Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Being called to Greatness

While volunteering for a local sustainability expo for villages and townships, I found out someone in my village had brought up backyard chickens with my village.  I was surprised... really surprised. At first I was a little disappointed that it wasn't me who brought it up to the village first, but knowing myself I honestly wouldn't have. I've always been called to greatness it one way or another. People who want interviews for newspapers, once even the Rosie O'Donnell show called me, but I was hesitant.  I've never been one to bask in that lifestyle.  One slip up on my behalf, and a whole movement goes south. This includes when I did an internship for Daewoo Automotive and their launch in the USA. Newsweek called me to interview, and my lack of self confidence was probably obvious through the phone.  I even so far as told them other interns might be better to interview. Front yard gardening is something I had to consider for more than two years before I started to lift my shovel, because if I did it wrong - the whole community might pass an ordinance against it.  Maybe it's just in my nature.  However, I've decided within the last year that it's about time I stop denying the "calls to greatness", and start living life this is the only life I'm going to live. LOL

I was soon overcome with the realization that I would have to join forces with whomever it was and help them on their way!  WAIT! WHOMEVER YOU ARE!!! THERE IS SUPPORT IN THE COMMUNITY!!!  I recalled back to all the other towns I've watched.  I've waited, and seen some succeed and some fail...  In all the ones that failed, the advocate may have pushed too hard.

I kept in contact with the Village Assistant Administrator Michael Flynn, and he told me what date and time the next village meeting was, and advice:

 " Send the Mayor and Board a letter supporting the allowance of chickens on residential property, explaining why you feel this is a good idea and would not be disruptive to the neighborhood.  Also include any specific comments to the proposed regulations.  This will give them advance notice that there is support for this idea.  Then come to the meeting on Monday,  June 11th and comment in person.  It is always more effective if the Board sees and hears a well-spoken advocate explain their position. "

I Posted in Backyard Chicken facebook pages, and an online community at backyardchickens.com in addition to making a public facebook event: 

I typed up a little ditty and had my friend Tony revise it with me, so it could clearly state a THANK YOU to the village for considering it, and why the village should allow it, pros, cons, etc.    I even worked a little with the sustainable city planning consultant the village hired. To my surprise, she already had proposed wording for backyard chickens and beehives in my village.   ....TOOOOOOO FREAKIN COOL.

A few of my friend showed up with me that night wearing our chicken campaign sticker, and I went up to the mic trembling:
not the most flattering image of me, LOL but I'll take it!
 Here's the wording I used in my letter which I gave a copy to all Village board members present:
(btw the lady in the background was possibly my fave)

Monday, June 11, 2012

To my village representatives:

Hi, my name is Holly Kim. I'm the Marketing Manager at the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Healthcare, and a mom of three. I’m here to encourage you for considering Backyard Chickens.

Since I've moved to Mundelein, several friends have also moved here. We love it… it's quiet, and safe. There are outstanding bakeries, delicious restaurants, award winning pizza, and a buzzing farmer's market that started last spring (btw Aurelia Spicuzza deserves kudos for her excellent job of rounding up volunteers). We’ve also noticed a brewery opened up here, and they just held a beer tasting last weekend. Yes, Vernon hills may have a bunch of malls and chain restaurants, but we notice and prefer the authenticity and care of ma and pa stores. As the downtown is being built, Mundelein can be known as a nexus of independent bakeries and restaurants. What a draw to join the community in Mundelein!

Well, anyway…You're at a convergence of time where you're about to make zoning changes that will affect the future of people living in, and moving to Mundelein. Back Yard Chicken enthusiasts and their supporters are a group of people, including families who are intelligent, eco conscious, financially responsible, have pride in home ownership, and love for community and neighbors. Just within the last year, my friends and I have thrown a chili cook-off where a portion of proceeds go to scholarships for the area high school seniors. We’ve held a bicycle safety day free to the community through the volunteer group, the Jaycees. We’ve even helped out at the Loch Lomond fishing derby. You’ve seen our faces. We love giving back to the community. So, as you know, we are definitely not the Beverly Hillbillies!

Allowing backyard chickens will build a good resident community in Mundelein of responsible 
and educated adults who raise responsible and educated children that love their neighbors as themselves. Knowing that, who wouldn’t want to live here?

I know you're worried about people being irresponsible. People are always going to be people, but that's why BYCers also consider ordinances. Nuisance animal ordinances already cover smell, unsightliness, and noise. Here are some common concerns:• What about roosters? – in Backyard Chickens, there are NO ROOSTERS ALLOWED!!
• What if someone has 50 chickens in their backyard? Well, BYC has to come with policies such as maximum of 4 or 6 (as Evanston has decided).
• What if people have smelly or loud chickens? Then have a ticket written up!

