Date changed to May 26 for spring garden class about raising trees

There is one spring garden class left on this year’s schedule, but the date has been changed. The “Everything You Need To Know About Trees” class taught by Jud Kirkness now will take place from 6:30-8 p.m. on Friday, May 26, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street).

The class is free, but donations to the Sitka Local Foods Network will be accepted.

For more information about the class, contact Jennifer Carter at 747-0520. Other classes may be added at a later date if we find volunteers to teach them.

Sitka Local Foods Network education committee announces its 2017 spring garden classes

Want to learn how to grow your own food? Are you new to Sitka and want to learn what veggies grow in our town? The Sitka Local Foods Network education committee has a list of free 2017 spring garden classes that can help you learn what to do and when to do it so you have a healthy garden.

This spring, all of our classes except one will take place from 6:30-8 p.m. on Thursdays at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street). Each week will feature a different topic, and all classes are free (donations to the Sitka Local Foods Network will be accepted).

The class schedule is as follows:

  • Gardening in Sitka 101March 30, taught by Michelle Putz
  • Cottage Foods Business BasicsApril 6, 6-8 p.m., Room 106, University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus, taught by Sarah Lewis and Nina Vizcarrondo, in partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service
  • Growing Potatoes in SitkaApril 13, taught by Kathy Kyle
  • Extending Your Garden SeasonApril 20, taught by Kerry MacLane
  • Container GardeningApril 27, taught by Joshua Andresky
  • Raising ChickensMay 4, taught by Joshua Andresky, Nina Vizcarrondo and Brinnen Carter
  • Everything You Need To Know About TreesFriday, May 19, taught by Jud Kirkness
  • Growing Garlic in SitkaDate TBA (toward the end of the summer), taught by Jennifer Carter

For more information about the classes, contact Jennifer Carter at 747-0520. Other classes may be added at a later date if we find volunteers to teach them.

• Sitka residents team up to run neighborhood chicken coop co-ops

Some of the members of Le Coop, one of Sitka's chicken coop co-ops, pose with a few of their birds. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson, other photos in story are by Charles Bingham)

Some of the members of Le Coop, one of Sitka’s chicken coop co-ops, pose with a few of their birds. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson, other photos in story are by Charles Bingham)

Many Sitka families joined the backyard agriculture movement by starting gardens, but they hesitated when it came time to take the next step — raising chickens.

Chickens require daily feeding and watering, protection from predators, and other care that can be daunting for novices. However, a few Sitka families found an easier way. There now are a couple of chicken coop-co-ops in town, where neighbors or friends team up to share the duties and expense of raising chickens.

LeCoopOne of these chicken coop co-ops, Le Coop, is hidden in a back corner of the Sheldon Jackson Campus, where seven families are raising about 30 hens and one rooster. Le Coop is about 15 feet by 80 feet, with a hen house flanked by two outdoor chicken runs. The fence surrounding Le Coop is electrified (buried at least a foot below the surface to keep out varmints), with netting over the top to protect the chickens from eagles and other raptors. Inside the hen house are a dust bath for the hens, food and water buckets, an egg-laying box, and shelf space to store supplies such as extra feed.

“The advantage are only being responsible one day a week for regular chores such as feed, water, opening/closing, etc. Everything else is done at the whim of individual enthusiasms, and occasional work parties,” said Jud Kirkness, one of the co-op members. “Plus seven families means that many more people finding useful materials and resources and splitting the feed bill seven ways.”

LauraSchmidtWatchesChickensFeedLaura Schmidt, who Jud called the lead organizer/treasurer of the group, said there are six families of four and one couple, so 26 people. “About one person per hen,” she said. ” Each family typically gets about 18-30 eggs on their chicken duty day, with the hens laying more eggs in the summer.

Most of the hens were purchased as chicks last spring, and there are 15 each of red leghorns and black stars. The white rooster is of indeterminate origin, and he was added to the flock when another coop was culling its flock. Many people who raise chickens don’t like to keep roosters, but Laura said this one is small and the hens seem to be able to handle him.

The members of Le Coop have various levels of experience with raising chickens, and Erika Knox said Laura and Jud are the most experienced so they have been mentoring the other families. Erika said she wouldn’t be able to raise chickens at her house because there isn’t enough space, and lately she had to stop composting at home due to rats and other varmints getting into it.

