Urban Homesteading: Where To Begin

Urban homesteading is about finding a level of self sufficiency even when surrounded by the modern world. It’s about taking a step back, using the land and sun as an energy source, reducing your carbon footprint and perhaps growing/raising your own food- without doing so on acres and acres of land in the country. 

Life is all about the balance, about doing your best to be a good human and living consciously. That looks completely different for each of us, for some of us that means taking a baby step off the grid- and we can do that without leaving behind our city life. If you are curious about urban homesteading this post will give you enough to learn how to “dip your toes” in the Urban Homesteading life- if you are already well on your way to Urban Homesteading then check out Jeanine’s blog from The Urban Homesteader or UrbanHomestead.org. Both of these blogs are excellent resources to turn to, created by seasoned Urban Homesteaders and are a trusty resource for you! 

So what is urban homesteading exactly? 

Urban homesteading is far more than just a trend, it’s a lifestyle choice that has been around for ages- well since the first “cities” came about. As our cities continue to grow, as technology continues to take over and as energy continues to be used, urban homesteading may begin to become more popular-but not just because it’s cool or trendy, but because, in some opinions, having some self reliance is just the right thing to do, not to mention healthy. This could just be a simple veggie garden that you have in your backyard- you don’t have to become full on self sufficient. 

Urban homesteading has a lot of different aspects to it, including, but not limited to the following: 

  • Resource reduction: using solar/alternative energy sources, harvesting rainwater, using greywater, line drying clothes, using alternative transportation such as bicycles and buses
  • Raising animals, including chickens, goats, rabbits, fish, worms, and/or bees
  • Edible landscaping: growing fruit, vegetables, culinary and medicinal plants, converting lawns into gardens
  • Self-sufficient living: re-using, repairing, and recycling items; homemade products
  • Food preservation including canning, drying, freezing, cheese-making, and fermenting
  • Community food-sourcing such as foraging, gleaning, and trading
  • Natural building
  • Composting

Here are a few definitions of what an urban homestead is: 

1. a suburban or city home in which residents practice self-sufficiency through home food production and storage.

2. the home and garden of a person or family engaging in sustainable small-scale agriculture and related activities designed to reduce environmental impact and increase self-sufficiency.

3. a name describing the home of a person or family living by principals of low-impact, sustainable self-sufficiency through activities such as gardening for food production, cottage industry, extensive recycling, and generally simple living.

An Urban Homesteader Is:

1. a person who practices self-sufficiency through home food production and simple living in a city or suburban environment.

2. a person who transforms a city or suburban property into a home that produces some or all of its residents own food and other basic needs with the goal of reducing environmental impact while increasing self-sufficiency.

3. someone participating in the movement of 21st century eco-pioneers striving to create a better world for themselves and others by exemplifying a self-sufficient, sustainable, ecologically sound return to home-based agriculture, industry, and family life.

How To Begin

1. Start Gardening

This is perhaps the most important step to urban homesteading. Even by producing just  a couple of your own veggies, you are making a big impact. Herbs can be grown in window sills if you are tight on backyard space (or live in an apartment), tomatoes are easy to grow...and there is nothing like eating your own home grown tomatoes. If you don’t have a green thumb, don’t fret, you’ll eventually get it. There are so many resources out there. A good first step is start tracking where the sun hits your back yard and at what times. Then take that info to a local nursery and they can help guide you in the right direction as far as what to plant. Easy peasy :) 

2. Compost

This is huge! Making your own compost is so good for the environment and can even be fun. Banana peels, coffee grounds, egg shells, grass clippings, etc all add to your compost. You’re turning your waste into nutrient rich fertilizer that you can turn around and use for your garden. There are several different ways you can start a compost pile, just choose whatever way is best for you! 

3. Cut Waste

Mmm...a big urban homesteading tip :) as a conscious human, this is probably already on your mind. We made a list of 19 tips to reduce waste that you can start to implement this week. It is possible to get your trash down to a single mason jar for an entire year. Crazy, right? But just remember, even a little bit goes a long way. Here are the 19 waste reducing tips. 

