An Experiment in Subsistence Farming, Brooklyn Style


In this week's New York Magazine, Manny Howard chronicles his experiment to live off his land as his sole source of food for a month—in a 20x40-foot backyard in suburban Brooklyn—much to the wild-eyed glee of his two young children, the increasing consternation and frustration of the first-time farmer, and the chagrin of his wife, who grows increasingly concerned that her husband is turning into Richard Dreyfuss from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

But just as Howard manages to wrest some semblance of sanity in his urban homestead, he miscalculates the due date of his pregnant doe and hastily puts together a nesting box a few sizes too small. The bloody result: The mother rabbit panics and begins devouring her offspring, moments before Howard's wife and 5-year-old daughter drop by the rabbit pen for a visit.

Then the tornado hits.

(Key to the farm layout below the fold.) ::New York Magazine
A Four vegetable planters: cucumbers, cantaloupes, peppers, and heirloom tomatoes.

B The garage, a.k.a. "the Barn": tool storage, rabbit feed, chicken feed, six rabbit hutches, a slaughter station, a refrigerator, and four egg-laying coops.

C The field, in four beds: 1 Tomatoes, beets, celery, yellow squash, purple eggplant, and a fig tree. 2 Collard greens, cucumbers, and callaloo. 3 Cabbage, Japanese eggplant, white eggplant, rhubarb, leeks, garlic, onions, fennel, rosemary, thyme, and mint. 4 Corn, broad beans, basil, bok choy, and parsley.

D The duck run: a duck coop, a duck pond, and two wayward rabbit hutches.

E The chicken run: a high-rise high-capacity chicken coop and a livestock holding pen (on the porch).

F The potato crop: a raised bed technically known as a "drill."
(Photo: Clockwise from right, courtesy of Manny Howard; Amy Eckert [2]. Illustration by Jason Lee)

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