Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Composition of an egg

We are sometimes asked about the whitish cordlike strand of egg white, which is called the chalaza.  Its function is to keep the yolk in place and it's perfectly edible.  Some people remove it before cooking. 

Did you know that a prominent chalaza is a sign that your egg is fresh?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How Does Our Garden Grow?

Please join us on October 13, 2012 for a harvest tour of Windsor and Essex County Community Gardens.  This will be a celebration of what we have achieved since forming the collective of community gardens in our region.

Whether you are involved in any of our gardens, or whether you'd like to know more about what we are doing, this is guaranteed to be fun for everyone of all ages.  The tour even ends with a tea party and a blue grass band!

City participants will meet at the United Way office at 9:30am (300 Giles Blvd East).

County participants will meet at the Youth & Family Resource Network at 10:30am (23 Mill Street West in Kingsville).

Cost: $5 per person (youth and children 16 years of age and under are free)

Lunch will be provided. Please bring your own water bottle for fill-ups.

To find out more and to reserve your spot on the bus, please go to this link.

Seating is limited and you do need to reserve your seat ahead of time, so don't put it off!  You don't want to miss the bus! 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Permaculture UK publication

The Resurgence of Community Gardening & Urban Agriculture in North America

Steve Green | 
Wednesday, 6th June 2012

We travel to the land where Canada and the USA meet. Steve Green describes the revival of urban agriculture in derelict post-industrial landscapes. Community gardens bring people of many ethic origins together, echoing a past when the Wyandot people (Huron Indians) grew food in what was once a rich, productive area.

Tire Project FCCG.jpeg
Turning old tires into planters and hanging planters
From Ford City Community Garden, located on Drouillard Road, Windsor, Ontario, Canada, I can see the automotive 'business trees' of Detroit, Michigan, stretching out from their concrete roots along the riverside. Some of them are vacant, have been for years. And some of them are occupied, hanging onto economic hope, watching over us with industrial curiosity from across the turbulent waters of the Detroit River. They quietly oversee what we are up to, like a big brothers or older cousins watching their baby sisters or nieces, puzzled by our playing in the dirt. Directly across the river from where Ford City Community Garden grows, just a few blocks from this same river, is Detroit Earthworks. Earthworks exists to 'restore our connection to the environment and community', modelled after St. Francis. Together, brothers and sisters from different countries labour together – but apart – seeking to reconnect ourselves to our post-industrial landscape. We are the children of the great Automotive Industry: a distant memory for almost all of us.
On March 29th, we gathered our passports and headed under the river to our destination. Earthworks. The old beat-up but dependable vehicle we were carpooling in held three members from indsor Essex Community Garden Collective and Ford City Community Garden, one from a county community garden, and travelling Master's student. We came simply to observe and work alongside the residents of the highly vacated Detroit landscape, those sentinels from 'downtown' still watching over us, wondering why we crossed over the waters that cover up the fact that we are one land, one people, connected to each other by more than just dust and dirt.
It's common to think of the urban agricultural movement and the community gardens as something new and fanciful, lead by 'urban hipsters' and activists, trying to regain control over their own food basket. In North America, most citizens experience their food procurement as an ever increasing, monopolized, international food system which is controlled by the great agricultural cartels and their bedmates, the processed food giants. But just some brief research into the history of this area reveals that agricultural efforts on this land are not only our founding reason for mankind to be here, but quite possibly the one that will keep us here in the future- that is, after the current fad of industrialization returns to the earth itself – a process that is well underway.
Wyandot WarriorWyandot Warrior
As far back as 1701, the Huron Indians had left from the Ohio Valley, between present-day Detroit, Michigan, and Cleveland, where they were known as the Wyandot, and made their way to this waterway. They remained here until they were kicked out and shuffled over to Kansas by the U.S. Government. Only one group of Wyandot managed to remain in the Great Lakes, when a small band of the Canadian Wyandot in southwestern Ontario was given a reserve near Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada. All that is left now of these Wyandot is a graveyard identified on a map of the Huron Reserve in 1836. Most of the tombstones in this graveyard read 'White', 'Warrow', 'Spitlog', or 'Hunt', as these are some of the largest Native families in the area. The most recent burials here are of Samuel Drouillard in 1961, Stan Drouillard in 1977 and Cecile Drouillard in 1979. The Wyandot were some of our land's original farming people. Wyandot women harvested corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers. Wyandot men hunted deer, wild turkeys, and small game, and went fishing in the rivers. Wyandot recipes included cornbread, soups, and stews. Still sounds good today!
Once us Europeans made our way here to settle, this land was divided up into 'ribbon farms', long stretches of land that allowed everyone access to the water way for obvious benefits. You'll recognize some of the names originating from this map of 1798: Bondy, Smith, McGregor, Droulyar (Drouillard), Meloche, Park, Pouget, Pollard, Meldrum, Snyder, Askin, and Reaume. All that is left of this agricultural history are street signs with names on them, located on both sides of the river. The saddest of them all being 'Wyandot'.

