9/26/14

Beekeeping in Nepal with BlinkNow.org



I hopped on back of a motorbike as the driver, Sandip, started the engine. Piper did the same before we took off down a long dirt road. As we buzzed down the road, I thought we were going to hit a goat herder who was tending to his goats. Fortunately, using the horn on a vehicle is the common method of letting someone know that you are coming. Sandip used the horn flawlessly, as the herder stepped aside and let us pass. This occurred many more times throughout the journey to a rural part of Surkhet, Nepal with goat herders being replaced by water buffalo, dogs and even a few cars. While in Kathmandu, Piper and I became accustomed to the constant sound of car horns while traveling down the streets. At first it was shocking considering that people in the U.S. use their horns quite rarely and whenever a car horn is blown, a dirty look always ensues. However, Nepal is not the U.S. and the car horn is so important to Nepali drivers that it is the one thing which they thoroughly evaluate during a test drive.



We cruised out of the center of Surkhet, to a more rural area where a very friendly beekeeper lives. As we motored along, I soaked in the beautiful view of the lush, green hills which surround Surkhet. Piper and I had arrived a mere 24 hours before, which made our trip out to the countryside that much more spectacular. We passed rows upon rows of eucalyptus trees, soccer fields, countless goats and cows and other everyday sights for people living in Surkhet but certainly not people living back on the other side of the world. Midway through the ride there was a river crossing which could make one uneasy, however, in the fifteen minutes which Sandip had been driving, he completely convinced me that he was a fantastic driver who knows the roads well and was able to easily cross the river without incident. Another maneuver which made me laugh out of pure disbelief was one which we executed many times before arriving at the apiary. Along the paved roads are many speed bumps which are quite effective for cars. Motorbikes, however, are far more mobile than large cars meaning that it was easy for Sandip and the driver who was driving Piper to simply go off-road for a second or two as they swerved around the speed bumps in a masterful display of driving skill.

After the road turned to dirt again, we arrived at a small house directly across from an army camp, again, not a sight Piper nor I are used to seeing. When we arrived, I immediately noticed a group of hives situated next to the house. I was surprised to see these langstroth hives which are commonly used around the United States. Fortunately, that meant that teaching the kids and other Kopila folks who are interested in the bees would be significantly easier than I was initially expecting since I was preparing for a more simple style of hive which requires far fewer materials. As we passed the first hive, I glanced down and immediately noticed a couple of dead hornets lying on top of the hive cover. These hornets were both jet black and bright orange which made them quite intimidating. I glanced back at Piper who had also just seen the hornets and a wave of terror rushed over both our faces as the same thought crossed our minds “Uh, oh.”



We peeked inside the front door of the little house which appeared to be vacant. Sandip removed his shoes and continued in, we followed suit and stayed right behind. He called out to someone upstairs in Nepali and they quickly appeared at the top of the staircase. There was a quick exchange before the woman disappeared into another room. She reappeared soon after with a veil and a small cloth. When we got outside, she lit the little cloth on fire to use as a smoker as she opened a hive to show us. Normally I would have taken a step back to avoid being flown into by a group of bees, but the woman who was showing us around remained quite calm and so did the bees, so I stayed inches away from this hive not knowing what to expect when she eventually opened it up.

As the cover came off, I was surprised and relieved to find that the bees were docile. Few attackers came charging out and all of us observers were able to stay calm, without the fear of being stung. The beekeeper pulled out a couple of frames, showing us the vast stores of honey, pollen and countless brood (baby bees) which was all very encouraging. I observed the beautifully dark wax and honey which filled the frames. The dark honey was unlike anything I had ever seen in a hive. The honey which fills my hives is quite different simply due to the different varieties of plants from which the bees choose to harvest. Along with the few curious bees, the pungent smell of sweet honey came surging out as well. If there is a constant from one beehive to the next, it is the terrific smells which can be found within any and every beehive. Carefully the beekeeper placed the frames back into their proper positions and closed the hive. As she did so, I couldn't help but think about how fortunate I had been up to this point with the bees. Who would have known that there happened to be beekeepers in Surkhet, Nepal, and while in Kathmandu prior to arriving at Kopila, Piper and I visited a little store called The Beekeeping Shop near Kathmandu. While we were there, I tried my hardest to communicate with the owner of the shop who was a very nice man. It took a little while and lots of hand motions but eventually we came to the conclusion that I should visit the agriculture office while in Surkhet. I don’t think even this man could’ve imagined how amazing the beekeeping scene in Surkhet actually turned out to be. Before we left this friendly woman’s home, Sandip asked her how much the hives would cost. Unlike the U.S., beekeepers in Surkhet sell already established hives by the frame, not by the overall hive. She told Sandip a very reasonable price, said one final namaste and waved goodbye as we hopped on the bikes and drove off.

