The Urban Farm

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This blog is my final submission for a unit of study I have been doing online with the University of Tasmania, and is the reason I have grown over the past couple of months from Facebooker, to Blogger and now to Web Designer.  The final assessment requires me to submit between 7 & 10 images which communicate my visual theme (or story).

Here goes…..

(insert drum roll for a little drama)

This story really begins at a day long mindfulness workshop I attended recently as part of my work – yes, mindfulness for work!  The workshop was held at a place called CERES (Centre for Education and Research into Environmental Strategies), an award winning sustainability centre located in an inner northern suburb of Melbourne.  For more info, check out their website at http://ceres.org.au/.  This was a beautifuly calm and meditative day and I was able to spend some time wandering around the grounds, enjoying the earthy vibes from the numerous garden beds & (stinky) chook sheds.  On my drive home, as my brain processed the day, an epiphany happened.  It was time to turn our meduim sized suburban backyard into an Urban Farm! (more drumrolls please, maybe a few fireworks as well).

My only possible hurdle would be my husband Jamie – would he be willing to surrender half of his back yard to fulfill my vision?  Would he be prepared to put in the hard work (because I’ll be honest….. I’m not much one for manual labour)?  Luckily for me he was easily convinced, as we both love our gardening and may well have been farmers in a previous life.

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The first stage of our newly hatched (pardon the pun) plan was the fertiliser factory, AKA chickens.  We set out on a Sunday morning with the intention of buying a few regular, brown chooks.  One thing led to another and before we knew it we were returning home with 5 different exotic birds.  The ladies quickly adapted to suburban life and set about the important task of creating fertiliser.

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The girls have a nice run in the corner of the yard and are sometimes let out to roam around freely.  Close supervision is required to ensure they don’t go digging up anything they shouldn’t.  Thankfully, our miniature schnauzer “Oscar” seems to be a natural at chicken herding, and keeps a watchful eye on them.

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Next step – raised garden beds.  Raised to serve a couple of purposes.  1. to prevent the dog from “watering” the produce. 2.  to make the work a little less back breaking (see how thoughtful I am of Jamie here).   In keeping with the sustainability theme, one of my colleagues kindly donated 2 beds that were going to waste in her yard.  We bought a couple more, filled them with quality soil, and the farm was taking shape.

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Now’s the time to backtrack a little – while all this was happening I had also sown some punnets of seeds in my little greenhouse.  Fast forward again and it was time to plant them out.   Onions, garlic, broccoli, cauli, lettuce, silverbeet, beetroot….. the list is long.  Now all we need to do is sit back, give them some daily love and care, and before we know it, it will be time for the harvest.  Can’t wait!

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Of course growing our own veggies and having a few chooks doesn’t quite place us in the “sustainable living” camp.  We have started taking other measures to reduce our footprint on the earth, such as reducing waste and improving our methods of dealing with the waste that we do produce.  There is still a bit of work to be done in this regard – education for the kids, changing of ingrained habits, and seeking out new and inventive ways to reduce, re-use and recycle.

The other major change which happened this same weekend was the installation of solar panels.  Hopefully the system will provide us with enough power for our home during daylight hours, with any surplus feeding back into the grid.

Finally, to add to the excitement of what was already a huge weekend, we were presented with our first egg, proudly laid by our Rhode Island Red, “Henrietta”.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a funnier sight than when she emerged from the nesting box, very loudly proclaiming her achievement to the whole neighbourhood.  There is simply nothing more homely than holding a freshly laid egg (or 2) in your hand, and chickens, with their quirky personalities, make delightful pets.

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By Sunday night it was definitely time to sit back around the fire with a cold one in hand, celebrating a job well done.

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Bringing the story full circle – enjoying my own “urban farm” has become a little piece of sanity in this crazy, fast paced world.  Taking the time out in my daily life to enjoy these little things is what mindfulness is all about.  I’d say the workshop has had the desired impact on my lifestyle so I’ll give Susie of Avista Mindfulness full credit.  If you live in the Melbourne or Geelong area I can highly recommend that you check out http://avistamindfulness.com.au/

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