Greater Prairie Chicken Outlawed!

This land was described by early explorers (Medard Chouart des Groseilliers, brother-in-law Pierre Esprit Radisson, Adrien and Louis Jolliet, La Salle, Sieur de la Cadillac ) and eventually formally trained naturalists as a grassland prairie. It was a virtual crossroads of life on this continent. It seemed like every living thing and every traveller or settler enjoyed this land – and knew that life itself depended on the connection between the land and the river. The City of Windsor's (Ontario, Canada) own coat of arms to this day reflects these original values with the motto "The River and the Land Sustain Us". Now, sadly, all that is left of this core value is the memory of it. In demonstration of the City's lack of agricultural priorities, the council and current Mayor struck down a pilot program to allow for citizens to raise urban hens. Eager citizens were even publically mocked my council members about the idea.
Why is this ironic? Well, because it was the 'prairie chicken' that was here on the land long before the City of Windsor, long before Edward Francis and the Councillors, or any of the other families for that matter, had even set their eyes on this place. So, who should go? The Greater Prairie Chicken or the Mayor? Oh well, as we all know, history is written by the victorious and the lowly 'Greater Prairie Chicken' became a victim of its new inhabitants that virtually 'ate' them out of existence. In 1828, it was reported that the "Greater Prairie Chicken" was confined to the plains and was "of the most exquisite flavour" (Lumsden, 1966). "Winner, winner, chicken dinner", a common poker phrase, was apparently popular in the area prior to the Caesar's Casino arrival on the riverbank. All that goes around, comes around. And it's possible the 'Greater Prairie Chicken' may make a triumphant return and outsmart our Council (no comment here, nudge-nudge, wink-wink). Time has a way of restoring the balance or evening the score.
For Windsor and Detroit, once the European invasion began and the banks became a permanent home, the Great Industrial Revolution erased almost all traces of the settlers precious farms. Concrete became the new crop and factories sprang up everywhere. Everything agricultural was considered passé. What is left of our agricultural lands has been banished from the cities and remains in the county of Essex, on the Canadian side of the river. The Greater Detroit area looks as if it is concrete as far as the eye can see. It's agricultural lands covered with factories, abandoned houses and lots, aged pavement and interstates. Industry trumps farms almost 100% of the time. You won't see much land still available in any local city limit that is still zoned 'agricultural'. The cult of the Automobile ensured that.

With no agricultural land around the river front, the practice of growing your own food and gathering from the land or river what is needed to sustain life might be virtually impossible. Even those with land or water access might think twice about consuming what is caught or grown. At Ford City Community Garden we had to remove a good portion of our soil that had been contaminated by years of toxic pollution, industrialization being the main culprit in this story. One of my personal favourite quotes is from Calvin Coolidge, ""There is new life in the soil. There is healing in the trees for tired minds and for our overburdened spirits, there is great strength in the hills, if only we will lift up our eyes. Remember that nature is your great restorer." This remains one of our core values for Ford City Community Garden.

