Urban homesteaders-- how little land do you have to work?

Discussion in 'Countryside Families' started by Aldeia, Jan 9, 2007.

  1. Aldeia

    Aldeia Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    72
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2006
    Location:
    New England
    I've been trying to sell my home and move to a larger lot, but it's a tough market. I am going to till up more front yard, cut down a couple of trees (not too many-- just so I can get a bit more sun. I am keeping the ones that help keep the house cool in summer).

    I live on a small lot, but we are trying to be intense about how we use it.
    My lot is under 15,000 sq ft, with a house on it. I have raised beds and grow up as much as possible. I also have an area I plan to put about 5 hens on. I will use a chicken trolley to let them 'graze' in various places. I will also have a fenced in area so they can play and run around near the compost and gardens. My town allows hens, and I've spoken to my neighbors. People seem happy about the idea. There are lots of older folks here who get me. What noise level might I expect from 3-6 hens or so. I want them to have company and keep each other warm. I am working with a friend who has always kept chickens to help me decide breed etc.

    I am just wondering how many of us with small lots are actually 'out there'. I would love an acre, and I know people see that as small. An acre would be heaven, really.

    What do you do on your small lot?
     
  2. jen74145

    jen74145 Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    6,375
    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2006
    Location:
    Northern California
    I'm on 3/4 of an acre, but I would recommend vertical gardening to you... trellises give you so much more space, and many plants produce better if grown that way.
    As far as the hens... they are really quiet; usually, you'd never know my girls were there, unless my no-harm-intended dog goes to lie down in the coop; then they squawk about it till I come get him, lol. They usually only get at all loud if they've just laid an egg or are in danger. At night, in their coop, we never hear a peep.
    Not sure if you would like to raise your own meat, but rabbits are very doable in a small lot; you might think about coturnix quail, too; they are mature, laying eggs and ready for the table in six weeks.
     

  3. Pony

    Pony STILL not Alice Supporter

    Messages:
    19,813
    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2003
    I'm on just a little less than 1/2 an acre, and have a DH who agrees with me that lawn is somewhat wasted space if I could be growing food on it. :)

    Vertical and containers are a way to expand your growing space. Herbs look great in window boxes. Don't forget to plant along the fences and buildings, too. You can make very attractive paths throughout your yard, eliminating unnecessary grass and replacing it with beds of food and herbs.

    There is a little 8'x12' space alongside our house that gets very little sunshine. We are planning to put rabbit hutches there. The space would be wasted otherwise.

    Pony!
     
  4. Aldeia

    Aldeia Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    72
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2006
    Location:
    New England
    We have an area that is in shade most of the day from the house, (so not much to be done about that, I don't think). It's got hostas and such. I keep trying to figure out something productive to do with it. I wish herbs didn't need so much sun. lol I never thought of rabbits. We have a pet bunny, and I am not sure how my kids would feel about raising rabbits as food. (We're not vegetarian, and the rabbit thing makes so much sense, from a protein point of view). I can't see the kids getting on board with that quite yet, but they have been to turkey processing get-togethers.

    Which brings me to another question, what folks are raising protein, other than eggs, on a small lot?
     
  5. Pony

    Pony STILL not Alice Supporter

    Messages:
    19,813
    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2003

    I wish we could have chickens! Cyndi Muller tells me it's doable, but I have neighbors who can be a little... touchy. We'll have to see. The house next door sold, don't know what sort of neighbors we will have there. Jen's comments are encouraging to me.

    So, other than the planned rabbits, the only other protein we raise is beans, and I will be increasing those this year.

    Pony!
     
  6. Aldeia

    Aldeia Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    72
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2006
    Location:
    New England
    Is it possible to raise broilers well with layers?

    How do you keep the broilers from becoming pets?
     
  7. jen74145

    jen74145 Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    6,375
    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2006
    Location:
    Northern California
    As far as meat animals go, just thought of one more... have you thought of ordering Cornish X's from a hatchery? They are a special broiler cross that is ready to eat in six-eight weeks... you slaughter them before they even crow.
    The main drawback with these birds is that they tend to have a high mortality rate... they are only bred to live so long, and many keel over before that, but if you have a coop you can devote a couple times a year for a batch of them, you might look into it.

    You could also order Pekin ducks for this purpose... they are ready in eight weeks as well, though if you go that route I'd order males... the females can quack really loudly.

    Hubby and I just moved in here and got started a few months back... this summer I'm ordering quail, and as we come into spring I'll be picking up rabbits of our own....
    Ooh wait! How about a pair of muscovy ducks? Lean, beef-like meat, and they don't quack, at most they hiss and chutter.... reproduce like crazy, too. It takes a bit for them to grow, but look into your zoning restrictions and see what you can do. Waterfowl have pretty messy poo, though...
     
