Small and slow: garden to farm

Having been here at our house for around five years, after downsizing from a large property, it has felt at times like a slow journey to transform  a garden devoid of anything but a few fruit trees into a backyard farm. Looking back at what I began back then, learning about building soil in the Winter of 2012, it seems a long time ago.

From building soil, raised beds, setting up worm farms, a small compost bin, planting fruit and nut trees, getting into a rhythm of learning about growing my own seedlings and establishing some zones in the garden, and reading a lot about permaculture and how to transfer that thinking in a practical way, into a small space. It’s been a constant and ongoing thing. It’s not there yet, but that’s the whole point. It never will be. Constantly evolving and growing.

I now grow so many  heirlooms seedlings,  (mostly Diggers varieties) with such success that I regularly have heirloom seedlings to share regularly though the local community share table, and I’ve started a small monthly seedling and produce share at my work too.

And now, a major milestone is on the horizon. Chickens will be joining us in our backyard very soon!  At this point, the backyard farms begins to be feel like one.  Just the thought of having chickens again makes me feel wonderfully excited.

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The back corner of the garden, deliberately wild is a favourite haunt of resident blue-tongue lizards

I think there will be differences in keeping chickens in a backyard (no wedge-tailed eagles or foxes trying to raid the coop). I expect to have to unlearn some of things I think I understand about keeping chickens. So despite keeping chickens on the farm, I’m not approaching this venture like I know what I’m doing. I’m on the wait-list at my local library for the book Backyard Poultry Naturally by Alanna Moore which has some great reviews. There is always room for re-learning what you think you know.

With less space, more care and planning is required to give chickens what they need for happiness. This is why the long wait to bring them in.  I’ve allowed the garden to mature into shady pockets, the soil to build and deepen, trees to grow and for intentional little wild zones to develop,  just right for curious and clever chickens to explore when they free range.

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Under the plum tree, might seem overgrown, but this will cause a lot of delight for chickens when they arrive.

In the past few years brown snakes have been nesting on the vacant block next door (none sighted this year so far), so keeping our back garden rodent free is a priority.   This is why I invested in a grain feeder . On the farm, we weren’t so careful about the odd grain scatter, snakes were a daily encounter by the dams etc, but it feels important with children around, and a smaller enclosed space, to not invite snakes to a dinner party by encouraging mice. So, a bit of an investment to begin with seemed like a sensible idea.

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So now, the tomatoes have the first blush of summer, the trees are laden with plums, daily small harvests of zuchinni, speckled bean pods hang on the vine, oranges and mandarins are green with future promise, corn nods its head in the breeze, strawberries burst into sweetness… and as soon as we have the coop set up and ready..the patter and scratch of chicken feet and their gentle happy ways will add to the cycle.

It does take time, all of this, but for me, growing is part of being connected to not just food production, but the small and beautiful details of life.

Patterns.
These heirlooms
Infinite in diversity
Harvest picked by hand
Yield.

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