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What Does a Frugal Urban Farm Look Like?

Updated on July 1, 2014

A Brief History of Urban Farms

This is not a new concept. Ancient civilizations utilized urban farming to feed the citizenry. We’ve seen it throughout history. We are not re-inventing the wheel here folks. Think in terms of a small farm within city limits, with special emphasis on the word “small.”

I don’t know the size of your lot where you live. Ours is 1/8 of an acre. Some of you live on a considerably smaller lot while others life on a larger lot. What almost all of us have in common is space that could be used to grow food, and once you are growing food you are the proud owner of an urban farm.

Do I even need to list the benefits of an urban farm? Knowing that your food is safe to eat….saving on the cost of food…..a feeling of peace in knowing you are helping the environment…..a sense of community where neighbors help neighbors and share information….all are excellent reasons why you should begin constructing your urban farm today.

Let me ask you one question: when was the last time you ate your lawn?

I still have one section of our property that has a lawn, but by this time next year that section will be growing vegetables and feeding goats. Vegetables and goats provide for my family. A lawn doesn’t.

It’s as simple as that.

One other word in the title of this article needs to be mentioned….frugal. Everything you see in the attached pictures, and everything I mention as we take our tour, costs practically nothing. I believe in recycling materials, and I do not believe in spending money. I’ll talk more about this as the article continues.

So let’s take a look at our urban farm in Olympia, Washington. Join me on a tour as I show you what an eighth of an acre can do for one family.

Our chickens' happy home
Our chickens' happy home | Source

CHICKENS

Check your city’s ordinances about chickens. Some cities allow them; some don’t. Our city of Olympia, Washington, allows six hens per household. No roosters in our city.

We purchased our six chicks for two bucks a piece. Not a bad investment considering the fact that they give us from 4-6 eggs daily.

The coop cost practically nothing. You’ll notice the roof and storage on top is an old truck canopy we already had. The lumber was stuff we picked up on the side of the road. Free pallets were used for the walls and the floor. We paid for two sheets of plywood and the chicken fencing, and it will last us for years.

Quail hutch from recycled materials
Quail hutch from recycled materials | Source

QUAIL

Again, the quail coop is built from recycled wood. We paid not one cent to build it. Does it look great? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We could care less what it looks like, and I’m damned certain the quail don’t care about architectural style, so to us it looks beautiful.

Our city has no ordinances about quail, so we bask in the glow of “ignorance is bliss.”

Quail chicks cost $3 each….they are raised on bugs and seeds….they are ready for slaughter in five weeks. If we don’t slaughter them for meat we still have fresh eggs….a classic win/win situation.

Peas, beans, fennel, and potatoes
Peas, beans, fennel, and potatoes | Source

VEGETABLES

I think the veggie garden measures about seven hundred square feet, but it increases yearly, so I’m not sure how close I am with that estimate.

We buy seeds to start the garden each year. Why? Because this is a frugal garden and we don’t want to pay for starter plants.

Please note that we do not weed around the beds. There are a couple reasons for that. One, if we leave weeds outside of the growing areas, we find we have practically no slug problem. In other words, we give the slugs weeds to eat so they will leave the vegetables alone. It is an agreement that so far benefits us all, and the slugs are very good about keeping their part of the bargain.

Secondly, we like the rustic look. Weeds are quite often pretty, and we like the beauty of nature unspoiled by man’s interference.

Third, we get some great additions to our garden that are dropped off by birds and the wind. We have fennel growing like crazy and we never planted it. We have wheat and sunflowers and California Poppies, all deposited without our help. We love the randomness of it, and isn’t gardening supposed to be about the love of it all?

One other note of importance: we use no pesticides in our garden. We control bugs with a mixture of garlic and pepper. We spray it on the plants periodically and have no problem with aphids or other veggie-eating bugs.

Cherry tree in backyard
Cherry tree in backyard | Source

FRUIT

We have two cherry trees, one pear, and one apple. We plan on adding one tree each year as long as we live here.

