Suburban Farming

We live on a small lot, but manage an herb garden, veggie garden, and bantam chickens.

The name George means “farmer”, and I suspect that farming is somewhere in George’s genetic code. Just like his father, George has a green thumb and a love of being outdoors.  When George was growing up, his family enjoyed time hunting, fishing, and camping on acreage they owned outside city limits.  Though George knows it’s not realistic given our time and finances, he’d love nothing more than to live on a ranch with easy access to city conveniences.

Since ranch living is not in our foreseeable future, we’ve settled for “suburban farming”.   On the side of our house where the weeds once thrived, George built two raised bed vegetable gardens filled with summer squash, tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini, and onions.  A fragrant herb garden is nestled in our flower beds.  While the quads play outside, I sometimes help weed the gardens, but that’s about the extent of my green thumb and “farmer spirit”.  Any foliage at our house is compliments to George.  Even if I’m not the resident gardener, I am the household chef and I make good use of our bounty.

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It’s been fun for the quads to watch the garden come to life and to participate in the process.  We are working on teaching them when to harvest vegetables, however.  I have a few green tomatoes to content with right now…

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In the days long before children, George had this cockamamie idea that we needed farm fresh eggs, and he didn’t want to buy them from the farmer’s market.  Instead, he wanted to raise bantam chickens right in our zero lot line backyard.  Being fixed on this plan, George contacted the city code compliance officer to ensure it was acceptable, and much to my dismay it was.  I thought it was absurd, but went along with his little plan.  His enthusiasm was beyond measure and I couldn’t stifle it.  Somehow he bamboozled me into picking up a set of four (interesting that it was exactly four….) hatchlings and then nurturing them to maturity.  Seriously, we had to keep these yellow fluffy chicks under a heat lamp in our bonus room upstairs for several weeks and it was months before they could lay.

Much to my chagrin, I actually liked the little buggers.  Unlike standard chickens, Bantams are half the size and twice as cute and docile.  Since we started with hatchlings we didn’t know if we had hens or roosters.  As luck had it, we ended up with three roosters and one hen.  Given that we dwell in suburbia, the roosters were a bit of a nuisance and of course couldn’t provide those farm fresh eggs.  Thus, they found new homes with a coworker of George who lives on a working ranch.  Being persistent, George replaced the three roosters with three more Bantam hens who were fabulous at providing gorgeous brown eggs daily.  The only problem was the coop George built was not a run and the chickens had to be free range all day.  We felt really good about having totally free range chickens except that they were messy pets and destructive to boot.  That year we had no landscaping in the yard and our veggie garden was pulverized.  Feeling defeated, George eventually sent all four chickens to his coworker.

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When I stumbled upon these old pictures from 2008, I thought the fried egg picture was interesting…it looks strikingly similar to our first ultrasound picture when one baby was almost impossible to detect.  Foreshadowing perhaps?!?!

Urban Farming

About six months ago George got stars in his eyes and started talking about how wonderful it would be for the kids to grow up with chickens.  I tried to stomp this notion multiple times.  After all, we have FOUR kids and TWO dogs, which are more than enough to care for.  More days than not I’m exhausted by the day’s end.  Adding four more needy creatures to our family did not sound appealing.  At all.  George did not give up easily and reminded me that Bantam chickens provide fresh eggs, are nice companions, are easy for kids to handle, would teach the kids responsibility, eat insects and weeds, and most importantly deter small garden snakes from hanging around.  I was still hesitant to start this endeavor.  When given the opportunity to get a chicken coop from my sister’s company for free, I couldn’t stave him off any longer.  Almost as soon as the coop was in our possession, George had it assembled and ready for it’s residents.  I knew it was time to let him try chicken farming again.  This weekend we took the quads to a small farm and let each of them choose their own fowl.

Rylin chose a small white Silkie, which we named Diamond.  I suggested “Pearl” but pearls are not near blingy enough for our little princess.   Rylin is extremely gentle with the chickens and they let her catch them sometimes.

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Harper also chose a white Silkie that’s slightly larger than Rylin’s and we call her Opal.  So far, Opal darts around lightning fast and is near impossible to capture.   I suspect Opal isn’t a hen after all…

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Sydney’s pick was a small brown specked Cochin, that is extremely gentle and sweet.  Keeping with our precious stone theme, Sydney’s chicken is Ruby. You may notice Sydney’s eye is puffy as if she got a shiner.  We weren’t sure what happened, but we suspect it was an insect bite.  It cleared up after two days and she didn’t seem bothered by it at all.

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Finally, Mason picked the only black plumed bird, which we dubbed Onyx.  I think Onyx could be a rooster too.  This one is dodgey and evasive.

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Every evening, we let the chickens roam the back yard to consume as many bugs as possible before bedtime and the quads help us coral them when free range time ends.

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It’s apparently near impossible to sex Silkie Bantam chickens so we aren’t sure if we have hens or roosters, and George better hope we have four hens.  If we have a flock of roosters his chicken farming may once again come to a halt.  I’ve also made it clear that should these chickens become bonified family members, we may become vegetarians.  I’ve already had a difficult time preparing chicken since their arrival Sunday afternoon.

hugs,

Amber

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