What Does a Frugal Urban Farm Look Like?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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)