Yay!!! I am so excited to share with you all that I am a new homeowner. My husband and I closed on our homestead in June. We bought in a suburb of Columbus (20 minutes away from downtown). It has over half an acre, a nice patch of woods, and a creek running through it.
The urban/suburban part has always been important to me. I am not a fan of rural living (been there, done that) and I personally feel that the vehicle for change…for our environment, our food system, and for our society in general needs to happen in cities. We need to green the cities, not move out of them.
I would like to tell you how we planned and planned for this moment but we actually didn’t. It just kind of happened. My family had been renting a duplex and we deliberately picked a more run down neighborhood because we wanted to pay less for rent and have more money for play. I was able to garden in raised beds, collect rainwater, compost, and even grow food and fish with aquaponics.
The duplex was a cozy 1100 square feet that I actually loved. It required us all to be together…a lot. Our family/living area was also a home office for two, a gaming area, and a TV watching area. In general I loved the money we saved living there (rent, utilities) and I loved small house living.
On the drawbacks list was the lack of a fourth bedroom, since my two autistic boys have issues that make sharing a room a bad idea all around. The kitchen was dated and in need of a remodel, we couldn’t have pets or farm animals, the garage was tiny and could barely fit a car in it, and we were limited on what we could do inside and outside the home.
So what made us move?
Well, it is a long story and it involves the death of my mom recently. But the short of it is that I finally committed to staying in this area and laying down roots in a place of my very own. A lovely creek, called Blacklick, winds all through our city and I thought it would be out of our budget to own a home that backed up to the creek but I found a creekside home that had just been listed for under market value because it needed some serious updates. Well, that house had five offers in a matter of two days so our realtor directed us to another creekside property just down the street that was a bit pricier but included over a half acre. It was being offered via short sale and had been on the market for a year due to some sticky issues with flood insurance requirements.
Short story…we now own the house. We can raise rabbits, chickens, and ducks, and we can keep bees. I can have a huge garden, I have room for lots of fruit trees, and we have the most insanely beautiful creek (with plenty of fish) right in our back yard. We have already started our orchard with two apple trees and two pear trees with more to come.
A view of our backyard from the house…I think that playset will be upcycled into a chicken coop next year. You can see the beginning of our orchard front and center.
Go past that expanse of lawn (which will soon be garden) and you come to a lovely patch of woods. Here we have the compost bin, a firepit, and plenty of trees for firewood.
Go through the wooded area and you come to a real gem. The creek looks tame in the picture below…it hasn’t rained in a couple days. During heavy rains though that creek rages and raises about 6-8 feet. We often see kayakers go by.
Also love the existing garden at the house. It is all ornamental…lots of hosta and flowers but I often overlook the “pretty” plants in favor of edibles, so to have that part taken care of is awesome.
The drawback, at least for me, is that the house is huge. It is 2500 square feet. I don’t want or need all that space but did get our four bedrooms, a nice finished basement, and a two car garage. I have a suburban homestead that I pretty much adore and I am dropping hints to my Dad that he should move in with us and utilize some of this extra space. Though one extra bit space I love is my new home office with a large window that overlooks the yard. The wood burning fireplace and a bathroom just for the husband and myself are kind of nice too.
What excites me most is that this property will allow us more room to homestead. We plan to start slowly, not wanting to alarm any neighbors or bite off more than we can chew at this time. In the garage we are starting to construct raised beds, set up a 250 gallon aquaponics tank, and build rabbit hutches. We have many projects to keep us busy through winter.
This is what I call prime city living!
A freezer is a homesteader’s very good friend. It allows us to preserve our bounty, buy in bulk, make meals ahead of time, and keep a food stash for when times are tough. Many of us have love our freezer so much we have two or more of them. All that freezer space provides us with lots of possibilities!
Here are six reasons why freezing your food is so awesome…
1. It saves us money. Freezing allows us to buy local foods, in season, at the peak of their ripeness/freshness when they are the most affordable. It also allows us to capitalize on good sales (store sales, clearance, etc) and deals (herdshare). We can buy our food when it is cheapest and freshest and simply eat it later.
