When I got my first set of chickens (if you’ve followed me on Instagram at all, you’ll know Georgia the want-to-be house chicken who has a HUGE personality- she’s one of that bunch!) I got some very skeptical comments, essentially wondering why as a single, young, twenty-something I wanted chickens, why I wanted to live in the ‘burbs, or why my end game is a homestead in general. I feel like many people have big misconceptions as to what an urban homestead (or a homestead at all!) is, and why people want them- and thus the raised eyebrows and curious stares.
However, as I started to share more and more about my life, what makes me happy, and why I love growing my own food and raising livestock people started to understand that I didn’t eschew ‘normal’ life for a farm life, but rather added to what my life had been. As the years went on, I noticed a change in many facets of understanding in America, more and more people were looking to add things that make them happy and kept them fed into their lives. You see little bits of self-sufficiency pop up, from mini herb gardens on a windowsill to regrowing kitchen scraps, to full balconies of downtown apartments filled to the brim with tomato plants, hanging baskets of strawberries, and potatoes being grown in five gallon buckets. As the world gets more and more unpredictable and what feels like crazy, going back to a simpler time and getting the satisfaction of that can make you feel more at ease and in control of your own life.
And then came Covid-19 which flipped the world on its axis. Almost overnight I went from the fun, slightly crazy chicken lady down the street to a reliable food source, and that exactly is why I want to homestead! I want to be in charge of what goes into my body and when, I want the satisfaction of seeing something grow or grow up and reach its full potential, I want to be able to teach my future kiddos so many of the amazing lessons that my mother taught me, that plants can be tools and animals are family while giving back sustenance! All over the world and especially here in America, we have progressed so much in technology that many of us no longer had a connection to how we actually flourish.
Why URBAN Homesteading?
I get this question often: if you know you want land in the country, why did you buy a house in the city?
The simple answer is ‘I’m not ready yet!’ As much as my childhood has given me a head start on how to learn how to work with land and animals, I have SO much more to learn, and on top of that I’m not quite ready to leave the convince of the city. And that right there is why urban homesteading is so amazing- you choose what you want to do with your space and and have the comfort of knowing that if you make a mistake and your tomato plants somehow die for no apparent reason that you have a grocery store right down the street.
Also, because I have a limited amount of space I have to prioritize what is important. What kind of things do I want to focus on, how many animals can I keep safely and with the best quality of life? Learning lessons like these is so important to me because I know I am very much so an ‘all or nothing’ kind of person. I’d be that newbie homesteader that wants 50 chickens and feels incredibly overwhelmed so instead I started out with four, then six, now ten and have learned along the way. I learned things like getting a smaller chicken waterer that fits through the door of my chicken coop (like this one from MannaPro) is important so I don’t spill water all over the shavings in the coop mid-winter (yep, did that) and that you can use scratch grains to help you till your raised beds from chicken scratchings!
I also learned that chickens WILL EAT EVERYTHING, so building fences around your low-profile raised beds is a necessity if you want to actually harvest veggies from your garden. And while figuring that out, I learned how to build my own picket fence, how to use the tools to make perfect angles, and that I needed to space the pickets out at a certain distance so sneaky chickens couldn’t make their way through. I love having the ability to mess up often without that much of a repercussion- I get to be self-sufficient with a safety net and it gives me the confidence to keep learning.
I know that many of you reading this don’t necessarily *want* the ten acres in the country and instead are perfectly happy creating an oasis in the middle of the city. And that in itself is amazing as well! I’m using my urban homestead as a learning interim, but you don’t have to! If you look at people like Deanna Cat (she’s an INCREDIBLE Instagrammer) she made her in-city space one of the coolest, most prolific, and beautiful homesteads I’ve ever seen. You have the choice to make your homestead what you want- and whether you’re in the city or in the woods you get to feel confident in the knowledge that you can control your body, that you can help out your community when the grocery shelves are bare, that you’re learning how to create and sustain life, and that you can pass that knowledge on to future generations. And if you’d like, like I do, you can mesh your two worlds together and sit on your Instagram Live story in the middle of your yard and showcase your chicken’s personalities to a interconnected world outside of your physical community. And that is special.
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