Author Archives: Ann

Neighbors Jen Naylor and family have transformed their entire yard into a tiny urban farm!

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The garden in June — garlic, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, peas and peppers.

April 27, 2013

by Jennifer Naylor

A few months ago, the lovely Georgia Schaich asked me to write a blog post for GANA.  Today, as I was digging away in our front garden and perennial beds, and my hens were clucking around the backyard, I decided I better get to it! For those of you I have not met, my name is Jen Naylor and I live on E. 4th Street with my husband Shawn, our two sons, two dogs and a flock of backyard chickens.

Two of our Barred Plymouth Rocks and a Buff Orphington.

Two of our Barred Plymouth Rocks and a Buff Orphington.

We moved to Green Acres five years ago, and after a period of years during which we had no real roots or green space, we were eager to starting planning, digging and growing.  We immediately dug the first few square garden boxes, and plenty of landscaping beds as well. The front of our house faces south, and the backyard is lovely and large with two huge Maple trees…so we decided we would food garden in the front yard.

In the first three years, we landscaped three sides of the house, developed about 100 square feet of fenced in vegetable beds and had planted numerous blueberry, raspberry and blackberry plants.

"Blue Moon" Blueberries in June.

“Blue Moon” Blueberries in June.

We had also brought two babies into our family, and were quite busy here at home.

My husband Shawn had been contemplating backyard chickens for some time.  Though I was tiring of buying eight or more dozen eggs a month to keep everyone here fed, I felt that hens would be simply too much work to add onto what already seemed like an endless chore list.  But last spring, he took the plunge and ordered the days old baby chicks to be delivered, then spent the next months tirelessly working on the construction and security of a lively yellow chicken coop for our backyard.

The coop in the fall with Jamey, our second born watching the hens range.

The coop in the fall with Jamey, our second born watching the hens range.

The children really enjoyed them and although they were not laying much for quite a few months, they did start to make quick work of the endless piles of yard waste we had piled in our backyard. Then they started laying, and after a year of keeping this sweet little flock, I am sold on the value of adding hens to a household trying to work towards sustainability, food independence, and beautification. Here are a few tips, cautions and highlights from our brief experience thus far keeping backyard hens.

  • The bulk of the labor involved really is building a secure and stable coop.  Pre-fabricated options abound, as do purchased plans and ideas for repurposing old items into coops.  The strategy I suggest to friends interested is to build the coop in the fall, as to avoid having chicks growing faster than you can build in the spring.

  • Hens will eat almost all kitchen waste, and gladly. There are myriad techniques to harnessing the power of their manure as fertilizer; we are attempting to use a deep litter with our hens, which means cleaning out the coop only annually.  They are not particularly dirty or stinky.  They also turn all and any composting materials that they can find, and do so relentlessly.  We have seen piles that we thought would never break down turn into the most lovely, fertile soil more quickly than we ever thought possible.

  • When you are leaving town, you need someone to come by daily to be sure they have clean water, feed and to collect the eggs.eggs

  • We are finding that our dogs co-exist with our hens surprisingly well.  However, we did spend the first full year managing them entirely separate, and would have continued to do so if they had not accidentally been free ranging the back yard together and forced us to see that no one cared much about the other back there.

  • By one year of age, we are getting about an egg a day per bird.  But over the winter months you see a sharp decline, from around the solstice to mid-February.  One can put lights and lamps into a coop to force laying to continue, but they will in the end stop laying sooner in life because of that lack of rest.

  • Fresh eggs are delicious and a worthy reward for what little time and energy the birds actually require of you.

We are often out and about in our front yard, as there is always work to be done.  We love living in Green Acres, and are happy to answer any questions or show you what we have done to start our little urban homestead.  It continues to grow, as Shawn is working on the construction of a hoop house as an addition to the existing vegetable beds…at times it is pretty wild, but there is often something to pick and eat, and we are always learning and improving our strategies.  Happy Spring, neighbors!

