When the Food Security Partners of Middle Tennessee invited urban-chicken advocates to tweet the case for allowing chickens in the urban district, dozens of participants cried fowl--in 140 characters or less. The results are in and the winners are.....
1st place: Paul Martin
"If CHICKENS are outlawed, then only OUTLAWS will have chickens."
2nd place: Jane Fleishman
"If it's best 2 eat local, hens out back don't make me a yokel. A fresh egg, a quiet cluck--urban chickens, I shd have such luck."
3rd place: Audrey Patrick
"Chickens are great pets, provide wonderfully nutritious food, and are important to a sustainable household. Kids love chickens."
Congratulations to the winners, who take home the following prizes:
1st place: $50 gift certificate and personal farmer consultation from Gardens of Babylon, the eco-conscious garden market and landscaping company whose passion is to inspire our community to create and enjoy a healthier lifestyle and greener environment
2nd place: Two movie tickets from Belcourt Theatre, Nashville's nonprofit venue for film, music and performing arts events
3rd place: One dessert from tayst restaurant, Nashville's first and only green-certified restaurant
You're looking at it, fellow urban gardeners. Needless to say, it did not overwhelm the kitchen in quite the same way that cucumbers, beans and tomatoes are doing.
What's bustin' out of your vegetable bins? Or not?
Following up on an earlier Bites thread that may as well have been titled "What Good is a Banana Pepper, Anyway?" I have an answer.
The solitary plant that yielded a lone comma-shaped fruit a few weeks back recently rained down peppers. The expression "coals to Newcastle" came to mind, as did my father's saying: "The bad news is it tastes like shit, but the good news is there's enough for tomorrow."
Necessity being the mother of invention--and my necessity was to feed four adults with a bunch of near-their-sell-by-date ingredients and a half-dozen banana peppers that were so big they reminded me of the Gilligan's Island episode when they grow the super-sized radioactive carrots--I came up with this extremely precise recipe:
Mix some cream cheese with some feta and some bacon crumbles. Cut tops off peppers and extract seeds. Somehow or other, jam cream cheese-feta-bacon mixture into peppers. (Do not let guests see you do this--it's not pretty.) Place peppers in greased baking dish and cook at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.
The good news is it was fantastic, the bad news is I'm out of peppers. Hint, hint.
Boy, I said boy, it's an essay contest. But it's on Twitter, so naturally, it's a Twessay contest. And the subject is urban chickens.
Legislation recently introduced in Metro Council would tighten restrictions on chickens and other livestock in Nashville. Chicken opponents say the fowl stink, attract prey and will wake the neighborhood when the sun rises. Chicken advocates say the birds can provide an important resource for a local food system and believe that reasonable guidelines could mitigate the concerns associated with chickens in the urban district.
What do you think?
Submit your 140-character argument before Wednesday, July 23 at 5 p.m. Entries can be tweeted to @FoodPartners. For non-Twitterers, FSP will accept submissions on this event's Facebook wall or at NashvilleUrbanChickens (at) gmail (dot) com (Facebook and email entries will be limited to 125 characters to account for the lack of @FoodPartners required for Twitter entries.) Enter as many times as you like.
Prizes will be awarded for the best entries, including two movie passes to the Belcourt Theatre, free dessert from tayst restaurant, $50 gift certificate and free Personal Farmer site evaluation from Gardens of Babylon.
A couple of submissions, so far:
If it's best 2 eat local, hens out back don't make me a yokel. A fresh egg, a quiet cluck--urban chickens, I shd have such luck
For feathered friendship or fried food, fowl fulfill fifty functions for felicity and fitness. Without 'em, the yoke's on us!
There's nothing like a stiff cup of Earl Grey to put a spring in your step in the late afternoon, so why shouldn't your eggplant and watermelon enjoy a similar boost? That's the general idea behind compost tea, a potion rich in microbial agents to help refresh the soil, and in turn the plants.
When I recently told the Personal Farmer Peter Anderson that some of my crops were flagging, he immediately prescribed a spot of compost tea. (I am, after all, planting directly in the ground rather than in a raised bed with pristine soil, so the PF very generously blames all weaknesses in my garden on bad dirt rather than on user error.)
Gardens of Babylon at the Farmers' Market brews its own compost tea in a giant drum in the back of the plant center, using a secret formula of seaweed, fish emulsion, wood chips and other organic ingredients designed to strengthen the food web in the soil with a hit of nematodes, fungal spores and other bacterial goodies.
Compost tea is available by the gallon for $3, plus a coupon for $1 off. The tea-colored liquid should be poured onto plants within 48 hours of purchase, and can be used as a primary fertilizer.
It's hard to tell whether the recent dose helped my plants, but if you have any testimonials--bad or good--regarding compost tea, please share them.
Just this morning, I was negotiating the possible purchase of a chicken coop from a friend of a guy in my office. The prospective seller is about halfway through the construction of a chicken house, but now he's moving from his East Nashville home and won't be able to use it. So he's trying to re-coop (sorry) his cost of materials by selling it.
