Urban homesteading: Back to basics

St. Charles residents raising chickens, growing gardens and reconnecting with the land – in their yards

When the opportunity came up to take a beginner bee keeping class, Chad Cerny grabbed it.“I just want to have hives at my house,” Cerny said. “Bees are fascinating and I know there’s kind of a shortage.”

The class was free, which Janette Canseula of New Sarpy is glad to provide at her residence because she loves bee keeping and seeing others getting back to basics.

People are getting into urban homesteading, such as gardening, raising chickens or bees in their backyards or even their front yards. Getting back to their roots, literally, is a movement driven by both a desire to reconnect to a simpler way of life, as well as to pass on the experience to their children.

For Cerny, his desire to have bee hives in his backyard is part of this, as well as welcomes the bees pollinating his plants.

He has a “hobby garden” with vegetables and flowers to attract the bees.

“It’s something fun to do,” he said. “It’s something me and my wife can do, and our son can dig in the garden and get his hands dirty, as well.”

Cerny’s grew up with a garden, and he liked the lifestyle.

He especially likes the “garden-to-plate” feeling, and he wants to pass it along to this son, 2-1/2-year-old Emerson.

“You do it yourself and you feel accomplished,” he said. “It’s rewarding and relaxing.”

Cerny even brings his son next door so he can visit with the neighbor’s chickens, which the child thoroughly enjoys. They have a garden, too.

At Canseula’s farm, Emerson also had fun with her chickens, which Cerny added, “were like best friends.” Her chickens are special to her, as well as provide eggs that she sells at the German Coast Farmers Market.

At Martin’s Nursery and Landscape in Luling, employee Jasmine Lee readily said she’s seeing more people doing gardens because they find it therapeutic or want to teach their children how to raise vegetables and herbs.

Lee said the plants – vegetable or herb – typically well, even in Louisiana heat. Avoid over fertilizing them to avoid burning the roots, she said. It can be placed around edges of where they’re planted without a problem.

“There’s been an increase in people doing this with their children,” Lee said. “More schools are doing gardens in St. Charles Parish and the kids are going home and asking parents they want to do one at home.”

Lee said she’s seeing a lot of kids coming into the store with their parents and picking out the herbs and vegetable plants themselves.

Typical plants of choice are peppers and tomatoes, but some more adventurous children are getting squash and eggplant, she said.

Since she started working at Martin’s three years ago, Lee said she’s seen the number of people coming in about gardens as much as triple.

Initially, the typical gardeners were older, but more of them are becoming children and younger adults. They’re mostly doing small raised beds or a little corner in the front yard.

Lee praised this year’s trend, “This year, we’ve been selling out of herbs and vegetables left and right.”

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