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Garden Plotting: Cool Kid Orren Fox

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Some of us were cool kids. Some. Me? No, except to my dungeon master a la Patton Oswalt. Oh god, junior high? Painful. Yes, most of us were not anywhere near the cool table. Few of us had anything figured out in our tweenish awkwardness, let alone sustainable agriculture systems and our "food shed." College was when we are supposed to "get it together?" So when this food justice-y, dahlia growing, school garden building writer finds a together, future farmer who's barely in high school, I am both humbled in awe and inspired with hope (the planet, you know, has a few problems and most kids don't have the tools to cope). Enter Orren.

I just don't think I can think of a cooler kid than this 13 year-old, Massachusetts chicken wrangler. For those of you not on Twitter (both of you) let me introduce @happychickens. Orren's Twitterfeed runs like an episode of Martha Stewart with a lot of old school Victory Garden. You are bound to feel simultaneously covetous of his CameraBag-Helga-filtered twitpic backyard shots of broccoflower and rare breed chickens ALONG WITH feeling quite inadequate with the half-dead basil on your own apartment kitchen, North-facing windowsill. I know an entire block of Echo Park that isn't half as cool as @happychickens. Doubt me? Orren also keeps bees, and yes, that Twitterfeed: @happyhoneybees. Told you!

Orren's prone to doting on his hens and god bless him for it. On a recent blog post (of course he blogs, cool kid, remember) Orren not only obsesses of his girls, but he gives solid, Cal Poly Pomona-level animal husbandry advice for keep your chicks from winter harm:

This weekend there are supposed to be 3 or 4 days where the temperature doesn't get above 10 degrees with the overnight temperatures well below zero. I don't know what the windchill will do to the temperature.

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Here are a few things I do to help my hens. 1. Make sure there is always plenty of fresh water! I use a heated dog bowl which is quite big so if for any reason I can't get there right away they will have enough water.

2. I make sure they have really deep shavings. I actually use an entire bag of shavings per coop.

3. Today I put 1 heat lamp (on a timer) in each coop so overnight when it gets dangerously cold they have a place to perch and keep warm.

4. I added a little extra cracked corn and gambird feed to their food mix. The gamebird feed is higher in protein and the cracked corn I understand takes some work to digest so keeps their body temp up.

5. I put vaseline on all combs to protect against frost bite.

6. I check them often.

Unless you are in Frazier Park or above the snow line, y'alls Angeleno chicks will be fine. But we've had 3 frosts in various parts of LA this year so Orren's advice from NoBo holds for USDA Zone 8 & 9 (that's us). Orren's garden resides in zones 5-6. Yep, it ain't a strawberry field in Oxnard. But he manages an excellent garden in the months he has.

Here's his 2011 Garden Plotting list.

Green Snap Bush Beans - Bronco

Beets - Ciogga Beet, Touchstone Gold Beet (I don’t like beets but my mom loves them, these are for her)

Broccoli - Thompson

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Brussels Sprouts - Igor (Cause they look so cool growing)

Cabbage - Drago

Carrots - Cosmic Purple and Dragon (of course, who doesn’t want dragon carrots)

Cauliflower - Veronica Romanesco (we call it the fiobonacci cauliflower at our house )

Fennel - Perfection. Last year I grew the largest fennel in the world!

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Garlic - Music Garlic. I love garlic because you harvest in the fall. It is like treasure hunting.

Astro Arugula

Ruby Red Chard

Lettuce - Two star and Galactic

Peas - Sugar Daddy and Dwarf Grey Sugar

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Peppers - I love peppers. Easy to grow and spectacular. Orion red. NuMex and Magnum Orange Habenero (careful!)

Spinach - Samish

Squash - I actually grow it for my hens! Nutterbutter Winter

Tomatoes - I had a hard time 2 years ago with tomatoes. Tomato blight! Yellow Brandywine Juane Flame, Green Zebra and the old stand by Red Brandywine.

Basil

Sage

Oregano

Notice the beet commentary: "Ciogga Beet, Touchstone Gold Beet (I don’t like beets but my mom loves them, these are for her). Big collective, "awwwww." here. His mom is also the uncredited photographer in Orren's shots. She mos def deserves beets. Orren is particularly fond of his fennel. And he's the third of my four gardeners to suggest it. Heed him.

We can all be reminded that Los Angeles and most of California have been spared the dreaded tomato blight. East Coast growers were slammed by a virus that can be traced back to a few suppliers of commercial starts. Brandywine and Green Zebra are two of my favorites. Burpee seeds has organic varieties. Juane Flame? I shall try it, I trust Orren. Likewise, he needs to add Purple Cherokee to his rancho.

You'll also notice @happychickens' squash crop: Squash - I actually grow it for my hens! Nutterbutter Winter. When planting think about "who is this for?" Mom? My chickens? You don't have to give the neighbors zucchini just because that's what you can grow. What does your neighbor with the ball jars and the canning habit like? You could find yourself swimming in okra pickles or Jerusalem Artichokes! You could even register with Ample Harvest.org and grow for a food bank.

Orren wanted me to make sure to tell all of you that he never gardens alone. If not his friends to lend a hand, he has his thunder chickens--like these from Murray McMurray Hatchery. He constantly was shadowed by his flock of weeders and bug eaters, his girls. As someone with his own sidekick, Duck Duck, the Muscovey at my farm in San Pedro, I agree with Orren. It's not just what you grow and who for - but who you garden with. I guess that means that Orren's inviting us through his blog a chance to "sit at the cool kids table." Honored to finally make it there.

Next up: Our very own Westside LA City Councilman (and chicken wrangler) Bill Rosendahl. For now please Discuss. Comment. Like. Suggest varieties of your own, you'll get to sit at the cool kids table too.