Homegrown Evolution at Environmental Change-Makers

We’ll be doing a talk this Thursday in Westchester (Los Angeles) at the monthly meeting of Environmental Change-Makers. But don’t just come to see us! This event is at the Church of the Holy Nativity, which took out a lawn to grow food for the needy, an idea we’d like to see spread around the world.

The Church of the Holy Nativity is located at Dunbarton at 83rd St., (6700 West 83rd Street) Westchester 90045. The meeting and talk begins at 7 p.m.

More on Church of the Holy Nativity’s amazing garden here.

Time Banking

So what is money but an abstract representation of misery, time spent doing things we’d all rather not be doing? How about an alternative? How about taking all of our hard earned capital away from the Wall Street types? Get ready for time banking.

With time banking, you get together with your local community members, friends and family and exchange hours rather than currency. Time Bank USA describes the concept succinctly:

“For every hour you spend doing something for someone in your community, you earn one Time Dollar. Then you have a Time Dollar to spend on having someone do something for you.”

Time banking isn’t defined as barter, so you don’t have to pay taxes on services or goods exchanged. And time banking is egalitarian–everyone’s hours are valued equally–an hour of digging a ditch is the same as an hour of legal services, or acupunture or whatever.

Homegrown Evolution met our local Echo Park Time Bank organizers Lisa Gerstein and Autumn Rooney last night at a joint appearance we did at Materials & Applications. Gerstein and Rooney, related to the audience a number of success stories from the time bank, such as how one busy woman was able to keep her cat after the time bank found someone to administer daily shots while she is at work.

With our economy in a tailspin, Time Banking has great potential. If there isn’t a time bank in your area Time Bank USA has software and assistance to help you set up one.

Chickens in Chicago

Another gem from City Farmer News. Somehow it’s a lot more fun to listen to someone else talking to city bureaucrats:

“Video by Chad Kimball. Raising Chickens In The City – Chicago Police Say NO. “Is it legal to keep chickens in the city of Chicago? Listen to conflicting information I receive from the police, the city clerk, and the legal department.”

For more info on the law in your area, City Farmer News suggests checking City Chicken’s list of chicken laws.

Kitchen Alchemy

“Those who believe civilization can be run according to different principles – humane, equitable, and collaborative ones – need to step forward now with concrete proposals and put ideals into practice.”

-Daniel Pinchbeck

A Homegrown Evolution reader quite rightly scolded us recently for not writing enough about what people in apartments who can’t keep gardens or chickens can do. It’s our contention that all of the activities profiled on this blog are a kind of alchemy, symbolic gestures that ultimately lead to the kind of societal transformations that Pinchbeck writes about. These symbolic gestures need not be over sized, nor do all of them require land. Cooking homemade meals from scratch, as often as possible, is just the kind of alchemy one can practice anywhere you’ve got food and a source of heat. And what is cooking anyways, but a form of alchemical transformation? As luck would have it, we’ve had a number of visitors to our humble casa in the past week, Pinchbeck included (read his thoughtful Prophet Motive columns here). Two other visitors are cookbook authors. All share a common vision of positive change through personal and household actions.

Ysanne Spevack moved to our neighborhood recently and has a really nice cooking website and blog at www.organicfoodee.com. That pumpkin bread she blogged about recently looks mighty tasty and we can’t wait to try her buckwheat recipes recently featured in the Los Angeles Times. She has written a number of books, specializing in cooking with organic ingredients.

We also got a visit from farmer and agriculturalist Shannon Hayes of New York’s Sap Bush Hollow Farm. She’s the author of two books on how to cook grass fed meat. Hayes is currently working on a book on what she calls “enlightened homemakers”, touching on the kind of societal transformation that can occur when we change the way we run our abodes.

Lastly, there’s a new online cooking school that has some mighty nice how-to videos and a free trial offer for 30 days. At Rouxbe.com we’ve learned a couple of nice tricks, our favorite being how the pros slice an onion. Very handy.

Now I’ve gotta stop blogging and make a pizza . . .

Action!

To those frustrated with national or even local politics, I say just get out there and do something. In the words of London’s guerrilla gardener and author Richard Reynolds, “The point at which I became a guerrilla gardener is when I realized that I would get a lot more accomplished by just getting out there and doing it than phoning up the council and complaining about the landscape all around me.” So skip those endless returns and watch a mini-doc of one of Reynold’s actions:

Via City Farmer News.

Vote Yes on 2 (if you’re in Cali)

Homegrown Evolution ain’t making any political endorsements regarding that little election thingy happening tomorrow, with the exception of California’s Proposition 2, a measure that would, “prohibit the cruel confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to tum around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.” Whether you are left, right, center, libertarian, carnivore, vegetarian or none of the above we think this measure is an important first step in reforming appalling and unsafe agricultural practices that have become all to prevalent since the disappearance of family farms in the 1970s.

Does Proposition 2 address the underlying problems, i.e. bloated farm bills and agricultural policies that subsidize and incentivize large scale industrial farms? Is keeping chickens in big sheds with no sunlight (“cage free” and “free range”) a good idea and will prop 2 take care of this? Sadly, no on both counts. But we’ve gotta start somewhere.

We were especially ticked off to see that University of California veterinarians, supported by our tax dollars (not to mention our past tuition dollars), have lent their support to the anti-prop 2 campaign alleging that removing animals from confinement will lead to disease outbreaks. Since these researchers get their funding from industrial agriculture, one can’t expect anything but biased, junk science. Given the funding situation, it’s also wise to view all extension service advice, even tips directed at home gardeners, with skepticism.

