Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Urban homesteading

I come by it honestly, I really do.  I grew up running around on five acres of land, climbing trees, milking goats, collecting eggs, running with the dogs, and even (for awhile) riding a horse.  Mom had a tremendous vegetable garden out back, not to mention wide swaths of flower gardens surrounding the house, and my dad used to give her weedwackers and rototillers as gifts.  So it really isn't that strange (right? right?) that I would end up fascinated by the urban homesteading movement.  I may live in the city, but at my core I'm a country girl, and you can only keep that bottled up inside for so long!

So in the six months since we moved into our house on 10,000 square feet of land, and the 5 months since Timothy made his entrance, I've been digging, and planting, and weeding, and watering, and rounding up friends to help me move insane things like chicken coops.

I just re-read that sentence, and realized that this may not be quite normal. 

Anyway, here is an update on my little urban homestead.

1) We have CHICKENS!  Six of them, to be precise, which is the maximum that the city will allow on our parcel of land.  They sleep in this cute little blue coop, but during the day they range around our back yard, eating bugs, scratching up all kinds of trash from the previous owners (which is good, because then I can gather it and throw it away!) and giving themselves dust baths under the trees.  Happy birds, yes they are.

 And when they're not molting, they lay beautiful eggs.

2) I'm composting.  Everything.  I really can't seem to help myself.  But I didn't want a loose, messy pile for the dog to play in, so I picked up some pallets (thank you, craigslist free page!)

 conscripted some helpers,

and built a large "containment field" for the big compost pile in the back.

This is the long-term pile that will slowly work its magic over a year or two.  This photo was taken a few weeks ago, and the left side is now entirely full.  In the next few days I'll probably turn it, and then start filling up the other side.

For quicker production, I have worms!  I've experimented with worm bins for some years now, and I really like them.  Right now I have a typical set of five stacking trays, which I purchased (used, on craigslist).  I like it a lot for ease of use, but it is limited in size and scope.  So on Sunday I started making an "in ground" worm bin.  It is made of cinderblocks, with wire mesh down the center to split it into two halves.  I add kitchen scraps to the "working" side until full, and the worms eat it up and then migrate through the mesh to the fresh scraps on the other side. I'm hoping that by giving the worms more room, they will breed lots more little wormies and eat their way through the scraps that much faster. 

3) Actual gardening has been sparser than I'd have liked, due to the timing of our move.  By the time we got into the house and I'd actually birthed the baby, high summer was in full swing.  I got some cherry tomatoes in, and they have done well. I rarely get to use them in the kitchen, because the boys eat them right off the plant.  Not that I'm complaining!  Mostly I've been trying to revive plants that were already here, weed, and weed, and weed, and weed, and WEED (I'm losing), and plant some easy things like radishes and poppies since Thomas and Josiah are studying plants right now.

That's ok.  I'm focusing on long-term goals and trying to remember that even though Southern California's weather is bizarre, it still really is autumn, and winter is coming, and this is the appropriate time to be putting gardens to bed, composting, and cover-cropping to renew and replenish the soil. 

That's all for now; the (nearly five months, can you believe it!?) baby needs me.  By the way, he has started to hold a toy, which is adorable.  And also grab his pacifier, pull it out of his mouth, and then drop it.  Useful skill, that.