Indian Head woman promotes suburban homesteads
Yvonne Brown wants her family to live organically and understand where their food comes from. In an effort to keep costs low, she has created her own suburban homestead in her backyard complete with a garden and chickens. The rewards far outweigh the — limited — costs, she says.
“I want to feed my family healthy but I also want it to be economical,” Brown said. “I can have fresh eggs every day from these chickens I only paid $15 for, plus the chickens are super fun. I really enjoy gardening and teaching people they can do this themselves.”
Brown doesn’t live on a farm and insists that anyone — even apartment dwellers — can find space in their yard, home or windowsill to grow their own food. Her backyard in her Indian Head neighborhood has a chicken coop on one side and a sizable garden on the other complete with strawberries, various types of tomatoes and greens, peppers, a raspberry bush and an apple tree among others. She also has herb pots on her deck with different types of basil, cilantro and something called fish pepper: distinctive plants that have a history of being the “secret ingredient” in seafood dishes prepared by African-American slaves.
“These plants have stories,” said Brown, who shares her home with husband David and three children. “I love showing my children that we planted this seed and this is what happened to the fruits of your labor. There are educational lessons in gardening and growing your own food.”
Though Indian Head has not yet made it legal for residents to have chickens, the idea has been talked about for approximately two years and will be a part of the town’s zoning ordinance in about six months, according to Indian Head Town Manager Ryan Hicks.
“Currently it’s against the law for someone to have them,” Hicks said of the town’s current position. “[But] if someone has them it’s kind of hard to enforce knowing that they’ll be allowed soon.”
Brown said when she originally added the chickens to her homestead, she had a difficult time finding a straight “yes” or “no” answer from the town about whether they were permitted. Now she says she wants to do what is best nutritionally and economically for her family in her own home while remaining a good neighbor.
“I went to go give [my neighbor] some eggs to apologize when we accidentally had a rooster that was loud and they hadn’t even noticed we had them, so they had no idea what I was talking about,” Brown said. “… I realized a lot of the things people think about chickens, about them smelling bad and being a lot of work, are not necessarily true.”
Brown said her children — Yasmine, 14, Georgia, 4, and Alden, 2 — also love helping her in the garden.
“Alden loves chasing the chickens and Georgia loves being in the garden with me. Yasmine also helps but was more into it when she was younger,” Brown said. “The kids have their own gloves, tools, bots and always want to be out there with me.”
The chickens and garden fit into the family’s lifestyle and goal of living as sustainably as possible. They also have solar panels installed on their roof and Brown uses reusable products such as cloth diapers and napkins, and avoids buying plastic whenever possible.
“There’s always something you can do,” Brown said. “It’s a conscious thought when I buy something. I think about the packaging and if there’s another option.”
She’s presented at various conventions such as MommyCon and others for those interested in sustainable living. Previous talks have taken her to New York and Washington, D.C., and Brown has upcoming engagements in Baltimore and Orlando, Fla. She’s also in the beginning stages of starting a garden consulting business where she will help clients determine what can grow in their space and help them grow their vegetables and herbs.
“I want people to know that no matter where you are, you can do this,” Brown said. “For a while I just had stuff on the deck and before that the window sill… I want to teach my children how they grow their food and how we treat our chickens matters.”
To find out more about Brown and her homestead mission, go to dabrownstead.com.
Yvonne Brown of Indian Head works in her backyard garden. She has been growing vegetables and receiving eggs from chickens in her backyard for years as part of a sustainable life she and her family live.
Yvonne Brown said she receives about one egg per day from each of her three chickens which she says is enough for her family and is less expensive from buying organic, free-range, non-GMO eggs from a store.
Yvonne Brown of Indian Head added chickens to her suburban homestead in an effort to feed her family the type of eggs — organic, free-range, non-GMO — she wanted while saving money.
A strawberry begins to grow in Yvonne Brown’s garden. She has been growing fruits, vegetables and herbs in her garden and receiving eggs from chickens in her backyard for years in an effort to live sustainably with her family.