A couple of days later, Sandip, Sarah (one of the fellows), the soccer coach named Gopi and I took off for another bee-hunting and planning expedition. We began by visiting the new land where Kopila Valley High School will be located. Sarah has been working on plans for the new land which was very helpful for me when deciding where to place the hives. As we walked around, I inspected every corner of the land, trying to picture where we should locate the new hives. At one point, we crossed a little bridge which had recently been constructed in order to allow people to cross a little river. When we arrived at the other side, I was filled with hope as I laid eyes on a perfect area for the bees. It was secluded enough so that the bees wouldn’t bother anyone walking by, but close enough to the school so that the kids could check in on the bees whenever they wanted, the location couldn’t have been better. My only concern was that the location might be a little bit too damp, especially now during monsoon season when it rains nearly every day. Sandip told me that he knew of some construction workers who could build anything which I requested. I thought for a while while we went back to the school for lunch about what the construction workers should build. What first came to mind was a simple stone platform large enough for the beehives to sit atop. It was a simple idea, essentially a rectangle of concrete made to elevate the hives so that water and other little creatures wouldn’t enter the hive and disturb the bees. When we returned to the new land later in the day, we fortunately ran into the construction workers who were doing some work nearby. Sandip called them over and we were introduced. We walked over to the soon-to-be location of the hives and we cleared a small area where the stands were set to be built. I communicated through Sandip exactly what I had been thinking about during lunch and he relayed the information to the workers. We happened to be standing near a pile of large rocks which the workers wanted to use to build the hive stands. I was very happy to hear this because it meant that they would have to use less cement in the process of creating the stands, an idea which I really supported. Once we agreed on using rocks, the workers immediately began grabbing the largest ones and carrying them over to the future location of the hives. These guys really meant business.

After returning to the new land later in the day, Sandip and I immediately went to where the men had been working. As we were crossing the bridge, I caught a glimpse of the new stands, they looked great. When we got closer, I realized that the workers weren’t quite finished yet, but I couldn’t have cared less. The hive stands were exactly what I had described, but when seeing them nearly done, they looked even better than the ideal ones which I had previously pictured in my head. As soon as the workers returned from their lunch break, I thanked them thoroughly for their hard work. They replied through Sandip that they would finish their work soon and they laid out their price for their hard days’ work. As Sandip, Sarah, Gopi and I left the new land, I felt a great sense of relief, bees were actually coming to Kopila. After months of communication and discussion, the first steps were finally being made to establishing a couple of beehives at the future site of the Kopila Valley High School.


