About Us - Updated


This link will take you to a news report from 2009 on our three year effort to legalize chicken keeping in the city of Ypsilanti.


A LITTLE HISTORY - The Thomason family has been farming in the same part of Richland Parish Louisiana for almost two-hundred years, but our 1/10th acre urban eco-micro farm is located in historic downtown Ypsilanti, Michigan. It is easily reached from I-94 or US-23. We are just a few miles east of Ann Arbor and thirty miles west of Detroit. We raise Mini-Nubian-Nigerian-Dwarf goats , Hubbard ISA Brown French hens, and Lionhead Dwarf rabbits.

We grow organic vegetables for our own use and sell our surplus through the Ypsilanti Downtown Farmers Market along with artisinal cheeses made by Aubrey Thomason

We plan to add mushrooms to our growing mix this year and will post more about that exciting development as it happens.

OTHER BLOGS - To read more about families coping with substance abuse click on this link http://hopeforourfamilies.blogspot.com

To read more of Peter's articles and essays on urban farming, Christian thought, home economics, coffins, and other topics click on this link http://notmyplans.blogspot.com

Stay tuned for more information and visit often!

Poultry in Motion - Why are There Chickens in the City?

August 2007 - When people ask me, and they frequently do, why we have chickens living in our Ypsilanti City yard, I usually answer, "for the eggs."

But the truth is, the main reason we have them is that it pleases my wife. And, if my wife is happy, most of the time, I am too.

What I’m referring to is the inestimable value of pleasure that philosopher-farmer Wendell Berry speaks of in, "Economy and Pleasure," an essay that should be required reading for anyone who refuses to accept the idea that a monetary bottom line is the only "real" bottom line.

There are many things about having chickens in the city that please us: gathering dew-laden forage for them early in the morning; neighbor children stopping by to feed them broccoli leaves or bugs from our garden; the cooing sounds they make when you stop for a few moments to watch them; the way they like to fly up and to sit on your shoulders when you go into the coop; the smile on our grandson Sam’s face when he sees the "chichens;" our grand-daughter Judah riding on the hood of a tractor in the Heritage Festival Parade pulling a mobile coop-float with all twelve hens inside; and of course, there are the eggs.

For several years we tried to sell our house, move to the country and start a farm but, the times and the market were against us and we finally accepted that, at least for the time being, we were going to have to stay where we were. Not that we had a problem with being here, we just felt a need to reconnect with our agrarian roots.

The thought that we were not going to be able to do that was depressing but we did our best to let go of it and to focus on growing as much of our food as we could on our one-tenth of an acre city lot.

Then one day it just got to her and she said, "I don’t ask for much. I don’t want jewelry or fancy cars, I just want to have some chickens."

My wife’s distress about this weighed on me for weeks until it finally occurred to me one day to check the city’s animal control ordinance. Though it did not specifically prohibit chickens - it allows keeping "common cage birds" and other pets – a call to the city attorney for clarification confirmed that, according to the city’s corporate and legal interpretation, they were not allowed.

This just made me more determined than ever so I decided to try to amend the ordinance by first getting the support of two city council members and then making a presentation to the public meeting of the whole council.

The members I approached had grown up in the city and remembered the days when chickens and goats were allowed to live in backyards. They supported my request for an amendment to the council but, when the mayor was dismissive of any real discussion on the subject, one of them backed down and helped "her honor" derail the prescribed process into a bureaucratic dead end.

I had not even been given the opportunity to present the details of the proposed amendment. It made me angry that a perfectly legitimate request by a tax-paying citizen could be summarily rejected on the basis of an elected official’s personal bias – she had made it known from the time I made my first presentation that she had no interest in allowing it to happen.

When I came home from the meeting the night of the vote, my wife asked how things had gone.

I answered, "we have chickens in the city!"

To which she, elated, replied, "You mean we can have chickens?"

"No," I answered tersely. "What I mean is that we already have them. They are roosting down in the city council chambers."

Later, I apologized to her for insulting the birds.

The Michigan Right to Farm Act of 1981 is little known among city dwellers because it doesn’t impact us much. That is, unless you happen to live on the outskirts of a town that has been developed through the acquisition of nearby farms.