Community Gardens Give Hope

local high school students volunteering at the gardenlocal high school students volunteering at the garden
Jumping forward to 2012, we see a resurgence of community gardening and urban agriculture within our city and county. People from all walks of life are realizing that the food that is being offered to them is not always the best food to eat. Often that food is only a replica of bygone eras. The nutrition has been replaced by chemicals you cannot pronounce, made in a lab somewhere, and salt, corn syrup sugars, and fat. And just like the 'freaky food' outlets wanted, we've grown accustom to, and even crave, this mockery of a meal. Rather than buy a locally grown cut of meat or a basket of fresh and local vegetables for ten dollars, the general populist will opt for a meal in a bag. This meal in a bag will often cost more than a great home cooked meal with local ingredients. But the game is afoot for the fast food industry. The messages are already delivered via bus stops to internet banners. What chance do our youth have when they are taught by their grandmothers, fathers, brothers and sisters that this meal in a bag is indeed 'healthy', reinforced by a daily consumption of said products. Still, the 'eat healthy locally or personally grown food' message seems to be breaking through the walls of advertising and multinationals. And therein is the threat and the rationalization of 'green washing' their products. "This product is not unhealthy for you, in fact it's better that fresh!" The very thought of food sovereignty and an urban agricultural revolution sends financial shivers throughout the towering office buildings looking down at us while we scratch the dirt and plant hope.
We keep our mission simple at Ford City Community Garden. Come and talk. Plant and water. Harvest and eat. Don't worry if you are doing it 'right or wrong'. Just have fun. The true value of the urban agricultural comes in the building of community and the personal empowerment one receives from harvesting their own hard work. Unity, friendship, diversity, acceptance are all common crops seen in the many gardens sprouting up around the area. A new Collective has formed (Windsor Essex Community Garden Collective) to share these common values. And even the City of Windsor seems to be warming to the idea of people coming together under a common banner to grow some of their own veggies. Recently, Council allocated $100,000 for community garden grants from unused provincial funds that were able to be reallocated. That being said, I doubt we'll see the 'Greater Prairie Chicken' roaming the parks and gardens of Windsor-Essex. That would be 'clucking ridiculous'.
Ford City Community Gardens' mission is to enrich the lives and diet of urban residents through environmentally sustainable gardening programs that empower people to experience a direct and deep connection with plants, the land and each other. We envision inspired people joining together to actively replenish their environment, their community, increase their nutrition, and create a healthier self and neighbourhood. We believe in the power of people to co-create harmony between land, water and all living things for generations to come. Our vision is that all persons, young and old, be enticed and invited into participating in the Ford City Community Garden.
Steve Green is founder of a cooperative farm in Windsor Essex (Windsor Essex Community Supported Agriculture) and Ford City Community Garden (Windsor, Ontario). He is a passionate writer, farmer and gardener, food and environmental activist. Anyone interested in participating in Community Gardens, Urban Agriculture, or co-operative farming is encouraged to contact Steve Green at stevegreen (at) ymail (dot) com for further information. Steve is currently working on his M.A. in Integrated Studies at Athabasca University. http://windsorcsa.blogspot.com 

Help spread the permaculture word...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Succession Planning

Our pilot project is a year old!  Tomorrow will mark the 365th day of collecting eggs at the collective.  As of last night, we had collected a whopping 7,678 eggs!

While that's is something to be happy about, we're also aware that our gorgeous girls won't be this productive forever.  In commercial operations, hens are "dispatched" at around 18 months, and that's the approximate age our hens have now reached.  So in our humane operation, retirement planning is the order of the day.  While we aren't planning to kill them, we know we need new blood in order to keep up with the demand for our free range pastured eggs.

This week has been very exciting.  On Tuesday, we picked up 12 adorable new downy chicks from the feed store in Harrow.   A handful of them have been camping out at Suzuki, where the kindergarten classes have been fascinated, inspired and filled with love.  They even blogged about them in their class blog.  You'll have to check it out, and be sure to leave a comment.

It will take about 6 months for these chicks to start laying eggs, by which time our older hens will likely have become less productive.  This is how the cycle works.

What I'd like to know is what were the children's questions.  If they post them here, maybe our knowledgeable chicken "cluckative" members could answer them for the children.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Eco Conference at Suzuki School

Maybe it's a good thing there's rain on the forecast this weekend.  Instead of heading out to the farm on Saturday morning to put seedlings in the ground, WECSA enthusiasts will be able to attend the Eco Conference at Dr. David Suzuki Public School, the country's only platinum LEED rated school.

The conference will educate attendees about the toxins found in makeup and household cleaning products, and what to do about it to ensure we raise our families safely.  Attendees will go home with goody-bags of samples and will be eligible for door-prizes throughout the day, making this a thoroughly worthwhile event for the modest $5 admission fee.

There will be local vendors selling their products, including ShopEco, Sartaj Flour and Faerhaven Soaps, as well as a number of information booths and a bevy of local artists selling environment-inspired art as well as goods imaginatively made from repurposed materials.  A selection of food options will be available, made with locally grown ingredients, many of which were grown or produced on the WECSA farm.