The two cherry trees are in the backyard. The pear and apple trees are in front where our neighbors can share in our bounty as the years progress. Why do we do that? Because we believe strongly in community, and rather than sit back and wish neighbors shared with each other, we decided to be an example of neighborly sharing.

Rasberry smoothies anyone?
Rasberry smoothies anyone? | Source

BERRIES

One side of our backyard is overrun with raspberries. Can you say smoothies?

In front we have seedless blackberries, marionberries, and blueberries, and oh, yes, strawberries. And this year we started growing grapes.

You’ll note that I built a trellis for the berries/grapes. It is made from bamboo that we found alongside the road….cost nothing to build. In a couple years we will have a bounty of berries for anyone to eat as they walk by our house.

Neighbors sharing with neighbors…..community…..we love it!

Grapes, berries and fruit trees in front yard
Grapes, berries and fruit trees in front yard | Source

And for the Future…..

Well, let’s see. The remaining lawn in the front yard will eventually all be for berries and fruit trees. We want an edible fruit and berry forest for people to eat their way through while they take a walk in the evening.

The backyard still has a bit of lawn remaining, as you can see from the picture on the right. As you know by now, I hate lawns. I can see no redeeming value to them. So, that lawn has to go. Right now we are leaning toward getting two miniature goats for milking. They will help us keep down the grass….they aren’t real big on eating grass, but they can beat it down to nothingness for us.

Yes, I have had goats before and yes, I know the damage they can do…I don’t care. Yes, I know males pee on themselves….I don’t care.

And Further into the Future

Oh, we have just begun.

We only plan on living here another two or three years, and then we are going to realize one of our great dreams…we will buy a mini-farm in the country. All we need is 5-10 acres and a few outbuildings. Then we’ll really have some fun. Can you imagine? I’ll be like a kid in the candy shop drooling uncontrollably as I taste the treats.

With ten acres we could have 100 chickens, and a full acre of vegetables, and we could have a little produce stand alongside the road….and….I could start my writer’s studio and have classes….oh my, oh my, what fun awaits us.

And my, oh my, what fun awaits you if you should choose to have an urban farm.

Start small. There is no need to get overwhelmed by it all. Remember to always think frugal. If you see free lumber on the side of the road, snag it and take it home for future projects. On a frugal urban farm, everything has a use.

Thanks for joining me on this tour. Grab some berries on your way out. We have more than enough for all of you.

2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 2 years ago from New York, New York

      Great tips for Urban Farming and love your future dream, too. I have no doubt you will make that happen and can't wait to hear all about it when you do! Happy Tuesday now, Bill!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Happy Tuesday indeed, Janine. A hot one here...good day to stay by the fan and write. Thank you dear friend.

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 2 years ago from Iowa

      Thanks for the tour around your urban farm. Excited for you about your plans for a real farm someday!

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 2 years ago from West By God

      This is great. I sure wish that we didn't have an HOA here in these woods. I would have chickens, and goats on my property. You cannot go wrong with them. Oh and Rabbits too! All their droppings can be used as fertilizer for vegetables and other crops. I can't wait until you get your farm and share your pictures.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Deb....so are we. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Debra, thanks for reminding me about rabbits...yes indeed, I need rabbits. :)

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      Wow, you have so many edibles on your property. At lunchtime all you need to do is step out your studio door and take a walk around your property sampling all the delicious treats! I find it interesting that birds have planted fennel for you. I also love the tip about leaving the weeds in place for the slugs to munch on. Great tip and great hub. You've really done a lot in what - a year's time? Awesome!

    • crazyhorsesghost profile image

      Thomas Byers 2 years ago from East Coast , United States

      Great Hub billybuc with a lot of great information. I'm doing something similar and I have two large free range rabbit pens where they live, breed, and raise. Rabbit is really delicious especially if you harvest them young so they can be just fried and then put in gravy. So delicious. So yes add rabbits. Shared and voted up.

