You Tell Me: Urban Homesteading?

Urban homesteaders find ways to grow their own food, despite a lack of space.

I’ve been on a back to the basics kick lately. I’m growing my own vegetables, earning my own income from home, baking my own bread, and soon I’ll be line drying my laundry again (if I can figure out how….my clothesline broke).

I never knew there was a name for this kind of self-sufficiency, until I was reading Oh My Aching Debts last week. Apparently it’s called Urban Homesteading.

Now I’ve known about homesteading for a long time. I used to live in a fairly rural community, and there were a lot of families who lived on their own little farms, homeschooled their kids, and basically provided for themselves, rather than relying on city conveniences. I know some of you readers live this sort of lifestyle, and you have no idea how much I look up to you.

But I’d never heard of homesteading in the city until I read Cindy’s article. Which led me to another article, explaining it further.

The thought of self-sufficiency has always appealed to me, even though I’m somewhat addicted to modern conveniences (like eating out). I never realized how much you could do for yourself, even in the confines of living in a duplex in town. My neighbor even has chickens, though I haven’t dared experiment with that yet.

Now that I know there’s a name for what I aspire to do, bring on the urban homesteading! This summer I want to learn how to can food, and I want to find the U-Pick farms around here for the fruits and vegetables I’m not growing myself. There’s just something I love about eating fresh, locally grown food, rather than eating colorless tomatoes from Winco (probably the taste!).

Here’s the you tell me part. I need all the advice I can get. Where can I learn about canning? How do you put up a clothesline when you rent and can’t put concrete in the ground? What vegetables are you growing this year? Have you heard of urban homesteading before? Does it appeal to you? What other advice or ideas to you have for me? I want to know everything!

Photo by LollyKnit.



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By , on May 2, 2008
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.

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{45 Comments}

  1. P Farrell:

    It is very tough to Utilize a clothsline in a deed estricted community. THey are more concerned with astectics rather than frugality which not only benefits the individual but benefits the community. I was told that it gives the community a lower standard of living look. These deed restrictions should be outlawed.
    What could really help is if the First Lady put a line up at the White House. What a huge statement!
    Maybe we should all write anote to her and our lawmakers.
    What do you think?

  2. Juliet Leaks:

    Google TV looks rather awesome. I am not sure if I want to purchase a television with it integrated or simply a independent box.

  3. Yeap…When we lived in the city we put a rope between the two sides of our fence for a clothes line. It wasn’t huge, but good enough for a load.

  4. Great post. I’m doing the same thing. There are tons of books out there on canning, but the Ball Canning book is good. Also, remember you can use FreeCycle.org in your area to ask for free canning and gardening supplies. I was able to get enough cinderblocks to build two 3-foot by 16-foot beds.

  5. Tricia:

    I may not be urban but I do homestead… we have goats that I milk .. make butter, ice cream, cheese, yogurt and soap from their milk. we also eat the meat from left over bucks that have not sold…. we raise chickens (or I should say my 10 year old does) for eggs, and meat…. my eldest daughter (17) raises steers and pigs for the table. she also along with my 14 year old daughter kill and process the chickens…. we do interactive teaching here to educate people on farm living and how to get started… we have a acre garden that we can veggies from also.. it is not a money maker but a great way to live… my children also go to other farms and help out when needed and work at a dog kennel part time… they know how to work hard….

  6. Mary:

    I have lived in a suburban town for most of my life, but as kids, my sister and I had paper routes and bought our own horses. My mother did have to drive us to go out to feed and ride them, but we joined 4H and a local riding club. I think we had the best of both worlds. One summer my sister and I worked a a riding stable. Our chores weren’t just taking out trail rides and taking care of the horses. When it was slow, like a rainy day, we ended up helping out in the farm house. We scrubbed floors, washed clothes in a wringer washer and hung them outside on nice days too. It was a lot like stepping back in time and as young girls, most of the time, it was an adventure. We learned so much, without even knowing it at the time!

  7. Marci:

    On October 2, I planted an experimental winter garden here on the north coast of Oregon. On October 13, I am happy to say that things are sprouting.

    Miner’s Lettuce, Vit/Corn Salad, and Swiss Chard. As last Friday and Saturday mornings were in the upper 20′s and freezing, I was surprised that they came up. There are about 6 other things planted also – so I am anxious to see it they too will make it up and out of the ground for my winter garden. It was late to plant, but the dirt (at my work) was 4 weeks late arriving :(
    I’m just tickled that the bosses are allowing me to garden at work (provided it looks decent!) and had the dirt/compost hauled in for my spot :)

  8. I also recommend The Ball Blue Book. I use it every time I can.

    I just finished 48 quarts of grape juice (we have a steam juicer), and we’re going to do applesauce next, as soon as I find some cheap bulk apples.

    There’s nothing like seeing all the jars lined up on your shelf and knowing that you put them there.

    If you have any specific questions about canning, email me- I’d love to help you get started.

    alliegator321 at gmail dot com

  9. Danyel:

    I wanted to share a link free online canning classes but I can’t find it. I think it’s done via an extension… sorry I’m no help.

