Urban Chickens Update (Huntsville, AL)

The Huntsville Hen Alliance is still working toward legalizing chickens in the city limits of Huntsville, AL.  Although there have been major setbacks, the issue is not yet officially dead since it was not voted upon.

If this is an issue near and dear to your heart, please consider attending an organizing meeting March 22, 2014.

We have meeting rooms A & B reserved at the Library’s Main Branch for Saturday 3/22, from 3pm to 5pm. This meeting is all about strategy and how to best educate the public on urban chickens.

For those of you who want to stay involved, this is a great chance to meet like-minded people and bring your best ideas to the table. Where we go from here is up to all of us!

We’ll have a few announcements to make concerning our next best shot at influencing an actual change in policy. I know many of you are in this for the long haul.

Hope to see you there,
Sam Caraway


Huntsville, AL Urban Agriculture amendment

For those in and near Huntsville, AL:

The Planning Commission of the City of Huntsville, Alabama will hold a public hearing on Zoning Ordinance Amendment:  Urban Agriculture.

Tuesday, February 25th, 5:00 pm, Council Chambers on the first floor of the Administration Building at 308 Fountain Circle SW in Huntsville.

You can read the text of the amendment here (PDF link).


UPDATE: The Farmer’s Market stakeholders are going to ask for a continuance to discuss some terminology issues that came up.  If accepted, the amendment won’t get discussed tonight.

Future of the City: Huntsville, AL


Thursday morning, I attended the 28th Annual Future of the City Symposium, hosted by Alabama A&M University.  Citizen attendance was exceptionally low — so low, that I am not sure if I was actually the only private citizen there.  A variety of presenters from city governance and private entities discussed their points of view on the topic “Planning Healthy, Livable, Sustainable Communities.”

“Healthy” and “Sustainable” are loaded terms which mean very different things to different parties, so the subject matter was not well focused, and lacking the presence of major stakeholders in the audience like private developers, investors and citizens, the entire morning most resembled a lecture to the urban planning students that made up the majority of the audience.  I was also disappointed that questions regarding food systems (from myself and others) were not ever directly answered.

For many years now, I have been attending events for the City of Huntsville where there has been a lot of talk regarding sustainability, but thus far I have seen very little positive action in that direction.  Meanwhile permits for exceptionally unsustainable projects like productive farmland being converted to monstrous housing developments miles from shopping and work continue unabated.

Very soon, the City of Huntsville will be holding citizen input sessions as a prerequisite to developing a new long range city plan.  If you care about resilient local food systems, preserving open space, economic diversity, sustainable living and quality of life issues, and either live, work, shop in or routinely visit Huntsville, I hope you will take part in these planning sessions.  A few years ago I attended the sessions for the City of Madison’s plan, and they were very organized and productive.  Huntsville’s new Manager of Urban and Long Range Planning, Dennis Madsen, was a part of the firm Urban Collage that worked on those planning sessions, so I am optimistic that they will be equally productive for Huntsville.

First ever “Recession Gold” tomato seeds available!


Some years ago, I embarked on a tomato breeding experiment.  “Recession Gold” is a Gold Medal x German Striped x Brandywine cross.   It produces 1-2 lb. yellow and red slicers that are exceptionally sweet on large, indeterminate vines.  It tastes like a German Striped, but has the higher productivity and more uniformly round fruits of Gold Medal.  Average fruit size has been reduced from German Striped, but I would like to reduce it more.

My goals were:

  • Improved productivity over German Striped and Brandywine
  • Maintain rich, sweet German Striped taste
  • Superior southern disease resistance (needs continued improvement)
  • Reduce average fruit size to about 1 lb globular fruits  (in progress)

I need gardeners, especially those in the southeastern U.S., to grow out plants and tell me if the seeds bred true to the stated characteristics for them to determine the stability of the cross.  I grew out all my previous years last summer, and I am very happy with the progress made and believe a stable cross has been reached, but only growing out lots and lots of plants will tell for sure.

FREE seed packets will be available at the 2nd Annual Seed Celebration presented by the Tennessee Valley Community Garden Association at the Church of the Nativity in downtown Huntsville, AL on January 31st, 2014.  I hope you can join us, and bring your own seeds to share and swap.  Last year was a huge success, and this year should be even better.  Local food, beer and wine will be provided and the keynote speaker starts at 7:15pm.

If you can’t make the event, I do have some seeds in reserve I can send out to blog readers.  Drop me a comment below or email recessiongardening@outlook.com for details.


Honey Bee Envy


Photo by Paul Stein on Flickr

I was visiting a friend’s house last weekend to trade some of my extra butternut squash for some of her extra pecans, and found my gaze drifting back to the row of lovely honey jars she had tucked away on a shelf near the ceiling.  I have been fortunate enough to bring some of her honey home before and it’s divine.  Is there any honey that isn’t?  Oh no, there it goes again… bee envy.

I donated my vermicomposting setup and worms because I got tired of the idea caring for 5,000 pets.  Granted, red wigglers don’t shed.  But while worms give you lovely compost, bees give you honey.  Someday I’ll have bees.  Someday.  Can I count a hive as just one pet?

If you are in the Huntsville, AL area, you can find the Madison County Beekeepers Association on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/alabees or at http://www.alabees.com  And starting this week, they begin a 4 night class on beginning bee keeping.  If you, too, have bee envy and are maybe ready to take the plunge, I can’t think of a better way to get started.  Class details are:

Our next Beginner’s Practical Beekeeping Class will be in the Auditorium at the Main Branch of the Huntsville/Madison County Public library,located at 915 Monroe Street, Huntsville, AL 35801. This is one (1) class that is broken into four (4) nights. There is no way to cover all the material in 1 night. Each class will cover an different period of time in a year in the apiary. The class is taught through the use of Power Point slides, video, and class participation. The class will meet from 5:30pm to 9:00pm on 1/7/14, 1/22/14, 2/3/14, 2/12/14. There is no charge for the class, and it is open to anyone (school age children and older through adults) interested in honeybees. No books are required, but if you would like to purchase a book, the class is based on Honey Bees and Beekeeping: A Year in the Life of an Apiary, 3rd edition by Keith S. Delaplane. (ISBN: 1-929832-31-1). You are welcome to take notes. It would be advisable to bring a jacket or sweater for comfort as the room can be chilly at times.
I understand scheduling problems. If you miss a class, you can usually catch up by listening to the questions that the other students ask.

To register for the class, please email your Name, Address, Phone, and Email address to: beedaddyhoney@yahoo.com. I will add you to the roster once I receive your info.


Meet the Blogger Jan. 16th

If you are in the North Alabama area on January 16th from 5pm-7pm, the Rocket City Bloggers and the Downtown Huntsville Initiative are hosting a social and networking event.  Food and drink will be provided, and you might win a prize.  If you’d like to meet the blogger and chat about all things gardening, please come.

Thursday January 16th
AL.com building, downtown Huntsville, AL