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inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #0 of 79: (dana) Tue 23 Jun 09 07:30
    
We're very pleased to welcome Novella Carpenter to the Inkwell.

Novella Carpenter is a journalist covering food, culture, and
farming. Her work has appeared in Mother Jones, Food and Wine,
sfgate.com, Salon.com, and others. Her memoir "Farm City: The
Education of an Urban Farmer", was published by Penguin Press this
June.

Leading the discussion is Sharon Fisher.

Sharon is a writer and chicken owner who moved from the Bay Area *to*
Idaho. She is a seventh-degree member of the Grange who is interested
in sustainable and organic agriculture. She has been on the Well since
1986. In addition to a rooster and a dozen hens, she has nine ducks,
five rabbits, two house cats, and about 16 barn cats and kittens. She
gave up on the goose, and thinks longingly of milk goats and weaner
pigs.

Welcome, farmers!
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #1 of 79: Sharon Fisher (slf) Tue 23 Jun 09 08:08
    <scribbled by slf Tue 23 Jun 09 09:11>
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #2 of 79: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Tue 23 Jun 09 09:12
    
Yee haw.

Novella, I'd like to thank you for coming to the Well to discuss your
book. I've been surprised at how much interest there is here in things
like raising one's own chickens, and there's a growing realization in
general that raising one's own meat, as well as vegetables, is
possible
and desirable.

I gather you've gotten more attention from your book than you
expected? What sort of response have you gotten thus far? And what do
you think is driving it?
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #3 of 79: Novella Carpenter (novellacarpent) Wed 24 Jun 09 10:10
    
hi sharon; 
as a farmer, i'd like to apologize for my technophobic tardiness to
the forum! it's good to be here. 
i've been totally surprised by the response to Farm City. i'm on tour
right now and have been meeting tons of people saying they want to get
chickens or bees, or they have chickens and want to get goats. it's
really cool. 
i also get emails from people who say they've read my book and now
they're employing methods that i used in the book (like dumpster-diving
for animal food). 
i think there are three things driving it. one is the recession.
people are really worried about money but they want to eat quality
food. the other is fear about ecoli and salmonella in the food supply.
it's terrifying. so people want to take control of their food security.
another thing is that people are sick of the elitism of slow food,
which many people see as rich people eating arugula. if you're a poor
person like me, i can afford to grow my own arugula. it's very
empowering. 
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #4 of 79: Eric Gower (gower) Wed 24 Jun 09 12:06
    
Just opened the book and read Chapter 1. People, our dear guest starts
off by swabbing blocked baby chick butts with q-tips. Something tells
me I'm going to power through this quickly! 
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #5 of 79: (dana) Wed 24 Jun 09 13:05
    
  (Note: Offsite readers with questions or comments may have them added
  to this conversation by emailing them to inkwell@well.com -- please
  include "Farm City" in the subject line.)
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #6 of 79: Area Woman (booter) Wed 24 Jun 09 14:32
    
Welcome, Novella. Nice to see you here!

I just spent my lunch time at a friend's house, cradling two day old
chicks in my hands. When I was 4, I used to fantasize that a bird would
land in my hands and make a nest. I realized this while holding a little
Barred Rock in my hands. It was a pretty cool thing, let me tell ya!

Anyway.

Novella, I am curious about your choice of rabbits. The way you described
them, they sounded like the kind of smallish rabbit that people keep as
pets. I don't know a lot about meat rabbit production - I just assume
meat rabbits are large and white. What breed are the rabbits you were
raising as described in the book? I was thinking of huge ones like
German giants and so on.

(PS to my friends, yes I have a pet rabbit, but I know some are for eatin'
and some are for pettin')

Also, the hog thing. I guess if I were your neighbor, the thrill would
wear off pretty fast.:-) It also sounded like exhausting work.  Have
you done another round of Fine Swine or have you moved on to less
complicated (and hungry) animals?
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #7 of 79: John Payne (satyr) Wed 24 Jun 09 19:27
    
What about pigeons, which typically do well in urban environments even
without being housed and fed?
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #8 of 79: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Wed 24 Jun 09 22:16
    
Ironically, perhaps appropriately, I came home after being away for a
couple of days to the sort of thing that us animal husbandry people
dread: four of the five rabbits dead, the other missing, and all three
hutches torn open by ...something. (Also two dead kittens.)

It's a terrible feeling, thinking of how the poor animals for which I
am responsible died.

<satyr>, I don't hear much about people raising pigeons for food.
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #9 of 79: David Gans (tnf) Wed 24 Jun 09 22:44
    

Sharon, our sympathies!

Novella, what about all the geese at Lake Merritt?  Edible?
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #10 of 79: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Thu 25 Jun 09 07:33
    
One of the questions that comes up in raising chickens, is what to do
with them when they reach the end of their useful life -- that is, when
they stop laying eggs regularly. Some people say to just keep them
around. Some people say to butcher them. Some people say chickens that
old are too tough for eating anyway. What is it you do?
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #11 of 79: David Gans (tnf) Thu 25 Jun 09 09:18
    

My friends with an organic farm in North Fork do not believe in eating their
laying hens.  After a lifetime of service, these chickens are given proper
burials.
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #12 of 79: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Thu 25 Jun 09 09:22
    
But what do they do in-between the laying and burial part? Continue
feeding them?
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #13 of 79: (dana) Thu 25 Jun 09 09:40
    
A friend of mine is currently dealing with this issue. His wife, a
massage therapist and a very gentle person, will not allow him to off
any birds. The population is building in their suburban bay area
backyard, and he is really getting tired of the racket they make. 

