Monday, February 21, 2011

Urban Homesteading on the Urban Farm

My parents moved to this neighborhood when I was in high school. What drew them initially was the rural nature of the place. When I was in high school, there was a cow pasture a block and half from our house. There were chickens. You could hear a rooster on some mornings. But we were right on the bus line and less than a mile from downtown. In the ensuing years, the cow pasture disappeared to make way for the new development. The roosters came and went. The gardens were always here. Our neighborhood is near The River. And much of the land has escaped development b/c of the flood plain.

My end of the neighborhood, just a few blocks from my parents, was divided off in the 1870s or 1880s. Sold off to pay off the debt of a dead man. The lots were divided into one acre plots. Someone figured this was about right. This was a village then, separate from the city with its own store/pub, schoolhouse and manufacturing. The people who lived here worked at The Mill. And the people that built and owned houses, at least in some areas, had acre lots. They grew their own food. They had animals. There was common grazing ground across the train tracks and children would take the animals back and forth. And that is in living memory. When we renovated, we removed some very bug eaten old wood dividers that had canning records scrawled on them. How many quarts of green beans. And the vaccination and calving dates for Inky the cow. Inky may have lived in the backyard, or maybe at the common grazing grounds. This was in the 60s I think, so probably the back yard. There was also an old chicken coop, fallen down around a perfect glass egg that was put in the nest to encourage the chickens to "lay here".

I hesitate to call us an urban homestead, since we have an acre and a half (the owner of our property was owed money by the person who owned the lot behind and they made it up in half an lot). So many are out there doing more with so much less. But we are in the City limits. We are making our way. Slowly slowly. At first one garden bed, then two. Then we raised them and enclosed them. Two more beds and two more. Bees. Two more garden beds. Then the ducks. Soon, we hope, goats. The SB wants to build a solar dryer and I hope we can hook up our rain barrels this year. May solar hot water heating? Who knows? We are learning more every year. Sometimes we have the privilege of sharing that with others. That is what people who are interested in this do....

We would have done this whether or not anyone else was doing it. So have many people here. It is our culture and our history. This place attracts people who appreciate it for what it is, has been and will be. We are lucky to have found our home here. I can't imagine being any place else. People here have been growing their own right here in the city limits since we were annexed around the middle of the last century. And I am betting that a good number of them have never heard of a family in Pasadena that is so much in the news - but this post isn't about them, it is about urban homesteading.

Neighborhood friends, feel free to correct my dates and timing and add your own stories. And if you want to learn more about the 'hood, you can go here and read from the beginning where it is all beautifully spelled out and lovingly illustrated.

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