Where We Started
My significant other Trevor and I began an urgent house hunt in the summer of 2016. We desperately needed more room for our family of six than our tiny two bedroom, one bath house could offer. My criteria for our new home were a functional kitchen attached to a large dining room and a spacious backyard for a raised bed garden, a small flock of chickens and our Bloodhound-Rottweiler mix, Juno.
The 1950s rancher we fell in love with and bought a few months later ticked all our boxes. We could see beyond the dingy kitchen, wall-to-wall carpet in the dining room and a canopy of maple and pine trees that shaded most of our backyard. This dated and shaded suburban rancher promised the yard to table lifestyle I was beginning to crave. I had begun to wonder, could I really say I cook from scratch if I can only trace my ingredients back to the grocery store? I wanted peace of mind that I was feeding my family the freshest, healthiest, most delicious food. We could grow much of our produce in the large backyard. We could raise chickens and ducks for fresh eggs and rabbits for meat. We could reduce our ecological footprint, afford the higher quality groceries that we couldn’t raise or grow at home, and everything would taste better and be better for us.
A few weeks before moving day, dear Trevor bought me a massive farmhouse table with white turned legs and ten bronze industrial metal chairs to match the espresso tabletop. We got the keys to our new home four days before Thanksgiving. My amazing parents brought Thanksgiving dinner. Mom prepared everything from turkey breasts to pecan pie and Trevor made his signature black olive laced stuffing. We were still unpacking but I found my Grandma June’s dishes and my silver. We set the farm table. We feasted. We were home!
The end of our house hunt shifted our focus to coops and cultivation, but not much could be done with record setting accumulations of snow and single digit temperatures for weeks. But we tromped through the white stuff to take exact measurements of our yard. I checked out stacks of library books about suburban farming. I even flirted with keeping goats. We hunkered down around the fireplace and dreamed and schemed. Miniature outbuildings and raised beds were drawn to scale on graph paper and our 2-D suburban homestead began to take shape. But nine dangerous pine trees and a crowded maple had to go. They threatened to come crashing down and dissect our home with every winter windstorm. But felling ten trees would have to wait until spring.
At the end of February, we took our four kids to the local feed store and we chose 12 tiny chicks from 5 different breeds. We held off on naming them and warned the kids to not get too attached. We’d lose a few, we told them. Trevor built a brooder from an upside down coffee table. Then a week later he came home with a White Crested Black Polish hen he was already calling Lady Gaga and two ducklings including a Khaki Campbell hen the kids named Nibbles and a Swedish Blue hen dubbed Flash. Trevor knew I was longing for a little yellow Pekin duck. I didn’t have to wait long. The next week he came home with Daisy.
Our rapidly-growing fowl outgrew the coffee table brooder, then the laundry room shower, and then the outdoor garden shed. They were big enough to roam the yard for an hour or so every day and the ducks happily waded in a kiddie pool. Meanwhile, we adopted a Redbone Coonhound pup we call Cliffy, much to Juno’s initial displeasure. The first phase of coop construction was completed in May of 2017. That is where my Suburban Farm Table blog picks up.
Every room in our home needs updating or renovating. I’m most excited about the galley kitchen’s potential for preparing and putting up our backyard’s eventual bounty. The kitchen is a gut job, but there’s room for a double oven, enough countertop space for epic Thanksgiving spreads and the eat-in nook can be converted to a walk-in pantry.
One pine tree in the front yard and three in the side yard are down, but our backyard is still heavily-shaded. Our arborist is tackling the trees in phases. We’re not sure if we’ll have a garden at all this year, but we’re growing potted tomatoes on the back deck and hanging planters filled with herbs outside the chicken coop. We plan on using tires in different sizes as our raised beds. Trevor can get them from work for free and I feel really good about repurposing so much rubber.
Our coop-in-progress protects nine chickens and three ducks. Rabbit hutch add-ons to the coop will likely happen next summer, but a ground-level house for our three ducks is imminent.
I hope you’ll join us on this journey as we build our suburban farm and set our suburban farm table with an increasing amount of produce and protein we have raised or grown. I’m not an expert. I’m very much a newbie, but we’ve had many more wins than losses with each passing month. If this season yields nothing but fresh duck and chicken eggs, succulent potted tomatoes and some fresh herbs, I will be very pleased!