Want to get to know your neighbors?  Pass out lost chicken posters like I did last week.  The two hens we raised from biddies were none too pleased with last week's change in living arrangements.  The two new light brahmas quickly established that they weren't putting up with any nonsense, so our older hens targeted the other 3 hens.  The fact that new batch of hens are a few months older was of no importance, they still got chased around the coop.  Within 48 hours of moving in, our only Sex Link hen flew the coop after being chased by the dynamic duo. 

Somehow or another, she fell out of the main coop into the greenhouse and spent the day examining the yard.  That was until she was cornered and promptly took off.  I got the sad news after returning from a day long out of town conference.  With the large number of raccoons, feral cats, possums and such that wander the streets and unseasonably frigid nighttime temperatures, I thought our hen was good as gone.  Two days later, we spotted her in a neighbor's front yard.  Again, she was cornered and took off in the opposite direction.

After properly securing the exit route, I printed and passed out fliers in search of our hen, who always happened to pop up a house or two away at dusk and at dawn.  After 5 days of searching, a neighbor found her perched on their fence.  After a brief chase into some thorny bushes our Sex Link was back at home.

A classic case of the instinctive pecking order syndrome reared its ugly head in our coop and our two hens were determined to show their stuff anytime my back was turned.  I ended up separating them from the rest of the flock to maintain some order.  We haven't gotten an egg since that first day and hoped that keeping the layers calm might do the trick.  That effort led to tonight's expansion/near completion of a new east wing on the coop and the covering of the adjoining passive solar greenhouse.  While I bought a roll of chicken wire, assorted bungee cords, and more roofing nails, the bulk of new construction came from piecing together materials laying around the yard.

As you may remember, the unsexed chickens we raised from biddies turned out to be mostly roosters.  So we needed more hens and no one on Craigslist Charleston has been posting the quantities or breeds I've been seeking out.  A new chicken acquaintance pointed me to the a vendor at the Flea Market on the Ladson, SC Fairgrounds as a potential source for new egg layers.  After we sold off the last of our chicken dudes last Saturday, we headed toward Ladson but just missed the vendor but found produce and a few cool recipes that I'll share elsewhere.

Anyway, we went back on Sunday after church and met Abby from BIG CHICKENS on a little farm.  She and Jerry operate a livestock farm in Cross, SC.  She only sells from the fairgrounds on Saturdays and Sundays from 8 am to 3 pm.  She usually keeps a generous supply of hens on hand. But you can call her with special requests ahead of time. 

Here are some of her prices for basic livestock
  • Chickens $12
  • Rabbits $15
  • Ducks $15
You have to buy large quantities (20 or more) to get a discount.  She also sells goats, assorted poultry and other livestock.  Give her a call to find out more about prices and varieties. They can be reached at 843-834-5561 or 843-514-9612. carolgwnn@yahoo.com or jerrystanley2@aol.com.  Once we get the hang of managing our small flock, we'll see you there one Saturday or Sunday.

Wikipedia describes urban gardening [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_agriculture] as the practice of cultivating, processing and distributing food in, or around (peri-urban), a village, town or city (Bailkey, M. and J. Nasr. 2000. From Brownfields to Greenfields: Producing Food in North American Cities. Community Food Security News. Fall 1999/Winter 2000:6). Urban agriculture in addition can also involve animal husbandry, aquaculture agro-forestry and horticulture. These activities also occur in peri-urban areas as well.

[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_homesteading] A lot of people are worried about the human race's impact on the environment and ethical living, when it comes to topics like global heating, organic food, and sustainable development.

The approach to urban homesteading depends on what people are looking to gain from it: Urban Homesteaders can raise chickens[4], they can grow and subsequently can their own foods for consumption in winter[5], enjoy a closer relationship with nature[6], are enjoying organic food, and are saving money in the process[7], all while living in inner-city areas all over the world.

In addition to saving money and arguably enabling people to eat cheaper, healthier food whilst having a lower impact on the planet, Urban Homesteading has a community element to it too; the New York Times found that urban homesteading events attract people from far and wide: everything from tomato-canning, jam making and pumpkin-processing to pig-butchering, sausage-making and home-made wine production - all raised and grown on people's own ground in the cities.[8]

Initially, my desire to grow food in our small space originated in past struggles to feed my children.  More recently, our family's reduced income has made cheap living even more critical.  I am determined that our family won't go hungry again and pray that our neighbors may benefit from our example. 

Why am I boring you with all this information?