2. It makes meal planning easier. Take a quickie inventory of what you have in the freezer and then search your bookmarked recipes that incorporate the ingredients you want to use ie “pork” or “ground beef and carrots”. Using what you have makes things easier and it saves money.
3. It reduces food waste. If you know you won’t get around to eating those veggies then spend a a couple minutes chopping them up and freeze them. Add them to casserole, soup, or stir fry at some later date. If you are not in the mood for leftovers don’t chuck them, freeze and eat them in a couple of weeks. If some fruit has started to look sad, freeze it and add it to smoothies.
4. It allows you cook ahead of time. Typically we run short on time on the weekdays. They are jam packed with school, work, kids events, etc. If that is the case you can use the slower pace of the weekend to cook some meals that freeze well and can be reheated for weekday meals. This also works well for work lunches…make them on the weekend, portion them out by day, and freeze. Freezing can give us freedom to cook when we want to and not so much when we don’t want too.
5. It saves time. Shopping from your freezer means less time wandering store isles trying to figure out what to make. It also means you can prep and freeze various ingredients (chopped veggies, shredded chicken, marinated meat) or entire meals when you have more time and utilize them when you have less time.
6. It allows us to eat out of season. Fresh blackberries, sun ripened strawberries, sugar snap peas, spinach, apples, fresh baked bread from the farmer’s market…you name it, we want it. Freeze some of it and extend the season and the flavors.
What do you love to freeze?
The gardening season has ended for 2014…for the most part. I still have a variety of peppers and some flowers doing well. I also have a cold frame with greens going strong but I have done a massive fall cleanup and most of my garden beds will rest until spring. With everything I learned this year I am already making plans for next!
My organic garden goals for 2015 are to grow everything I grew in 2014 and:
- Make potato cages and grow alot more
- Start my seedlings earlier!
- Add leeks and brussels sprouts for fall/winter
- Grow more carrots
- Grow different pumpkin varieties (jarrahdale and lady godiva) and grow more
- Add another raised bed and a hoop with a fabric covering
- Add more herbs and veggies
- Plant spring bulbs
- Add another rain barrel
My homesteading goals for 2015:
What are your goals???
The weather is getting quite nippy and the nights are getting darker. Life is moving a little bit slower, and things are winding down in your summer garden. But perhaps you don’t want to give up gardening just yet. Heck the weather is perfect for outdoor enjoyment right? Well you CAN keep growing well into winter. If this interests you check out my article on extending the growing season into fall and winter. It has lots of great tips and info on what kind of plants do well in cold weather.
In fact I just set up a cold frame for my greens (lettuce, arugla, and spinach). I used a shower door that some threw out during a home renovation and I set it on top of an existing raised garden bed. Cheap and easy!
There are still some gardening tips and strategies that you can employ to get you back outside and some dirt under your fingernails. You can add some color and life to your garden, and prepare it for winter. Depending on where you live, fall can be a very busy time in the garden. Here are some ideas:
* Water fruit tress well until into fall and until the ground freezes. They will have a long, cold winter depending on were you live and they need a good moisture supply to make sure they get through it well.
* Rake leaves and compost them. Or maybe just leave them. There are some gardeners who do not believe in leaving leaves around tees due to the potential for leaf-borne disease. I think that if the tree/leaves are healthy then it is important to leave a nice layer of leaves around the tree, covering the roots. This is what trees do right?! They shed their leaves which then provide insulation and moisture for the roots during the cold. It is a perfect system, don’t mess with it so you can have a perfectly manicured yard.
* Plant bulbs. Dig a hole, drop the bulb in, cover it up with soil and a thick layer of mulch, and go have a glass of apple cider. Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinths, Crocuses, garlic, and Allium (my fave!) are typically planted in the fall so they can complete their growth cycle in time to come up in spring.
* Cut back bulbs that will be staying in the ground and cover them with mulch to protect them from harsh freezes.
