Raise chickens in your back yard in the city?
"Why not?" said 36-year-old Alison Holmlund of Santa Cruz, Calif., when the opportunity came her way this past summer.
The busy Silicon Valley software executive and mom of three kids younger than 5 might appear to have enough going on in her life without adding "chicken farmer" to her resume.
"I simply couldn't refuse when two adorable chicks became available for adoption after being lovingly cared for by children at a farmyard summer camp. I thought adding Ruby and Penny to our family would be a great way to help my city-raised kids better understand where their food comes from," she told me during a recent visit.
Just then, 3-year-old Jude announced that he found a "Penny egg" in the Holmlund hen house, a sturdy structure built using recycled paneling from a 1970s bedroom remodel, a repurposed refrigerator shelf and simple knobs from a dilapidated cabinet.
"It's so much fun for the boys to check for eggs during the day -- sometimes we get up to four. Penny lays light-green eggs, and Ruby's are brown," says Alison.
Raising chickens is a real-life application of recycling and learning about the food cycle.
"We give them food scraps from our kitchen, and they fertilize the garden and eat pests," she adds.
Raising chickens might not be on your to-do list this fall, but there are other activities that bring home a bit of country life.
Harvest fall finds: While farmers bring in their
Make it a country weekend: Spend a Saturday in the country and enjoy a prearranged farm tour for an up-close look at farm life. Hang out with chickens, goats, cows and sheep. Climb in a hayloft. Or go to a pick-your-own farm to experience how fruit and vegetables are grown.
Garden in your back yard: For nonstop learning, clean and dry remaining herbs growing in your garden. Pick the last sunflower, press and frame it. Till the soil and plant some bulbs for colorful blooms next spring.
Next week: How to grow pea shoots in a windowsill garden.
Donna Erickson's award-winning series "Donna's Day" is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit donnasday.com and link to the new Donna's Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is "Donna Erickson's Fabulous Funstuff for Families."