Saturday, July 31, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Mother Earth News is giving an online Chickens 101 class for anyone who might be interested.
This course, which takes place on October 2, is about making the homestead poultry flock a vital partner in the food independence enterprise. A well managed flock not only supplies the family with meat and eggs, but helps with the work of the homestead: increasing soil fertility, tilling the garden, controlling problem insects and reducing dependence on purchased inputs.
During “Chickens 101: The Sustainable Homestead Poultry Flock,” you’ll learn about planning your flock, coop sizes and designs, manure management, keeping your flock healthy, handling and storing eggs, and much more. To read complete details about the course and find out how to sign up, please check out the course Registration and Information Page.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Two major scores yesterday. First, got 5 full sets of used scrubs off Freecycle from a very nice young woman in Hollywood to wear around the house and when working in the yard. And they actually fit me, which is hard to do with my 5-foot, 92-pound frame.
|Glazed ceramic planter for peach tree.|
Not a bad deal for $29.97.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
I'm determined to get our electricity bill down this year. Last month's bill was a whopper—$420. I know we're in south Florida and we're going to use more A/C than other parts of the country. And I know our house was built in the early 1970s, so a lot of changes need to be made to help green it up, like replacing the windows, replacing the water heater, adding insulation, etc., etc. We've been good about replacing any appliances we've had to replace with Energy Star appliances. I actually saw a difference in the electricity bill when we replaced the washer and dryer last year. Amazing.
But a lot of these changes come with hefty price tags. New windows, forget it. We just don't have the money right now, even with a 30% federal tax credit. I'd love to replace the old 30-gallon electric water heater with something bigger and more efficient. It's got to be on its last legs since we've been here for 8 years and the people we bought from were here a year and they didn't know when the water heater had last been replaced. My dream would be to put in a solar water heater and we made room for it when we bought the new washer and dryer (we bought stackable), but, even with federal and state rebates, tons of money has to be laid out to begin with. Something like $6000. Ouch. And who knows when the state money gets sent out? From everything I'm reading, the state is about 2 years behind in the rebates. I don't know if we can afford to wait that long for the money, though I think the federal money is just taken right off the taxes. And I'd love to either add or totally replace the insulation in the attic. The price for that depends on the type of insulation we choose. I'd love to do something nice and green like putting in spray foam or denim, but, again, the price tag starts to grow the greener the product. And since we'd like to put in solar attic fans and solar tube lighting, don't we have to do these before we do the insulation?
My brain cells are starting to mush trying to decide what to do. Whatever decision is made has to be balanced with the fact that we need a bigger chicken coop now that we have 7 pullets getting close to merge time with the 4 already-laying hens. While we didn't spend huge money on the first coop—$400, we will spend a sizable chunk on the new coop. I know it's possible to build one, but we are not carpenters and every time we attempt something that is way beyond our capabilities, we end up fighting and then hiring someone to finish what we couldn't, usually making it more expensive than if we'd just bought the thing in the first place. So I'd rather just buy it. I was thinking we could barter the old coop for something else, but then I started thinking that we might want to keep the smaller coop in case we ever have a need for separating a sick hen from the main flock or decide we want to raise a couple of turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner (it's a valid thought).
So I'm left still deciding. I'm leaning toward compromising and putting in 2 solar attic fans and a bigger, maybe 50-gallon, Energy Star hybrid electric water heater. The attic fans are about $400 a piece not including installation and labor (30% of the solar parts and labor get the federal tax credit) and the new hybrid heat pump electric water heaters also qualify for the 30% federal tax credit and cost about $2000 with installation and labor included. Knock 30% off that and it sounds doable. I don't know. My brain cells are still mush.
What would you do?
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
The end of July is speeding toward us and here at the My Edible Yard Urban Homestead that means it's time to ready the garden beds for planting in September with as much composted manure as we can get our hands on. The more compost we incorporate into the soil, the healthier the soil will be and, Mother Nature be willing, the healthier our vegetable plants will be, hopefully leading to higher produce volumes.
But with the all-encompassing lazy heat of the summer, it's been hard to even think about working in the backyard garden this year. So I haven't. I've concentrated on keeping the front yard beds presentable to the neighbors, trying to outsmart the heat by doing my weeding, watering, and harvesting either in the early morning or early evening hours.
As I forced myself this past weekend to start planning my attack on the backyard, it dawned on me that I've got help this year. The chickens. I don't have to do it by myself or even coerce my husband into doing it for me. All I have to do is let the chickens loose to do what they do best. Scratch, poop and forage. And they've joyfully obliged me. They have successfully fertilized all the backyard beds, dutifully uprooted weeds, and aerated the soil. Now all I have to do is lay down a thick layer of composted manure and let the girls do their thing.
|Backyard chickens hard at work.|
They've just started on the bed in the back.
|I think they noticed the camera.|
|Chickens at work.|
|A chicken-finished bed. Just a few stray weeds for me to pull.|
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Husband came in from work last night and absentmindedly let dogs out while the pullets were out per their normal routine. Within 30 seconds, Caleb had killed my Sophie.
