Our Little Urban Farm

Monday Apr 1 | BY |
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Well, I wouldn’t say it’s quite an urban farm yet, but it definitely has some opportunity.

We spent the last week moving into our new rental home in North Berkeley. Luckily, we have some friends here and Annmarie’s family around to help, otherwise it would have been much more stressful than it was. I did miss a few work days during the week, but that’s all collateral damage. We’re now completely moved in and, surprisingly, almost all set up!

Today, like any good global neighbor would, we wanted to give you a little tour of at least the outside of the place, so you can see what — I imagine — I’ll be talking about from time to time, since there are a lot of garden, health, and farming projects on my list.

After looking at a few rental homes, we chose this place for a few reasons.

First, it is much bigger. We upgraded from about 600 square feet of living space to about 1300-1400. This is more than both our last apartment and the RV combined.

Second, it has a yard and existing garden. I can’t tell you how much I missed walking out onto the earth when we were in our apartment. Sure, we would walk to the park 4 block away, but there’s nothing like walking out into the grass with your shoes off — grass that you have all to yourself.

Third, it was easy. Our friends had lived there before and they were moving away. They knew the house was not a lemon and so there should be very few surprises along the way for us.

There were other reasons too — neighborhood, proximity to public transportation, close farmer’s market — but those were the top three.

I figured the best way to show you around would be to show you a few pictures and talk about the place as if we were walking around together.

So, let’s pop some virtual shoes on and get moving.

The Back Yard


If you walk down the stairs from the deck, you’ll see the entrance to the garden. This is fenced in because of the chickens (I’ll get to those soon enough!) I haven’t spent a lot of time around hens, but we have 4 of them and apparently they love to eat stuff out of the garden just like we do.

As you can see, the enclosed garden is made of bamboo and is actually quite sunny. This is perfect for growing all types of food.


To the right of the garden, is a fairly large “yard” area. It’s not really a yard to me, since it’s basically just dirt (or mud when it rains.) There’s a massive redwood to the right and another pretty tree to the left. In the middle here is a table where I imagine someone used to have starters for the garden.

You can see it’s also very shady here. While I like the shade, I think the trees in the yard need a little TLC. One of the things we’re going to do is give them all a trim so that there can be more sunlight here — but not too much — we want to make sure we still have some privacy from our neighbors.

I’m also thinking of putting bamboo, a few rows deep, behind that table and in front of the fence. This should block the view a bit to the apartment building next to us.


Here is looking back a little further into the yard next to the garden.

Once we bring some more light into the area, I think I’ll consider putting in some grass so Hudson can have a little play area here.


To the right of the redwood is the chicken coop. This is nicely built and has an automatic door that closes at night after they’ve made their way in for the evening. It’s pretty hands off and they’re laying eggs which is awesome. I don’t intend to do anything here except clean it when necessary. At first impression, chicken poop seems very sticky. I’ll let you know as more details develop (or maybe not.)


To the left of the other tree is the best part of the whole yard — a massive fig tree. If you don’t hear from me around July, it’s because I’m sitting under the tree eating as many of these as possible — with complete disregard to how I’ll feel afterwards. I love figs.


Behind the fig tree and to the left is a bunch of brambles and other craziness. I have a feeling we’ll leave a few things, plant some new, and remove some of the nastiness back there. We’ll probably plant a lemon tree back here somewhere as well — maybe Meyer lemon.

Into the Garden


Right above the entrance way to the garden are two plum trees. These haven’t been trimmed in a while, so I’m hoping to get someone in to cut them back a bit (once the season for them is over, since it’s too late now to trim them.) This might be the key to getting more light into the yard.


Inside there are three raised beds and a few planters. The garden has a style of it’s own, which we love. We’ll probably keep the free flowing style of it, but just pull back some of the overgrowth to maximize space.


Here is some chard, kale and rosemary.


Here’s the little deck in the back where we can sit (need to get some chairs!)


A bench and a lamp with a light bulb in it. (A little strange.)


Here’s the side to the left side of the enclosed area. Right now, it’s a bunch of nasturtium, which we’ll keep, but I want to integrate some cucumbers, squash, zucchini and peas somewhere in that area.

The Side and Front

What’s great about this place is the added space on the side and front of the house.


Here’s the side of the property, which gets sun on the right and not on the left. This area, I think, will be awesome for wild edibles. There is already ample amounts of wood sorrel and a nice patch of fennel here. I might gather up some other seeds, toss them around and see what survives.

In this picture, you can see to the right there are a bunch of steps headed up to the window. I initially thought these were for plants, but the more I looked at them, I realized that this was a staircase for a cat. Eventually, I’m hoping Jonny 5 will (again) be an outdoor cat and learn how to use these.


This is the front yard, which is grassy and shady. In the middle is a big old pine tree. Behind the pine tree in the neighbor’s year is a palm that blocks all the sun here. I have no idea what I’m going to do with this space, but right now, I’m inclined to leave it be.


Finally, here is the car port. I’m sharing this, because I think it’s kind of funny and I have no idea what to do with this space.

You can’t park a car in there because it’s too narrow. You might fit a Smart car in there, but someone would have to get out by hatchback, since there’s no room for the doors to open.

Right now, we have the garbage, compost and recycle bins there, but we’re open to ideas if you have any. It gets no sun and what you see in the way back is a makeshift bike rack.

Just a Thought

As I’m writing this, I thought maybe it would be fun to enlist you guys to help me transform this property into something exciting, interesting and educational.

So what I’m thinking is that we’d have some sort of contest. Maybe a best idea or best plan or something like that. I don’t want to get too crazy, but I do want to do some fun and useful things to show how you can make use of small space for both food and hanging out.

So, my question to you, is would you be interested in entering a contest where you could submit an idea or a few to make this space even more awesome than it is already?

If so, tell me yes or no, and if there are enough of you who are interested, I’ll follow up with some more detail!

Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Your question of the day: Would you want to enter a contest and submit your idea for this space?

Live Awesome!

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.

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