Friday, May 7, 2010

Urban Homestead reading.

There was a day when "retail therapy" meant hitting the mall for some pretty new clothes. In these penny-pinching days it means actually buying a fun book to read (rather than ordering it through inter-library loan - jeez, who am I?).

I was having a rough day earlier this week. Stuff was getting me down. So I allowed myself to buy a couple of books at Alexander Book Co. It's getting harder and harder to find independently owned bookstores, but I continue to make the effort. Alexander Book Co. is a really cute bookstore in SOMA, on Second Street between Market and Mission, right down the street from my office in San Francisco. I appreciate that they have a great stock of fiction and gardening books. I do wish they had more craft books.

My purchases:

Keep Chickens!, by Barbara Kilarski.  I have been toying with the idea of having a couple of chickens in our backyard for a long time. I don't think I have to worry too much about the neighbors objecting, since many of them have chickens (and roosters!) already.

However, I do have to worry about certain pit bulls. Does anyone have any experience with keeping chickens and dogs? Dogs with a high ... ahem ... "prey drive"? I assume that it would be tough at first, but, if we are vigilant, the animals would eventually just get used to each other. Like how the dogs eventually stopped seeing Joe as a squeaky squirrel-type thing, and now see him as something tasty to lick.

I have a few other concerns. As my mother puts it, it's easy to get attached to your hens. The problem with this is (1) hens are really tasty and vulnerable to massacre by roaming 'possums and 'coons (how traumatic would it be to lose your chickens to marauding predators?); and (2) it's hard to kill your beloved pet after she stops laying eggs regularly, so (and I quote): "Before you know it, you're running a geriatric home for hens." An image which makes me smile, thinking of a bunch of ancient hens whiling the time away playing bridge and reminiscing about their egg-laying youths, but she has a point here.

Anyway, we definitely have some logistics to work out, but I'm not giving up on the idea.

 The Organic Farming Manual, by Anne Larkin Hansen. This is a book about actually running an organic farm, and is thus more "daydream" reading than true Urban Homestead material. However, much about organic farming translates for the organic gardener. And when we finally get that farm we've been dreaming about for years, I'll be that much better prepared, right?

I have barely made it through the introduction, but already, there is so much good stuff here! I love the explanation of how you can eat organic, fresh produce, frugally. Good subject for a blog post, that. Not for this blog, mind you - our household tends to have a fairly large grocery bill, despite growing a good amount of vegetables. We'll skimp on a lot of stuff, but not food. In particular, we love our quality organic dairy products! But I would say that in general, the more you cook from scratch, the healthier, and more frugal, you will be. Organic, locally grown produce and meat may not be cheaper by the pound, but if you eat lots of seasonal fruits and vegetables and minimize your meat intake you really shouldn't be paying a fortune. Of course, this is easy for me to say: I live in California, where everything grows, most of the year.

On the topic of seasonal fruit: This weekend we are going to have some family over to celebrate Joe's first birthday. Joe subscribes to Izaak Walton's view about strawberries: "Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did." Every time I take a basket of strawberries out of the fridge, he starts frantically shrieking, like he's worried that we are going to sit down and start eating them, and forget to give some to him! We're surprised he hasn't actually turned into a strawberry yet. So his birthday dessert will feature homemade strawberry ice cream and various strawberry themed cupcakes. Don't worry, we'll be sure to take pictures of him making a mess with these sweets!


  1. SOrry, I just skimmed, but have you read the book "Back to Basics" by Reader's Digest? I love that book, so imformative.

  2. hmmmmmm...

    we live in the suburbs with a big mutt

    he definately considers all the cats that he encounters in the great outdoors as prey

    but when he meets cats inside people's houses he considers them as part of the same human tribe he understands himself to belong to. and instead of chasing them up trees he licks and grooms them and lets them climb on him and massage him.

    so... if I were planning to raise chickens in my backyard I wouldn definately keep the little chickies inside the house for a couple of weeks and let them and our dog interact inside the house with the family before transferring them outside

    I think that my dog would then consider them part of our family and devote his energies to protecting them, like he protects the rest of us from the planes that fly overhead and such

  3. Krista: I have checked it out from the library, and I covet it! I've never had enough time to really peruse it.

    Betsy: This is interesting! My rescue/shelter dogs have never lived with any other animals to my knowledge, and are pretty untrustworthy with cats at this point. However, they do adjust to things that stick around, when we clearly admonish them for barking, etc. So I think chickens are a possibility. I do think it might be a pain in my rear for a couple weeks, though!

  4. I'm now in the "raising chicks" section of my Keep Chickens! book, and it turns out they HAVE to live inside for the first couple of months! So Betsy, you may be onto something!

  5. My stepmom has chickens, and I really. Really. Really. Want. Chickens. So, since I can't have chickens, I will have to transfer my longing to you and start wishing for YOU to have chickens. Seriously, the first time I was around my stepmom's chickens and ate their eggs, I was so obviously enamored that Robin said, firmly, "We're never having chickens," in a voice she hoped would end the conversation. "You don't know that," I said. "We're never having chickens," Robin said again, hopefully. "We might." Robin took a deep breath. "We're never having chickens in Brooklyn," she said. "Ok," I said, "Agreed." So I fully support your chicken reading.


I love comments! I do my very best to respond to comments, by email or here, although I am often running late. I also try to follow and comment on my regular readers' blogs. So please let me know you were here!