We’ll be voting yes on 2 and, sorry UC, you’ll never see any alumni contributions from us!

Food Fight

Homegrown Evolution readers in the Los Angeles area can catch a free screening of a new documentary by Chris Taylor called Food Fight on Saturday November 8th at 3:15 p.m. at the Mann Chinese 6 (6801 Hollywood Blvd.). Food Fight centers on the influence of Alice Waters founder of Chez Panisse, a Berkeley restaurant that pioneered the use of fresh, organically grown foods and what later came to be called “California Cuisine”. In addition to Waters, Food Fight features interviews with food pundits Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, Dan Barber and celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. Homegrown Evolution viewed a preview copy and particularly enjoyed a segment on Chez Panisse’s mercurial chef Jeremiah Tower and the quixotic attempt by congressman Ron Kind to reform the last farm bill. While the California-centric local food movement portrayed in Food Fight can easily be dismissed as an elitist lifestyle for the wealthy, (it ain’t cheap to dine at Chez Panisse, any of Puck’s eateries or shop at farmers markets) Food Fight makes the case that we all pay a hidden cost for cheap processed supermarket food, namely obesity, diabetes and a host of other nutrition related maladies.

For more information and to view a preview go to www.foodfightthedoc.com

Bisphenol-A


Above, the bisphenol-A or BPA molecule, a type of plastic found in all kinds of products including baby bottles, plastic food containers, Nalgene bottles, some wines (from the plastic stoppers and the lining of fermentation tanks) and the lining in metal cans. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it’s safe, a viewpoint contradicted by at least 100 studies. The problem: BPA is a endocrine disruptor linked to a host of problems, according to some researchers, including cancer, obesity, childhood hyperactivity and the early onset of puberty in girls.

We’ve done our best around our little urban homestead to eliminate plastics from our lives, but where we still encounter BPA is in canned foods which we like to have on hand. Next time you pop open a can take a look at the inside–odds are there is a nearly invisible clear plastic lining which is where you’ll find the BPA. So with BPA we have yet another one of those throw up your hands in disgust, anger and desperation moments at the supermarket. What to do?

Canning your own food is one good option. We started doing this last year and it’s surprisingly easy. The Ball company’s website can get you started on that project. Drying and pickling foods are other alternatives. Also, not all processed food manufactures use BPA. Eden Foods, available at health food stores, skips the BPA.

Separating industry sponsored junk science from government policy is another important, though much more difficult step. Within the means of each of us is developing our own scientific literacy as individual citizens. Read the studies, write your government representatives and fire up that hot water canning bath.

The Poultry Review June 1908

For your reading pleasure we present the June 1908 issue of the Poultry Review, in its entirety, as a downloadable pdf here (via archive.org). Download a hi-res version of the Art Nouveau styled cover suitable for framing here. We picked up this obscure periodical at the American Poultry Association meet we went to over the weekend. Highlights of this issue of the Poultry Review include an article entitled “What Does it Cost a Year to Keep a Hen?”

“What does it cost a year to keep a hen? This was the conundrum propounded to the chairman of the Committee on Agriculture at Washington a few days ago. The congressman who asked the question was in a facetious mood, and the question was greeted with ripples of laughter. But it is no laughing matter to several millions of people in the United States. It is a more important question to the poultry keeper than the cost of our army and navy, the amount of the river and harbor bill, or even the fate of our foreign dependencies.”

The article goes on to tell how the Boston Herald took up the question and offered a prize for the three best answers, a testimony to how many people kept chickens at the time.

For those tired of poultry, an ad in the back of the Poultry Review asks, “Are you Discouraged with Chickens? If so, try the Ginseng Business. It will pay you LARGER, SURER, PROFITS, requires very little land and the least amount of work of any crop grown. Sells for $6.50 to $9.00 a pound.” Sounds like the $20 a pound Goji berries I saw at Whole Foods last week.

Like many magazines and newspapers today, the line between the editorial department and the business end is a little vague. Poultry Review, in fact, seems to be a thinly disguised ad for the “Philo System of Progressive Poultry Keeping” developed by its editor as an intensive method of raising chickens.

Now, who can identify the chicken breed on the cover? Leave us some comments . . .

So Much Poultry, So Little Time





Homegrown Evolution just got back from the American Poultry Association Annual Meet at the Ventura Fairgrounds. We know nothing about show chickens and we’re too exhausted to blog coherently, so we’ll let the pictures speak for themselves with just a few observations:

-If you don’t want to bother raising chicks, a poultry show is a good place to start a flock and talk to some knowledgeable folks. There were quite a few chickens for sale at reasonable prices.

-Someone needs to put together an urban version of the 4-H club to bring urban agriculture programs to the inner city. Maybe it’s already been done, but from what I’ve been told urban 4-H clubs are all about nutrition, science fairs, and maybe training guide dogs. Kids desperately need contact with nature and animals. Let’s grow some food! But we may need to hippify the uniforms a bit . . .

-When the economy hits the skids people start thinking about keeping chickens. I spoke to the editor of the always informative Backyard Poultry Magazine about this phenomena. She said that she tries to tell people that you should keep chickens in good times and bad (amen!), but that when the economy tanks Backyard Poultry’s circulation soars. We predict Ben Bernanke will put together a coop behind the Federal Reserve.

-And speaking of big things, Jersey Giants are bigger than the national debt.

Stay tuned for some scans of the June 1908 issue of the Poultry Review that we picked up at the meet.