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6 Life Lessons I’ve Learned in Urban Homesteading

Sep 9, 2014 4 min readSelf-Improvement
Photo of Nicole Miller
Nicole Miller

Director of People @ Buffer

In February, my husband and I jumped head-first into urban farming — starting our summer garden from seeds. It then developed into an even larger endeavor when we added 13 chicks into our home. And then four ducks. And then three more chickens…

The past several months have been a blur between brooding chicks, building coops, free-ranging, fixing fencing, gardening and finding eggs.

As I look back upon these summer months, several distinct themes come to mind — and boy, do they ripple beyond our little urban homestead.


1. No matter how much you try, you cannot control everything.

When we first let the chickens out of the coop to free-range, I just about lost my mind, terrified that I couldn’t protect them behind wire or a metal brooder. There were so many things they could get into—so many dangers for such fragile animals.

And of course, these chickens tested every boundary and discovered more chaos than even I anticipated. The first night we let them out, we waited until dark to put them back in their cage. We’d been told that they naturally would return to their home at night. And we went to the coop that night and found it EMPTY. I tried not to panic as we searched with iPhone flashlights through the half-acre sized backyard. There are plenty of hiding places, but after 20 minutes of searching, I was convinced they had all been eaten or beamed up by aliens (not logical, I know.)

Then, my light caught the glimmer of eyeballs in a bush along our fence line. All 13 chickens were tucked into the branches, safely hidden from predators and humans alike. We carried them to their home and locked them up, but this song and dance repeated several times until we got into the right habit of returning to their coop at night.

The truth is, I couldn’t control them and I couldn’t even anticipate what they might do next. But it’s okay. It’s best to roll with the punches. You never know what stories might come of it.

pepper heaven

2. Sometimes things go better than you planned.

Though we planted a garden last year from starts, we decided to go full-steam ahead and plant from seeds. We set up a cart in the kitchen with grow lights and all. Realizing not all seedlings make it to fruition, we planted more than double what we needed.

And nearly all of the seeds took hold! We ended up with more than 113 pepper plants alone.

But we went with it and expanded the garden to accommodate the plethora of peppers. Treasure these times of abundance!

water birds 7

3. The joy is in the little moments.

You won’t find a more entertaining animal on the face of the earth than ducks. I’m convinced. Our four ducks constantly waddle around, quacking and squeaking and chasing bugs. And when they jump into their pool, it’s pure heaven. They find so much joy in every moment and it’s a daily reminder for me to make the most of these times.

Live it up. Splash and quack like no one’s watching.


4. Think outside the box.

We were able to reasonably build a summer-coop for our birds out of a repurposed plant bed and plastic greenhouse. It provides good protection and air flow for the summer months while we work on the construction of a larger, warmer coop for the fall and winter.

By using materials we already had, we kept our investment lower and I felt we stuck truer to the ideals behind homesteading — making the most of what you have and living off the land. Sometimes, you’ll have what you need right in front of you. It just might take a different perspective to see the potential.

surprise egg nest4

5. Sometimes the nest of eggs isn’t where you expect them…

When the chickens began to lay eggs, we weren’t quite prepared. We lost track of time and didn’t even realize how old our girls were! So we didn’t have a nesting box in their coop, but our chickens can definitely think outside the box (in fact, they still won’t lay in the box.) They created nests of their own throughout the backyard — sometimes in hidden places we didn’t discover for days!

We kept watching the nesting box, or their original nest under a pile of branches. We didn’t pay attention to the other places they were nesting in.

Keep an open mind. Look to all possibilities. Count on the unexpected. Delight in the results.

eggs post 10

6. Simple is better.

Though I no longer consider urban homesteading to be simple, I do recognize that the true joy in it is simple. It’s a taste of our history, a taste of sustenance without the middleman. It’s a collection of quiet moments that fulfill and recharge.

Urban homesteading isn’t for everyone—but moments of simple and quiet are within reach. Allow yourself moments to refuel and reinvigorate your love of life, of the genuine things in life.

Did any of these lessons resonate with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

This post originally appeared on my personal blog, Confessions of a Former Rodeo Queen. Read more urban homesteading and life lessons there.

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