Archive for the ‘chickens’ tag
Novella Carpenter and her friend Willow Rosenthal wrote The Essential Urban Farmer. This detailed how-to guide for individuals with or without farming experience looks destined to become a classic on the subject of urban farming.
At 592 pages, Carpenter joked that the book is so heavy you can use it as a doorstop if needed.
Rosenthal and Carpenter gave a one hour talk this evening, February 29, 2012, at The Women’s Building at 3543 18th Street, No. 8, San Francisco, California 94110 USA. I was familiar with most of what Rosenthal and Carpenter spoke about. Nonetheless, it was fantastic to see them speak and answer audience questions.
Willow Rosenthal founded City Slicker Farms in Oakland, California USA, near San Francisco.
Novella Carpenter began her part of the talk with her infant baby girl nursing from a sling around her shoulder. I had been planning to capture video of her remarks, but I decided that was inappropriate with her baby feeding. After several minutes of talking, she asked a friend to take care of her baby, as I suspect it was just too distracting trying to address a room full of people and feed her baby simultaneously. Carpenter joked that at The Women’s Building the women all sit around breast feeding babies all day.
By that point, I recognized the light was too dim and the conditions too contrasty for a video to be any good. Carpenter was standing in front of a brightly lit video screen, so her face was dark. I decided to skip the video, except for a short clip I shot from the doorway to the room, showing Carpenter, Rosenthal and the audience together, with Carpenter answering a question about bee keeping.
Rosenthal and Carpenter spent three years writing this book so they could each reduce the perpetual effort they were exerting answering the same questions from their fans. Presumably they now can respond to emails seeking urban farming how-to information by saying “read the manual.” It’s a neat trick they’ll make some money along the way. I very much admire that Willow Rosenthal and Novella Carpenter have created. Learning to become self sustaining is valuable, and I predict this book will do well commercially and will expand the networks of Carpenter and Rosenthal dramatically. The audience for this book strikes me as different from the audience for Carpenter’s first book, Farm City, which was her delightful and captivating story, not a how-to guide.
As far as I can tell, The Essential Urban Farmer is Rosenthal’s first published book.
The Essential Urban Farmer covers growing vegetables, fruit trees, rabbits, ducks, chickens and goats. It also covers bee keeping.
The guide has lists of vendors for supplies and information. It turns out there are sellers of bee keeping supplies right in San Francisco. I learned that San Francisco is a great place to keep bees because there are so many types of vegetation here, more so than on a farm in the country, where large expanses of single crops are more common. I learned that bees can and are willing to fly five miles each way to put in their days’ work.
They don’t call them ‘worker bees’ for nothing.
I would be exhausted if I had to walk five miles each way to work each day.
Something tells me bees work 365 days a year. Maybe that’s why colonies are collapsing. I sure would if I tried to work that much. I’m making a joke here, of course. Colony Collapse Disorder looks to be a dramatically serious problem.
I came away with an idea for my super green eco bus conversion project. Fruit trees can be trained to be mostly two dimensional. This is done so trees can hug the sides of houses and fences, to save space. But it means I might be able to grow a dwarf apple tree behind my sofa on my coach with the flat side of the tree parallel to the window over the sofa. It would be crazy to be able to reach overhead and pluck an organic apple while reading The Essential Urban Farmer parked by the waterfront and warmed or cooled by the solar panels on the roof.
I told Rosenthal and Carpenter the short version of my plans for my eco vehicle, and they thought it was cool or they were great actors. I first met Novella Carpenter when she spoke at The Commonwealth Club of California January 25, 2011. Carpenter remembered meeting me back then, which was flattering.
“This book is the REAL DEAL — Novella and Willow are REAL urban farmers. You can read about it all in Novella’s Farm City, her memoir of taking a rasty vacant lot in funky ghetto West Oakland, California, and turning into a real urban farm — with vegetables, chickens, killer eggs, rabbits, and even, eventually a pig. That book made me wonder if I could really do this kind of thing out in my sprawling backyard. Even though I dont know jack-diddly, really, about how to farm. And you know what — this new book really tells how to do it, from how to pick land (near water, for instance, at least near a hose…), get the right to use the land, and then how to get the soil ready, how to get the right seeds, right through how to kill simple farm animals for food every now and then. It’s fun to read even if you dont want to go the length, but it seems like I am going to be able to do everything I want to do in my backyard, using just this one total REAL DEAL ‘how to’ guide to it all. Wow!”
I took the photographs above at the book signing Rosenthal and Carpenter conducted after their remarks.
I shot these pictures with my Canon 5D Mark II camera set at ISO 5,000. The lighting conditions were poor, and I needed all the light sensitivity I could get. I am pleased with the quality of the images considering how dark it was in that hall. I uploaded the pictures at full resolution. Click on them to see them at their full 21 megapixel resolution.
I attended my first chicken show on Saturday, January 28, 2012.
The annual winter show was put on by the Pacific Poultry Breeders Association.
I bought my first almost show chicken at this event. It is an almost show chicken because it was in the barn where the runners up to the main ‘beauty pageant’ were displayed.
I paid a whopping USD $40.00 for the chicken I brought home. That’s a lot because at Western Farm Center in Santa Rosa, California, where I buy organic feed, you can buy a perfectly attractive chicken, fully grown, for USD $14.00.
My cousin Cynthia Christensen alerted me to this show and invited me. I am so glad I made the four hour round trip drive to the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds in Stockton, California from my house in San Francisco, California, USA.
