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Pennsylvania Family Battles Local Government Over Right To Raise Chickens And Live Self Sufficiently


Our township opposes self sufficiency by having an aggressive ban on backyard chickens and personal food production.

They are demanding we remove our flock and end our journey towards living a sustainable lifestyle.

Help us end this negative stand!

Our family purchased our nearly 3 acre parcel in 1976 when all the land next to us was cornfield.

My parents raised me to eat the apples from our ancient apple orchard and live from the land as much as I could. 9 years ago, my family and I chose to join my parents on this land, helping them as the years go on and built a small home adjacent to theirs according to Fairview Township’s specifications.

We have three daughters, Hanna (14) Jordan (9) and Lilly May (7). We are zoned A-1 Rural, whereas the newer subdivision next to us is zoned residential. We have been growing organic food and raising hens for organic eggs for years without complaints from a single neighbor. Allegedly, Fairview Township recieved a “complaint” from a neighbor stating “odor”. We not only keep our animal housing very clean and free from any odor, but have not had a single neighbor come to us regarding any issues they may have with our personal home food production.

We are training our children to live in a sustainable way, nurturing the earth rather than destroying it. We are reasonable people who want to be friends with our neighbors and community, not unfriendly. We would never have a large animal or loud animal that would cause stress to a neighbor, even though it should be our right to do as we wish with our land seeing as we have established our homestead prior to any development of adjacent land.

Please help us establish precedent that allows anyone who wants to, within reason and responsibility towards neighbor, grow and produce their own food on their land. Fairview’s current zoning for A-1 allows for horses and ponies, but not chickens or other animals. This violates Pennsylvania State agriculture law and they mus tchange it. Fairview would like to see A-1 rezoned to “residential” only, thus banning all homesteading and horticulture! We who live in A-1 zones want to simply continue our self sufficient lifestyle and see them go the other way, allowing backyard flocks. Please support our cause!

We are the Pastor family.  Andrew and Jodie, and our children Hanna, Jordan and Lilly May.  We moved to Fairview Pennsylvania in February 2002 and built our humble home on property adjacent to the childhood home of Andrew.  We are situated on just under three acres of land that is zoned rural, but is bordering a subdivision that is zoned residential.  We take this into careful consideration whenever we make a decision regarding structure placement and fencing.

We are a very busy family with many interests!  As a family, in addition to our endeavors as homesteaders and chasing sustainability, we have a small sailboat that we keep in a marina in the nearby Presque Isle State Park (for the sake of continuity, all links to things mentioned will be located on the link page). We also are a family of musicians. We have a studio where we play everything from piano and euphonium (Jodie), guitar and drums (Andrew, Jordan and Lilly), flute (Hanna), and well, about anything that makes noise!  We also all skateboard, love to camp and forage for wild edibles, and enjoy amateur astronomy.  As parents, we also home school our children with a wonderful virtual charter school, PAVCS.

Jodie is a fitness professional with a First Dan degree blackbelt in Korean Taekwondo with Parks Acadamy in Erie.  Andrew has owned and operated Pastor Professional Services, a general contracting business since 1999.  Even as busy as we are, we found we can and must make room for our homestead.  We love to travel as a family, especially costal areas.  We live on the shores of Lake Erie, but our travels take us to both ocean coasts.

On our travels, we become more aware of how vulnerable this beautiful planet is.  We feel it is our responsibility as a family to do whatever we can to leave the smallest footprint possible behind us.  This goes much further than recycling our plastics, metals and paper.  In our efforts to grow much of our own food we are in a small way helping the environment as well as our bodies.  Factory farms are of great impact to our environment.
From the chemicals used in the name of controlling pests and weeds, to the transportation worldwide of crops.   Of course we can not meet all of our families nutritional needs entirely by what we grow, but every bit helps.  In the meanwhile, we support local sustainable farmers by buying local and encouraging our friends and family to grow and do the same.

This little blog will show our family’s efforts toward homesteading, and hopefully encourage others to do the same.  If we can do it, anyone can!

Homesteading… how do I start?

One of the simplest and most basic ways to enter into the homesteading lifestyle is to begin growing plants.  For most Americans, this involves spring planting and flowers.  As soon as you have a plot of land to develop, these flowers are usually quickly joined by some simple herbs or tomato plants.  Who can’t remember as a child going into grandma or grandpa’s garden and snitching a juicy raspberry or cherry tomato?  Even if you live in an urban setting, if you have acess to a window or balcony you can have a container garden.

However, going to the nursery each season can be costly. Today, a four inch vegetable plant can average $4 each.  This is why we begin planning each season mid winter.  We start all of our plants from seeds.  We scour seed catalogs for something new almost every year, but the bulk of our crops come from either seeds we saved from last years plants, or leftover seeds that did not get planted.  No matter how much we plan, we always have too many tomatoes and peppers!  This never seems to be a problem for friends and neighbors who we share them with though.

On the link page, you will find some of the wonderful companies that will be more than happy to send you a free seed catalog for you to begin your collection.  One lesson we learned is to not seal our saved seeds in airtight containers from season to season.  Remember that seeds are living things, and need a small amount of air.  If the seed is viable, once it is placed into good starter soil, given a small amount of water, it will begin to sprout.  Once the little plant breaks the surface with its tiny leaves, it is time to provide it with the u.v light it needs to photosynthesize.

