Chicks, Bees, and New Beginnings: The First Day of Spring

Today is the first full day of Spring, and it’s already off to a beautiful start!

The chicks are in the mail!

The chicks are in the mail!

At 6:30 this morning, I got a call from the Blacksburg post-office, telling me that my chicks had arrived, and that I had better pick them up as possible.  Yes, the chicks were in the mail : )

Spring Sunrise!

Spring Sunrise!

When the lady handed the box to me at the post office, I had to get down on my knees and think “Thank you.”  I could hear little mysterious cheeps and tweets escaping from this magic box.  I turned up the heat in my car, and drove them back up the mountain as gently as possible up our rugged dirt road.

15 chicks traveled for 2 and half days through the US Postal Service.  Thank you USPS for calling us and for making sure they made it home safe and sound!

15 chicks traveled for 2 and half days through the US Postal Service. Thank you USPS for calling us and for making sure they made it home safe and sound!

As soon as I got home, I woke up Maureen and Timmy.  We excitedly hurried to the Octagon house to make a new home for our babies!  Maureen laid a cardboard box with paper shreds (Courtesy of the Language and Culture Institute) as I hooked up the heat lamp and chopped up fresh veggies.  Timmy cooked us a nice breakfast of fresh eggs (ironic, yes) and asparagus.

Maureen gives a chick its first drink!

Maureen gives a chick its first drink!

The chicks had been traveling in the US Postal service for the past two days.  They have never had anything to eat or drink in their lives.  Instead, they are living off nutrients from the yolk of the egg until they arrive in the mail.  We therefore needed to give them their first drink.

Tim gives a chick its first drink! We gave them water with a little diluted apple cider vinegar and fresh-pressed garlic for health.

Tim gives a chick its first drink! We gave them water with a little diluted apple cider vinegar and fresh-pressed garlic for health.

In order to help them understand the idea of drinking and eating, we acted as mother hens.  Each of us took a chick from the mailing box and gently put its beak in the water feeder until we saw it start to guzzle. We added some homemade apple cider vinegar to the water (to add electrolytes) as well as some garlic (for its antibiotic properties).

It's important to give chicks fresh chopped vegetables and wild greens from day 1, just as a mother hen would!

It’s important to give chicks fresh chopped vegetables and wild greens from day 1, just as a mother hen would!

We gave them “free choice” of unmedicated chick starter feed from Blacksburg Feed and Seed as well as fresh vegetable scraps.  As recommended by Harvey Ussery (The Martha Stewart of Chickens), its important to offer chicks fresh vegetables, grass, and dirt from day 1, just as a mother hen would.   In the long-run, chickens that forage and eat a diverse diet of living foods are healthier than those that are fed chicken feed exclusively.

Our chicks in their happy home by the wood stove!

Our chicks in their happy home by the wood stove!

Chick TV!

Maureen and I then sat around our little chicks, watching them until we needed to head off to work.  Each chick has their own personality, and I look forward to getting to know each of our girls on a deeper level.  We have 15 layer hens, all Rhode Island Reds, which are supposed to be great dual-purpose birds (as in good, for laying and for meat) that are resilient free-range foragers.

CZ Beekeeping at Gypsy Wagon Farm in Beach Lake, PA.

Today will be an exciting day, as Maureen and I will head over to a local farm to check out some old beehives.  Our bee nucs will be arriving in about a month and we’ll see what we can reuse.  We’re also hoping that if there is still a live hive there we could transport it to Crow Forest Farm.

Tom and Dennis film exploding fruit for the official Rock the Blocks Promo Video.

Tom and Dennis film exploding fruit for the official Rock the Blocks Promo Video.

This weekend,  the Rock the Blocks Music Festival will kick off in Blacksburg.  Director Dennis Chang filmed some exploding fruit at our farm last weekend.  He also let me smash some watermelons outside our barn.  Very cathartic, and I got some great fruit salad to boot!   Check out his spectacular video here:

Dennis Chang’s Amazing Promo Video for Rock The Blocks Music Festival!