Husband and Caleb now in the dog house. Contemplating whether to get rid of one or the other ... or both for that matter.
I miss my Sophie.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
It was early last spring that Joseph Mawardi decided he no longer wanted to keep up the greens.So begins an article from yesterday's Broward Edition of the Sun-Sentinel by Ihosvani Rodriguez. The City of Hollywood has verbally cited 2 families for having lawns landscaped in such a manner that they don't require watering. Absurd, you say? In a nutshell, yes.
Defeated in battling his brown and parched lawn, Mawardi hired a landscaping company and paid them about $6,000 to fill his front yard with a sea of marble rocks.
"I got tired of having to stay on top of it with water all the time," he said.
But as a crew began spreading the gravel and placing decorative boulders in front of his Emerald Hills home, a Hollywood code enforcement officer took issue with Mawardi's apparent lack of a green thumb and gave him a warning.
"He came flying in here to tell me I had to stop," recalled Mawardi. "I see houses with garbage outside and dirty roofs, and I am the one in trouble."
Mawardi went on with his lawn of stones, but is now stuck in code enforcement limbo while city officials search for a way to balance the appeal of green lawns against a new era of water restrictions.
Now, for the state statutes regarding Florida-friendly landscaping:
373.185 Local Florida-friendly landscaping ordinances.--The statute (373.185) goes on to say:
(1) As used in this section, the term:
(a) "Local government" means any county or municipality of the state.
(b) "Florida-friendly landscaping" means quality landscapes that conserve water, protect the environment, are adaptable to local conditions, and are drought tolerant. The principles of such landscaping include planting the right plant in the right place, efficient watering, appropriate fertilization, mulching, attraction of wildlife, responsible management of yard pests, recycling yard waste, reduction of stormwater runoff, and waterfront protection. Additional components include practices such as landscape planning and design, soil analysis, the appropriate use of solid waste compost, minimizing the use of irrigation, and proper maintenance.
(3) (a) The Legislature finds that the use of Florida-friendly landscaping and other water use and pollution prevention measures to conserve or protect the state's water resources serves a compelling public interest and that the participation of homeowners' associations and local governments is essential to the state's efforts in water conservation and water quality protection and restoration.Am I missing something? I don't understand what the City of Hollywood has to argue about. I happen to know one of the families personally and I can tell you I wish I could make my lawn look as pretty as theirs. They've successfully incorporated vegetables, native and drought-tolerant flowers, and fruit and nut trees into their edible xeriscaping. They feed their family of 12 from their edible yard. This is against the law? How long ago was it that Victory gardens were a sign of national pride and considered a duty?
(b) A deed restriction or covenant may not prohibit or be enforced so as to prohibit any property owner from implementing Florida-friendly landscaping on his or her land or create any requirement or limitation in conflict with any provision of part II of this chapter or a water shortage order, other order, consumptive use permit, or rule adopted or issued pursuant to part II of this chapter.
(c) A local government ordinance may not prohibit or be enforced so as to prohibit any property owner from implementing Florida-friendly landscaping on his or her land.
Here are some "lawn" statistics excerpted from a post I wrote a while back about grass lawns:
- Residential lawns comprise 23 million acres of land in the U.S.
- 58 million Americans spend $30 billion per year for lawn care.
- 270 billion gallons of water a week are used to water U.S. lawns. That's enough to water 81 million acres of organic vegetables for a summer.
- $5.25 billion per year is spent on fossil fuel-derived fertilizers for lawn care -- the majority of this ends up as pollution in our surface and groundwater, increasing our risk of cancer, heart disease and birth defects. Just switching to organic fertilizer and compost would eliminate a good part of this pollution.
- 580 million gallons of gasoline are used to mow lawns each year. A good chunk of this creates air pollution because of evaporation and another chunk pollutes our groundwater because of spillage.
- Running a gasoline-powered lawn mower for an hour produces pollution equivalent to driving a gas-powered car for 20 miles.
- 67 million pounds of synthetic pesticides are used in the upkeep of U.S. lawns each year, the majority polluting our surface and groundwater.
- $700 million is spent every year on those 67 million pounds of pesticides.
If you'd like to help these families out, please write to Mayor Peter Bober at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him what you think. Nicely please, because we'd like to put a quick and definitive end to this craziness.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
I've been thinking. I've been thinking about things that need to get done around here and how it's near impossible for us to get it all done. I want very much for us to be more self-sufficient, but how do we accomplish it all when we both work full-time? I have a more than full-time medical transcription business that is growing and needs more and more attention. Mickey works full-time at Publix, graciously supplying us with much-needed health insurance, and it's an extremely physical job, so he's already bone tired when he gets home at night. I feel bad asking him to help me do the physical labor in the garden that I can't do. He deserves to be able to rest on his days off.
