Thursday, March 31, 2011

True Confessions of An Urban Homesteader

Lately I've been feeling a bit less than in the urban homesteading department.  We've had rain for almost a month solid, and aside from the 17 things we have planted not much is going on around the urban homestead yet this spring.  We don't really get to have fun in the garden here until around April due to our lengthy Northern Coast rainy season.  So today as I was feeling somewhat like an urban homesteading loser I came across this awesome post by Half Acre Homestead titled "At What Point Am I Real?"  Her post pretty much sums up the conundrum we as urban homesteaders can face when surrounded by the multitude of urban homesteaders, all trying to live self sufficiently.  It can be overwhelming, let's face it!  Being the main admin for the Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) page I'm inundated by hundreds if not thousands of incredible urban homesteaders every day on line through blogs, web pages, articles, etc. and it's both amazing and terrifying at times.  While I love all of the new ideas and information I'm amassing I have to be careful not to end up on "urban homestead overload."

This is our second season here on the homestead, and even though Ron has worked in horticulture since high school and has a green thumb the size of New York we're still figuring out what grows well here, how to grow it, what not to grow, and on and on.  We just got chickens, so we're obviously newbie urban homesteaders.  I'm finally coming to the revelation that urban homesteading is not a race, but a slow steady individual process.  Changing a person's lifestyle takes time, especially if you're going to do it right.  Some people take to it quickly and within a few months are transformed into urban homesteading super heros gardening, canning, raising chickens and spinning their own organic threads and fibers over night, while others, (like us), take a few years adding slowly to our urban homesteading repitoire over time.


I think one of the important things to consider when doing urban homesteading is priorities.  For us growing our own greens was at the top of the list, so we started our garden as soon as possible.  We live close to the bay and our soil was sandy and extremely nutrient deficient.  Last year our garden was the main focus, so any extra time we had went there.  This year it's chickens, and between building the coop and raising 6 little hens we have our hands full.  Some of our future goals include:  bee keeping, aqua culture, water catchment system, soap making, fiber spinning and the list goes on!  Since there are so many possibilities I think it's a good idea to make up a "urban homesteading planning" list.  If you prioritize your interests from "must haves" to "can wait" the process becomes a lot less daunting and you can actually get something done.  You should buy the books, find your favorite blogs and websites, and see them as resources for your individual lifestyle, but don't feel like you have to do everything at once.  If you start to feel too overwhelmed take a step back and look at what is the most important to you, then focus on that.

Here is my long and short lists of our urban homesteading priorities, and the "have done" "in process" and "to do's."

pallet compost bins (2)
raised beds (9)
compost rich soil for raised beds
veggies growing/planted (14)
fruit trees (3)
blue berry bushes (5)
herb garden
chickens (6)
bunny (1)
frogs (imported to our pond)
wild birds (new to our property
since we planted flowers)

bread making
cooking with veggies/herbs

In Process Now:
chicken coop
green house

To Do This Spring/Summer:
fruit trees (2-3)
rain catchment & irrigation system

soap/shampoo making/bath salts

To Do (Future):
aqua culture
bat box

dying fabric

So what are your top urban homesteading priorities?


  1. Great Post! I think you nailed it. To me, it is first about awareness, then process.

    My top priortitythis summer is to determine what method of gardening works best for me. Row? Squarefooot? SIPs?

  2. This is a great post (I also read Half Acre's post); I feel like a wannabe most days. I want to do much more, but because we know this is not our permanent home, I'm so hesitant to undertake large projects (ie: goats or planting fruit trees). For now, I will have to be perfectly content with my veggie garden :)

  3. I definitely agree with you! Urban homesteading is daunting and sometimes overwhelming - especially if you're just starting out. I'm a student (non-traditional) and sometimes even the small changes like baking bread are hard to fit into my schedule. It's frustrating - and you're right about prioritizing! My first goal (like yours) was to get the garden going. Now that the beds are prepared I'm just waiting for the day to transplant. I started carrots this week but I've never grown carrots before so I'm not sure how they'll turn out...and the waiting begins.

    My next goal is to make soap at home-I've got the lye and soap-making books on hand; I'm just waiting for the time. I think I'll follow your lead and make a list. At least that way I'll feel like I'm accomplishing something even when I'm caught up with school. Thanks for the post!