Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Did It! Where's My Prize?

Holy cluckin' crap, I did it! I freakin' grew a melon! Sure, it's only one melon and it hasn't made it to harvest yet, but I'm sure as hell going to crow about it. For those of you who do not live in San Francisco, you may not fully comprehend the magnitude of this feat. Our summers are cold and foggy, creating abysmal conditions for the heat seeking melon.

How did I do it? With my ultra fabu hoop house, of course. That little tunnel of polypropylene genius has added enough heat factor to eke out what would otherwise only grow in more torrid environments. Like this delicata squash:

I only got one of these too, but could have grown more, I'm sure, if that damn powdery mildew hadn't been so prolific this year. Here is a glimpse of the aftermath on that blight.

The tomatoes are another matter. They are growing like weeds, having planted them in straight compost and given them a warm, windless area to thrive in. This plump beast is called Rose De Berne (I grew this as a shout out to my Swiss heritage), which I purchased from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Never before have I grown a handful sized tomato. Cluckin' amazing!

And the tomato plants are still thriving. I can barely move around in the hoop house it is so thick with vines. The pungent scent of tomato foliage makes my heart swell every time I enter.

I was also able to get some summer squash, though it, too, was crippled by the mildew. Eh, next year.

Right now, I am babying my prized melon. Not sure what variety it is - in my exuberance I forgot to label things. I made a cheesecloth hammock in hopes that "my precious" will make it to the table.

One thing I realized about my hoop house was that once the plants began to reach maturity, overcrowding and damp conditions had become a serious problem. A few of the tomatoes have molded from being squished within the deep recesses of stalks and leaves. Sometimes less is more. I must remember that more often.

Any special growing techniques that you had to use this year to accommodate your unique climate?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Itty Bitty at Eat Real

This coming Saturday we will be at the Eat Real Festival with our goats, Lucy and Ethel. We will be there all day in the "Grow" section, so be sure to come over and say hello. I'll also be judging jams and preserves so be sure to enter your famous homemade goods. Categories include honey, homebrewing, infusions and liqueurs, pickles, and preserves. At 2:30 pm on Saturday, Ute and I will be giving a talk/demonstration on raising urban goats. That should be fun. But personally, I can't wait to gorge myself silly on all the scrumptious goodies from the food trucks and vendors. Here are the details:

Part state fair, part block party, Eat Real Festival celebrates good fresh delicious food. With a focus on food craft, street food, handcrafted beers and local wines - all featuring sustainable local ingredients – Eat Real showcases food in all its different forms. But eating is only part of the fun - at Eat Real, you learn how to make it and grow it! From cheese to kombucha, there are dozens of demonstrations that highlight a DIY food lifestyle. No cost for entry, all edible treats $5 or less.
• Food for $5 or less
• Cold craft beer
• 25 top food trucks
• 50 food vendors
• 30 craft food vendors
• Hands-on food making workshops including bread baking, cheese making, jam making, pickling, backyard farming and more!
• Bands and DJs
When: Friday September 23rd from 1:00 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday September 24th from 11:00 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday September 25th from 11:00 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Website: http://www.eatrealfest.com/event/Oakland/California/2011
: Jack London Square - Oakland, CA

Cost: Free entry!

Monday, September 19, 2011

An Open Letter to James McWilliams: On Hatching a Plan to Get the Real Inexpert Killers - Cats

Dear James,

Boy was I surprised to see that little ol' me made it into one of your articles in the Atlantic. I wouldn't have even known about it if it weren't for someone leaving a comment on my blog. She was nice enough to post a link so I clicked over to see your article on backyard animal slaughter and I thought "Hot diggity damn, we must have taken down the hideous beast that is the industrial meat processing complex!" I mean why else would we be talking about a handful of "inexpert" urban farming enthusiasts, like myself, killing a few chickens and rabbits when professional chicken slaughtering facilities botch well over 1 billion kills per year. During the process of shipping poultry in cramped cages there are around 54 million per year that either die from being heated or frozen to death during transportation; then the poor cluckers are hung by chains where 900 million have their wings broken; the final phase includes dunking them in an electrocution bath, sending them assembly line to a rotary blade that slices their necks, and dipping them into scalding water to ease feather plucking during which time 180 million birds are either improperly electrocuted and/or sliced and then are essentially scalded alive. I'm the kind of gal that keeps up with what's going on in our food system so news as big as overthrowing this horrendous operation surely couldn't have escaped my notice. And after a Google search, I see that it hasn't happened. Well that's disappointing, thought not exactly surprising given Big Ag's strangle hold on government policy.

So why were you writing about me? I mean I'm flattered and all, but I've got exactly 990 well appreciated fans. Not much of a pulpit, I'd say.

