Saturday, May 2, 2015

Welcome to Back Yard Farmer!

Welcome to Back Yard Farmer! My Hunny, Chris, is the back yard farmer. I, Flea, am the chronicler of said farm.

A little background - we've lived in suburban Tulsa for eight years, having moved here from Central Florida. We love the land here in the middle of the country, as well as the people. Once upon a time we had three children, but only one is still left at home, and he works odd hours, so he's no real help in the yard.

Our home is a brick and siding two story, about 2,000 square feet. Not palatial, but not tiny. Pretty average for the area. The yard is what sold us on the house. It's privacy fenced and pretty large, about a third of an acre. We're surrounded by houses, but in a cul-de-sac, at the end of it.

When we moved in, in the dead of winter, the yard had two trees - an apple tree, and a maple in the far back corner. The apple tree is covered with red delicious apples this year, and the maple was cut down several years ago. A drought, then an ice storm killed it, we think.

It's only been the last four years that Hunny has taken the gardening seriously. Four years ago, almost exactly, a friend, as a prank, sent our youngest child home with a baby chick. We'd debated raising chickens for a couple of years, but I'd always said no. I knew I'd be the one taking care of them full time, and I knew they'd be messy, stinky, attract rodents. No chickens. NO.

I fell in love with that little chick. A week later, the cat ate it. We went out the next day and bought more. And it began. The back yard farm. With four chicks in a Rubbermaid bin.

Since then we've had multiple ducks (now only Jimmy the Duck lives here), many chickens and a Canada goose (Ryan Gosling migrated a couple of years ago). I'd love goats, but Hunny says no. Something about zoning and his garden. His garden?

Hunny has been fascinated with aquaponics for 20 years. Finally, last year, he built an aquaponics set up in the back yard. He tore it all down in the fall, moved the goldfish to the pond he put in last summer, and rebuilt it bigger and better this spring.

The goldfish have been moved back into the new IBC tank, koi moved to the pond. Today Hunny is putting gravel in the grow beds. At some point I expect he'll tell you all about how he's doing this. He's even discussed having a meat rabbit cage above the tank of fish, for nutrients for fish and plants, as well as meat for us. Neither of us have processed an animal, though, and that's a bridge we'll have to cross if we decide to make it there.

Hunny drives his pickup right into the backyard to off load dirt, gravel, mulch, whatever. He's the one with the green thumb. I keep the chickens and duck happy, as well as the dogs. We have four dogs - two are 13 year old Australian Shepherd mixes, and two are lap dogs, young. The Aussies ignore the backyard birds, but the little dogs want to play with them. It's a carefully orchestrated game, letting everyone out at different times. And yes, I let the chickens out to range periodically. Here's where they live.

Hunny and our boys built a chicken tractor initially, and we used it for about two years. Then I started looking for a permanent fixture for the hens and Jim. I looked at dog houses and play houses, wanting something both chickens and duck would be happy with. Eventually I found a half built playhouse on Craigslist for free. We dragged it home on the bed of the truck and Hunny spent a month building it out, roofing it, modifying, then painting it and the shed to match. Another week fencing it all in and covering it with mesh to keep hawks out.

We'd lost several of our girls to hawks prior to this. Since the house, we've lost a couple to possums at night, but have fenced even more to prevent them.

So! That's our back story! Stay tuned for more as we build and plant and grow. Just for perspective, we live in walking distance of a Sonic, a Car Max and a McDonalds. The highway can be heard from the backyard. We really do live in town. But the yard is a haven. If you're ever coming through Tulsa, drop me a line. We'd love to show you around, serve up some iced tea, sit on the back porch with the chickens and hear your story.

Until I write again ...


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