Growth is a double edged sword. Unchecked, growth can be cancerous and destructive. It is this type of ceaseless expansion that has put our society into the precarious environmental and financial positions in which we currently find ourselves. On the other hand, growth can be regenerative and life-giving. Following a forest fire or a bitter winter, the first green shoots to emerge from the earth bear witness to the earth's ability to restore life in the wake of disaster.

My goal for this blog is pretty simple and open-ended: I want to document and share with family and friends my efforts to incorporate an ever increasing degree of self sufficiency, voluntary simplicity, and environmentally-conscious design into my life as a would be urban homesteader.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

R.I.P. Turkey Boy

This past Saturday evening our 'Burbstead was the scene of a minor tragedy. As I was preparing to take the kids to a basketball game, I went to close up the chicken coop and noticed that one of our girls (Turkey Boy) was missing. A flashlight search around the yard ensued without any results. I set the kids up inside and went back out to look some more. I found her in the corner of the chicken run, laying in some mud and half covered in leaves. She was freezing cold and barely breathing. I took her inside, cleaned her off, and set her in a laundry basket full of straw with some warm towels on top. She seemed to be breathing a little better before I went to sleep, but the next morning she was dead.

Turkey Boy was a big, gangly, weird looking chicken. She belonged to my son Alex, and he was understandably upset when she died. We buried her in the garden, and I told Alex that when it gets warmer we'll plant a special flower there for her. On the scale of traumatic childhood pet experiences, I suppose this falls somewhere in between flushing a school-carnival goldfish and having to shoot Old Yeller. It provided an interesting opportunity to talk to my kids about the natural cycle of life. They seemed to grasp the concept that nothing lasts forever and everything is connected to everything else a little easier than most adults probably do. After he finished crying, Alex's first question was if we could cut Turkey Boy up and eat her. :)

For the record, the remaining six chickens appear to be unfazed by their coopmate's passing.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Real Green Shoots

I've always been the sort of person who enjoyed winter. I like the smell of the air right before it snows, bundling up in coats and hats, the whole holiday season, and playing in the snow with my kids. That said, my opinion of the month of February has gone down considerably since I began gardening 5 years ago. My plans for Spring are pretty much in place, I've got most all of the seeds that I need, and the list of things I want to do seems a mile long; and all I can do at this point is...wait. And so I planted some cold hardy plants hoping I could get a jump start on putting out plants in a low tunnel. The sprouts came up awfully leggy, and I wasn't sure why. My parents, as usual, knew what was going on. I need a grow lamp because there's not quite enough daylight for the plants to grow adequately. Oh well, just one more thing to get. At any rate, it's nice to see something growing.

I suppose I should try to be more like my kids. They're much better at living in the moment than I am. Alex and Erik turned 6 yesterday. Kids are crazy. One minute they're tiny little things that completely helpless, and before you know it they're these little people who go to school and play sports and are beginning to think for themselves. They're pretty oblivious to the garden at this time of year, but once we can dig in the dirt and things start growing they get into it pretty good. All 3 of them jump at the chance to help with the chickens whenever they can. This morning Taylor helped feed and water in full Cinderella style.

Erik and Alex: age 6

Tater Tot and Small Chick

Monday, February 1, 2010

The calm before the storm

We are deep in the throes of winter here in St.Louis. My head is packed with ideas and plans for the coming year's gardening. I'm anxious to be able to eat some home grown food, but for right now we're relegated to finishing off the canned and preserved food from last year's harvest. My goal is to put my Eliot Coleman books to good use and establish a more coherent, year-round growing schedule. That's just one of many things lined up for the coming months. At the moment, I'm getting the early seeds planted in trays and packaging seeds saved from last year. It's still relatively quiet around the ol' Burbstead, but that will change as the days keep getting longer.
- Mike