Friday, May 30, 2014

Farming In the City
This post has been churning in me for months now. Our brains have been caught up with moving for the past year, making decisions, researching permaculture projects that would benefit our piece of land, building our chicken coop, barn and stables, etc. Our brains have been so caught up that I thought I'd take a few videos to remember our little city farm. I have officially let our garden "go" this spring and we've been in take down mode. We've taken down the cows' barn and milking stanchion. We've been brainstorming how to disassemble our chicken coop and transport "the girls".
Yadda, yadda.
So, needless to say, we're not much to look at presently, but we're still savoring each moment here. I keep thinking, "Oh, we should do this here, or put up that there", but I pass on the ideas, writing it down for our new property. My head is whirling with ideas!
The past few years, I've had a running mental list of some of the great things about farming in the city and some of the not-so-great things about it.
1.) Everything is CLOSE. You don't have to walk a few acres or take a 4-wheeler to get anywhere. You can see your cows from the living room window. You see your garden every time you get into your car or walk out front.
2.) You can have a real impact on others in your community. I know that our family has really enjoyed getting to know neighbors as we let our cows graze out front. We've kind-of become the "Lemonade House" of the neighborhood, if you will. There's always somebody stopping by to play and visit an animal. We've really enjoyed some memories of having friends help us plant our gardens. We've had neighbors come by for manure (we can bless them with manure, while they bless us with taking it away!) and we've also been known to give out fresh eggs from time to time, blessing others. When we have an overabundance of lettuce, what better than to give to neighbors? We even have a back neighbor who cares for the animals for us when we're up at our property for weekends at a times. She gets free eggs and milk, while we get the security of knowing that our animals are taken care of.
3.) You have a customer base in your front yard. What better place to sell your excess eggs, fruit, veggies, etc.? You don't have to use any gas money or time to travel to sell your products. Hooray for that! Our milk co-op supplier has to drive an hour (one way) to deliver their products. It's an entire day of driving. And that's just to OUR location. That doesn't even include other locations. You could get crazy and if you can keep a rooster (I've heard of people keeping them in garages in large cages, so it can be done), you could essentially reproduce and supply chicks.
4.) Permaculture IS possible! Check out Geoff Lawton's Urban Permaculture video below...
1.) Grass is LIMITED. Grass sustains life. It helps feed basically all animals on a farm that would give you anything. We only have so much. Molly and Mabel come out every few nights to munch grass after we've eaten dinner. You know. Some people like to walk their dogs. We walk our cows. {grin}
2.) Manure can really "pile up" if you know what I mean. HOWEVER, if you have a chicken coop or a compost bin, you're all set. There just needs to be organization to it and it can be a real blessing.
We also purchased a worm bin this past year and have had some real success breeding Red Wigglers on our back porch. No one would even know they're there, unless we pointed them out. Great for fishing and in the garden. The chickens love a treat every once and while as well.
3.) You can have some legal problems if you want to keep animals. I've even known some cities to be stinkers with people wanting to keep edible plants or a garden in their front yards. Bleh! Blast those HOAs! {Remaining composure...calm, calm}
Wanna know a secret? Here's how we "got away with it", keeping cows and chickens, I mean.
Chickens...Our city codes don't post a certain number in the paperwork, but they do have to be enclosed. Well, we have a 6-foot fence encircling our entire back yard (we do let them free range, but not every day) and we do have a chicken coop. They have been known to escape and we've found lost chickens in our front yard, but our neighbors think it's cool and they have a blast catching them and throwing them over the fence. We've kept roosters before and although we're not "supposed to" keep them, no one has ever complained. We love the sound of cock-a-doodle-doing during breakfast and so do our neighbors. Not everyone may be as welcoming however. Really know your neighbors.
Cows...Our city codes have written that "any hoofed animal may not be within 100 feet of a non-owner". Well, when you live in the city, you're most likely within 100 feet of SOMEONE. Well, my genius of a husband said (always thought he should've been a lawyer), "Why don't you just go around to each neighbor and ask them if they're "co-own Molly"? Genius. Complete genius. So, that's what we did. After dinner one night, we went around and measured with a measuring tape everyone that was within 100 feet of us. Yes. We probably looked like fools. I always tell my husband that I "keep his life interesting". He agrees. Ah-hem. Anyways...all SEVEN neighbors thought it was neato and signed. Molly came home that next week (after we got her gate back up in the back yard). We keep our permission papers laminated and stapled to our fence so that if anyone tries to cause trouble, we have legal permission posted for them to see.

A few things about Keeping A Family Cow (wouldn't own one without this book by Joann Grohman)...She states in her book, "At various times I've kept a cow in a suburban garage and grazed her on the lawn. It definitely can be done."

There's also a Keeping the Family Cow website in which I find VERY useful, especially since we're rookies!

" 'A young fellow wantin' a start in life just needs three things: a piece of land, a cow and a wife. And he don't strictly need that last.' That's an old saying that used to annoy me once. Now that I'm an old lady with a cow but no spouse I am prepared to concede at least the validity of the underlying premise. " -Joann Grohman


Gardens...Don't know what to tell ya here. If you live in an HOA, you're probably out of luck. You could garden in your back yard. However, if you don't, look up your city codes. Honestly, we never looked up anything for our garden. We originally had it out back, but moved it to the front when our backyard shade completely took over. We've never had a problem. We're generous with leftovers and that helps too! We've even had other neighbors begin small veggie gardens of their own.

Joel Salatin's Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal book really has truth to it.

4.) You won't be able to be completely sustainable if that's your goal. You won't have enough space to grow wheat, grains, or really enough food for your family. I once had a sweet friend who thought that I actually grew ALL of our veggies and produce. So sweet. {I laughed, genuinely.} No. We don't even come CLOSE. We could grow more. Much more. But we have too much shade and would have to invest in some major tree work being done to welcome the right amount of sun we'd need for that type of growing. We have a swing set/play area out back for the kids and if we wanted to keep a pig or another chicken coop in its place, we probably could, but we like having a "clean space" for our kids to play and run, while keeping our animals on our second lot.
You know, I'm not against couponing necessarily ( I personally tried it once, but lost interest when all I could buy was food that our family didn't eat), but what can you usually buy with coupons?
Junk food. Let's start applauding the families willing to grow living food to save money. Think Victory Gardens here. {grin} I LOVE this cookbook. Don't have many cookbooks, maybe 6, but this one is my "go-to" most of the time, especially when I have baskets of green beans or tomatoes that need "a plan".
I do recommend The Backyard Homestead for a good read on how to farm in limited spaces. The author breaks farms down in spaces of 1/10 of an acre, 1/4 of an acre, and 1/2 of an acre. Quite interesting and very possible to do!
1/2 Acre
1/4 Acre

1/10 Acre
So without delay, here are two videos of our little city farm. As mentioned above, it's not much to look at right now as we're disassembling and undecorated (I love having hanging baskets around our chicken coop, and flowers everywhere), but I wanted to give you an idea anyways.

So the question is, is it better to farm in the city or country? Well, it depends. If it's ingrained in you to farm, you'll farm anywhere you can. It's true. There are positives and negatives to both ways and the main point is that you start somewhere with something. Get good at it and try something new. Farming is FULL of experiments. Many times we fail. Many times we succeed. When we do succeed, SHARE with others so that they may succeed as well.  I think as a farmer, you'll always covet. You'll covet a bigger barn, a greener pasture, a larger chicken coop, etc. Being content is key.

The BEST part is stewarding God's creation.

In my mind, is it worth the hard work, sacrifice, and sweat. Yes. I think I'd farm in a New York City sky riser if I could. {giggle}

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