In an oasis of farmland in the heart of Atwater bordering the LA River Walk resides Taking the Reins, a non-profit program to benefit teen girls. I visited HERE with my friend, Laila, and there began our relationship of collecting manure. Not a lot, but enough to really benefit our own Heirloom LA urban garden.
Taking the Reins has a sizable equestrian component where the girls benefit from learning to care for these horses but also work to synchronize a riding and communication with them as well. The NY Times recently published an article HERE talking about the undeniable therapeutic benefits to working with horses.
Here is Laila in the chicken coop where many of these guys are coddled as chicks so some of them are as engaging as pet cats. There is a particular way to handle them which the girls are all trained in, it’s sort of an unspoken language and a confident physical action to pull it off without spooking the birds. What a great lesson for a teenager, right?
There are two ducks that roam around in the garden and have a little pool to cool off in. As with the chickens, the girls are really adept at picking them up and keeping them calm. It’s very impressive, and such a valuable skill to possess in approaching patience and leadership.
There are two female goats at Taking the Reins who are each quite affectionate, like the goats from Drake Farms where we get our cheese from.
Look how tall that corn is behind me! And there is no irrigation on this urban garden in drought ridden Los Angeles. You know what the secret is? Poop! Seriously. Manure from these farm animals, mixed with organic compost matter not only helps build soil structure (tilth), but also assists in retaining moisture. We are lucky to get to collect some of this manure to benefit our own Heirloom LA garden. It’s the circle of nature’s efficiency at work, and so fascinating to witness. Urban garden programs such as Taking the Reins promote youth to understand and value this process. Without public funding, it takes a community of volunteers and donations to help support their efforts.
Photos: Yolk & Flour