Urban Homesteading Experiment
I’m watching my chickens hustle around foraging in the yard and I can’t help but admire their industriousness. Everyone likes to joke about how dumb chickens are but they are actually very intelligent animals. Did you know they can recognize up to 100 human faces? And it’s suspected they have names for each other? It didn’t take me long to figure how smart they are as soon as they left their brooder and we had to keep them contained outside. Despite having food available to them 24/7 their foraging instincts are so strong we’ve found our most rascally chicken scaling the fencing with her legs! They also come when called, which is very handy.
Watching the chickens be so self sufficient inspires me. Any time I try another project to experiment with self reliance I am always astonished at how much work it is. It is a good idea for me to read books about farmers and their experiences because it is sobering to say the least.
While I may not be self sufficient I am happy with the baby steps I’ve been taking to use the land we have more effectively; slowly transforming our large spaces of grass into something that will produce food or medicine. After all, lawns are gross waste of space, water, and money. The biggest issue I face in is process is the quality of our soil. I’ve always container gardened or brought in outside dirt for my raised beds because there is no way of knowing what our soil was treated with in the past.
Many chemicals used to kill ”weeds” stay in the soil for decades. I am sure our soil is very poor, since it cannot retain water well and is hard as a rock. I’ve been reading a book my mom recommend called Dirt to Soil which has put the breaks on me taking a tiller to the whole yard because it would destroy the soil’s natural microbIology, but since I bought myself some organic tillers a few years ago, but I’ve decided to put them to more effective use.
Chickens are the best tillers in the world. Now that the fall has rolled in with the smoke here in Western Washington, the kids are not outside much- a perfect time for me to experiment with the yard. The goal is to have the chickens till the whole yard slowly over the course of the fall, then once the rains and snows hit, they will go back to their ”winter pasture” and the soil has the chance to deep soak all the moisture nature provides. If the chickens till and fertilize effectively, the soil should be primed for the microbiology to make a better come back. We have a good amount of grass and clover intermixed, but if I am able to add in more diversity, our soil will be able to heal which means, it will be useable soil. I experimented with this method last fall, but I made a mistake and didn’t rotate the coop frequently enough. The grass came back really well despite the ravaging chickens. I didn’t water it even once this summer and it is just now (at the beginning to September) starting to turn brown. This tells me that it held moisture okay, but it could be improved.
Forests never get watered in this part of the state, and they stay lush and green all year. So, by letting the chickens do their thing again this fall, and adding more plant diversity to the soil, I hope to be able to keep a kid and chicken friendly “yard” while being able to produce more food AND have the space be attractive to the eye. Totally reasonable right?! Ha ha! While I’m not sure how long it will take to achieve my end goal, I have already had such success seeing more green in the past year that I can help but feel hopeful. I’ll be sure to keep you updated.
I hope your fall is off to a wonderful start. Our schedule is about to get more busy with our extra curricular activities, so I’m soaking up these last few days of a slow paced week. And of course, taking all the extra time to squeeze in all the homesteading projects! Here is to a industrious autumnal season.
Happy Fall Ya’ll!