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.
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!