Monday, May 7, 2012

City Homesteading


There is a lot of growing happening in these parts.  Yesterday's annual Mayfair street festival in Harvard Square included an urban agricultural component called "Get Growing!" which we felt lucky to be a part of.  As I've written before, my five-year-old is passionate about "pod-picking," or helping rid the city of Black Swallow-wort pods, an invasive weed that imitates milkweed thus confusing Monarch butterflies who lay their ill-fated eggs there. The organizer of the urban agricultural fair appreciates my daughter's passion and solicited her help in spreading the word about these pesky plants at yesterday's festival.

In addition to education on invasive plant species, the urban agricultural fair featured many inspiring resources to create and enhance one's own urban homestead.  I am fantasizing about beekeeping, backyard chicken pens, and all of the luscious food we could grow if only we had an ounce of sunlight in our shared backyard, darkened by an old, towering, beautiful pine tree.  While bees and chickens will likely remain fantasies while we share a homestead with five other families in our city condo building, the growing part of homesteading is so captivating and realistic, even on the very small scale of our container garden on the back deck.  It seems we can't pass a nursery these days without purchasing just one more seedling of parsley, which my five-year-old devours in the mini-salads she creates from our modest herb garden.

One of the several books I am currently reading, most relating in some way to homesteading, is The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City, by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen.  Brimming with ideas for returning our homes to units of production instead of only consumption, the book tackles simple steps (like composting and using raised garden beds), and more ambitious projects (like chicken and bee-keeping), revisits the homemaking arts of preserving foods and making yogurts and cheeses and butter, and offers strategies for producing one's own energy on an urban homestead.

I can't help but get excited by the whole idea of urban homesteading, of (re)discovering the many ways to produce more within and from our homes (aside from carbon), and in so doing reconnecting more deeply with nature, food, and family.  I find it remarkable how much we are truly able to accomplish in our homes, how self-sufficient we can be, when we make the decision to rely less on factories and more on ourselves.

9 comments:

  1. I love that book good choice! Have you read Radical Homemakers? http://www.amazon.com/Radical-Homemakers-Reclaiming-Domesticity-Consumer/dp/0979439116/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336438733&sr=1-1

    I love the idea that we need to return our homes to places of production not just consumption. And while I'm a terrible gardener, I do try to buy the raw good from our local farmers and produce the final product at home. Some day I hope to do this with more than just food, but since I stared at a place of NO knowledge (my father was lucky if my grandmother opened a can in the kitchen, and I never saw her knit or sew a thing.) it's a slow process. I loved chatting with all the urban homesteaders at the fair. It's so great to see people reaching out to each other and sharing knowledge.

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    1. Leigh, yes I love "Radical Homemakers!" When I first read it, I thought: they're too radical. Now... here I am, right there with them!

      Sorry we missed seeing you at the festival. It was neat. I am working on a blog post inspired by your "raw materials" idea, as I too feel like I am learning everything from scratch as well.

      Have a nice evening!

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  2. We had friends in town and were wondering what was happening in Harvard Square! We were there to pick up their rental car. Wish I had known so we could have stopped. Thanks for pointing out this book; I've not seen it before but am adding it to my library list now.

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    1. Justine, yes the Mayfair is a huge festival held annually in early May and is similar to the Octoberfest fair in the fall. You can check out Harvardsquare.com for happenings in the area.

      And yes, I thought this book would be right up your alley!

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  3. I've found both those books very inspiring...we're slowly making our way toward a more sustainable life. Our homeschool project window is currently filled with seedlings, our raised bed has kale & lettuce sprouting. I've found it easier (less overwhelming) to focus on one area of change at a time, once that 'thing' is fully incorporated, we move on to the next. Last year we put in our raised bed, this year we're adding another & I'm going to try canning :). In previous years we've been dedicated to re-purposing old clothes, intitating our compost bin, etc. The biggest challenge, I find, is making the time to do the work! Particularly in the summer, when we're almost always OUT in the world.

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  4. (oops...I wanted to add) I've found that introducing these pieces of homesteading have made me more at peace with the fact of our city life. We love the farmers markets we can walk to, and the huge DIY community in the area, but it brings me a different kind of joy when my kids can walk out to their backyard & pick cucumbers off the plant they planted :)

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    1. These are such great points. I especially appreciate your focus on small, fully-incorporated change. I think I find that sometimes I want to tackle all of these homesteading goals at once and it becomes too much, so small, deliberate steps are really the way to go. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

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  5. Hi Kerry - by now I'm sure you've seen this week's cover of Time Magazine (hits news stands on Friday I believe). I'm curious to hear your opinion of it...

    Hope all is well!

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    1. Jill, thanks so much for letting me know about the Time article, and inspiring today's blog post as a result!

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