    • profile image

      dragonflycolor 2 years ago

      I'm happy to report, that I have jalapenos growing, basil, pumpkins, and a few flowers peppered about the lawn. Nothing has yet died! Next year, I should have raspberries and grapes. Hurray!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Your articles are so encouraging and practical and sensible (what we should all be about)!! My tomato and pepper plants are doing beautifully. Plan to start adding my tomatoes to salads any day now. :) Blessings. Theresa

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha, this is actually our third year with the garden....we have one more year to get it where we want it. This winter we will plant winter wheat to help the ground recover while dormant....I just love this stuff. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      crazyhorsesghost, thanks for the tip. I actually raised rabbits for a couple years a long time ago, so I definitely need to get back in that...thanks again.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hooray for sure, Mari....hey, did you get my book? Your name is in there. :) Thanks for letting me borrow it.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Theresa, well done my friend. We have so much lettuce we are giving it away...and I love it! sharing the bounty!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      You continue to set a great example Bill, well done. Winter has set in here now so we have placed most of our vegetables in pots or raised gardens to protect them from frost. we have lost a lot of them in previous years but so far so good this time.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      John, it's always interesting hearing about farming in other parts of the world. Thanks for sharing that and of course for just being here.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      Bill, I see no redeeming value to lawns, either. The only lawn we mow is our roof, and someday we may remedy that, but we can’t plant on top of our house because the soil is too poor and it would require excessive watering.

      You must have a very lenient code enforcement where you live. My son lives in our old home in town. The yard is about 1/3 acre and the back has a ridge that is impossible to mow, especially under the sweet gum tree. It has always had shrubs, irises and wild berries and various weeds growing there. The neighbors complained to Code Enforcement who sent an officer around to tell him to mow it. My son said, “My mama doesn’t want that mowed, that’s where the rabbits live.” True, there are wild rabbits living there among the brambles. The officer looked kind of funny and changed the subject. That part still hasn’t been mowed.

      Shhhhh, I will not tell my granddaughter that you raise quail for food. She would be very upset with you. She has been hatching and raising quail since someone gave her some quail eggs when she was about eleven years old, but she would never eat one of her “babies”. Once she and her dad came for a visit from Texas, she brought a button quail with her in a cage. She explained that the quail thought she was its mother so she couldn’t leave it behind. She is 22 now, in college, and about to get married, but that hasn’t stopped her from raising quail.

      Thanks for the info about the slugs. Mr. B planted some marigolds in our little space, but I still found a baby slug in my salad one day at work. Ugh! I had somehow missed it when I washed my lettuce. No salad that day.

      I hope you realize your dream soon. I don’t think there is any better heaven on earth than to live in a rural setting like that. Good luck to you and Bev.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hey MizB, good to see you on this hot Tuesday. Yes, very lenient code enforcement here...heck, very lenient codes for that matter. We are pretty much free to do whatever in this city, and the citizens embrace that philosophy.

      Marigolds will only go so far with slugs. We found that the slugs come up, take a look at the flowering weeds, and never venture further. Perfect solution.

      As for the quail....we'll keep it our secret. :)

      Have a fabulous day my friend.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 2 years ago from West By God

      Oh and don't listen to the thing about deer don't like marigolds. Hogwash!! I planted lots of marigolds last year because my husband loves them and the very next day they were all eaten. I also planted other deer resistant plants/flowers with them and the only thing left were stems.

    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 2 years ago

      You simply must coin the phrase, "Frugal Farms".

      It is fun to say and will most certainly catch on.

      Great info, but I would starve to death if I had to provide for myself.

      "Frugal Farms" "Frugal Farms" "Frugal Farms"

      Just seeing if I could say it three time quickly.

      DJ.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 2 years ago from Arizona

      Bill I had such fun reading this...Also wateringof the mouth at all the berries and fruit. yum. What a super job you did and I am thoroughly amazed and impressed. I can see your dream farm, roadside stand and writing classes. I would support all of the above. Don't you wish more would get on the bandwagon..Less sickness and healthier eating..

