smallholdings – my feathered future

when searching the term “smallholding” on the internet,
you come across these types of images:

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basically, smallholding is homesteading is sustained living is getting back to the basics and feeding your family with the {pun intended} fruits of your labor.
delicious fruits… healthy fruits. this lifestyle is one that i am drawing closer to every day. in no way am i prepared to give up my bustling life in london but i can feel it in my bones – the day will eventually come.

for now, london is providing me with a million opportunities to learn the skills that will help me when i begin my own self-sustained life. there are educators and enthusiasts alike in nearly every nook of london. you can visit a number of inner-city farms such as: hackney city farm, stepney city farm, and vauxhall city farm all which are free to enter and enjoy. all of these farms offer something wonderful to our community, and all are worth the time it takes to travel there, if you don’t happen to be a nearby resident.
a full list of these farms can be found here.

what is so wonderful about these farms is not only the breath of open, fresh air that they bring to this metropolis, but what goes on inside of them. the farm cafe at stepney city farm recently won the “best eatery” award in the 2014 urban food awards. their website describes the cafe as such:

Whether you want to relax over coffee and cake, have lunch with friends and family or need a quiet corner to work in, our new Cafe is the perfect retreat from London’s buzzing streets.

We serve freshly made breakfasts, lunches and snacks inspired by the fruit and vegetables growing on the Farm and do a special Stepney Brunch on Sundays.

You’ll often see us picking herbs and salads for the cafe and we’re also very proud to have lots of great local businesses as our suppliers. We serve Climpson and Sons coffee, organic whole leaf teas from Joe’s Tea Co, meats from the Ginger Pig.

 

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{this lovely strawberry / cream pastry dessert was made entirely from scratch at the farm cafe. i am still mystified that i actually got the thing home without swallowing it whole. delicious, and beautiful.}

another reason to support your local farms is that they offer people [not just children] the opportunity to get up close and personal with a number of farm-appropriate animals that they may not otherwise get to see / interact with whilst living in such a large city. i grew up with rural indiana practically in my backyard. i was too young to even remember the first time i played with chickens, frogs, goats, and my mother went out of her way to arrange pony rides for myself and my friends on birthdays. perhaps it is just a strongly-rooted opinion based on a borderline magical childhood, but encountering and learning about wildlife is hugely important for the development of kindness, respect, and compassion in children.

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{also at stepney city farm. this guy was so incredibly loud, i remember wishing i had taken a video after i left that day!}

if that strawberry pastry above looked great, i invite you to behold the wonders of frizzante, the cafe / restaurant at hackney city farm.

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{i could eat this meal once a week – so fresh and yummy.}

this is frizzante, as described by the website of hackney city farm:

“Frizzante opened in 2002 at the Hackney City Farm with the aim to provide a local restaurant, catering for adults and children, in a venue that is unique in the East End of London. Hackney City Farm provides a tranquil environment that seems miles away from a city, yet borders on Broadway Market, Columbia Road flower market, Brick Lane and Bishopsgate right in the heart of the City of London.

All our food is freshly cooked on the premises using seasonal ingredients often sourced from local farms in Kent. On our Thursday supper nights we often use (when available) ingredients from the Farms own vegetable gardens. Our ethos is that whether young or old fresh simple food should be a positive experience and educating children to appreciate different flavours and tastes is part of an Italian tradition that we can all appreciate.”

for more information about the menu and events at frizzante, visit their mouth-watering website here.

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{one of their upcoming events!}

and of course, what is a farm without the feathered and furry…

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{can you tell i’m partial to chickens?}

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{the garden – herbs and veggies. it’s obvious i took these photos in the summer, i am doing my best to keep my spirits up until the sun comes around again.}

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{natural light makes all the difference – the doorway to the cafe’s garden seating.}

. . .

besides the enjoyment of city farms, there are a number of ways i can gain valuable experience for my future smallholding.  instead of visiting other gardens, why not look for a nearby allotment to rent and garden yourself?

history of allotments, allotment society, gardening, sustainability, urban farming, city life, history of allotmentsunfortunately for me, the waiting list for an allotment in my specific london borough is five to ten years. perhaps you will have more luck when searching for allotments near you: apply for an allotment at gov.uk.

. . .

classes.
next week i will be joining a friend at a knitting group that meets every tuesday in southbank. i have never knitted a thing in my life although i was quite good at crocheting for a while back in high school but i can imagine it would be a very useful skill to possess when living in a rural setting, far from the conveniences that cities provide. that same friend of mine has also mentioned a variety of other classes that you can take {in london!} including but not limited to:
beekeeping
jewelry making
cycling [and bicycle repair]
and composting
among others…

i truly value our friendship and the wonderful doors it has opened to me. back in november, we met with a group of about ten or so people and made soap – completely and dangerously from scratch. despite my very minor sodium hydroxide burns, the entire night opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities.

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{soap making!}

the first step of achieving smallholding bliss is to be able to provide for yourself [and your family, if it exists] in the most basic of ways. i never thought that making soap would set me on such an exciting path, but a can of worms has been opened and i fear that my inner homesteader may never be repressed. literally. i am going to start worm farming as soon as i have the means to compost.

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{sadly, not my worms. click for source.}

. . .

the last and probably best way to practice the life of a smallholder is to wwoof. the acronym “wwoof” stands for world wide opportunities on organic farms.
the concept of wwoofing is simple.

WWOOF enables people to live and volunteer on a variety of organic properties. Volunteers (WWOOFers) help on the land and home for 4-6 hours a day and hosts provide the food and accommodation.

Volunteers

Usually you live with your host and are expected to join in and cooperate with the day to day activities. In most countries the exchange is based on 4-6 hours help-fair exchange for a full day’s food and accommodation.

You may be asked to help with a variety of tasks like sowing seed, making compost, gardening, planting, cutting wood, weeding, harvesting, packing, milking, feeding, fencing, making mud-bricks, wine making, cheese making and bread making.

The length of your stay at the farm is negotiated directly between you and your host. Most WWOOF visits are between one and two weeks, though some may be as short as two or three days or as long as six months.

Hosts

If you have a farm, smallholding, garden, allotment, vineyard or woodland and follow organic or sustainability principles, you might consider opening your home to WWOOFers.

Our volunteers can provide an extra pair of hands to help with various projects you are busy with. Many of our hosts practice Permaculture or Bio-dynamic growing methods. Some hosts make a living off their land, others are homesteaders interested in self-sufficiency, some are families others are individuals. There are also cooperatives, communities and eco- villages on our books.

Hosting WWOOFers can be hugely rewarding as you are enabling people to learn about organic growing techniques. You will also be demonstrating an alternative way of life . Many WWOOFers are so inspired by the experience that they end up changing their lifestyles and even setting up their own organic farms! As a host you are improving communication and aiding growth within the organic movement.

in the past year, i have become more and more interested in becoming a “wwoofer” and i am proud to say that this is the year it will happen. i’m not sure which country i will end up in or what sort of farm i will be working on, but this summer is the deadline. i have a few ideas in mind concerning the farm’s location but i have decided not to write about any of it until hosts have been contacted and plans have been made.

. . .

while i may not be ready to sell most of my things, construct a chicken coop, and blow this urban popsicle joint just yet, i am thrilled for what this year and the future has in store!

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