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JULY 25, 2009   

1, 2, 3, Lift!

Chicken coop with  people standing aroundIt seemed like a cross between an Amish barn raising and the 1967 attempt to levitate the Pentagon. Just down the street on Lorain Avenue, Joanne and I joined about 25 vaguely hippie-looking neighborhood volunteers at Gather-round Farm.

Our goal was to pick up the chicken coop, turn it 90 degrees so to face the sun, and move it a few feet so other volunteers could dig holes for footers at each corner.

The chicken coop is part of the ongoing story of Gather 'round Farm, a former convenience store parking lot that's been transformed into what I can only describe—trite as it sounds—as an urban oasis.

Looking toward Lorain Ave. from the farmA mostly-volunteer group has been building planting beds for vegetable, herbs and flowers right on top of the asphalt. Straw-covered paths wind through beds of squash, cabbage, sweet corn and more.

The chickens were added about a year ago, but only after a fight that resulted in a new zoning law to make it possible. The need to move the coop came up when the city required three-foot deep footers at the corners in order to meet building code.

The move went pretty much according to the plan mapped out by Meagan Kresge, farm co-founder. About twenty people grabbed onto the bottom of the four walls, and a half-dozen of us stood between the floor joists inside the coop.

At the call of "1, 2, 3, Lift!" we picked it up and shuffled around to point south. We had a short rest and strategy discussion, then lifted again and shuffled a few feet to clear the spots where footer holes need to be dug.

If you're more interested in the chickens than the people, you can see them in this video.

Chicken coop facing south

At this point, our task accomplished, most of us headed home, leaving Meagan and a few other farmers to carry on. Sometime soon the call for volunteers will go out again and we'll move the coop onto its sturdy new city-inspected footers.


Behind Gather 'round Farm is a child care center that doesn't provide nearly as pleasant environment for its children. See what it's like on the other side of the fence.

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