Posts Tagged ‘chicks’

Community Agriculture

September 9, 2011

What first drew me to CSA farming was the A. Specifically Autumnal Agriculture. I spent October 2000 and October 2002 in Purcellville Virginia working at Potomac Vegetable Farms. While heavy, humid July can easily dampen the romantic farming spirit, crisp, quiet Octobers are awesome. Farming, bedecked in glowing, golden Autumn colors, most feels like the idyll of Eden. The slow and deliberate sun sends once-numb fingers unbuttoning and stripping off layers. Great Summer efforts turn black from the first frosty night, retiring into the abyss to emerge in another lifetime. With the fallen annual successes also falls pride. One must stand humble and amazed before the whirring wheel of life to death. The earth is soft and sweet, settling into its seeming Winter slumber. Still tired at the end of the day—which comes so much sooner—I can see nothing so beautiful as the gift of farm and food.
The farming pursuit is full of purpose; you do not have to eat Rally’s, but you do have to eat. Fostering life that wants to live is also ennobling and enlightening; at work are great mysteries and, though the cycles spin round and round, always in abundance are surprises. Although our culture prefers to portray farmers as simpleminded and uncivilized, I have come to know many farmers as deep, creative thinkers, masters of ingenuity, deft managers of spontaneity, encyclopedias of diverse knowledge, modestly melding in with the marvels of the world.
Already allured by good work that challenges body, mind, and soul, I next discovered the equally enriching Community aspect of CSA. In Silt, Colorado, I worked at Peach Valley CSA Farm for the 2004 growing season. Whereas PVF in Virginia was 20 acres of produce and numerous full-time workers through the Summer, PVF Colorado was a single couple and a single apprentice, me. From Ken and Gail Kuhns of Peach Valley, I learned (among many other things) that small is, in fact, a superlative. Over the course of 25 years, the Kuhns’ farm had become a hub of good energy, a loving institution in the community, rippling its positive way through the Rocky Mountains. Working shares, who loved the farm, brought their children, who loved the farm and its strawberries. I could see nothing more important than generations of children growing up in and being nourished by the Kuhns’ embrace. Imagine 10 million farms blessing all our babies with wholesome food and good roots, a place to belong.
(The S in CSA is seems to be less defined. Shared/Supported/Smiling/Sustained/Shaped. What is your preferred S-word?)
I could see then no higher calling than CSA farmer, and so, seven years into A Place on Earth CSA, I still aspire to be one. Perhaps I will go to the grave still feeling like something of an imposter as a farmer. But I do see small signs sometimes that I am headed in the right direction. This past Tuesday, I was packing CSA boxes with one of our working shares, Ben, and his 3-year old daughter, Bailey. Over the last 7 years, we have had very few visits from young children, aside from potlucks. But twice in the last week we have had a brilliant toddler mind in our midst. Ben and Bailey were bagging tomatoes—a simple, mundane task that happens twice a week. But this time it was different. Each tomato was special and deliberately counted. Certain tomatoes looked like hotdogs and each one needed a gentle reminder, “Gentle.”
But what I heard several times that really caught my ear, that made my day, that made me feel that something even more important that food producing was going on, was. “This is fun.” Hardly any adult would ever utter such a thing. But come to think of it, I thought and think, this is fun. This is what I want to sustain. When we share good work and good food, feel purposeful and invigorated, problem-solve and smile-make, we are living up to the spirit of CSA. Whatever the dire straits in the manic world around, we have found some common ground and are sowing a few good seeds for the future.
New chicks
Six of the last seven Februarys we have received a box of beeping, day-old chicks. They brave the bitter cold under a heat lamp. This past Winter they arrived just in time for the coldest night of the year, and we lost three that first night. Every year a few hens feel the call and, rather than dropping an egg and being on their way, decide to sit on those eggs and turn them into chicks. Always before we have taken a few pecks to the hand and gathered the eggs out from underneath them.
This year, however, we let one go the distance. Although most of the eggs she sat on were apparently unfertilized, two of them were most certainly fertilized, and are now about two weeks old and as attached to their mama as Clark is to his. It has been a wonder to watch their lives unfold in the natural order. Mom keeps them warm and scratches through the ground until she finds the perfect food for them. She flies off the handle if the chicks appear endangered and goes berserk if she is momentarily separated.
This may do nothing to replace the chickens we lost earlier this Summer. The chicks may both be roosters and never lay an egg. But they have taught us a lot already, and, who knows, maybe they will fertilize the next batch.
Crop Update
I am determined to refrain from reciting my numerous failures in this newsletter. An updated casualty report will appear next time.
Potluck Reminder
We’re a couple of weeks away from the Autumn Potluck (Saturday, September 24, 3 pm til ??). We hope you’ll mark your calendars and plan on joining us to celebrate the gifts of this season. See you soon!