I’ll be volunteering at the Rock the Blocks Music Festival main office this weekend, checking out shows when I can take a break.  Please check out some awesome local bands playing in Blacksburg, including Atoka Chase and Orbit Eyes.  Schedule is here:

 http://www.rocktheblocks.com

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Sustainable Sundays: Setting the Stage for Cultivating Community

Crow Forest Permaculture is a collective of local farmers, educators, and artists dedicated to sharing ecological wisdom in an international context.  Facilitated on an 8-acre permaculture farm in Blacksburg, VA, these workshops focus on hands-on, small-scale, and affordable environmental projects that generate agricultural abundance in a variety of urban and rural settings.  With a commitment to hands-on, collaborative, and bottom-up sustainability education, participants of all ages and backgrounds will learn how to to creatively cultivate, harvest, and share abundance in their local communities.  
JP, CZ, Chris, Caitlyn, Maureen and Adam move our IBC tote (for aquaponics!)  to our tool shed.

JP, CZ, Chris, Caitlyn, Maureen and Adam move our IBC tote (for aquaponics!) to our tool shed during our inaugural Sustainable Sunday (3/9/14).

Last Sunday, nearly 30 people met for a Crow Forest Farm meet and greet where we learned how to make lacto-fermented ginger beer and created our own potting soil.  Yesterday, a crew of 7 dedicated people gathered in the midst if chilly wintery mix to construct our “Shed Talks: barn stage from recycled materials.

Our Stage Building Crew!

Our Stage Building Crew!

Chris, Kelley and Parakh lay down our first stage frame 3/16/14.

Chris, Kelley and Parakh lay down our first stage frame 3/16/14.

Our Barn Before...

Our Barn Before…

Kelley Junco was our manager, leading the charge.  Chris Piatt developed the stage plan, and acted as lead architect for the project.  Parakh Hoon acted as a DJ, documentarian, and Jack of all trades.  Mike Heitzman double checked our math and built an awesome cold frame.  Maureen McGonagle reconstructed our fire pit, and Tim Naylor sawed wood with his man-strength.  I cooked wild mustard green soup and reminded people frequently that it was time for a hot toddy break 🙂

Our finished stage!  Shed Talks, here we come!

Our finished stage! Shed Talks, here we come!

Our hope is to welcome musicians onto our barn stage for a relaxing soirée after Rock the Blocks.  In the long-run, we plan to host teach-ins and “Shed Talks,” on a variety of topics.  My gratitude goes out to all of the generous people who are supporting our vision of creating a participatory permaculture space in Blacksburg.  Come out next Sunday to help us construct a chicken tractor!

Our finished cold frame.

Our finished cold frame.

Sustaining Peace in a United and Sovereign Ukraine

It’s a time of renewal.  I’ve lit incense by my seed starts, and have opened up the big sliding doors to let the fresh air in.  The crocuses are beginning to poke their heads out of the soft black ground.  Every morning, I hear more new birds singing their revalies.  Spring is coming!  There is hope, but also concern.

I have spoken a little bit with Ukrainian permaculture activists in Ukraine.  They are currently praying for hope.  After months of protesting and successfully removing a corrupt president, they are finding themselves under attack from outside.  Putin, with his interests in Crimea’s warm water ports and Eastern Ukraine’s natural gas reserves, has gathered 6,000 Russian troops in Crimea, claiming the supposed need to “protect ethnic Russians.”  However, there have been no confirmed reports of violence against Russians in Ukraine.  New York Times accounts of pro-Russian protests in the East have had the highest number count of 60 participants.  Compare that with the thousands protesting in the Maidan.  In essence, Putin is taking this moment of vulnerable transition in Ukraine to manufacture conflict in the East and justify a Russian land grab.   When Ukraine gained its independence in 1992, it had inherited the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world, and had a lot of understandable animosity towards Russia.

However, having survived nuclear disasters in Chernobyl, Ukraine agreed to elminate its major nuclear reserves in exchange for security assurances from the United States, Russian, and Britain in a “Trilateral Statement,” signed in 1994.   http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2011/05/trilateral-process-pifer   Ukraine is now very vulnerable to attack by its former oppressors, and most Ukrainians (Ethnically Russian and Ethnically Ukrainian alike) view Putin’s actions as horrifyingly opportunistic and evil, and could spell the demise for all they have worked and hoped for.

Here is a statement from my friend Pavlo, who is ethnically Russian but has been protesting with the Maidan since September:   “Dear Christina, I think that all of us (Ukrainians, Russians, USA) have to demonstrate their disagreement with Putin’s policy wherever they are and in whatever way is possible for them. Abroad this is first of all demonstrating in front of embassies and asking the guarantors of Ukrainian sovereignty (one of them is USA) to take appropriate actions. This situation can be resolved only in diplomatic way and on the international level. We have to be strong and united. Pavlo.”    Please email or call your representatives to support a sovereign an united Ukraine.