One recent afternoon an Orinda woman turned to her husband and asked if he would "go get some eggs" for her. Instead of piling into the Prius for a trip to the store, this Renaissance man of letters said "sure," stepped out onto his back porch and, after ruffling a few feathers, returned with a bowl full of perfect, espresso-brown eggs from the family's backyard coop.
In Lafayette, another family watched as their "sustainable, non-polluting lawnmower" -- a clan of short-legged goats -- clipped a neat fire break across their "back forty" and left them with a residual layer of manure they rake into the ground.
"Perfect fertilizer," the woman of the house observed, "they work for next to nothing and they're quiet."
Local ordinances barring the keeping of some farm animals -- once commonplace on the former farmland we now call Lamorinda -- has made the care and keeping of such animals a stealthy affair for those who adopt the lifestyle of bygone days.
Many people we spoke with did so only after making us promise not to reveal their names or specific locations of their homes. "These animals are like members of the family," they said. "I don't want anyone coming to tell me I have to get rid of my babies," was a common refrain.
So, quietly but steadily, doctors, lawyers and auto mechanics, some in Birkenstocks and some in Ecco boots, return to a lifestyle once adopted by their grandparents, and come up smiling.
“By eating garden food, we limit the additives which in many cases aren’t good for us or the environment,” said Janet Thomas of . “Growing our own food makes us more aware and appreciative of what we eat and how and when it’s grown, and thus, potentially better stewards of the Earth.”
Living better, and taking better care of the planet, appears to be the motivating factor behind the local movement toward sustainable living and the return -- by some -- to old ways.
"Citizens in Lamorinda, a relatively affluent community, probably use more resources per capita than citizens of a lower income area. Larger homes, with more amenities, require more energy and resources to produce and maintain,” Thomas said. "... Lamorindans are becoming increasingly aware of their impact on the environment."
, a Walnut Creek gardener who brings his organic, earth-sensitive approach to gardening in Lamorinda, said that "green gardening" is a concept that is spreading, gently, as residents trade their gas-powered gardening equipment for more sustainable options.
"Organic gardening is pretty much all I know," said Queirolo. "I've been gardening professionally for 30 years or so and I've never done it any other way. I used leaf blowers and other power tools in the distant past and found them dirty and noisy and wasteful both of non-renewable resources and of the time, energy, and health of the operator.”
Queirolo said that he knew other gardeners took this approach to gardening, but also pointed out that many people were deterred from organic gardening because of the perceived difficulty.
“The organic approach involves a lot more thought and planning and groundwork, so to speak, than conventional by-the-numbers gardening,” said Queirolo.
Along with an increase of independent organic gardeners like Queirolo, Lafayette saw a new opportunity for sustainable gardening with the opening of the Lafayette Community Garden in April.
The Lafayette Community Garden and Outdoor Education Center, a subgroup of Sustainable Lafayette, already has 50 members, with a waitlist full of other hopeful gardeners, members said.
Thomas said that community gardens help people understand what goes into growing our food.
The community garden offers classes on subjects ranging from “California Edibles and What Natives Ate” to “Winter Gardening.” Members of the public are also invited to visit the garden during open garden hours, Tuesdays from 3 to 8 p.m., Thursdays from 9 to 11 a.m. and Saturdays from 8 to 2 p.m.
But gardening isn’t the only way Lamorinda is going organic.
More and more Lamorindans appear to be getting rid of their water-hungry lawns and putting in chicken coops or goat pens.
In the news most recently, the due to zoning issues. Luckily Temple Isaiah came to the rescue, and the chickens are being moved onto the temple’s property, which is zoned for chickens.
Acalanes Apartments resident manager Shelley DiGiovanna said that residents enjoy feeding and playing with the chickens, along with the fresh eggs they provide.
Individual Lamorindans are enjoying life as chicken-owners as well. Specifically, Moraga’s has embraced the “back to the farm” way of living.
Ashleigh Edelsohn said her family enjoys having fresh eggs from the chickens they own, who have become akin to family pets. The Edelsohns bake bread with the eggs their chickens lay, and can marmalades and jams with the fruit they grow on their land.
Since getting the chickens around 6 years ago, the Edelsohn family rarely buys eggs from the store, and while it was not their initial goal, Ashleigh said having chickens has made her family more sustainable.
The Edelsohn family tries to keep their waste as low as possible, and feeds the chickens leftover food scraps. The family also has their own compost, which they use to fertilize the 30 to 40 fruit trees they have on their property.
Ashleigh said that while keeping animals requires work and can be expensive, the outcome is worth it. With the idea of urban farming spreading rapidly, Ashleigh said that her family’s work had inspired neighbors and friends to try out the farming way of life.
“A lot of people have this idea that having a backyard garden or raising chickens is really difficult, and it’s not,” she said. “It’s super easy and super fun and the rewards are so big.”
How do you feel about organic gardening? Are you ready for farm living and a chicken coop? Let us know what you think in the comments.
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