little things

August 22, 2011

A newsletter is forthcoming, but there are little things to share.
Two little chicks were hatched by a momma hen about two weeks ago. Momma started setting right about the time we lost the 7 hens and a rooster to the heat of early July. The magical three week window came and went with no chicks, and a week later, some sweet cheeps on their part and a joyous shout on ours announced another birth on the farm. It is a delight to watch them growing up with their very own momma.
And remember the sleep troubles of young Clark, which coincidentally happened around the same time as the avian heatstroke? Well, in spite of our doubt (every time he’d been fussy and drooly for the last several months, we’d think he was teething…and he wasn’t), he sprouted two little teeth shortly after he started sleeping well again. Buddy, they are sharp! But they’re pretty cute, too, and come in handy with all the solid food we’ve been procuring from the garden for him.
So hope and new perspective is born from suffering and grief. Thanks for sharing the journey with us.

A brand new year, a brand new boy

April 6, 2011

Spring has returned from a Winter’s rest, full with the sounds of birds and peepers, the first flush of flowers, the smell and feel of turned and warming soil.  So, too, do we return from our busy silence full of news to share with you.  Hopefully we won’t be away for so long next time.  As many of you already know, Clark arrived in dramatic fashion (fashionably late) early on Thanksgiving morning. We sent out e-mails from the Ronald McDonald house, where we lived during his stay in the Kosair Children’s Hospital NICU. We’ve spent the four months since we’ve been home reveling in his smiles, laughter, cuddles, and games; introducing him to family and friends; settling into routines of napping, eating, and working; and even getting familiar with his cries from time to time. It has been delightful and challenging, world-changing, humbling, and uplifting and so much more all at once. We’ve been so blessed that Clark has been healthy and thriving since he was discharged from the hospital, and continued to eat and sleep like a champ even through a monster cold last week.

On his birthday

That’s more like it—home, healthy, and happy!

Also in the interim between our last post and this one, we have received our orders of seeds and chicks, and here, too, are happy to report steady growth. Fifty chicks arrived on February 9 and have braved the cold nights with their heat lamp. Now two months old, the Auracanas and Golden Wyandottes are still chirping like chicks, though they are looking more and more like their clucking sistren. They and the veterans from last fall’s flock enjoy frolicking in the lush green grass that has been absent for so many months. The young birds faithfully wait until dusk to venture out, so this pleasure is fleeting for them. Soon they will mingle with the other hens, a new rooster or two (hopefully) will manifest himself, and the idiosyncracies of chick-hood, like the ambush, will become a memory. 
In addition to caring for Clark through the school week, Carden is managing to fill up the greenhouse—with help from John Bruggman, Stan Hankins, and Maria Leist—with trays of onions, leeks, flowers, parsley, chard, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, boc choi, and collard greens. Sweet onion starts have already found a home in the garden, alongside of last season’s salsify and parsnips. Spinach and radishes, planted in the last two weeks, are poking their heads out from their beds; we’re still waiting to see the peas and carrots (and turnips, beets, onions, lettuce, dill, and cilantro). The brassicas, chard, and lettuce will be moving out to the garden this week, their spots in the greenhouse to be filled by the peppers and tomatoes now germinating in the “germination chamber” (an old fridge with a light bulb for heat). Also, Carden and company have planted several blueberry plants, and the raspberry plants are leafing out.
I returned to school shortly before Clark turned two months old. These past two months seem to have gone by much more quickly than the four before he arrived. This is comforting because surely the next two will fly by as well and summer will be here; but it also cuts me to think how much he has grown and changed in this flying time, and how many more changes will come in these next flying months that I will be working with someone else’s babies (their babies aren’t near as sweet, although I’m sure they once were). I know this is true for all parents, whether or not they work away from home—babies grow up, fast. But the combination of this sad and glorious truth with my missteps as a first year teacher has made for many a tearful dinner conversation about how I don’t want to go back the next day. And yet I have gone back and probably will (for a while longer, anyway), and have learned a good deal about myself in the process. However, these next eight weeks will test us all, as Carden enters his primary planting season with Clark in tow and me at school everyday. With help in the fields and in the nursery, and fairly lucky weather, we’ve managed to stay on target so far for the growing season; we must hope that this help will continue as the work increases in urgency towards the season’s first harvests. We continue to give thanks for the gift and the responsibility that come with deepening our roots in this place on earth, planting crops with their (and our) long-term growth in mind, and bringing a child to live and learn with us.