08 February 2010

The Bees & The Birds

I hope that you aren't expecting that kind of blog post - however I have books I could point you towards.

I am a librarian, after all.

For the last 5+ years, since moving to Massachusetts, I have learned more about organic food, local farming, and the big business of commercial animal "farms" and GMOs (genetically modified organisms). On my bookshelf sits Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Plenty, and The Backyard Homestead. I've seen The Corporation, The World According to Monsanto, and am girdling my loins for the arrival of Food Inc. from my Netflix queue.

It makes eating a scary thing. You realize that corn is in EVERYTHING, that most packaged meat in the store came from multiple animals that were crowded in tiny spaces, and that most every fruit or vegetable traveled hundreds of miles and was sprayed with hundreds of chemicals. There have been illnesses and recalls all over the news for foods that have been exposed to bacteria strains that have no business being there.

But I love to eat. So what's a girl to do, besides wring her hands and grab the next box of Twinkies? (Never. Who wants to eat a food that has a half-life?) She makes changes.

I have started gardening. I make sure that my garden seeds are heirloom. I recycle. I go to the Farmers Markets during the summer season. I freeze and can. I make most meals instead of buying frozen lunches. I have found a local provider for milk and meats and shop at the little co-op downtown. But I want more.

Earlier this summer, I visited a friend who is making things work right in her own backyard. Besides keeping her budget as tight as possible, I have seen her chickens and her beehive. Right behind the house. She made her first batch of honey this past fall. I have read the stories about Colony Collapse Disorder affecting beehives. I walked a lavender labyrinth this summer and sat down to watch scores of bees and other insects collecting pollen and nectar from the plants. Never a childhood fan of bees, I have gained an understanding of their necessity to what I do NOW. Some of my garden can self-pollinate, but not all of it. What would happen if there were no honeybees?

So, I discovered the Worcester County Beekeepers Association. They teach Bee School every year and I have decided to attend. I'm excited, a bit nervous and filled with the wonder of learning something new. I don't know if I am going to have a hive at this point, but I hold the possibility.

Free-range organic chicken eggs cost an average of $4 a dozen or more. My family can go through 2-4 dozen a month. It would be more economical - and more work, and more fun - to have chickens at home. Many urban lots are large enough to house a half dozen chickens. We currently have a 20 x 50 ft. dog pen in the backyard, left by the landlord through the winter (and where my garden will be going once it comes down). That would be enough space itself for a dozen hens or more. Alas, my city does not allow chickens within their municipal limits.

What is being called the Urban Chicken Movement has seen a big rise over the last couple of years. Many cities, larger than my own, allow penned chickens on housing lots. Seattle, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Rochester NY, among others. So, why not here? Why can't we have chickens in the city? I doubt I am the only person in town who wants them. There are so many GOOD reasons to have them. Check out the benefits of urban chickens here, here and here! Who's going to get the word out, look into how other groups enacted local ordinance changes, talk to people, get the ball - or the egg - rolling? Who is going to be the first to step forward and say "Why not?"

Gandhi said "
You must be the change you wish to see in the world", or as I like to say, "Put Up or Shut Up". So, I guess the change I desire has to start somewhere, and where better than with me.

Why not?


  1. I feel so strongly about organic foods and sustainable living just as you do. To some, it's trendy, but to us it's just the way we live our lives. I can't begin to tell you what a shock it was to step foot in the large grocery store this week after doing most of my shopping at a locally-owned organic grocer for the past few years. Luckily, they had a very small natural foods section and I was able to get what I needed.

    I would also love to keep chickens but our city doesn't allow it either. I'm hoping that over the next few years this changes. In the meantime we do what we can while we fight for what we believe!

  2. Hi Kristi
    Great blog post! We have chickens and love the experience of raising them and gathering our own fresh eggs everyday. They taste better and just knowing they come from happy healthy hens feels better. We have a few auracanas (SP?) that lay beautiful hues of green and blue eggs. I hope your city changes their codes, after all it is a matter of health. ;) Just start with 5 or 6 hens..if you don't have any roosters your neighbors will have nothing to gripe about.

  3. GO KRISTI!!! I am with you in locavore solidarity! Go go go! Do you have any idea how thrilling and inspiring it is to witness your efforts? You completely rock. You will be amazing in Bee School. You WILL take Worcester by storm and change the rules about chickens! I love that I have so many friends who care about chickens and urban ones in particular. My friend Alison, who is in Colorado, has also blogged about urban hens; check out www.greenme.vg/category/urban-hens/. Now I am even more motivated to kidnap you and the fam and plonk down on a homestead.

  4. About our food system, I heard someone say we're eating petroleum for food and turning food into plastic!

    Chickens are legal here in Minneapolis and there are quite a few folks that have them (at least six keepers within a couple blocks of us!). We want to get goats too but those aren't legal, so we're working on it.
    Good luck with your efforts! Do you know how you would get something passed? A city council perhaps? Maybe you could spread the word and gather support with a facebook group; or put up signs at co-ops (or other likely places where people would be interested). It would be great if just a petition with lots of signatures would do it.