Where farms are still operational and close enough to subdivisions to be smelled or heard, those agricultural activities are protected, and rightly so because we need them, as long as they follow GAAMPS – an acronym for Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices.

We need local farms, especially small family owned farms, for a whole variety of reasons which cannot just be described in economic terms.

Using the law to support having chickens in our backyard did not occur to me until I was being interviewed by Michigan Radio several months later and the interviewer suggested I look into the case of a suburban Michigan woman who had successfully used it in defense of her flock of goats. It is a surprisingly strong law, and, to my knowledge, all attempts to modify it have fallen flat.

Two recent Michigan Court of Appeals rulings - one involved a riding stable and the other a nursery - have upheld it to the extent that it trumps even local zoning requirements and ordinances.

The catch for backyard chicken keepers – or urban micro farmers like us - is that the law appears to be designed to protect those engaged in agricultural activities for commercial purposes.

We don’t have a problem with that because, as produce growers – we sell to a local food cooperative – we fit the IRS and the USDA description of farmers.

We file a Schedule F with our Federal 1040 and we also follow GAAMPS. I can imagine that the protections would be extended to subsistence farmers as well.

So, there it is. Why are there chickens in the city? It’s really all about the pursuit of happiness.

Peter Thomason is a part-time urban farmer and a carpenter. He has lived in the Ypsilanti area for 32 years with his wife Rebecca and nine of their ten children.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Update on Ypsilanti v. Thomason

Well friends, we had our day in court yesterday and Annica, our student attorney from the U of M law clinic, did a wonderful job of representing us. She made a very clear statement and answered questions in support of our motion to dismiss the city citations based on the wording of the Michigan Right to Farm Act. We are currently awaiting a ruling by district court judge Kirk Tabbey and expect it to be issued in the next few weeks.

We will keep you posted - Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Farm News - Ypsilanti v Thomason and Lionhead Rabbits

For those of you following our legal case with the city, we go back to court November 18 to formally present our motion to dismiss the charges. We filed the motion on Monday the 13th of October and are in a period during which the city has two weeks to respond and we have a week to counter their response. We really appreciate the support we have gotten from all of you, we'll keep you posted!

On another note, it's a typical farm scene here these days as we finish harvesting potatoes, tomatoes, basil, squash, and other things, and get ready for winter. A new consideration this year is improving the accommodations for our growing rabbitry. We just acquired 22 new cages from our dear friend Stewart Collins, the owner of Pet City here in Ypsilanti http://www.petcitypets.com which has made our life much easier! These Lionhead Rabbits are for sale and are among the cutest critters on earth. Photo by Jil Romine

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

News from the Farm

Hello friends -

Follow this link for the latest news on our legal battle-


Last week we had a great group of about 50 people come through (mostly on bikes) for our locally organized "Tour de Fresh." The tour is put on by Growing Hope, the brainchild of our inspiring friend, founder and director Amanda Edmonds.

We also put on a workshop on Saturday morning for about 10 people called Urban Livestock 101 partially funded by the FSA (Farm Service Agency) of the USDA. We spent about 4 hours together doing the things we normally do on a Saturday like milking the goats, processing the milk, caring for chickens, collecting, cleaning, and packaging eggs, feeding rabbits, etc. and having a kitchen table discussion of all-manner of things related to keeping livestock in a city. It was great!