Later that day, our little crew of four drove to a corn field where a beekeeper had lined up many of his hives. As we got off of the bikes, I checked out the hives, all of which seemed to be doing quite well. We crossed the street to where the beekeeper lives and walked into his yard. The house was surrounded by dozens of rice paddies and a few farm animals who were taking shelter in the shade of the nearby houses. We knocked at the door and were graciously greeted by the beekeeper's wife who immediately gave us a place to sit, one of the many kind gestures which we would experience that day. After talking with this woman for a few minutes, her husband emerged from the house and introduced himself. Once Sundip had explained why we were outside of his house, the beekeeper disappeared into his house and emerged with three pieces of gear, a cloth smoker, a hive tool and a veil. I admired the simplicity of his style of beekeeping, a style which I would like to adopt back home. I have a great toolbox which is full of some fantastic little gadgets, but watching this master beekeeper inspect his hives with only three pieces of gear was very eye opening. While opening the hives, he explained the two types of bees which he owned, asian and european. At the time, I was only familiar with the european types because they are the bees which fill my hives, but after listening to this man and doing a little bit of research, I also learned much about the fascinating asian honeybee. When he began to remove frames, bees started going everywhere, but they weren’t angry. This was not a sight to which I was very accustomed. Usually when I have the same volume of bees flying around me, they tend to be angry, but not these bees. The beekeeper removed a couple of frames and cut honeycomb from both of them. Once he had filled a metal plate with beautiful honeycomb, his wife grabbed it and disappeared back into the house. Once he put the hive back together, the bees settled down and we walked back to the patio. We enjoyed some light conversation as we waited for a taste of the delicious honeycomb. Soon enough, the beekeeper’s wife reappeared with a few little bowls, each with a small chunk of honeycomb sitting at the bottom. It was clear that she had selected the best honeycomb from each of the slabs since all of ours was filled with honey, there wasn’t an empty cell in any of the comb which we had received. Our conversation continued for a while and during this time, I decided that we were going to purchase the Kopila Valley Beehives from this man. I made this decision not only because he was extremely gracious and friendly but also because he happens to live very close to the new land, meaning that if the Kopila Beekeepers ever had any questions and they couldn’t reach me at the time, he would be a perfect resource. He was happy to help and because of him, Kopila Valley now has two little hives located at the future sight of Kopila Valley High School.




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Do so here.

9/15/14

Thank you @RodaleBooks and @RaminGaneshram - Future Chefs

The Backyard Chicken–Loving Future Chef You Need to Know About

Young people today often get a bad rap, but there are kids out there who are helping to make this world a better place—and where better to start than at the dinner table?
BY MOLLIE GREWE

Much of what we hear about kids these days slants to the negative: "They're always on their phones!" or "They have no respect anymore!" But, this simply isn't fair. There are young ones out there who are concerned, curious, and interested in making a difference. There are kids who care about their futures and the futures of kids who will come after them. When we meet younglings like that, it's important that we call attention to them, give them the spotlight they deserve.

One such activist is Orren Fox, a beekeeper and hen raiser from Newburyport, Massachusetts. And in Ramin Ganeshram's upcoming FutureChefs: Recipes by Tomorrow's Cooks Across the Nation and the World we learn about Orren's story and get our hands on an original recipe from the chef himself.

Check out this excerpt about Orren in Future Chefs:

For some young cooks, preparing food is as much a call to social action as it is a hobby. Orren Fox is one of those cooks. He first became interested in the plight of farm animals before he was 10 years old after a trip to a babysitter's farm. Since then, Orren has been spreading the message of animal kindness through his blog, Happy Chickens.



Orren, who is still just a high school student, has made a name for himself as an animal activist to watch through blogging for sites like Civil Eats and HandPicked Nation, as well as appearing in media such as NPR, Edible Boston, the Boston Globe, and Yankee Magazine.

When it comes to chemical use for chicken farming and beekeeping, Orren steers clear. The animals are important to Orren, and he respects them for their work, saying, "I love going out to the chicken coop or to the beehives to see what the girls have done. They are hard workers." (Here's why you really need to know your beekeeper.)

READ MORE OF THE ARTICLE HERE

> READ MORE of the book Future Chefs HERE by Ramin Ganeshram

8/3/14

Chicken coops and beehives in Nepal.


My friend Piper and I left the East Coast on July 18, traveling 24 hours to Kathmandu, Nepal. When we arrived at the Kathmandu airport it really felt as if we were someplace wildly different, we were exhausted, hungry and a bit disoriented. Thankfully we were met at the airport and then went to the Hotel Courtyard in Thamel run by great people Michelle and Punjan. It’s a great place and we felt instantly at home. They took very good care of us as travelers arriving for the first time in Nepal.


We spent the next 4 days in Kathmandu eagerly awaiting the arrival of Maggie Doyne. We are both here to join Maggie at her amazing school and home called Kopila Valley in Surkhet. Surkhet District is one of Nepal's seventy-five districts of Nepal located about 380 miles west of Kathmandu. Kopila Valley School and Home is an amazing place and Piper and I were lucky enough to go as a Theater and Arts Fellow and Sustainability Fellow.