I also do not want to live by something that smells horrible, or is crazy loud. Responsible pet owners are responsible. That’s why we have ordinances!! I will freely say BYC aren’t for everyone nor should it be. Pet potbellied pigs ARE allowed in Mundelein, but truly how many families have them? Not everyone wants a pet pig, and along those lines, not everyone will want to raise chickens.

The Botanic gardens recently had a “Chickens in the Garden” session, and it was completely sold out. Month of May, Williams Sonoma started an agrarian section to their website selling coops, and even Walmart started selling coops! It makes sense as a win-win-win. We reduce food scraps going to landfills, the chickens give us rich delicious eggs with beautiful orange yolks that my kids love, and the poop is high in nitrogen for composting to use in the garden.

Your consultant Arista Strungys has created proposed regulations as part of the new zoning for Mundelein, which would allow backyard chickens, and the company you hired for city planning CAMIROS comes with a background in knowledge and research in long term eco conscious efforts, and sustainable practices. They are the experts, and know this is more than just people who want a fancy pet. The movement transcends political parties, ethnic backgrounds, and ages. In the past, self-sufficiency was encouraged by our government. It was even our civic duty to have chickens to be considerate of our resources, and waste.

In conclusion, this is something that can be well regulated. There are existing nuisance animal ordinances that already cover smell, unsightliness, and noise. This is a part of a growing movement of long term sustainability and stewardship, and will draw a growing number of really good people, and families who are looking for a community like this to move into. You’re doing the right thing by considering it.

For all the reasons above, my friends and I who are local residents would be in favor of this, and ask you to please pass the proposal for backyard chickens in Mundelein.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Holly Kim

Certificates and Credibility:
In the process of receiving a Conseration@home certificate
Member of MidfEx (Midwest fruit explorers)
Horticulture lab assistant in high school
Northbrook Garden club scholarship recipient
Studied Permaculture and self-sufficiency
Edible Landscape Blogger
Urban Homesteading Blogger
Runs two facebook pages: Edible Landscaping Chicago and Urban Homesteading Chicago
Kids are in 4-H
Volunteer and board member for the Jaycees for the last 5 years
Volunteer in community for Mundelein and Loch Lomond

Local densely populated Illinois towns/villages/cities that do allow backyard chickens:
Oak Park
Naperville Saint Charles
Downer's Grove
West Dundee

List of Major US Cities and local states that allow urban hens:

To  my surprise, the board seemed receptive, and I was told later that backyard chickens was something they had been kicking around, themselves.   This was a plot twist I never expected...
It was all positive vibes, and I will be planning our next steps to getting Backyard Chickens passed in Mundelein. 

Vive la Revolucion! 

Update on frontyard garden 2012

Hey all,

here's an update on the frontyard garden.  I was glad the parsley overwintered really well, and came up very early on in spring.  The flat leaf Italian parsley and alliums (green onions, and the chives... and even the garlic) did well coming back on their own.

So here are a few photos updating how the front looks.

Alpine Strawberry looks pretty happy...

By the front door, the rosemary coming out and acclimating to the weather with the overwintered sage behind it.  Dianthus, roses, and alpine strawberry.

Diamond shaped boxes with green onions on the border, and the beginnings of basil, and dwarf Hestia Scarlet Runner Bean

As you can see from the bottom of the photo, the lavender has not come back, but the meadow sage is coming back singing a chorus!  Everything looks decent, but I will soon plan to yank out the green onions once they go to seed, and plant alot of marigolds and red salvias.  I've been told by several people that marigolds keep the rabbits away.  I don't know the validity of this, but feel free to dispense your advice in the comments section :)     I do know marigolds are edible...
The red salvias, the kids and I love to suck out that 1 droplet of nectar that is at the bottom of that long red flower...(sorry hummingbirds!)

The diamond shaped box with the green onion around the parameter.
Basil is planted in the box.  Dwarf Hestia scarlet runner bean was planted in the shape of a diamond, and generously - but as nature usually does, it's not doing what I want it to do!!! AAAAAARGHHhhhhhhhh

The chive flowers add a touch of purple to all the green, and behind it is flat leaf Italian parsley about to go to seed.