Friday, September 12, 2008

News From the Thomason Family Farm

Well friends, it has been a very busy summer, this is the first time in many weeks that I have been able to sit down and write a new post! Lots has been happening so here is the news in brief:
  • our court case, Ypsilanti v. Thomason has been postponed for a couple of weeks. We continue to gather more information to strengthen our argument that we have a Right to Farm here in the city.
  • our rabbitry continues to expand under the name "Mane Street Lionhead Rabbits." These wonderful little bunnies are amazing and, once the breed is officially recognized by ARBA (the American Rabbit Breeders Association) they will do very well. Right now the breed standards are still being developed since there is a fair amount of variation. We have about 35 currently and there are some real stars among them.
  • our mini-Nubian kids are already 6 months old. We are looking for a home for two of the kids, the other two will remain with the older dams and become part of the dairy herd.
  • our 43 ISA Brown hens are doing very well and we have experienced a steadily increasing demand for eggs over the summer.
  • we have been blessed with some wonderful and much-needed help. Our dear neighbor Jil has become our rabbit wrangler and is leading the effort to tattoo all of the bunnies with their ear ID numbers. She has also been volunteering in many other capacities like milking goats, painting signs for the upcoming Tour de Fresh on September 16th(we are the 2nd stop on the tour) organized by Growing Hope http://www.growinghope.net/?gclid=CNj17fvA15UCFSIeDQodmEHUYQ
  • we are giving a workshop on Saturday September 20th from 9 AM to 1 PM - also organized by Growing Hope - on Urban Livestock. Spots are still available so contact them to register.
  • we started a number of new planting beds and grew quite a few varieties of organic garlic and potatoes in addition to our staple crops of Amish Paste and Sun Gold cherry tomatoes
  • we planted 3 varieties of wine grapes
  • we participated in the Ypsilanti Heritage Festival Parade again partnering with Growing Hope, The Ypsilanti Food Co-op, and Bike Ypsi - an alternative transportation initiative. We were extremely well received by the crowd and it was so much fun just to see people's faces light up as all of the animals came into view.
  • we continue to meet neighbors who come over to see what is going on here or people who hear about us and just stop by to look and to see.
That's it for the moment but I promise that we will post a new slide show of the 2008 growing season soon.

Blessings to you all,


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Apostolic Farming in a City

Our good friends at Madonna House in Combermere, Ontario have had a big impact on us for many decades. Follow this link to the e-version of Restoration, and an article I wrote for them in the current print issue about the concept of "apostolic farming." While you are visiting their home on the web, take a virtual tour of their 4000 acre community and farm.


City Goat Herding

Follow the link below to the article on the front page of the Saturday July 26, 2008 Ann Arbor News about our city goats:


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Important chicken Q & A for 2008:

Question: Why did the chicken cross the road?

And the Answers:
The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on 'THIS' side of the road before it goes after the problem on the 'OTHER SIDE' of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his 'CURRENT' problems before adding 'NEW' problems.

Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road...

We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

That chicken crossed the road because he's GUILTY! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.

Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.

To die in the rain. Alone.

Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the plain truth?' That's why they call it the 'other side.' Yes, my friends, that chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media white washes with seemingly harmless phrases like 'the other side. That chicken should not be crossing the road. It's as plain and as simple as that.

In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.

Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its life long dream of crossing the road.

Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

I have just released eChicken2007, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your check book. Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken. This new platform is much more stable and will never cra...#@&&^(C% ........ reboot.

Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

I did not cross the road with THAT chicken. What is your definition of chicken?

I invented the chicken!

Did I miss one?

Where's my gun?

Why are all the chickens white? We need some black chickens.

What are they thinking?


Here is another interesting article contrasting conventional "industrial" farming with small scale, local, sustainable organic methods.

What do you think?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Gas Prices and the Return to City Living

In his article entitled:

Fuel Prices Shift Math for Life in Far Suburbs

New York Times writer Peter S. Goodman makes some important observations about the economics of living in suburbia as commuting to work and driving everywhere become more and more expensive. See the full article here:

The corollary of course, for those who read between the lines, is that the cost and availability of food hangs in the balance or, in the scales, so to speak, held by those who are manipulating the price of fuel with apparent impunity.

Friends, the writing is on the wall and it says, "Start learning to grow your own food!"

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Home Egg Delivery

Not long ago I was delivering some eggs to one of our regular customers in my wife's four door Honda sedan and the woman commented about how nice it was to have home delivery. This reminded me of two other egg-men I have known over the years, both of whom have interesting stories.

When we first moved to Ann Arbor in the mid-1970s we got connected somehow with Harold Sias, a long-time local farmer who lived west of town and used to come around with the trunk of his Ford full of eggs. We bought his eggs for years and were also invited out to his place occasionally to slaughter his hens who had stopped laying. I remember doing about a hundred one day and taking thirty or forty home to put in the freezer. I also bought a lamb from him one year for our Easter dinner which he dispatched with a 22 and I then butchered. He lived there with his wife Margaret, also from an old local farming family. She had grown up on a farm in northeast Ann Arbor which was eventually bought up by a developer but the family had retained ownership of the homestead itself. Harold and I went there one day to make some roof repairs and it struck me as very odd that this old farmhouse was surrounded by a modern subdivision.

