Can a chic overachieving doctor and a successful Manhattan advertising executive leave the Big Apple and survive on a historic farm in upstate New York? I doubt it. Especially since most New Yorkers think Central Park is the vast wilderness . . . What knuckleheads would think they could actually survive in a mansion built in 1802, with a herd of eighty-eight goats, a flock or two of chickens, a couple of barn cats and bunnies, a large legendary heirloom kitchen garden and a brand-spanking-new business selling handmade goat-milk soap? Did I mention they're gay and that one is an ex-drag queen?
In The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers, Josh Kilmer-Purcell superbly documents his courageous, harebrained idea of leaving his grandiose job at a Madison Avenue advertising agency to become a goat farmer. With the help of his partner, Brent Ridge, known to fans as Dr. Brent, on The Martha Stewart Show, they pack up their big city belongings from their small city apartment and a good chunk of their savings account to live the so-called bucolic life on the farm. The farmers, and I use the word very loosely, found the mansion while on their annual trip upstate to an apple orchard in Sharon Springs, New York; a small town packed with charm that has now found its happy place on the map. (Planet Green began filming a show about the farm and its new owners, entitled The Fabulous Beekman Boys, in 2009.)
Helen’s Haven was designed to be a sustainable, safe haven for the three B’s: birds, bees, butterflies and of course humans, especially kids.
Our garden, Helen’s Haven, was designed as a place to admire the wildlife and a place where children can stop their play to taste a fig ripened on the shrub; pop a cherry tomato in their mouth warmed from the sun, fresh from the vine, and of course, to stop to smell the roses. While Helen’s Haven is a tidy garden, it isn’t fussy. An errant ball in the borders is nothing to worry about, nor are kids cutting through the beds, rolling in the grass, or picking flowers for an impromptu arrangement or to spread petals along the driveway and paths.
Plotting Along by Megan Clothier
Last spring, when we bought our little old house, there was a kid's sandbox in the back yard. In the days after we moved in, our packing boxes lay untouched as we immediately dove in to our first house project: converting the sand box in to a veggie patch.
Little did we know that the simple idea of growing a few vegetables would turn in to such a rewarding love affair with gardening!
Urban gardening and sustainability are hot and trendy within certain circles now. But we are well behind the curve. Some have been both urban and sustainable for decades. On the west side of Chicago lives one such pioneer.
Mr. Carl Walton planted his garden in 1970, soon after arriving from Mississippi. It is not expansive, but an average city lot of about half an acre including the house. For Mr. Walton being green or sustainable is just common sense. Sustainable gardening, which limits your inputs and outputs, is both productive and cost effective. His methods include:
Greg Peterson is a man on a mission, to "Inspire people to embrace their own greenness", and that is just what he has been doing as a resident of Phoenix for the last 41 years. Greg is well-versed in urban sustainability, green living and food production in dry lands having been first introduced to desert gardening at the age of 12. In 1991, he discovered Bill Mollison and David Holgrem's concept of permaculture, bringing together many sustainability concepts into one cohesive system. Permaculture systems have greened deserts and enriched the lives of many across the globe, especially in dry climates.
What or who inspired you to become an urban famer? We started in 1978, working on energy conservation programs with the government to teach people how they could conserve energy in the city. A few of us looked into growing food. The City People’s Book of Raising Food by Helga and William Olkowski was instrumental. It introduced us to growing food at home in the city and I found it fascinating. Then I was walking in the back lanes in Vancouver where you can see into people’s back yards and seeing their gardens growing all these food items and it was then that I became aware that people were growing huge gardens in their back yards. I mowed lawns back then and so this was new to me to see all of these plants growing and I became very excited by what I saw.
Indeed, this type of energy is the type of energy we want our children to have instead of caffeine- or sugar-generated. It is longer lasting, healthier, and stimulates lasting memories. Bottom line; gardening and being outdoors in nature is fun and makes kids and adults alike feel happy. Testimony to this claim is the sunflower garden adventure my youngest daughter and I had together. One afternoon I dumped a handful of sunflower seeds in my hand and said, "Will you look at that!"
