30 August 2010

chickens are the gateway drug

This morning I was rudely woken up hours before I usually choose to stir from the lair of warmth and comfort that is my bed. In my hazy dream-state, I initially thought I was hearing the insanely loud buzzing of a GIANT tattoo needle (I think my dream also involved parachuting... what was I dreaming?!) but the sound was actually an energetic weedwacker. Followed an hour later by a lawnmower. Which reminded me our building has a lawn to the east side. And completely disused flowerbeds out front. And a roof that is flat and that I have no idea how to get onto. I am thinking these things because I always have visions of gardening and beekeeping floating underneath the surface of my everyday thoughts and concerns AND I just finished Farm City by Novella Carpenter. Farm City chronicles some of the author's adventures, innovations and insanities with urban farming in Oakland, California. Better yet, in a ghetto in Oakland, California. She eventually names her farm GhostTown farm (or GT Farm).

I want bees but I can't get on the roof, I want laying hens but the yard is not mine, nor is it fenced or protected from raccoons and I want a garden of my own so I can stop envying the community gardens across the street. Apparently once you have an urban farm, it is really the chickens that get you in farther than you knew you wanted to go. Once you have laying hens, meat birds are just a mail-order away. Also, did you know that it is common in Europe to have backyard rabbits (intended for the pan) and rabbit raising always pops up during recessions/depressions because they multiple so damn fast. Yum. Pigs though, pigs are massive and stinky. I would need a real farm for that.

Some excerpts, chosen for no particular reason:

Except in the case of a murder, the Oakland police rarely got involved. In this laissez-faire environment, I would discover as I spent more time in GhostTown, anything went. Spanish-speaking soccer players hosted ad hoc tournaments in the abandoned playfield. Teenagers sold bags of marijuana on the corners. The Buddhist monks made enormous vats of rice on the city sidewalk. Bill eventually began to convert our friends' cars to run on vegetable oil. And I started squatting on land I didn't own.

Harold and Maude commonly took afternoon strolls down Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Though this is a regular thoroughfare for drug dealers, sex workers and homeless men, the sight of two turkeys strutting down MLK nearly caused car accidents.

Now we were going to Chinatown twice a week to load up on rabbit and chicken food. A few late-night stragglers on Webster Street regarded us - two fairly clean white people wearing headlamps and stuffing leafy greens into a bucket - with curiosity. A man approached me and handed me an empty Coca-Cola can. I shook my head at him and resumed sorting through the apples, trying to find unbruised ones for the rabbits.

After eating lunch, I made plans to go to Willow's garden to harvest lettuce for some former Black Panthers.

Quotes from Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter. New York: Penguin Books, 2009.
Images from Google Images.

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