Walking into the house was like stepping back a hundred years in time. The kitchen had a cistern in it that received all the water collected by the eave troughs via a series of pipes, and the old pie safe in the cellar still held mason jars of canned foods even though no one had lived there for years. Lots of other personal effects were still there; it was as if they all just left everything right where it was and moved out as soon as they got the check from the title company.

Another egg-man I knew was a gentleman farmer and his wife who lived outside of Asbury Park, New Jersey. My mother grew up in Asbury and, according to family legend, one day Henry Clay Folger II, heir to the Standard Oil fortune showed up peddling eggs from the back of his Rolls Royce and soon became a friend and benefactor. When I was still quite small, I was astonished when they came by my aunt's house and took me for a ride in what seemed like an impossibly luxurious automobile. How was it possible that my parents knew these people I asked?

How do you get your eggs?

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Need for a Local Farming Revolution

I get email from people around the country who are interested in urban and small farming questions. Here is one from a woman in northern Oakland County Michigan. I think that it shows quite clearly that there are more issues at stake here than just farming in the city for subsistence or for commercial reasons. The idea that you just need to move out "to the country" to do what we are doing just doesn't hold water anymore if we allow townships to do what is happening all over. Restrictions are being placed on land use everywhere which, in effect, pushes people to buy into the industrial farming system instead of raising food for themselves and their neighbors on small local farms:

Dear Peter,
I have been reading your story on the blog – your struggles with your neighbor (Daniel), and now about your recent citation to appear in court. I just want you to know that you are in our thoughts and prayers and we support what you are fighting for. We will continue to monitor your situation and share with others locally, what they too must be prepared to fight for.

Our township (in North Oakland County) is in the process of attempting to greatly reduce our ability to own chickens. They will at least allow (1) chicken per acre – isn’t that thoughtful of them? They unfortunately, passed the ordinance already (with no one’s awareness, of course) and it is due to go into effect the end of June (08) with a grandfather clause for those who already owned chickens exceeding this number. We just found out about this yesterday. The township planning meeting is this coming Tuesday, of which we will certainly be attending. We are at a loss as to why they have done this, since most of the township is a rural setting. There is a village within the township, but a very small one – at that. There are however, automotive executives (with much political clout) who have their country ‘estates’ here --- and my suspicious mind is a bit inflamed, I admit.

We wish you well in your battle. It would just seem as if there should be something they (your city) can do --- some sort of adjustment that can be made, to accommodate their need to satisfy the concern for '...if we let YOU do it, then we'll have to let OTHERS do it' dilemma. Perhaps some sort of local committee of volunteers can form to monitor any others' attempt at this, and to assure that GAAMP is satisfied, if so.

Economically - our society simply cannot continue with 'business as usual' ... but of course, the difficulty is in convincing others of that - isn't it? If there are any shreds of wisdom that you can toss our way – please do so. Thank you for your vigilance, and God bless…

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Chickens in Ann Arbor

Congratulations to Steve K and the City of Ann Arbor for approving their new ordinance. I hope things go well. Ironically, the same day the ordinance was approved in Ann Arbor I got a citation to appear in court within ten days regarding our urban farm flock of 44 chickens and our herd of 6 dairy goats.

While doing some research recently, I found this quintessentially American quote attributed to the late urban legend Benchicken Franklin former president of the FRA:

"They can take away my chickens and goats when they can pry them out of my dead, cold fingers."

It was allegedly spoken as he was addressing a convention of the FRA while holding a chicken above his head and was met with wild cheers from his fellow members.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Fresh Goat's Milk for Kefir

This is what we are getting for "morning Milk" from our two lactating does. Buckwheat, a yearling first freshener min-Nubian, is producing a quart after 11 hours of nightime separation. Dancer, Buckwheat's mother, is lagging behind but still putting out a solid half-quart. We are making this into kefir which is not only one of the best pro-biotic foods you can get but also gives the raw milk a longer shelf-life because the culture retards spoilage.

