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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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