  8. jen74145

    jen74145 Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    6,375
    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2006
    Location:
    Northern California
    I think you just have to think of them as food, not pets... and much happier food than the tormented chickens available at the grocery store. And, you know how it was raised, what it was fed, and how it was processed. I'd do a big batch at a time, less likely to make friends... the broiler crosses tend to just start falling apart if you let them live too long; they outgrow the strength of their legs, hearts give out... kinder to slaughter them before all that.
     
  9. kbaldridge06

    kbaldridge06 Member

    Messages:
    19
    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2006
    We had 1/2 an acre and had about 35 hens and two roosters (the people next door never complained we gave them eggs and milk), a nubian dairy goat that we milked twice a day, three rabbits (2 female and 1 male), 8 fruit trees and a pecan tree. We also had two large garden plots and a herb garden. check out the website www.pathtofreedom.com

    God Bless,
    Katie
     
  10. kitaye

    kitaye Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,184
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2005
    Location:
    Canada - Zone 5
    I have a little over 1/8 acre. I have a 2 variety crabapple and an old variety apple(old tree too). I'm hoping to plant a couple more fruit trees near the house and I have planted raspberries and currants.

    We have 3 raised beds as well as several containers which we use to grow lots of veggies. Our bylaw doesn't allow for livestock, including hens, but I could easily keep 3-4 hens on my spot.
     
  11. hisenthlay

    hisenthlay a.k.a. hyzenthlay

    Messages:
    2,024
    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Location:
    Southwestern PA
    We have 1/8 of an acre, including the house and garage. We want to move, but I'm just not sure when that's going to happen. I've converted most of the lawn to garden (4 raised beds, plus non-raised spots elsewhere as available), and covered the patio with big containers. Growing vertically, as suggested, is a good idea. Last year I staked my winter squash and cucumbers, as well as pole beans and tomatoes, of course, and they all did well. This year, I also plan to colonize the garage roof with low plants in kiddie pools or other smallish containers--things like greens, carrots, herbs, etc. could do well up there and leave more ground space for tomatoes, squash, beans, and such. We also have a bunch of berry bushes (blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, black currant), and I planted a hazelnut tree. We also have plenty of flowers--I'd like to be able to cut my own for the house. I start my plants from seed under lights in the basement (I also grow herbs there in the winter), and we make our own compost from kitchen waste, leaves, etc. I also bring in manure from friends with animals.

    I'm sure you've seen this already, but if not, check out http://pathtofreedom.com/ for some urban homesteading paradise and inspiration.

    I'm planning on getting my first Angora rabbit this week (as long as nobody else snatches him up first!), and get a few more after that probably. We will also most likely get a few laying hens in the spring--we plan on building the coop into the side of the garage, like in the pathtofreedom website. I am vegetarian, so we're not looking for any meat animals. Check your city ordinances for rules on chickens--mine allows keeping something like 5 hens, no roosters, but NO slaughtering of any kind is allowed in the city. You can get in big trouble if they find out about that here, so check your rules to see what's what.

    Good luck!
     
  12. jen74145

    jen74145 Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    6,375
    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2006
    Location:
    Northern California
    Ooh, I like the roof garden idea! Might have to try it... once I figure out how to anchor it down so our windy days don't scatter it everywhere...
     
  13. peacebaker

    peacebaker Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,064
    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2005
    I'm on a lot about the same size lot as you. We have 4 hens and a dog, that's all the livestock! The girls are pretty quiet, though they do ocassionally "ba-GAWK" repeatedly either after laying an egg, or if there's a problem with the "queue" to use the nest box. They also "talk" to us (or complain, depending on their mood) when they hear the garage door open, which is pretty funny. The neighbors don't seem to hear them, I've asked after loud mornings just in case. The two closest neighbors like the chickens a lot so that helps!

    I don't let them free range as much as I should--they have an enclosed pen attached to their coop. They do a good job of staying in our fenced yard, but they make messes and damage plants...I think I'm going to either increase their pen size or make a tractor/moveable pen. In a smallish lot, even four chickens can do a fair amount of damage, so if you want lots of ornamental plants etc. you either need to pen them, or have the plants in an inaccesible part of the yard. I have a short (2 foot) fence around my garden that mostly keeps them out--they can get over it of course, but with supervision they stay out mostly.

    We have a decent sized vegetable garden (keeps getting bigger!) and fruit trees, grapes, berries, etc. Oh and a bread oven! :) It's amazing how much you can fit and still have a "yard".

    I love to hear about the true homesteaders on this site, but there is also something to be said for making the most out of a smaller piece of land. I feel like I'm not contributing to urban sprawl (which is spreading into the more valuable farmland in this area), I don't commute a long distance to work, and I have access to great services (recycling, etc) that help me to live lighter on the land I do have. Plus there are the personal benefits, like access to good grocery stores and cultural events. Good luck and good for you for making the most of what you've got!
     