The word is getting out that we have been given notice by the city to get rid of the goats and the chickens. Since a neighbor has complained the city stuck to its word and decided to try to enforce the existing ordinance. They had stated in the press that they would not try to enforce it unless this happened.

For those who have been following the discussion at the blog


you know that the issue is really not what we are doing or that there is a problem with noise or anything else. The issue the neighbor has is with where we are doing it, specifically that it is next door to his rental property.There are of course two issues here: one is the Right to Farm - which will play out as this particular situation is considered in light of State and case law; the other is the question of local ordinances and how they can be amended so that people can raise their own food in an urban environment with impunity.This will be interesting...

I expect to get a citation this week and then a notice to appear in court soon after.
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Monday, May 12, 2008

Small Plot Farms & Goat Milk Kefir

Well, as you can see from the picture we are getting a decent amount of milk from the two girl goats. This gallon jar has two days' worth of milk in it and is being turned into kefir with the help of a culture we got from our dear goat breeder in Ohio. We are getting close to a guart and a half each day as a result of separating the moms from the kids at night for up to 12 hours. This allows the udder capacity to expand so that by morning they are ready for some real milking. They are very cooperative.

On another note, I read a piece in Sunday's paper from the AP about the current worldwide debate on how to farm. It's worth reading:


Despite what some economists say about bigger being better, there are those who believe that much of what we need can be grown on a small scale on small farms. In particular, I liked the quote by Paul Polak, founder of International Development Enterprises, an aid group for improving the operations of small farms. He notes in saying this that of the 525 million estimated farms in the world, 450 million are less than 5 acres. He says,

"We need a revolution in small plot agriculture to allow farmers to grow the food they need to eat and to grow high value crops they can sell on the market to lift themselves out of poverty."

I might add, this is precisely what the new small, mini, and micro farm movement is all about.
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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Condolences to Ann Arbor Animal Lovers and Urban Farmers

My condolences go out to Steve Kunselman and others in Ann Arbor. They might do well to follow the lead of Ypsilantians in this case. AA city council has a history of believing it has authority over the exercise of various civil liberties and paying a steep price for its ill-considered actions.

I was amazed that the word "indulge" was used by one councilperson to describe their posture towards those who want to raise their own food. They spoke as if the council, which is of course concerned with MUCH more important things, was deigning to spend its VERY important time allowing silly citizens to bother IT with an issue of so little importance or consequence.

The last time I am aware of that the AA council dealt with an issue of civil liberties in that way it got smacked with about $30,000 in damages by the Federal District Court in Detroit. Something worth remembering and considering. The city attorney was completely humiliated by the Judge for even trying to defend the city's actions.

My suggestion to anyone wanting to raise their own food is: "just do it, and do it really well."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Treats for Teats

Well the milking of the two dams has begun in earnest. The four kids born Easter weekend are now four-plus weeks old. We have cauterized horn buds twice and begun the castration process of the one buckling in our herd. The horn disbudding began when they were a week old using a modified soldering iron that reaches 950 degrees F and is used to literally burn down the emerging horns. We did it again this week to stop some scurs from growing by removing the tip from the soldering iron which I had ground flat, and thereby creating a tube about 1/2 inch in diameter that could be placed around the horn bud and make a circular burn. While we were doing this a number of the scabs that had formed over the buds from the first burning fell off. For the most part it looks like we have been successful with this method.

The castrating of the buckling, who will either become dinner or a cart-pulling wether (a castrated goat) began with placing a very substantial but small band around his endowment with a special tool made for this process. All of the equipment cost less than $20 and was readily available at our local farm supply store. Over the next month or two, because the circulation has been cut off, I'm told that it will dry up and fall off. We'll see. We chose this method at the recommendation of our breeder who felt that because of the relatively low cost and not being invasive it was the way to get the most bang for your buck, so to speak.

Treats for teats is the motto I have developed for the symbiotic relationship we have with our lactating does. I tell them, "If you want a treat in your bowl on the milking stand then it is your job to give me some milk." It's a trade-off. After three days Buckwheat (in the photo), our yearling doe, is jumping right up when I open the gate for her. Her mother, Dancer, is getting there too but more slowly. So far the milking is going slowly but they are getting used to me and I to them. I have high hopes since our breeder thinks we will eventually be getting about a 1/2 gallon a day out of the two of them.