Well I read on, but I didn't see my name anywhere. Damn dude, if you're going to give a girl press, you could at least give me my props. I got to a passage where the words sounded familiar and suddenly I was jolted back to that horrific day when I had to kill sweet Pearl, my incurably sick laying hen. Yeah, that was a bad day. Having never killed an animal before, a beginner so to speak, or "inexpert" as you like to put it, which I might say is a synonym for beginner, but then I'm no linguist - I didn't do such a graceful job. Thanks for the memories, buddy.

And then I thought, what the hell does fucking up ending a life that was already enduring "immense suffering" have to do with backyard slaughtering for food? 'Cause like Pearl was diseased and shit and looked really fucked up. No one was going to eat her. She was never intended for the proverbial chopping block either. She was just supposed to lay real nice eggs and have feathers on her feet which I thought was a really neat thing  - to have feathers on your feet, that is. I mean I'd want to have feathers on my feet if I could grow them. Wouldn't you? It's not like I'm proud of the fact that I suffocated a chicken. I really thought this was evident and that the brutally detailed writing of the incident was like a warning to others to not do what I had so ineptly done. But since she had been slowly suffocating for days and days, gasping for air at 3-5 second intervals, I'm not sure that hastening her demise in the same vein was anymore of a tragic end.

Anyways, I made my way through the entire article and still I couldn't figure out what Pearl had to do with your argument. Actually, if you don't mind me asking, what was your point exactly? From what I could make out, you're saying that beginning farmers shouldn't be allowed to kill their animals because as beginners we would make a "bloody mess" so we should just leave it to the Big Ag pros to do the deed, no matter how ugly since it would be done at a "graceful distance". For reals? That's your argument? Like, did you get that off a crackhead on the street? I say this only because I can't think of anyone else who could look at the industrial slaughterhouse numbers and rationalize this. Even if we had every single man, woman, and child in the U.S. bungle one slaughter each this year, we would still have more than three times as many inhumane poultry deaths leaving it up to the pros. But unlike machines, humans have the capacity to learn from their mistakes. So wouldn't it be better if people took killing their meat into their own hands since over time there would be a lot less suffering involved?

I was even more boggled about your purpose with the incomplete Emerson quote about "graceful distance", which in full says "You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity." At this point, I had no idea what the fuck you were talking about anymore. Should we remain complicit? Or did you purposely leave off the rest of that quote so that the logical conclusion would be drawn: all meat eating is culpable in the kill? How does that serve the overall point of leaving the slaughtering up to the pros? Or are we also not supposed to go with the big guy 'cause we'd still be guilty? Are we subtly being told not to eat meat lest we commit that mortal sin against your personal ethics, veganisim, a position that you are never forthright about in your writings, but seem to consistently hint at? God, I love Wikipedia.

Aside from the fact that your argument has more holes in it than a block of Emmentaler (how are you able to keep a job at a major university espousing crap like this?), I was still stuck on the incident with Pearl and why it made it into the article. And I also wanted to know why the Atlantic used that bizarre picture of a four legged, wet hen being held inappropriately by the wings to talk about backyard animal slaughter (shit, you guys should have asked me; I've got a bunch of pics you could have purchased for like a bazillion dollars or something). So I contacted the Atlantic's research department to see if, indeed, your piece had actually been checked for accuracy:
 Attention Fact Check Department and Editors of the Atlantic:
In your recent article, "The Locavore's Mistake: Deregulating Animal Slaughter" by James McWilliams, I see there is a quote from my blog and I'm curious as to why a mercy killing made it into the piece as it has nothing to do with the author's overall argument about backyard farmers killing animals for food. This should have been more than evident to any staff member who bothered to read the entire blog post. I know it's a tedious chore, but I would assume that a longstanding, illustrious magazine such as yours would go that extra mile in an effort to preserve good journalism.
I am also confused by two other issues in the article. 1. Why is Emerson only quoted in part?  The entirety reads, "You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity." As far as I can tell, this would make no logical sense given the author's overall intent of arguing FOR a graceful distance. And 2. Why was a picture of a mutant, four-legged chicken used in association with backyard slaughter? How does this even remotely have anything to do with topic at hand? I expect this kind of journalistic sensationalism from trashy rags such as the National Enquirer, not a well reputed media outlet.
Thank you for addressing my questions. I look forward to your response.
Heidi Kooy, a.k.a. The Sadistic Chicken Suffocater

While we wait for the Atlantic to get back to me on that one, I think we, you and me James, should consider who the real menaces are when it comes to inhumane deaths: Cats. Those little bastards are some cold-hearted motherfuckers, willfully shredding birds without a care as to how they get the job done. And they are fucking wasteful. Look at what they did to my poor bird, Lilyana:

I know. Totally fucked up. There's still a lot of meat left on her. That slimy long thing below her body is actually her trachea. At first I thought the cat had decapitated her, but in fact, it had just mangled the head beyond recognition.