The garden right now: two long beds nearest are the foundation for the hoop house. Growing now are garlic, onions, peas, escarole, radishes, carrots, scallions and beets

The garden right now: two long beds nearest are the foundation for the hoop house. Growing now are garlic, onions, peas, escarole, radishes, carrots, scallions and beets

January Meeting: good, meaty; rapid decisions, lots of ideas, listening, and collaboration

Eight neighbors gathered in a circle of chairs in our wonderful new meeting room, thanks to the Christian Science Church on 3rd Street, at 7 p.m., Monday, January 28.

Georgia had prepared an agenda beforehand, and we followed it closely, making rapid decisions which usually involved two people immediately volunteering to pursue the agenda item and report back to the group. As a result, the meeting was over in little more than an hour! Kind of surprised us all, how little reluctance we feel during this new year to pursue our common interest in grounding the vision (and official plan, filed with the city.gov) of Green Acres as a sustainable neighborhood.

On the agenda:

• Neighborhood Safety Update: Ann and Jelene reported on this, noting no new activity re: the awful crime suffered by and in our neighborhood a few months ago. Jelene reported that the suspected “perps” are in custody, as I  also reported here.

• Animal Safety Update:  We talked about the idea of going for a Small and Simple city grant to put up little poles with plastic bags at various points in the neighborhood, but tabled the idea for now. The general feeling of this group seems to be that there are not all that many people walking dogs in Green Acres  and most of them DO pick up their pup’s poops, and besides, who wants to add extra plastic to the waste stream? However, one person pointed out that when she walks her daughter’s dog in our neighborhood, sometimes she sees people glaring out their windows, making sure the dog doesn’t poop on their lawn!

• Summer Party: our talk about animals led us to the idea of some kind of neighborhood gathering this summer where we invite our dogs to be with us. But where? Possible venues: GANG garden, by the underpass, and the water retention pond area on 10th and Jefferson. Also, Jelene has more daylilies, so may host another Plant Share, but again, when?

• Adopt-A-Box: this is an idea spearheaded by Georgia and Jim, to paint the utility box on the corner of 3rd and Hillsdale. This will begin the process of visually designating this neighborhood as “Green Acres” for those entering, leaving, and passing by. We agreed that in part this painting would hold the logo design that we have already created for teeshirts and brochures. We can fund the artist, design and painting supplies through a Small and Simple grant. The first Small and Simple Grant proposal is due February 21, 2013, or, if we miss that date, then the next one is in April.

• Ann brought up the problem of graffiti on the wall at the new underpass. Al thinks, that, because of the nature of the “messages,” that it might be somehow gang-related. In response to this development, we’re looking at the idea of holding an event to paint a mural on the outside wall that has been defaced, and of possibly designating the walls inside the tunnel as “free wall” — space for free expression. Georgia and Jim will look into this idea re: Small and Simple grants as well as the utility box. In any case, we agree some kind of a Green Acres sign also needs to go up at the underpass.

• More ideas for Small and Simple grants: fruit and nut trees, but where? along streets? and/or in yards? Georgia and Jim will investigate the city’s policies on fruit trees. We agreed that more neighborhood-grown food is always good in a neighborhood that officially calls itself “sustainable”!

• Idea for either Small and Simple, or possibly larger, i.e., Neighborhood Improvement Grant: this also has to do with trees, and/or some kind of visual/sound barrier to help heal the long wound opened along the eastern border of Green Acres by the widened bypass. John, who lives at the east end of DeKist, says that there is no time, night or day, when, even through closed windows, he doesn’t hear the sound of traffic. The city is aware of this already, and we agree that it is now time to pursue remedies. Georgia and Jim will also investigate this matter when they visit the city gov.

• Report on Green Acres Neighborhood Garden: Jim, a Goddard student and permaculturist who is living in Ann’s house, is the new Director of the GANG garden and will be working with SPEA interns and hopefully, neighobors! this year in the garden. He is currently creating two gigantic hugel culture beds out of  the limbs of a large old elm tree that had to be cut down due to dropping limbs and its position near two houses. These beds are so full and rich that they should be fertile for at least 20 years!