Here is the story of Kopila. "After Maggie’s senior year of high school, as her friends headed to college, the 18-year-old boarded a plane in New Jersey and set off to see the world with just her backpack and eyes wide open. Four countries and 20,000 miles later, she found herself trekking through the Himalayas and walking along the dirt roads of Nepal’s most poverty-stricken villages." The rest of the story is here.
Day one dinner was a traditional Nepalese buffet, which we were told is usually 85 courses but we did ‘buffet-light’, only 12 courses which included boar and buffalo.

Over the course of the next few days we visited Bouda Stupa, which looks like a giant mandala. Pashnupatinath Panch Daval one of the most significant Hindu temples of Shiva in the world, located on the banks of the Bagmati River and dates back to 400 A.D. The Beekeeping Shop of Kathmandu, and a music shop to pick up guitars for the school.

Here is the thing about Kathmandu. It is magical, interesting, overwhelming, chaotic, hard to breathe and a great place to see. Every day we would head out to explore and inevitably would be in a situation where we had to barter. I am terrible at bartering. Not just terrible, really terrible. It became an ongoing joke at how bad. 

After a few days Maggie arrived. It was really great to have her there to show us around. Then it was off to Kopila in Surkhet, Nepal. It required a quick flight and a 3 hour drive to get there. Off to get some beehives and chicken coops going!

More later. Follow our journey here as well.

THANK YOU to Richard, Abbey, Kristen and Micah, Bonnie and Jim, Mr. Nance, Jen, Michael and Renee, Lauren, Dorothy and Howard, G'Huns, MAHA, Dell and ZZ, John A, Grammy and Grandpa, Anna and Gary, Becky, Carey Family, Julie, Sue, Gwen, Gin, Deborah, Todd, Dianne, Matthew, Bill, Matt, Mollie, Katherine, Mama Karen, Sandra, Winky, Rebecca, Lynn, Alice M, Carrie, Tracey, Bonnie, Esther, Scott Family, Rick, Jan, Henry and Jeanne, Miranda and Edward. For supporting the #beethechange campaign.





7/31/14

TIPS: Caring for your hens in the heat

Heatwaves are stressful times for chickens. The way chickens cool themselves, because they do not have sweat glands is to rely on their respiratory system, and panting. As chickens pant the water in their throat evaporates and lowers their body temperature. A normal body temperature for a chicken is about 105 degrees. I also sometimes freeze water in old water bottles and place in waterers to keep the water cool.

1 – Water and plenty of it. Hens will need access to cool, clean water all the time. This is true year round but is obviously critical to hens surviving the heat. I also put a little pool of shallow water in the coop to provide an opportunity for them to stand in it if they want.

2 – Chickens need space, especially in the heat. They need to get away from the body heat of other birds and need access to a well ventilated, shady spot.

3 – In my coop there is food available 24/7. In the summer heat chickens tend to eat in the cool of the morning, and not during the high heat of the day. Make sure there is plenty of food available in the cooler parts of the day. I also change the feed ratios to a higher protein ratio, because they are eating less this will help them maintain a proper nutritional balance. I go from layer feed at 17% protein to grower feed or gamebird feed at 20%.

4 – Check on your hens frequently throughout the day, if possible. If a bird begins to show signs of heat stress, take them out of the coop and place in a cool quiet spot. Eliminate as much stress as possible.

5 – Replace the deep litter with a shallow layer of bedding. Shavings with droppings in it can create heat.

6 - Consider adding electrolytes to the water if your hens seem particularly stressed, a sign to look for is pale combs, spreading their wings away from the body, limp, extraordinary panting. A great recipe for homemade electrolytes from Gail Demerow is :

HOMEMADE ELECTROLYTE SOLUTION
1/2 teaspoon salt substitute
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 gallon water

Do not administer this to healthy hens this is only if your birds seems in distress. During the rest of the year I add Apple Cider Vinegar to the water, do not do this during high heat times.

Travel Nepal 2014

My friend Piper and I arrived in Nepal about 10 days ago. It has been an amazing journey. We are currently in Surkhet, Nepal working with Maggie Doyne. Piper has a great blog about our trip. Please feel free to follow it here. I am setting up some beehives and Piper is a theater arts fellow. More later.

6/25/14

Bee The Change. I believe we can all make a difference.