We won't have that problem. Our barred rock is a dual-purpose bird and
will definitely end up in the oven. The leghorn is kind of skimpy on
the meat, but she'll be soup in the end, if nothing else.
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #14 of 79: David Gans (tnf) Thu 25 Jun 09 10:54
    

Yes, Sharon, the post-menopausal hens live out their days in (relative)
luxury.
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #15 of 79: post-menopausal hens live out their days in (relative) luxury. (stet) Thu 25 Jun 09 11:01
    
now that's a pseud!
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #16 of 79: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Thu 25 Jun 09 11:37
    
>soup in the end, if nothing else

I have a friend who says that even for soup or stock, old hens just
aren't worth it. I haven't tried it myself because a) I'm a softy and
b) even my old hens lay eggs once in a while.

Which brings up the question of what to do in winter. Chickens lay so
many eggs in their lifetimes. They lay less in the winter because of
less light. Some people put artificial lights in the hen house, which
results in more eggs but an earlier henopause for the chickens.
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #17 of 79: Novella Carpenter (novellacarpent) Thu 25 Jun 09 15:27
    
sharon--i'm so sorry to hear about your loss. it's a very big deal
when something dies at the hands of a predator. i lost two roosters
once who had clearly fought valiantly to save their ladies (all the
hens were fine but they were mortally wounded by a dog, i believe.)

re: eating an older hen. what's neat about farming is you get to
decide. although it seems like recently we've become uncomfortable with
the idea that humans are in charge, with farming it is very clear. so
i think it's great that people let their hens live on; and i think it's
great when they make them into soup (an old hen is really too tough
for the oven or even stewing in wine). the main concern is
economics--if you can afford to continue to feed a hen who doesn't lay
eggs and that's what you want to do, that's fine. but most farmers
don't have extra money and that's where the culling comes into play. 

re: rabbits. my bunnies are a new zealand california cross bred for
meat eating. those giant flemish are (from what i've heard) difficult
to kill (so big!) and their meat:bone ratio is not favorable. i'm now
introducing some fur genes into the rabbits with a silver fox female,
so i'll soon have some really nice pelts. 
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #18 of 79: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Thu 25 Jun 09 15:40
    
ooo, pelts. sounds nice. Have you found someone to buy them? How did
you do that?

I hear two schools of thought on the "raising animals you're going to
kill" issue -- one being, how can you do that? and the other being, who
has more of a right than the person who's raised them all their life?

Roosters can be very protective of their girls, watching out for them,
finding food for them, and kicking their ass when they're out late.
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #19 of 79: Gary Greenberg (gberg) Thu 25 Jun 09 17:46
    
WE had a rooster named Napoleon Dynamite. A huge, gawky guy with
asymmetrical features, always looked like he'd just rolled out of bed.
He'd come out of the coop in the morning, hop on a hen or two and then
leap up on top of a fence post to crow about it. Twice, I watched him
fight off a red-tailed hawk, once when the hawk had a hen firmly in his
grips. The chicken survived, and she wouldn't let Napoleon out of her
sight for weeks.

One day, not long after that incident, he started attacking me every
time I entered the chicken yard. He'd come flying at me, hackles first,
just above my waist unless I was bent over, in which case it was more
like at my head, screeching and clawing; once I kicked at him and
slipped in the mud, and he moved in for the kill, only to be chased off
by my then 8-year-old son. I don't know why I put up with it--grudging
respect for his sexual frankness, I suppose, plus gratitude for his
protectiveness, but finally, after more than a year of constant
attacks, he went tooo far. I was tending some chicks, and I put down my
Napoleon stick for just a second, and he blindsided me, hopped up on
my back and started pecking wildly. I shook him off, grabbed the stick
and smote him. I was sorry that it came to that--a moment of violent
revenge--but I guess it was only a matter of time. 

I buried him and even erected a stone to mark the spot.
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #20 of 79: Hugh Watkins (hughw1936uk) Thu 25 Jun 09 19:29
    
a pressure cooker

one onion
one carrot

meat 
a "boiling fowl" or two
take up to full pressure
rest for 24 hours

reheat and add other ingredients herbs etc
eg  madras curry powder
minced beef or what ever

one of the scandals of modern wastefulness is you cannot buy a
"boiling fowl" any more (60 years on) 
they get mashed up for pet food

this is a basic"peasant" soup I learned from my  mother - also with a
marrow bone instead of a chicken
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #21 of 79: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 25 Jun 09 19:37
    
Right.  I still come across recipes that call for a "stewing chicken"
etc.  As if.
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #22 of 79: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Thu 25 Jun 09 20:25
    
I used to have a rooster that attacked me. I got a new rooster, who
not only was nice to me but kicked the ass of the old rooster, who
stopped attacking me.
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #23 of 79: chicken herder (dana) Fri 26 Jun 09 10:53
    
Novella, Farm City is riding a huge wave of interest in amateur home
agriculture, increasing knowledge of commercial ag issues, and an
increasingly common focus on food quality. When you were scooping up
fish guts in Chinatown, did you ever allow yourself to consider the
possibility that you would one day be a trend setter? 

And do you think that the current fad of home chickens and urban
homesteading is a sign of a fundamental change, or just green fashion?
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #24 of 79: Lisa Harris (lrph) Fri 26 Jun 09 11:19
    
This is all very interesting to me.  What kind of permiting or municipal
regulations have you come up against in your quest for urban ag.  I know
that in my town there are ordinances against keeping chickens, mostly
because of cock-fighting issues in the past.
  
inkwell.vue.356 : Novella Carpenter, Farm City
permalink #25 of 79: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 26 Jun 09 13:10
    
Yeah, I was planning to get to that. My impression from the book and
the website is that what you're doing is actually illegal, and the only
thing that's helped you thus far is that no one's turned you in? And
yet the book and website make no secret of your location. How much of
this was a conscious decision on your part, and what are you planning
to do should the city come down on you?
  

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