4. Start To Make Your Own Household Products 

If you are a DIY lover then you’ll have fun with this one. Learning how to make your own products is fun and eco friendly. Here are a couple of ideas:

1. Make your own toothpaste.

Baking soda is a natural teeth whitener, so there is no more need to pick out toothpaste that has “whitens your teeth” on the packaging. This recipe already has that covered for ya! Coconut oil is also good for your teeth, and on a side note, is commonly used for oil pulling. 

You only need three ingredients to make your own toothpaste. Keep it in a jar, and walla! 

Here is how you make it:

2 tablespoons organic coconut oil
1 tablespoon baking soda
20 drops organic pure peppermint oil 

Mix all the ingredients in a little jar and use a spoon to put a little bit on your toothbrush, and brush away. 

No dentists have gotten mad at anyone that we know for using this mix! 

2. Stay smelling fresh, opt out of parabens , make your own deodorant. 

Here is a recipe that we like from Mommypotamus, and you can add whatever essential oils you like to it.

Ingredients
3/4 cup arrowroot powder/cornstarch (non-gmo) 
1/4 cup baking soda
4-6 tablespoons melted coconut oil
*optional essential oil of choice 

Directions
1. Combine baking soda and arrowroot powder/cornstarch.
2. Add four tablespoons melted coconut oil and mix with a fork. Continue adding coconut oil until the deodorant reaches your preferred consistency. (Use 10-20 drops off essential oil, if choosing to do so) 
3. Transfer mixture to a jar with a tight fitting lid.

Good essential oils for deodorant: 
lemongrass
thyme
lavender
tea tree
rosemary
geranium
lemon

3. Household cleaner: opt for soap and water.  

Plastic bottles...chemicals...we just don’t need it. When do we truly need surface cleaner? Going on a limb here and saying...never. Soap and water typically does the trick. And if it doesn’t, vinegar will. If you like the smell of cleaners, add some essential oil to your soap and water mixture. Here is a natural cleaner that you can make yourself to have on hand when soap and water won’t cut it.

½ cup water
½ cup distilled white vinegar
20 drops Tea Tree, Lemon or Eucalyptus oil  

5. Repurpose, Reuse

egg-shell-for-plants.jpg

This Urban Homesteading tip goes along the same lines of reducing your waste consumption. It’s just about being mindful of what you throw away and thinking creatively on how to reuse your materials. Here are some tips from Webecoist

“From egg shells to old t-shirts, there are hundreds of additional uses for everyday things that you likely throw into the trash on a regular basis. Turn egg shells, toilet paper rolls or egg cartons into seed starting containers, lay down cardboard boxes in the garden as a weed barrier, use glass bottles and jars as vases or for storage, and turn cereal boxes inside-out to use as shipping boxes. Every time you think you need to replace something that’s broken, ask yourself if it makes sense to fix it instead.” 

6. Collect Rainwater 

Reduce your water bill by collecting some of your own water to use for gardening. Here’s a how to create your own rain barrel and rain garden. 

7. Backyard Chickens 

Here is a pdf from The Urban Homesteader that will walk you through how to raise backyard chickens. 

8.  Reduce Meat Consumption 

Here is what WebEcoist has to say about why you should reduce your meat consumption:

“Reducing your meat consumption is an important way to not only depend on grocery stores less, but also reduce your personal environmental impact. If Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent, it would have the same impact as if we all switched from a standard sedan to the ultra-efficient Prius hybrid car. You can do this by reducing portion size or skipping meat one day per week. Check out MeatlessMonday.com for ideas.” 

9. Cut Electricity Use, Go As Solar As Possible

Solar energy is the way to go! The biggest recommendation we have is to start solar cooking using the Solavore Sport. 

Benefits of Solar Cooking

There are many benefits of solar cooking and using sun ovens. Here are Ten Great Reasons to start solar cooking with the Solavore Sport solar oven. 

Fuel-free, planet-friendly: The only fuel ever required is sunshine.
 
Easy: If you can use a crockpot, you can cook with the Solavore Sport.  No burning. Food is tasty and clean up is a breeze.
 
Feed a crowd:  With the Sport’s two 3-qt pots you can feed 8-10 people.  Or use one pot for spicy jerk chicken and the other for savory long grain organic brown rice.  Or bake a two-layer carrot cake from scratch. 
 
