Kale

ImageKale (Keyl)

‘Brassica Oleracea’ var. Acephala

Kale is a versatile form of cabbage that prefers a cooler climate. It is an annual/biennial plant that overwinters well and becomes sweeter with cold. Hot weather will turn this cabbage bitter and tough but it is tolerant of almost any condition.

Starting from seed: Kale will germinate in temperatures as low as 5°C (45°F) but will germinate much more quickly in warmer temperatures. Direct seed outdoors as soon as the soil can be worked, you may also plant a few weeks before the first frost and cover with mulch to have an early spring crop. Space seeds 6-8 inches apart, cover with 1/2 inch of soil and don’t allow the soil to dry out until the seeds have germinated. Germination should occur within 5-10 days. Kale tolerates shade to full sun, keeping in mind this plant likes a cooler environment. Avoid planting with other members of the brassica family (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) as this may encourage pests.

Harvest the lower leaves of kale as soon as it is established. A general rule is to harvest a leaf of kale when the main stem of the leaf is thick, as the stems get thicker the tougher they become. Normal shelf life of fresh kale is around 2 weeks and there are many methods people use to extend this life. Some will place the stalks in water in the fridge like a vase as water will generally make the kale sweeter. Some keep kale moist and loose in bags, there are many ways to prolong the shelf life of this hardy plant.

Kale is an extremely nutritious plant. It is high in beta carotine, vitamins A, B, C, and K, lutein, and it is extremely rich in calcium. This plant also contains sulforaphane, a chemical with anti-cancer properties and helps lower risk of prostate, colorectal, and lung cancer. Sulforaphane is enhanced in this plant when it is chopped or minced while boiling will decrease the presence. Steaming, microwaving, and stir-frying does not effect this chemical. This plant is low-fat and contains no cholesterol with vitamin A slowing vision degeneration, and vitamin K promoting bone strengthening and limiting neuronal damage to the brain. It is this property that has made this plant an aid in treating people with Alzheimer’s. Kale can be prepared for consumption in almost any way or can be eaten raw. One of the most unique recipes for cooking kale is placing leaves on a baking sheet and popping them in the oven for crunchy kale chips.

Traditionally kale has been used as a home remedy to trigger hunger, soothing rashes, easing food allergy symptoms, and easing lung congestion. Kale is known to be beneficial to stomach, liver, and immune system and well as lowering risk of certain types of cancer as discussed above. Kale is also extremely beneficial to rabbits and aids in their digestion, reducing gas that can be fatal.

Yellow Bird Acres offers heirloom kale seeds that are perfectly suited and adapted to Zone 3a.

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Oregano

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Oregano (oh-REHG-uh-noh)

‘Origanim Vulgare’

Oregano is an easy to grow herb that may be grown indoors or outdoors. It is a member of the mint family and a perennial plant that can be quite hardy, for example our oregano thrives in our unique zone 3a climate. Oregano is akin to Majoram but not as sweet.

Starting from seed: The seed of oregano is very fine. Some will mix the seed with fine sand for even distribution. There is no need to cover oregano seeds with dirt but if you must, keep this covering very shallow. Plant at least 12 inches apart, you should have germination within 10-14 days. Oregano likes warmth and does best when the soil is kept around 15 degrees Celsius. As with most plants, oregano will only drink water when it is thirsty, allow the soil to dry out between watering after sprouted. When grown indoors, choose a pot with depth as oregano has a long tap root system.

Harvest this herb as soon as it gets established. Constant harvest of this plant is possible as it has a very bushy nature, in most cases one plant will stretch up to 18 inches across. Harvesting should be done in the morning for the sweetest herbs. Fresh oregano can be kept refrigerated for up to 5 days. This herb can also be dried like most herbs to extend its life and in most cases will increase the flavor.

This herb works extremely well in tomato based sauces, pizza, meat stews and grilled or baked fish. Also works well with artichoke, beans, chicken, lamb, mushroom, potatoes, sausage, veal.

Oregano is also known for its medicinal qualities, in particular its antibacterial and antiparasitic qualities and as a potent antioxidant. Oregano is a natural souce of omega-3 fatty acids, rich in fiber, and high in iron and manganese. Oregano is also used for the treatment of indigestion, bloating, flatulence, and many other ailments.

Yellow Bird Acres offers heirloom oregano seeds that are perfectly suited and adapted to Zone 3a.

2012 Project: Rabbit Hutch

Rue & Ursa

Rue & Ursa

It had been three years since we built our bunny and soil enhancer, Rue, an awesome outdoor hutch for her to live in. Three years of wear and tear had left this hutch a little worse for wear, so we decided this was the year we would build her a new one. This one would be bigger and better! So, we began on our task. This project was completed with 75% recycled materials!

