Not everyone can do as my family did and buy an old homestead, build your own house, and live-off-the-grid. Jobs and social ties keep families in suburbs and cities, and there is a good reason people tend to congregate together in living situations. Being self-sustainable does not mean doing it all alone. Community is vital to green living, and in fact, many aspects of city life are greener than living in the country (i.e. public transportation, walking to work/school, etc.). The fact that many city dwellers want to get back to the land has sparked an “urban homesteading” movement. Here are five tips to help your family become urban homesteaders:
- Grow food and herbs in your yard or patio: If you have a yard, plant it with edibles! An edible lawn will be the envy of the neighborhood. My friend’s lawn in Eugene doesn’t contain any grass at all. The Dervaes family of Pasadena grows 3 tons of food on only 1/10 acre! Even if you don’t have a yard, many herbs and vegetables can be grown in pots. I have grown habenero peppers, basil, and lettuce in pots during my college apartment years.
- Do-it-yourself: When you live on a rural homestead and something breaks, you fix it yourself. If you don’t know how to make the repairs, you ask a neighbor. The same goes for parts: most rural homesteads have a boneyard where spare parts are stored for just such a time when there is a need. When you live far from town, repairmen/women charge a fortune in travel time. Usually, the community has the knowledge to repair anything, and their is no reason this simple aspect of country living couldn’t be copied in an urban environment. Helping your neighbors is very sustainable, as it saves money, cuts down on transportation, and supports a positive relationship in the neighborhood. Neighbors often trade for their services, keeping local goods in the local community.
- Shop local and in the neighborhood: When you live in the country and you run out of eggs, you don’t drive two hours to town: you ask your neighbor. Get to know your community,and you may just discover other urban homesteaders that would share their bounty with you, whether for trade or money. What comes around goes around works on both the rural and urban homestead.
- Cook your food: Making your food from scratch is not only healthier for you, but it is required when you live on a rural homestead hours from the nearest restaurant. The fact that cookbook sales are rising with gas prices shows that people are cooking more. Not only growing, but cooking your own food is a big step in self-sufficiency.
- Take up a craft: Many crafts served a vital part in family life before industrialization. Weaving, sewing, knitting, soap making, woodworking,etc. are all ways you can create for your needs and for gift giving. Handmade goods are special, because they are made with loving hands.
Many modern day urban homesteaders keep chickens or other small animals, but some cities have ordinances against this practice. These ordinances need changed, and this is possible when urban homesteaders unite. Food is a big part of homesteading, as well as simplifying your life. Doing what you can to do on both of these fronts is the first step to becoming an urban homesteader.
Related posts on homesteading:
- Modern Day Homesteading and Voluntary Simplicity: Giving Away Your Possessions and Living Off the Land
- Weekend Review: Rural Renaissance: Renewing the Quest for the Good Life
Amy Jussel says
We have a cabin in the Rockies off the grid (all solar, propane, etc.) and one of the things I love is the small ‘give one get one’ boxes in town where people swap their goods in old-fashioned barter mode. (e.g. when everything comes ripe at once, there’s no way you’re gonna use it all, so why not ‘trade’ for other goods/produce from someone else’s garden or passion project)
Saw this mirrored in Nevada City on a street corner recently too…so it CAN be done in an honor system, communal way! (and some amazing produce too!) I may try it here on my funky little island…using an herb garden to get folks started!)