How can we apply the pre-WWII model to our  situation and adapt it, tweak it to fit the current and predicted future conditions? Maybe it will work in some places, for some people, but we’ll need to incorporate more modern technology and knowledge. We can compare new methods in farming to the old ones and ask if it meets the same standards, even if the new techniques might seem completely different from the old ones. Maybe we just have to find the timeless core idea of that old farming, its strongest central value, and preserve that in all of our agricultural endeavors.

On a different note, our chickens have just started laying! They are so fresh and delicious. Right now, just three are laying so we’re getting light green, brown, and cream-colored eggs. But soon, as they all start laying, we’ll get white eggs and dark chocolate brown eggs too. It’s pretty exciting to go out and see the eggs and think about what we’ve given the hens so that they’ll give us their eggs in return.



Garden and Chickens

I want to say sorry that I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been trying to find something to talk about so instead of going into a major issue, I’m going to stay close to home. I just want to share some thoughts, experiences, and pictures of the family garden and chickens. Both have grown so much.

Beautiful things are coming out of the garden even this late in the season: the green, yellow, orange, red and purple of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. We have delicious beans, kale, and basil. And as much as I love just watching the plants grow, going into the garden and picking fresh fruits and veggies, I’ve started to think about how much of a difference a garden really makes in the bigger picture. If my family is still buying all of the tomatoes and peppers from farms we’ve never seen or known, does it matter if we’re growing food on top of that? Theoretically, we are having more meals from our own backyard so we probably buy less food from grocery stores, but that amount seems pretty small. I do prefer home-made pesto, bruschetta, and chili from home-grown ingredients to anything store-bought. But I still feel myself wanting a more significant change in our food purchases because of the garden. I am tired of seeing store-bought lettuce in the fridge when we have so much great kale in the garden. So, I’ve come up with a goal for next summer’s (and this winter’s) garden. as soon as the first of a given vegetable is ripe in the garden, I want to stop buying  any of that vegetable from the store up until the end of the season. I’ll probably have to start eating less of something for a while until there’s a lot available in the garden. But isn’t that what happens for anyone who actually lives off the food the grow? I look forward to trying it out, even if it proves a little tough.

Another idea I really like is tracking and keeping records of whatever we grow in our garden. We can write down what worked well, what we liked, a crop’s yield in a given week. I think it’s a really cool way to improve your garden from one year to the next, to have it grow and change as you try new plants but stick to the time-tested ones too. For example, I don’t think my family has ever had much luck with watermelons or pumpkins. We usually end up with just a few disappointing small fruits toward the end of the season. But I’m sure if we tried out different varieties and growing methods, we could figure out which type works best for us and how to care for it.

One of my favorite new things happening in my backyard is the relationship between the chickens and garden. Whatever tomatoes partially rot on the plant or lettuce gets a little eaten by bugs I can give to the chickens. One day I picked an apple and realized it had a few worm holes in it by some pest so I called the chickens over and offered it to them. They all gathered round and loved it. I’m so happy to think I’ve created a little cycle which gives the chickens a varied and delicious diet while getting rid of any waste from the garden. So far their favorites are apples, grapes, and tomatoes, but I’m always trying new things. Check out the pictures of the chickens and the garden above.


New Chicks

Here are some pictures of the chicks we just got from a place called Mill Valley Chickens which raises different breeds for people who want to keep chickens. We got 5 different breeds: Ameraucana, Speckled Sussex, Silver Laced Wyandotte, Welsummer, and Sicilian Buttercup. Below the pictures of the chicks, I have included what these beautiful breeds will look like full-grown. Each breed has a different mood, appearance, and lays different eggs. We are expecting a mix of light blue eggs, white eggs, light brown eggs, and dark brown speckled eggs.

I was inspired by the farm at Chewonki to get chickens and I convinced my parents to let us get them as a birthday present. The biggest reason was that I wanted to stop buying eggs from the store by relying completely on eggs which I had helped produce. I know exactly how these birds are treated, what they are fed, and what goes into raising them.The chicks are only a week old, but I imagine it will be the same kind of joy that comes from growing your own food in your garden: checking up, giving them what they need to grow, and then waiting for your amazing, satisfying product. Chickens  make such good pets that the product is definitely only a part of the process.

It makes me happy that chickens are becoming more and more popular. It makes so much sense to me. I’ve always debated the rightness of keeping a pet. I know that in the end I am supporting the artificial breeding of animals for traits that are desirable to humans. It seems kind of selfish. And it’s no different with chickens, except here they serve the important purpose of feeding us. To me, that makes it worth it. We aren’t going to stop chickens from being bred and crossed, but we can give all that history its original purpose back by bringing it all home. Even if it means taking another animal’s eggs, we are participating in our food system rather than sitting to the side and watching it happen (or most of the time, not even watching).

If it is possible in your house, I highly recommend getting chickens. I know many people who keep chickens and say that it is easy and cheap. That is a practical reason. But if you want to get involved in the production of your own food and take joy from raising an animal to produce that food for you, that is an important, moral, personal reason. If you are interested in getting chickens and have any questions, feel free to ask and there is also a great site http://www.backyardchickens.com/ where you can find things out. I do also suggest you look up the laws on keeping chickens in your city.


Here is a project going on in New York to bring these ideas to people living in the city. http://handpickednation.com/watch/the-city-chicken-project/ I think these are the kinds of projects, that if executed practically and with the public in mind could help normal people across America. -Simon