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?
So, you stay in the city and you like your urban lifestyle. Yet you also like the idea of being self-sufficient, growing your own food, and eating organic and local – like you live on a farm.
What is Homesteading? It is nothing but a lifestyle of self sufficiency. It involves many things such food preservation, agriculture, raising animals for food, maintaining your own house and property yourself, sewing and making household items, and generally living off the land.
When you live in a rental, condo, or apartment though, this may be a tall order. You probably don’t have any “land” or there are strict rules governing what you can do on your property. In general your space is limited. Despite these limitations there are numerous ways in which you can embrace urban homesteading…right now in your apartment. Here’s how:
Cook your own food
Forget the processed stuff that comes in a box or can and forget the takeout place down the road. Cook healthy local foods from scratch. Fresh local food will nourish your body and minimize the chance you will have medical bills. It is also a great step towards self sufficiency.
Buy from the farm
So you probably do not have room to raise a grass fed cow or pasture a pig. You may not have room to grow pumpkin vines. You can source local organic farms in your area though and support them. They need the support and you want the farm fresh goodies. It’s a win, win. Purchase a herdshare and get a quarter cow or a half pig…maybe even some raw milk. Find a place where you can get farm fresh pastured eggs weekly. You can eat like you live off the land even if you don’t.
Have a porch garden
In your apartment or rental chances are you do have a little space to grow. The photo above is one I took in New York City of an apartment dweller who was growing a garden right on the sidewalk in front of their dwelling. You can have a nice little garden with pots and herbs and grow peppers, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, garlic and strawberries. You can also have your very own compost bin on the porch so that you will be able to get fresh compost when you need it and at the same time reduce the amount of garbage you create.
Try “alternative” gardening
Okay so maybe you don’t have much of a porch and you don’t have a balcony. What can you do??? Plenty! Search your area for a community garden or a backyard sharing program. The former will rent you a small plot of land to use for your garden and the latter is an opportunity to help someone cultivate their space and you share in the bounty. There is also wild food foraging. You can find edibles like fruit trees on abandoned properties or public spaces (like parks) and scoop up the harvest when it is ready. One step further is guerrilla gardening. You find land that is not being cared for…empty lots, foreclosed homes, areas of public properties that are not well traveled, etc and you grow food stealthily. During early spring do some quick planting or throw some seed bombs and then return in a bit to see what happens. You may have a new food source!
Embrace natural remedies
Learn some of the well known natural cures for common ailments and keep and herbal medicine box at hand so that you are able to treat your yourself and your family for those little aches and pains that inevitably occur. You can treat colds, flu, fevers, tummy aches, poison ivy, cuts, eczema, head lice, etc. all from the comfort of your home.
Bonus Tip: Try Homegrown Collective!
This is a subscription box service that allows you to learn new homesteading skills each month. They send you a box with supplies, recipes, and tips and then you get to create the products and recipes in the box. It is an amazing product! Each box will reflect the season in which you receive it. One month you may receive the ingredients for a home-brewed hard cider. Another month’s box may include the items needed to make a secret Native American cold remedy just in time for flu season. Every box helps you become a little bit greener and self-sufficient.
Make your own personal care products
When you live in a homesteading environment, you will be able to minimize your shopping bill as you go about making your own natural body and skin care products. This kind of hobby is fun and the resulting products are MUCH safer than the toxic ones you buy in stores. So stop wasting money on chemical laden junk and make your own toothpaste, deodorant, moisturizer, and even makeup. The possibilities are endless.
Make your own cleaning products
It is simple and you need only a few basic affordable ingredients. Then you can stop wasting money on expensive store bought products. Purchase some baking soda, vinegar, castile soap, lemons, coconut oil, and a few essential oils and you have the makings of just about any cleaning product. Castile soap alone has a TON of household uses….see the article below for a list.
Can and preserve food
When you live in a homesteading environment you typically store seasonal foods for use later in the year when they are not available. Canning, dehydrating, fermenting, and otherwise preserving foods when they are local and in season is something you can do just about anywhere as long as you have the space. If you are new to this concept then start with canning. Get some supplies and can one or two crops to start. Increase what you do each year until you have steady supply of foods to tide you over when the weather is cold.
