I went live at the hive earlier today. I’m loving having bees so far!
As I was working toward being able to have a flock of chickens, I had also developed a desire to have bees. I had offhandedly mentioned it to the food pantry but wasn’t willing to push the issue because, as I mentioned last time, we don’t have final approval for the chickens yet. I had actually moved forward with the bees though, and purchased a hive of bees with a confirmed date to pick them up. So, I had a hard bee deadline. That, and I was going to be gone for the two weeks leading up to my bee pick up date so my deadline was looming especially close.
It turns out that bees are not allowed by my HOA either, because they would be ruled as “livestock” since they produce food. So, I had to find somewhere to put my bees. The location would have to be close by my house, because during much of the year the bees need to be attended to a couple of times a week. A good friend had said I could put them at her house, but it turns out that she hadn’t asked her husband and he declined.
The veterinarian who takes care of our beloved Golden Retrievers is within walking distance to our house. I’m not a very good judge of space, but I’m guessing the land that her office is on is at least 2-3 acres. (I mentioned before that I live in an area that not long ago was quite rural.). So, I marched into her office and just asked her if I could put bees on her land. She took a few days to think about it and to talk to other beekeepers, then agreed to let me use one of her pastures which I estimate to be in the ballpark of an acre. She said that if I cleaned out the building on that property, that I could use the land rent free until she sells it. It is not actively for sale, but in such a rapidly developing area, things happen. She also said that I could keep chickens on the pasture as well.
As I write this, I am in the Barcelona airport where we will fly home shortly and I will pick up my bees tomorrow. I will also procure chickens sometimes in the next couple of weeks. I could go get chicks tomorrow, but I’d rather buy either pullets or full grown hens so they’ll be ready to lay quicker.
So. That’s where I find myself now. My garden is in full swing and I’m about to dive head first into bees and chickens both. Here we go!
I have wanted backyard chickens in the worst way, for the longest time. It took a while for my husband to get on board. He associated chickens with the not-so-good part of town in his hometown in rural Alabama. Finally, in 2015 we decided to sell our house that we had purchased near our kids school and move to a suburb further out of town. He really wanted a house with a media room, and I really wanted a house where I could have a flock of backyard chickens. I researched the city ordinances of all of the surrounding suburbs and could quote them to you on demand.
As we looked, we ran into another road block. Most of the newer homes and all of the newly built homes were part of a homeowners association. The home we were selling was not part of one, although we had been in one in the house before that. I swore that I would never own a home in an HOA ever again. I felt like they were just too nosy and obtrusive. Standard language in every HOA covenant I’ve ever seen is an exclusion of backyard chickens The longer we looked, the more we just didn’t like anything but a newly built home. Even if we didn’t choose the floors, countertops and whatnot in the new house, we strongly felt that we wanted to buy new construction.
Finally, I conceded that we could buy a new house (HOA and all) and that I would work toward convincing the HOA to allow me to have backyard chickens. Our new backyard is just perfect for my gardens and I chose exactly where I would put my chickens.
As soon as we got settled in, I started attending HOA meetings whenever I was in town so that the board would become familiar with me. After a couple of years I brought up the subject of backyard chickens. The board was very friendly and open to my ideas. I worked with them for several months and finally, it came down to the reality that, in order to change the rules, 75% of homeowners our HOA would have to vote in favor of the change. The fact of the matter is that 75% of a couple of thousand homeowners who purchased high end homes inside of a homeowners association would never in a million years vote in favor of allowing backyard chickens.
After that meeting, I texted my family and let them know what had happened and that I was very sad and didn’t want to talk to anyone when I got home. My husband sweetly asked if we needed to prepare to put our house on the market and start looking for one outside of an HOA.
The next morning as I was preparing for work, I ran various scenarios through my mind. I had daydreamed for a while about the possibility of buying a small tract of rural property in our county and putting a tiny home on it where I could retreat on the weekends and indulge my homesteading tendencies. Since the chickens would require more care than just on the weekends, that just wasn’t practical. Besides that, who spends that much money for the main purpose of having backyard chickens? I live in an area that really was rural not so long ago, so there are places around our subdivision that are undeveloped and not in an HOA. I pondered the possibility of buying one of those lots to put chickens on. Again, who does that? That’s a ridiculous expense.
As I continued to prepare for work, I felt a gentle nudge in my heart. “What if you put chickens at the food pantry?” Our life group recently volunteered to do some spring cleaning such as defrosting and cleaning freezers there. “Hmmmmm, I thought. That’s possible”. I knew that they had recently been awarded a grant by Home Depot to install twenty raised bed garden plots. So I knew they were interested in food production.
At every stoplight on the way to work that morning I was looking up chicken laws in the town where the food pantry is located. They were even more liberal than in the city where I live. I called them when I arrived at work and explained the whole situation of my years long desire for chickens and how I had been shut down at every turn and how that morning I had felt a nudge that I should have a flock there. The executive director said to me, “You’re never going to believe this”. “Try me” I said.
“Last night some of the board members where discussing the possibility of having chickens here.”
So, it was a match made in heaven. As of the date of this writing I am still waiting for the board to approve our chicken endeavor. I really do believe it will move forward and am just waiting for the final word.
Postscript: I heard today that the board of the food pantry has decided against having a flock of chickens.
The next chapter in my homesteading story has to do with bees. Stay tuned.
About a month ago I covered two of my raised beds with PVC pipe frames and tulle. I planted broccoli in one of the beds, and zucchini in the other.
In another (uncovered) bed I planted Brussels Sprouts (which are closely related to broccoli and attract the same pests).
Here are photographs from today. You can see that the Brussels Sprouts leaves have been feasted upon by cabbage worms. On the other hand, you can see that the Broccoli leaves are perfect and untouched. It’s amazing!
Then also I took a photo of the zucchini under the tulle. I have never had such pristine stalks on any squash plant I’ve had. You can probably see in the photo that there is some sort of mildew on the leaves…but otherwise the plant looks very very good and is starting to fruit. I am hand polinating every day whenever there is a male and a female blossom available.
So, I’m a big big fan. I’m going to be drowning in squash next spring!
So, I planted Spaghetti Squash this weekend. It’s a winter squash, right? Well it turns out that this squash needs a long time of warm weather to mature. Oh well..this is Texas…we’ll see what happens. Winter doesn’t get really bad here until January.
Even then, “really bad” is somewhat relative.
I have this square bed between my two peach trees because, originally, I planned on planting dwarf peach trees. As it turned out, the peach trees that came into my life were full sized. So, I left this square bed empty. Eventually, grass overtook it and it was a mess. A few months ago I covered it over with cardboard and left it until yesterday. I pulled the cardboard out and pulled out the dead grass and found a ton of earthworms, which was GREAT to see.
So, while this squash may not have enough time to mature, it has great soil.