Random Thoughts On An Urban Farm

No more lawn

We can’t eat all the berries we have grown this year.

I know, I know, freeze them!  We will, but that’s not the point.

The berries are coming from our front yard, which is no longer a lawn but instead is a cornucopia of thirty berry bushes.

Too cool for words!

It began in earnest three years ago. We laid down cardboard, put hay over that, and let nature do its thing. We kept adding cardboard where necessary, added fallen leaves, added more hay, and when we could we started planting the berries.

Three years later we have a harvest fit for a neighborhood of kings . . . and queens.

I hate lawns.  I hate mowing lawns.  I see no purpose in lawns.  I think lawns are stupid.

Backyard bounty

On the other hand, berries are not stupid, but wise.

Any questions?


A young couple we know just purchased their first home.  Pretty exciting news for them, five acres just outside of town, a partially-constructed workshed along with the house and land, plans already being made by this young couple, and it is hard not to be excited for them.

They asked me yesterday if I knew anyone who raised goats.

I love sustainable living and the strong sense of community.

Just so happens our son has a goat farm.

Ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding!!!!!!!!!

Community!  Too cool for words!


I’m exhausted thinking about my to-do list. Why get more tired writing about it now? If you have an urban farm you know what I’m talking about.


I don’t mean this as mean so please don’t take it that way. I am actually amused by it.  I recently queried why my quail would suddenly stop laying eggs, and within an hour I had fifteen different responses, all from very earnest people, all dead certain that they were correct based on their experiences, all highly-critical of the other opinions.

I personally think the quail stopped laying because it was too hot, but that’s beside the point.

The point is this: one size does not fit all in farming.  What works for one person may not work for you, and what I do to solve a problem may not be considered wise by you.

It’s okay!  Really!  We don’t all have to solve problems the same way.  Take a deep breath and relax.

Share information with each other . . . give suggestions when asked for . . . and chill the hell out!


If you raise chickens and quail, you are going to need grit at some point.  Grit is used as a way to properly digest food.  It goes straight down the bird’s gullet and “mashes” up the food they have eaten.  That’s because chickens don’t have teeth, so the food they eat goes into their stomachs as lumps and not digested, chewed food.  Grit does the work of teeth.

Many farmers use ground up oyster shells as grit.  We use chicken egg shells as a substitute. I put the shells in a plastic bucket, and pound them into little pieces using a splitting maul.  You then take those shells and bake them in the oven for about ten minutes or so. Some people don’t even bake them. I’m not sure which approach is correct.  Either way, our chickens will eat it, as will the quail.

Yes, chickens eat chicken egg shells. Call it cannibalism if you want, but they love them and the shells are good for them.


Enough of this writing stuff (even though it pays the bills).  I’ve got work to do outside now that the heat wave has ended. For one I have to collect eggs. The girls are laying again. J



Preparation and Flexibility

Soon to be a greenhouse

Anyone who has ever had a farm will understand this next statement: I’m willing to bet I don’t have one section of chicken wire or hardware cloth on this property that hasn’t been used for at least three different projects. You know how it goes . . . you build a chicken run and then six months you don’t need that run anymore, but you do need to protect the garden from roaming chickens, so you take the chicken wire and you build a temporary fence around the garden, but then after the harvest you need that wire to protect garlic planted in another section of the yard, so you pull the wire up again and move it . . . and . . .

And so it goes!

In fact, we recently went to the dump, and one load consisted of nothing but old projects using chicken wire which were all at least six years old. They had finally worn down to the point where I couldn’t use them for anything, so I was forced to get rid of them.

As I look around the place, I see quite a few examples of this “re-use” philosophy.  We have large plastic totes that are always being used for new projects.  I raised red wigglers in one and three months later modified it to raise mealworms, and six months after that I needed it as a portable holding station for baby chicks.

The aviaries I built to raise quail in have been used for the quail, for baby chickens, and as greenhouses. This winter one of them will store our firewood while the other will be for baby chickens again.

The carport made out of PVC pipe and plastic is being dismantled and will be a forty-foot greenhouse next spring.

And so it goes!


A cord of seasoned firewood was delivered the other day.  I spent the next few days moving it to its new home in the aviary.  It feels good knowing that chore is taken care of.  Next up is painting the shed out back, and then the next chore is . . . well, there’s always a next chore.


I recently saw a cartoon on Facebook.  I don’t remember the exact wording, but it was about tomatoes, and it said “Tomatoes, something you plant and then wait four months in order to save $2.17.”

That’s actually a fairly accurate statement, but it’s also not a complete statement.

Urban farming is not about saving money.  If it were, most of us would be failing miserably.  Of course it is more convenient to purchase tomatoes at a supermarket.  It is also less expensive to do so . . . but . . . there is no way this boy is eating tomatoes sold at Safeway.  I’ve done far too much research about pesticides to ever eat produce or fruit from a supermarket.  Urban farming is a life choice.  I want to know where my food comes from, and if I don’t grow it I damned well make sure the produce we are buying came from a local farmer, one who practices organic farming.

Urban farming is also about community.  I can’t control what’s happening nationally.  National politics and policies drive me crazy.  I can, however, do my part to support local farmers and neighbors and businesses, and that’s what I will do.

And finally, urban farming is about joy and satisfaction.


The answer: none of us are worth a damn in hot weather!

I noticed this the last two years but still it surprised me when it happened this week: the chickens and quail all but stop laying eggs when the temperature gets too hot.  We are being promised cooler weather next week and then the girls will start laying again, but at first it’s a bit disconcerting when eighty quail and seven hens all of a sudden stop laying eggs.  LOL  Makes one think the end of the world is upon us.

Nope, nothing so sinister . . . it’s just too hot!  The fowl are on strike!

Buttercup is on the left


I’ve got a shed to paint but hey, it’s too hot, so that will wait until next week. For now I think I’ll just make sure everyone has enough water and let it go at that.

Have a great week of gardening/farming. I know I will.