Healthy:  Food cooks slowly, no boiling.  No vitamins leached away.  And you’ll notice the taste difference: moist, tender, and intense flavors. CLICK HERE FOR SOLAR COOKING RECIPES
 
Safe: No fire or smoke. It won’t tip over or blow over.  Curious little hands won’t get burned.
 
Portable: At just 9 pounds, take it with you. Dinner’s ready before you get your hiking boots off!
 
Fun: Nobody is stuck in the kitchen.  The Sport - and the sun - do the work- completely free of all energy other than the sun!
 
Be prepared:  The Solavore Sport can pasteurize water and cook dinner in the event of a disaster or emergency.
 
Proven: We’ve used the same design for over 15 years.  It’s the favorite among solar cooking experts around the world.
 
Doing good:  When you buy a Sport you help to put out an indoor cooking fire somewhere in the world.  Save trees, make a family healthy.  Now that could be the most important reason of all to buy a Solavore Sport.

Here is how it works: 

SOLAR ALCHEMY: FROM SUNLIGHT TO COOKING FUEL

Until the last century, sunlight was still largely a mystery.

“Some regard [sunlight] as the same element as fire, but in the state of its greatest purity,” wrote French-Swiss scientist Horace-Bénédict de Saussure in the late 1700s.

LIGHT TO HEAT

De Saussure had a different take. He believed sunlight isn’t hot like fire but somehow passes heat onto other objects.

Light from the sun, we now know, is packed with energy—about 1,000 watts for every square meter. By drawing on a simple but profound principle, solar ovens convert this light energy to heat energy.

All things—bricks, car hoods, food in a solar oven—are made of atoms. The atoms are constantly vibrating and crashing into one another. The higher the temperature of an object, the faster its atoms shake.

Sunlight is electromagnetic radiation. When sunlight strikes a brick wall—or car hood or food in a cooker—the radiation excites the atoms, causing them to vibrate faster and get hotter.

Here are a few beginner tips from our friend Jeannine from The Urban Homesteader. 

1.  GROW YOUR OWN FOOD

You don't need a large plot of land to grow at least some of your own food.  With so many cool new garden products available, don't let a shortage of space stop you! Only have a windowsill?  Try growing herbs from a can from Back To The Roots.  Small balcony?  Go vertical with one of these creative ideas! Have a tiny patch of land? Get your green on by planting a fool-proof seed sheet in a raised bed.

2.  PRESERVE YOUR BOUNTY

What's more 'homesteady' than a mason jar? Preserving your bounty (or produce that's on sale), is a great way to reduce food costs, especially in the winter.  We love Punk Domestics as a DIY food resource with recipes that are out of the ordinary. A little homemade Triple Ginger Pear Chutney will be sure to impress guests at your next dinner party!

3.  MAKE SOMETHING FERMENTED

Fermented foods have made a comeback in recent years, thanks to recent research on their amazing health benefits.  Not only are fermented foods a great source of probiotics which aid digestion, they help keep bad bacteria at bay, which can cause disease.  Try your hand at making yogurt, kombucha, or kimchi with a DIY kit. Or go for this modern fermentation crock which looks so good you won't even mind leaving it on your kitchen counter.

4.  TRY A REPAIR CAFE  

Originating in Holland, Repair Cafes are popping up all over the place.  The concept is simple -- instead of tossing out that broken item bring it to one of Repair Cafe's weekly repair sessions, where experts help fix items that can range from a bike, sewing machine, to a lamp, or a weed eater.  Keep junk out of the landfill -- check out the Repair Cafe's website to find one where you live.

5.  GO SOLAR

Trying out a solar-operated product is now easier than ever.  With so many great products on the market you can choose one that fits your lifestyle, and do good for the environment by reducing energy consumption.  Here's a list of the top 12 solar powered gadgets, which will get you one step closer to living off the grid.

We hope this is enough to get you interested and wanting to learn more about urban homesteading. Whether or not you are ready to jump in and get going on all of these or you might be ready to implement one of these tips- both are equally exciting. Let us know how we can assist you in your journey of taking a baby step off the grid and be sure to utilize the many blogs and resources out there that are at your disposal. 

 

Print Friendly and PDF