Category Archives: Urban Homesteading

backyard chickens 101.

backyard chickens 101

We bought our chickens about one year ago now and have had a lot of questions from people about them since day one. The hubs and I have had a relatively good experience with them thus far, and many people we know have been wondering if chickens could be a good fit for them as well. Here’s a basic overview that I created to help determine if chicken-keeping is right for you!

The Pros of chickens:

  • Having fresh, organic eggs on the daily! Compare organic, free-range eggs to that of the super market kind and you won’t want to go back. They’re also more nutritious!
  • They are entertaining to watch. Who needs TV when you have chickens?

chickens 101My little sisters with the chickens as babies.

  • Most are very friendly and good with kids.
  • They help to fertilize the lawn + garden. Their waste also makes excellent compost matter.
  • They eat the bugs that otherwise might take over your plants such as slugs. On the flip side to that, the chickens will most likely go after some of your plants, such as hostas (reference picture below).

chickens 101My little sisters with the now full-grown chickens.

The Cons of chickens:

  • Start-up cost… heat lamp, food + oyster shells + grit, the coop, straw, water heater (for colder months), etc. —  it can add up to be a hefty price tag, especially if you are buying organic feed.

chicken coopWe purchased our coop from Fleet Farm, but we’d love to upgrade or make our own. (Check out these ones!)

  • They won’t start laying eggs until they are about 6-7 months old, so be prepared to have a delayed return on investment.
  • They are dirty. A chicken poops 20-40 times/day on average. If they are not free-ranging in a wide open space, the waste piles up in their coop fast and needs to be cleaned frequently, about once a week. If you’re not one to get your hands dirty, chickens are probably not for you.
  • The threat of other animals. We learned this the hard way when we lost one of our three chickens to an animal that dug a hole next to their coop overnight and snatched one right out! We think it was a fox, but chickens could also be harmed by dogs, cats, raccoons, coyotes, etc., so make sure to take the necessary precautions. (We now have the base of the coop surrounded with large rocks).

chickens like hostas

  • They might eat certain plants in your yard/garden (reference pic above)… It didn’t take long for me to realize why our hosta plants had big bites taken out of the leaves… With that said, be sure to fence off gardens and plants that you don’t want the chickens to potentially demolish.

Some other things to note…

  • First and foremost — check with your city to make sure you are able to have chickens and if so, how many. From there you will need to apply for a license to legally house chickens in your yard. Here in Rochester you can have three hens but no roosters.

baby chickens

  • Like the old saying goes, “Birds of a feather flock together!” — chickens are social creatures so they always need at least one other chicken to accompany them (they won’t survive otherwise).
  • Chickens have a pecking order in which one of the chickens in the clan is the dominant, another is second dominant, so on and so forth. (If you watch them closely, it is pretty easy to find out which one is the Queen Bee).

chicken dirt bath

  • Chickens love dirt baths so it’s ideal to have some areas of dirt or sand in your yard for them to “clean themselves” in.
  • If you choose not to clip your chicken’s wings, be aware that they can get over a standard chain-link fence. (I am talking from experience)
  • Different breeds produce different kinds of eggs and some are better layers than others, so do your research! (We have Goldstar and they each lay one brown egg per day)

chicken

If you’re interested in urban homesteading, have a decent-sized backyard and some extra funds, chickens would make a wonderful addition to your home. Hopefully this post helped for those who are interested! Still want to know more? The Community Chickens blog is a great resource!

jeanette

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how does your garden grow?

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow? With silver bells, and cockle shells, And pretty maids all in a row.” — Does anybody else get that infamous nursery rhyme stuck in their head when the talk of gardening arises, or is it just me? Oh, just me? Hm, I thought so…

Anyway, I thought I’d follow up my “the making of a garden” post with what I actually have growing inside it. Being new to the world of gardening, I am far from that of an expert, as I am sure you will pick up on in my side comments… (To any connoisseurs out there: feel free to give me your advice!)

beets

These seem to be doing very well! My only concern is that I might not have thinned them out enough and they are too close together to actually produce a sizeable beet. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…!

bell peppers

We started these inside and they’ve been doing well since the start, however, next year I think I will place them on the side of the garden that gets more sun. I am also thinking if these continue to grow any taller, they will need cages or stakes.

tomatoes

We also started these inside (both cherry and beefsteak) and they’ve been thriving since the move to the great outdoors. (Measuring at about 6 feet tall, they look like they are on steroids!). I’m definitely not complaining though because if I had to pick only one item in my garden to do well, it would be these guys. What’s summer without fresh tomatoes, right?!

