Michelle Davis is our Director of Accessibility, a Senior Architect and has worked in the industry for almost 30 years. While she is well known for her specialized knowledge as a Certified Access Specialist, you might be surprised to know that she balances her city life as an architect with life at home on a farm in Nevada County. At almost 15 acres, the site is home to her own family along with approximately 50 chickens, 13 sheep and a few turkeys, goats and pigs. Michelle’s grandparents had a farm when she was growing up and she always imagined that she too might make that lifestyle a reality one day.
The perfect opportunity presented itself to start raising animals when Michelle’s daughters became involved in the 4-H Youth Program at their school. This initiative provides focused learning and education in 3 key areas:
- STEM & Agriculture
- Healthy Living
Under the Agriculture umbrella is the Plant and Animal Science program which exposes students to learning opportunities in agricultural science, veterinary science, biotechnology, raising and training animals and forestry.
Michelle tells us that the girls really do most of the animal feeding and care taking before and after school, and that she and her husband take on the more involved projects such as double fencing to make sure the animals remain on the property and are kept safely away from predators. The current property has a 100 year old barn and several shelters in place for each animal grouping – but for the most part, the animals roam freely.
Of the nearly 15 acres, almost 5 of those Michelle estimates are covered in blackberries, so the goats play an important role in eating them up and helping to reclaim the land. There were 4 lambs born on the farm this past winter and one birth in particular was a surprise because at that time of year their wool is so thick before their yearly shearing, they couldn’t tell that one of their younger ewe’s was expecting. Michelle has even started a process of saving the sheared wool for felting.
The chickens cumulatively produce more than a dozen eggs a day, so Michelle’s family always has plenty to share – a nice surprise at Lionakis sometimes!
It was interesting to find out about some different types of chickens as well. The chickens that Michelle has are Lavender Orpington’s and Frizzled Silkies. These are not what you would see at a commercial farm, or what you would find in your grocery store, those are usually Leg Horn chickens. The Orpington’s have a signature greyish-purple coat that you can easily see in the photos and the Frizzled Silkies have curly, reddish feathers and are you guessed it – very soft. Michelle had a lovely story about a frizzled silky named Peaches who’s eggs did not hatch, so she stayed on them for another week in hopes that they would. When Michelle came home soon after with a newborn batch of chicks from a Lavender Orpington, Peaches instantly took over being their Mother and got quite frantic whenever she heard their cries.
Michelle and her family really enjoy taking care of the animals, interacting with them, even naming a lot of them – all while participating in a school program designed to help children learn, build confidence and lead healthy and productive lives. Thank you Michelle for sharing such a sweet glimpse into the sustainable life you lead on the land with us!