Our chickens Pepper and Pearl are on a roll this week, catching and eating two mice. both times they consumed it before we could snap a picture, but this image shows how puffed up with themselves they become after stalking and eating a tiny mammal. My niece is still a bit put off by the chickens, because she says they call to mind, for her, their ancient velocoraptor ancestors. It is okay though, after a pretty long dry spell during their molt, they have begun to lay again. I guess Easter is here a bit early this year.
I like to increase the protein in the chicken’s diet during the molt. I don’t know whether the feathers require more protein to form or not, but since it coincides with winter, we are boosting their fat anyway and so the two go somewhat hand in hand. We have also been enjoying more fish than usual and any skin and fat from those go to the birds as well. I half-jokingly muse over the fact that ours are probably the only chickens in the county who routinely get Lake Superior Whitefish. The last time we went to the shores of Gitchy-goomie, we brought back several dozen pounds of the good stuff.
The weather has become so far out of the ordinary that on our bonus day in February, I was out raking leaves and mulching some areas that had their protection blown off because we never got enough snow to protect the new raised beds. spring clean up came less than twenty-four hours before we got a good 6-8″ of heavy wet stuff. Within a few days, that has melted too now and we are back to impressive spring winds and warm temperatures. If there were not still ice on the river, it would feel like late March. The buds are getting full and the Maples have their early season red on, green shoots are coming, so warmer temps can’t be far off.
Growth and renewal are all around us. Even the mice have become careless. They stray out ever further from shelter than usual for a sunflower seed. Our ancient relatives called early spring the starving time because before the first harvest, all the food that was left was just that. We Westerners now have the luxury of year round availability of quality food if we are lucky enough to live in affluent neighborhoods. In our town, the poorest half of the population lives the furthest from fresh produce. If it were not for a half dozen Hispanic and Hmong stores, there would be no fresh food for miles around our central city.
being able to grab food from right where you live has become a true luxury and I will not stop extolling the virtues of growing a permaculture garden around your house. Even now, if I were willing to dig around a bit, I could find a week’s worth of groceries right out back. This time of year, I can usually dig up some carrots, leeks, sunchokes or one of several other roots. Sprouts and seeds can round out a few meals per week and dried, frozen and canned foods make the variety just that much more satisfying. Compared to what you pay for at the grocery, it tastes just as good and often gives you a more contented feeling knowing that it was by my own hand that these foods came to be.
Unlike my chickens, meals don’t usually just skitter by my home. It is with knowledge that I will want to eat again one day that I have planted the several dozen trees and bushes that keep giving me meals season after season. I don’t mind keeping them in my thoughts just as they do not mind my taking them into my yard and helping them just a little bit to flourish. So far, I have lived in this location about ten years and half of my mowed area has become growing beds. If left to my own devices, it will be another ten years before I start to run out of space. The food garden that I have started will last for generations if allowed to grow and will be able to foster such areas in other areas if a bit of time is spent dispersing it’s abundance.