Our Farm in the City

ImaginAcres: Our Farm in the City

When people find out that we raise chickens and rabbits, tap our trees to make our own maple syrup, re-use food and yard waste through compost, and grow a plethora of herbs, fruit and vegetables, they always ask what part of the country we live in. When I tell them we live in the middle of the city, there are dozens of questions to be answered. I'm here today to answer those questions and show you what we're all about here. Follow me along on a tour of ImaginAcres!

Who we are:

I’m Meredith and my husband is Michael. We got married in the summer of 2013 on a beautiful farm. There were chickens and goats running around, a folk band to delight our guests, delicious food from local farms, and beer and wine made right on the farm. For our honeymoon, we took off to the Adirondacks for a camping trip where everything that could go wrong, did.

Mike and Meredith

Michael and I are both artists, writers, and teachers. He teaches English and Composition courses at a local university, and I teach art at an alternative school for at-risk youth in the city.

When we aren't teaching, we love to write, paint, sculpt, work on the house and garden, and sometimes just sit in the backyard, beers in hand, watching our chickens run amok.

We live in a big old house in the city of Rochester. Most people hear we're from New York and assume we're from the big city. Rochester is a very small city, but rich with art, culture, and community. Urban farming is encouraged in our city and many residents have chickens, honey bees, and raised bed gardens on their property. We’re also very lucky to have understanding neighbors that see us chasing chickens and tapping trees in our yard and just shake their heads in confusion instead of picking up the phone to call the authorities.

We share our 1800's abode with a wacky Australian Shepherd named Nico, a spitfire cat named Moose, a hyperactive rabbit named Dolly, and 10 very entertaining chickens.



Where did the name ImaginAcres come from?

ImaginAcres = Imagination + Acres

I chose to name our homestead and my blog ImaginAcres for several reasons. First, this blog is a combination of my love of art and my love of homesteading. Photography is one of my biggest passions, and I do my best to provide my lovely fans with beautiful photographs to accompany these posts. I'm also into ceramics, painting, drawing, and knitting. Posts about my artwork pop up every now and again amongst the musings on chickens and plants.



ImaginAcres was fitting for another reason. We are urban homesteaders. Everything we do and create is in a big house on an average sized lot. ImaginAcres is my aching desire to live on a huge plot of land, surrounded by wilderness. It's my Imaginary Acres. We do the best we can with what we have, but until we can move out to the country, our acres will remain imaginary.

Here's the breakdown of what goes down at ImaginAcres:

Our Patio Raptors

We love our chickens. I call them patio raptors because they're so much like tiny dinosaurs running about on my patio. We raise our birds for eggs, meat, and endless entertainment. At the moment we have ten layer hens, and will be getting some new chicks in a few months. We've had lots of great adventures with our flock, including hatching eggs in an incubator and giving one of our hens the opportunity to be a momma.

Mother Hen


Dee Dee

Gardening in the City

We have 5 raised beds in our backyard. We don't have any full sun areas, so our beds are used to grow partial sun crops. We've been spending a lot of time building up our crappy city soil and experimenting with different plants to see what will work. Our green thumbs are getting greener every year!


Crops that require full sun are grown in containers on our patio, front yard, and on the top of our chicken coop. Almost everything in our garden is free or cheap. We use random containers for planters and make our raised beds and trellises out of free materials like logs, sticks, and discarded lumber.



We've been composting in the city for three years. It's so nice to take all of our food scraps, yard scraps, and chicken and rabbit waste to the compost pile where it turns into wonderful soil for our garden. The compost has helped to build up our soil naturally. We also use it to make compost tea to fertilize our plants.

The chickens love to help out with the compost when they can. They stir it up for us and search through it for tasty bugs!



We also do quite a bit of foraging for food in the city and in the surrounding suburbs. In our own backyard we have plenty of edible weeds and black walnuts. We've also found blackberries, grapes, juneberries, and mulberries in surrounding parks. We even found wild grapes last fall and used them to make our first batch of wine!



Tree Tappin' Good Times

We're lucky enough to have three maple trees in our backyard. In the springtime we tap them to collect buckets of sap. We use a turkey fryer powered by propane in the backyard to boil down the gallons of sap to turn it to maple syrup. Who knew you could make maple syrup in the city?

Tree Tap

Food From Scratch

We do our best to make our food from scratch here. It saves tons of money at the grocery store and we can be sure we know exactly what's going into our food. I love to share my recipes for home made goods on the blog, and have a tendency to embarrass myself by telling stories of my home making failures. You can read all about how I spent a year failing at baking bread on our website.