The doors open to the public at 9am, and the school is situated at 6320 Raymond Avenue, in Riverside.

Read more about the event here.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Poultry in Motion - Hollywood Hens

Poultry In Motion - Hollywood Hens

Feeding a chicken.

(Photo from OurWindsor.ca) 

Recognizing that the process of getting our hens down to Philippa early Sunday morning would require some 'clandestine' activity' on my part, for many reasons, I was starting to reconsider the transfer of our hens from our Cooperative Chicken Coop to their busy showboating. Not to mention the fact that these hens were none to pleased to be cooped up in this dog sized crate. They are accustom to coming and going as they please at our farm. They are on their own schedule. They have their own routines. And we, for our own selfish pleasure, have disrupted their lives. That being said, they did get plenty of 'treats', even if they were manhandled, or should I say, kid-handled, for a few days. See below for all the pictures.

Can you imagine the life of these hens in the CAFO (Concentrated Animal Factory Operation)

Ethically, that is why I cannot support this industry, egg and dairy, or meat production in North America. Thank goodness we have someone like Jamie Waldron around to get our meat from. And the eggs come from our hens. I'm allergic to milk, I wonder why, since they spray the poor dairy cows with pesticides until they go blind. Probably could poor the milk on my gravel driveway and kill grass!

Soon I will have Quail eggs too! I've been raising these little cuties since they were born. Boy, are they hungry chicks! They eat as much as one of my chickens! It seems as though they have a never ending hunger! And they grow really fast!

Quail - 2 Weeks Old

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Film Screening this Sunday: Mad City Chickens

Please join us Sunday night at 7pm at the Artspeak Gallery for a special screening of the movie, Mad City Chickens, which we are presenting in collaboration with the Arts Council ~ Windsor & Region.

The gallery is situated at 1942 Wyandotte Street East, which is at Devonshire.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Waste Management: the case for urban farming

Farmers have always produced for consumers living in cities, but it wasn't until the last 40 or 50 years  that city dwellers became greatly detached from the countryside that sustains them. 

With consumers on one side, and producers on another side entirely, the big problem that emerged is waste management.

Consumers tend to purchase produce that is specially packaged to reduce the risk of damage and contamination en route to the city, and it may have been treated with chemically-derived pesticides and fertilizers.  Meanwhile farmers have to contend with the build-up of large concentrations of animal waste.  Because these two groups have little direct contact with each other, many of us are oblivious to the scale of the waste and pollution this generates.  We do, however, recognize that waste management is a costly problem, and our taxes go towards paying large sums to corporations that deal with both kinds of waste for us.

I'm realistic enough to know that megacities are going to be with us for a long time to come, and the solution does not lie in reversing the mass migration from farms to the city.

Rather, we need to figure out how to reduce the build-up of waste in the first place.

A family with a vegetable garden and several chickens can, almost effortlessly, cut down significantly on their waste, compared to a family that uses its garden for ornamental purposes and relies on grocery stores for all its food needs.  Let's call them Family A and Family B:
Family A feeds food scraps to the chickens, which in turn generate high quality manure.  They also like to forage in the lawn, pecking out grubs and other pests.  The vegetables growing in the garden are organic and don't need any chemicals for fertilizers or pest control.  They also don't need packaging, because produce is picked when it is ready to be eaten, and no fossil fuels are used to transport them from the ground to the table.

Family B needs a car to purchase their food, which is typically trucked in from far away.  The vegetables will have been sprayed but because they come from far away, it's hard to tell what long-term dangers might lurk inside their skin.  Meanwhile, their lawn is kept beautifully green and luscious with regular application of fertilizer, again, purchased from the store.  The packaging from their food, and the scraps they don't eat, are disposed of in their weekly garbage, and their city trucks it away to a landfill every week.
This is one of the reasons I believe so strongly in urban chickens.  To me, they symbolize the way to the solution.  These hardy creatures eat our consumer waste, turning it into a valuable commodity instead.  They are the link that completes the cycle.

Because most families wouldn't own more than 3 or 4 backyard chickens, they never generate enough manure to pose any kind of toxic hazard, though this is very much the case on large industrial farms.

