Urban Homestead



Why are we Urban Homesteading?

Read this post.

What is an Urban Homestead? What is Urban Homesteading?

Based on the notion of homesteading, as a lifestyle of simple, agrarian self-sufficiency. To me, urban homesteading is about 'self sufficient-ish' living in the city, or a non-rural area. It's like having a farm in your backyard. A food forest in your garden. Equipment and resources in your shed. And the skills and knowledge to provide some basic aspects of living for yourself and your family. 'Self Sufficient-ish' (or perhaps, almost self sufficient living) is how I prefer to think about, because being completely self sufficient is near impossible, and I would think, rather lonely!

"Urban homesteading is an affirmation of the simple pleasures of life." From The Urban Homestead book, by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen.

Why do it? What are the benefits to Urban Homesteading?
  • Satisfaction from creating, growing, trouble shooting, connecting, accomplishing
  • Health from getting out in the fresh air, doing some exercise, eating better and generally feeling good about yourself (see Satisfaction)
  • Environmental benefits from less carbon emissions, reliance on fossil fuels, pollution and waste
  • Be 'Ethically-minded' by looking after the land, the animals and communities, knowing where your food (& other stuff) comes from, and who might have been affected by it's production 
  • Security of being able to feed & provide for yourself, your kids, your loved ones & perhaps your community, in times of rising food & energy costs, food unavailability, unemployment, environmental breakdown etc.
  • Education & awareness for your kids, about the life cycles of what they eat & consume
  • Being good role models for your kids, your community & the world in general - lead by example, show people that it can fun and rewarding
 
Why & What are Permaculture Principles?

"Permaculture (permanent agriculture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way." Learn more about Permaculture, here.

When we first started out we knew we wanted to grow organic food and set up a mini 'food forest' system. Now, with more Permaculture knowledge under our belts, we know more, and want to do more! Permaculture, very simply put, is a way of designing your garden to work with, rather than against, nature. The idea is to create an edible garden that requires less work, for more reward & yield, and do so in a lower impact, smarter way. It covers garden design, smart use of resources, problem solving (ie. pest & disease), companion (or guild) planting, conditioning soil, using resources you have on site, and many other aspects. I highly recommend this book to help you get started: The Vegetable Gardener's Guide to Permaculture: Creating an Edible Ecosystem (buy it wherever you like, the online book seller linked to simply gives you an inside look, that's why I used that link!) If you are looking for more information, or courses to undertake, I also recommend Milkwood Permaculture, or find a local group near you.

To me, permaculture extends beyond growing food or incorporating livestock into your backyard. It involves Principles that can guide your everyday life, and is worth reading more about here.

Want to Create Your Own Urban Homestead?

If you want to create an urban homestead on your block, or even on your patio or in your courtyard, consider the following areas, as we did and still are working on:
  • Water Harvesting & Storage
  • Food Preservation & Storage
  • 'Alternative' Energy
  • Recycling/ Resources
  • Annuals Growing Area
  • Perennials Growing Areas (including fruit trees & berries)
  • Other Growing/ Edible Areas
  • Tools, Seeds, Equipment
  • Knowledge & Skills
  • Be Prepared/ Contingency Plans
  • Community Resilience
  • Lower Impact Lifestyle

Urban Homesteading Skills, Knowledge and Activities
  • growing your own organic food (using Permaculture principles), from propagation, seed saving, organic pest solutions, homemade organic fertiliser, composting, soil conditioning, worm farming, container vege's, harvesting, bush tucker, culinary and medicinal herbs, and more...
  • preserving, esp. the food you have grown, including dehydrating, canning (in jars), making preserves, jam and pickles, fermenting and smoking
  • raising backyard animals, from worm farms, to chickens, rabbits or maybe even a goat, as well as bees, and fish
  • making your own: food from 'scratch' - including yoghurt, labna and cheese; beer, wine and other beverages; bread, crackers and pasta
  • making your own: clothes, homewares and presents - from knitting, to sewing, to crochet, spinning & dying wool, felting, reconstructing; woodworking, craft and many more
  • making your own: soap, toiletries and beauty products - such as skin care, and hair care
  • making your own: herbal and medicinal remedies, and gaining the huge amount of knowledge to use them safely
  • cleaning, and housekeeping, using homemade natural cleaning agents, and homegrown/ home made tools, plus pest control, equipment repair and maintenance
  • first aid, camping and bush survival skills
  • frugal living - being resourceful, making do, meal planning and using up leftovers, bartering
  • building community bonds and resilience, such as community groups

Adapting in Place

There comes a point (or two!), where an Urban Homesteader wonders if they should be putting their effort into a 'real' homestead. They start thinking that being somewhere rural would be ideal, where they could expand on what they are doing in their 'backyard', or leave their job(s) and just focus on homesteading. You might start to feel this way, the more you learn about peak oil, climate change and economic collapse. You might wish for cows and pigs, your own grain mill, maybe a whole field of corn. Or it can come about because it can be downright exhausting at times, trying to balance the 'real world', with all the skills, knowledge and effort they are also putting into their 'hobby'!

 
But most people who have been doing some 'backyard homesteading', like growing their own organic food, keeping some chickens, preserving their own food, or making their own clothes etc., understands that the reality is hard work, it's not like an article in a glossy lifestyle magazine, or as easy as you might think from reading about it in a book, or on a blog. I can only imagine what it takes to be a farmer, how extremely hard the physical and emotional work that living on the land would be. For some, it might work out wonderfully, but for us, we have the best of both worlds, in that here in suburbia, we have jobs & savings, we have education & healthcare available to us, we have a reasonable size block & a house with all the mod-con's, and we have a back up if our plans/ produce fail for some reason. Most people are not in a position to just sell up & move anyway, so it is best to 'adapt in place' and keep learning what you can, where you can!

Advice
  • Don't take on too much at once - learn or buy one thing at a time, then take the next step and build on your skills, knowledge and resources as you can
  • Borrow, or buy, some good books - there are so many books that cover alot of things, but books on more specific topics are worth investing in
  • Join a local group to share skills & experiences - knitting group, poultry club, a 'mens shed', a gardening group, or if you are lucky, an Urban Homesteaders Club!