Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Starting an Urban Homestead??

Because I clearly don't have enough on my plate, right?

::blank stare::

A bit of background info...we live on about 2 acres, most of which is fenced in. Considering that we live so close to downtown Atlanta, our property is a rare gem. We also have enough trees for shade but not enough that they overrun the property.



I grew up just outside of Amish country and absolutely adored it. I want my kids to grow up like I did, but unfortunately, that's just not possible. Our business is doing so great and depends on the metro Atlanta clientele and Georgia heat, so moving back north really just isn't an option. Plus, I genuinely love the sunshine down here!

That's why I love our new home. The house is a bit on the smaller side (when compared to most of my friends' homes) but our yard, in-ground pool and outbuildings (one of which we affectionaly call our "barn") completely won me over. I even like living in a smaller home...less to clean! ha! Really, we think it's huge...but that probably comes from living in a trailer for 6 years with 3..then 4...kids.

Anyway...back at the trailer, we had a little container garden, where I grew zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes in Home Depot buckets. And I grew icebox watermelons VERTICALLY up the side of my porch! For real! I had 2 blueberry bushes in half-barrels and a mini herb garden growing in a variety of flower pots on my back porch. Strawberries hung from a wrought iron stand next to our front porch. It was a totally genious idea considering that our yard was practically non-existent, it was so small. But we had tons of food growing! Unfortunately, we didn't have a lot of shade, so they were contstantly needing watering in the Georgia heat. Plus, we have reason to believe that our neighbors were stealing our tomatoes. And birds ate our blueberries before we could ever pick even one.

I didn't have room to bring my strawberry plants and herbs in out of the cold (yes, it does frost over here in Atlanta), so they died after the second year. Our blueberry bushes got some sort of fungus and died (later I found out that I had pruned them too early, making the susceptible to this particular fungus). My watermelon plant grew back for a couple of years but we left it there when we moved.



I think we're going to grow all of those same plants here. Probably mostly in raised gardens as opposed to buckets. I think the herbs will still be grown in pots, though. The kids and I were planning the different areas in which we can set up gardening areas. And we're wanting to get netting to keep the birds out of the berries this time!

We'd like to grow lettuce, kale and spinach but I'm not sure how hard it would be to grow that. I keep reminding myself that come April, we're going to have a newborn to care for and I won't have a lot of time to keep up with gardening. We've also thought about growing canteloupe, spaghetti squash and pumpkins. I'd like to grow some fruit trees but I hear those take a lot of maintenance. Someone let me know if that is true or not!





Now, that all just makes me a gardener. But didn't I mention "homesteading"?? What would make me upgrade from gardener to homesteader? Glad you asked!!

I want free range chickens for eggs!!

With about an acre and a half fenced in, we have PLENTY of room for 5 or 6 chickens to roam around. We're also lucky that the pool is now completely fenced in with a 6-foot fence. We have a small little wooded area that I'm sure they would love in the heat of summer and a carport and patio/lanai for extra shade and protection from the rain when they're not in their coop.

I talked with the kids (ages 4-16) and explained that they would be taking on the bulk of the daily responsibilities for the chickens...at least in the beginning, if I'm busy with the new baby. I think all the boys would really love hunting for eggs in the wooded area. And we have so many fruit and veggie scraps that the chickens would love to eat...so less waste in the trash! (yes, I know, I need to learn to compost...) Plus, we'll know that our eggs are coming from a humane environment and are truly free range. Free range eggs are extremely healthy compared to store bought eggs. Even store bought organic "cage free" eggs.

I read that with 6 eggs, I could expect 4-5 eggs per day. We don't eat eggs every day, so that would probably work out great!

We'd have to build a sturdy coop to keep them safe at night from the elements and predators, though the fence will help to keep them better protected that an unfenced yard. But raccoons are cunning and super intelligent, so we'd have to make sure there was a sturdy lock on the door. I'm assuming that Gypsy would be a great protector during the day, too.

We've talked about getting a goat or two for milk (and grass maintenance)...but we drink almond milk. And I hear that goats are pretty destructive/eat everything and anything, so I'd rather not add that headache to my list right now. Especially since the kids tend to leave toys laying around the yard all the time.

But I'm really excited about bringing this yard to life this year! We didn't move in until late summer last year and didn't really even attempt to do anything creative with our space. This is my year to get started!!

** Edited to Add ** ....so, after a lengthy discussion with the hubs, I am wondering if it may be best to wait until NEXT year for chickens. I would like for everyone to be 100% on board for these types of big changes. He pointed out some valid concerns...namely, will I have enough time to care for the little cluckers while in the last weeks of pregnancy and with a newborn, should the older kids' enthusiasm just die out and everyone forgets to care for them? (My rebuttal to that, btw, was "well, they are homeschooled and this will give them a very hands-on approach to learning some very important life lessons and responsibility.") Or...what if they fly over the fence? Or don't want to come in at dusk (they will be free range around our 1.5 acre fenced yard)? Am I going to be able to chase/hunt for chickens AND take care of five kids while he is working 80+ hrs a week? What if they eat my garden? (I don't want to fence it in) So..yeah...I've got a lot more to consider. I mean, I KNEW that they were concerns but I was trying to ignore them and hope for the best...lol...but he is making sure that I am not burying my head in the sand....

Are any of you all gardeners or homesteaders?? Any tips for me??

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