Tag Archives: Chickens

City Chick Chick

By Kate

I spend a lot of time with a crown of bright blue plumage on my head.

pittsburgh samba group pittsburgh dance center

Dancing with the Pittsburgh Samba group has given me the opportunity to wear these feathers performing at the Carnegie Music Hall, the spectacular Point State Park Fountain, and the rollercoasters at Kennywood. Let’s face it. I’m a girl who has always wanted to wear a two and a half foot high feather crown in public as often as possible, and every time I put that costume on I am grateful I live in Pittsburgh. Not only is Pittsburgh stunningly beautiful, it’s full of interesting people from all over the world who are teaching samba, learning aerial silks, composing music, designing robots, and raising chickens.

Oh, chickens. I may wear golden heels and a feather crown, but at heart I am still a barefoot country girl. Last weekend a big truck pulled up in my driveway to deliver a little chicken coop and three chickens to my backyard.

city chickens coop design pittsburgh

Due to a recent change in Pittsburgh’s Urban Agriculture Code, residents on a 2000 square foot lot are allowed to keep up to 3 chickens. This change in ordinance has allowed me to feel truly at home here in the heart of the city, minutes from downtown. We moved into this house in part because of the generous (for a city!) backyard, which allows me to grow giant sunflowers…

sunflowers in the city

and tiny strawberries, a variety that bears from spring through fall to the delight of my three year old.

strawberry picking

It is important to me that my children run barefoot, hunt for berries, experience both the wildness and inherent in the natural world. There is a fence in my backyard, but there is a lush profusion of blossoming spearmint growing against it.

spearmint and bee, city chickens urban agriculture

There are bees pollinating on a daily basis. There is room, in this small space, for these small kids, to live like farm kids.

urban agriculture chicken coop

Especially now that there are chickens to take care of.

chicken coop urban agriculture

We are all happy about that.

urban farming

More about the blue feathers, you say? See my posts on dancing here:

Fine Feathers at Carnegie Hall

Finding Balance

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Wedding Work

by Kate

Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary. It was a beautiful wedding, but today I’m not thinking about that. What I am remembering, with longing, is the week spent with women who had flown in from all over the world to stay in a tiny 100 year old Norwegian cabin in the valley below our farm.

norskedalen cabin

A cabin full of wine and laughter was the least I could provide for those girls, who had been swept into a full scale Wisconsin ridgetop wedding. In case you’ve never been involved with one of these, let me tell you a couple things. They’re large- we had at least 250 people at our mass and the reception in the pole shed turned ballroom- and they involve lots (and lots, and lots) of work.

butcher buckets

For instance, we grew the food for the wedding. The morning of the wedding, I was in the field picking lettuce early in the morning and headed off to top strawberries before donning my bridal gown…

strawberry picking wedding morning

But before all that, we raised the chickens. Then, just after my bridesmaids arrived, we butchered them. So romantic!

bridesmaids butchering chickens

After photographing the King brothers at work butchering chickens last week, I have been thinking a lot about our bridal butchering party. Granted, it was quite a bit more chaotic than the serene process at Freedom Farms. Our knives were dull, our crew was inexperienced, and I may have been a bit out of practice myself. Still, this is still my favorite photo of my engagement ring.

chicken buchering diamond ring

The chickens were plucked and cleaned and cooled and eventually cooked and served, but in the meantime there were flowers to pick. This meant a month of picking and wrapping peonies, storing them in newspaper to save them for late June. It also meant a trip deep into Amish country…

amish country drive

where an abandoned kitchen garden ran riot, with hundreds of roses and a profusion of other blooms that needed to be gathered.

flower picking wedding

I have rarely felt as free and deeply happy as I did that morning, gathering flowers with great friends.

amish farm windmill

Back at the pole shed, there were lights and banners to hang, and ladders to climb.

pole shed wedding

It took some power washing, the remover of a rotochopper, and about 10 people working 12 hours a day…

pole shed wedding preparation

but by the night before the wedding, the pole shed looked fantastic. I think that if I could time travel, that is where I would return, with a cold beer in hand, to spend another evening with Julia, Maqui, Susannah, Lisa, Adrienne, Emily, my siblings, and the rest of the hardworking crew who made our homegrown ridgetop wedding so beautiful. It wouldn’t have happened without all of them, and I am more grateful than words can say.

mariachi pole shed

For pictures of the wedding, see this post:

Taking the Leap

Fine Feathers

by Kate

I don’t usually mind fads. In fact, I often enjoy them. Huge earrings, bright ethnic prints, flats, heels, pearls, wooden bangles- I am generally ready to jump on the bandwagon and take a ride. However, the recent feather hair extension trend has me a bit, um, fluttered.