  10. linda:

    I just found your blog and loved this post! I am like yourself, just getting into all that urban homesteading entails. A while ago, I came across a link for a free online canning and preserving class you might be interested in: http://nchfp.uga.edu/exception_account.html
    Also University extension offices offer things like that as well. I don’t know where you live, but in Illinois, the live classes can be found at the University of Illinois Extension offices. I have emailed them twice and they are not that great with responding so it is best to call them and be aggressive with enrolling.
    Let us know if you end up taking the canning classes!

  11. marie:

    It’s great to see urbanites take control of their lives and make changes towards food security, self-sufficiency and independence. I know that reading the Dervaes website at pathtofreedom.com and urbanhomestead.org/journal has inspired me to look at things differently and start seeing what is possible where I am now. The family purportedly coined the word “urban homesteading” years ago (early on around 2001 I think because that’s about how long I have been reading their journal). This amazing family has literally “written the book” on urban homesteading by walking down the sustainable path and have become the model urban homestead for so many of us who want to follow in their steps. They have made me see (and now others ) that it is possible to do something without moving out of the city. It’s good to see that their longtime outreach efforts and inspirational lives have had made such an impact on the lives of others.

  12. Maria:

    Cool! I am doing container gardening because my soil is very clay and rocky. I am hoping to add laying hens to our little mini homestead as well. We can’t have a goat because of our homeowners’ but hope to be able to buy land soon anyway! Good post.

  13. Jane:

    Hot Dog! I am so glad to find your blog! I am living in a two bdrm apt in the middle of Los Angeles and I am *trying* to do better about Urban Homesteading. I do dry my clothes on an IKEA drying rack and I highly recommend it. I bought it for about $15 and it fits behind my dresser when folded up. Yet, it holds about two loads of laundry on it. I set it up in the living room and time my laundry so that it drys overnight and while I am at work the next day. Or, sometimes I put it out on our balcony. I also use hangers and hang stuff all around the perimeter. It’s very stable and has never fallen over. http://www.ikea.com/us/en/cata...../50095091/

    Just now I saw that they have a collapsable version for sweaters. I may have to invest in that soon. I have also taken to washing some of my clothes in a bucket in the shower. Our laundry went up to $150 a load and it seems such a waste for delicates that require a small load.

  14. Lisa:

    There is a family in Pasadena who are pros at urban homesteading. They live on 1/5 of an acre 3 blocks from a freeway on ramp. They are planning on growing 10,000 lbs. of food this year on their lot. Truly amazing and such an inspiration. Their website is http://urbanhomestead.org/

    Enjoy!

    Lisa

  15. melissa:

    wow oh how i would love to do all that u do. i have an eight month old baby and i am wanting to make his own food i am just worried to. i am afraid that we wont use it before it gos bad i am real bad at that. but it is costing us alot. some of the stuff he needs i dont know how to grow half the stuff. and the fruit wow where do i start. and i am thinking about getting him reuseable diapers too just for when we are at home which is about every day all day long. my husband is overseas with the army so we are on a low money fund here. even when he is over there fighting. here at our house i try evey thing to cut use i dont use my dryer that much i made a clothes line on my deck freaked out my husband but it works. i have fans all over my house so i dont have to have the AC on and when i do i will still have them on just to move the air around it will help the AC have to work less i am told. hey does anyone know how to make goats milk soap my sister made some and i havnt use it yet but i would like to make some and see if i can sell it. to make some money for me to do stuff and save money. i know money isnt every thing but when your husband is putting his life on the line and u can save a penny any money will help. well hey if u dont know of any way send me an email at mleanne13 at yahoo dot com and dont send spam i have a good spam blocker. thanks

  16. I am all about this lately! Canning is not hard if you stick with high acid foods like tomatoes, peaches, pears, applesauce, cherries, pickles, and so forth that just use the hot water bath method. If you put up vegetables you have to use a pressure cooker to avoid getting botulism, the very idea of which scare me so much I haven’t tried it yet. I want to, but I’m chicken. We hang our clothes inside and they do dry really quickly but I guess that wouldn’t work if you live where it is very humid. We also wash in cold water, which save a lot of energy.

  17. basic:

    One thing you can do for a clothesline is used the premade concrete post stabalizers that can be used for decking. They are in a pyramid shape for stablity, and are buried in the ground. You can then attatch a 4×4 post (cut to the appropriate height) to the bracket that is attached to the concrete stablaizer. Put two of these in the ground and attach an eyehook to either one, and attach a clothesline to the eyehooks. That should be both stable enough, and attractive enough in your backyard. You could also paint these with some exterior paint color to brighten them up as well.

  18. Ashley:

    If you’re interested in urban homesteading, I highly suggest you look into permaculture. This website would be a good start http://www.permaculture.org Happy reading!
    Ashley

  19. Our new landlord took the clothesline we had DOWN. Ugh. I have dried things inside on a drying rack in the bathtub and hung things from the shower curtain rail…an eldery neighborhood has put out her own drying rack outside.

    I always thought urban homesteading was going into an iffy urban area which was a bargain and working to upgrade it. I did that years ago when I moved into this apt. bldg. & it certainly has paid off. We even have a nice garden out front now. (I worked on the original one until the professionals took over. Ditto cleaning up the inside driveway area.)

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