The Funky Chicken: Air Force Master Sergeant has food running around her yard

Julia LeDoux
December 23, 2019 - 1:59 pm

Petty Officer 1st Class Jenn Lebron

By Navy Petty Officer First Class Jenn LeBron

DOD News

Soon-to-be retired Air Force Master Sgt. Catherine Carbullido-White describes herself as quirky, funny and scatterbrained.

Like a kid in a candy store, this collector of hobbies gets excited over every acquisition. Her ranch-style home in Brooklyn Park, Maryland, is overflowing with mementos collected throughout her life.

Photos line the walls of the foyer, chicken paraphernalia lives in the kitchen, and there’s a basement full of hobbies – a laser printer next to the woodworking table, acrylic paintings line the walls alongside crabbing baskets and snowboards.

Carbullido-White was born an Army brat, but her father spared her a life of changing schools and moving between continents when he left the service. He moved his family back to his island home – Guam.

''We lived with my grandparents,'' Carbullido-White reminisced. ''I remember every summer my cousins from around the island got dropped off at my grandma's house, and we just played all day outside. Maybe that's why I like to garden and be outside. We were outside all the time.'' 

Petty Officer 1st Class Jenn Lebron

But 5-year-old Catherine still thought of Germany as her home.

''I just thought we were there [in Guam] on vacation -- a really, really long vacation,'' she said.

After high school, Carbullido-White said she felt constrained by island life. She tried college for a couple of years but later decided to join the military with an eye toward moving back to Germany.

She eventually made it back to Germany, where she met her husband, Sean. They've spent their relationship chasing adventure around the world. They just came back from an Alaskan cruise; they're headed to Pennsylvania for a camping trip this weekend; and they'll jump on a plane for another cruise a week later.

''I am an introvert,'' she said. ''But I like meeting new people and experiencing new things. It helps me in my creative process.''

Their thirst for exploration led them to their forever home just a few miles from an airport. ''We can jump on a plane or drive the coast,''

Their half-acre lot in Anne Arundel County sits at the top of the hill. The front yard has been claimed by Carbullido-White's garden.

''When I was stationed at Langley, I really started paying attention to what I ate,'' she said. ''There was this diet where you source everything you eat locally, so I got to eat what was fresh and what's in season. That's when I hopped on the crazy train of what it is I eat.''

This year, she started a garden with 100 seedlings she had sprouted in her basement.

''Sean's dad gave me a $50 gift card to a seed bank,'' she said. ''You can buy a lot of seeds with $50.''

Petty Officer 1st Class Jenn Lebron

She grew herbs, tomatoes, peppers, gourds, and flowers. When she realized all the seeds were taking root and growing, she knew she needed to get them outside. In May, she planted a garden in her front yard.

Walking through her garden and through her home, it's easy to see that Carbullido-White is a collector. She collects hobbies and memories – and there are eight breeds of chickens in her chicken coup.

''I have one from Oklahoma, from California, Louisiana,'' she said. ''I drove up as far as New York for one. I had someone meet me in D.C. from North Carolina for another one.''

Her grandparents had chickens and so did her dad. It’s just natural that she would follow their lead. ''It was just normal to have your food running around the yard,'' Carbullido-White said.

She harvests herbs and vegetables for her kitchen table -- and for her chickens.

''These are ground cherries,'' she said, pointing to a fluff of green in her garden, ''The chickens love these.''

She also plants herbs and flowers that are natural pest repellants. Marigolds are used to repel mosquitos. Her garden is full of marigold bushes.

'I dry these flowers in my dehydrator and feed them to the chickens,'' she said. ''I also read when you feed them red or orange flowers, it makes their yolks more … orange-er… orangey-er? I don’t know if that makes them healthier, but omega-3s are healthy. I don’t know what color omega-3s are, though.''

As she moves around the garden, she points out the tomatillos, jalapenos, onions. ''I think my favorite vegetables are tomatoes,'' she said. ''They’re so versatile — salads, salsa, soup. And, they’re so easy to grow.''

She stops herself mid-laugh, ''But tomatoes are technically fruits,'' she said.

Even people who have brown thumbs can find success in a garden, Carbullido-White said.

''Things in pots usually don't live with me,'' she said. ''They have to be outside where Mother Nature can help me. Me on my own cannot keep a plant alive. Me and Mother Nature, though, we can tag team this.''

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