We start ours often so early in spring/late in winter that we utilize special full spectrum u.v lights in our basement to further develop the plants.  You can spend hundreds of dollars on fancy led grow lights, or do what we did and purchase a couple of four foot T-12 florescent light fixtures and install full spectrum u.v lights in these.  You must position the lights so they are only a few inches above the plants and make sure they do not dry out, while not over watering them and causing them to “damp off”.  As far as planting the seeds, as you can see from the pictures we like to use recycled egg cartons.

These are often made of the same materials that expensive nursery plants come in.  Ok, now spring is almost here… now what?  You need somewhere to plant these little guys!

Where do we put all of these plants?

We have many gardens at our home.  However, our favorite places to plant always end up being in our raised garden beds.  We built these about 18 inches high so no fencing is required to keep out woodchucks and rabbits.  The only critters that get into these gardens are our chickens when we free range them.  They always go for the kale first.

Raised flower beds are a very simple and effective garden to have, and a wonderful place for you, like us, to start your homestead.  We built ours out of four by four post corners for strength and walls of one by eight lumber. We then filled the boxes with a mixture of clean soil and organic compost.  Each year we refresh the beds with compost from our main gardens compost pile.

Yes, I said pile and not bin.  We do things a little less professionally than some here, with their fancy shmancy compost bins… we heap the leaves and food stuffs into an ever growing pile where it decomposes slowly over the year and we churn it by hand manually.  We find this suits our needs just fine.  And here you have our families beginning of homesteading.  The family gardens.  Raised beds, porch pots and traditional fenced in tilled earth.

Why garden and homestead?

Our youngest daughters picking cherries in the orchard.

We are not conspiracy theorists in any way, and we realize that genetically modifying foods is quite new and the jury may still be out on long term effects… however, if you have the choice to grow your own foods take it!  We as a family think that the idea of splicing genetic markers into foods such as insecticides, herbicides, antifreeze agents from artic fish etc does not sound like a good long term plan. Pandora’s box has been opened.

These items are out there. The same bees may be pollinating the GMO crops of your neighbor as they are pollinating your heirloom types.  Anything we can do/grow for ourselves, however small it may seem, will bring benifit!

Now, this is an organically grown heirloom tomato! Delicious from our summer garden. Non GMO.  No use of chemical fertilizer necessary!  Once you start a compost heap made of your garden and kitchen organic wastes, couple that with manure from your chickens and goats for an amazingly rich soil!

This is the result of our last garden harvest! These peppers and carrots were picked mid October, before our first frost. We were not pleased with our carrot crop and decided it was because we planted too late in the spring. Our growing season in PA is relatively short. You can find much information regarding what to plant in each season, even early winter crops in various garden magazines and websites.

Here come the animals!

Now after several years of gardens, canning and eating fresh food we felt something was missing.  We have been only serving organic milk and eggs for quite a while already, and let me tell you.. it can be expensive!  My wife and I have been recieving Grit magazine for a while and had become fascinated with backyard chickens.

My wife grew up in rural Ohio and had several run ins with rather feisty poultry in the past and had reservations about keeping our own flock.  I however have never had a bird of any type.  We have always had many feeders up for wild birds to eat from and winter over on our property, but that was the extent of it.  So, we began the discussion of keeping a flock of hens.  This soon became an obsession!  The more we learned, the more fascinated we became.  We discovered several things you must research prior to obtaining your flock:-   What are your local zoning rules?  We are zoned rural but only
recently did our township change rules banning backyard flocks.

–   What is your climate? Some breeds are not cold/heat tollerant.

–   Are you interested in only eggs?  Or are you wanting meat?

–   How about roosters?  Do you want to raise your own hatchlings?

–   Roosters can be noisy, and even hens can be.  Our girls have a
rather noisy “egg song” that they sing after laying.

–   What type of housing will you be able to provide?

–   Are you prepared for the additional work load? (Though minimal)

–   What will you do with the birds after their laying days are over?
(we are still debating this one!)

The picture on the left and the picture on the right are only about two weeks apart!  Like I said, they grow quickly!

Jodie loves our chicks!
These girls are far too big for this refrigerator box!

All grown up and moved into the coop.  We thought this was going to be a very temporary location so did not put much efforts into the fencing.  As the chickens became more aware of free ranging, they would easily fly over the fence.  We did not want to clip the flight feathers so they could have some defense against predators.  We have since enlarged their run area and made the fence ten feet tall.

Chickens do not mind the cold, but they hate snow!

And here are the rewards! A few short months later and the girls were laying us healthy, tasty organic eggs!  This shows the size variations of the eggs. The chickens can lay different shades and sizes each day. Happy chickens lay good eggs.  We consistantly in good weather get weekly double yolk eggs.  We think this is from them eating bugs.

In addition to the variations of eggs, the chickens have many different calls and clucks for various reasons.  They truly have been a lot of fun and a great learning experience!  Now, what is next for us?

If you have a local TSC store, this is the “chick days” scene you will encounter when you arrive to pick your chicks.  We chose to have only a flock of hens for organic eggs.  To insure you get only hens, choose “pullets”. These are chicks that have been separated from the males.  You can find many breeders of chicks across the country.  We found the simple option of going to “chick days” at our TSC store that happens every late Feb-March.  We chose five reds and five mixed breed white chicks.

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