Suburban Pioneers

The Adventures and Misadventures of Homesteading in 21st-Century America

Lauren: Chickens October 2, 2012

Filed under: Chickens — lkcook20 @ 3:42 pm
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I want chickens. Bad. I hear they make great entertainment–and need I even mention. . . Fresh eggs!

I would love to be able to walk into my backyard and pick up a freshly-laid egg. And clean it off, of course, because apparently they don’t come out looking like they do in the grocery store. I don’t want to get too graphic, but if you are unschooled in chicken anatomy (like I was), let me share what I learned: the great manure chickens produce doesn’t have a separate exit ramp. . .

A year ago backyard chickens weren’t a possibility for us since we live in a small city. But the urban farm movement is surging and seven hundred city residents signed a petition for bees and chickens in the city. The council people had to sit up and take note of that! Fast forward through paperwork, research, and bureaucracy stuff blah blah blah and the ordinance was up before council for a vote.

A couple of weeks before the meeting the city chickens and bees Facebook group  asked people to email their representative to express support. I wasn’t sure who my representative was so I emailed. . .  all of them. Can you tell how political I am? To their credit, they all emailed back asserting their support. The only details left to iron out were setback limits. This was an important factor since city lots tend to be small and deciding on something too high would make owning birds and bees an impossibility for most residents. After I emailed them all once, I wrote again to specify what setback number I thought was reasonable. But I gave myself away by telling them what street I lived on and they stopped emailing back since all but one weren’t responsible for fielding my fiery emails.

It felt so good to write to them. I gained a sense of pride in being passionate about an issue and doing something about it. I began to think, I could get into this local politics thing. I carried this buoyed feeling with me into the council chambers as I sat reverently on the hard wooden bench, hoping my mere presence showcased my zeal for the issue at hand.

But chickens and bees weren’t the first thing on the agenda that night. First the council had to listen to a traffic expert (who knew those even existed? He got my vote for having one of the most boring jobs on earth). He gave his findings on the traffic patterns of a particular street and what would happen if they added a turning lane here or there. The discussion droned on and on. I think my eyes started to water a little from boredom and probably sympathy for the guy’s wife for when she had to hear about his day at work. And then I knew–local politics weren’t for me. But I gave those six council people and the Mayor credit. They sat there and listened and even looked mildly interested. Not one of them (that I could see) pulled out a contraband book from their purse (or murse) and started reading it like I did, waiting for a more interesting topic to come up. (I recommend Major Pettigrew’s Last stand. It really kept me entertained).

Then I knew it was only the chickens and the bees that I cared about.

Long story short and a couple of weeks later, they passed the ordinance 6-0 so I’m on my way to owning backyard fowl.

Pickle is on the left, Turtle on the right

It’s too be determined how my rear neighbor (we’ll call her Wilma) will feel about them, if she will dislike them as much as she does Turtle and Pickle, our two bark-enthused pugs. I’ll keep you updated on my chicken endeavors (designing a coop, etc) as well as the Wilma drama sure to ensue.

Who knew dogs like to spoon?


Lauren: I’m Growing! September 18, 2012

Filed under: Beginnings — suburbanpioneers @ 6:22 pm
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If you would have told me when I was growing up that six years after I got married I would want backyard chickens, I would have said you were crazy. C-R-A-Z-Y, crazy.

I grew up in a typical suburban home in Cleveland, Ohio. There, my mother’s hobbies leaned more in the direction of Bingo rather than sewing or gardening, so I didn’t grow up knowing or seeing someone doing those things.  The first time I used an iron, the one that had idled in my mom’s linen closet for quite some time, was to straighten my hair in high school. In my defense, this was back in the day before flat irons became widely available. I got pretty good at not burning myself.

So what changed? It all started when I stumbled into the bottomless well I now know as the Netflix documentaries page. Growing up, I thought documentaries were a teacher’s way of torturing small children by making them sit through some old guy talking for an hour about the life cycle of the dung beetle. It turns out they aren’t boring like I thought they’d be and instead let me sit down and learn something new (in one hour!), a feature I especially enjoy since I have a toddler and infant at home. Oftentimes I only have one hour, if I’m lucky, when no one needs to be fed or held or changed, when no one (husband included) is asking “Want to play?” And there are only so many times I can read “In the great green room there was a telephone and a red balloon. . . ” before I start to crave some more challenging concepts. Not that I don’t love Margaret Wise Brown’s classic, but sometimes I need a little more.

Most people will never forget their first love, I’ll never forget my first documentary: Food Inc. 

 Food Inc. was the movie that planted a little seed in me to be more conscious about the things I am buying and what I am putting into my body and the bodies of my loved ones.  And that little seed has sprouted. Continuing on with the analogy. . . My frugality is the water that helps it grow. It’s cheaper in a lot of ways to make your own cleaning spray or new skirt or graham crackers (more on those later). I prefer the term thrifty rather than miserly.

In short, I am in love with becoming more and more self-sufficient. Then I can make things exactly the way I want them with the ingredients that I want. Hmm. I think am starting to sound like a control freak. I don’t think I really am. Let me explain. Sometimes I have this daydream about what would happen if there was an apocalypse and then I envision how I would handle it. My husband usually daydreams about being a hero and saving people and I daydream about being the last ones on earth. (I really am a happy person. See this? That’s me.) Anyway, then in the daydream I list off the things I could do/make myself and try to gauge how well I could take care of my family (we all survived the apocalypse, of course). So in trying to defend myself about being controlling, I’ve let my weirdness show. Oh well. It was bound to come out sometime.

Now I find myself dreaming (a happier dream) of a little farm with goats, chickens, a pot belly pig (as a pet; they’re so cute), a huge garden, and a root cellar full of food I’ve canned. But I am not sure when (or even if) that will happen. Right now I have to be content with turning my little bungalow in a small city into a little urban farm and teaching myself how to make things myself.

I wish my porch still looked this clean.


Definition: sə-bərb-ən pī-ə-ˈnir September 16, 2012

Filed under: Beginnings — suburbanpioneers @ 8:56 pm
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According to Miriam Webster, a pioneer is:
a :a person or group that originates or helps open up a new line of thought or activity or a new method or technical development

b : one of the first to settle in a territory

We like this definition for pioneer, particularly the part about opening a “new line of thought.”  We definitely don’t think we’re originators, but we hope to be part of a group that does help to open thought about the daily choices we make as middle class Americans.  We also mean “pioneer” in the sense of a homesteader, one who settles on land and cultivates it…in this case, one who settles on land and a house in the suburbs.

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