Going to work to make money, driving to the grocery store and dealing with a terrible vibe and assault on the senses to buy a jar of salsa—that is a shit-ton of bleh,"says James Loomis, who with his wife Michelle and two kids has an urban homestead on 600 East in Salt Lake City's Liberty Wells neighborhood. "I want to shift the paradigm of how people view self reliance—to get away from [the idea of it] being a ton of work to realizing it is a ton of fun."
During the growing season, 30% or more of landfill waste is organic yard refuse. Home composting of yard and garden trimmings eases landfill problems and "recycles" these organics into a valuable soil amendment. The benefits of using compost as a soil amendment include increasing soil tilth, fertility, water holding capacity, aeration and drainage.
Spring’s arrival has brought big changes and weighty revelations to our backyard poultry ranch, not least of which is the snow melting. Bigger yet, though is this news: our goose is laying! I say “goose,” because, contrary to what our previous beliefs of the gender distribution of our American buff goose flock – that is, two geese, one gander – it’s recently been revealed to us that we in fact have two ganders and one goose. That’s been a tough pill to swallow.
Grow this super-nutritious shrub in your own backyard
Lycium barbarum, the goji berry, has become very popular in recent years. The berries are native to southeastern Europe and Asia, and their high levels of antioxidants have gained the small red fruit a reputation as a superfood. You can buy goji berry juice drinks at health food stores, and dried goji berries are available for sale, but not cheaply. Often a pound will cost you $20! These dried berries are imported from China and Mongolia—but did you know that goji berries also grow in old gardens and in the wild all over Utah?
Two local urban farmers bring their passion for sustainable produce to the Salt Lake community.
The Wasatch Front supports a growing legion of foodies and environmentalists interested in sources for fresh, organic, locally-grown—and, of course, delicious—fruits and vegetables. But would-be locavores may be unsure where to turn for produce beyond a weekly visit to their local farmers market, and would-be urban homesteaders long for more information than the seed racks at big-box home and garden stores can supply. While institutions like the Downtown Farmers Market are vital for the role they play in supporting small-scale, organic agriculture, the concept of community is key for many consumers and gardeners.
Build a house for native bees and they will thank you by pollinating your crops.
The majority of our food crops rely on insects to pollinate them and allow them to set fruit. Without bees, our diets would be a lot less healthful and tasty. The wellbeing of our pollinators is important to our survival!
While the beleaguered European honeybee struggles for a comeback, here in Utah, luckily, we also have around 900 different species of native bee, all evolved here and active in pollinating our gardens and our crops.
The ins and outs of pollination and the importance of saving seeds.
Once upon a time, farmers and gardeners ensured their next year’s crops by always saving seed from the previous harvest. Crop plants were exclusively open pollinated; they had evolved to fit into local ecosystems over generations, and had been adapted by farmers for reliable performance over many years. Individual plants from these varieties might vary considerably, but the strain as a whole would “come true” from the seed collected. Open-pollinated heirloom varieties developed resistance to local pests and diseases and were well adapted to the local climate.
City gardener? Urban farmer? Either way, it’s just a label identifying someone who gets serious pleasure out of playing in the soil. We could say the gardener is more about looks, the farmer takes something home. As with every holistic process, it’s both.
What we call farming is no longer a question of size: Some of your “fields” may be measured in inches or feet rather than acres. Say, an orchard of a few dwarf apple trees trained to a trellis alongside the garage, and a container of eggplant and tomatillos on a roof porch.
Your produce is likely grown in raised beds—and your beds, like mine, might be in the driveway. For a voracious gardener, every open space where sunshine falls is up for grabs, including patios, front yards and, yes, even rooftops.
Celia and Kevin Bell: Life on a westside homestead.
5:56 a.m. The sun breaks over the mountains and houses to the east of the little home we recently purchased on Salt Lake’s west side. The cheerful summer light ricochets off the 70-year-old white paint on our garage, through the bedroom window, and unto my eyelids, where it turns into cheerfully jabby little needles, forcing me to stumble up and draw the blinds.
6:17 a.m. Our accidental rooster (the chicken that turned out to be not so chick-y after all) starts up his adolescent attempts at crowing. His call sounds like a cross between an ’84 Buick turning over and a wet cat clawing its way out of a rusty accordion.
6:24 a.m.: I contemplate beating him to death with one of the home improvement books stacked beside the bed (a fantasy I embellish with more gruesome details every morning).
8:15 a.m. Resting deeply.
8:16 a.m.: The no-really-seriously-I-mean-it-this-time-you-lazy-lazy-bastard alarm goes off. I finally get up, showing very little salt-of-the-earth, up-at-dawn moxie. I clearly don’t have the hang of this urban farming thing yet.
We have a paltry poultry flock (eight chickens, with one disqualified on account of dudeliness) and a total n00b’s garden. Our tiny plot of scraggly tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers is surrounded by hulking weeds, looking like nothing so much as the chess club prior to an unfortunate lunch-money incident. (We have seriously delinquent weeds—they have tattoos, and I caught them smoking behind our shed last week.)
This stands in sharp contrast to Celia and Kevin Bell’s farm; last month I had the chance to visit the Bells’ urban homestead, a half-acre plot nestled among more traditional suburban sprawl of the westside Glendale neighborhood. Celia was sitting in the shade, grooming the dog, when I arrived; Kevin soon came home from a motorcycle ride to Evanston—a display of leisure almost impossible to believe once the tour began.