GROW O'ahu

Island Style Gardening and Plant-Based Living


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Am I becoming the crazy chicken lady?

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Our 2 year old hens, Rosie & Red, working hard to reduce Chinese Beetle population. I put nursery pots over the small plants to keep them from beaks of fury. And we have some new arrivals! Five new chicks from the same hatchery: all pullets and vaccinated. Now for a bigger coop….and more laying boxes for those gorgeous organic brown eggs!


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Even Hens Have a Signature Look

Many of us have that one friend- who no matter what the event, will show up looking stunning.  Many times it’s the same dress or top, perhaps accessorized a bit differently, but it’s their “look.”  Maybe Bohemian or casual beach or the classic all-black.

Rosie and Red have their own signature looks.  They are identical in breed, a cross between Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns, but as is common for chicken people to talk about, they are unique individuals.

Red is giving me the look.

Red, is the plumper of the two ladies, though you can’t really tell this until you pick her up.  She is slightly darker in color and has one black tail feather.  She exudes more confidence than Rosie and has shown that she can and will peck at you if you bother her.  She lays nice round, perfectly brown eggs.  And she lays one every day.

A contrast between Rosie’s taller variety and Red’s short and stout eggs. Those long skinny ones don’t fit in regular cartons very well!

Rosie, is slightly smaller.  She’s a little more high-strung, her pitch is higher in tone and her coloring is a wee bit lighter.  She lays long skinny eggs, and doesn’t do it every day; about 5 times a week though.  Also, her eggs often have white speckles on them and sometimes “dimples” appear in the texture of the shell, as shown below.

White speckles are nothing to worry about, according to the author. It is typically a glitch in the hens’ own system

All of this, variation, color and size is normal.  “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens” by Gail Damerow is one of the most highly rated chicken books out there.  It is very complete, and I can’t imagine needing another book.  She explains that the speckling of white is a “glitch in the hen’s own quality control system” and that the dimpling occurs if something interrupts the shell-hardening process. (Like perhaps a sudden stress, I wonder? Like the dogs barking too close to the laying box?)  It is nothing to fret about.

I say all of this because one of the primary reasons for the Green Box Garden (and assorted other projects) is to more firmly connect us to our food.  What we nourish our bodies with shouldn’t just be a simple commodity traded for cash in the way plastic, wood or metal goods are.  Inanimate objects are not the same as living things such as the plants we grow and eat- and the hens we love.  And we do love them.  They are pets, who have a natural instinct to lay eggs.  Hens will lay eggs whether a person is around to gather them or not.  And simply noticing all the subtle variations and how climate effects their mood and taking care of their needs places us closer to the food they give us that is full of protein and omega-3s.

And we don’t eat eggs from other hens.  We are snobs like that, because we don’t know what their signature look is, and whether it would go with what we are wearing.

Which one is Red? One black tail feather 🙂


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Reality Check

The Green Box Garden Girl got a serious dose of farming reality this week.  I’ve been investigating the market and potential for free range organic chicken eggs, raised in a rotational pasture system with organic veggies.  Sounds awesome, right?  I’m not afraid of hard work, and have the awesome support of my nearest and dearest friends and family. I have spent hours pouring over grant and funding requirements, and talking with mentors, farm advocates and friends.  Everyone is on board. I even have an appointment to talk with an agriculture business coach.

So what’s the hold up?

Land.  It’s gets complicated.

In 1848, the “mahele” occurred.  It is a long, complicated story of how land in Hawaii became privatized.  It’s not a nice story.  It involves much collusion, manipulation and in the end, the Hawaiian Ali’i (royalty) agreed to privatize the once communally held lands of all of Hawaii nei.  As you can imagine, corporations (such as those involved in sugarcane and whaling) of the time were heavily involved.  This story, should you want to know the complexities and truly understand Hawaii history, is documented in Native Land and Foreign Desires by Lilikala Kame’eleihiwa.

Oahu land divisions, ahuapuaa, prior to privatization. These sects were managed communally.

 

From Natural Hawaii.com:

The Great Mahele of 1848 changed Hawaiian concepts of land ownership, for the first time allowing land to become a commodity that could be bought and sold.

Few Hawaiians carried through with the paperwork and in 1850 land purchases were opened to foreigners. The Westerners jumped at the opportunity and before the native islanders could clearly grasp the concept of private land ownership there was little land left to own.

Many Hawaiians couldn’t read English, in fact written Hawaiian was still new-ish.  And as Kame’eleihiwa points out in her book, “mahele” in translated in English to “divide” as in to break into pieces and separate. But another meaning for the word is to “share” the way you would break a cookie and share with friends. Could this all have happened because meaning was lost in translation? She ponders if the ali’i of the time really meant to sell it off to all the foreigners- probably not.

This is the nutshell of why land is so expensive in Hawaii.  There is a limited amount, owned by very few, and our modern day ag land economy has been greatly influenced by the presence of corporations like Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta, who can afford to pay thousands of dollars per acre to grow GMO seed corn, which then gets exported to the rest of the world.  Small farmers have a very tough time.  Which is why, even though we have a year round growing season, 85% of our food comes from somewhere else.  The Hawaii Independent did a short but good article last year on the challenges of farming here.

Realistically, I can’t afford the land lease to raise egg laying chickens.  It’s just not possible.  That’s not even figuring the feed costs, and at $30 for a 50 pound bag, it is clear that if it were feasible, someone else would have done it already. Other challenges are zoning regulations, and not being able to live where you farm.  Strict separations are set up.

