Swimmer Natalie Coughlin, 29, was the most decorated female athlete at both the 2004 Athens and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In Beijing, she became the first U.S. woman to medal six times during a single Games, giving her a lifetime total of 11. [Update: Coughlin's medal total is now 12.] She hopes to add to that number this summer at the 30th Olympiad in London.
Besides swimming, Coughlin's passions include food, gardening, and the five chickens she keeps in her backyard in Lafayette, California.
Avital Andrews from Sierra magazine interviewed Natalie to find out more about her gold-medal habits.
SIERRA: What do you mean when you call yourself an "urban farmer"?
Natalie: I grow a lot of my own food and have replaced a lot of our landscaping with edibles. We have 10 citrus trees, seven seasonal vegetable beds, and five chickens for eggs. We're considering honeybees next. For a while we were thinking about goats but realized that would have been ridiculous and too much to handle between our two dogs and five chickens and my travel schedule.
SIERRA: When will you decide about the bees?
Natalie: I’ll probably wait until after the Olympics and then dive into that project. Right now we have several mason bee houses, to give them a refuge and encourage them to come pollinate all our fruits and vegetables. I definitely notice a difference this summer, versus the previous summer — a lot more of our flowers are turning into fruit.
SIERRA: How did you pick up gardening as a hobby?
Natalie: When I was a kid, I had a 90-year-old neighbor — she could stick anything in the ground and it would grow and flourish. We'd always play in her garden. I still have the colander that she used to make potpourri from her roses. A lot of people in my life have had backyard gardens so when I was looking to buy a home, that was one of the requirements. I think it was just a desire to learn more about the seasons and about where food comes from.