"What?" said my youngest, leaning low to my hand so she could get a close-up view of the seeds.
"That!" I smile, "This is a sunflower!"
"MOMMMMM, it is not, it's too little!" she answered incredulously.
We raise various breeds of chickens for the variety in egg color and yard bug control. I really like the Delaware's friendly temperament, plus the idea I am helping to keep a breed going which is on the critical list for the livestock conservation society. Recently we acquired a group of Californian rabbits to raise for meat. Perfect for any urban farmers who would like to raise their own meat and have little space to work with. Plus the fertilizer can go right on the garden without a waiting period. Up until recently, we also raised goats.
Philadelphia’s Public Urban Farm
Until recently, I didn’t know about Greensgrow Farm, but I did know about its co-founder and chief farmhand, Mary Seton Corboy. We had worked together when she guest-hosted with me on a GardenSmart episode a couple years ago. I was impressed with her then, but now I know why I felt such a deep admiration for this woman.
I've been a city girl most of my life. I grew up just south of Boston, went to college in Boston, and spent seven years in NYC before moving back to Boston in 1987. Since I was very young, I dreamed about "living off the land" in NH. As a child we spent summer vacations in Randolph NH. There, we hiked the Presidential Range of the White Mountains, swam in the frigid rivers and I loved it!
My family always had a large vegetable garden. We learned young about compost piles and to treasure each issue of Organic Gardening. My mother, a dressmaker by trade, made our clothes and also canned a variety of produce that came from the garden. Whether it was a patio tomato in NYC or a small 2 x 5 plot inside Boston City limits a garden always made me feel at home.
The Garden Girl in a Q and A with the Dirt Diva
PM: Annie here it is, your latest greatest book! How long did it take to develop and how did it compare to writing your first book?
AS: My first book, Annie’s Garden Journal, was more of a memoir styled book about my fear of marriage and the frustrations of trying to turn a new suburban lot into an old English Cottage garden. I had to learn patience and I’m still not happy about that! I had just moved to the Bay Area after growing up in Manhattan. I knew nothing about gardening or long-term commitments. Both made me suspicious. It was the year before my wedding and I kept a journal chronicling the wedding preparations, the challenges in my new garden and the imminent arrival of my loud, eccentric New York relatives who’d be coming out to a tiny, quiet farm town in Northern California to celebrate. After many, many years of failed plantings, horticultural research, training as a Master Gardener and becoming a garden columnist I can now say, without a doubt, that I was the worst gardener ever created! All I knew how to do then was pump a bunch of chemical fertilizer into the ground and spray pesticides on leaves, over and over and over. That’s not gardening.
Victory gardens, freedom gardens, recession gardens, sustainable gardens, or kitchen gardens. A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet. What you call it isn't as important as having one and growing home grown delights in it! That's what Roger Doiron, founder of Kitchen Gardeners International believes. Instead of recession gardeners growing food to take a bite out of their strapped budgets, Kitchen Gardeners are self-described "foodies" that grow their own food to insure the finest quality and freshness. In that way, people everywhere can relocalize their food supply. What a great way to think about what we all do!
I get plenty of quizzical looks from neighbors as they walk past my house in an older neighborhood in North Carolina, "What is she doing with her front yard?" I didn't really have a well-thought plan when I started on my urban homestead venture a couple of years ago. Over the past few years, I have sought to get a deeper connection to where our food comes from and to teach my children that an awareness of what we eat and how we live are very important things to know and understand. My work in the energy field has given me awareness into how much energy we use to get our food from the farm to the table in this country. I wanted to take action, producing at least some of your own food is key factor in reducing one's carbon footprint. Replacing the front lawn was a top priority because lawns represent a tremendous amount of waste - high water and chemical usage on potentially usable land for growing food. This step would definitely make an impact and get other folks thinking, 'hmm, why is she doing that?".....
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