Upon some serious reflection, I don’t know that ever owning land here would sit well with me, knowing what I know about how it all came about- and if we could ever afford it anyway!  There are hundreds of homeless Hawaiians in their own lands.  I’m a foreigner- one that is happy to contribute to my community and be a good neighbor- but still a foreigner.  There’s a certain amount of respect and consciousness I feel I must have about all this.

But all is not lost, friends.  I’m a pretty creative gal and don’t give up easily.  There are other ways to hatch an egg, grow a garden and contribute to local food stability and resilience.  And it might be more fun and rewarding than the first plan.  Stay tuned. I’m cookin’ up a plan.

 

 


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Frittata v. Zombies

If the zombies come, we won’t starve.

Because for the first time ever, I made a complete meal from our own backyard.

Ha. Take that, Creepy Green Eyes!

I feel confident about many other things in life- but writing a letter to zombies or challenging them to a spelling bee is not going work.  One needs a bit more practical skills when dealing with this level of gruesomeness. If you don’t believe me, you should check the Centers for Disease Control Zombie Blog for more tips on how to survive their impending attack.

A few months ago if I were driving home from work and I knew that I hadn’t been to the grocery store in three weeks, I would have been having a mild panic attack.

“Ugh! What am I going to make for dinner! We have nothing in the house. Maybe I should stop and pick up some stuff…”

Or worse, “Maybe I should stop and get pizza.”

But what if there were no pizza? Or what if there was no food at the store? What if the zombies ate it all? Or what if our little island had some kind of natural disaster that prevented the 85% of food from getting here?

But I’ve changed.  I’ve changed because our yard has changed.  It is no longer just a place to throw a ball and let the dogs run around.  It has become a small little site of production.

I feel a small but significant confidence growing in me.  By going through trial and error, bug infestation, end rot on tomatoes, rodent problems and leggy seedlings- learning how to feed ourselves is one of the most interesting journeys I’ve ever taken.  It could be the most radical too- my little resistance to the System, in the form of frittata.  And I heard that zombies don’t like frittata.

My recipe for one of the most amazingly yummy frittatas ever:

Bunch of Swiss chard

Large cut handful of arugula

Herbs: marjoram, thyme, basil, oregano

Green onions

Tomatoes

4-5 fresh brown eggs from the lovely ladies, Rosie & Red

Wash, chop and saute the greens in a skillet.

Mix the eggs with chopped herbs.

Pour over the sauteed greens and let it cook slowly.

Flip it over onto a plate, top with green onions and fresh tomatoes and almost fool the preschooler into thinking you stopped for pizza.

Serve with salad and some fresh mango. (Mango post to come later, but I’ve started guerrilla-hunting this fruit as we no longer have a tree.)

Eating our way to zombie apocalypse-preparedness.  This I can do.


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Easy Italian-Style Egg Scramble

 

Happy Easter everyone! How better to celebrate the Spring, life anew and all that great stuff than with fresh eggs from the backyard, fresh spinach, basil and garden tomatoes?

(Shout out to our hens, Rosie and Red, who this brunch was made possible by!)

We took part in a great potluck early Easter brunch, with lots of kids, and kids at heart! The food was good, the laughter plenty and no serious sugar-induced comas were had. Limiting the candy, but upping the fruit and protein meant that the kids were still in good moods until after 1pm! Smart Mommies, Daddies & Aunties.  Here I share with you some of our easy, casual fare. And of course, serve with rice. Enjoy.

Make it for a crowd:

9-12 eggs, whisked thoroughly

1 large onion (Maui! Yum) finely chopped

At least a cup of chopped fresh spinach

1/2 cup chopped basil

1/2 cup Romano or Parmesan cheese

Saute a little oil in a skillet, cook the onion until translucent.

Throw in the spinach, cook for a few minutes.

Turn heat down to medium and pour in eggs.  Stir continuously until eggs are cooked.

Add basil and cheese last- then turn off heat and let it rest in the skillet.

Pour into a serving dish, garnish with tomatoes and basil.

(Serve fresh diced tomatoes on the side as tomatoes on eggs are not everyone’s thing.)

And for the sweet part of brunch, pair up those savory eggs  with some fruit salad and strawberry pancakes! (or guava or banana…yum)

Happy Brunching-Egg-Hunting!


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Chicken Chronicles

Our city says we can have only two chickens on our property, which is what we have. Though I’m almost certain if we had a whole flock no one would say a thing. It’s just that kind of place.

From these two hard working hens (Rosie and Red) we get about 14 eggs a week.  That’s a lot- and unless I do a massive baking rampage, we typically have a hard time eating them all.

Enter the Barter System.  What can you trade for eggs?  Lots of things, it turns out! With the cost of food so high where we live, a carton of brown organic eggs will run between $6-7 at the supermarket. We have recently traded eggs for: fresh papaya, kale, avocado and poly-barrels to make our rain water catchment system. Typically the barrels would have cost about $25 each, but we traded eggs plus $10 for each. Our Barrel Supplier Guy couldn’t wait to go make an omelet.

As the Green Box Garden grows, the vegetable scraps that we are tossing to our little hens will be made into great garden soil.  I’ve already scooped out a bunch of bedding and tossed it with compost in our previous gardens.  Perhaps we should re-name the ladies: Currency and Compost.

So here’s to you, Miss Rosie and Red.  Thanks for all the eggs, and keep up the good work.