by Kelly Kiki
In the Fall of 2018, we moved our family from a restricted gated community in hopes of finding something to ground our family. Little did we know that it would literally be the ground that did it.
We are urban farmers. Yes, this might seem like a sweeping fad, but the adventures and discoveries that have come from the earth have created a lasting love for gardening and farming.
Why do I call it urban farming? Well, our little 5.5 acres is near four minutes from North Spokane’s strip malls; thus, what feels rural still offers lingering sounds of city life in the near distance. Make no mistake, however, our adventure is grounded in hard work, but it is that work that strengthens our family.
Year One: Scouting the Land
Surveying the new homestead, we discovered that we needed to nurture the forgotten 15 fruit trees and overgrown berry garden as well as the green and concord grapes. It didn’t take long to discover that all offered a bountiful Fall harvest and sharing became necessary. Quickly, our love for the gifts found around the homestead gave way to the desire for chickens to fill the existing coop: eight hens and two roosters.
Shortly after, the kids and I built an additional chicken coop from repurposed cedar siding with an attached 80’ fully enclosed chicken run for their adventure and security. As of today, our flock has grown 42 chickens and the eggs have become part of our bigger purpose.
Year Two: Digging in
Like the rest of the world, when COVID trapped our family at home, we took this time to expand our gardening. It is not how much dirt one has; it is what you do with that dirt. During March of 2020, we fired up my grandfather’s 1950’s Ford 800 and broke ground on our 50’ X 30’ deer and rabbit proof garden.
We have gained much respect for the farmers of the world as we flattened a simple hillside, placed posts, ran fence, and irrigated a 4-zone water system. With limited funds and the ability to escape quarantine, my wife, Dawn, came up with the idea of making our “slightly” raised garden beds out of used pallets. After all, Depression Era like times require Depression Era like thinking.
This Spring, our pallet garden is in its second stage of development. What started as an inexpensive journey creating pallet garden beds has evolved into equally inexpensive raised garden beds. Yep, we are continuing our philosophy of reclaiming as much as possible from others to create our own Eden. Thus, we began our next steps to raise the “garden bar”—or beds.
Leftover 1”X10” cedar from the coop transformed our beds. My son and I even built a strawberry tower out of scrap wood found around my shop, which we placed as a centerpiece in the garden. Don’t be afraid to test your creative side—even if you think one doesn’t exist.
As we assembled our new raised beds, we remembered those pesky voles that popped up in our garden beds and ate some of our hard work last year. We figured that since we built a fortress around the garden, we should continue it under as well.
Thus, before filling our new cedar raised beds, the family teamed up to install some ¼” hardware cloth on the bottoms of each bed. This metal mesh will keep the little buggers from finding the roots of our vegetables.
After the hardware cloth was set, we filled each bed with last year’s maple leaves and used straw from the coops before we begin building up with lush garden dirt. We reuse about everything here.
Love Made from Nature
With a new garden and fruit hanging around, our family decided to welcome honey bees to our adventure. Of course, Dawn acts as our lead beekeeper as we strive to learn more from natures flying chemist. Over the past two years, Dawn has spent her spare time reading and learning from others that have mastered the trade.
Watching one hive create a colony with a soul purpose to please its queen is mesmerizing and respectable.
Of course, the honey is our reward from the outside looking in. The honey straight from our hive tastes like creamy, botanic butter. From our first extraction, we were hooked. Watching our kids suit up and dig into the hive with us is even sweeter than the honey.
Backyard Syrup Making
With over 20 mature maple trees on our property, Dawn came up with yet another plan—to tap our maple trees with spiles. I doubted her adventure until one day I tasted our first batch.
I guess that in my simple mind I always thought that maple syrup had to come from grocery stores or New England. We have proven that false. In our third year of tapping our trees, we have expanded our operation and pull almost 15-gallons of sap a day for several weeks. It takes about 40-gallons of sap to make 1-gallon of amazing syrup.
Whenever we have friends over and share about our adventures, it always ends with pouring a shot of homemade maple syrup into a jigger and watching their face light up with fascination of what we created from the trees in our yard. Dawn has even made some jars infused with an organic vanilla bean or bourbon.
One might think that my favorite part of this process is the syrup, but it’s the simple fact that we do this as a family. That is why we live on an urban farm: a lifetime of family memories.
What started as a big idea has turned into Kiki & Co. Family Farmhouse, a website where we record our memories as well as share and celebrate our discoveries with those that stop by.