I got a taste of farm life in Kyla’s backyard the other day, even though it’s in the heart of Des Moines. The ducks waddling around remind me of my parents’ tenure on our family farm in Missouri in the late 1970s. Their ducks made great pets until the snapping turtles in the pond rendered them extinct.
Ducks are natural comedians. The way they walk. QUAck quackquackquack quACK. The way they make mudcakes and splash in their baby pool. Jefe (Boss) and Guapito (Little Handsome) stick out their chests and vie for dominance of the females and the yard. Jefe has an ongoing competition with the dog next door, and I wasn’t so sure my Tater cat could take him on.
Roosters can be really fierce too. After her sophomore year of college my daughter worked on an organic vegetable farm in Colorado. She cared for the chickens, and one night a rooster kept her captive in the barn for about 45 minutes. Though she professes not to like chickens, they’ve played prominent roles in several of Lucy’s jobs. At Scattergood Friends School her chore team took care of the poultry and egg operation. At her new position at Hershey Montessori School outside Cleveland, Ohio, she is developing a science unit about chickens to present next spring. That got me all excited about hatching chicks.
When I was about seven my Dad built an incubator for my oldest sister’s science fair project. I bugged Alice mercilessly as she dissected eggs at various stages and illustrated each stage of chicken development. A couple of the eggs hatched and grew into hens. Daddy insisted they were delicious, but none of us ate a bite.
Though she doesn’t plan to butcher her ducks or chickens, Kyla is an urban farmer. In addition to the four ducks, she has nine laying hens. The five older hens bully the four chicks she added to her flock earlier in the summer, so she has to separate them. This process takes place in a pen about the size of a small bedroom.
Farming in such a small space has added to the challenge of a difficult summer. When Kyla started digging up her front yard, the neighbors had a fit, but it was the only place in their yard sunny enough to grow much. Now it is a beautiful tapestry of strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, dill, blueberries, squash, beans and pumpkins. You can barely resist exploring more closely.
Kyla and I are hosting an Edible Urban Garden Tour to spread the word about the rewards you can reap in a small space in the city. Kyla’s garden will be one of five gardens we’ll visit on Saturday, September 29, 2012 between 11 am & 2 pm. We want to spark a conversation about growing your own tomatoes and herbs, or starting a backyard farm like Kyla’s. It’s a fundraiser for Des Moines Public Schools gardens, an we can handle a limited number of people, so sign up early!