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Workshops

Building a Cob Oven

Many visitors who have come to the farm in the past 2 years have enjoyed fresh baked bread and pizza from our unique oven.  In addition to learning about the process of artisan baking, they have also had the opportunity to learn about this form of sustainable building.  This earth oven is made from cob.  Cob is one of the oldest building materials.

 

It is a mixture of clay, sand, and straw; making it simple to source locally.  There is no need to ship in building materials. A variety of groups have utilized the earth oven,...

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The picnic bench at the farm was filled with goat milk ice cream, black raspberries and mulberries, and three plates of brownies filled with “mystery” vegetables. Campers in our cooking day camp had baked brownies, each group with a secret ingredient from the farm. A blind taste test revealed that the favorite dessert was made with...beets!

 

One of the campers said, “When I told my mom what our secret ingredient was, we were both kind of grossed out because we don’t like beets, but then, it was my favorite cake of all!”

Chickens can be raised in your backyard

We have experienced an overwhelming level of interest in our Backyard Chickens workshops this Spring. Our recent workshop in March sold out with 35 attendees--and a waiting list. When we presented at this year's Family Farmed Expo in Chicago, an estimated 150 were in attendance with standing room only. Everyone wants chickens!

 

In addition to hosting Backyard Chickens workshops, AOLC Chicago Program Director Martha Boyd also manages a Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts google group. The group brings together a flock of folks in and around Chicago to share stories and promote best practices in raising chickens. Many...

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A group of (people) kids joined us this week to welcome our newest (goat) kids to the farm. Overnight on March 23, goat goddess Thalia gave birth to two beautiful, healthy doelings. When we found them in the morning, the kids were up: walking, nursing, and ready to explore!

 

Meanwhile, we have a dozen children here for our first week of Kids with Kids Day Camp. The (people) kids are all assigned to their own goat mamas, and have the responsibility this week of checking the moms for signs of labor. Our junior farmers give frequent reports, “I...

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Winter is a nerve-wracking time for beekeepers. We do what we can throughout the summer and fall to make sure the bees store up enough food and are in good health as the weather cools. But once the temperature drops below 50 degrees, we need to keep the hive closed and there’s not much meddling we can do.

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Last fall, I was sent a link to an article describing European farmers who have set up vending machines for fresh foods straight from their farms.

 

It seemed like a good idea, perhaps, for our on-farm education programs.  I was ruminating on this as I headed out to feed the animals.  Then it struck me—a vending machine has a lot in common with a chicken nesting box—the same boxy dimensions, made of many chicken size compartments and filled with delicious treats.

 

My mind started spinning:  Why not just skip the egg carton altogether,...

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A family recently returned to the farm for the first time since 2004, the year when Sylvia, the three-legged goat, was born.   Their young daughter was so enchanted by Sylvia’s sweet disposition that she insisted that people address her as Sylvia, and, eventually, her parents made Sylvia her middle name.   This child growing up in Chicago had a goat as an important childhood friend!

 
Thousands of people visit the farm and Learning Center every year; I believe that the most powerful aspect of their visits is not the skills or information that they return home with, but...

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Five fantastic interns and volunteers joined me for our last urban farmstead volunteer day of the year, just before the snow and below-zero wind-chill hit Chicago. After mulching First Presbyterian Church’s landscape with donated woodchips and feeding our composting worms, all six of us piled into our low tunnel, the 7’x 24’ passive solar mini greenhouse we built in our demonstration garden in October. Crouched under the 4 foot ceiling, we thinned, harvested and pulled slugs from beets, carrots, chard, radishes and turnips planted this summer and fall. Our extended season crops in the...

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 Teachers often ask us about incubating eggs at school to teach students about biology, chickens, farming, and food. We asked Chicago chicken keepers if they would like to get their hens from classroom hatching projects. Reflections: 

  1. BIOLOGICAL REALITY IS: about half of the eggs will hatch out male chicks – and there’s no way to know which before they hatch (except a new method that measures estrogen levels inside the shell.) Right after hatching, sex-linked varieties can be distinguished (boys from girls) by color of certain feathers, for instance. Otherwise,
  2. ...

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