Saturday, March 19, 2011

Soil Sampling in Wichita: This Sounds So Interesting!!

  The Hobbit's Garden at the Wichita Garden Show
 Photo Taken From The Demo Garden Blog

Wondering how good your soil is for gardening this year?  Chris and I have never had ours tested, and really don't know much about soil, so I am totally excited about the next Wichita Organic Garden Club meeting. 

Next Tuesday, Rebecca McMahon, Sedgwick County Extension Agent for Horticulture, will be discussing soils.  She is asking each person to bring one cup of garden soil to the lecture in a clear glass quart-sized jar with a tight fitting lid.  She will lead a hands-on evaluation of your soil sample.  You may be amazed at what you learn about your soil with some very simple techniques.

Rebecca is someone I highly respect, with a ton of knowledge about gardening and growing techniques.  She designed the "Hobbit" Garden for this year's Wichita Garden Show and worked with the Master Gardeners to make it a reality, resulting in two major awards.

The meeting will be at Botanica on March 22, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.  As always, admission to Botanica is free for meeting attendees, and monthly meetings are open to the public.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Locavore Symposium at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains - March 19th

Have you heard about the Locavores on the Prairie Symposium?  Had I known this would be happening on March 19th, I would have planned the birth of my baby at a time other than mid-March!  (Ok, maybe not, but I'd love to attend this program.)

The Locavores on the Prairie Symposium is a day of presentations about eating locally in our area.  I find it incredibly interesting that throughout the day, the presentations are "generally ordered in the amount of energy that product requires for our consumption."  How creative!  There will be food samples and a local foods lunch made by a gourmet chef.  If you attend, raffles for local foods gift baskets will give you a chance to take home some locally produced items.

For more information and a schedule of topics, check out the Locavores on the Prairie Symposium website.

Friday, March 4, 2011

It's Chicken Time!

Destination:  Fresh Eggs

Recently I asked Chris for a word to describe us raising our baby chicks in a Chick-fil-A box, I expected something similar to "ironic."  He replied, "predestination." Oh  my!

When we began producing more of our own food, I finally connected why baby chicks are such a popular decoration at Easter.  Until then, I thought they were a cute part of the season, like Santa.  Now I know they show up this time of year because it's time to raise them if you want fresh eggs before the summer is over!  Trust me, they're easy, and they produce protein that is much more colorful than traditional store-bought eggs.

It's baby chick time!  Chris and I got four chicks last weekend from Atwood's in Andover.  (They're also available at Tractor Supply Company.)  Keeping chicks, and chickens, is actually surprisingly easy -  if they weren't there's no way I'd have them with a baby due in 11 days.  There's a ton of info online about how to raise them, here's one quick guide, and a simple Google search will provide about everything you need to know.   Even so, let me share a few things we learned through our first experience last year: 

1.  When you pick them out, watch them for a few minutes to learn their personalities.  I thought a chicken was a chicken, until Chris went to the store alone last year to bring home our third chick.  He chose the one who ran across the tub and jumped on all the others.  Turns out this chick was just as tough and comical when it became a full grown chicken.

2.  They learn to respond when you call, much like cats, "Here kitty, kitty, kitty."  When I dug up a grub while gardening, I'd yell, "Here chicken, chicken, chicken," and they would barrel toward me, knowing they were about to get something tasty.

3.  Spend time with them when they're young if you want to be able to catch them when they are older.  Last year, when we knew we would be gone after sunset, we would put the ladies in their coop.  Unfortunately, we didn't spend enough time holding our chicks when they were young, so every time we wanted them in the coop before sunset, we had to chase them around the back yard to catch them.  This year we're *trying* to create tamer chickens, a task that would be much easier if we had children who enjoy cuddling the little girls.

4.  They get ugly fast.  To the left is a pic of the chicks a day after we got them, fuzzy and cute with only a few wing feathers.  The pic at the top is of them less than a week later.  They've already gotten a lot more feathers, and while they're still cute, soon they'll have feathers sticking randomly up off their heads and bodies.  So, enjoy them when you first get 'em.  But, cuteness isn't the point now, is it.

5.  They're just chickens.  Trust me, learn from my experience and don't get attached.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Community Supported Agriculture - Opportunities around Wichita

Both produce & meat are available in CSA subscriptions locally this year!

My last post introduced the concept of Community Supported Agriculture, or a CSA.  CSA's are a great way for a community to support a local farmer, and for that farmer to provide regularly for the community who supports them.  While there are areas in Kansas who have abundant CSA opportunities, ours is one where I hope to see growth in the future.  Below are the great CSA opportunities in our area that I know about, and details about each one (they're all different).  Know of others in the area?  Contact me so I can share with community members who are interested.  Help me support local food & our local farmers!

  • Schenker Family Farms Wichita CSA:  This is a new meat CSA this year provided by a farm that is Certified Naturally Grown and Animal Welfare Approved.  Talk about options!  You can choose the type of share you would like (full share, 3/4 share, 1/2 share or 1/4 share).  You also have a choice about the product:  would you like beef only, pork only, beef and pork, or beef, pork and lamb?  It's up to you.  You can also add on poultry or gill packs to your CSA subscription if you're in the mood for grillin' out.  Interested in learning more?  Email or call them directly at 620-632-4470.
  • Home Grown Kansas CSA Subscription Program:  When you sign up to support Home Grown Kansas, you'll receive an average of 10 lbs. per week of herbs, fruits and vegetables throughout the season (The mid-summer and early fall bags are over 10 lbs., the spring and early summer ones are lighter).  A new addition to their CSA subscription this year is eggs, which they hope to include periodically as they become available. Included with your weekly subscription are updates about the farm and suggestions for use of the produce included in that week's allotment.  What a great way to be connected to the grower!  Interested?  Learn more here.
  • Morning Harvest Farms CSA (Newton area):  The Morning Harvest Farms CSA appears to be very flexible and has three interesting differences from other CSA opportunities I've seen previously.  First, you select the products, second there is no end to the season (although, at parts of the season eggs are the only option) and third, you determine how often you receive a box and if it's delivered or picked up at the farm. learn more click here
This season, whether you join a CSA to support local farmers, shop at the farmers' market, or grow your own veggies, choose as much fresh, locally grown foods as you can.  I know we will!