Friday, December 31, 2010

Making the Organic Vegan (sort of) Resolution

I can't truly be vegan. I keep chickens and use their eggs, I keep bees and use their honey, and in the future I want rabbits and goats and will use their wool/fiber. I have read about being vegan and the reasons for it, and I respect where they are coming from, but sometimes those ideals don't seem rational or practical. If I take care of my unconventional pets well, and they happen to share with me their gifts (that would otherwise spoil and go to waste) why can't they be used?

Veganism is a puzzle to me. I know a lot of vegans who have cats and dogs as pets, as if what they feed those pets doesn't matter. Now that's cheating to me! If anything, I think it's more inhumane to own a pet that requires the death of another animal for its own sustenance, than a person eating eggs & honey or wearing the wool of a well cared for pet that would shed these things anyway. (And yes, I consider my bees to be my pets!)  But, I digress...

So anyway, while I can't truly be a vegan by the current definition, I would like to adopt some vegan habits like avoiding meat and dairy completely, even though I eat these minimally right now. Rather than attempt this cold-turkey overnight and fail miserably, I've decided to take a pro-active stance and incorporate more vegan dishes into my life to crowd out the old, less healthy dishes. When thinking about my vegan starts and stops in the past, what immediately comes to mind is the fact that I never had a lot of vegan recipes to draw from. It takes time to learn new ways of doing things, to develop new habits, and you know how folks are these days... if it doesn't happen for us instantly, we just go back to our old habits.

My plan is to alter the meals I make now into vegan versions, or near vegan as possible (using the occasional egg for baking or adding honey instead of sugar isn't a sin to me.) Not too hard since I don't cook meat at home at all and rarely, rarely eat it out because it's hard to find organic, humanely raised meat. I don't like milk and really don't care for a lot of dairy products, it's just that darn cheese that's the problem! We love lasagna, pizza, enchiladas, etc! However, those can be made deliciously without cheese; I've tasted cheese-free versions and know that it is possible not to miss the cheese at all. It's just a matter of learning how to make these dishes without the dairy really well. It takes time to find good recipes! That's why I've decided to learn and test out at least 5 new vegan recipes a month and slowly develop a new way of cooking and eating.

At the moment I have a huge stack of vegan cook books waiting for me at the library. I wonder if they are open today...?

As for organic, I advocate it 100%. After reading and studying up on chemicals and the damage they do to our environment and our health, it's a no-brainer. All organic is the way to go. If you think you can't afford to buy it, change your mindset. Cheap food only leads to more health problems later. Think of organic food as a very important investment. I'd rather pay a few extra bucks now, rather than thousands in medical bills later. Organic is a much more simple concept and an easier food transition than going vegan, but Lee is sometimes hard to persuade when it comes to parting with the extra pennies for the organic version of whatever we buy in the store. I was shocked to learn that he had never been to a Trader Joe's before last weekend when we went (WTH?), but I think he was even more shocked at how inexpensive it can be to shop organic. If you can afford an unhealthy daily latte (or any other vice), you can afford to give that up and buy healthy, organic food! If not, grow your own! That's even cheaper than conventionally grown produce.

Bottom line, in all the reading, studying and video viewing I've done on food and diets in this last year, what I've learned is that we need to consume more vegetables and fruits for better health. Another food resolution of mine is to meet and exceed the recommended 5 a day. Shouldn't be too difficult with the garden plan I have for this coming year!

Good luck and all the best to you in the New Year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The New Nest

Chipmunk wasn't too upset that I removed her mass of muddy eggs and covered the dirt floor of the shed with aspen chips. I was a little concerned that she might not like having her second nest messed about with, but the very next day she left this gift. All seems to be well again.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Missing Eggs

Today I found Chipmunk's new hidden nest with 14 muddy eggs. I had suspected she was still laying, I just didn't know where. Apparently when I cleared the morning glory vines, and her previous nest underneath it, she decided to relocate to the garden shed.  I cleared the space and laid down some aspen wood chips, so hopefully she'll keep laying in the same spot.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Adventures in Chicken Keeping

Red, our hen with an insatiable curiosity.
The chickens have been so nutty lately, and Red has been driving me up the wall (er, fence rather) so much so, that I was almost considering the fabrication of my own chicken guillotine. My advice: if you don't want a challenging chicken, and especially if you don't have tall backyard fence, skip the Welsummer breed. No matter how enticing those dark brown colored eggs may sound. She hasn't even laid anything for us yet, the ungrateful wench. Hah.

For the last two weeks, that pesky, meddling hen has breached the divide between the neighbor's backyard and our own almost on a daily basis. I have dutifully hopped the fence each time, collecting up the bothersome bird, tossing her over, then madly scrambling back over myself. I wouldn't feel so sneaky about it if she did it when the neighbor was actually home and I could just ask to use the gate, but nooo, things never work out so easy do they? Then again, I'm not sure how the neighbor would react... so maybe it's better that she hasn't been home?

In the morning these past few weeks when it was time to throw out the scratch for the girls, I'd have only four running up. I'd look over at the neighbor's yard and there would be Red, darting back and forth as if she were looking for some magic portal to appear in the fence. Each time I collected her, I'd clip the feathers on one of her wings a little shorter. I hated doing this, but even more I hated the idea of my neighbor getting her feathers ruffled over our pesky hen scratching up her perfectly manicured lawn.

When I finally clipped the feathers on Red's wing so far that I couldn't clip anymore, I decided to start surveying the yard. How was this crazy bird getting over the fence still with only one reasonably flappable wing? I couldn't catch her in the act unfortunately, so I had to make some assumptions. Now the fence itself is fairly low, it's only about 4.5 feet tall, however, none of the other chickens had bothered to clear it. I knew that Red had, previous to wing clipping, been the best flyer of the bunch, but still, if she had been flying over then certainly she could fly back? What I hadn't considered though, was that she was also the most crafty. She was like those raptors in Jurassic Park... watching, learning, waiting for the perfect opportunity. We had a large log rolled against the fence at one end, and the kids' sand table against the fence closer to the house, aha!  She was using these to climb up on and then hop the fence. I moved both of these away. The next day, Red was in our yard with the other ladies, her plans apparently foiled.

A few days later though, I came outside to find her back on the other side of the fence. Absolutely baffled and convinced that I was going to find her a new home, I noticed that this time it was my fault. I had left the recycling bins too close to the fence, and somehow she had managed to jump high enough to get on top of them and then over the fence. After putting away the bins, I hopped the fence and gathered her up for what I hoped would be the last time. Luckily, that was the last time. At least to this date.

In other chicken news...

When I removed the morning glory vines from the fence, Chipmunk's (our Easter Egger) nest was disturbed and she hasn't laid an egg since. At least, not that I have found yet. I am dreading the moment I come across her new nest and find 20 odd eggs stacked up!

Our chickens are molting and look absolutely ridiculous!

Though I've read that most chickens stop laying in the Winter, our Barred Plymouth rocks haven't yet quit! As previously mentioned, Red never started laying but neither did Chilly, our Blue Cochin. Salt and Pepper have been quite productive. If you are in it just for the eggs, Plymouth Rocks seem to be a good bet.