One of the best things urban farming has done for us was meet a lot of amazing people that we are now so very lucky to call our friends. Today’s post comes from Paula and John, some of those amazing people.
Our dining room wall is painted with chalkboard paint; This is where we keep track of what’s growing. It gives our dining room a not-too-serious, elementary-school vibe.
John grew up eating food from a box. Food sticks, in particular, were one of his preferred childhood treats. I grew up stubbornly refusing to eat anything green. We are unlikely candidates for growing our own food. We started with jasmine on our Las Vegas apartment balcony in the 90’s. Later we grew basil and tomatoes in the driveway of our shotgun apartment in New Orleans. We didn’t garden much in those cities, but developed a taste for good food.
In 2006 we were able to purchase a small home in Pleasant Hill on a quarter acre. We started with some raised beds in the back of the yard. In 2009 we got the victory garden itch and started removing sections of our front lawn. Lettuce and garlic were successful crops that boosted our gardening ego and encouraged us to keep at it.
In 2009 we got five chickens. We love our chickens, and they have become the focus of our suburban farm. One of those first five chicks turned out to be a rooster, and since roosters are not allowed in our city, we had to re-home the boy. Quickly, we learned the chicken fact-of-life that roosters are not in high demand in the suburbs. Our little cockerel was one of the lucky few. Not only did he elude the sex-sort at the hatchery (90% accurate), but he avoided the stew-pot, and ultimately got to live on 5 acres and protect a flock of pet chickens.
Worrying about the fate of one individual chicken made us ponder the lives of all the other chickens out there, more specifically, the ones we eat (we eat a lot of chicken!). For years we had been hearing bad news about factory farms. After studying websites like backyardchickens.com and honestmeat.com, we committed and bought seven “fast white broiler” chicks at the local feed store. We wanted to give them a good life and learn how to process them humanely. In fact, that’s how we met Tom and Rachel. They were kind enough to guide us through our first chicken processing last year. Book-learning and you-tube videos are good, but it helped us tremendously to have real people guide us through our first experience. We don’t name our meat chickens, but we give them green grass, sunshine, love, and respect.
We live by a regional trail and we don’t have a privacy fence. Sometimes people comment on our yard as they pass by. Some simply point and exclaim: “Chickens!” One day, a girl and her mother were walking by. “Is that a farm, mommy?”, the girl asked. “Is that a farm?” she asked again, “Is that a farm?” while her mother struggled for an answer. “Yes…..yes, it’s a farm.”, the mother finally said. And there it was – clearly defined for us – we could finally acknowledge, that what we have here is a farm. It wasn’t just US calling it a farm in a joking manner. We decided that should be the name of our farm-blog:
We were reluctant to blog, because our schedule is very tight, but it is time to share with the on-line community that has shared so much with us.
We love growing food because it opens our minds to new ideas and old ways almost forgotten. We still like to eat food from a box sometimes, but much less than we used to. Vegetables are easier to appreciate when you invest time and effort into growing them.
Surplus from the garden has been a catalyst for meeting neighbors and building community. We are meeting our neighbors through shared food and conversations – something which grounds us in our modern, suburban hood.
One thought on “Guest Post – John & Paula’s Suburban Farm Story”
Great story! There’s nothing like sharing the experiences with others. We keep chickens for eggs, and when one went broody last year, an experienced self-sufficiency farmer friend guided us through the introduction of day-old chicks to the broody and, ultimately, to the home-slaughter of the four meat birds the broody raised for us. Of course we know about the heat lamp trick, but we’re hoping for another broody hen this year. It was such a pleasure to watch a perfect “mother” at work.
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