The back to the land movement is still very much alive and kicking. If anything it has seen a huge upswing in recent years. For many reasons though it does not always involve moving out to a rural area and buying acreage as it once did. More people want to be more self reliant and less reliant on major agribusiness and food corporations for something as basic a human need as food. They have shown us over the years that they cannot be trusted with our health or the care of the land we all call home.
So that means more and more regular folks want to homestead – grow their own food, raise animals for meat, eggs, milk, or fiber, and become skilled at DIY projects. A larger and larger portion of these folks are city dwellers. Their jobs or other constraints might keep them city bound but that does not tame their desire for greater self sufficiency. They may even love city living (like I do) and want to reshape their urban or suburban dream to also include the homestead lifestyle. But can it be done? Of course!
You do not need 5 acres and a milking cow to homestead. You work with what you have. I have lived on many different properties, including a farm with 100 acres. I now live in the city with a whopping .58 acre with a small patch of woods and a creek that border the backside. We can do quite a bit with what we have and so can you.
Here are some of the ways you can start your homesteading journey on a small patch of land…
Grow Vegetable & Herbs
Even on a small property you can have raised beds, planters, and pots. You can use patio space, window space, and lawn space. You can also go vertical with trellis materials. Set up a space for perennial herbs such as thyme, rosemary, sage, mint, and chives. Set up an area for a tea garden with anise, lavender, and catmint. Use large sticks and twine to make a teepee trellis for peas and beans. Really with sticks and twine the possibilities for vertical gardening are endless. If you can’t spread out…then go up! Use containers for tomatoes and peppers. Practice square foot gardening and make every inch work for you.
Fruit Trees and Bushes
If you have the space add a fruit tree or two and some fruiting bushes or vines. Trees do not have to be massive full size entities. You can get semi-dwarf varieties that only grow 10-15 feet tall. You can prune them so that they never become to tall or wide and shade your yard. You may have less fruit but you have a more manageable tree. You can grow grapes and hops on a vine…maybe brew your own beer? You can grow raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, elderberries, and currants all without lots of space and they do great along fence lines and on a trellis. Blueberries and strawberries do well in containers.
Small backyard gardeners can have chickens too. All you need is 4-6 laying hens for a good quantity of eggs, a small coop, and a small area to run free. If you get a dual purpose breed you can then process them for meat after they stop laying. The down side to that is that they are typically not the best egg producers.
If you want meat you can raise quail. They don’t take up a lot of room and you get eggs too. Turn around is 6-8 weeks for fresh meat. Rabbits are also excellent and what I typically recommend because their poop is black gold for the garden. We stopped raising meat rabbits about a year ago but we may be adding some rabbits back to our homestead JUST for the manure! If you want meat though, you generally have about five pounds of meat every 12 weeks or so with only a buck and two does.
You can have a thriving small garden in the city with help from pollinators by adding a beebox to your yard. Your production should be more than ample when the pollinators live right on your property. In addition to better yields, you can also harvest honey.
Harvesting and Reusing Water
Without a water source such as creek or pond you will want to use water very efficiently. Install rain barrels to your downspouts. We have three 55 gallon rain barrels and all three of them fill with every rain. That’s a lot of free water! Plus its not treated with chemicals by your city or residence. You can also install grey water systems to your home so you can capture and filter water from sinks, showers, and the washing machine and divert that water to your garden.
Fertilizers and Soil Builders
Your garden will need healthy rich soil and to build that up you will need soil amendments and fertilizers over the years. You can provide those for your small space no problem. A worm bin kept inside or on a patio can produce worm castings. Tea bags from your daily tea can be thrown into the garden beds or compost pile. Oh and yes you should be composting your kitchen scraps. Your own pee can be a valuable source of nitrogen for soil so pee on your compost pile okay. Rabbit poo as mentioned above is black gold, and fish poo from aquariums is also good. Plus you can grow food on top of your fish tanks via aquaponics.
You may or may not have the money to cover your roof in solar panels. If not that is okay, you can still harvest solar power on a smaller scale. You can use small solar panels that can be mounted in the yard to power lights or warmers in chicken coops or rabbit hutches during colder weather. You could use them to power water pumps or filters for greywater systems or aquaponics. And don’t forget to line dry your clothes during sunny weather!
These are just some of the ways you can make small patch of land into the homestead you are dreaming of.