2010 Virginia B. Ball Creative Writing Competition

interlochen artsinterlochen arts

Do you know a talented young writer who has a knack for the writing craft? If so, you may want to check out the Virginia B. Ball Creative Writing Competition. The winner receives a $30,000 scholarship to the creative writing program at Interlochen Arts Academy.
Any student in grades 8–11 during the 2010–11 academic year are eligible.

Compost Can Change Your Life

compostcompost

Your garden will grow better, your grass will be greener, your plants prettier with certified City of Ann Arbor compost. Need a lot? Then the bulk sale is for you. Bring your truck to the Platt Road Compost Center. Need just a bushel or two? Then head to the Recycle Ann Arbor Drop-off Station. Pick up a copy of A Little Piece of Earth: How to Grow Your Own Food in Small Spaces at AADL and your table will be plentiful next year.

This Saturday is the Homegrown Festival

HomegrownHomegrownThat’s right! Are you ready for local food, local beverage, local live music, and good times? You’ll find it at the 3rd annual Homegrown Festival this Saturday, from 6pm – 11pm in the Kerrytown market area. The festival aims to promote awareness of local foods, farmers, resources, food security, and community support. There will be heirloom tomato tasting, kids activities, chef demos, non-profit booths, a silent auction, games, and more. Check out the website for full schedule, including a list of the fabulous food vendors. For more local food love keep an eye on 2011’s Local Food Summit, and keep in mind that September is Local Food Month!

The Urban Homestead

The urban homestead: your guide to self-sufficient living in the heart of the city, by Kelly Coyne & Erik Knutzen, features a wealth of information for eco-conscious city dwellers looking to do their own food harvesting and preserving and get involved in urban homesteading. Recently released is also a revised and expanded edition of the book that features new projects. For further information, the authors also maintain an excellent blog (The Homegrown Evolution) for those interested in this topic.

The Urban Homestead focuses on how to depend less on big box living and features ways of living a more self-sufficient life by growing your own food, saving energy or producing your own, preserving food, all while living in an urban area with limited land.

The Joy of Keeping Chickens

Ebys Chickens. Photo by ktpup
Photo of my chickens by friend ktpupp used under CC - BY/NC/SA

We've been constantly adding resources to our collection for those thinking (or already) raising chickens. One of the recent additions is the 2009 released The joy of keeping chickens : the ultimate guide to raising poultry for fun or profit.

As the title implies, this book attempts to be the ultimate guide and touches on about every topic you'll likely want to know, even keeping meat birds. As can be expected with a book that does a whirlwind tour if you are interested in in-depth coverage of a specific topic you'll probably want to look elsewhere. While the book covers meat bird, butchering, starting a business, incubating, showing birds and the like, it is generalized and more "things we wish we had known" than an in-depth guide. However, enough is covered to give you a starting point to begin your research and familiarize yourself with the many options out there and what might be involved. Definitely worth the read if you are still in the beginning stages of research on what route you want to take.

All that being said if you are focusing on egg layers then this book is definitely one to check out. The book also sports all color photographs which may inspire you on what colorful breed you want and later chapters include recipes to put your egg bounty to work.

A nice addition to this book versus some others is the use of personal stories to begin each chapter, giving background on why the author chose to raise her own. You can check out one of these stories with an excerpt of chapter 1 on the book's website.

Bring on the pickled eggs!

A City Flock

Over the weekend NPR had a segment on urban livestock and the increased interest in it. You can listen to the short story here:

As you probably know Ann Arbor recently passed Ordinance No. 08-19 (Chapter 107 Animals) which allows you to purchase a permit to raise hens. Roosters aren't allowed but you don't need one to get eggs for eating.

However, raising animals may be a big step for some and AADL has some great resources to help you learn more:

You can also find some good books on MeLCat:

The Ann Arbor News also had a post in early 2008 about raising chickens, including this video of Jamie Innis a Dexter 4-H member:

If it still seems intimidating, some enterprising farms are beginning a "rent-a-coop" program. They take care of housing them and making sure the hens get everything they need. You visit as often as you want and pick up your eggs. Similar to a share program but also a possibility if you want to ease into things as you can take the chickens home once you become more familiar with the process. Once farm looking into this option is Destiny Farm Gardens near Brighton, who also makes coops and delivers them. If you know of other places near by that provide a similar service please comment.