Monday, April 7, 2008

City Dwellers Already Have the Right to Raise their own Food

Tonight the city of Ann Arbor will vote on whether or not to change their animal control ordinance to allow chickens. For my response to this initiative follow the link to the article in today's Ann Arbor News.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Romping Baby Goats

I haven't quite mastered how to embed a video in the blog but if you follow this link you'll see one of the cutest sites on God's green earth.


One is a slideshow the other is a video.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

More Chickens and Goats

It seems like someone is calling or emailing almost every day now wanting to know how to get a coop set up in their backyard. A couple from Ann Arbor wants us to build one for them, someone else in Ypsilanti now has a dozen layers in his downtown backyard that we set him up with, another Ypsi family wants to start, a woman from Ann Arbor wants to know what to do to get going. Isn't it fun?

Be sure to see the new slideshow I embedded with the pictures of the baby goats. They were born Good Friday and Easter Monday. The two with black spots, a buckling and a doeling are Lil Abner and Daisy Mae. The all brown one is Bethi Sue (with a goat coat on) and Clara Belle with the white belt around her middle. They are called Mini-Nubians and are a cross between a Nubian and a Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goat.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Baby Goats!

This is the head of Dancer, our 2 year-old Mini-Nubian doe (Nigerian Dwarf-Nubian cross), with Clara Belle the second of the two twins born on Good Friday, March 21, 2008. As you can see in the picture, Clara is still wet and momma is in the process of cleaning her up. Her sister, Bethi Sue (named for neighbor and goat mid-wife Beth Fink, had a hard time getting out. She was stuck in her mom's birth canal for an hour while we tried to help her. Instead of hooves coming out first as they normally do, her head came out and her legs were folded back. One of them was sprained and took a few days to heal. She is doing fine now and the two of them are frolicking and jumping about. There is probably nothing cuter on God's green earth. Come back soon to see and hear more.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Small is Beautiful

Ever since I first became aware of E.F. Schumacher and his proposition that bigger is not always better and that economics should be about what is good for people, I have had it in my mind that I wanted to explore ways for making my home economy a producing rather than a consuming one. Advances in technology have made it possible for many to work from home these days, like my daughter Kristen who lives in Brooklyn, New York and is a network administrator for The Young Presidents Organization. She can be home, most of the time, taking care of her young children and still work 30 hours a week scheduling and coordinating events for this 20,000 member group that provides professional and personal support services to business executives around the world. Her office is at home and she has found a way to create an income for herself without ever having to leave - except digitally. Incredible. This, to me, represents the best of both worlds. She is taking advantage of wonderful advances for women in the workplace and able to be a stay-at-home mom.

Though I worked out of the home for most of my career, either for others or for myself, and Rebecca was the at-home parent, changes over the last decade brought us to the point where, I am now at-home more than she is. Her work as a nurse-gerontologist at a local hospital provides the bulk of our income and our benefits while I work here at our micro-farm. I do teach part-time at nearby Eastern Michigan University and do construction consulting. When it is available I also do carpentry and have recently started to build coffins on request. However, the greatest joy for both of us is the time we spend growing and raising our own food with the help of our children and grandchildren. Somehow we have been able to fit a lot into a small space - 1/10th of an acre - without it being crowded. We currently have 90 animals here in various stages of development and few seem to notice or to be aware of it.

As in an old English farm basement, where poultry and livestock were kept in a symbiotic relationship with humans, we have been raising 70 chicks until they are ready for the outdoors. Existing urban infrastructure is being used, in our case, the old coal room of our 116 year-old Victorian home with its sloped floor provides a wonderful brood chamber. The old coal chute opening in the stone basement wall, unopened for decades until a week ago, is now fitted with an exhaust fan to keep the space well ventilated. Pine wood shavings are used for litter because they like them, they are easy to use and cheap, they are very absorbent and they almost completly mitigate any odor. That is what we use in our outdoor hennery as well. Early concerns about chicken smells from neighbors and other city folk were completely laid to rest by this tried and true manure management practice. We provided the chicks with warming lamps during the first couple of weeks and now they have grow lights instead so that they get the full range of light that they need until they go outside in the Spring.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Revolutionary Farming

Our son-in-law Charlie calls it a revolution, our grandchildren laugh and squeal, some of our children think we have too much time on our hands. We just call it fun. The Inevitable Package arrived Monday of last week. It was bound to happen when we took the plunge last year and ordered the first twelve hens for our 1/10th acre micro-farm in downtown Ypsilanti, Michigan. Others had been asking us for some time if we would help them to get set up with their own urban henneries so, when the package arrived it was too late to turn back. The wheel was moving and the momentum could not be stopped.

