Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Getting Everyone Ready for Winter

While the winter season has taken an unusually long time to settle upon the urban farm, it is finally here and with it come preparations for the cold season. It struck us how, yet again, keeping chickens indoors sure makes life easier not only for the girls but for us too. This fact is especially apparent when you contrast how we got the bees ready for winter versus the chickens. 

John, our amazing bee mentor, came over to help wrap the hive in felt paper to insulate, check for proper ventilation, balance the hive in such a way that the condensation will drip forward, and helped install a mouse guard over the front in order to prevent those pesky creatures from making a home in my warm, food filled hive. After he left, I ordered a special feeder that slides in with bees which I filled with sugar water, and then I made a candy board. A candy board is made of twenty-five pounds of sugar (yes the cashier gave us a weird look at the grocery store) and three cups of water and a half a cup of vinegar (to prevent molding). The mixture is pressed into a shallow hive box with a queen extruder (plastic screen that only worker bees can fit through) on to bottom to hold everything in. The sugar dries and makes the biggest lollypop you can imagine. The hive box goes on top the rest of the hive with more newspaper above it for insulation and this creates an additional food source for the winter. At this point, all I can do to wait and hope my girls survive to spring. 

As for what we did for getting the chickens ready for winter- nothing at all. 

We chuckle to one another as we read about the latest ideas for keeping chickens' water thawed over winter or how to prevent frostbite on combs. We have noticed that over the past few days the girls seem a little agitated; we wonder if this might have something to do with the furnace turning on more in the basement. Perhaps Jeff and I should take the girls for a drive in the country to introduce them to barn chickens!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Food Safety

Arsenic in apple juice? Another egg safety/cruelty scandal? It makes me shudder to think how our fragile food system is being slowly eroded away.

Check out this article on arsenic in juices (NPR Link).  I find it interesting that the arsenic based pesticides that were in use until 1970 are believed to play a part in this food safety issue forty years later. I wonder what we are using right now in agriculture that our children will pay the price for...

Then there was the story about eggs being produced in cruel/unsanitary conditions.

What really amazes me is the relatively little concern we show about these incidents. Sure I saw the egg story a few times on the news, but it was quickly over after a couple of major corporations dropped the producer. Are we all so addicted to cheap, fast food that we are willing to turn a blind eye to the safety concerns of this mass produced slop?