The Power of Community

When the world reaches peak oil, it will be an entirely new experience for us all with the exception of one small country. Cuba has already had a “peak oil” experience imposed on them, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early '80s. All their supplies of oil were cut off and they were thrust into a national emergency of food and energy shortages.

How they survived that period in their history and actually created new systems of efficient, sustainable energy and food production is the subject of The Power of Community. Forced to rediscover the bicycle for transportation; oxen and horses for farming; smaller-scale, organic farms and urban micro-farms for raising food; and neighborly cooperation for solving their crisis locally they have paved the way for thriving in the new era of oil scarcity and $4 dollar gallons of gas. A very inspiring and beautifully told story.

For a kick-start along the path of a less oil-dependent model for agriculture read about Community Supported Agriculture and urban gardening.

Panelists to Discuss Community Agriculture

corn on the cobcorn on the cob

A panel discussion is coming up 6-7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 17, on “Community Agriculture, Community Health: Connecting Healthy Eating, Community Gardens, and Access to Lower Cost Produce," presented by Project Healthy Schools. Panelists will be Sharon Sheldon, of the Washtenaw County Public Health Department, who works with the community advisory board of the Downtown Ypsilanti Farmers Market; Amanda Edmonds, founder of Growing Hope; and Deb Lentz and Richard Andres, coordinators of the Community Supported Agriculture program at Tantre Farm near Chelsea. The panel discussion will be in Danto Auditorium in the U-M Health System’s Cardiovascular Center, 1500 E. Medical Center Drive. If you’d like to go, contact Jessica Moorman, tessimo@med.umich.edu, 975-3063.

Edible Estates, Community and Sustainability

front yard garden
(Above: A local Ann Arbor front yard replaced with more diverse vegetation)

Avalon Housing kicks off 5 days of sharing ideas on innovation in sustainability and community building today. Many of the events feature architect and artist Fritz Haeg, who started the project and book called Edible Estates. The series includes a talk and book signing at AADL on Monday Nov, 10th at 7pm with Fritz Haeg.

The Project

The edible estates project consisted of tearing up the manicured front lawns of several households and replacing it with plants that produced edible food. The goal was both to make a statement and to be practical. This is remenicient of Victory Gardens during the World Wars where thanks to Eleanor Roosevelt even the White House lawn had some vegetable production. Similar ideas are also implemented in community gardens, but this project specifically picked the front yard as the area to attack, making the garden front and center. Here's a video of one of the gardens to give you an idea:

Here's a video interview with Fritz Haeg about the project:

The Book

The book consists of the plans for these gardens, homeowner stories, the drive behind the project and a few guides of what you can grow in your zone. What most homeowners were worried about, as can be expected, was what would the neighbors think? However, in most cases there were positive attitudes from the community and even a closer relationship between people in the neighborhood. The front yard was no longer a buffer zone between people but an active center of activity. The book also includes a few tidbits to think about:

  • Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 13 are probable carcinogens, 14 are linked with birth defects, 18 with reproductive effects, 20 with liver or kidney damage, 18 with neurotoxicity and 28 are irritants - National Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns
  • Homeowners use up to 10 times more chemical pesticides per acre on their lawns than farmers use on crops. - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The book also includes a forward by Michael Pollan, close to his article Why Mow? The Case Against Lawns, which is worth reading in full:

"Suits fly against the national lawn-care companies, and interest is kindled in ''organic'' methods of lawn care. But the problem is larger than this. Lawns, I am convinced, are a symptom of, and a metaphor for, our skewed relationship to the land. They teach us that, with the help of petrochemicals and technology, we can bend nature to our will. Lawns stoke our hubris with regard to the land. What is the alternative? To turn them into gardens. I'm not suggesting that there is no place for lawns in these gardens or that gardens by themselves will right our relationship to the land, but the habits of thought they foster can take us some way in that direction.

Gardening, as compared to lawn care, tutors us in nature's ways, fostering an ethic of give and take with respect to the land. Gardens instruct us in the particularities of place. They lessen our dependence on distant sources of energy, technology, food and, for that matter, interest."

So be sure to check out the many events this week including the talk and book signing at AADL on Monday.

The Chicken Ordinance

Interested in raising your own chickens? If you live in Ann Arbor you can keep up to four hens...with the consent of your adjacent neighbors.

Check out these library materials for more information about raising chickens...
How to Raise Chickens
The Complete Handbook of Poultry Keeping
and for the kids,
From Chick to Chicken
and The Joy of Chickens

Check out the cool chicken coops at Back Yard Chickens and My Pet Chicken.

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