Homesteading is still very new to us. We have dabbled with a garden or clothesline, making bread from scratch now and then, or cloth diapers for a short period in the past. However, now that we own a home and decent sized backyard, we are going for it on a whole new level of being sustainable and getting back to the old ways as much as you can in a suburbia.
We are in an agriculturally based town and county. There are, literally, chickens everywhere, especially WinCo and IHOP parking lots because they are watered and fed so well over there. And here I am raising hens and growing fruit trees when I’m in the middle of chicken and walnut town.
However, some of the reasons I do this are beyond saving money or being frugal and clever, it’s about global change on a local level. It’s about climate change and our societies overall consumeristic lifestyles, the all-consuming drive for money and success and the falling away of all the truly important heart and soul foods such as family, neighbors that know each other and care for one another, mothers or fathers that are home with their children, homemade food that isn’t loaded with chemicals that are making us sick, autistic, and fat. I could go on. I’ll spare you and set my soapbox aside.
I’m really enjoying Urban Homesteading by Rachel Kaplan:
I’ve only begun the book with some skimming but I believe she is based out of the bay area. She talks of huge movements going on all over the world and right here regarding urban farming and homesteading.
“Our culture is growing now into the next level of change, evidenced by social movements addressing the environmental crises with direct actions toward revising how we live today. Urban homesteading is just one of many creative approaches to the problem.” R Urban Homesteading
She also wrote, “…homesteading practices as steps toward healing and change: our renewed relationship to animals and the earth; our sense of meaning and purpose in the work we do; our connections to one another in community; and a spiritual understanding of our actions. A sense of creativity, play, generosity, and optimism are all activated as well…” Urban Homesteading
In short, I feel that doing a farm in a city or town, in a suburban neighborhood or downtown neighborhood is bringing real life to an artificial setting.
For me, and I really should only speak for myself, Homesteading is in many little activities, not just farming and raising animals. It is in drying clothes outside, in homemade food, in practicing reusing, recycling, and in being as green as possible in the home. I now make 90% of my food from scratch. I feel good about that. I feel good about what my sons eat and I see how clear their eyes are, how healthy and vibrant they are daily. I see other children that my son plays with and they can’t seem to keep up or run as far without pooping out. They are usually kids raised on junk food and processed meals from boxes.
I also love working in the kitchen making this food for my family. I know that my sons will remember how their mother would make bread during the week or rolling out tortillas as a pot of beans simmered on the stove. They’ll remember yogurt being made in the mornings just as Bali recalls his mother making yogurt and Atta in his childhood.
I really enjoy my gardens and trees and hens. I’m busy during the mornings outside in the sun and fresh air. I hear the birds and neighborhood dogs, the train just outside of town. I talk to my girls (hens) and feel excited when one of my garden beds springs up green overnight. My children like looking for eggs and watering the lettuce. They are learning about the environment, Mother Nature, and how to grow fresh food. As they learn to grow the food, make the food, so they enjoy eating it more and more. They do not eat nor will they ever eat like the typical American.
Arjan is 5 years and he watched some gardening video’s on YouTube with the Vegan Athlete yesterday. He really enjoyed them and watched a good hour or more with me on how to make a rich soil and what to plant in the fall. He is into it. Sammy is 3 years asked me today if his poop was good for my garden. We had a talk about only certain poops being good for the soil. Chicken and horse are great. Boy and dog not so much. I like that they are thinking about this stuff.
We spend our lives mostly at home. Yes, we do go to Nevada City up the way and roam the forest. Yes, we do spend time with friends and family, we just had an aunt visit for two days. We go to visit the boy’s godparents, they are cherished souls and so we make time for them. Other than that we don’t drive much. We have a whole world in our little cottage and little backyard farm and it keeps our lives full and busy. We know our neighbors, at least most of the street and we chat with them over the fence and have them for dinner sometimes.
We live in a way that was gone 70 years ago but it’s coming back in full force. The more I read and explore, the more I see that there is a huge movement toward getting back to a simpler, slower way of life, reconnecting with nature through organic farming or permaculture. There are Transition Towns and urban farmers popping up like crazy all over the place. Even bartering and trade is coming back and skills that our great grandparents had are being relearned again.
We are only beginning this adventure and I have to remind myself to not rush, not be disappointed when things aren’t working fabulously. Sometimes I plant a bed and all my greens come up only to disappear in the heat. My hens started out giving 4 and 5 eggs and now we get 2 a day. We have had to replace a few trees and I don’t think we planted everything correctly. I’ve tried to put garden beds on our paved part of the yard and it was too hot and unsuccessful. We have had our cat turn a bed into a cat box and had to build fences. I thought my hens were young and it turns out they are close to retirement in chicken years. I had raw tortillas for a dinner and bread go flat. I’ve ruined two batches of homemade yogurt even though I was already a pro at it before and used to make the best yogurt but now I’ve lost my touch. Broccoli isn’t coming up but spinach is doing great. My chickens are now running wild and still not producing much but they keep the boys busy and fertilize my land, eat bugs, and til the soil around my strawberries. I have a success and two failures.
I just keep reading and researching. I’ve joined garden groups online, self-sustaining groups, chicken groups. I ask questions daily. I keep building and planting and moving forward. Once I master a section of my self-trained farming, I move on to the next project. We just started all this a couple months ago and I feel like it’s been years.
It keeps me busy and, although we may not be able to feed our family off our land this year, soon we will enjoy many homegrown gifts. The biggest benefits are a more wholesome lifestyle, a bit of self-sufficiency, and creating an ecosystem in our yard that supports nature, birds, bees, and humans. What a way to serve God.