Saturday, April 9, 2011

Havenscourt Homestead

Unbeknownst to me I have a fellow urban homesteading neighbor. I knew there had to be more of us in the neighborhood. Well, Kitty Sharkey at Havenscourt Homestead is the real deal. From the street you see beautiful edible and drought tolerant landscaping on a sheet mulched front yard. There’s a sign that says fresh eggs in the driveway and a swing overlooking all the flowers. Hardly a clue as to what’s in back… As you come around the house in the narrow side yard there’s a young orchard of 10 or so fruit trees planted about 36” apart to one day be a fruit hedge. On the other is a large raised bed veggie garden and other smaller containers for vegetables and fruit growing. Kitty will love to take you on the tour and talk your ear off about sustainability and her family of feathered, furry, and cloven hoofed friends. She’ll give you the low down on Oakland municipal code and tell you how she put together this farm in just three years.

In the backyard barnyard the tour started off at the clawfoot tub filled with a brackish water with 3 ducks hanging out at it’s rim, quacking a hello. The homestead has a pair of Nigerian Dwarf goats that recently born a couple of kids that were hopping around. These goats are curious and friendly and especially liked eating my keys and shirt. “They like shiny things” Kitty explained. All of her animals also function as therapy animals, and are trained to be taken to hospitals, homes, and to be good with children. There’s quite a number of bunnies at the farm and Kitty will be quick to pop one into your arms. Don’t forget about the dozen or more chickens and bantams clucking around. “Do you eat them too?” I asked. “Yes all of them” Kitty answered “I hope that doesn’t bother you.”

It is astounding to see how this home on a 4000 sq foot lot has been transformed to be an efficiently running farm. It is also self governed. Everyone free ranges. “I don’t need to lock up the coops or goats at night…the raccoons would have to get through the goats to get to the chickens so there’s no problems” Only the bunnies cages remain caged, and even they get their chance to free range. On top of the converted garage are the langstroth hives which happened to have two nearby swarms when we were there. “Now what about the neighbors?” I asked. “Everybody loves me” Kitty says. She explains that on one side lives a retired teacher and on the other is a family with children and cousins many of whom have participated in life on the farm. It’s a lean, green, clean, operation running in the middle of an East Oakland neighborhood. Kitty produces 75% of her meat needs and much of her fruits and veggies. She took Bay Friendly classes and took advantage of programs like EBMUD's cash for ripping up your lawn , from websites like Alameda County’s I highly recommend checking our her website and videos at

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