If I invited you to a seed-saving event in the upstairs of a local church, how would you respond?
Well it just happened to me! I was invited to a ‘Seedy Saturday’ event in small town Ontario. For those of you who haven’t participated in one of these, it’s basically a spot to buy and swap seeds for your gardens. Now you are probably picturing the same type of gathering as I did: in a church or library full of the blue-haired crowd. Well, we both got it wrong. (Very, very wrong!) Seedy Saturday was packed with twice as many people under the age of 30 as over. Not only were the customers young…so were a lot of the vendors.
After my head stopped spinning, I realized that this was the next generation of gardeners; pushing strollers with their lattes and talking about the pole beans and tomatoes that they are going to try this year.
I’ve been watching outdoor trends for the last 15 years, and this is exactly what I was hoping would happen. Wait long enough and it will be back in fashion. Apparently getting your hands dirty is hot for Millennials!
80’s – The vast perennial beds with amazing specimens of blooms from all around the world were most popular. People and gardeners invested in having flowers that were rare and unique. Sometimes neighbours would share, but often keep one special plant just for themselves. Garden clubs were in every community and fed our horticultural obsession.
90’s – The landscapers moved in to help homeowners who felt the need to have plants, but didn’t have a green thumb of their own. Mass plantings of flowers and shrubs have replaced individual specimens. Instead of 50 types of plants in a yard, the list got smaller and smaller, with focus on plants that did more than just flowered for a few weeks in May. Large grasses and variegated perennials that bloomed all summer became popular as homeowners wanted more reward for less work.
00’s – Patios and decks quickly replaced beds of flowers and large lawns in our backyards. Now homeowners wanted plants in contained spaces. Raised beds and container plantings became the extent of flowers and shrubs in our low-maintenance outdoor rooms. Easy to care for with a controlled mess, plants were chosen more for privacy and greenery than actual blooms.
Today – We are back to a new generation of homeowners wanting to put vegetable gardens in a corner of the yard. They are happy letting the kids get dirty, mucking around in the soil and growing their own carrots and beans. All of the focus has moved to flavours and colours, with gardeners experimenting with forgotten varieties and rare heirlooms that they can share with their neighbours…or just keep for themselves.
It’s a little bitter sweet. I’m excited that gardening is back, but it totally sucks that I am officially old enough to realize that it ever went away! If you plan on putting in the veggies this spring, promise me you’ll keep a little of the outdoor luxury…lets hang on to our beautiful patios and furniture and not go back to eating on picnic tables. (My back can’t handle it!)
So it may seem like this is a strange time to talk about chickens but this is the point that you need to make a decision on having backyard hens so that you can place your order for spring chicks! At least that was what I was told! For the record, I made the decision to buy chickens way before the fad of backyard chickens really took off. With a property in the country, I thought that having some happy free-ranging chickens would not only be idyllic, my family would also benefit from all of these fresh eggs that the experts say are both healthier and tastier. As a naïve cidiot (idiot from the city) I happily placed my order for ten chickens for a grand total of $49.85.
Here’s what I didn’t know…
Chickens come as babies; usually three days old. They don’t get to be free-range for at least 5 months, so be prepared to provide housing, heat lamps, food and water dishes, and bedding for your baby chicks. Also be prepared to clean some bums. I ended up with a little chick that had “pasty-bum” which required cleaning every few hours to prevent blockage. Total spent $320
Chicks live off of cracked corn and fresh water for the first several months. Of course there are cheap options or you can be like me and provide your chickens with organic cracked corn with reduced dust. Also consider the bedding for your chickens. It needs to be good at absorbing moisture and also non-toxic as the chickens will spend the day trying to stuff the bedding into the water dish. Total spent (to date) $295
Everything wants to eat your chickens: the cats from three farms away; the visiting dog from the city; the vultures that circled overhead for several hours; the raccoons; and especially the weasels and their relatives! The horror stories I heard after getting the chickens were impressive. It seems that most of these animals just want to kill the birds (they don't even really eat them). Plan to invest in a good coop. I got mine from Northcountrysheds.com. It came complete with a solar door, nesting boxes and heated roosts for winter. Total spent $2250
The smell as your chickens age is impressive. Most cities have passed bylaws preventing people from having backyard chickens, and I believe that the smell is a contributing factor. As my birds get older, I think the smell gets even stronger. Good thing I put the coop at the back end of the property. Even with cleaning the coop every other day, you just can’t stay on top of the fragrance. This is why most chicken owners let the chickens free as often as possible, to air out the coop. With all of the predators though, that means building a chicken run out of the most evil material possible (chicken wire). Total spent $685
Every single day is a learning experience with my chickens. Thankfully I have seven left (compliments of that dog from the city and an owl that decided to stop in for a light snack).
Between the seven of them laying an egg every single day for the next four years, I might financially break even given the going rate for farm-fresh eggs.
In hindsight, would I do it again? With names like “Cutlet,” “Pot Pie,” and “Nuggets,” my chickens have gone from backyard livestock to family pets. It will be an interesting family discussion when the chickens stop laying; usually at the tender age of four. Who ultimately knows where this experience will take us…but we are definitely better for having had it.
RELATED: How to Tell if Your Eggs Are Fresh