Suddenly, they are everywhere. After seeing several people sporting tufts I realized that seeing people with tufts of feathers in their hair left me feeling a sense of deep unease. Why was that? I wondered. I like feather earrings. I love feather pillows and down comforters. No, there was something specific bothering me. And then, gazing at a beautiful girl with a white tuft in her hair, it hit me.

I don’t like feather hair extensions because they vividly remind me of chicken butchering. Between the hot water and steam and heat and blood and downy tufts of feathers everywhere, getting feathers in your hair is pretty much inevitable. Now, the free range chickens on Sweet Ridge Farm have a good life.

Even as a teenaged vegetarian, I helped my parents butcher chickens. They are healthy birds fed lots of greens and good food, cared for well and killed quickly and without cruelty. Even so, it is not a process for the faint of heart, as my amazing friends discovered when they helped butcher 100 chickens to prepare for my wedding two years ago.

Downy feathers! Just like the hair extensions! That is, they are downy until the are soaked and tossed in the plucker…

And even then, tufts of feathers remain. I have to say, it was the most beautiful butchering crew I have ever seen, though it was not our most stylish moment.

I am fairly certain that by the end of the day, we all had feathers in our hair.

What really bothers me about feather hair extensions, though, is the factory farming of exotic feathered birds. After doing some research on the issue, I discovered that the feathers popularly used for extensions were originally marketed to fly fisherman. The roosters raised for their tailfeather plumage live about a year before the feathers are harvested- a process that the bird does not survive. In many cases the rest of the bird is simply tossed out, which seems grossly wasteful to me. With the explosion of demand for feather extensions, it disturbs me to think of the possible farming practices used for production of cosmetic feathers. It reminds me again of the importance of understanding the path a product takes before it ends up in your mouth or on your body. It is important to understand where our food and our clothing and our household goods come from, so that we can make conscious decisions to support ethical farming, marketing, and labor practices.

And that is why you will never catch me with a feather in my hair- unless you happen to be around before the next wedding, on butchering day.

Sweet Ridge Spring

by Clare

Spring is finally here!

Or at least it was until it dipped by to the lower 50s. But before that could happen, our garden burst into bloom, and is now full of plum blossoms and tulips.

Photography being one of the pastimes that I enjoy, I brought out the camera and tried to convey the beauty that has thankfully come, through the lens of a camera.

I went a little off track on some of these photos and took pictures of whatever I thought was interesting, and since I thought those were pretty good too, I decided to include them.

More pictures of Wisconsin spring are still to come! Enjoy!

Red Dirt Wedding, Part Two

by Mary

At 8:30, my now Sister-In-Law Nicole, picked me up from my hotel room where I was huddled on a bed flirting with sleep after a restless night of insomnia.
Wearing a robe that read “bridesmaid” on the back, I rode with Nicole to the church and started in on getting ready for the big day with Nicole and company.

Much to my relief, my bridesmaids dress that I had lost the night before manifested, and the very kind girlfriend of my brothers friend Nick, took mercy on my horsetail like hair that had been more than a little tangled from riding around Oklahoma City in the bed of Robert’s truck the previous night. Kelly brushed it out for me while I watched Nicole transform into a” Princess Kate, you totally just got outdid” bride.  The new Mrs. Slattery exuded an aura of calm radiance. She looked so gorgeous that I gave her the helpful suggestion for future financial gain. I said that when she and Rob are broke, she can pick up extra income by becoming a bridal magazine model.
 
Look!!! She is so calm that we have no work to do. I literally have my hands in my scapular-lined pockets!
 
Getting ready for the wedding was so organized that I was able to steal off to the church to have a visit with Jesus in my cheery yellow robe. As a veteran bridesmaid, I can compare and contrast bridal stories. After this last one, I shall put it in its very own category as a VERY non-Wisconsin wedding. Don’t worry, I won’t hold you hostage by pulling up a ton of bridesmaid tales. I will just pick one for a case example. I choose Kate’s to share with you all.
 
Wisconsin weddings usually mean crazy, disorganized, excited energy. And work. Lots and lots of work. Often times I end up doing the flowers for weddings as well as cooking and baking. Trust me, I never get the time to float off into the church to pray.
 
Pictures can piece a story together can’t they? Please enjoy viewing some of these pre wedding pics from Kate’s extravaganza. Here are a few of the gals getting the reception meal ready.


Chicken Pickin Bonding
 
We have heart!

At this point, I get even more excited about flowers than normal! Making pies and doing flowers SOLO are my kind of thing!
 
Ok, I give up now, or I will end up posting way to many pictures. The moral of this little post is I am honored and humored to stand as a bridesmaid. Weather I am wearing a yellow Beauty and the Beast dress on top of a silo, or chatting it up with my Maker alone in a quiet church in my yellow robe, I love the excitement and variety of each special day, and am grateful to have such fine friends and Sisters to share life and laughter with.
 
Blessings,
mary