BEE THE CHANGE!
Please consider a donation
http://tinyurl.com/beethechange

This summer, my friend Piper and I are traveling almost 8,000 miles to Surkhet, Nepal. Surkhet is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, and is home to our friend, Maggie Doyne, her 44 children, and the school she and her team built for 350 of the region's children (Kopila Valley Home and School). Maggie is the founder and executive director of the BlinkNow Foundation. BlinkNow is the sole provider of funding for Kopila Valley Home and School.

Piper and I will be working with the children at Kopila Valley, and helping Maggie any way she needs us.

Before I leave for Nepal, my dream is to raise $10,000 dollars for Maggie and her amazing team at Kopila Valley to sustain and grow their home, school and community.

$10,000 is a big goal, but I know with your help we can make it happen! Every donation helps, no matter how large or small. 100% of your donation is tax deductible and will go directly to help support BlinkNow, a registered 501(C)(3) charity.

When Maggie and I met at the DoLectures USA we dreamed a little about bees at Kopila. At the time it seemed to be simply that, a dream. Well, now it's a reality. This summer we will help Kopila start a bee program (and Piper, who is an amazing guitar player will be helping with the arts program).

Here is the wonderful note Maggie wrote to me:
"Orren, I'd like to offer you one of our Summer Sustainability Fellowships. After hearing your Do Lecture I haven't been able to get bees off the brain :) We could really use your expertise in setting up some hives at Kopila. I'd also like you to work with the Kopila kids on educating them about beekeeping, chickens and work along their side to set up a coop on our new campus."

I named my campaign BEE THE CHANGE, because I believe that we can all make a difference. Thank you friends and family for being the change with me.

To learn more about Maggie:
Read this New York Times cover story featuring Maggie and her project.
Watch her DoLecture
Explore the BlinkNow website.

To learn more about me:
Read this magazine piece in Edible Boston, and watch my video.

2/17/14

Beekeeping with Maggie Doyne at Kopila Valley, Nepal


I was really lucky to meet Maggie Doyne and her daughter Anjali in September 2012 at Do Lectures in Hopland, CA at a beautiful place called Campovida.

Maggie is a very inspiring person who started an organization called BlinkNow. It is called Blink Now because she believes that in the blink of an eye we can all make a difference in the world. She did exactly this a few years ago and started Kopila Valley children’s home and school. It is amazing what she is doing.

When we were at the Do Lectures we dreamed a little about bees at Kopila. At the time it seemed simply like a dream. Well, now it isn't a dream.  This summer we will help Kopila start a bee program and I will be going with a good friend who is an amazing guitar player so she will be helping with the arts program.

Here is the amazing note Maggie wrote:
“Orren, I'd like to offer you one of our Summer Sustainability Fellowships.  After hearing your Do Lecture I haven't been able to get bees off the brain :) We could really use your expertise in setting up some hives at Kopila.  I'd also like you to work with the Kopila kids on educating them about beekeeping, chickens and work along their side to set up a coop on our new campus.” 

Now the research begins. If you have any knowledge about beekeeping in Nepal or starting a program for kids please feel free to email me - happyhoneybeesATgmailDOTcom also if you'd care to help support this project that would be great. Here is what I have found so far : Bees for Development.

The Honey Hunters of Nepal



I will be going to Nepal this summer to work with bees. Doing some research.

10/24/13

Chickens in the winter - what not to do.

Chickens in the winter – what not to do. 

1. Do not let the water freeze, even for a few hours overnight. Hens that get even just a little dehydrated are much more prone to getting weak and it takes them a very long time to get rehydrated, hens just aren't that thirsty in the winter. I do like heated dogbowls. Many don’t care for them, but I find them very very helpful. I am at school all day so am unable to tend them throughout a freezing cold day. I also put a little splash of Braggs into the water, I just think it is good for them. They like the taste so drink more water.

2. Do not let your eggs freeze. If they freeze they crack a bit from the expansion. A cracked egg isn't a good idea to eat. When I find cracked eggs I try and scramble them up for the hens. Many people will disagree with this, they will tell you that your hens are more likely to eat their own eggs as a result. They are probably right, but I haven't had that experience and they seem to love scrambled eggs. I hate to waste an egg. So collect the eggs more often when it is cold.