• Report on Green Acres Neighborhood Ecovillage: the official goals of GANA (the neighborhood association) are all incorporated into GANE (the ecovillage idea). Ann and Doug are spearheading the ecovillage website and concept. We are happy to report that GANG 2, the second Green Acres Neighborhood Garden, is to be created this spring by organic gardener and new neighbor Rebecca and IU students who live near her on 7th and Roosevelt.  Ann and Doug will brainstorm other ways to fulfill the official objectives of the neighborhood plan as articulated by the idea of Green Acres as an ecovillage.

The group discussed the idea of how to be more proactive in inviting people into the neighborhood who share the values of neighborliness and sustainability. Georgia and Jelene will pursue this idea, focusing on both rentals and houses for sale. 

• Throughout the meeting the three websites that serve the neighborhood (this one, i.e., GANA, GANE-the ecovillage, and GANG-the garden(s) were in play as places where we publicize what we are doing. When the subject of dogs came up, we thought about putting up a “Dog of the Month” picture with his or her story on these sites. Ann agreed to spearhead this idea. And speaking of animals, Georgia will ask Jen, a neighbor of hers who has just installed chickens in their back yard, to write up a story about their experience and send it to us for putting up here and on the GANE site as well. The more activity we create, both on the web and in our lives together, the more activity we will attract, the more we regenerate our shared value of  living in community.

Oh yes, one more thing: if you’ve noticed the sweet, colorful little bench at the corner of DeKist and Overhill, that was constructed, painted and gifted to the GANG garden by Daniel, the  neighbor who delivers our papers. The bench serves as a place for children to sit as they wait for the school bus in the morning. Thanks again, Daniel!

More News about Police Arrests in Green Acres

The November 3 robbery and shooting at 2600 E. DeKist Street has now been joined by another on November 16th, nearby, at 2531 E. 7th Street, where two men were arrested and charged by IU police with marijuana possession and dealing. I couldn’t figure out how to get this story up online, but you can check it in the Police Beat section in the paper version of the H-T for Monday, November 19.

Re: the November 3rd 2600 DeKist robbery and shooting,  On November 15th, this headline in the H-T:

Bloomington Police: 3 Men Arrested, Fourth Sought in Marijuana Robbery

This story references a different robbery than the one in our neighborhood on November 3rd. But the similarity in these crimes led Bloomington police to suspect the same men for the DeKist robbery and shooting as well. Here’s an excerpt from the story:

“On Oct. 23, three men told police they had been robbed of their cellphones and cash by four or five black men, wearing dark clothing and bandannas over their faces. They reported hearing a knock at their door on the 200 block of East 16th Street, before the men pushed their way into the residence. They said one of the men was armed with a handgun and ordered the residents to the ground, before taking the phones and cash. Two of the men said their personal stashes of marijuana were taken in the robbery, Parker said.

“They also told officers that a pizza had been delivered after the robbery. They ate the pizza before calling police.

“Detectives have uncovered information about other suspects in recent armed robberies of marijuana during their investigation of another robbery on Nov. 3, Parker said.

On Nov. 3, 25-year-old Joshua David Huber, of Cloverdale, died from a single gunshot to the right side of his chest at 2600 E. Dekist St. People in the house told police that five black men, wearing bandannas over their faces and hooded clothing, entered the home and demanded drugs and money.

“During the Dekist Street investigation, police re-interviewed the three men who reported they had been robbed on Oct. 23. They said that a larger amount of marijuana was actually at the residence than they initially reported to police, Parker said. And another person told detectives he told the four robbery suspects about a residence where they could find a large quantity of marijuana.”

Ann K. personal opinion: Isn’t it about time for the state of Indiana to sponsor its own law to legalize marijuana? So many of society’s ills would be erased or transformed with this single change in the culture. Make it legal and tax it!

Juxtaposing polarities . . .

Last Sunday afternoon we did some literal “heavy lifting” in the Green Acres Neighborhood Garden.

GANG Garden Event: Hugelculture! — plus dinner and dreaming

Notice in the photos of the event, the house behind the ones that show the new hugelculture beds in the garden. That’s the house where the shooting took place only ten days ago.

We were creating the conditions for resurgence of new life  directly across from the very street from where the worst situation most of us can imagine actually played out in real time just ten days ago. Juxtaposing polarities. Juggling realities. Choosing to move forward with what’s right and good and connected, what nourishes us, what we can all get behind.