Southern Arizona is a birder’s paradise, and even in the heart of Tucson, you will experience a bevy of winged visitors. Here, we profile some of the “usual suspects” you may see in your garden.
By Debby Larsen | Photos by Justin Carrillo
Along the Mount Lemmon highway on the far eastside of Tucson, the Fest family has embraced the farm life —in a scaled-down form.
Lenny and Jennifer Fest invested time and patience to locate the perfect property for a bucolic lifestyle with their daughters Sophia and Emma. After three years, the Fests’ spread now boasts lush vegetable and flower gardens, as well as 30 chickens of various breeds, three Welsh Harlequin ducks, three Nigerian dwarf goats, one mini Blue Heeler and one rescued calico cat.
The house was constructed by the previous owner, and had been added to in bits and pieces over many years. Although it was not their dream home, the Fests believed it had lots of potential for their family. Jennifer remarks that it was the wrap-around porch that sold them on the purchase.
However, the house reno was going to have to wait. They immediately began work on their outdoor projects, building several raised wooden beds for vegetables. Jennifer’s parents, Jim and Cindy Willis, offered help, gardening expertise and encouragement during their many weekend projects.
In addition to other crops, several seed varieties from Native Seed Search were utilized. Gardening has become an adventure, with lots to learn in the process. “One year we planted Dragon Carrot and Scarlet Nantes seed. They cross-pollinated and the next year’s result was a lovely, ‘ombre’ carrot in purple, pink and orange,” Jennifer says with a laugh. Each season, their garden yields bountiful produce.
After getting the gardens started, they set about acquiring hens, but first needed a chicken coop. The Fests built a shed from a kit, but added a little Southwest charm in the form of a shiny, tin roof. Their chickens now provide beautiful multi-colored eggs that Sophia and Emma sell at their flower-bedecked “Farm Stand” on their property.
Jennifer studied interior design in college, and her touch can be found in the carefully crafted signs throughout
the garden. She often recycles old wood and vintage windows for her palette. Photos from Pinterest were the inspiration for the recently added goat house. Leftover parts from their daughters’ pre-fab playhouse were utilized in this project. An old tractor tire became a favorite addition to the goats’ playground.
Native trees, along with shade and fruit trees (some 50 in all), dot the property, watered in large part with rainwater collected and held in a giant tank just for this purpose. Grapevines cover a hillside ramada — a lovely site for a party.
When Jennifer and Lenny are asked what is next on their long list of projects, they mention plans for a small greenhouse to nurture tiny plants during the cool season.
Daughters Sophia, now eight, and Emma, six, obviously enjoy this lifestyle. When the family entertains, the girls — in their cotton frocks and their best mini-work boots — proudly show off the eggs they have collected that morning and offer tours of the gardens.