Building a new Rabbit Hutch

Patio stones lay the foundation on the structure preventing Rue from digging out

The first step was to secure the base of the hutch as we know our Rue loves to dig! We decided to use patio stones this time since in the last hutch, after three years, the chicken wire keeping Rue from digging herself an extension had began to rust and weaken. The main house piece was an experiment in bike trailers, flipped upside down.

Building a new Rabbit Hutch

We built a side run for the ramp and to give Rue some extra running space

We then added another wing onto this section for more running room and to accommodate a ramp to the inside portion.

Building a new Rabbit Hutch

Recycled stucco wire was arched over the side run to create a bird cage like effect.

Our neighbor donated some old stucco wire he no longer had a use for and as this was much stronger than our alternative- chicken wire, we arched it around the structure. This allowed us to make the roof tall enough to fit in the ramp while keeping it strong to withstand the pressures of snow piling on top.

Building a new Rabbit Hutch

Wood slats on the south side provide better shade for summer

We nailed in wood slats on one section of the south side to create a shaded area for the summer months.

Building a new Rabbit Hutch

Finally, a front door was built and the upper house portion was added.

Building a new Rabbit Hutch

Upper house portion

An angled upper house portion was built to create a snugger cuddle spot for the winter. Only half of the top of this structure is for Rue, the other half is planned to support a small attached greenhouse.

Building a new Rabbit Hutch

Finished structure, south side

Building a new Rabbit Hutch

A fresh salad awaits

Building a new Rabbit Hutch

Here you can see the corner angle from the west side

Building a new Rabbit Hutch

Overview of finished hutch from west side

Building a new Rabbit Hutch

Happy Rue!

Stay tuned, this hutch isn’t quite finished. The next stage in its design is to create a greenhouse space on the empty upper portion.
Our desired result: Rue’s winter heat lamp will add warmth to the greenhouse portion and we can grow some good veggies all winter long!

Foraged Apple Crisp

The wonders of fall, when nature gives us rewards in the form of wonderful fruit! Unfortunately most of this fruit in the city gets left to drop and rot, left for the birds. We at Yellow Bird Acres take the time to appreciate these gifts, we forage for these forgotten treats and create wonderful eats!

Foraged Apple Crisp

Wild Foraged Urban Food

Foraging for food in the city connects you to your neighborhood in ways most people can never imagine. Keeping your senses sharp to  find that diamond plant in the rough wild areas around your home or even in your own alley is rewarding and gives more reason to protect your local wild plants. Check out Northern Bushcraft to learn more about the wild edible plants of Alberta.

Summer 2012 Garden Project

2009 to 2012 Yellow Bird Garden Comparison

2009 to 2012 Yellow Bird Garden Comparison

We started our first garden here at Yellow Bird Acres in the summer of 2009. Although it was a small plot, it was the very start of our love for gardening. Over the years it expanded and began to take over most of the yard. Then, this spring of 2012 we were given bad news by the City. The 100 year old house tucked into the corner of our odd shaped lot was not getting water and the pipes that ran right below the garden would have to be replaced. So, after three years of soil improvement and hard work, our garden was dug up. These are the harsh realities of urban farming and we began anew as soon as the work was done. Our yard was filled with gravel and a small layer of dirt. There was no way we could use this inch or so of soil to grow a great garden so, we decided to build up. Times have been tough so we decided to get creative. We decided why not recycle pallets to create raised beds? And so, albeit an ongoing project with plans to build up, our raised beds are beginning to take shape.

Pallet Garden start

The Pallet Garden begins

Pallet Garden

The Pallet Garden begins to take shape

All the materials we have used for these beds, including the plastic liner, have been recycled. We have even used branches trimmed off our lilac bushes to create a fence to prevent the dogs from entering the garden.

Pallet Garden

Pallet Garden using 100 percent re-purposed material

Pallet Garden

Pallet Garden

We will continue on this project as spring arrives. We were unable to reap harvest from the garden this year so we have big plans for next year. Luckily, the dirt given to us by the City was filled with edible weeds for us to forage!

Pleased to meet ya fella!

Yellow Bird Acres

Urban Farm

“Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin’ for, worth fightin’ for, worth dyin’ for, because it’s the only thing that lasts. It will come to you, this love of the land. There’s no gettin’ away from it if you’re Irish.” -Gerald O’Hara, Gone with the Wind

Welcome to Yellow Bird Acres!

Our goal is to create an urban farm that exists in harmony with nature; to learn from natural processes to improve our own sustainability and reduce our impact on the earth through various means. As we do not yet have the acres, we make due with our urban farm in the heart of the big city of Calgary, Alberta. We continue to learn through study and experimentation on our small plot not only to prepare ourselves for a larger plot but because we believe it is an important lesson to make the most out of what we already have instead of wishing for more. This blog is to document this progress and we hope you enjoy our trials and tribulations, perhaps we can all learn something from them!

Fella Tree by Laine Sloan

Drawing by Laine Sloan