Sunday, February 26, 2012

Keep up the hard work chickies!

The close of another sporadic Eugene spring-weather weekend heightens the awareness of the extended hours spent trapped inside the house trying to keep warm and dry.  To help make this continuous time indoors a more beautiful experience house plants are definitely the way to go.  There is an extensive array of plants that can grow indoors, and really the toughest part is finding enough space in front of the windows to fit all of them.  Learning how to care for each individual plant and watching them proliferate can be a highly rewarding experience.  Outside of being an enchanting addition to any living space, house plants are also known for a whole smorgasbord of beneficial qualities: from boosting your mood during the day, to lessening your allergies, even providing medical treatment (aloe).  But, most intriguingly, they do a significant job at purifying the air inside of our houses.  As part of the NASA Clean Air Study they produced a list of multiple house plants that rank highest on the scale of removing toxins (such as benzene and formaldehyde) and therefore purifying the air. Unbeknownst to us five of our plants made it onto the list of stellar purifiers (shown below!).   The recommended ratio for total purification is 1 house plant per 100 interior square feet.  If that's the case then our house has enough greenery to purify the whole block!

NASA Clean Air Study
Top Purifying House Plants
Healthiest Plants for Your Home

One of our favorite plant suppliers: Pierce Street Gardens

Phalaenopsis (moth) Orchid

Peace Lily

Safari in the Peace Lily

Golden Pothos
(ATTN: toxic if consumed by pets)

Spider Plant

Snake Plant
(Toxic if consumed by pets)

These next two didn't make the list but are some of our more eccentric characters

Epiphyte (tillandsia) air plant


Monday, February 20, 2012

As spring nears, our time spent together and working with animals and plants in our garden seems to be more and more valuable, and full of new and exciting challenges.
We butchered our first chicken this past Sunday, which went as well as one could hope for a bunch of 'first-timers'; it was messy, but we learned an astonishing amount. Our preparation was no doubt improved by the excellent tutorials that are becoming available for free on the internet. It is curious, from an anthropological view, that instead of learning these skills from the compounded knowledge and carefully choreographed rituals of past generations from our local or familial heritage, we derive them from the unfathomably large and nebulous being that is the world wide web, and are guided by algorithms dictated by search engines. Even more compelling is the notion that we are using this, for lack of a better word, alien technology to revert back to more comprehensible ways of living. Whether one sees this as ironic or as simply another paradox of our surreptitiously beautiful universe is simply a matter of personal disposition.
Either way, you'd be hard pressed to try and deny how cute these new baby chicks are! We purchased 2 barred rocks, 2 silver laced wyandottes, and 2 buckeyes from the Eugene Backyard Farmer, one of our favorite local resources for all things feathered.
Originally, we thought we would try to go half incandescent light/half bunny btus to keep the little chicks warm (vertical farming anyone?), but Leo wasn't having it. The strange smells and funny noises were making him bounce of the walls (literally). Ultimately, we moved them on top of a wooden ottoman we recently picked up from the local Goodwill and placed the whole peeping bundle by the edge of the bedroom to ensure no curious kitty could sneak in in the middle of the night.
This little gal was completely wiped out from the journey home, and promptly fell beak first into her bedding as soon as things calmed down.
Mao honing his skills.
Sunlight is in high demand by plants and animals alike this time of year. This particular flowerbed has been tortured to no end; it really was a surprise for us when these beautiful daffodils erupted into their current emphatically trumpeting glory after the soil was trampled all winter.
A warm and happy d' Argent on a sunny morning.
I built a new, but in all likelihood temporary coop for the ducks, as their previous spot seemed to be encouraging some unwanted pests.
The strength of the hog wire and the tautness of these cinched up wire rafters makes a surprisingly stable and (hopefully) raccoon-proof structure. 
The ducks have already made themselves at home.
These bulk fava beans from Down to Earth Home and Garden grow (or at least germinate) anywhere!
An unidentified nut which wandered into a pile of potting soil; perhaps not so different than what happened to the writers of this blog.
Quick-Master-Gardener-in-Training-Pop-Quiz: Find the tesla, embryo, primary root, hypocotyl  and cotyledons!
Devising a new coop for either the new baby chicks or a nesting area for our mother muscovy.
More spectacular daffodils.
Sometimes we sit back and pretend that our backyard is full of ancient dinosaurs. Now all that we are missing is a John Hammond look alike and some gaudily painted jeeps.
Mr. Brown is looking as old and as wise as ever.
This one on the other hand...
Our large rhododendron provides the perfect afternoon shelter for the birds.
A vase of daffodils freshly picked and beautifully arranged by our one and only Jenny Wunder.
A wide array of landscapes, often randomly occurring, under the T5 grow lamp.
This venus fly trap isn't the only carnivore in the house... 

Warning: The following images contain the humane, but somewhat gruesome butchering of a chicken.

Phew! now that that's over...

The final product of our long day; chicken dumpling stew. It was unbelievably tasty and satisfying, a memorable learning experience, and a great reward for all of our labor. Hopefully you can join us next time!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Basking in those late afternoon rays...

I spy...

The new camera works great!

