Simple Living

Suburban Lawn to Nature Preserve, Part 2

In my first post I shared how I have come to see my suburban yard as a blessing instead of a curse. Instead of moaning about not living on a homestead in the country, I can make do with what I have and turn my tiny piece of urban sprawl into a haven for bees, birds and butterflies, as well as a center of production where I grow some of my own food. At some point I have to stop wishing for something else and working with what I have. Slowly but surely I am taking pieces of the yard and transforming them.

My wildflower meadow is limping along. I planted seed and the seed sprouted, but it’s been scorching hot and dry here so they are not thriving like I had hoped. I will continue to water them and hope that this winter they will root down into the soil and pop out next spring full of life. We shall see…

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Saving seed from a sunflower we grew.

I have convinced my husband to turn our other side yard into a veggie garden. On the left side of our house is where my garden is now, but it doesn’t get full sun and it’s never all that productive. The right side of the house fares a bit better, so we’re going to tear up some ornamental boxwoods and plant an additional food garden in their place.

In the front yard, I’ve been buying plants on clearance at the big box home store and filling up the beds with flowering plants to attract bees and butterflies. I only buy perennials, because I want them to come back year after year. I don’t want to pay for new plants next year!

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We planted our fall veggies as well. This is the first time I’ve tried a fall garden. I have swirly beets, carrots, bok choy, cauliflower and rainbow chard. I have no idea what will grow, if anything, but I have to try. Every attempt, even the failures, teaches me something about gardening.

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Elle planting carrots.

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Finally, and most exciting of all, we are adding a bunny rabbit to our mini homestead. I have an HOA that forbids livestock and chickens, but rabbits are pets so they can’t be outlawed. Look at me finding the loophole and following my dreams!

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Our bunny’s picture on Craigslist. She’s a Holland Lop.

I found the rabbit needing to be rehomed on Craigslist (oh, how I love Craigslist) and we are picking her up tomorrow. Her family is giving us her hutch and it’s cute enough to pass muster in the suburbs where everything has to be pretty and no one likes redneck stuff. My daughter has already christened the bunny Mopsy. Her job will be to eat some of our kitchen scraps and make lots of poop for my gardens, both flower and veggie.

My soil is in such a wretched state. When I plant flowers in the front yard, I’m digging into rock hard Georgia clay. No worms, no insects, no rich black loam. I had to buy a bag of compost at the store to pour into the holes I dug. Otherwise the poor plants would have almost nothing to nourish them. The rabbit is going to change all that.

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Rabbit poop is a “cool” fertilizer, which means I can apply it directly into my garden without letting it sit and cool for months first. Horse manure, which I have plenty of, has to go through a long process of decomposition before it can be added to a bed. It’s “hot” and it can kill plants if it doesn’t break down first. I’m not sure exactly why that is, something about the amount of nitrogen, I think. Every day I’ll be dumping rabbit poop somewhere in my yard and it will begin to restore the soil. Mopsy will be both adorable and a valued worker in this project of land redemption.

The thing that really fascinates me about organic gardening is how we can use nature to our advantage when we allow plants and animals to do what God designed them to do. We don’t need chemical fertilizer when we have animals that poop. We don’t need insecticide when we have chickens that eat bugs and larvae. So much of modern industrialized farming is about fighting nature and coming up with expensive, machine-based ways to produce food. I love the model of the old-timey, small family farm. Lots of crops and animals were grown in a relatively small space and every plant and animal had a role to play. It was healthier for the earth, the animals and the farmers. I’m trying to re-create a tiny version of that small homestead in my suburban yard!

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We grew a potato!

 

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