What is Urban Homesteading
Urban homesteading has multiple meanings. For our purposes, we are referring to the urban homestead in the self-sufficiency sense and not the affordable housing definition with the intent on getting people in cities housed.
While the traditional homestead may carry historical meanings and negative connotations to some people. However, the term in its modern context should not be viewed as such. The modern urban homestead is an attempt to bring back the best aspects of the traditional homestead. Ultimately our intention is to focus on areas that strengthen local communities and improve individual self-reliance. Our modern society is built upon unsustainable models. Overall the urban homestead is an attempt to thrive with the principles and ethics of permaculture as outlined by Bill Mollison and enriched by many others in a city or suburban lot.
Aspects of Urban Homesteading
The following are several aspects of urban homesteading that are designed around a household seeking independence from the current system.
- Edible landscaping: growing fruit, vegetables, culinary and medicinal plants, converting lawns into gardens
- Raising animals, including chickens, goats, rabbits, fish, worms, and/or bees
- Resource reduction: using solar/alternative energy sources, harvesting rainwater, using greywater, line drying clothes, using alternative transportation such as bicycles and buses
- Self-sufficient living: reusing, 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
The goal of most urban homesteaders is to strive to produce a significant part of their diet including both produce and livestock on their land while living in a more environmentally conscious manner. Follow our urban homesteading stories.
Urban Homesteading Basics
The following are ways that we have incorporated urban homesteading practices into our life.
The principles of permaculture are embraced by many urban homesteaders. Permaculture is a design practice, however, it is grounded in 3 important ethical positions that help drive decisions you make on your property.
- Care of the Earth
- Care of People
- Return of Surplus to Earth and people
These can help guide you in making the right decisions of what to do with your property and how to best care for the earth, and people, which includes you, and get a harvest that can be enjoyed by yourself and others.
A food forest is often the result of an individual practicing permaculture in an urban or suburban setting. A food forest is the intentional planting of species that will occupy all zones of growing space from the tallest of trees to cover crops, rooting crops, and vines that grow up medium-sized trees.
A common practice for urban homesteaders to create a food forest is the planting of guilds. A plant guild is a combination of plants that cohabitate together well with their growth and life cycle patterns and may provide other collaborative benefits for growing healthy plants.
The urban homestead would feel empty without at least an herb garden or salad garden. While you may have ambitions to grow large quantities of food. A series of three, 4×8 foot wood raised garden beds will grow all your summer salads, tomatoes, cucumbers, and all of the herbs you need.
A backyard garden can take on many shapes, sizes, and designs. A spiral herb garden can be the fun whimsical approach to a simple herb and medicinal garden. Cedar raised garden beds are a common approach as is the in-ground hugelkultur garden bed. However never discount the traditional row garden for a productive kitchen garden that will grow an incredible amount of food in a small space without all the fuss and extra work of building raised beds.
A flock of chickens or ducks is a great addition to any urban homestead. Urban settings may require more stringent care of your animals. Check your local city ordinances for rules regarding how many birds and any restrictions concerning locations on the property for the coop or run.
A small flock of 3-4 birds is very easily manageable. The noise is very minimal for small numbers of birds and when they are taken care of there is limited smell or nuisance.
Raising Pekin ducks or cornish cross chickens for meat is a viable option for some urban homesteads. If your location is a little looser with the rules regarding the number of birds it is very possible to do a small run of 10 – 15 birds on a 1/4 acre or smaller lot and harvest several birds in a short amount of time.
Reusing and recycling resources is an important element of most individuals implementing permaculture design principles on their property. Finding additional life for resources is always a better solution than buying new.
Be part of your local community. There are so many ways to tap into awesome people and resources by looking for resources in your area. A few popular things to check out would be: community gardens, free/exchange marketplace groups, tool libraries, seed & plant swaps, and more.
Never stop learning. There are always more skills to learn and books to read.