* Weed!! Why wait until spring when you will be super busy? Get rid of weeds now!
* Pull all your spent vegetable plants, cut them up with pruning shears to speed decomposition and toss them in the compost pile.
* Clear out any annuals that are spent as well. Leaving them in the ground is easier yes but diseases and pests are discouraged when you clear the beds and allow them to overwinter plant free. So if they are no longer useful, get them out of there. If any of the plants did show signs of disease, toss them in the garbage, do not compost them.
* After clearing your garden beds cover them with an inch or two of compost or aged manure to help improve the fertility of your soil.
* Cover beds with mulch or garden fabric. This helps maintain a good porous surface and helps prevent soil erosion.
* Veggies – Cover strawberries with straw, cut back asparagus fronds after they brown from the first frost, and re-pot annual herbs to bring indoors.
* Drain and detach water hoses. Empty and clean your rain barrel. Store them in the garage or a shed.
* Enjoy the fall!
I love living in the city. I tried the whole rural farm and rural living thing (twice) and it just wasn’t for me. I hated living so far away from civilization. I hated how much time was taken from us by having to commute to jobs in the city. I hated the critters… aka the mice when we lived among cornfields in Ohio and the rattlesnakes when we lived on a mountaintop in Arizona.
I adore nature and spend lots of time outside and we choose a place to live based upon how close we are to nature… it is just that we also choose a location in or extremely close to the city too. We are city dwellers who love our nature walks AND our museums and cafes. I read recently that by 2030 two-thirds of us will be living in cities so apparently more and more of us are choosing city life.
Choosing to live in the city does not mean we can become dependent upon all that cities offer though. We can’t allow ourselves to get lazy and eschew the skills handed down over generations even if we already see that happening. Many inner city kids today have no idea how food is grown and they are horrified to learn it grows in dirt (GASP!) City folks in general are forgetting the basics such as how to mend your clothing, grow your own food, or even cook a decent meal with fresh REAL ingredients. When we lose these skills we lose freedom. We lose our very ability to take care of ourselves and our families. We become reliant on others for our basic needs and that is very, very sad. Also kind of dumb.
It doesn’t have to be that way though. The concept of urban homesteading allows us to recapture some of those skills and learn to take charge of our own lives and health. We may not find it practical to learn how to milk a cow or sow a field of winter wheat but there are many things we can learn and practice in the city. In fact if you look, you will often find classes being taught where you can learn these skills. Every major city I have lived in has had a place where you can take sewing classes for instance. Do a little research and you will find that there are many homestead skills you can learn and use even if you live in the big city. Here are a few of them:
Sew and mend clothing
Refashion thrift store finds
Make and use cloth diapers
Needlework – crochet, knitting, cross stitching, quilting
Buying food from farmer’s and u-pick farms
Composting – bin, indoors/out, worms
Reuse and repurpose what you have
Collect rain water
Small scale gardening and container gardening
Bake sourdough bread
Cook from scratch
Ferment foods (kraut, pickles)
Makes mixes and condiments form scratch (taco seasoning, mayo)
Make bone and vegetable broth
Grind your own wheat or corn
Sprout nuts, seeds, and beans
Make jams, jellies, preserves, and salsas
Render lard and tallow
Make your own pet food
Make laundry detergent
Wash clothing by hand, wringer, drying racks, clothesline etc.
Fishing and cleaning a fish
Learn to shoot
Hunt wild game, clean and dress them
Forage for wild edibles
Aquaponic and hydroponic growing (small scale)
Use cast iron
Cook in a dutch oven
Cook over an open flame
Make cheese and butter, sour cream, and yogurt
Make kombucha and kefir
Natural methods for bug and pest control
Build and maintain fences
Use essential oils and herbs in home remedies
Make herbal extracts, infusions, poultices, and tinctures
Use solar energy (also solar powered gadgets)
Car maintenance (change oil, tires, etc)
Basic plumbing, electrical, and carpentry skills
Do you have any to add?