Monday, June 8, 2009

Why Eating Locally is Good For Your Health

In a previous post I had sited the economic benefits of eating locally. And when I refer to "eating locally" I am referring to eating withing a 100 mile radius of your location. However, there are health benefits that can be gleaned as well. The benefits are not always obvious, less direct.
My sons and I visited the nearby farmers' market this past weekend. Knowing that, for Michigan, harvest time for many vegetables won't be happening for a few weeks from now. We were there to acquaint ourselves with some of the farmers as and what kinds of produce they were growing.
First of all, to be doing something outside with my 12 y/o and 16 y/o on a beautiful Saturday afternoon is priceless. Never mind the promise of going out to lunch and a trip to the feed store to get some new chicks. We we were doing something together! As for a psychological boost, I could have thrown my Prozac away forever. Somehow shopping the farmers' market was just a little more cool than shopping the local grocery store. Characters abound! Smiles on faces! It was an "experience". To top it off, a woman was giving away free kittens in the parking lot, something that caught the eye of my boys. (That will be another post!) How cool was that?
In a month or two when more and more Michigan produce will be available, freshness will what's key. There is no data to suggest that an apple from Washington state is any less nutritious than the one grown right here in Oakland County Michigan. However, because it wasn't transported here a vast distance the carbon emissions were lessened. Significantly. Thereby, less pollution for everyone to breath. Clean air is a health benefit, right? Additionally, because much of the produce will be picked less than 24 hours from point of sale trace minerals will be still be evident. Additionally, the taste will be different. Nothing compares to a Michigan strawberry picked fresh in June to ones found in the supermarket in January from California. This week market the appearance of some early Michigan strawberries. Delicious they were! The natural sweetness was intoxicating! If you could replace a naturally sweet fruit over a calorie laden, high fat confection your waistline would reward you! Without trying, you could be consuming your daily 5 of fruits and vegetables. Remember eating your 5-A-Day provides you with beneficial vitamins and minerals, added fiber and antioxidants and can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Plus, you will LOOK great!
So make sure to visit you local farmers market this season. You will be helping a farmer, Michigan's economy and yourself in one! Think of it as a necessary routine to good health. There are farmers markets popping up everywhere. To find a local market check out Local Harvest at www.localharvest.org.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Life (and Death) with Chicks












We had to return our rooster, Rambo, as the crowing wouldn't be tolerated in Westacres. So, instead of trading out one chicken we came home with three 4 week old chicks! I would have never guessed that I would be coming home with three little balls of fluff that stole all our hearts. We got two Barred Rocks (Madeline and Audrey) and an Araucana (Amelie).
When we left with our chicks we were educated about how to handle the inevitable pecking which would occur with our current flock. The term "pecking order" originates from the hierarchy system that flocks, especially chickens, form with their flock mates. It is an agreement among the flock members who is the rule of the roost. Who eats first, gets the best perch, lays in the best nesting box is all determined how high up the social ladder one is. "As long is there is no blood", was the guideline I was to follow as to how much pecking is allowed until human intervention.
Sure enough, every time I introduced the three chicks to the flock pecking from the older birds would ensue. Nothing seemed too vicious, although enough to cause a cry of pain or fear. Most of the day, though, they spent time together in the cat carrier, separated from the others.
Four days later, the smaller Barred Rock, Madeline, showed listlessness, but no previous warning. By night she would be dead. The next morning, after a perky awakening and feeding I turned around to find her sister, Audrey, dead as well. We were heartbroken. What had gone wrong? I had called the breeder of the chicks to get some answers, but all she supplied was the possibility that they got too cold. Maybe it was the vigorous pecking, or maybe they had an undetected illness prior to us receiving them. Anyway, I was determined not to lose our last girl, Amelie.
Because we got the chicks as babies ,they had immediately associated us as their "mothers". Now Amilie was the only child. I wasn't sure if she felt more insecure without her chick sisters or if I was being over attentive, afraid I'd lose her too. Anyway, it got to the point where I couldn't leave Amelie without her pleading to be let out of her box and she would start bashing around the crate and injuring herself. Alas, she got her way! So for a day I was at the beck and call of this 6 oz. princess.
When I would take her out of the crate she'd immediately attempt to climb my leg to get to my shoulder so that she could nestle in my hair. When I would put her down and walk away she was right at my heels following me in the garden, foraging for bugs and seeds and whatever else she could find. However, in her desire to be near me working was close to impossible, so I'd settle for sitting with her in the sunshine watching her scurry from one thing to the next.
At bedtime, she showed no letting up of her carrying on when put in the crate. She had even caused a bleeding injury on her beak trying to hop out of the box. In desperation, and feeling a little fed up with my little fluffy friend, I marched out into the coop and snatched up the most laid back hen we have, Paulie Walnuts. I plopped her into the crate with the little yellow one and in a few moments Amelie's pleas were lessened and eventually, a gentle cooing was heard. I peeked in and Paulie had Amelie cozily nestled beneath her breast. There was no pecking, probably because the two pullets were on neutral ground, just the calming sounds of two sleeping birds.