The urban homestead turns 14
Rose skips around the yard holding a purple balloon. She is so joyous, so utterly in love with her balloon, you can almost imagine all the neighbors dropping their lawnmowers and cupping their ears to the music piped from the broccoli patch to which her dance is choreographed. Then krrrrreeee, the needle skips on the soundtrack, the balloon accidentally slips out of her hands and everything goes quiet.
Cody, who lives next door and is somehow always in his backyard grilling meat with a posse of friends and dogs, sees the purple balloon float into his yard. He runs after it, down to the end of the block and then we lose sight of him. Twenty minutes later Rose says, “Cody must be down at my school by now.” I picture Cody traveling the 10 blocks to Rose’s preschool, sprinting, arms outstretched towards the balloon – always just out of reach.
“It’s been awhile, he may have given up,” I tell Rose.
“Or he might not have,” she replies.
Rose planting kale seeds in Elton John-approved outfit.
People who read my writing sometimes think we live in the country. The truth is that we live on a 1/8 acre plot in town (in a duplex – there’s 8 of us on the property). I once got enviously fixated on this photo of a girl riding a wooden swing draped over a thick oak branch. In the background was the fuzzy green of fields and forests forever. Our background is Cody and his posse of 3-legged and shirt-wearing dogs, which is actually great, even though he never did catch that balloon.
Our parenting (and everything else) takes place in a public realm. Watering a patch of potatoes recently, I heard Dan say from our open window upstairs, “Col, when you need to go poop, you’ve just got to go,” which now is neighborhood information.
I actually love the urban-ness of it. I love the roving band of neighborhood children who try to corrupt Col and Rose with video games and red dye #40. I love how you can hear our hens from the church at the end of the street brrraaaaccccccck. I love how Col and Rose call through 3 backyards of fences down to our neighbor Frankie (who Rose used to call “Crankie”) to ask if they jump on his trampoline.
Our urban homestead just turned 14. And even though it never feels like we have quite enough land, every year we find more space (hello front yard potato patch!)
Just to the right of potatoes is a Toyota camper top, for free! YOU CAN HAVE IT! Also, can anyone tell me anything about hilling up potatoes?
On the (Urban) Homestead:
:: Because the chicken run is small and the girls have devoured everything formerly alive within, we’ve been hiring Col and Rose to babysit the chickens in the yard. They get a dollar for every hour they usher the chickens around the yard, showing them to the alfalfa/dandelion/mallow buffet while keeping them out of the garden.
Speaking of chickens,we had about 3, 000 too many pill bugs in our greenhouse (and it is not true that they only eat dead and rotting vegetation, just ask the tender bean plants), so we brought 2 hens into the greenhouse for a live protein snack.
They did a very good job.
Also, Dan and I tossed around the idea of buying a leaf shredder to speed up decomposition in the compost, but then realized, after putting several bags of dried leaves in the chicken coop last fall, that the chickens are our leaf shredders.
This is my new garden mulch: shredded leaves and straw mixed with chicken poop!
:: The honeybees are gone. Sage, (who lived downstairs for a few years) took them to his new house, which was sad but also, if you remember my gargantuan stung foot and resultant epi-pen, a relief. Someday we’ll get another hive and put it on top of our chicken coop, so my foot is not in their flight path.
:: Hey, psst, do you want to see my compost?
More proof that compost is magical: here are the volunteer squash that came up in my compost, unwatered, unprotected from that frost, and bigger than any of the babies I’ve started in the greenhouse.
:: Strawberries are coming on.
For every 10 strawberries the kids pick, I get one palm-smushed, hot strawberry brought to me, which is exactly what I hoped for when we planted these strawberry plants last year.
:: While the tomatoes-peppers-squash grow turtle-slow (it’s still 40F at night!), the toothy greens are exploding!
:: It’s like the Unitarian church in my garden beds: everyone is welcome. The lettuce is now mature, the flowering arugula shades it, cilantro and parsley hop around at everyone’s feet, and soon I’ll pull all the tall, shading plants to make room for the winter squash (just transplanted under gallon water jugs, which I highly recommend – saves the plant from transplant shock and acts like a mini greenhouse)
:: Behold, the root cellar.
Even as I see it, I can’t quite believe what Dan has done here. Namely, the man has dug a 6 ft x 6ft x 6ft hole in solid clay. Hello, granite arms! Hello, aphrodisiac!
I think Col’s now contemplating a mining career, y’know, the kind where they use antlers for digging. He’s always in there with Dan, discovering earthworms (5 feet down!) and recently an asteroid belt of small rocks embedded in the clay. Without even a roof, the pit is already 30F cooler than the outside air, humidity is at 85% – going down there is like a spa treatment for us dwellers of the arid Southwest.
“This is getting me in great shape for elk season,” Dan says after his 100th wheelbarrow load (with child aboard). Note: now that Dan is in 6 feet deep, each shovel load of dirt has to be swung up over his head to the wheelbarrow.
Recently, Col came outside after mid-day quiet time and said, “I wanna go somewhere.”
Dan: “How ’bout in the hole.”
Happy 14 years, little urban homestead!