Christensen recommended I bring my camera, and I am so thankful I brought my good camera, a Canon 5D Mark II with a 50 mm macro lens that’s ideal for close up chicken portraits. I shot the portraits with the aperture wide open to blur the background. I used only available light, so I had to set the ISO to 1600 for many of these shots. I uploaded these pictures at full 21 megapixel resolution. Click on the individual pictures to see the much larger full size version.
This is a small excerpt from the WikiPedia entry on 4-H:
“4-H in the United States is a youth organization administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), with the mission of “engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development.” The name represents four personal development areas of focus for the organization: head, heart, hands, and health. The organization has over 6.5 million members in the United States, from ages five to nineteen, in approximately 90,000 clubs.
The goal of 4-H is to develop citizenship, leadership, responsibility and life skills of youth through experiential learning programs and a positive youth development approach. Though typically thought of as an agriculturally focused organization as a result of its history, 4-H today focuses on citizenship, healthy living, science, engineering, and technology programs.
Today, 4-H and related programs exist in over eighty countries around the world; the organization and administration varies from country to country. Each of these programs operates independently, but cooperatively through international exchanges, global education programs, and communications.
The 4-H motto is “To make the best better”, while its slogan is “Learn by doing” (sometimes written as “Learn to do by doing”).”
I saw other judges walking around the huge barns stopping at each cage to record information to a clipboard. The judges had their work cut out for them. The barn below contains just the runner up chickens.
Below are some of the portraits I took of some of the shockingly interesting chickens on display. Most of these shots were taken between the wire rungs of their cages, which was definitely not ideal.
I had a really fun time at this show. I never would have imagined just a few years ago that I would like this kind of show.
To conclude, here’s a picture of dozens of chicks for sale, at USD $5.00 each.
I am heartbroken.
Just a couple of days ago I started to let my chickens out of their large 4 x 10 foot covered home so they could roam and peck in my big backyard. That was a bad decision.
Today, around noon, in full sun, one of my chickens disappeared. I was in earshot the whole time, working on the computer. I didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary.
I suspect that a hawk soared in and grabbed my smallest chicken. I think this chicken was a rooster, so he would have had to leave soon anyway. This is not the way I wanted him to leave!
The remaining hens were subdued and all of them even let me pet them. Normally only my Hudan hen allows me to pet her or hold her with just one hand. The other ones scurry away when you try to pet them. I can still catch them. But today, after this sad event, all three let me hold and pet them without objection. They really seemed shaken.
These chickens spent every second together since birth, so this must be so traumatic for them. I don’t see how they didn’t witness their friend being carried away.
I feel so foolish because I saw a hawk just a few days ago flying toward the coop. I didn’t know what a hawk looked like. I thought what I saw was an owl, and that it would not bother my chickens. I described what I saw to my father, and he said I had seen a red tailed hawk. He said he has them by his house, which is just minutes by car from my house. My father grew up on a farm, so he knows a lot more about this kind of thing than I do.
I don’t even have a recent picture of the lost chicken, and I’m a photographer!
I live right in the center of bustling San Francisco, California USA, so this is particularly exciting. A couple of years ago I had no idea I would be farming! My cousin Cindy Christensen owns a farm, and I’ve marveled at her wide array of award winning show chickens she raises. But even when I was visiting her farm, I never considered that I would one day soon be feeding chickens and collecting eggs each morning.
The eggs my chickens have produced so far are smaller than the smallest eggs for sale at any grocery store I’ve visited.
I shot the video of me cracking these first eggs into a stainless steel pan so the background would be a light color. Normally I wouldn’t fry eggs in this pan.
Maybe it was the excitement of raising these chickens from when they were just 3 days old, but these fried eggs were the best I’ve had.
Have a look at how orange the yoke in the upper left is. I was expecting all the eggs to have yokes that color. Food writer extraordinaire Michael Pollan educated me through his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma that good eggs should have orange yokes, not yellow yokes. I am now a believer and I am certain I can taste the difference.
I shot the video above in full 1920 x 780 high definition video on my Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera.
The eggs are smaller than I’ve ever seen in a store, but they look pretty good for their first attempt. I was shocked to find two on the same day, since I think that means two chickens each laid an egg. I’ve read chickens rarely lay more than one egg per day. That’s why I suspect two chickens chose the same day to begin production.
I have four chickens altogether, but I fear one is a rooster and will soon have to go live with my friend Fara Otterbeck who owns a farm in Napa, California USA and is in need of a rooster, thank goodness. Roosters aren’t allowed in San Francisco. I don’t know for certain if I have a rooster because he hasn’t started crowing yet.
Each chicken has eaten about 50 pounds of food since birth. Organic chicken feed costs USD $20 per 50 pound bag provided you buy it at a feed store and not a pet store.
I have a feeling these eggs are going to be costly like the ones I buy for USD $8.50 a dozen at Rainbow Grocery, but that’s alright. I love having chickens here, and they make me happy.
I have four housemates — Gina, Marie, Megan and Jesse. They all responded to my Craigslist ad where I proposed starting an urban homestead at my San Francisco house. One of the plans I outlined was to raise chickens for eggs. Today I went with Gina, Marie and Jesse to Mill Valley, California to Mill Valley Chickens where we selected four adorable tiny chicks to come live with us.
Marie provided a portable dog cage to make into an incubator. I supplied the light fixture and the hardware cloth to narrow the gaps in the dog cage to make them too small for the chicks to be able to escape through.
In just a few hours the chicks were eating voraciously in my dining room. We’ve decided to keep them in the dining room for now so we can enjoy their cuteness as much as possible since they grow so fast. Three of our chicks were born March 16, 2011, just 3 days ago. The other was born about 3 weeks ago and is about 3 times the size of the newborns.
I took some pictures of our new babies and have posted the best ones below. Enjoy!