A Self-Sufficient City Farm In Today's Modern World
Is That Even Possible?
“The consuming desire of most human beings is deliberately to plant their whole life in the hands of some other person. I would describe this method of searching for happiness as immature. Development of character consists solely in moving toward self-sufficiency.”
Look at the title of this article and you will see the words “city” and “farm” side by side as if they belonged together. Well with an increasing number of people across America those two words do, indeed, belong together and they work quite nicely together as well.
A farm is simply a tract of land where vegetables and/or animals are raised, so why not a city farm? Many people who live in a city have back yards large enough to have a serviceable farm. The author of this article lives on 1/8 of an acre in the middle of Olympia, Washington, and we have a vegetable garden, six chickens and soon will have rabbits and bees. Yes indeed, a city farm!
And why are we doing this? Why are we moving ever so slowly but steadily towards self-sufficiency? Because we are fed up with being dependent upon the economic system; we are fed up with buying food that may or may not be healthy; and we are fed up with the feeling that we really have no control over the forces that have tossed us about for so many years; so now we are doing something about it.
This article is a very brief look at one family and their attempt to become self-sufficient. In three years we plan on leaving the city and moving to a small farm (twenty acres) in the country, but until that is a reality we will practice here in the city.
Would you like a tour of our farm?
We buy nothing new when we need tools. In the five years that Bev and I have been together we have either made do with what we had or bought at garage sales. We refuse to buy new tools. New tools are made of metal and metal has to be mined and we are against mining. I can buy a used saw at a garage sale for two dollars. All the wood we need for projects comes from used pallets that we get for free.
We do not even have a lawn mower. Why? I hate mowing lawns. Period! We use a weed-whacker that is electric and I keep the front yard manageable using that. The back yard is trimmed by the chickens and yes, chickens eat grass. They also fertilize. Handy little buggers, aren’t they? I have also found that grass will not grow if you don’t water it. Who would have ever thought, huh?
All cities are different with regards to domesticated animals. In Olympia we are allowed five hens (we have six) and no roosters. Contrary to public opinion, chickens will lay eggs without the services of a rooster. Our chickens lay, on average, four eggs per day. We have not purchased eggs for six months and won’t have to do so for the next six years, at which time our hens will become chicken dinner (or not since we do love them as pets) and we’ll buy six new chicks.
Chickens are great bug-eating machines. They love aphids, a fact many gardeners will be interested in. They also love table scraps. They are also fertilizing machines and their natural fertilizer goes into our garden.
Their chicken coop was made from used pallets and an old truck canopy we had. The chickens love it and I love the fact that it cost practically nothing to build. Quite frankly I am amazed more city-dwellers do not raise chickens.
The Vegetable Garden
Our garden is the product of manual labor. No machines were used; shovels were the tools of choice. It was quite a bit of work to begin with, but after that first spring it is simply a matter of maintenance, and during the winter months the chickens do the maintenance for us.
We grow potatoes, onions, lettuce, beans, peas, broccoli, various herbs and whatever strikes our fancy from year to year. The only thing I am not happy about is that we use city water to keep it moist during the summer, but soon we’ll get some rain barrels and let nature handle that problem. Then all I have to do is find some PVC pipe for free and lay a watering system down that hooks directly to the rain barrel.
We usually end up giving some of our vegetables to friends in an informal bartering system. If it was good enough for our ancestors then it’s good enough for us.
The Berry Bonanza
Is there anything better than raspberries straight from the vine in the summer? How about strawberries? Marionberries? Blackberries? We have them all and we’ll have more. Bev eats them off the vine; I put mine in a mixer and make smoothies.
We have planted some berries in the front by the road so that neighbors can have fresh berries when they walk by. Why would we do that? We both have a strong sense of community, and this is just our way of saying share and share alike. Hopefully the concept will catch on and we will have a neighborhood of sharing happening in a year or two.
And Soon to Come
Lo and behold, our city of Olympia also allows two goats per household. How great is that? If not this spring then next we will be adding two goats to our city farm. We’ll try our hand at milking them when the time comes, and we’ll let them do some yard maintenance as well.
In addition, beekeeping is becoming quite popular in our neighborhood, so naturally we will be trying that. Honey bees have had a tough time of it lately, so we want to see if we can establish some hives and help those little devils re-establish themselves. In return they will provide us with fresh honey, the nectar of the gods.
And that’s about all we have room for. We are still kicking around the idea of getting a miniature pig; I’ll let you know how that goes when we finally decide.
Another writer living this lifestyle
- In Search of Self-sufficiency
A simple guide to help you become more self-sufficient, Earth conscious, and in your attempts to rely less on items produced in today's throw away society.
Once in the Country
Well then the sky is the limit. One cow will provide meat for an entire year for us and our five grown kids. We’ll also have a couple pigs, more goats, and a much larger garden…..and chickens by the dozens, and ducks, and geese, and……well, you get the picture.
Now It Is Your Turn
Is it possible to be truly self-sufficient living in the city considering the lack of space available? I don’t believe so although now that I have written that I’m sure someone will prove me wrong. However, it is possible to move towards self-sufficiency and ease the dependency that most families have on the economy.
Hopefully you enjoyed the tour. Stop back any old time you are in the neighborhood. We’ll be glad to share some of our eggs with you, and I’ll even mix up one of my famous smoothies for you. That’s what neighbors do you know….we welcome others with open arms.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)