Happy Hen Farm

Welcome to Happy Hen Farm!

 

Welcome to all our visitors who met us at the Trinity River Audubon Center Grand Opening on October 18-19. Check out the blog for more information.

Looking across the backyard towards our bee hives

Welcome to Happy Hen Farm, otherwise known as Our Backyard! We know it's rather bold to consider our backyard a full fledged farm, but schools, doctors, jobs and other responsibilities tie us to a life in the city. Until we get our 100 acres in the country this is the best we can do. Our entire lot measures only .24 acre but, despite that a good portion of that is covered by the front yard and footprint of the house, we are continually amazed by the diversity of life present in our backyard farm.

We were recently asked why we farm/garden. We can't point to a single reason because there isn't one. On one hand we wanted to remove ourself from the idea that a family can have fun and spend time together only by leaving home and spending loads of money in some sort of commercial venue. On the other we simply wanted to grow a few vegetables. As we read and tried to educate ourselves in order to do that, our love of history and our developing interest in the environment intertwined and led us towards experimenting with organically grown heirloom open pollinated plants. Open pollination requires pollinators and so to help that along we acquired bees. (Though to be truthful there are several different ways pollination can take place). So now our entire family suits up each time we open our hives. The fastest roller coaster can't compare to opening a bee hive containing 50,000 bees!

As our children have grown we made teaching them about healthy eating a priority which pointed us towards the garden once again. We didn't simply want to say "Eat your vegetables" but rather wanted them to connect with food by allowing them to experience nurturing at least a little of what they consumed. We wanted them to have the anticipation of waiting for a tomato to ripen or the excitement of finding a cucumber hidden under spiny leaves. By adding a small flock of chickens we not only taught them about the benefits of composting chicken manure or about the fun of gathering eggs, but also opened discussions about the meat we eat and how it is raised. For our entire family meat is no longer a "thing" wrapped in plastic. We are aware of where it comes from, how it is produced and the responsibility we have as consumers to ensure that the animals we eat are treated in a humane manner while they are alive.

By experiencing and observing all forms of life in the garden and talking about it with them we wanted our children to realize what goes into an engineered product like a Funyon and how far removed a Funyon is from "real" food. We are not knocking Funyons -- we love them! However there more to the story of what passes as "food" these days than meets the eye. In his latest book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan writes that our experience with many foods today is "so far removed [from reality] as to be taking place in a different dimension". He goes on to say that the "industrual food chain obscures the history of the foods it produces by processing them to such an extent that they appear as pure products of culture rather than nature -- things made from plants and animals." (p. 114-115) We couldn't agree more.

It is that connection to nature and reality that we seek by gardening and that we hope serves as a alternative to our children for some of the pressures they experience growing up in our fast paced culture. Suddenly a carrot isn't just an orange thing in a plastic bag, but is a mystery! Who can help but wonder as we reach past the lacy tops to pull a carrot for our salad how large it will be. The bee crawling into the cucumber blossom isn't something to be afraid of now that we can place it on the larger stage of nature and understand her role in the hive. She is not only helping to create a part of our dinner salad by pollinating, but her loaded pollen baskets will help nurture her hive and, perhaps most interestingly, we will also see her again when we open the hives to harvest the honey at the end of the summer! We want the garden to be a place where our children can ask questions, observe and be themselves.

Our farm garden teaches us to watch, wait and be still. In our era of instant gratification it is a hard learned but priceless lesson.

What's New on the Farm (Spring / Summer, 2007)

Here's what's been going on at the farm!

Camera

We are not professional photographers and certainly don't pretend to be, but for you photo junkies out there almost all the pictures on this site were taken with a 4.0 mega pixel Kodak EasyShare DX 7440 Camera with a Schneider Kreuznach lens. If there are photos that you think are less than adequate, blame the photographers or the resolution on your monitor not the equipment. Our search for a digital camera was all encompassing. After much thought and time spent holding every camera in Best Buy we finally settled on the Kodak. It's not super fancy and it wasn't incredibly expensive but it is an excellent camera that fits comfortably in your hand. The buttons are exactly where we expect them to be and, best of all, it isn't so tiny that your thumb gets in the way of every shot (something that happens with some of the smaller pocket cameras). It even has a view finder! We like to frame our pictures with the camera to our eye, not held out in front of us like so many cameras to day force you to do. Of course, if a screen is what unleashes your creativity, know that the Kodak has a great one, but we're throwbacks to a previous era and like to do it the old fashioned way. If you're looking for a new camera that is easy to use, small enough to carry in a purse or pocket and is reasonably priced, by all means consider Kodak.

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