Angora Rabbits

I’ve wanted to raise rabbits for wool for years, and jumped at the chance to take in a pure white Angora rabbit from a local breeder. She was dubbed Dollypop, because her wooly coat so resembles the look of a dandelion gone to seed. When she sheds her coat, I harvest her wool to spin into yarn. Dolly is a lot of fun and currently has the run of our sunroom, where she tends to get into a lot of trouble. You can read all about how she ate her way through every plant we had growing there on the blog.


Future Projects:

This year we're going to venture into some new and exciting territories! In the spring we'll be getting some new chickens – I'm most excited about getting some Ameraucanas and Wyandottes.

Pattern Design for Knitting

There are several fun ImaginAcres knitting patterns in the works! I'm really excited about finally making my own designs. This week I'm working on some foxy mittens and washcloths inspired by the 70s.

New Garden Plans

I'm determined to grow enough food this year so we have some to put in the pantry for next winter. We're heading into year three with the garden and I've officially determined what will and will not grow on our property. Instead of being so diverse with our gardening, this year we're going to focus our efforts on growing only a few types of crops. Potatoes, hot peppers, spinach, tomatoes, and herbs do especially well here, so we'll be cranking up the effort on those crops. You can read all about our gardening failures here.

Spin and Dye

This is the year for me to learn how to spin and dye wool. We have a giant bag full of Angora wool and several books on the matter that I can't wait to start using. I'm learning how to dye wool using crazy things out of the spice cabinet, foods, and even weeds! I think I'm going to use some of the black walnuts in our backyard for the dye on my first batch.


We've been having a lot of fun brewing our own cider and wine so we're going to try our hand at beer this year. We’ll be attempting to grow our own hops in the front yard and using them for our heavenly creations.


We're finally getting some bees this summer. I've been studying up on these lovely little critters and can't wait to get started.  The honey will be wonderful and making our own beeswax candles will be a new adventure.

I hope you've enjoyed the tour of our homestead. Please journey on over to our blog at ImaginAcres to read more about our farm!


How to Make Vanilla Extract

ImaginAcresStanding in the baking aisle of the grocery store and staring at the choices for vanilla extract put me into a weird thinking trance that made other shoppers look at me like I was insane. I stared at all the choices for a good long while trying to figure out which was right for me. Yes, I do this with practically every purchase. It takes me hours to shop for groceries. 

I know that imitation vanilla is really just a bunch of gross chemicals manufactured to taste like actual vanilla. Real vanilla is pricey, and for someone who bakes as much as I do, it's enough to put you in the poorhouse. I looked back and forth between the organic vanilla extract and the organic vanilla beans and thought: Hold the phone, I can extract that vanilla goodness myself!! Vanilla beans at our store are eight bucks for two. A four-ounce bottle of vanilla extract is almost $10. Some quick iPhone research told me that I could make a cup of extract with two beans and save myself a decent chunk of change.

When I returned home from my grocery shopping extravaganza hours later, I set to making my extract. The process took about 5 to 10 minutes, but then I read I had to let it sit for two months before I could use it. Back to the grocery to buy some extract! I can't wait two months to bake cookies. That's ridiculous!

Here are the steps all graphically laid out for you so you can do it too! Just don't make the same mistake as I did and remember to make yourself some extract approximately two months before you're going to run out.

Step 1: Go to the store and buy 2 to 3 vanilla beans in this nifty little glass canister.  Struggle way too hard to open the cap without letting the beans come flying out at a velocity only seen in space. Fail miserably.


Step 2: Utilize five-second rule, scoop up beans off the floor, blow off dust and hair, and place them on the ultra cool robot cutting board your pops made for you.

Step 3: Use a sharp knife to cut the beans in half and then down the stem, so they look like a pair of shiny, smelly trousers for a very skinny 2-inch-tall human.

beans cut

Step 4: Place the tiny pants in a classic vintage jar that has a tight fitting lid. Or if you only have lame, new glassware, I suppose that would work as well.

Step 5: Open up your most favorite plain flavorless vodka. Take a few swigs to ensure it's not poisonous.

Step 6: Measure out a cup of said vodka, set aside. Measure out another cup of vodka and pour it over those beansers.


Step 7:  Twist that cap onto the top of the jar and stash it in the cupboard. Let it sit for at least two months, shaking it up on occasion. Pat yourself on the back and admire your handiwork. Remember that glass of vodka you set aside in the last step? Use it to reward yourself for all of your hard work. Making vanilla sure is tiring, but reaping the rewards is well worth the effort.

Your vanilla is finished when it reaches the color and taste you desire. Ours sat for about two months before we used it. The best part? You can go ahead and top off the vanilla with more vodka when you've used enough of it! 


Have fun, friends!

– Meredith


If you're into doing it yourself when it comes to food, check out my post on how to make your own brown sugar!

Pop on over to our blog for more incredible adventures on the homestead!