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Debra, the only thing I've seen that works with deer is a mixture of pepper and garlic sprayed on the vegetation. They definitely don't like that cocktail.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      DJ, I love that phrase....how can I coin it when you just did? But I might use it in the future. I'm not above stealing for my own gain. LOL

      Thanks my funny friend.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Carol, I do wish more would join us, but I suspect there is going to have to be some suffering before some people see the wisdom in this kind of lifestyle.

      Thanks my friend. You are greatly appreciated.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 2 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Bill - I love reading about all you and Bev do to be frugal, especially by raising fowl and gardening. The goats are a great idea, too. (You could make artisan goat cheese or yogurt and sell it for a pretty price at your farmers market. There's a big market for it.)

      If I were physically able to do so, I'd be right out there emulating you, but--alas--I simply can't. I do frequent my local farmers market, but so few farmers in this area use organic methods, and I refuse to eat produce full of pesticide and herbicide residues. That means my grocery bill for organic foods does not meet the criteria for 'frugal.' In order to afford eating healthily, I've given up just about everything else it's possible for me to do without! I keep looking at my budget trying to find one more thing to trim, but (other than my organics), it's already as thin as it can get! Haha.

      Voted Up+++ and shared (for those who wish to practice frugality)

      Jaye

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      My neighbor raises chickens and lives of his farm. A wonderful thought here. We plant vegetables and enjoy each with such great appreciation

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 2 years ago

      You are amazing! I, on the other hand, could kill a silk plant! Up, useful, interesting and totally awesome.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jaye, we would be proud to have you working alongside us. Thank you for the kind words. We love what we are doing and that certainly helps when the work is hard...sort of like writing. :)

      blessings my friend

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you DDE. I love this life of simplicity and plan on expanding it in the coming years.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL...breakfastpop, that sounds like a future article..The Day I Killed a Silk Plant. :) Thank you my friend.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Fantastic stuff, I am getting there slowly.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I just had to click funny, ' I don't care ' HaHa. I am amazed. Your urban farm is something. I don't know about the goats? I don't care. Hee

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Glad to hear it, Eric. Thanks, buddy.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Glad you got a chuckle out of it, Ruby. That I care about. :)

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 2 years ago from Hudson, FL

      Oh, look at those berries!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Smoothies for everyone, Lizzy. :)

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Wow my eyes have had it Bill, I have been starring at that video picture trying to figure out if that was big onions or a midget. It really is hard to tell. Even your title had me looking twice, lol. I got my first ripe tomato today! I keep breaking branches off for new plants too; it like discovering a gold mine! They do better in a dark rich soil though.

      Quail? Hmm. My husband is going to hate you for that one!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      frugal? how about resourceful? great tips and great ideas voted useful...

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

      You have a great farm and wonderful ideas. Very resourceful and a great way to have fresh foods without any harmful chemicals. Great work!!

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Hi Bill,

      Boy! I'm really ticked at HP. I've missed several of your hubs because there were no notifications. It's more than just you I've missed and it's been going on for weeks. sorry I've missed your latest hubs. They've really been helpful to me, so I need to play "catch-up" again.

      My garden turned to weeds this year. I just didn't get things planted in time and of course now it's too late, but thanks for the ideas anyway. Hope you have a great day!

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 2 years ago from West By God

      lifegate we have all missed lots of notifications. Ticks me off too.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jackie, what your husband doesn't know won't hurt him. :) Just give him a ripe tomato and let him live in happiness. LOL Thank you my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, Frank. It helped being raised by someone who grew up during the Great Depression.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Vellur! We love our simple life here.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      lifegate, that happens from time to time on HP...no worries, you're back now and that's all that matters. Thank you and sorry about those weeds.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very true, Debra!

    • starstream profile image

      Dreamer at heart 2 years ago from Northern California

      Your article on frugal living sure interests me. I have such great memories of my hens and raspberries. It was so long ago living in Oregon. Now I live in a beautiful family home but there is mostly cement everywhere outside in our yard. I grow one grapevine.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      starstream, I'm sorry you don't have those hens and raspberries any longer. Hopefully some day, yes? Thanks for the visit.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      I'll certainly grab a few berries and whilst I'm doing that could you pour me a raspberry smoothie over the net please?!