A stack of rocks.  Hrmmmm
I took these rocks from my dad's house, and I've always like the look of stacked rocks.
They remind me of my grandmother in korea who passed away a couple of years ago. We visited a few places that had stacked rocks in Korea.  I want to say they were mostly temples, but it happens whenever you find places with many rocks: rivers, canyons, mountains...my front yard...  LOL

More pictures to come, as the season progresses!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Making Garden Plants Out of Food Scraps

We've been so well trained to not even realize what we are doing: paying other people for food, and throwing away the ways to get more of that food.   
For the last few years, out of sheer laziness, I have serendipitously found several plants that can be propagated or resurrected back to usefulness out of food scraps. In theory, you've already paid once for this, no need to pay money again for seeds or plants of things you already have! 

If you have any to add, please do in the comments section.  Knowledge is power!

Basil, Thai basil, Mint (haven't tried with oregano, but am certain it will apply)
I bought a basil plant from the grocery store. It had three plants in a small pot, and I cut those thee plants in half to use the leaves in a recipe.  After picking off the basil leaves, I placed the three stems into a glass bottle with only tap water.  Sort of like what you do for cut flowers, except I put it up on a window ledge that gets lots of sun.

Wait a few weeks, and voila, the roots came out of nowhere!  With only the magic of water!
I think the warming up of the water by the sun had something to do with it, too!
But as you can see, now I have 6 plants instead of only 3 to plant outside my garden.
Various stages of root development.

Re-growing Celery from Middles
I am not sure why, but throughout my whole life, I don't recall eating celery hearts. Once we ate all the crunchy outer stalks I'm sure by the time we got to the nub of the middle with the bendy blanched sad center, we pitched it.  Well, this too is a grand mistake for the veggie gardener!

You can place that sorry looking middle nub with baby stalks  into a glass of water and place it on a sunny windowsill.   Within a week or so, you will not only see that middle stem beef up, but it will grow roots.   At this point, you can plant it into the ground, and grow celery for the season.    YEAH BABY!

Pineapple Stems
This, I wasn't the best at.  For some reason it took me seven pineapple tops before I got one of them to root, but I have a friend who does this with insane success!
After eating a pineapple, remove any meat from the top, and place in a cup of water.   I tried this a few times and failed, so mine (above) looks sad, but is coming back to life. This one, I had sitting in a pot of vermiculite.     I have another one that is doing very well, which I just threw into a pot of an existing plant and left it for dead.   Plants. They silly!

Here is my friend's pineapple top which he put into a plastic cup for amazing success. As you can see, no meat left on the pineapple top, or it WILL turn rotten!

At this point, you can plant it in soil.   Two of my friends who have done this, were able to grow another pineapple from it.  :)

Cabbage, Broccoli, Chinese broccoli/ etc Brassica stems
Now, this... This is a surprise for even me.  We had slices of some sort of brassica's stem.
I was most likely being lazy and instead of putting it into the compost bin, I put it into the garden during the winter.   Well, if that don't beat all... it grows back.   And it wasn't just that one freak accident, there is a second slice of stem growing in my garden, too.

What these brassicas are, I have yet to figure, because it was a crosswise cut of the stem.

Citrus, Pomegranate, Mangoes, and Avocados- seeds
My kids and I have been successful in replanting lemon, orange, and tangerine seeds in vermiculite.  Avocado-sitting on a jar of water with toothpicks through it, and Mango seeds which have been dried for a few days, and then planted into a pot of dirt.

 However, these adventures must be taken with an acceptance of wildcard, because the fruits you get from the grocery store are mostly genetically criss-crossed. Therefore, what we are growing from seeds makes really nice houseplants, but nothing more.  In fact many of them have not flowered in the 5+ years we have owned these plants.   The avocado flowered once, but without a pollinator it just had it's glory moment and fizzled away.  HOWEVER, that being said, they are glorious houseplants we receive compliments on, and give a nice tropical flair to this Chicago home.  Especially on the deck in the summer!

Sprouted potatoes/garlic
Scary looking little critters, aren't they??

Sprouted potatoes can be planted whole, or you can just snap off the sprouted eyes.  Either will grow.
Sprouted garlic cloves can be placed into the ground, and in about a year  you will have a whole head of garlic!

Tomatoes and Peppers - seeds 
 If you buy an heirloom tomato from the store, a farmers market, or receive one from a friend, after chopping it up into something delicious, swipe the cutting board with a napkin to pick up the seeds. dry the napkin somewhere for a few days, and voila you've got tomato seeds for your garden! Cut up the napkin in small napkin chits to plant one by one, or if you don't care, plant the whole napkin. BOOYAH... 
If you repeat this cycle, you'll never have to buy tomato plants/seeds ever again.

Actually, if you try the experiments listed above, you'll never have to buy additional seeds and plants for the listed items you've already eaten! Reducing, reusing and recycling? Re-purposing?
At the very least, you're guaranteed to save money and come to a realization of how much we take for granted and throw away on a daily basis.