Ask Andi marketI’ve received some questions lately about Harper Farms and what we do so I thought I’d share a few. Feel free to contact me with any and all questions. I’m more than happy to answer them.

I’ve noticed pictures of chickens in your Instagram feed lately. What made you get chickens and how hard are they to keep?

We’ve talked about getting chickens for a couple of years. We knew after our move in 2013, it wouldn’t be too much longer. We finally had a nice size chunk of land to devote to them and the time to care for them. We’ve settled on 6 and so far, 4 are laying eggs. As someone who reads every label and is super picky about what we eat, this just made sense. I love knowing exactly what my daughter and husband are eating. Our chickies have lots of space to roam, plenty of fresh food and water, and most importantly, tons of love from Emme.

As for their care, they are super easy. I clean the coop daily. Chickens poop A LOT. As long as they can roam, have fresh food and water, some sand to bathe in, they’re pretty happy. We occasionally give them treats of kale or lettuce. When it’s hot I give them frozen watermelon and carrots. They are a pretty quiet bunch. We live in the city and several of my neighbors didn’t know we had them.

How hard is it to build a chicken coop?

It can be as simple or as difficult as you make. You can build it yourself or buy one already fabricated. We started with 3 chickens and used our daughters old play house. She had outgrown it and it housed our chicks perfectly. We built an insulated rolling base, attached a prefabricated run and called it a day. Then we decided we needed 3 more chickens. We had a storage shed attached to our garage we weren’t using so that became their new coop. We cut a few milk crates to use as nesting boxes. Since we doubled the number, the run was no longer large enough. We put up fencing and gates and now they have room to roam on one side of the house. They love lying under the fig tree.

Your farm doesn’t seem that big yet you have a huge variety of fruit trees and vegetables. How do you squeeze it all in and did it cost a lot to get started?

The best advice I can give regarding this is to start very slowly. Figure out what is important to you and how much time you currently have to devote to your garden. You don’t want to go into debt and/or burn yourself out. We started with just a few vegetables and have added a few new things each year. Starting slowly also allowed us to build our skills, make errors, and for me, learn how to be a better from scratch cook. As for our yield, we use every inch we can that isn’t dedicated to our chickens, dogs, or daughter. We plant in containers, raised beds, fenced in ground, and pots in the house.  Inside plants are mostly herbs and mint. We also pair complementary plants together like tomatoes and basil.

How hard is it to can/preserve food? Can you recommend some books to get me started?

It can be quite simple. My husband and I tend to can different things using different methods. This works well for us since I have less patience for the more labor intensive canning. Which isn’t really all that labor intensive. It just takes more time. I tend to use the water bath method more. I also like to freeze some things like bell peppers and fruit. The peppers can easily be thrown into stir fry’s. The fruit I bag with either spinach or kale and dump directly into the blender for smoothies. A quick Google search or trip to your local library will offer some great books to check out. Here are a few to get you started-

Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff

You can Can by Better Homes and Gardens

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

What are some of the ways you’re living more simply or sustainably?