So I've been thinking it's time to hire someone to help. But I can't decide if it should be someone to help us with the gardening or someone to help me with the transcription business. Is it possible to find someone who can do both? What would I put in the job description? General office duties, accurate data entry, filing, answering phones, feeding chickens, building raised beds, hauling compost, weeding, fence building, light carpentry. I wonder how many people would respond to that?
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
It's been raining for days now, 4 inches yesterday, 3 scheduled for today. While it's great for replenishing the rain barrels, fortifying the garden, and giving us south Floridians (humans and chickens) a break from the sweltering heat, it certainly makes it hard to get any planting done. I've got a new batch of seeds I want to get in the beds: Millionaire okra (doing well currently, so I want to get another 3 or 4 rows in), yard-long beans (I've not tried them before and my summer green beans couldn't handle the heat), and za'atar (a perennial Middle-Eastern herb that grows well in the subtropics). I'll write more about the za'atar later. It's got an interesting biblical history.
So what to do with myself today? Oh yeah, work. That thing that pays the bills.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
So I'm going to spend the day working on the urban homestead. I've got weeds to pull, compost to work in, and seeds to plant. I'm going to feed my chickens, harvest some eggs, and clean the coop. I'll be tired and sweaty by the end of the day, but it will feel good. It will feel good to know that I'm that much closer to knowing where my food comes from and what's in it, and that my little steps help make a difference not just for me and my family, but .for generations to come.
What are your plans for the 4th?
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Ilana, a Buff Orpington, is the stereotypical youngest child even though she was the second to begin laying. I assume she's the youngest of the older flock because it's clear she's at the bottom of the pecking order. She is always the last to eat, stepping back so the other girls get the choicest picks, and she gets scolded and pecked by the others if there's a tussle over a special treat like a worm, collard green, or piece of fruit. Ilana is the most intolerant of the pullets. She's taken on the responsibility of watching the younger girls, obsessively tracking their whereabouts, and ensuring observance of her strictly drawn territorial boundaries with bullish pecks and loud, rather scary squawks. She is also the flock crier, announcing all entries into the nest and arrivals of eggs. Like a lot of youngest children, she appears to get bored easily, often venturing off to a different area of the chicken yard while the others are still eating.
Avigal, the other Buff Orpington, is more laid back. She's a mix of middle child and oldest child, being the larger of the 2 Orpingtons and the third to lay an egg. Like many middle children, Avigal is a negotiator. She is the only chicken of the 4 to lay her eggs outside the nest, instead choosing to lay them directly next to it, where they are still protected by the coop. I believe the habit began the day she laid her first egg when she had to make an urgent compromise because Shoshanah was doing her requisite nest hogging. Unlike Shoshanah, Avigal is quick and matter of fact when it comes to laying her eggs. She goes in, does her business, and is usually done in about 10 minutes. While she appreciates all egg compliments, she doesn't need them, and she's figured out that it's much more comfortable to do her egg laying in the cooler early morning hours before the sweltering Florida heat intrudes. She almost always lays the first egg of the day.
Peninah, the smaller Australorp, is a bit more independent and willing to take risks than the other girls, characteristic of middle and youngest children, respectively. She's the chicken responsible for discovering that she can easily scale the poultry fence and forage for food in my vegetable beds if she jumps/flies onto the top of the baby chicken hutch. It's become routine for me to open the fence every morning to let Peninah into the chicken yard. I don't have to say a thing. She heads silently for the fence as soon as she sees me with the breakfast tray. While more shy and standoffish than the other hens when we first brought them home, Peninah's become more talkative and affectionate as she's gotten older and has taken to standing on my lap for afternoon treats. She's a touch self-conscious about her egg laying and usually heads bashfully to a neutral corner of the chicken yard during Ilana's boisterous egg announcements.
Though the chickens are a recent addition to our budding urban homestead, they have quickly become part of the family. Without realizing it, my husband and I have incorporated the girls into our daily routines, Mickey feeding the dogs in the morning, me feeding the girls. And just as the dogs are a source of joy in our lives, the girls stir up the same feelings of affection and amusement. I'm so glad we made the decision to raise them.
Friday, July 2, 2010
Thursday, July 1, 2010
- Plant calabaza (2-4), cherry tomatoes (3-5), okra (8-12), pumpkins (2-4), Southern peas (15-20), sweet potatoes (5-10), and yard-long beans (20).
- Plant basil, chives, dill, mint, oregano and sweet marjoram.
- Mid-month, sow eggplant, pepper and tomato seeds to have transplants for late August.
- Harvest early avocados and mangoes.