Last summer was when we first brought home chickens. It was the beginning of July and so marked the beginning of this homesteading journey that we had no idea we were setting out on at that time. With this also being my 100th blog post, I thought it the right moment to stop and reflect on the past year, where my family and I started, what I’ve learned and share a few highlights. So I give you, the top 10 things I love about our little urban homestead life, as discovered in the first year.
1. Fresh Produce – The joy of going out to the garden each day to see what is ready to be harvested. Planning our meals around the fresh produce we have available and knowing that it was grown with lots of care and careful planning and without the use of chemicals and pesticides. Fresh produce from our backyard garden is the best.
2. Fresh Eggs – Just as wonderful as the fresh produce, fresh eggs from our delightful backyard flock makes every day feel just a little like Christmas and Easter. There is a difference between grocery store eggs and fresh pasture raised eggs, yes they are healthier, the yolks are vibrantly orange and perky, but they also have more substance to them, they aren’t watery and plain. You actually have to chew fresh, pastured eggs. Weird I know, but I just don’t know any other way to describe this difference. They seem more like a real food than those old grocery store eggs.
3. The Chickens – Another benefit of having a backyard flock is the chickens themselves. For me, the hens are a constant source of entertainment and stress relief. I just cannot help but giggle when the girls get to running across the yard, whether it’s to great me (the feeder) or to race from one shady patch to the other. Oh and the chicks are even funnier. They hop, flap and scramble to close ranks across the yard, running in single file, following the leader, even if he is headed directly into the fence they no longer fit through. Then they have to snake their way around the gate to make their way back into the chicken yard. Just watching chickens and chicks be just that, is great therapy. Watching my broody talk to, teach, protect and care for her clutch this spring was almost magical. Nature at work as it should be, that is a great source of pleasure.
4. Learning and Trying New Things – This, our first year has been the year of many firsts. From bread and tortilla making to keeping chickens and hatching eggs. Growing new vegetables in the garden, lacto-fermenting our cabbage into sauerkraut (If you have never tried sauerkraut made this way, you really are missing out). The May Meet-Up was a brand new experience. Oh and I checked a big new experience off the list recently when I purchased our first half-gallon of raw goat’s milk. The 3 of us easily drank down half of it before I took the last quart and turned it into another first when I made a small batch of fresh Farm Cheese. That was to fun! To say it has been fun discovering all the “do-it-yourself” things that are out there would be a gross understatement of large proportions. With each new success comes the confidence and drive to add more “must try’s” to our list.
5. Overcoming Fears – With all these new experiences comes some fear and trepidation. I will openly admit I was just as apprehensive about tasting raw goat’s milk for the first time as I was excited to finally get to taste raw goat’s milk for the first time. But my biggest anxiety thus far has been learning to pressure can. This surpasses the uneasiness that comes with learning to cull that first chicken. Still trying to figure it out but what did happen was The Hubs and I working together to learn this new skill. He admitted he was a little nervous too, until he read the manufacturer’s directions, he ACTUALLY read them! We may not have conquered the pressure canner as of yet, but we are in the process (pun intended)
6. Getting my Hands Dirty – It’s as simple as it sounds; there is no greater therapy for me than gardening.
7. Accepting Failures as Lessons – It hasn’t been all rosy and drama free. We’ve lost hens, baked loaves of bread better suited for masonry work. There have been garden flops from frost to insects to chicken demolition crews. But from every failure has come a lesson learned. With each lesson has come personal growth and a broader knowledge base. Without failures there really is no growth. So I graciously (but not without some tears) accept all the failures, both grand and trivial.
8. Patience – Patience is a learned skill and one that is vital in homesteading, farming, gardening, all aspects of “doing” for yourself. You cannot rush a hen to lay an egg. No rushing a seed to sprout or a plant to grow or set fruit. Bread needs time to rise. Patience is not something we all have in this instant world we live in but as I practice homesteading skills I discover how vital a skill it is, one long forgotten as my daughter has grown and gained independence over the years. It is hard to return to the patient side of life but it is helpful in relieving stress and undue pressure. The whole “stop and smell the roses” cliché comes to the forefront as a necessity and an actual way of life.
9. New Found Friends & Community – Meeting like-minded folks from all over the country, world even. From fellow backyard, urban homesteaders to those on acreage, living off grid or taking a stab at building a full-fledged working farm, each individual has been a great source of drive, support, strength and knowledge. This continues to prove to be a delightful by-product of this little blogging adventure. I have made new friends that live both near and far. Most I have not met in person, nor may I ever, but they are still an integral part of my life now.
10. Who I See When I Look in the Mirror – I am not in my twenties, heck I am rapidly running out of my thirties too. I am not thin, nor am I content with the size I am. What I see when I look in the mirror runs deeper than these surface details. It is a woman (though I still feel like a girl, or more often, a 10-year-old boy), a woman, one who is finally figuring out what happiness truly is. One who is throwing aside the materialistic wants that so easily can be mistaken for needs. A woman who speaks with confidence, compassion and honesty without fear of what the listener may think. No longer do I worry so much about what someone thinks of what I am doing or why. I don’t use my words to convey the love and respect I am now living my life with. I use my actions. The level of self-confidence I carry now is the most fantastic treasure I have discovered, and so soon in my journey. As I stand at the threshold of this new chapter in my life I am already learning that stumbling is inevitable but using the bumps as building blocks as opposed to stones in a wall I can only continue to grow and flourish. For the first time in my life, I know I am where I need to be.
I want to thank each and every one of you for following along as we find our way on this new journey. I hope you have enjoyed the ride as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you. Thank you.