cucumbers

From the whole row of cucumbers we planted, only this one guy made it. I didn’t realize that cucumbers grew on vines (rookie mistake), and therefore didn’t think to plant them accordingly. I am hoping this wire cage + wooden stake I put in place will work out…

lettuce

Our rows of lettuce (we have a ‘gourmet blend’ kind) have been doing awesome and we’ve enjoyed a few fresh summer salads thanks to it! One thing I really dislike about lettuce is the amount of dirt the leaves acquire and the amount of time it takes to clean it off and let the leaves dry. Also, I’ve been a little hesitant to make a salad after finding a spider in my last one (eek!). I think next year we will plant just half a row’s worth because we are not going through it nearly as quick as I thought we would.

strawberries

I planted these in the garden not realizing that they are perennials and that they spread (yet another rookie mistake) so I will be transplanting them to another location within the next month. Out of the four strawberry plants we have in the garden, we only get about five  ripe strawberries a week, and they are quite small mind you. I am not sure if this is the norm and we just need more plants, or if it’s because they just aren’t thriving in their current location.

raspberries

Last but not least are our bountiful raspberry plants! They were already in our yard when we moved in last summer and we were told by the previous homeowners that one year they harvested 60 lbs worth and used it to make country wine. We’ve been picking them regularly while they’re ripe and freezing them so that we’ll have a reserve of berries when they’re no longer in season. (I’ve also been using them to make this chocolate chip raspberry muffin recipe that I am hooked on!)

So that’s a little tour of what’s growing in our garden! I should also note that I attempted to start a few herbs from seed (mint, cilantro and basil) and none of them made it, even after two tries. Fail. I think I will stick to starter plants when it comes to those guys from now on…

jeanette

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the making of a vegetable garden.

then and now

When we first moved into our house last summer, I was pretty excited about the garden boxes that had been left behind (reference top pic). I figure it’d be the perfect spot for starting our first little vegetable/herb garden the following summer. Over the course of the winter months, I started creating a list of all the things I wanted to plant come spring. As my list continued to grow, it quickly became clear that those boxes weren’t going to be able to host all of the veggies I had my heart set on growing. So fast forward to this May when we decided to get rid of the boxes in favor of building our own fenced-in garden, allowing us to plant multiple rows worth of goodies. (Go big or go home, right?) In a nutshell, here’s how it went down:

garden

progress

We got rid of the boxes but were thankfully able to salvage a few of them that my parents are now using. We then reused the dirt that had filled the boxes. (Two instances of reduce, reuse, recycle! Woo-hoo!)

garden

Then we built the frame of the garden and tilled the soil prior to planting. Above is how it looked before the chicken wire was stapled onto the frame (a necessity to keep our chickens, dog and other pesky animals out!) I’m thinking the gate could totally use a fun little sign like this, or maybe a DIY version more like this!

Next (and not pictured) we planted what we had started indoors (bell peppers, cherry tomatoes & beefsteak tomatoes) followed by the organic seed packets we had purchased which included beets, lettuce, spinach, green beans, cucumbers, watermelon, & strawberries.

garden

And here is what it’s looking like now! As you can see, the middle row is vacant, along with a few other spots. With the late start of spring/summer and us being rookies at gardening, we knew there was a good chance that not everything was going to make it (or anything for that matter!). So unfortunately the green beans, spinach, and watermelon never made it to the germination process, but we’re not complaining since we still have a whole slew of other items that did make it!

We’re considering this a “learning year” and hope to only improve the garden as time goes on!

What did you plant this year?

jeanette

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Filed under Gardening, House & Home, Urban Homesteading

local shop spotlight: EGG|PLANT

EGG|PLANT

I recently came across a quaint, sustainable-savvy shop in St. Paul worth raving about. Enter Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply store. I’m a huge fan of supporting local + family-owned businesses and after stopping and shopping at this one, I quickly grasped the “you’ll be a repeat-customer” vibe it was giving me.

While the shop itself is on the small side, it boasts an abundance of merchandise that might make you wish you had a cart. Among the shop’s vast range of products, you’ll find a large selection of all things necessary for creating an urban backyard homestead. Whether you’re looking to dabble in chicken-raising or try your hand at organic gardening, Egg|Plant is your go-to shop! You’ll also come across items for composting, homemade brewing, fermenting, cheese making, canning, preserving, plus more. In addition, the shop offers a variety of classes on the majority of those topics to provide you with everything you need to know on the subject.

EGG|PLANT

If you’re curious about learning how you can be more sustainable (even in an urban city-setting), or are simply looking for resources/supplies on a particular homesteading task like those mentioned above, I highly recommend making a stop at Egg|Plant.

Have you come across any new shops lately that has earned a spot on your favorites list?

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Filed under Eco-friendly, Reviews, Urban Homesteading