These are some simple homesteading practices that will help you will learn the art of self sufficiency…even if you live in the city and you have no land to speak of.
When cold weather shows up and decides to stay that is when my cold weather to-do list starts being made. I have quite a bit I need to get done each year and making sure it all gets done is extremely important for a variety of reasons. Everything on my cold weather home preparation list ensures that our home is a safe, warm, affordable, reliable, energy efficient, and healthy place to be for the winter months. Some of it is just checking for problems before they happen. Other aspects mean doing some cleanup unique to fall and cold weather. Others address making sure we are not wasting energy or money during a season when bills can easily get away from you.
Here are some of the things I do to prepare my home for cold weather. Do you have any to add?
Clean and maintain gutters – Fall leaves, dirt, and debris can clog up gutters so it is good to do check them once or twice a year and clean them out. Doing it before winter is important because you don’t want ice dams or heavy snow accumulating up there. Also check to make sure they are fastened to the house securely and that none are loose.
Put away garden hoses – Drain and store garden hoses for the winter months to keep them in good condition. Sure they are cheap but why not take care of our things and save money and the planet??
Check for drafts – Go through the house and check windows, switchplates, vents, cupboards, doors, and any areas where cold air could be finding a way into the house. You can use foam insulation gaskets for switchplates and you can fill gaps with an insulating foam sealant. Small gaps can be effectively sealed with caulk.
Put the trampoline away – This is a high dollar item we don’t want to see damaged by winter’s foul weather and kids generally don’t want to jump on it in winter anyway. Away she goes until warm weather returns.
Insulate – A hot water heater blanket can help conserve energy on your hot water heater and also gas or electric bills. You can also use blankets or foam for pipes to keep them from freezing if that is an issue in your home.
Clean and maintain your furnace – You want your furnace to work as efficiently as possible so clean up the area surrounding your furnace and make sure it has room to breathe. Now would also be a good time to have your vents cleaned out by a professional and get a furnace checkup.
Wash the windows inside and out – Use water and vinegar and get to cleaning. Winter days are dreary enough as it is. Let’s not give the winter blues an even stronger foothold by making rare sunlight shine through dull, dirty windows. While you are washing you can also check for gaps/drafts.
Change your air filter – We should be changing our air filters with every season to maintain our A/C and furnace units properly but also to make sure our indoor air is as clean as possible. This is especially important in cold weather months when illness is more likely to be going around. Filtrete Filters last up to three months. Change your filter at the start of every season! You can get the Filtrete Healthy Living Filter, MPR 1900 at Lowe’s, Target, Walmart, Costco and your local hardware store or by visiting FindMyFiltreteFilter.com. It is ideal for allergens and small particles like bacteria and virus. It captures up to 93 percent of large airborne particles, such as household dust, pollen, mold spores and dust mite debris, from the air passing through the filter. It captures 4X times more microscopic particles, such as smoke, smog, pet dander and particles that can carry bacteria and viruses, than ordinary pleated filters.
Check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors – You should be doing this regularly and during your cold weather prep/clean-up is no exception. Make sure everything is in working order and change batteries if need be.
Clean and store rain barrels – We use a rain barrel throughout the year to collect rain runoff from our gutters. We use it to water our garden and houseplants. When the temperature drops to freezing though our barrel can be damaged and cracked by the elements. To keep it nice we drain it, clean, and store it in our garage or basement until the spring. Goodbye old friend!
Use the reverse switch on ceiling fans – The reverse switch is available on some ceiling fans and it is very handy. It will reverse the direction of blade movement to turn clockwise instead of counter-clockwise. The air is forced downwards and heat rises so the heat will be pushed downwards.
Check insulation in the attic and roof area – Experts recommend a depth of about 12 inches so do a check and make sure your insulation is still effective against cold winters and remedy it if you find that your insulation is no longer cutting it.
Caulk windows and hang thermal curtains – Seal cracks and gaps with caulk to prevent drafts. Thermal curtains can also be used for the same thing. They are super heavy and will stop drafts in their tracks. Just make sure to open them on clear sunny days and let the sunshine in.
What do you do for cold weather prep??
This post is written as a Healthy Home Ambassador for Filtrete, all thoughts and opinions are my own.