My Edible Yard Urban Homestead
(Broward County, Florida)
My Edible Yard Chickens
My name is Ara and I live in south Florida on less than 1/5th acre. We've had an organic backyard garden on and off for years, but in the last couple years have started to take urban homesteading more seriously.
This year we decided to pull up the grass in our front yard and added ten 3 x 8-foot raised beds (as well as fruit) for additional gardening space toward our goal of becoming more sustainable (bringing our total to 19 beds plus containers) and backyard chickens.
We currently have 4 blueberry bushes, 1 mango tree, 2 raspberry bushes, 2 concord grape vines, a peach tree (said to grow down here), a coco plum bush, and a Persian lime tree. As our growing season is the opposite of up north, vegetable-wise we are currently growing okra (it loves the heat), eggplant (these were planted in November but are just now producing for some strange reason - perhaps our abnormally cold winter), habanero peppers, radishes, and cucumbers.
This past winter, we successfully grew mustard greens, collard greens, swiss chard, kale, carrots, green beans, heirloom tomatoes, turnips, rutabagas, cabbage, cauliflower, and potatoes.
We were able to freeze some of the crops for summer eating. Our goal is to one day grow 90% or more of the vegetables we eat and we got a great start this year; it's a matter of learning to rotate and succession plant the crops properly.
We were a little nervous about the chickens at first, but plunged right in and are delighted we did. We've got 4 laying hens (2 Black Australorps, 2 Buff Orpingtons - they were 8 weeks old on arrival) that just started laying this month. Today was our first day of 3 eggs all in the same day (extremely eggciting!), and we've got eight 6-7 week old chicks (2 Cuckoo Marans, 2 Easter Eggers, 3 White Rocks, 1 Rhode Island Red - they were 2 days old on arrival). They are basically free-range (no pesticides on our yard), and we supplement with an organic soy-free grain feed and non-meat table scraps (the meat scraps go to our 3 dogs). At some point, I wouldn't mind selling the excess to neighbors and friends.
We'd love to be able to add some Nigerian Dwarf goats for milk and cheese to the livestock mix, but can't really do it with the dogs. Maybe one day.
I've baked all our bread since December 2009 and make all our own chicken stock. I've put up small batches of pickled cucumbers and turnips this year and some marmalade, but really want to concentrate on learning to can during the 2010-2011 growing season.
Our urban homesteading experience up to this point has been extremely rewarding, albeit hard work. My husband and I try to incorporate new sustainable techniques into our home life as we go. Because we both work full-time jobs (him at a local grocery store for health insurance; me a self-employed small business owner from home over the internet), homesteading time is often limited and we often take much longer for projects than planned. But we love it and enjoy the time we spend together.
One day to be totally self-sustainable.