This page will now serve as my forum for urban homesteading newbies like me.  Please excuse the dust as I rework my posts to reach to others of all races and backgrounds but especially African American in their twenties, thirties and forties who don't know one end of a chicken from the other.  I personally feel that excessive consumption of non-necessities has robbed us of the deep connection our people had to the earth both in the US but also in Africa.  I'm not saying that we need to wear potato sack clothes, whittle for fun or give up soccer practice, but wouldn't buying (or better yet making your own) clothes, going to the movies or even that group sporting events be more meaningful if we didn't have to squeeze it into our hectic work school schedules?  Just a thought.
homemade chicken coop
Hacked chicken coop in progress
It was the best of times and the worst of times.  Teeming with ambition without the finances to match.  However will our fairy tale coop castle come to life?  First we waited for the day to buy PVC pipe for our own hoop house, but we don't have the pickup to gather the needed supplies.  Then, we decided on making a structurally sound coop out of pallets with one of those fancy living roof deals but alas no luck with a truck or resources .  A pickup truck a pickup truck, my queendom for a flatbed!

Finally an ever so random late night bargain design show gave us the idea.  Reuse materials that are already collecting dust to pimp your home decor. Eureka, we could rework the materials we had to make something that might not be 'a good thing' in some circles but would suit our space - and pocketbook - just fine (aka asset based coop construction). We did buy a circular saw which fit perfectly in the back seat of our Grand Am. We then set about the business of building a new and improved coop with the stuff we already had in our backyard.Thank you urban garden fairy!

We started coop renovation with an onion crate that we had previously detached from our coop. The new coop locale was not on concrete, so we dug a 2 foot trench and buried hardware cloth and made a border with old cinder blocks from the yard. We also bought just enough hardware cloth to cover 1/2 of their new earthen run. Plastic hardware cloth temporarily covered the other half of the run. A 4x4 wood garden bed became the frame for our living roof. We didn't have the $40 bucks for pool liner but we did have an out of commission inflatable mattress taking up space in a closet. Once upon a time young AJ pondered just how many pin pricks it would take to deflate said mattress - it took about 20. Don't tell my mother who gifted us the mattress in the first place.  Ahem, well back to the renovation story... Once we put two levels in and enclosed their sleeping quarters, we were able to move the chickens into their new home. 

Next, my husband completely dismantled the old coop and we used its pieces to finish off the new digs. 
  • Replaced plastic hardware cloth with used hardware cloth or doubled chicken wire.
  • Onion crates for extending the greenhouse
  • Chicken wire for covering the back of the greenhouse
  • We saved the plastic painters drop cloth and that's the temporary cover for our greenhouse.
  • Cut and used 2x4s to fortify the new coop's structure
  • Dog house parts used for the roof and the interior door
This process took about 2 weeks.  This morning, I added layers of newspaper under straw and compost mix in the living roof and planted parsley and transplanted a wild blackberry bush that just sprang up in our front yard.  My hope is that the prickly nature of the blackberry bush should keep the dastardly squirrels from getting too curious. The newspaper and straw mulch should keep the mattress from getting ripped. Our The coop de ville is almost complete.

What's the moral of our chicken coop story?  Set aside urban garden hang ups and do something with what you've already got on hand.  Much like a renamed rose, a finished (albeit) hacked coop still smells as sweet, as long as you remember to clean the thing out every once in a while.

New pics and details to come.
Great weekend for the Freedom Garden wannabe (that's me).  Although the tikka-like chicken we grilled didn't come from our flock (not quite that tough) and the grilled pizza dough came out of a Pillsbury can, we did grow and/or cook yesterdays dinner in our backyard.  The mini garden wall's been doing well with the salad greens, purple mustard greens and Swiss chard we planted a week and a half ago.  So motivated now to do much more (except the cleanup part).  If I can do it, so can you.  Here's a brief video tour of our backyard.  Improving the quality of videos is definitely on the to-do list.
If the video isn't clear enough, here are a few final pics of dinner last night.  Instead of the veggie pizza, we ended up finishing our ground sausage and pepper pizzas in the toaster oven ($20 deal from Goodwill). Hopefully something you see inspires the wannabe Freedom Gardener in you too!
For this past weekend's Harvest Fest, I led a quick nutrition session in the school garden on the limitless possibilities for using fresh pumpkin.  Besides being very healthy for you, It turns out that fresh pumpkins are super easy to cook and use.  Tell a friend and save a pumpkin from the landfill today!  Pureed pumpkin is delicious in recipes like Pumpkin Pie Bread Pudding (AJ's favorite dessert).  After learning all that pumpkin could do, I shared the pumpkin cooking liquid (I was going to use it to water the garden) and a few tasty slices, with our hens.
Even our hens benefitted from our weekend pumpkin mania!
Rebecca O'Brien, deconstruction diva from Sustainable Warehouse posted this vid on Sustainable Warehouse's Facebook page.  Now you see, why my preference is for reusing items. By the way, Rebecca's always on the lookout for deconstruction volunteers.  If I recall, people that go out and help can earn Volunteer Bucks that can be cashed in for salvaged building materials.  Check out Rebecca's Sustainable Warehouse page (be sure to 'Like It').  Here's a few of other places around the Tri-County SC area where you can get cheap used building materials.
  • List of SC Habitat for Humanity ReStores - Side note: Seacoast Church partners with the Mt. Pleasant and Johns Island locations.
  • Community Thrift Store - 5300 Rivers Avenue, Charleston, SC 29406
  • Goodwill Stores - too many to list but my faves are the stores on Six Mile Road and Coleman Boulevard in Mt. Pleasant SC. The Rivers Avenue store (near the Community Thrift Store) is my location for used computer equipment and cool clothes sold by the pound. 99% of the fashionista-in-training's restyle project materials come from these two stores. Haven't tried store in West Ashley or the Ladson area yet.  Remember, Goodwill has loyalty cards.  Once you reach 250 points, you get 25% off your purchases.
Do you have any other good thrift stores to shout out?  Let me know.
As we get ready to redesign our chicken coop and possibly create some outdoor living space, I'm wondering what North Charleston's rules are regarding exemptions to building permits for homeowners. BOY, was it tough to find a straight answer, but I found it!

