Monthly Archives

May 2012

Reining in the Free Range

Single egg in the nesting box.

One is the loneliest number.

When we dismantled the fence around our hen yard and emancipated our chickens last weekend we patted ourselves on the back for doing this very farm-y thing. We could do it, we reasoned, because we’d habituated our flock to the nesting box. We had attained ‘chicken people’ status.

Ha. In a matter of days the whole affair has unraveled and our wayward hens have become the neighborhood’s #1 Menace.

Our egg acquisition has dwindled from 7 to 1 per day. Yep, we’ve got a single hen bothering to lay in the box and lord knows where the rest are ending up. Judging by the dog’s expanding girth I’d say she’s got some idea. We came home last night to zero chickens – none – within eye or earshot. An hour later they began pouring out of the woodwork, literally: out of the woods, noisily pecking and pooping their way across other people’s back yards, and one even came scrambling back from across the road.

They were an embarrassment to the family.

Heading in to the Great Unknown.

Heading in to the Great Unknown.

Then this morning, as I sat in a sunbeam enjoying a mug of joe, the god-awful racket of chickens in distress shattered my kum ba yah. The dog and I darted out across the neighbor’s yard see what the probem was – trampling upon a freshly seeded patch of earth and leaving behind flip-flop and dog paw impressions (a cop lives there so forensic evidence will unquestionably link us to this crime) – to find the man about a quarter a mile down the road chasing three of my chickens with a stick. The hens were scattering and squawking, his bathrobe-clad wife was yelling for him to stop, and he was yelling back that he certainly would not because the damned things kept pooping on his patio where decent folk were trying to walk.

I do not for one second blame that man. Had I a stick I would have gladly joined him. Ever try to catch a freaked-out chicken? There is no dignity in that activity. This fence-less free-range business will not stand.

I’ve battened down the hatches on the coop and am systematically luring my hens home with bread. I’ve got four in lock-down and don’t have a clue where the other two are. All I know for certain is that they never showed up for breakfast and will probably come stumbling home around noon looking bleary-eyed and asking if there’s any coffee left.

Tomorrow we shall put the fence back up around the hen yard and begin collecting eggs again.
Just like real chicken people do.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

A pallet garden, under construction.

Let me tell you about a serendipitous chain of gardening events that happened to us last weekend: we got an Ace Hardware post card in Friday’s mail announcing free gardening work- shops in Skaneateles Saturday morning. We already had plans for Syracuse First’s CashMob in the city at noon so squeezing in a workshop beforehand was just crazy talk. But, darn it, the Ace line-up included a demonstration by Jackie Coyle on pallet gardens and I’ve been super curious about those things. So we went with crazy.
Jackie Coyle describes the
process of constructing a
pallet garden at Ace Hard-
ware in Skaneateles, NY
Jackie Coyle loves what she does,
and it shows.
     What a cool last-second decision that turned out to be! Jackie, an Ace staff member and an ornamental horticultural student at SUNY Oswego, showed us how to use an inexpensive weed blocking fabric to form the base of our pallet garden and gave us tips on the types of plant that would flourish in this environment. Lettuce greens, for example, would be happily at home in our box, Jackie said.
Lou Lego gives a spring
gardening class at Elderberry
Pond Farm, Auburn NY
     As fate would have it we were already RSVP’d for Elderberry Pond’s spring garden workshop on Sunday afternoon and that lesson focused on – what else – growing spring salad greens! Far be it from us to ignore the Universe’s call to get moving with our own spring garden. We worked this week on putting together our pallet garden and planting basil and lettuce. 
The Husband and I try our hand
at pallet gardening.
     Thank you, Skaneateles Town Square Ace, for the complimentary pallets, and thank you, Jackie Coyle and Lou Lego, for the excellent gardening tips. We’ll keep you posted on how things progress with our Pallet Gardens On The Deck. 
     To be continued…


Lou Lego, Elderberry Pond Farm, Auburn, NY

“Plant smaller batches of the same vegetable in succession – about 10 days apart – and have a continuous supply of fresh produce all summer long.” – Lou Lego

Jackie Coyle, Ace Hardware,
Skaneateles, NY

Lettuce plants have shallow roots and want to live in soil that holds moisture well, making them perfect candidates for a pallet garden. Don’t forget to water them daily!” – Jackie Coyle


Carnivorous Contemplations: Beef

Byrne Black Angus Farm, Skaneateles NY

Byrne Black Angus Farm, Skaneateles NY

One of the pleasures of living in the vicinity of many small, in-dependently run, farms in Central New York is our ability as a community to build relationships with the people who produce our food and to see with our own eyes how crops and animals are cared for. A prominent figure in my own family’s local food network is Jean Byrne of Byrne Black Angus farm. The Husband and I met Jean two years ago when we began our biweekly trek to the Skaneateles Farmers Market; after visiting her farm and seeing for ourselves her family’s commitment to raising quality beef, Byrne Black Angus has systematically replaced store-bought beef on our dinner table.

Kisses on Byrne Black Angus Farm, Skaneateles NY

Kisses on Byrne Black Angus Farm, Skaneateles NY

Let’s face it folks, there are some seriously gnarly things lurking in the mega mart meat isle. For my family red meat is an occasional treat and when we do buy it we demand a few assurances: in the words of Joel Salatin, we want to know the farmer ‘embraced the cowness of the cow’ – meaning it was fed the kind of food it was designed to eat and it was allowed to move about in open air on properly-maintained pastures; we want to know the animal developed without the influence of artificial growth hormones that are so damaging to the animal, damaging to us, and damaging to the soil and ground water it leaches into; and we want to know the animal was treated humanely. Since these assurances are impossible for chain groceries to make, we’ve moved to Byrnes Black Angus farm.

And oh, my carnivorous compadres, no commercially-raised steak – and nothing off a steakhouse menu – compares to the flavor of fresh, grass-fed, locally raised Angus prepared on your own back-yard grill. As a matter of fact, here is The Husband’s recipe for a delicious grilled Byrne-raised Black Angus hanger steak with blue cheese butter and French fried onions. The flavor of this dish is so divine when you eat it you’ll swear you hear the sweet music of Copeland’s Rodeo ringing in your ears.


Why I Joined the Mob

The ‘Cuse Mob throng at Craft Chemistry
Andrew Greacen rocked it

I’ve never participated in a flash mob or a cash mob before but when Syracuse First put the call out over the twittersphere for a ‘Cuse Mob The Husband and I agreed come Saturday that’s exactly where we’d be. The goal of this exercise was to convene with random people at a locally owned, independent business, spend a few dollars to support the local economy, and discover a cool shop we probably never knew existed. How fun it was to join the Syracusan mob at Briana Kohlbrenner’s Craft Chemistry shop on 745 North Salina Street. The problem wasn’t finding something to buy, but choosing which of her super cool merchandise we were going to bring home. We caught up with some old friends and met a few new ones. And that long line at the checkout? It was a breeze thanks to Andrew Greacen’s soulful funk for entertainment.
Our new “Salt City” print
The obsession continues
We think our new “Salt City” print by local artist Jason Evans looks pretty awesome hanging in our kitchen, don’t you? After checking out his very cool website, [re]thinkSyracuse, we love it even more!
Anyone who follows my blog will not be surprised by my “Good Ideas” notebook purchase. I came clean on that little obsession here.

So how about it, Syracuse First: will the ‘Cuse Mob become a once-a-month tradition? Count us in.