  14. Dente deLion

    Dente deLion Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    948
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2006
    15,000?! What luxury! :) I have a VERY tiny lot - approx 5000 sq. ft. - and only about a third of it is plantable. I'm trying to make the best use of all available space, but it isn't easy. When I was putting together my seed orders I wished I could start a rooftop garden ... on a pitched roof! But, realistically, containers & climbers are about all I can do to squeeze in more goodies. There is no way we could produce enough to feed ourselves year-round. Big dreams will have to wait....
     
  15. unregistered6474

    unregistered6474 Guest

    Messages:
    497
    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2003
    I live on a tiny lot - a little smaller than yours. I have two raised beds and grow garlic, onions, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, lettuce, cukes, and peas. I also planted a pumpkin vine but it kind of took over my yard last year so I am not sure if I am going to do that again.

    I live in a suburb of St. Louis that DOES allow chickens, so I would like to get maybe 2-3 hens.

    When we do landscaping, I try to make it edible landscaping :) So we have plum trees, serviceberry trees, and blackberries. We also have hops vines that my husband uses to make beer.
     
  16. Aldeia

    Aldeia Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    72
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2006
    Location:
    New England
    I love PathToFreedom, I also checked out your fab raised city beds and have emailed that link to many friends. You've done so much with your space! It's awesome.

    We have been growing up...we even did cucumbers. It was so cool to see them dangling above like that. We also planted scarlett runners beans everywhere. Made the place look so lovely.

    I don't quite live in the city, I live near a city in a smaller town. It's an agricultural community that is being eaten up with McMansions. Although that seems to be slowing down, and the town has been getting much stricter with zoning, thankfully. We can process food at this point.

    I am not thinking we need meat...we really don't. I was a vegetarian for nearly 20 years, we eat a huge variety. I just find myself wanting to be self-suffcient, esp if we need to really be, someday. I feel like I need to have available protein and fats if the need ever comes. It's a change I've had in myself in the past few years. I don't want to reley even on tofu or soybeans from Japan...or anything GMO...

    I'm still a raving social liberal, however. :cool: Althought it's probably never good to admit such a thing. :hobbyhors
     
  17. hisenthlay

    hisenthlay a.k.a. hyzenthlay

    Messages:
    2,024
    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Location:
    Southwestern PA
    Thanks! I'm touched! :angel: That garden was a result of having many long winter nights to sit and thumb through tons of seed catalogs and garden books, and my plans got bigger and bigger as the days went by. I think I scared my fiance, but it turned out well!

    One thing about having less space--I think it takes way more planning, because you really have to maximize every inch. You can't just throw in a few things here and a few things there and see what comes up. Square Foot Gardening was a good resource for me, as was Lasagna Gardening, and of course the Joy of Gardening.

    ETA: If you're not interested in raising animals for meat in the immediate sense, you could get some good heritage breed dual-purpose layers--eggs are super protein--all you really need, and if times really got dire, you could always sacrifice a few of them for the table (although in my opinion, that's exactly like killing the goose that laid the golden egg, unless they're really old, I guess, and not laying anymore).
     
  18. Aldeia

    Aldeia Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    72
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2006
    Location:
    New England

    I know, although dh just said it's more like 11,800. lol I am now convinced it's how we use our space, more than anything. Maybe I'll even get a milking goat...

    Although I hear they aren't happy unless they have a friend...and I know we don't have enough for two milking goats. Plus, what might escaped goats do to the lawns of my neighbors. They would hate me then!

    What I really wish is that we were on the sunny side of the street. That would help a lot. But taking some trees down will help a bit with that. It so goes against my nature to be taking trees down...
     
  19. belladulcinea

    belladulcinea Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,676
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2006
    Location:
    N.E. Oklahoma
    We have 1/2 an acre in town and I have too much lawn to suit me but dh wants to keep the front yard lawn so we will match the rest of the neighborhood :p and he's right. That said I have a huge side yard that will have blackberries planted this spring and I am switching to the SquareFoot Gardening method for my veggies. I can set this up on my existing raised beds and have it up where I can work on it easier with less weeding. I will also build more in other areas that are needing to be used more efficiently. I love growing potatoes and green beans. I am really bad with tomatoes so I leave that to my sister. We try to grow different things in our garden so we can have lots of variety.

    I can have chickens so I'm going to get a couple this summer for eggs and I would like to have rabbit for the fertilizer. I miss raising rabbits but I only want one.
     
  20. Dente deLion

    Dente deLion Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    948
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2006
    My front yard is the same way for the same reason. What a drag! I'm tempted to plant it with low-growing herbs, but it doesn't get much sun. Anybody have ideas about how I could make it useful while still looking "lawnish"?