Monday, July 15, 2013

Urban Farming - July 2013

We've been working consciously on this project to turn our home into an urban farm for about three years now.

Before thinking this could work, we had already established organic garden beds, herbs, grapes, pollinating plants, open water for insects and birds. We used the clothesline, inside and out, installed a wood stove, use passive solar heat in winter, reduced water consumption and a few other odds and ends.

I had farm envy. I wanted horse manure to muck about, I wanted chickens to eat the bugs out of my veggie garden, I wanted to not have to listen to my neighbours playing loud, ridiculous radio stations. I discovered I was never going to get the small farm of my dreams and I had to readjust.

I moved along to frustration. How was I going to turn a determinedly north facing garden into a veggie patch? Chickens are outlawed in Halifax. Cows for sure weren't going to work. Miniature farm animals? No go. Everything I thought belonged on a farm, was roadblocked by being in the city.

Then I discovered two major things. One was the "100 mile diet" which I speak about  here. The other was the idea that homesteading is about switching my thinking from a consumer's to a producer's. Along the way, I realized there were many things we can do as homeowners that can make time on the earth a little less aggressive.

As you have read, we have switched our eating habits to eating nearly 100% locally produced foods. (Except there is a heat wave on and I am eating Mrs. Vickie's Chips and Sussex Gingerale, so I fib a little bit.) If it can't be locally grown, such as peanut butter, is there a local producer? If it can't be locally produced, such as coffee, can it be "Fair Trade"? If it can't meet any of these criteria, how important is it? So I do without bananas. I do without citrus fruit most of the year. I need an orange in January. It sparks me up to get through to March

As I look through the cupboards, I realize we really have shifted so much that it is hard to find anything that offends.

The Farming Goals haven't been so successful. Our garden is covered in shade. At best we get 5 hours of sun beside a maple that is so shallow rooted, nothing grows under it. It is a perfect place for overwintering the compost and storing a boat.

Livestock is impossible. Chickens, Ducks, Rabbits, Pigeons, Quail and Bees. All not allowed. I was feeling embarrassed at calling myself an Urban Farmer. How is that possible without a crop or an animal?

But good things began to happen. I realized that our garden is the only one in shouting distance with open water in the winter. The photo above is our small fountain. Usually the rocks are wet and there is easy access for small birds and insects. The photo below is our bird bath with electric warming feature.

We are the gathering spot for many bird species all year long. We've had odd visitors like the yellow breasted Flicker and the Rose Breasted Grossbeak. There are 5 different types of butterflies, 7 different types of wasps, several types of bees, and once, I saw rabbit foot prints. I know there are tons of mice. Any self respecting farm has mice.

I still felt embarrassed to mention my notions about Urban Farming. I came across this book again,

The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen. They have a great blog coming out of California that I enjoy weekly.

I read this about 6 years ago, when

dreams of owning a real farm fell flat. I read it again 3 years ago, and put some more suggestions into action. I read it again this spring and realized that while I might not be doing the usual routine of producing my own food and flesh, I am providing a highly essential ecosystem for pollinators. Those butterflies, bees and wasps are all needed to pollinate other people's vegetable gardens. These insects travel for long distances, getting their pollen fix.

Just recently, we became foster parents to a fledgling bee hive. I love them. They are fun to watch, they mind their own business beautifully and I am learning interesting things. They will stay here until they are strong enough to go to a permanent home. I might get a jar of honey out of it, if they do well. Come on Bees.

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