Charleston County's Building Service Inspection pages, listed a few frequently asked questions.

Question #1 "Do I need a permit if my project is under $1,000?"
Answer: "The homeowner does not need a permit for doing work under $1,000.00 if the work does not require an inspection and provided that homeowner is doing the actual work.  A Specialty contractor working for a homeowner would not need a permit for work under $1,000.00 if the work doesn’t require an inspection and the whole project only involves one trade; otherwise, permits are required for all trades and work no matter the value."

Ord. #1557 adopted 06/17/08

105.2 Work exempt from permit. Exemptions from permit requirements of this code shall not be deemed to grant authorization for any work to be done in any manner in violation of the provisions of this code or any other laws or ordinances of this jurisdiction. Permits shall not be required for the following:


1. One-story detached accessory structures used as tool and storage sheds, playhouses and similar uses, provided the floor area does not exceed 120 square feet (11 m2).
2. Fences not over 6 feet (1829 mm) high.
3. Water tanks supported directly on grade if the capacity does not exceed 5,000 gallons (18,925 L) and the ratio of height to diameter or width does not exceed 2:1.
4. Retaining walls that are not over 4 feet (1219 mm) in height measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall, unless supporting a surcharge or impounding Class I, II, or IIIA liquids.
5. Sidewalks and driveways not more than 30 inches (762 mm) above adjacent grade, and not over any basement or story below and are not part of an accessible route.
6. Temporary motion picture, television and theater stage sets and scenery.
7. Prefabricated swimming pools accessory to a Group R-3 occupancy that are less than 24 inches (610 mm) deep, do not exceed 5,000 gallons (19000 L) and are installed entirely above ground.
8. Shade cloth structures constructed for nursery or agricultural purposes, and not including service systems.
9. Swings and other playground equipment.
10. Nonfixed and movable fixtures, cases, racks, counters and partitions not over 5 feet 9 inches (1753 mm) in height.
11. Window awnings supported by an exterior wall that do not project more than 54 inches (1372 mm) from the exterior wall and do not require additional support.
germainesolutions.com urban garden blog
When our backyard was loaded with 3 tons of cinderblock, I had a lot of urban garden questions.
Forgive me for jumping all over the place with topics, but I wanted to back up a little and cover those urban garden questions that I took a while to figure out in the beginning.  Hope its helpful to you, too! 

Wow, this blog entry took longer than I expected.  I'll answer more questions as they come to me (or as you send them my way). G'night!

G, is there an easy way replace your lawn with a herb or vegetable garden?

My husband and I used a combination of digging out the sod, thick layers of newspaper, corrugated cardboard and or plastic and topping that with tree mulch.  You really don't have to dig up the grass if you do it properly (we didn't wet the weed block layer). This process is known as sheet mulching.  Here are a few sites that describe sheet mulching or other easy alternatives.

G, does my city allow backyard chickens?

I looked up and listed the rules on backyard chickens for cities and towns Charleston County, SC where I live.  You can go to BackyardChickens.com to city ordinances search page.  If that doesn't work, google the name of your city and municipal code, then look for the section on animals, its in there somewhere.

Chapter 4 of the City of North Charleston ordinance on animals and fowl states: Domestic animal  includes dogs, cats, domesticated sheep, horses, cattle, goats, swine, fowl, ducks, geese, turkeys, confined domestic hares and rabbits, pheasants, and other birds and animals raised and/or maintained in confinement. My response - La, la, la, la, la, I get to be a farmer woo!