      It's great that you love the random seeds and weeds. After all, cultivated flowers are only the weeds that people prefer!

      Your dream farm sounds wonderful and I hope you get there as soon as possible, bill.

      Ann

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, the smoothie is on its way special delivery. I hope you enjoy it my friend.

      bill

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      Not sure about frugal - your post translates into an enviable lifestyle for many with an abundance of products, love and peace. Our efforts are not as prosperous as they should be. We dedicated some bushland for 'Wildlife' Our two elderly pet cows (don't ask) need much space and feed. Gorgeous. though. Rabbits, foxes and kangaroos roam, the parrots munch on our nectarines before we do. And not many people can buy pumpkin plants which grow into melons. I suppose it's just the way we are - but back to the planting..Cheers Bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      travmaj, my favorite part of your comment was the two elderly pet cows. No need to ask...I understand. :) Thank you.

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 2 years ago from Hawaii

      I hope you get that farm, Bill! Good luck!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Good luck with your future plans, Bill. I hope you and Bev find the farm of your dreams and are very happy.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      I just love your quick wit in this post. I chuckled at the fact quails survive on bugs and seeds. If it wasn't for our HOA, I would raise these. Maybe I can sneak them in and keep them in the spare bedroom.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, vkwok!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you, Alicia. If we don't get it, it won't be from lack of trying.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL...Dianna, nobody would know except your husband. I hope he's a reasonable man. :) Thanks dear friend.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I don't think that our HOA allows chickens but I like your idea of becoming more independent in raising more of your own food. I am still waiting for our lemon and orange tree to grow large enough to produce bumper crops to be able to share with neighbors. This is only the 2nd year in the ground. Will be a while. We do raise some veggies and herbs. Good luck on achieving that dream of yours!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 2 years ago from Wales

      A great hub Billy and how nice to be back with you again as you go about your daily life.

      I congratulate you on this wonderful farm and wish you only the best. Lots of love from Walers.

      Eddy.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Peggy, most HOA don't allow chickens, or at least the ones I know about....too bad...but ti sounds like you are doing all you can with what you have to work with....well done, and thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you, Eddy, and it is good to have you back with us. Have a wonderful weekend my friend.

      billy

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      You are cut out of the same cloth as my dad. He can grow enough vegetables and apples on less than an acre to feed a small army. Oh, don't kill the quail! I can't know about that!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Flourish, I won't say a word about it if we do. I promise. :)

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. Thanks to you I have indeed started this year. I built my first raised garden bed this year with tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. In addition we have basil and parsley in pots. And, when my sister gave me another 7 tomato plants I built another raised bed and added a few more eggplant and pepper plants. Come this time next year I will have added a third and possibly a fourth raised bed. Next year I plan to grow everything from seed. You can see where this is heading? I definitely have the ability to become addicted to this, part of my OCD. Have a great holiday weekend :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bill, I love that your sister gave you more plants and you had to build another raised bed. I can see a true urban farm taking shape and I love it. Happy 4th of July my friend, and happy gardening.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      This is a wonderful AND doable dream. It really isn't hard to get back to basics. Then you can reap the rewards of GMO and sugar free foods. How great is THAT?

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It is truly great, Deb, and we are about two years from living a GMO free life. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago

      Loving all the pics and info about your garden. Are you able to can/freeze a lot of your harvest or does it all get shared with neighbors? It would be interesting to see how much money you think you save over a year with an urban garden.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hi Glimmer! Good to see you again. No, we don't can, but we should, and we will. Most of our extras went to neighbors this year, but we'll be ready for canning next year. :) Have a great weekend my friend.

    • profile image

      Jayan 2 years ago

      Hey, that's the grsteeta! So with ll this brain power AWHFY?

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Jayan. I really appreciate you taking the time to read my article.

    • profile image

      Shermaine 2 years ago

      What's it take to become a sublime exdnpouer of prose like yourself?

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Shermaine, willingness and stubbornness. :)

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