Saturday, March 8, 2014
Sharon Kitchens is a neo-homesteader learning the ins and outs of country living by luck and pluck and a lot of expert advice. She writes about bees for The Huffington Post and stuff she loves on her personal blog, deliciousmusings.com.
When she is not writing, she enjoys edible gardening, reading books on food and/or thinking about food, hanging out by her beehives and patiently tracking down her chickens in the woods behind her old farmhouse.
In her blog, Sharon profiles farm families, reports on farm-based education and internships, conducts Q&A's with master beekeepers, offers tips on picking a CSA, and much more.
"Wabanaki - Molly Muise, Mi'Kmaq", 2013. Image Copyright 2013 Scott Kelley, Courtesy of Dowling Walsh Gallery, Rockland, ME
In writing about Maine’s food sources I believe it is essential to look at the practices of those early Native Americans who inhabited Northern New England. In Maine there are a number of Indian tribes – we have the Wabanaki, a confederacy of Algonquin tribes, and other tribes stretching down the coast. Over the course of the next few weeks this blog will focus on the Maliseet, Micmac, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy, known collectively as the Wabanaki, "People of the Dawnland."
Helping guide this series is George Neptune, Museum Educator at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine. With Neptune’s help we will begin the Root’s Native American series with a look at oral traditions. While, as Neptune explained to me, many are fantastical in nature, he stressed the importance of understanding these stories as ways of understanding important historical events through a very specific cultural lens. According to Neptune, it cannot be said what the significance of Wabanaki stories is within Wabanaki culture, because each story has it's own significance.
Wild blueberry farmers in Washington County.
Today the House and Senate agriculture leaders announced a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on a five-year farm bill. The House is expected to vote on the 900 plus page bill Wednesday morning and the Senate could then vote on the bill as early as next week.
The overdue bill has a huge impact this country, with more than 16 million Americans working in agriculture related fields.
Hand pieced blocks for a Farmer's Wife quilt. Image by Shelby Faux, courtesy of Alewives Fabrics.
In recent years people have become fascinated with rural life. An increase in farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture has helped fuel this interest, by offering opportunities for customers to engage with the very person who grew the tomatoes and raised the chickens that laid the eggs they will serve to their family for breakfast. With more people taking an interest in how their food is grown, the idea of self-sufficiency has also begun to take hold. People want to learn how to make cheese, raise a small flock of backyard chickens, pickle and preserve fruits and vegetables, and other skills more often associated with a 19th-century farmer than a 21st-century urban dweller.
Helping to propel one’s dream of being a “hobby farmer” is the digital world and sites like Flickr and Pinterest, where thousands of beautiful and inspiring images are shared daily.
Pizza cooking in Pat Manley's masonry oven at his home.
There are a number of reasons why people still opt for the centuries-old practice of cooking with fire over using a conventional stove - the process is more interesting, you can experiment with flavor by using different kinds of wood, and the results can be absolutely delicious. During the winter, it is also pretty darn nice to stand next to a wood-fired oven.
But for stonemason Pat Manley, who lives in Washington in a house he built out of salvaged wood and materials and contains an impressive masonry heater that has a bake oven built into it, cooking with fire is quite simply a pyromaniacs delight. For three decades he has built wood-fired pizza and bread ovens, amassing an admirable list of Maine clients including Black Crow Bakery in Litchfield and Cafe Miranda in Rockland. Manley has also built ovens for Matchbox in Washington, D.C.; Loaf in Durham, North Carolina; Spread Bagelry in Philadelphia; and Fitzpatrick Winery and Lodge in Fair Play, California.
The past few days of mild weather have been a reprieve from the blast of frigid Arctic air that took hold of Maine earlier this month. They have me dog-earring pages in my pile of 2014 seed catalogs, observing my beehives for signs of life, opening up the doors of the barn on the sunniest days, and driving down back roads visiting farms. While I realize how important it is for the cold to return, I am deeply grateful for these warm stretches we seem to get in Maine in mid-January.
Frostbite in Backyard Chickens
Since I got chickens, I’ve been looking at weather in completely different way. This is especially true during the winter when I’ll admit to obsessing just a bit about how protected my girls are from the cold. After the chilliest night we had a week or so ago, one chicken developed a mild case of frostbite on her comb. This is not uncommon on chickens with large combs and in her case does not require treatment – in fact I’m pretty sure she doesn’t even know it’s there. For information on prevention and treatment of frostbite in your backyard chicken flock check out this insightful piece from the Chicken Chick here. For information on proper shelter and tips on keeping water from freezing see this recent post I did with tips on keeping chickens thru the winter.