Sunday, February 28, 2010

BBC: Belgium Gives Free Chickens to Cut Household Waste

The caption to this photo in the news story says "The scheme seeks to promote new ideas for waste management." The idea of hens involved in a "scheme" just cracks me up. However, I think the folks in Belgium are onto something.

The town of Mouscron is giving away 50 pairs of chickens to promote alternative methods of waste management. I know that right now Denver (and some other cities in the area) aren't particularly chicken-friendly. However, with a city-wide composting program in the works, could city-wide-hen-promotion really be that far behind?

Click here to read the article -- it's a short one.

Friday, February 26, 2010

NYT: Field Report - Plow Shares

I absolutely LOVE this article. It's such a win-win... the farmers get much-needed help, and the volunteers make a meaningful contribution to their local food system while getting exercise, building community, and learning.

Last year we benefited from the power of community work in everything we did with Heirloom Gardens. It was incredible to experience the way that 6 people (or 15 people!) could complete a task that would have taken me days or weeks to accomplish alone. We're able to giving our working members a share of the harvest as a thank you for what they contribute, and the volunteers experience the joy of participating in a community local food system (and also a discount at the farmers' market!).

Click here to read the New York Times article about "Crop Mobbing."

Portrait of Dasha

Drawing by Jenna Porter.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"So You (Don't Particularly) Want to Be a Farmer"

This article was sent to me by my friend Everett, and it is one of the best things I've read in a long time. I dedicate this posting to my wonderful husband Brian, who never dreamed in a million years that he'd regularly spend his day off walking the goats with his wife.

"This (article) is not for my readers who have enthusiastically embraced the agrarian lifestyle... This post is for your loved ones... the people who have tied their lives to yours, and who are now wondering what has happened to their yoked partner? In some cases, they may be wondering whether to unhitch and run in the opposite direction, since their beloved child/partner/sibling/best friend/whatever has gone completely 'round the bend and is talking about farms."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Join Us for a Sustainability Talkback!

Tuesday, March 9th
6:00 - 8:00
La Crema Cafeteria (formerly Cafe Cafe)
just east of the intersection of 44th & Zuni
Contact: Sundari Kraft

As I discussed in a previous post, Denver's City Council has a tremendous impact on the laws that govern our city. The newly vacant seat in District 1 has created an opportunity for all Denver residents to affect the direction of our City Council.

Susan Shepherd is one of the candidates running for the vacant seat, in a special election that is taking place within the next few weeks. Susan has a deep interest in sustainability issues and has pledged to make urban sustainability one of the platforms of her campaign.

Our talkback event will begin with a brief introduction by Susan, where she will outline her ideas for championing sustainable/green initiatives. After the introduction, you will have the opportunity to ask questions and/or make statements regarding the changes you would like to see the City Council support. Your input will help shape the issues Susan will pursue when she is elected to City Council. Please participate even if you don't live in District 1 --- the decisions that City Council make will impact the entire city.

Susan Shepherd is a candidate for Denver City Council District 1. This Mom, urban farmer and community organizer knows what it takes to cultivate a vibrant, healthy community. From strong schools and safe streets to local, independent businesses and sustainable food systems, Susan is committed to growing a resilient Northwest Denver through responsive, progressive political action. We live here, we play here, we are all in this together. In the weeks leading up to the special election, it is Susan's goal to earn your confidence and support as the best choice to represent our neighborhood on the Denver City Council.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Let Them Eat Cake"

The cause of urban Food-Producing Animal (FPA) ownership took a hit last week, when the Greeley City Council voted down a proposed ordinance on a 3-3 vote. It was an incredibly disappointing result after lots of work by the people on the advisory council that created the proposed ordinance. For more information about the Council meeting, you can read this article in the Greeley Tribune.

There are many, many reasons to raise FPAs. There are health benefits, food safety and security benefits, and environmental benefits. However, it's often the economic benefits that hit closest to home right now.

The economic argument was articulated wonderfully by Ed Phillipsen, a former Greeley City Councilperson. My favorite part is where he points out the economic insensitivity of the "why don't you just move to the city?" argument, by saying:

...this ordinance was doomed when Mayor Norton publicly questioned why people who want to grow eggs don't just “move to the country.” A solution only possible for the affluent and not unlike the comment of Marie Antoinette who remarked, when informed that the people had no bread to eat, “Well then, let them eat cake.”

Thursday, February 18, 2010

New York Times: Backyard Aquaponics

Is it really possible to create a closed-loop system that grows vegetables, fish, and fits neatly in your yard? In addition to the commercial-scale aquaponics operations happening all over the country (in places like Milwaukee's Growing Power and our local Feed Denver) there are lots of backyard gardeners that are making use of this system of growing.

Aquaponics uses 80-90% less water than traditional gardening, and grows the plants in a symbiotic relationship with fish, such as tilapia. The fish provide nutrients through their waste, which then nourishes the plants. Families can enjoy not only year-round produce, but healthy protein as well.

