Monday Sep 12 2011
Living off the land and loving it in Granite Bay
By: Tinka Davi gold country news service
One-acre property home to lush garden, 26 chickens
Tucked away in one of the older sections of Granite Bay is a mini farm with 26 chickens and a vegetable garden that could feed several families. In fact, it does. Property owners Kevin and Lory Lehr graciously give away eggs and veggies to family, friends and neighbors. Ask Kevin how he got started with chickens and the lush garden, and he will answer with a single word: “Bored.” He and Lory have lived in the house for 21 years, but it was just a couple of years ago that he added the coop. “I wanted to become more off the grid. I have one acre and wanted to live off the land,” he said. Family, neighbors, kids all love it. The hens live in a chicken coop designed and built by Kevin. “This place is a tribute to my great-grandparents, Joseph and Katherine Ferraro, who owned Sequoia Market in Redwood City,” he said. Most of the memorabilia displayed on and around the coop is from their grocery store and butcher shop. There are old-style scales, large butcher’s knife, fork and meat hook, meat grinders, old photographs, a cardboard Sequoia egg carton, thermometer and a sign that reads, “Friends Welcome, Relatives by Reservation.” “I had all the stuff in the barn until I got the chicken coop idea,” Kevin said. “I wanted to make something out of nothing and do the project for next to nothing.” He has the ability. Kevin has worked in residential construction for 37 years and still does remodeling, room additions and decks — everything from dirt to doorknobs, he said. Once he started the project, friends gave him relics and recycled materials that he’s displayed and used in constructing the coop. A neighbor’s discarded kitchen cabinets hold supplies, old pallets cover the ground in front of the coop and the plywood came from a solar company in Rocklin. The Lehrs have seven different breeds of hens, including Rhode Island Red, Buff Orpington, Black Australorp (which lay brown eggs) and Ameraucana (which lay pale blue eggs). He has hens, but no roosters. “I didn’t want to upset the neighbors with ‘cock-a-doodle-doo.’ Twenty-six little fräuleins are enough,” he said. The hens live in the chicken coop and two large pens. A hawk occasionally flies over, and when the chickens see his shadow, they rush toward the coop. Fortunately there are enough tree limbs and greenery to prevent the hawk from swooping down on the hens. “To make good eggs, you have to have happy chickens,” Kevin said. They have room to roam around the pens and they’re fed fresh water and food. “To have good eggs you have to make sure neighbors are not feeding them doughnuts” as one neighbor tried to do, he said. Those who stop by with kitchen scraps know what not to bring. Lory put out a sign that cautions against feeding the hens meat, green peppers, onions, garlic, citrus, raw green potato peels, dried or undercooked beans and any sugar-type food — “A BIG NO,” the sign says. “We get good, large eggs out of them,” Kevin said as he looked under a couple of hens in their nests. During one month last year, the hens produced 661 eggs. Near the coop is the garden with an arch that Kevin constructed out of PVC pipe, wire fencing, foundation stakes and green spray paint for just $7. It supports a vine with long, skinny pale-green gourds including one that grew to 3 feet in length in just two weeks and Kevin said it will probably reach the ground. The Lehrs’ vegetable garden is a former horse corral with soil so fine that Kevin can easily poke his hand down into it. “I brought in 30 yards of horse manure last fall and let it sit all winter,” he said. The lush garden is packed with produce, including green beans, beets, cucumbers, peppers, Japanese eggplant, zucchini, butternut, crookneck, spaghetti and patty pan or summer squash, okra, watermelon and 57 tomato plants. Kevin has trained some tomatoes to grow up to 8 feet tall on a support he designed. “I wanted to walk through tunnels of tomatoes and pick them at eye level,” he said. Colorful flower windmills from the Dollar Store keep away birds and their noise keeps moles out of the garden. What’s Lory’s job? “I water,” she said. After walking the dog each morning she heads for the garden and spends an hour and a half hand watering. Lory, who works at home as a transcriber, is learning to can all those veggies. She and Kevin are looking forward to their own San Marzano tomato sauce and home-grown vegetables in the winter. Right now, they’re enjoying the coop-garden-sitting area and the people who stop by to visit. “You could call this a man cave or just a place for people to hang out,” Kevin said. While there, visitors are surely snacking on some sweet, just-picked cherry tomatoes. Tinka Davi is a freelance writer and editor based in Folsom.