That Sunday, I met Jaime at City Farmers Nursery and immediately fell in love with the place. Their slogan is "a little bit of country, in the heart of the city." Personally, I think it would be more accurate to call it "a magical agrarian utopia in the middle of the hood," but that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Seriously though, nothing could be more surprising than finding these two acres of plants and animals and Farmer Bill surrounded by housing projects and liquor stores.
Once inside the gate, you feel like you have crossed into another world...or the Twilight Zone. In addition to the wide variety of trees, flowers, and plants, there are bunnies, turtles, ducks, fish, turkeys, chickens, a goat, and a 43 year-old horse named Clyde.
When it was time for the class to start, Farmer Bill led us up to his house where we sat, along with at least thirty other future chicken owners, around a big wooden table in his kitchen. The whole thing was quaint beyond words, and Farmer Bill is quickly moving up my list of awesome people I want to be friends with. He is one of those people who is so completely passionate about what he does that you cannot help but be inspired by him. He started the nursery at in 1972 at age 16 and has spent the last thirty plus years preaching the value of sustainable living. He told us that he raises most of what he eats and heads to the grocery store only about once a month. As someone who finds herself at a grocery store every other day, I found this something close to miraculous.
After expounding on the joys of chicken-raising for an hour or so, Farmer Bill gently offered to walk any of us who were interested through the process of "doing" a chicken. In Farmer Bill parlance, this apparently means butchering, skinning, and otherwise preparing the chicken for eating. The first step in this process is holding the chicken upside down for a minute or two so all of the blood rushes to his little, tiny chicken head making him sleepy and the process more humane.
After learning what is involved, Jaime decided that raising chickens might be a bit ambitious for the moment, but we were not deterred from attending another class. Today we brought Meghan with us and hit up the Urban Gardening class. Once again, Farmer Bill and his anecdotes did not disappoint. We spent another hour or so around his kitchen table learning about soil and seasonal crops after which Farmer Bill took us on a tour of the grounds and showed us his personal vegetable and fruit garden.
He also took us by his beehive and urged us all to look into bee keeping..sadly, that class was last month.
All in all, it was a lovely afternoon, and I think that Farmer Bill and I are getting pretty close. Plus, Jaime made friends with a goat.