For those of you who do not know, it may come as a surprise that chickens are rountinely shipped from hatcheries by US Mail as baby chicks. They are literally hatched, boxed, and shipped the same morning, and will not need food or water for 48 hours. Put into specially made containers, they stay warm, safe and comfortable. When they arrive at your post office an agent calls to tell you to come and to get them. The first hens we got last year were "feathered-in" by friends on their farm so we did not get to watch them during the first, month long - and very funny - stage of life.

The shipping box is divided up into four quarters, each of which holds approximately twenty-five chicks. As you can see in the picture, three of the four quarters are full. These beautiful chicks are headed for new homes in and around Ypsilanti where they will be providing home-grown food for their owners for years to come.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Spring Chickens

Well, we just finished ordering another 25 laying hens (pullets) to help us to keep up with the growing demand for our eggs. They will arrive next week and, if all goes well, they will start laying in about 18 weeks. We also ordered 25 broilers, these are fast growing male meat chickens (cockerels) who are destined for the table. We are staying with the ISA Brown(French) laying hens because we have had such a good experience with them this year.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cold Weather!

Like any other farmers we are concerned about our livestock when the temperatures drop near zero. Since our sheds are near our house it is not hard to check on the animals several times a day, to give them warm water, or to make sure they are not too cold. Ss far we have done well over the last few days though we do have a heater on in the rabbitry. The goats don't seem to mind it too much and still sleep by the open door. The chickens always have something to say when you go to see them, they are very opininated and appreciate it if you stop to listen for a while. Even Murphy, our Maine Coon cat who lives outside has just turned into a big fur ball.

Still trying to track down the local chicken hatchery Aubrey told me about. We get more requests for eggs every day.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Spring 2008 Livestock

Aubrey (our 22 year old cheesemaker, farmhand, daughter) told me today that some of you are asking when the goats are due. Based on the information from our breeder Marilyn, we believe they will both be kidding at the end of March. This breed or, hybrid rather, known as Mini-Nubians, will frequently have 2 to 5 kids per birth. We intend to keep all of the goats for now. We wil castrate the males (then they will be called wethers) and raise them for meat (commonly called chevon). We would like to keep two of the wethers and train them to pull our goat cart. If there is a particularly promising looking male we may keep him intact for stud services. The does will become part of our dairy herd and be bred in the Fall.

We have also bred two of the rabbit does and plan to breed the third one in two weeks. The due dates are pretty much 31 days from conception. Look for birth announcements about the second week of February.

For those of you interested in chickens for your urban hennery, we will be making an order soon. We plan to increase the size of our flock to 3 dozen since things have gone so well and the demand for eggs is much greater than our present supply.

If you are ready to start your own coop, for a modest fee we can help you to get set up and operational with as many chicks as you want. Call or email Peter for information: 734-482-2438 or peterthomason@comcast.net

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Urban Farming in 2008

The beginning of a new year is always an exciting time for those of us who love to grow things. We lie awake at night and use all of our spare time thinking and talking about what we learned the previous season, what we are going to do differently this year, what crops we will rotate or new livestock we will acquire. For people like us who live on urban micro eco farms there is the additional challenge of trying to figure out how to use our limited space as efficiently and productively as possible. Over the next few weeks we will share some of our thoughts on this as well as ideas that we have collected from others. Yesterday we bred two of our Lion's Head does with our two bucks for the first time. We expect to have babies in 31 days - more or less. Our two goats are pregnant and due at the end of March. We're getting ready to order more chick-hens and broiler-chicks. We're mapping out what we will be planting in our existing vegetable beds and what will go into the new ones. We are also planning to go vertical with vining plants this year. We'll keep you posted!!