"There a 'Beyond Thunderdome' quality to Rob Torcellini's greenhouse. The 10-by-12 foot structure is undistinguishable on the outside: he built it from a $700 kit, alongside his families Victorian-style farmhouse in Eastford, Conn., a former farming town 35 miles east of Hartford. What's going on inside, however, is either a glimpse at the future of food growing or a very strange hobby -- possibly both..."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Westword: Everybody Must Get Zoned

Westword's Kenny Be recently tackled the topic of our city's zoning code rewrite. Leave it to Kenny to find the humor in this cumbersome, extremely drawn-out process.

Kenny's depiction of the front yard farm is inspiring, to be sure. Just one catch --- although the new zoning code does explicitly allow front yard gardens, it does not allow residents to sell produce from their homes (produce can only be sold at a place that's zoned for business).

The Dirty Dozen

In a perfect world, everything we ate would be organically produced. But in reality, sometimes we have to make choices. Not all produce items deal with pesticides and chemicals in the same way. Some soak the toxins in, and others make it to harvest relatively unscathed.

Researchers at the Environmental Working Group developed a list of "The Dirty Dozen" fruits and vegetables. They recommend that you always buy these items organic when possible, because their conventionally grown counterparts are laden with pesticides.

The "Clean Fifteen" is a list of produce items that contain relatively less pesticides when grown conventionally, so you can feel safe purchasing these when organic items aren't available.

(Apparently there's a Dirty Dozen iPhone app, so you can always have the list with you.)

For more interesting thoughts on food choices, check out this list of The 7 Foods Experts Won't Eat.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Photos: Backyard Chicken Keeping Class

We had our first joint Heirloom Gardens/Denver Botanic Gardens backyard chicken keeping class a couple of weeks ago, attended by a wonderful group of future hen-raisers. Some of the class was spent inside with a presentation that included discussions on choosing the right chicken, chick care, adult hen management, predators/disease, coops, egg info, and lots more.

We did get to take a couple of "chicken breaks" where we went outside for some hands-on time with the chickens and a chance to inspect their coop and laying nests.

Thyme is the easiest to catch, and therefore takes part in lots of chicken demos.

Peaberry stopping by to say "hi."

The fancy "two chicken" hold! Perfected while trying to wrangle chickens into their coop during a snowstorm...

Checking out the coop. Dasha and Peaberry can't quite figure what all the fuss is about.

Democracy Now: Michael Pollan on "Food Rules"

A wonderful, in-depth interview with Michael Pollan on his new book, "Food Rules." Michael says that he created this book as a way to provide simple guidelines for eating. Some of my favorites are "Don't eat cereal that changes the color of the milk," "Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food," and "Don't eat anything that contains ingredients not pronounceable by a third grader."

The video also contains a little trailer from "Food, Inc." - always nice to see.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Why You Should Care About the Vacant City Council Seat

Northwest Denver's City Councilman Rick Garcia (District 1) is stepping down, creating a vacancy on the 13-member council. Although national politics always makes the news, it's the City Council that decides a whole host of issues that directly affect Denver residents -- including how you're allowed to utilize the little piece of land on which you live.

We've seen this strikingly in the recent massive rewrite of the city's zoning code. And - most importantly to me - it is City Council that will decide, likely within the next few months, whether to revise our current laws regarding Food-Producing Animals (FPAs). The council will also decide on a host of other sustainability issues, which will be proposed as part of a comprehensive Sustainability Amendment to the new zoning code.

In order to pass a new sensible, fair ordinance for the keeping of FPAs, we need at least 7 of the 13 council members to support it. So, this vacant seat is very important. There are a number of people - including Susan Shepherd, Jerry Frangas, and Paula Sandoval - that are reportedly considering running for the vacancy.

Once the field of candidates is established, Sustainable Food Denver will ask each person running to answer a few questions related to sustainable living issues in an urban setting (which inevitably comes down to property rights). Please stay tuned as we monitor this situation, because our City Council - for better or worse - has a lot of influence over how we are allowed to live, feed our family, and take care of ourselves.

If you have a sustainability question (as it relates to local public policy) that you would like your future councilperson to answer, please email it to

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Photos: Cooking Classes

Our first month of cooking classes has been a tremendous amount of fun! My co-chefs and I worked together to prepare some really lovely meals.

The photos below are from one of our January Simple Indian cooking classes. Over the next two months we'll be offering the Indian class again, along with Seasonal Soups and Breads and Simple from Scratch. Please contact Heirloom Gardens if you have any questions about the cooking classes or would like to attend!

My thanks to Brian for taking the pictures, and to Camille, Jenn, Derec, and Dave for allowing him to photograph during class.

Adding fresh lemon juice to the milk to make paneer.

Mincing the ginger.

You know what they say about a watched pot...

Onions for the veggie curry.

Starting the dal...

...with winter squash.

Toasting the cumin and coriander seeds for the dal.

Chopping the anaheim (with lots of help from the on-lookers).

Dal spices.

Crushing the toasted seeds.

Slicing the paneer (homemade cheese).

Sauteing the paneer.

Coconut curry roasted vegetables.

Naan bread with fennel seed.

Saag (spicy creamed spinach) with homemade paneer.

Our feast - dal, naan, saag paneer and curry vegetables (with rice pudding for dessert).

Enjoying the fruits of our labor!

Food and friends...