I was thinking about buying it, but after seeing this story in The Tennessean, I might be--wait for it--chickening out.
Oddly enough, the effort to tighten Metro's livestock regulations comes at a time when the Metro Council is reviewing legislation to allow community gardens in the urban services district. While that legislation does not touch on livestock, many urban agriculture advocates argue that raising livestock (specifically chickens) should be allowed as part of a larger strategy to promote food security.
On one side of the ledger are fresh eggs, pretty birds and a strengthened connection to the food chain. On the other side are crowing roosters, predatory animals and an abundance of poop. Surely somewhere in the middle is a compromise that could satisfy urban farmers and the Anti-Chicken Lobby.
If either chickens or anti-chicken laws ruffle your feathers, tell Bites why.
A once-lush rope of squash vine now lies wilted on the dirt floor of my garden, severed by what I can only assume is the same dastardly varmint that also felled a Prudens Purple heirloom tomato plant. I am devastated.
Meanwhile, my friend Rex Hammock is sending over snapshots of his tomatoes, nurtured safely in the wire-mesh compound of his Tomato Gitmo (pictured here).
But I'm trying not to be bitter. After all, Gen. Hammock put in the hours erecting a vegetable fortress, whereas I relied on the fuzzy goodwill of Hazel and Fiver to spare my veg.
No more. I take up arms today. First on the list: an owl, like this one.
We once had success with one of these guys, which we moved around the yard on a regular basis, you know, to simulate flight. One morning, I caught my neighbor on her porch with her binoculars staring in wonder at its statuesque majesty. I could hardly break the news to her that it was plastic, from Home Depot.
I'm also going to swing by a toy store and get one of these:
That should keep the rabbits out of the yard. Lord knows what it will do to my neighbor.
What other sneaky tricks can I employ?
Remember a few weeks back when I wanted to sow the Great Wall of Corn out in front of my house and everyone said it was tacky? Well, Personal Farmer Peter Anderson at Gardens of Babylon invited me for a tour of his vegetable/flower garden at the Farmers' Market, and all I can say is dammit, this bountiful show of color and produce could have been mine, if only I hadn't been such a wuss.
Behold the luscious contrast of colors--the vibrant edible nasturtium cuddled up against the weimaraner-hued lamb's ear, the zinnias flaunting their sunny blooms against the staid foundational green of the lemony sorrell...And what's that I see peeking daintily over this elegant composition of fresh-faced flowers...could it be? Yes, it's corn. Just like WHAT I WANTED TO PLANT, but nooooo, you all said corn was for the back 80.
Lesson learned. It's time to drag the edible agriculture out from the back yard. Next year when it's time to sow brazenly the planting strip between the sidewalk and the street, you won't find me being such a shrinking violet.
If only I knew what Okies yelled when their oil wells struck black gold, I would have shouted it across my quarter acre when I saw this turgid specimen of waxy banana pepper emerge from the clover-choked weed bed of my garden.
So far, this lone pepper represents the bulk of the 2009 Fox Farm yield. Short of stuffing it and mounting it on the wall, what should I do with it? It's already starting to wither a little inside its skin, so waiting until the rest of the crop (Ha!) comes in to pickle or otherwise preserve it is not really in the cards.
Say I were Thomas Keller, and this pepper were a rabbit I had slaughtered with my own hands, how could I best prepare it to honor its short life and dogged perseverance?
Talk about watched pots never boiling, there should be a corollary for watched gardens never growing. So little was happening on my shady urban domain that I had given up my morning stroll along the vegetable bed and I was just about to throw in the trowel when, behold, the arugula sneaked up on me this weekend with a third growth.
Between the arugula, the mixed lettuces and the cilantro persevering under the shade of a hackberry, I harvested enough greens for four small servings of salad, which I tossed with avocado hunks, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, shaved parmesan and fresh black pepper. With the exception of a few bitter fronds, the greens were so thin and tender I thought they might dissolve on my tongue. What the salad lacked in bulk it made up for in freshness and flavor.
Surely no more life will emerge from that batch of seeds. Is there anything else I can start in that bed now, or must I wait to plant a fall crop?
Meanwhile, a few new signs of life are popping up--a single banana pepper and eight promising strawberries among them. The squash and okra--which are barely eking out six hours of sun--are growing but not thriving. Rosemary and mint seem very happy, and blueberry bushes are filling out--with leaves, at least. Tomatoes in pots in the sun are flourishing, while those in ground in the shade...not so much. A bean plant ferried home from kindergarten in a plastic cup stubbornly refused to die on the sill of a South-facing window over the kitchen sink, so we rewarded it with a pot of its own. We'll see if outdoor living helps Mr. Bean overcome his jaundice.
My one real question mark is the chard, which Fluffernutter handed over in a near-embryonic state and which sagged sadly under so much rain. At last, the leaves are peeling themselves off the soggy earth and reaching skyward, but I would have expected them to be much larger by now.
With the summer solstice upon us, how are your gardens growing?
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