When my family and I moved into our home—Potager Cottage—it was the first place I’d lived that offered me the space and opportunity to develop a significant amount of dirt into whatever my creative spirit desired (within the limits of the landlord’s restrictions and our own funds, of course). I had visions of how our little homestead would evolve. An abundant and overflowing potager kitchen garden with flowers all around, drought-resistant ground cover to run and play on, a rich compost heap, and chickens (and bees, and maybe a goat). I imagined us sitting comfortably outside on garden chairs, sipping my husband Klee’s home-brewed kombucha and chatting with neighbors. On weekends, I envisioned us opening up our side yard as a farm stand to sell our abundance of excess produce and Klee’s canned delectables.
Urban-farm fantasies are fun, but the urban farm life takes a certain sort of person. Do you have what it takes to be an urban farmer? If you’re asking yourself that question right now, here are a few clues as to whether or not you’re urban farmer material.
All clothing purchases have to pass the, ‘could I garden in this?’ test.
Does it have pockets? Is it washable? Can I bend over in it?
You get to the store and realize you’re wearing your sloggers … and your apron … and there’s an egg in your pocket.
You drive around with a spare pair of garden gloves and plastic in the back of the car—just in case you stop at the nursery.
You’ll also find straw and dirt (one hopes) on the driver’s side floor mat at all times.
You imagine all the amazing things you could do with all the empty lots you pass while driving down the road.
Your Pinterest boards have titles like, “Dream Coops,” “Goats!” “Garden Hacks,” or “Edible Weeds.”
Weather is mostly relevant in the way that it affects your garden.
It’s going to rain on Tuesday. Awesome, I don’t have to water today! It’ll be sunny next week. Oh good, the peas will like that.
You fantasize about root cellars and canning pantries.
There are random bowls and jars of water (with cuttings or seeds soaking in them) scattered around the kitchen and beyond.
You refer to your seedlings as babies.
And you Instagram them with immense pride. And, you get 100 hearts and comments because all of your Instafriends are farmies, too.
All plant failures are a personal affront to you.
You see each failure as a puzzle to be solved. You keep a journal of the various methods you’ve employed to solve said failures. You celebrate each success, taking a multitude of photos to document the event, and sharing the news with anyone who will tolerate listening to your riveting urban farm tales.
A mouse in your house is upsetting, but a vole in your garden is war.
You get excited when you see worms in your soil.
You see a snail and think, “Ooh, the chickens will love that!”
Spiders, beetles, centipedes, mud … ain’t no thang.
Bees, ladybugs and hummingbirds make you feel accepted—like you’re doing something right.
You’re not bothered by the thought of a few aphids making it into your dinner.
Shrug. “Aah, if it’s good enough for the chickens, it’s good enough for me!”
Your chickens all have names.
All of your closest friends know your chickens by name because you talk about them incessantly.
“…and then Helen totally swiped the strawberry from Frida and Frida was like, ‘Oh no you di’nt!’”
And you know all the names of your Instafriend’s chickens, too, because you follow their sagas with enormous interest.
You hear a fun name and think, “I’ll name my next chicken that!”
You answer back to your chickens.
Yes, they’re talking to you!
You own a chicken diaper.
It’s a thing. And you want a chicken swing for your birthday.
Your dogs think nothing of the chicken that just drank their water or the bunny that’s nibbling the flowers next to them.
You overhear your 5-year-old schooling the neighbors on how to handle the chickens or pull a carrot.
You’ve measured your yard to see if you can fit in a mini cow.
They’re real—Google it.
You know that mini-cows are real.
You know that lasagna gardening isn’t a garden full of tomatoes, basil and oregano.
Three Sisters means more to you than the girls you grew up with.
You know what square foot gardening is.
You know companion planting doesn’t mean seeding your garden beds next to your buddies.
You know permaculture is a word.
Despite what spellcheck tries to tell you.
You lose your sense of time in the garden.
You emerge full with contentment and feel more yourself there than anywhere else on earth.