What I stand for is what I stand on. ~Wendell Berry
Jeremy and I will be house hunting soon. In preparation for this, I told my aunt–also known as our Real Estate Guru–and our financial coach that my requirements in a home are a ranch style house where I can have a clothes line and chickens. My aunt shook her head and patted me on the shoulder; my financial coach helpfully told me that the city of Indianapolis has specific ordinance allowances for chickens (but not mules!). So, I guess if we don’t manage to find real country living, Indianapolis will always welcome me and my as-of-yet-unacquired chickens. Good to know.
In the mean time, I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that we won’t be getting any kind of farm this time around. Maybe we could be lucky enough, in this down market, to find something with three acres that could work, but that would be about as likely as winning the lottery. I have found a few homes that come with nearly an acre of land and I think I can make that work. Certainly, it will be not be CSA-project size, but it will get me started and allow me to refine my skills. And hey, they always say to start small, yes? If I can do something on a small scale then when we can afford more land it won’t seem so overwhelming to plan, nurture, and manage.
So how does one “farm” on an acre of land or less? Well, primarily by sticking to vegetables, fruits, and chickens. Maybe if I’m really adventurous I’ll try bees too (it is a secret desire of mine to also have bees…not so secret anymore. *wink*). Utilizing the land means container gardening and planning beds–raised or not–that use the space available in the most efficient manner. It means allowing the chickens to cohabitate with the gardens, and the same for the bees too. And just to make things even more challenging, it means balancing a child-friendly backyard with a hobby farm. My hope, of course, is that it will mean teaching Samuel to dig in the dirt with me. Maybe I can even dedicate a bed to him so that he can dig, pull, and plant all he wants.
I have resources too, of course, that can help me plan all of this. Probably my favorite resource is the long-running magazine, Mother Earth News. The editors and writers of this magazine are dedicated to all things sustainable, and that often means articles and tips about urban farming. I have learned about everything from creative ways to build raised bed and develop in-ground beds (for lack of a better term), to having chickens in the backyard and building a chicken tractor. I’ve even learned about multiple ways to keep bees and build my own hives. It is an amazing resource and it comes right to my door every other month!
I’m also a fan of the book, Five Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management by Maurice Kains. Just as the title suggests, it details how to maximize the efficiency of a small plot of land. I’ve recently been looking in to more books about small-acreage management, many of which are more modern than this classic standby (still and excellent standby though!). Frequent trips to my library have brought home manuals on keeping chickens, managing farms on an acre or less, and and herbalism.
I may be dreaming big, but I’ve got big plans for whatever space I get. As I’ve mentioned, there will be container gardening, beds, chickens, and maybe bees, but this isn’t all just going to stocking my own kitchen. I want to learn about using herbs in home remedies and around the house. I want to try making soaps. I have some friends that would like the honey to make Meade. And who knows? Maybe an acre of land could get me started down the path to a Community Supported Agriculture project. Certainly, it couldn’t be big, but perhaps enough to get a booth at one of the many local farmers markets in the Indianapolis-area, or simply to share with family, friends, and neighbors.
This home…it’s not just going to be a home. I think you readers probably see that now. It’s going to be a garden, a farm, a school for my son, a community gathering place. It may be just a start to by grand CSA plans, but I’ve got a lot of hopes and dreams riding on approximately 1500 square feet and probably less than an acre of land.