3
Feb

Homesteading in an Apartment, Condo or Rental

by Tiffany in The Homestead

Homesteading in an Apartment, Condo or Rental

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.

Many Ways to Use Castile Soap

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.

3
Nov

Preparing Your Home For Cold Weather

by Tiffany in The Homestead

Preparing Your Home For Winter

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.

store trampoline for winter

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.

change filter

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!

rain barrel in the garden

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.

5
Sep

Loving the Ball Jar Heritage Collection

by Tiffany in The Homestead

If you visit my kitchen, you’ll find glass jars everywhere. I use them for everything it seems… beverages, broth, bulk foods such as nuts and dried fruit, leftovers from dinner, salt, herbs, spices, fermenting, canning, vases, storage containers, and much more! Recently when my nine year old daughter decided to climb up the kitchen and rip the shelf that held all our drinking glasses off the wall, spilling its contents onto the floor, we had a huge mess to clean up and a decision to make. The only glasses that held up were the mason jars so we opted not to get any more conventional drinking glasses and just go whole hog with the jars. It was at that time when we decided to add some of the new heritage collection from Ball to that mix. I absolutely adore the lovely blue color.

They are so pretty I seem to gravitate to them… have you scored any of these lovelies yet?

Get the heritage collection =====> here.

blue vintage ball jars sm

21
Feb

I Am An Urban Homesteader

by Tiffany in The Homestead

Home Is Where the Heart Is...

I don’t know if you caught wind of the storm brewing lately in regards to those who embrace homesteading. I saw it myself last week and was absolutely flabbergasted. A well known family in California (The Dervaes) have decided to claim ownership of the term Urban Homestead(ing) and had it trademarked. Then they proceeded to send out letters to bloggers and even companies who used these terms or had them as part of their business name asking them to remove these references. Facebook pages for homestead groups and informational non-profits had their pages turned in for infringement and they were erased. This family insists that they are being vilified unfairly, yes several major newspapers and a myriad of homesteading bloggers have lambasted them, but in my opinion they are not. I myself was on the receiving end of one of their letters once and it was VERY clear that wanted me to stop using a term coined during war time America or credit them as the inspiration for my work OR face lawsuit. The response to crediting them was HELL NO. Urban Homesteading is a movement and it existed long before the Dervaes. That is why I am participating in the Urban Homesteaders Day of Action where we speak out about the fact that we ARE Urban Homesteaders and no other family, even if they do think they are the cat’s meow, gets to take credit for that.

In addition to talking about homesteading for years I would classify my husband and myself as urban homesteaders. We don’t butcher our own hogs or grow 7000 pounds of food in our backyard but we do what we can and what we can do increases with each year.

Lettuce Varieties in the Garden

– We grow as much food as we can in the space we have. Last year that was tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers. This year we hope to increase that x3 even though we technically have a smaller space to work with.

– We buy local. We support local growers and homesteaders by purchasing local grains, pastured eggs, milk, grass fed meat, honey, and other seasonal offerings. The farmer’s market is our second home!

– We make our own. I sew things for the home and my husband is also quite crafty. This year we plan to invest in wood working machinery so we can increase our self sufficiency. We also make our own yogurt, dairy and water kefir, sourdough, dried fruit, and bread. This year we plan to add more foods we have preserved, and make our own butter and buttermilk.

Sourdough Bread

– We cook and we rarely eat out. Our weekly produce box is the basis of our meals for the entire week. This morning hubby is making breakfast while I prep dinner and throw it in the slow cooker.

– We compost indoors with worms so that we have no food waste.

– We use green cleaners (of our own making) for our home and we use natural body care products (sometimes making our own as well). We hope to make our own bar soap this year.

– We don’t have much land to call our own but we take care of it and try our best to live off of it.

I am an Urban Homesteader. How about you?

Monday, February 21st, 2011

12 Comments on I Am An Urban Homesteader

9
Feb

Countertop Kitchen Compost Collectors

by Tiffany in A Green Home, The Homestead

Kitchen Compost Bin

After my post about our Worm Factory I got an email from a reader that asked if we put all our scraps from the table immediately into the worm condo AND if we microwave them first. I guess microwaving kitchen scraps to soften them up is a common practice.

The answer to both is no. We collect our kitchen scraps in a smaller compost collector because we don’t want to overwhelm our worms and we will very likely be generating more waste than they will be able to handle anyway, at least until we start having generations of worms babies. We also want to soften up our scraps and start the decomp process so that it will be faster and easier for the worms to tackle but we do not have a microwave. Nor do we want one, microwaves are not good for your health.

Kitchen Compost Bin

To that end we first collect food waste in a kitchen compost collector. This allows us to collect any excess food waste that can’t go in the worm bin yet and it gets the compost brewing in the meantime. We chose the Exaco Trading ECO-2000 2.4 Gallon Kitchen Compost Waste Collector for a couple reasons. Firstly because it was one of the biggest ones for the money (less than $20). Yes, I would have preferred a stainless steel or ceramic collector but we are a family of five… the rinky dink one gallon size on those models would be filled in a week… or less. Larger ones cost more than we wanted to invest. And of course any plastic that helps us in our greener living journey overall gets a pass from me.

Right now it sits on top of the worm bin but it could easily go under the sink as well. Our old collector was a big mixing bowl that was open and visible every time you passed by… yuck. I like this system much better. We mix it occasionally with a wooden mixing spoon or I dump it into a bowl and then dump it back in the composter to reverse the top/bottom.

Another aspect of our composting system is the fact that I collect a lot of scraps and freeze them. When I get a nice large bunch I will make my homemade vegetable broth and this is even better than microwaving. The scraps are super soft and I have broth to boot. Easy peasy!