Sunday, May 20, 2012

Magical Bunny Poo

What a week! Among other things, we finally cooked and enjoyed the rabbit meat from our backyard, put in more garden beds, and hosted one of the spots along the 2nd Annual Tour de Coop. The progressively longer days which forecast Summer's arrival simply mean more time spent outside, something no one around here is complaining about.

If it walks like a... Rooster? This feisty young Silver-laced Wyandotte has been the center of attention all week.

Homemade (and homegrown!) chicken-pot pie, a la Jenny.

Words can not express how delicious it was, nor could they decipher my muffled blathering of content, certain to follow each bite.

Jenny: educator, urban farmer, and one cool chick.

While we may not have had the most fancy coop on the tour, people still had great interest for our setup (as well as our boldness).

Rabbit manure, we are convinced, is nearly unparalleled in convenience and benefits for the backyard farmer, and these fava beans have certainly demonstrated the relatively immediate benefits (in comparison to most other organic fertilizers and soil additives) that may be realized.

Our new expansion, which, due to a southerly obstacle and a correspondingly shorter growing season, will most likely contain 'shade tolerant' crops such as lettuce.

These Wellsummer pullets have an amazing knack for breaking out of our minimalist chicken tractor. Surprisingly enough, however, it has proved to be a great way to introduce them to the rest of the flock: if things start getting too hairy, they zip right back to the narrow little section that they squeezed out of in the first place, safe from the hazing beaks of the older girls, who often remain in hot pursuit long after the Wellies are safe, prowling menacingly around the outside of the enclosure.

Our newly decorated coop, 'Sky City', soon to be reassembled again, as an inevitable consequence of all the new knowledge gained from other chicken enthusiasts this weekend.

I lost count yesterday of how many times I had my back to the entrance of our yard and heard "Eeeeee! Bunnies!", accompanied unfailingly by tumultuous, entirely unrestrained giggling and the blur of a young child as she would run past me to get to the fabled creatures of her childhood stories.

Incomprehensibly photogenic bunnies.

This old sandpit has fast become the "water-hole" of choice for our  Khaki Cambell Ducks.

Fresh salad, now in season!

The results of our experiments with companion planting seem hopelessly confounded by the power of the bunny poo.

Pea Blossom

Friday, May 18, 2012

Carnivorous reawakening

As novice butchers the two of us are determined to alter our eating habits to more greatly respect the animal husbandry process, whilst creating a more sustainable diet.  Being stewards for so many animal lives has encouraged us to really narrow down our perceptions on the act of eating meat.  Without a doubt, the vast majority of Americans have completely lost touch with the meat they eat (where it comes from, what kind of foods the animal ate, if the farmer treated the animal with any sense of respect).  And our desired method of re associating with meat (and probably the best way) is to raise it all ourselves.  We fully understand that this is not something that most people can do, but what you can do is acquire a sense of awareness about what meat you're putting into your body, how that affected the other sentient being it came from, and begin forming your own questions of how you feel about meat.

It is a wonderful sense of affirmation when we come into contact with literature that confirms our beliefs and eloquently sums them up for a large audience.  The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall is not only a fantastic cook book, but a persuasive work of moral sensibility in reference to consuming animal products. If you are uncertain of how you should feel about eating other animals, or would just like to know more about butchering and cooking meat, I highly recommend this book.  A few passages really hit home with us, and hopefully these excerpts will create a greater appreciation and respect for meat in you as well.

Intriguing approach to the morality of being a meat eater.

It seems obvious to me that the morality of meat eating lies in the factual details of our relationships with the animals we kill for food.  It is what we do to them that counts.  There is the simple fact that we plan and carry out their slaughter.  And, in the case of farmed animals, there are the more complex interactions through which we manage and control almost every aspect of their lives from birth to death.  From where do we draw the moral authority to bring about their deaths?  And what is the moral status of the means and methods we use to run their lives? (13)

On differences in opinion about carnivorous and vegetarian diets.