We could end this immeasurable cruelty, James. I'm telling you, these cats have to go. There are too many of them and they are killing hundreds of millions of songbirds and other avian species each year, according to our government. If we could round them all up, we could send them off to the industrial poultry slaughtering facilities. I know a few of those crazy cat ladies would be totally pissed off, and I'm sure my mom wouldn't take it all that well since she loves cats, but it wouldn't really be that big of a deal 'cause it would all be done at a "graceful distance". We could rename the slaughtering facilities "Causchwitz". Catchy, isn't it? Though I would like to change the method of killing for the kitties and go with something a little less bloody, like gas chambers. Once all these blasted cats are gone, then we won't have to worry about all the gruesome deaths of the poor, defenseless birds. Well, I guess there would still be raccoons and opossums... while we're at it, we could take out those guys too!

Holy shit, James! Did you see how easy that was? We went from taking an unpleasant incident to Here Kitty Kitty Goebbels in only a few sentences. You see, that's what happens when we extrapolate a Final Solution from a small number of anecdotes. One minute you're trying to end suffering and the next you're creating mini gas chambers for felines. Just goes to show you how quickly things can get out of hand.

So the next time you find yourself writing an article, think about the larger picture first. Am I trying to end cruel practices or am I promoting a Causchwitz? Our theories can have unintended consequences, results that could be more gruesome than what we had imagined.

And I promise you that I won't go ahead with my cat gas chamber idea, though I will probably threaten my own cat, Luna, with Causchwitz since she has a horrible propensity to shit in the bathtub when she gets pissed off and I think that is nothing but rude and deserving of terrorizing, idle threats.

But I AM going to go ahead and kill my rooster. He's been crowing at midnight and that's unacceptable behavior on this farm. Don't worry, his death will be swift. I've learned much since my first time. You are more than welcome to come and help out if you are at all concerned that I might fuck up again.

Warmest Regards,
Heidi Kooy

P.S. By the way, the next time you put me in one of your articles, I would really appreciate it if you actually used my name, because when people Google "sadistic chicken suffocater", you can bet your sweet ass that I want to come up top of the list on that one. There's a resume I can build with that title. I'm just sure of it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Our 15 Minutes... Er, Four and a Half

No, we did not grow those peppers. Sheesh, I wish!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Not Your Typical American Neighborhood

That's Sir Crows A Lot in the foreground. I've been meaning to "do him" as I've been afraid of annoying the neighbors. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the chopping block. I asked my Guatemalan neighbor, Isela, if my rooster had been bothering her. Without a second of hesitation she replied, "Of course not!" When I told her not to worry - that I was planning on taking him out soon, she cried "Nooooooooooooooh! I loooohve it. The sound is so peaceful." I don't believe I've ever heard of a rooster crow being described as such, but then what a relief to know that one of my most uptight neighbors was actually enjoying his cock-a-doodle-doos.

My plans hadn't changed though. Sir Crows A Lot, a.k.a. Fried, still had a date with the reaper. That was until I bumped into another neighbor, Vak, from the Philippines. He asked me if I still had my rooster and I assured him that that wouldn't be the case for much longer. When he queried what I meant by that, I made a slicing motion across the throat, which evidently translates in all cultures. With a far away, misty look in his eyes he replied, "Oh no! I love that sound. It reminds me of home."

In any other big city neighborhood, a rooster would be an irritation at best, if not an outrage. But not in my barrio, mixed with a third Asians from China, the Philippines, and  Vietnam; a third Latinos from Central and South America; and a final third from a potpourri of places, most likely foreign. Here my rooster stands for something that American urban areas lack: a pastoral, homey feeling that one usually only finds in more remote places. His croons soothe the frazzled nerves of congestion weary souls longing for a bit of the country in their fast-paced, traffic-jammed, mass transit cramped, hectic lives. He brings a bit of  tranquility and beauty in his sharp cries. Ironic, for sure, but no less invaluable or charming.

As far as rooster machismo goes, he's a pretty good guy. He doesn't mount the ladies with extreme force and no hen is missing back feathers, a serious issue with a lot of cocks. However, he could stand to be more vigilant as far as predators are concerned (there was an incident with a stray cat last week, which I will relate in a future post) and he doesn't serve much purpose for us since we aren't trying to breed our ladies. Still, I'm thinking I might keep him around until someone complains.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Inspirations from the Big and Little Screens: Grow

Whole Foods has been doing a series called "Grow" on their Facebook "Thrive" page about urban farmers. Today my friends Tom and Rachel of Dog Island Farm were featured on their Year without Groceries. Check it out:

A few weeks ago they premiered an episode featuring another one of my awesome urban farmer friends, Esperanza Pallana of Pluck and Feather.

Guess who will be featured next? Stay tuned...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Finally, an answer to the age old question.