Excerpt from Lester R. Brown's "Plan B: 4.0"

Below is an excerpt from Plan B: 4.0, a generally depressing, but informative book on the present and possible future implications of our collectively induced demise. This particular part offers insight into how urban farming and gardening has been, and is becoming more of, a piece of the grand puzzle of solutions to repairing our rapidly degrading environment.
Important to note, however, is that while "gardening can contribute to your enjoyment and appreciation of nature, how you garden can have a significant impact- both positive and negative- on your local and regional environment." Master Gardener Handbook December 2008

Farming in the City 
Brown, Lester R. (2009-09-25)
While attending a conference on the outskirts of Stockholm in the fall of 1974, I walked past a community garden near a high-rise apartment building. It was an idyllic Indian summer afternoon, with many people tending gardens a short walk from their residences. Some 35 years later I can still recall the setting because of the aura of contentment surrounding those working in their gardens. They were absorbed in producing not only vegetables, but in some cases flowers as well. I remember thinking, is the mark of a civilized society.” 
In 2005, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that urban and peri-urban farms—those within or immediately adjacent to a city—supply food to some 700 million urban residents worldwide. These are mostly small plots—vacant lots, yards, even rooftops.55 
Within and near the city of Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, some 650 hectares of land produce vegetables. This land supplies not only the city’s fresh produce but a livelihood for 4,000 farmers who intensively farm their small plots year-round. On the far side of the continent, an FAO project has urban residents in Dakar, Senegal, producing up to 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of tomatoes per square meter each year with continuous cropping in rooftop gardens.56 
In Hanoi, Viet Nam, 80 percent of the fresh vegetables come from farms in or immediately adjacent to the city. Farms in the city or its shadow also produce 50 percent of the pork and the poultry consumed there. Half of the city’s freshwater fish are produced by enterprising urban fish farmers. Forty percent of the egg supply is produced within the city or nearby. Urban farmers ingeniously recycle human and animal waste to nourish plants and to fertilize fish ponds.57 
Fish farmers near Kolkata in India manage wastewater fish ponds that cover nearly 4,000 hectares and produce 18,000 tons of fish each year. Bacteria in the ponds break down the organic waste in the city’s sewage. This, in turn, supports the rapid growth of algae that feed the local strains of herbivorous fish. This system provides the city with a steady supply of fresh fish that are consistently of better quality than any others entering the Kolkata market.58
The magazine Urban Agriculture describes how Shanghai has in effect created a nutrient recycling zone around the city. The municipal government manages 300,000 hectares of farmland to recycle the city’s “night soil”—human wastes collected in areas without modern sanitation facilities. Half of Shanghai’s pork and poultry, 60 percent of its vegetables, and 90 percent of its milk and eggs come from the city and the immediately surrounding region.59
In Caracas, Venezuela, a government-sponsored, FAO-assisted project has created 8,000 microgardens of 1 square meter each in the city’s barrios, many of them within a few steps of family kitchens. As soon as one crop is mature, it is harvested and immediately replaced with new seedlings. Each square meter, continuously cropped, can produce 330 heads of lettuce, 18 kilograms of tomatoes, or 16 kilograms of cabbage per year. Venezuela’s goal is to have 100,000 microgardens in the country’s urban areas and 1,000 hectares of urban compost-based gardens nationwide.60
 There is a long tradition of community gardens in European cities. As a visitor flies into Paris, numerous community gardens can be seen on its outskirts. The Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) reports that 14 percent of London’s residents produce some of their own food. For Vancouver, Canada’s largest West Coast city, the comparable figure is an impressive 44 percent.61
 In some countries, such as the United States, there is a huge unrealized potential for urban gardening. A survey indicated that Chicago has 70,000 vacant lots, and Philadelphia, 31,000. Nationwide, vacant lots in cities would total in the hundreds of thousands. The CFSC report summarizes why urban gardening is so desirable. It has “a regenerative effect…when vacant lots are transformed from eyesores—weedy, trash-ridden dangerous gathering places—into bountiful, beautiful, and safe gardens that feed people’s bodies and souls.”62
 In Philadelphia, community gardeners were asked why they gardened. Some 20 percent did it for recreational reasons, 19 percent said it improved their mental health, and 17 percent their physical health. Another 14 percent did it because they wanted the higher-quality fresh produce that a garden could provide. Others said it was mostly cost and convenience.63
 A parallel trend to urban gardening is the growing number of local farmers’ markets, where farmers near a city produce fresh fruits and vegetables, pork, poultry, eggs, and cheese for direct marketing to consumers in urban markets. 
Given the near inevitable rise in long-term oil prices, the economic benefits of expanding both urban agriculture and local farmers’ markets will become more obvious. Aside from supplying more fresh produce, this will help millions discover the social benefits and the psychological well-being that urban gardening and locally produced food can bring.

Brown, Lester R. (2009-09-25). Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (p. 169). Norton. Kindle Edition. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Johnny Apple Seed

Thanks to our Master Gardener Tree Fruits Instructor we now how a young, beautiful GoldRush Apple Tree in our backyard!  It was such a simple project, and in just a couple of years there will be delicious fruit growing forever after.  Consequently, just one tree is not enough, and we will definitely be planting many more trees in the future!

Here are some extras photos from our most recent endeavors pre-blog.
Daffodil from our backyard

Basking in the glow of our awesome grow light!


The 3 head honchos 

Did we mention our new favorite drink is Blue Dog Mead?!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Here are some photos from our garden last year, early summer 2011.  Also included is Keegan's first construction of our chicken tractor which later became a two story coop for five!

Just click on the link below and it will take you to the slideshow.