The real problem with these arguments is that they are often born of a gridlocked antagonism between meat eaters and vegetarians, who each feel the need to defend themselves against the implied criticism of the other's position.  They miss the moral nitty-gritty by a wide margin because the issues at stake have become almost tribal: two groups feeling mutually threatened, throwing sticks and bones.  This is an unhappy, contaminated forum in which to conduct a reasoned moral discussion. (13)

A Perceived limitation to the Vegetarian Utopia, and the Symbiosis of Domestication

Of all the creatures whose lives we affect, none are more deeply dependent on us - for their success as species and for their individual health and well-being - than the animals we raise to kill for meat.  I'm talking about common domestic livestock - poultry, pigs, cows, sheep, and goats.  We control almost every aspect of their lives: their feeding, their breeding, their health, their pain, or freedom from it, and finally the timing and manner of their death.  We have done so for many thousands of years, to the point where their dependence on us is in their nature - evolutionarily hard-wired.  Their suffering, or lack of it, their animal happiness, or animal misery, are down to us.  This dependency would not be suspended if we all became vegetarians.  If we ceased to kill the domesticated meat species for food, then these animals would not revert to the wild (even assuming, if "the wild" means "land unaffected by man," that there is still such a place to be found on the planet).  The nature of our relationship would change, but the relationship would not end.  We would remain their custodians, with full moral responsibility for their welfare. (17)

Modern hypocrisy and steps towards good Husbandry (Wifery, Parentry?)

The vast majority of our food animals are now raised under methods that are systematically abusive.  For them, discomfort is the norm, pain is routine, growth is abnormal, and diet is unnatural.  Disease is widespread and stress is almost certain.  We have battery laying hens in wire cages so small they can't turn around.  We farm broiler chickens indoors for our fast-food restaurants and supermarkets in such close confinement and such huge numbers that premature deaths counted in the millions are considered the industry norm.  We raise millions  of pigs who never see daylight, soft ground, or even straw, but only strip-lighting, steel, and concrete.  We keep cattle indoors not for months but for years, bedded on their own excrement and given drug-laced feeds - the only way to stave off the diseases that would inevitable invade such intensive systems.  Sheep, who may even be lucky enough to have lived outside, are then herded into trucks to be driven for days, without food or water, to their slaughter.  This isn't husbandry. It's persecution.  We have completely failed to uphold our end of the contract.  In the face of such abuse, the moral defense of meat eating is left in tatters.... 
       Because the same moral majority of the pollster's main street becomes the immoral majority, or at least the apathetic majority, once they get behind the wheels of a shopping cart.  They continue to buy the products they are so quick to condemn.  So these appalling, abusive practices, it turns out, do have popular support - albeit that the supporters are in denial (it seems that nothing suppresses the exercise of conscience as effectively as the words "Buy one, get one free").  But there's no getting away from it: if you buy something, you support the system that produces it.  In the face of such apathetic meat eaters, I have a lot of respect for vegetarians who are morally motivated...
      Personally, though, I think there is a better way to change things.  I think we should certainly change the way we shop - and boycott the products of those who do not look after their farm animals, who have effectively reneged on the deal.  But I believe there is a positive vote to be cast as well as a negative one.  And I think it is best exercised by buying the meat of those who practice good husbandry, who continue to embrace the notion of a contract with their meat animals, and who do all they can to uphold it, honorably, morally, and responsibly. (25)

Monday, May 14, 2012



An old German rabbit recipe, courtesy of my venerable Great-Aunt Louise.

Sautee onions in oil
Add pieced rabbit
Add water
Add flour to thicken it up
Season with thyme and rosemary
Stir in apple cider vinegar to taste.

Delicious, heartening, and a great introduction to rabbit meat.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May Sowings

 A.B. Community Garden

 Backyard Favas

 Elephant Garlic

 Arugula, a tenacious and drought resistant leafy green, is being planted in enough rows to allow for the development of a diverse genetic base for seed collection and storage.

 These American Giant Sunflowers, grown last year, are still as sturdy as any bamboo you'd find at Hirons. We are planning on cultivating some again this year for a bean trellis next year...  which I guess qualifies them as a biennial crop, of sorts. All-in-all, the project will represent a small model of a more "permanent agricultural" system.

The "Sky City" is to be featured in the 2nd Annual Tour de Coop of Eugene.

It pays to be alert in our backyard, especially with an insatiable appetite like these soon-to-be hens.