Sections 5.8 and 5.9 of the City of Charleston's ordinance on livestock states: Sec. 5.8 - Keeping cows and goats prohibited. It shall be unlawful for any person to keep or maintain any cow or goat within the corporate limits of the city except at a distance more than one hundred fifty (150) feet from any dwelling, other than the dwelling of the person so keeping such animals, unless written permission is obtained from the residents and owners of such dwellings that may be within one hundred fifty (150) feet of the place where such animals are to be housed or maintained, and under such conditions that are approved by either the health officer, the public safety and housing officer or the division of animal control relating to the appropriate care and security of said animals. (Code 1975, § 5-11; Ord. No. 1976-29, § 1, 9-14-76; Ord. No. 1987-160, § 1, 9-22-87)

Sec. 5.9 - Keeping swine and poultry prohibited. It shall be unlawful for any person to keep or maintain any hogs, pigs or poultry within the corporate limits of the city except at a distance more than one hundred fifty (150) feet from any dwelling, other than the dwelling of the person so keeping such animals, unless written permission is obtained from the residents and owners of the dwelling within one hundred fifty (150) feet of where such animals are to be housed or maintained, and under such conditions as are approved by either the health officer, the public safety and housing officer or the division of animal control relating to the appropriate care and security of the animals.

(Code 1975, § 5-12; Ord. No. 1976-29, § 1, 9-14-76; Ord. No. 1987-160, § 2, 9-22-87)

Basically, the City of Charleston's rule is if your homestead isn't in the middle of nowhere or you don't get written permission from neighbors living within 150 feet of your planned farm, you're (currently) out of luck.

Section 4.4 of the Town of Summerville's ordinance on livestock states: Poultry at large. It shall be unlawful for any person to permit or allow any chickens, ducks, geese or other poultry of any kind or description to be at large within the corporate limits of the municipality, excepton lands owned, leased or controlled by such person. Huh? What if the poultry is (at) small?

(Code 1982, § 3-4) Chapters 90.27 and 90.28 describe the Town of Mt. Pleasant's ordinance on livestock: § 90.27  KEEPING DOMESTIC FOWL.  It shall be unlawful for any person to keep or have in his or her possession any chickens, turkeys, ducks, guineas, geese, pheasants, pigeons or other domestic fowl that will because of noise, odors, or flies, or otherwise tend to impair the health or disturb the peace quiet and comfort of nearby residents occupants of places of business.

('81 Code, § 90.13) (Ord. 93050 passed 10-12-93)

§ 90.28  COOPS FOR CONFINEMENT OF FOWL. It shall be unlawful for any person to confine fowl in coops or other enclosures less than 18 inches in height.  Such coops or other enclosures shall not be so filled that fowl therein will not be able to move around freely within the same.  All coops or other enclosures used to confine fowl shall be provided at all times with clean food and pure water placed in Containers outside of the coop or other enclosure, protected from contamination, and accessible to the fowl at all times.  Coops or other enclosures used to confine fowl shall be provided with clean litter and cross-ventilation at all times.  No fowl shall be left in any building unless provision is made for outside ventilation. ('81 Code, § 90.14) (Ord. 93050, passed 10-12-93)

wholesale store sells chicken feed
Chicken feed for sale in North Charleston
G, I don't have time to make my own compost!  Sure you do.  Here's the first of two quick and easy compost methods.

#1) Trench Composting

Supplies you'll need.  Garden bed or container garden; shovel; food scraps (think produce peels, coffee grounds, tea bags, and unbleached paper plates, towels, etc.).
Optional supplies: Newspaper (unending supply from my food coupon adventures) and/or hay for the lasagna style layering affect.

Step one: Dig a hole.
Step two: Add your food scraps.  I chopped mine up with a shovel.
Step three: Bury your food scraps. (I've added some shredded paper and hay as a compost 'coverup' that should attract worms and keep pests from digging it up.  Like the layered garden technique I learned about and used in my asparagus beds last year from an article on Lasagna Gardening).  My asparagus beds look amazing right now, so let's see if my lazy variation works).  Oops, I forgot the blood and bone meal.  No worries, I'll mix it in with the growing medium.
Step four: Get to planting. 

Want to learn more about lasagna gardening?
T on the authentic lasagna garden method?  Patricia Lanza's website (which lists her as the first lasagna gardener) is loaded with step by step instructions.

Extra Lazy Urban Garden Ideas
That rosemary bush in the center of it all is actually housed inside the stump of a tree we cut down to get more sun for growing food.  We reused pieces of the tree's small branches to form these and other beds.  After using  bamboo we scored on Craigslist to add structure to the ginourmous newspaper pot for a dwarf grapefruit tree, I camouflaged the tree stump in the same manner.  I'll do the same for the banana tree that's living in the small shelf a neighbor tossed out as trash.  

What can be simpler than that?  Glad you asked.  I'll come back with info on making a worm compost bin that you can keep indoors.

Last Updated December 12, 2011
Original Web Site Content by Mrs. Germaine Jenkins (gwhiz@germainesolutions.com)
Easy Recipes for Cheap Living