EggsInLayingBox“This is a nice place to bring my compost, and the chickens love it,” Erika said. “It’s nice to have eggs that are fresh and organic. I give some away.”

Roger Schmidt and Kristen Homer called themselves the weak links of the group. “We just collect eggs,” Kristen said. “We let them (Laura and Jud) tell us what needs to be done.”

“It’s great because we have chicken experts like Jud and Laura, and we’ve got building experts,” said Roger, Laura’s brother and the director of the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, which owns the Sheldon Jackson Campus where Le Coop is located. He said there have been a couple of occasions when he was in a meeting on campus and suddenly remembered he had chicken duty that day.

RedLeghornAndRoosterBesides being able to share duties and costs with the chicken coop co-op, another advantage to having Le Coop on campus is the learning experiences it provides.

“It’s good for the kids. They learn a lot about chickens,” Roger said. “I bring the Head Start kids back here all the time to check on the chickens.”

“The kids love it,” Kristen said. “Razie Guillory (Laura’s daughter) did a science project charting the growth of the hens, and Asa Dow is doing a project about the economics of the co-op.”

Jud said as soon as he gets this chicken coop to where he wants it, he plans to start another chicken coop co-op for other Sitka families. “I hope it provides some inspiration.”

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• Save the date — ‘Let’s Grow Sitka’ gardening education event is Sunday, March 20, at ANB Hall

The view from above at closing time of the 2010 Let's Grow Sitka garden education event.

The view from above at closing time of the 2010 Let's Grow Sitka garden education event.

Mark your calendars, because the 2011 “Let’s Grow Sitka” gardening education event opens at noon and runs until 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 20, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall on Katlian Street. Celebrate the first day of spring and get ready to garden.

This annual event brings together local garden supply stores, local gardeners, landscapers and anybody who is interested in learning how to grow food and/or flowers. This year’s theme is “Adding edibles to your landscape — focus on fruit trees and berry bushes.”

The Sitka Local Foods Network encourages people to share their knowledge by hosting a booth or posting an educational display about a specific garden topic. We especially want people with experience growing fruit trees to share their knowledge about growing apple, cherry or crabapple trees in Sitka; growing strawberries; growing rhubarb; growing unusual berry varieties that do well in our climate such as aronia, sea buckthorn, honeysuckle (fruiting), gooseberry, currant and elderberry; and how to legally transplant and cultivate wild berry bushes to your property.

Young girls check out a baby chick at the 2010 Let's Grow Sitka event. Andrew Thoms will have egg-producing chicks and information about how to raise them available this year, but he suggests anybody wanting to buy chicks contact him as soon as possible so he can start incubating the eggs. He can be reached at 747-3747 or andrew@sitkawild.org.

Young girls check out a baby chick at the 2010 Let's Grow Sitka event. Andrew Thoms will have egg-producing chicks and information about how to raise them available this year, but he suggests anybody wanting to buy chicks contact him as soon as possible so he can start incubating the eggs. He can be reached at 747-3747 or andrew@sitkawild.org.

In addition, you can learn about home greenhouses, how to prepare your soil, how to raise chickens and what to do with all those slugs. Buy seeds and plant starts. Swap ideas and tips. Come learn, share, and get ready to grow your garden. Learn about plans for the Sitka Farmers Markets this summer. Let’s Grow Sitka is organized by the Sitka Local Foods Network and is part of the Arti Gras Sitka Music and Arts Festival, which takes place March 6-20.

Master gardeners are encouraged to sign up to share their personal experience on how to create a successful garden in Sitka. Also, anyone with a garden-related product or service to sell is invited to participate. Some of the expected booths are from the True Value Garden Center (type Sitka or 99835 into store locator box), Andrew Thoms (chickens, see note with photo above), White’s Inc./Harry Race Pharmacy, St. Peters Fellowship Farm (seed starter kits), Sitka Local Foods Network, University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, the Sitka Fruit Tree Planting Initiative and many others. Master Gardener Ed Buyarski of Ed’s Edible Landscaping in Juneau also will be on hand to provide expertise.

There still are a few FREE tables available for vendors, education and demonstrations. For more information or to reserve table space, contact Linda Wilson at lawilson87@hotmail.com or call her at 747-3096 (in the evenings or on weekends only).