Of course it isn't realistic for all of us to live like Family A all the time, especially when we live in climates that make it difficult to eat seasonally all year round.  However, it's not at all hard to make some significant changes to our lives.  It's certainly feasible for some of us to do it.  And so, it's frustrating to me when our by-laws force me to live in a way that I feel to be environmentally irresponsible and most definitely unsustainable.

I also find it frustrating when our societal and cultural norms tolerate vegetable gardens (albeit neatly to the side of the house where they are largely out of sight), but refuse to accept backyard chickens.  The vast majority of us are not strict vegetarians, so why not produce both vegetables and eggs?  Besides, gardens grow much better when they have chickens helping them along on the fertilizer and pest control side of things.

And when people suggest that "if you want chickens so badly, then go live on a farm", I really think they have no inkling of the extent of the waste management problems that exist precisely because of the separation of farmers and consumers.

The cost of keeping chickens

It might seem like a rustic setup that we have with our chicken collective, but behind the scenes, we keep a tight set of records - with a background in cost accounting and financial analysis, I am making good use of my skills.

You might also be interested in some of our top-level stats.

We started our collective in May 2011 with 24 young layers.  We had 36 hens at the end of the year.  There were 11 member families, and between us, we collected 4,591 eggs.  The cost was $1.46/dozen in feed costs, and we also put in an additional $50 per family to cover the capital costs.

This put the total average cost per dozen eggs including the cost of capital a nice round $2.50.

Compare that to $6 a dozen for organic grocery store eggs, which don't even come from chickens that ever go outside.

We started 2012 with 36 hens, though one of them developed a painful leg soon after.  Although it wasn't broken, it wouldn't heal either.  Mrs. Limpy started to dwindle, and died after a couple of weeks.  We'll never know exactly what happened.

The remaining 35 hens have faithfully produced 2,534 eggs for us - as of yesterday afternoon, when I gathered 29.  This works out at an average yield of 27 free range eggs per member family, per week.  It happens to be approximately the same number of eggs you could expect from a backyard coop with 4 layers.

The costs are also pretty similar to last year.  Each returning member family put in $20 for capital improvements for the year.  The premium layer feed we give our birds put us back an average of $1.51 per dozen eggs collected, though it should be somewhat less after factoring in the feed supply that hasn't yet been eaten, a couple of days' worth.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Our Pat on the Back

Do you remember our Coop Co-op won $500 from the City of Windsor last year?  Well, take a look at this short slideshow to see what we did with the money.

2011 WECEC Pat on the Back

Friday, March 16, 2012

Think Recycle Program in Windsor Ontario!

WECSA & Ford City Community Garden 
Join Think Recycle Program!

Think Recycle is a cost-free fundraising program that rewards members with money and environmental incentives for the collection of unwanted products including laptops, tablets, cell phones, digital cameras, inkjet cartridges and toner cartridges! Organizations that are eligible to participate in Think Recycle include schools, charities, institutions, churches, teams, clubs and even businesses.
Think Recycle works with more than 20,000 members, across the United States and Canada, to meeting their fundraising and environmental goals. Here are a few organizations that are currently working with us: 

Good for the Environment!

Our members help to prevent improper disposal of consumer electronics by diverting them from entering local and international landfills. When entering landfills, electronics can take up to 1,000 years to decompose and can contribute to the contamination and pollution of air, water and soil.
By collecting and recycling with Think Recycle, unwanted electronics will be refurbished, recycled or reused, creating a positive environmental impact. You will also be cleaning the air we breathe by planting trees. Through our partnerships with American Forests and Tree Canada, we donate funds to have 1 tree planted for every 24 qualifying products you collect. To date our members have contributed to the planting of over 50,000 trees! 

Good for You!

Not only will you be protecting the environment, you’ll be earning money for your organization! We make it easy for you to earn the most money faster! We offer rebates on the most makes and models of commonly used electronics in the industry.
Please feel free to contact Steve Green if you would like to assist us!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

With So Many Laws, Even the Government Can’t Keep Them Straight

Trent Hills v. Bacher

Kelly and Shawn Bacher reside in the small Ontario town of Campbellford (population about 3,000), part of the municipality of Trent Hills. Shawn works in a salvaging business, tearing down old buildings. Kelly helps bring income into the household by providing housekeeping services to elderly neighbours.

In 2009, Kelly decided that it would make a good educational project for Kayla to raise some chickens in their backyard. Both Kelly and Shawn were raised on farms and know how to look after chickens.

Read the whole story here.