Deb Schwartzkopf knows a good yard when she sees one. Moving into her White Center home five years ago, she saw the potential for gardens and livestock almost immediately—so immediately that she planted a raised bed before moving her furniture.
Rat City Studios, the name of her garden and ceramics studio, presents an ideal example of artful garden-to-table living with a clever co-op design, chicken foraging area, artfully decorated raised beds, honeybee apiary, and edible fruit landscaping. The front yard is planted for four-season beauty with perennials and a deep shade garden, and veggies from the garden are often wood-fired in a hand-built pizza oven.
Tilth Alliance talked with Deb about Rat City Studios, which will be featured in their Chicken Coop & Urban Farm Tour on August 18, a self-guided tour of urban farms around the city:
How has Rat City Studios urban farm evolved?
This will be my fifth summer in the house, and I got chickens the first winter and honeybees two years ago. This is the first place I have been able to install permanent beds, trellises, asparagus, and trees. I’ve planted seven fruit trees and installed numerous raised beds. Everything was covered in bindweed and ivy, and I have just finished winning the battle against it! Finally, the garden is starting to take off.
How did you learn how to grow your own food?
Both of my grandmothers gardened a lot and it seemed to have high value for their day-to-day lives, which was really inspiring. Since I work at home, the garden is a place for me to slow down and take a calming break. I love seeing all the small changes, like asparagus emerging and flowers slowly blooming.
What motivated you to raise chickens?
They are really entertaining animals and they add a lot of personality to my yard! The daily clucking makes the yard feel welcoming, plus the nutrient-rich compost is a huge benefit to my garden. I sell eggs and honey to friends and people taking classes, and I’m considering using the chickens for meat, but it would be a dilemma since I care a lot about them.
What is your favorite thing to grow?
Berries! They do so well in the Pacific Northwest. I have raspberries, honeyberries, blueberries, huckleberries, loganberries, tayberries, marionberries, and alpine strawberries. Besides berries, I also love Mexican sour gherkins; you hardly have to clean them and they are already perfect for a salad.
Why do you think urban farming is on the rise in Seattle?
People are more concerned about eating healthy food. Everyone is creative, and gardening can be a creative outlet. People are seeking to make things with their hands more.
What’s next for your urban farm?
Less grass, more vegetables and trees. I am slowly turning the lawn into a series of perennial and veggie gardens. It’s going to be beautiful, food-producing, and more sustainable.
You can visit Rat City Studios and learn more about what it takes to raise chickens in the city, and how to start your own urban farm by attending Tilth Alliance’s Chicken Coop & Urban Farm Tour on Saturday, August 18. Fun for the whole family, this self-guided tour showcases some of Seattle’s coolest urban farms and gardens. Click here to learn more and buy tickets to their Chicken Coop & Urban Farm Tour!