3. Do not heat or insulate your coop too tightly. While it is true you don't want big drafts rolling through the coop a tight coop is just as bad. When chickens breath they put moisture in the air and because they spend more time in their coop in the winter there is just is more moisture in the coop in general from breathing and droppings. Moisture and humidity can create an unhealthy situation with mold and potential respiratory issues. Also a really tight coop can have the smell of ammonia to build up which can be terrible for you and the hens. A good guide is protected, well ventilated and not drafty.

4. Do not let your hens get bored. Cut up a squash, sprinkle corn cobs around, hang a cabbage, put a roost in a new spot. I don't think they need "toys" they just like scratching about for snacks.

5. Do not deprive your hens from light. Let your chickens out of the coop for a walkabout, let them out in the winter even in the snow. Don't keep them cooped up in the coop (make sure they are protected). Chickens need lots of light to continue to lay through the winter. I use lights on timers. It costs more in electric bills, however hens need light. I also have covered their outdoor run in clear corrugated plastic roofing so when they not in their nesting boxes they have access to natural light.

6. Do not forget to go over each bird to look for signs of cold distress. Do this often. I apply Vaseline to their combs in the winter. Also make sure the coop is clean: see moisture above. A good technique in the winter is the Deep Bedding Method. It is very easy to manage, you end up with compost, they birds are always entertained scratching about, and it keeps your birds healthy.

Book Review: Gardening with Free-Range Chickens for Dummies

Believe it or not chickens are great gardeners. I have quite a few chickens and I used to put them into my little garden to help weed, fertilize and manage pests. This book by Bonnie Jo Manion and Rob Ludlow is a simple introduction to gardening and chicken basics. If you are familiar with raising chickens but would like to know more about gardening with them or you are an active gardener and are about to get chickens this would be a good book for you

The first chapter Joining Forces: Companion Gardening with Chickens has some very helpful information on various types of free-range methods. The book definition for free-range “as allowing chickens to access their outdoors freely with sun and soil, and with the ability to forage freely for their natural diet in a sheltered and protected plant landscape.” For me the key word is “protected”. I happen to believe that if your birds are out and about we have a responsibility to make sure they are safe, therefore if your garden does not have a fence around it please keep an eye on your birds.

Also included in this book is a simple overview of chicken breeds, what you need for a healthy coop, what to expect when you get new birds, in addition to garden basics.

Here’s the thing about chickens and gardens, chickens are great helpers but they can also take over a garden. As far as they are concerned the garden is theirs. It is a little difficult for them to differentiate weeds from seedlings and everywhere they look is an opportunity for a dust bath. Even having your chickens in your garden for a few hours each week is beneficial for both the birds and the garden, but there comes a point when they are no longer helpful.


This book is a super helpful starting point for both the basics for chickens and gardens. I would completely recommend it as part of a library for gardeners with chickens.  

8/31/13

"The Reason I Keep Bees" for Edible Boston



By Orren Fox / Photos by Michael Piazza


As I pick my way around the brush, being careful to avoid poison ivy, I hear an insect zoom by my ear. I glance up and realize it is one of my roughly 200,000 honeybees. She swerves left, then right, as her baskets, full of pollen, weigh her down. When I arrive at the hives, all four of them buzz loudly, full of life. Before I suit up, I merely observe the bees for a moment. Every second, hundreds of them land and take flight, ready for another day of foraging. After a few seconds, I grab my veil and zip the rest of my suit. I grab a couple of necessary tools and head over to the first hive. As I pry it open, the sweet smells of honey, pollen, and beeswax fill my nose. When I peel the lid back, I am met with a wave of curious hive-dwellers.
For the remainder of the day, these little guard bees constantly bump into my veil with harmless, silent little thuds. I put my face closer to the hive and peer down into the frames. The smells are so strong, they’re nearly overpowering. Since it is a hot, sunny day, the propolis inside the hive is gooey, and due to this extra heat, the bees have been cooling their hive with their wings and blowing the scents out of the hive and up into my veil. The hive is strong; thousands of bees are hard at work both inside and out. I realize that this moment, with thousands of them buzzing around, is the reason why I keep bees.


