But my next farm tour was a little….. well, different! It was different in the most extraordinary of ways!
Have you ever heard the term micro grower? Well I hadn’t really understood it until I met the extremely knowledgeable and inspirational, Grace Hensley of Seattle, Washington. That’s right, you read correctly. I said, Seattle.
You’ve probably seen on tv or heard in the news about chefs who grow gardens on the tops of sky scrapers or in empty lots surrounded by the sights and sounds of an urban metropolis. These crops are actually called microgreens, and people will pay a premium to savor on their freshness and distinct flavors.
eTilth is located in a very typical Seattle neighborhood. We’ve all been in a neighborhood like this; square lots, criss-crossing streets with stop signs, cars parked on either side of the streets, each house with a driveway, grassy front yards, and steps that lead to the front doors. But not the Hensley household!
Smack dab in the middle of a Seattle neighborhood is a flourishing flower farm! Every inch of her 8,100 square foot lot has been planned for plant breeding, propagation, drought-tolerant design, chicken coops, and of course all those beautiful blooms.
She’s a strong advocate for growing things responsibly, like learning just how necessary good soil is and how to manage the changing water issues on the property. She’s installed French Drains, Dry Wells, Swales, and Winter-Wet Shrub plants. Everything runs on a drip system to conserve water use, essential during this extremely dry summer we are having!
Grace even thinks about the neighbor’s yards!
She plans to expand in the coming months to her elderly neighbor’s back yard as well as community gathering places like a nearby senior living home. She’s even identified a spot on the edge of the sidewalk where a bench will rest for locals to stop and enjoy her urban flower farm! Especially popular with the local seniors who walk the neighborhood, Grace is all about sharing her horticulture passion with every person she comes in contact with.
eTilth is in its early stages of creation. Grace only began 6-8 months ago, yet what she has accomplished is amazing!
In all seriousness, Grace is a living example of how urban living is evolving in the most extraordinary of ways far beyond brick walls, cement covered sidewalks, neighborhood flower beds, and simple patio decks. Even the tiniest of spaces can be filled head to toe with plentiful edibles and blooming plants.
Urban growers aren’t limited to plants either, chicken coops are a hot trend in the city. Though I think the word trend is now an understatement; it’s really a lifestyle! In Grace’s backyard, a large corner section is dedicated entirely to her chickens. And these chickens aren’t just for show or delightful bauck… bauck… baucking anymore.
Her chickens not only provide an excellent source of nutrition and savings to her family in the form of eggs and yes, even a chicken dinner now and again, but the droppings also fertilize the soil in her flower garden. Talk about sustainability!
In fact, her chicken coop was one of 25 recently featured coops in the Seattle Tilth’s Chicken Coop & Urban Farm Tour. More than 200 area guests visited her home just to see her chicken coop! This is an amazing organization all about incorporating animals and gardens into home landscapes.
As you recall, my husband, son, and I have been out on our farm for a little over four months now. There are endless possibilities when you have 5 acres, but honestly knowing where to begin with that much space has been overwhelming. In fact, we’ve just been enjoying the house for the past several months, partially because we are exhausted from such a stressful move but also because we kinda don’t know where the heck to start with it all!
However much Grace dreams of living on 5 acres, she said something so simple that make such perfect sense.
“What can I do right now?”
She ripped up her grassy front yard and plotted out rows of zinnias and sunflowers and delphinium and dahlias. She followed the patterns of the sun and shade in her yard and planted plant varieties based on their particular growing needs. She monitored the water moisture levels in the soil and learned which plants grow best with what different water levels. She even designed a flourishing drought-tolerant flower bed that relied only on the rain Mother Nature provided this summer… which wasn’t much!
If there’s something you dream of doing but the timing just doesn’t seem right for this reason or that. Don’t let that stop you. Find a way to make it work with the conditions you’ve got! You can’t go wrong when you follow your passion.
A big thank you to Grace Hensley for opening her home to me. It was truly an honor.
The stories, photos, and opinions were sourced from my personal interview with Grace Hensley, http://www.etilth.com/, http://www.seattletilth.org/special_events/chickencoopurbanfarmtour and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microgreen .