Sunday, December 21, 2008
Chickens, Victory Gardens, And Herbs
My herb garden from a few years ago. If I can grow herbs anyone can!
Bright Solstice to you all! I have another Solstice tale to offer, but first--I want to encourage you all to get with the times (if you're not tuned into them already!). Yes, the times they are a-changing, and it is more than time to dust off a little self-reliance (or to get a little more down and dirty!) as we face the weather of uncertainty--or just want to ground ourselves in the things that are real--good, nourishing food; herbal cooking and remedies to take our own health into our hands; sustaining, enlivening community; understanding ourselves as beings of the natural world ...
I have a few suggestions to offer for 2009:
- raise backyard chickens.
You don't need a rooster for hens to lay eggs. Three hens is plenty for a great supply, and those chickens are so pragmatic and silly ... For more about the joys of chickens and some practical ways to get started, read my family's blog Plain Old Chickens or type "backyard chickens" in your search engine. Lots of folks are raising chickens in urban and suburban settings, as Newsweek reported a few weeks ago. Hey, you'll be on the cutting edge of national trends ....
- start a Victory Garden.
Growing any amount of veggies or herbs will make a difference in your life. Here's a great and informative article on modern-day Victory Gardens by Sharon Astyk. Also, wouldn't it be incredible if the White House transformed five acres of nonproductive lawn into an organic farm, as suggested by Michael Pollan, Farmer In Chief, in an Open Letter To The Next President Elect, back in Oct.?
Oh, gosh, I just have to quote this section of Michael Pollan's letter. Do read the rest of it to get a sense of what he means by "developing sun-based regional agriculture" -- so much of that is absolutely brilliant (bad pun in honor of the return of the Sun on this Winter Solstice day!).:
"Since enhancing the prestige of farming as an occupation is critical to developing the sun-based regional agriculture we need, the White House should appoint, in addition to a White House chef, a White House farmer. This new post would be charged with implementing what could turn out to be your most symbolically resonant step in building a new American food culture. And that is this: tear out five prime south-facing acres of the White House lawn and plant in their place an organic fruit and vegetable garden.
"When Eleanor Roosevelt did something similar in 1943, she helped start a Victory Garden movement that ended up making a substantial contribution to feeding the nation in wartime. (Less well known is the fact that Roosevelt planted this garden over the objections of the U.S.D.A., which feared home gardening would hurt the American food industry.) By the end of the war, more than 20 million home gardens were supplying 40 percent of the produce consumed in America. The president should throw his support behind a new Victory Garden movement, this one seeking "victory" over three critical challenges we face today: high food prices, poor diets and a sedentary population. Eating from this, the shortest food chain of all, offers anyone with a patch of land a way to reduce their fossil-fuel consumption and help fight climate change. (We should offer grants to cities to build allotment gardens for people without access to land.) Just as important, Victory Gardens offer a way to enlist Americans, in body as well as mind, in the work of feeding themselves and changing the food system - something more ennobling, surely, than merely asking them to shop a little differently.
"I don't need to tell you that ripping out even a section of the White House lawn will be controversial: Americans love their lawns, and the South Lawn is one of the most beautiful in the country. But imagine all the energy, water and petrochemicals it takes to make it that way. (Even for the purposes of this memo, the White House would not disclose its lawn-care regimen.) Yet as deeply as Americans feel about their lawns, the agrarian ideal runs deeper still, and making this particular plot of American land productive, especially if the First Family gets out there and pulls weeds now and again, will provide an image even more stirring than that of a pretty lawn: the image of stewardship of the land, of self-reliance and of making the most of local sunlight to feed one's family and community. The fact that surplus produce from the South Lawn Victory Garden (and there will be literally tons of it) will be offered to regional food banks will make its own eloquent statement ..."
- venture into growing and using herbs to nourish your health, and even provide a home remedy or two (or more!)
For a great introduction into the vibrant and vital world of herbs, visit LearningHerbs.com, which has a free 7-day "Supermarket Herbalism e-course, and great articles for using herbs for nourishment and for making herbal remedies. If you want to go deep into herbal medicine I cannot recommend its companion site HerbMentor.com enough. For what is basically a $10/month membership you have access to quantities of audio interviews with practicing herbalists, herbalist courses, downloadable PDFs on various aspects of herbal medicine making, and access to a great community forum where you can access the great amount of information by the members.