7/18/13

Seeking CCD Internship / Partnership #bees

I am looking to do a internship / partnership with someone doing research on Colony Collapse Disorder. Would love any suggestions of someone who could use a data collector, photographer, statistician. Suggestions? Thoughts? Thanks for any ideas > happyhoneybees@gmail.com


6/4/13

Kinfolk Magazine Workshop. Thanks for including BeeHappy honey.



Photo and words by sowingbysea.com

"On an unseasonably warm evening in the hills of upper Ojai, an intimate group of folks from all different walks of life gathered to enjoy good company, good food, and have a go at arranging flowers. We each brought a handful of flowers to add to the mix, while Jodi gave us a lesson chalk full of tips and tricks of the trade on how best to arrange the blossoms. We sipped Rhubarb Tea, noshed on an array of cheeses and Seville Orange marmalade, all before sitting down for an equally delicious dinner. It was the type of evening that gets you out of your comfort zone – where you meet others you most likely never would have otherwise. Yet, if you lived in the same town you’d instantly be good friends. Sling Shots & Flower Bombs, honey & infinity scarfs were just a few of the treats that filled our arms upon departure. It proved to be an evening to reconnect with nature, reconnect with ourselves and (re)connect with others."

5/3/13

Baby Silkies


Review of - Chickens in Five Minutes a Day


Chickens in Five Minutes a Day by Murray McMurray Hatchery
Raising, tending and getting eggs from a small backyard flock.

Murray McMurray Hatchery has just published this nice simple book about caring for chickens “In five minutes a day”. The main point of this book is – caring for hens is not complicated and doesn’t have to take a lot of time, 5 minutes a day. As Mr Huseman and employee at the hatchery says “The task of raising chickens at first seemed daunting, especially because I didn’t grow up on a farm. We only had a dog. I remember thinking what are we getting into? But it’s easy. The chickens just need food, water and shelter. That’s it”

The book has a nice seasonal guide for raising chickens and also a daily guide, below are some of the steps outlined in the book:

Watering – “Your chickens need access to clean water every day” I would add, even in the dark cold frozen winter. It can be a challenge in the winter making sure the hens have access to water 24 hours a day. I use a heated dog bowl to ensure this.

Feeding – “A balance chicken feed that is stored in pest – proof containers and housed near the coop for easy access”. I would also add consider adding some diatemaecous earth to your feed to help manage lice. Simply toss a small amount on your feed when loading it into your pest proof container.

Collecting – “When your chickens start laying eggs, you should check the nesting boxes in the coop at least once a day for fresh eggs”. When I go to the barn I simply take a peek in to see if there are any eggs. Just a note that hens need lots of light in order to lay eggs. We have clear panels in the roof of the barn so that even when the hens are in the inside coop, not out in the outdoor run, they are exposed to natural light.

Observing – “Good backyard farmers get to know their chickens and can spot lethargy, loss of appetite and other symptoms that might be the first signs of illness”. This is a very important part of raising hens. Knowing and understanding your hens is critical: are they broody, do they have lice, is anyone on the bottom of the pecking order, are the nesting boxes clean, is the coop completely safe (no holes in the fence for predators)

My favorite section in the book is "Choosing your Chickens". There are some very useful tips in this section for example, what is the right sized flock for your backyard?, Which chickens are best for you and your location, and breeds listed by temperament, multi colored eggs or exotic looking birds. Honestly I want all of them. I have 32 birds of various breeds, bantams, standards, good egg producers, roosters, you name it I probably have it and it all works out.

Obviously, the section titled “Everything you need to know for those first few weeks” is very very complete, this is a book from MurrayMcMurray after all. If you are considering getting chicks, get this book. This section of the book gives you critical, life saving information on how to care for your new birds: Pasting up, how to introduce them to water, huddling, pecking order. Read this chapter, then read it again to make sure you have it all. 

There are only a few things I might think twice about. One is on page 110 "Tips for Protecting Your Chickens from Pests and Predators". This is a very critical part of the book, in fact I think one of the most important. I don't have much patience when neighborhood dogs attack and injure hens. I think it is our number one task to keep our chickens safe, at all times. So I would recommend chain link instead of chicken wire. Where I live a fox or coyote could easily get through chicken wire. Keep your hens safe and happy.

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