You say you want a revolution…

In a recent issue of Urban Farm magazine, a community gardener described the fruits of her labor in terms something like this: It’s not just a garden, it’s a revolution.That statement struck me as a profound truth. What folks like Don Axe of Valley View Farm, folks like me at the Laughing Place, folks turning lawns into vegetable gardens across the country are doing is participating in a radical and pervasive change in society – the very definition of a revolution. (Thanks Dictionary.com for clarifying!) We are changing, in small ways and large, the food chain.  We are changing how children understand and value what appears on the supper table. We are changing our neighborhoods by providing shared resources, and a means of connecting with the people around us.

I am unashamedly adopting the words of that community gardener as the motto for the Laughing Place. In fact, the boat that serves as our newest raised bed is named Revolution.

Giving our boat a name...

Giving our boat a name…

Yes, I am a Beatles fan – so all on its own the name makes some sense.  But a sign placed just above the name is soon to follow, one that will connect the dots for our neighbors: “It’s not just a garden, it’s a…”

For Americans, the return to a more agricultural focus has become trendy.  I am one of three backyard chicken keepers in a three block radius in our neighborhood. Many of my extended family members and friends garden, and a couple of them could also be called urban farmers. We have time and resources in plenty. But what if we could change the larger world with our little gardens?

I imagine that not one person in Somalia is going to thank me for a box of my surplus produce – whatever good intentions might have been packed in with the tomatoes and zucchini, the fruit and veggies would arrive unusable. But what if we could contribute something that won’t rot in the shipping? What if we sent ideas? That’s just what Marcin Jakubowski is doing. Through a unique initiative, Marcin is designing an open-source blueprint for self-sufficiency. Check out his TED talk here

Pretty inspiring, no? And what if a farmer in Afghanistan applied for a Kiva loan to build one of Marcin’s tractors? Would you contribute $25? I’m pretty sure we CAN change the world – one farm at a time.

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Crazy Containers

The ground is a great place to plant things.   But as any good gardener will tell you, a nice flat patch of dirt need not be the only space you consider when starting, or expanding, a garden.  In fact, the Laughing Place began when I could not part with an old wheelbarrow that had finally ceased to be useful for its original purpose.

Old wheelbarrows never die...

Old wheelbarrows never die…

That wheelbarrow herb garden is now surrounded by greens in grow bags, peas climbing a branch trellis in an old basket, and a popcorn popper filled with Rue.

The Whirly-Pop now has a new purpose

The Whirly-Pop now has a new purpose

One benefit of container gardening is that pests, like the voles that have stolen two of my artichoke plants, find it harder to burrow under and eat the roots of things planted in say, a toy truck.

Ready to place in the garden

The voles may be plotting to car jack these plants!

Unusual containers are also just fun. It would have been easy to turn the bit of dirt beside our driveway into another regular garden bed.  But when presented with a 12 foot fishing boat, what is a girl to do? Plant beans, naturally!

Front seat for the kids to play fishing games, garden in back!

Front seat for the kids to play fishing games, garden in back!

Then again, sometimes the container isn’t all that unusual, but the crop growing in it is altogether out of the ordinary…

This type of gardening isn't for everyone.

This type of gardening isn’t for everyone.

got eggs?

We do!  What seemed like an eternity, and was in fact just 5 short months of maturation for our little ladies, ended in late October with the arrival of our very first egg.  I literally ran into the street with the lovely, perfect brown specimen clutched protectively in my hand – screaming and jumping like a kindergartener who is first to the playground.

Neighbors who had no idea we’d ventured into the world of chicken keeping smiled indulgently as I held out my prize for their inspection – a look of realization finally spreading across their faces as they began to understand just where that egg had originated. In. My. Yard!  From my own chickens!  Well, they might not have been as impressed as I was – but they humored me.

A thing of beauty, and a joy...until we cooked it.

A thing of beauty, and a joy…until we cooked it.

Seriously, I wanted to bronze it. I felt like I should send out birth announcements. I did NOT want to break it, or do less than place it on the mantle in a position of honor.  At least until the 2nd, 3rd, 4th eggs came.  At last I was able to relent, and scrambled eggs seemed like less a travesty and more a necessity.

The kiddo got a kick out of breaking that first egg!

The kiddo got a kick out of breaking that first egg!

In the beginning, an egg a day seemed like true bounty.  As one hen after another reached egg laying age, the count began to grow.  I rejoiced when I had enough to actually fill an egg carton!  Hopeful family members began saving their old cartons, and I wondered if I could ever bring myself to part with these gifts from my generous, gorgeous pets.

Every egg is an amazement!

Every egg is an amazement!

We average 5 eggs a day now. That doesn’t seem like many, right?  Five eggs -they (almost) fit in one hand when they are gathered. But 5 A DAY is actually a lot!  Eggs began to fill the spaces in our kitchen.

Eggs, eggs everywhere!

Eggs, eggs everywhere!

I sought out ways to efficiently clean and store them. The fridge filled up. I began to give them to my family, at last satisfied that I could not possibly use them all – no matter how many muffins, cookies, omelets, and quiches I planned to make. I cleared space on the kitchen counter and bought an ingenious little contraption called an egg skelter. Two dozen eggs fit nicely and it amuses me no end to roll them down the chute!

The egg skelter - Like a roller coaster for eggs!

The egg skelter – Like a roller coaster for eggs!

I have begun to sell our eggs.  I figure they are a cooperative effort between me and the hens.  I feed the girls, clean the coop, make sure they are happy and safe.  They lay beautiful, tasty brown protein orbs. It’s a pretty good partnership.  And I get a side benefit – every single day gathering those eggs gives me a thrill.