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A Guide to Urban Homesteading

A Guide to Urban Homesteading 

Urban Homesteading: A Guide for Landless Homesteaders

Homesteading, once considered a thing of the past, has become popular again. Many people wanting to free themselves of the rat race, dead end jobs, rent and unhealthy industrial food, are now heading out of cities and into the countryside. However, everyone’s situation is not the same. Flipping the page and starting a new life on the plains is not feasible for everyone, but there are some homesteading projects that can be done where you are.

Having enough yard space to grow wheat or corn is not an option, but you can grow an amazing variety of crops planted in 5-gallon containers. Owning your own dairy cow may not be an option, but keeping backyard chickens, rabbits or pigeons certainly is. Urban homesteading has become a growing trend that has helped many city dwellers find doable alternatives for their situation. Following are five guidelines to help you plan your urban homestead.

1. Observe and plan accordingly

Take a critical look at where you live before taking any action. Look at empty spaces on balconies, terraces, roofs, and yards that could be used for your homestead. In some cities, the economic downturn has yielded an impressive array of undeveloped lots, many of which can be turned into abundant food-growing zones shared by neighbors.

Also check the direction these spaces face for sun and shade. Some plants need more sun, others thrive well in partially shaded areas. Equally, consider the suitability of these spaces for the possibility of livestock such as chicken, rabbits, pigeons, and goats.

2. Consider what food can be grown, and how it can be grown

Choose vegetables and fruit suitable for your space. Use vertical spaces (a sun-drenched, south-facing wall provides a great microclimate for beans and tomatoes planted in containers), flat rooftops, and abandoned lots.

You can grow a lot of food in a small space. On a patio or balcony that gets sun for about six hours per day but has no soil, you could plant a garden in raised beds, or in barrels or storage bins with drainage holes punched through the bottom. You can grow carrots, okra, eggplant, or potatoes in 5-gallon containers, and lettuce can spend its whole life in small pots.

3. Small-Scale Composting

Compost is the alchemy of the garden — the trick of turning “garbage” into fertile soil. Build a simple compost bin for your yard from wooden pallets or use a blue plastic barrel on a balcony or rooftop as a compost bin. Using kitchen scraps, leaves, and old newspapers, you can produce your own soil for your garden, maybe even sell some to neighbors.

4. Raise Livestock

Animals can turn a backyard into a mini-farm and provide nitrogen-rich fertilizer for your garden. Chickens, quails, pigeons and rabbits are the most common animals on urban homesteads, but urban beekeepers are growing in number.

Chickens and quails eat leftovers and provide eggs or meat. Pigeons provide you with squab, a delicacy in French restaurants. If space allows, buy a goat or two for fresh milk, cheese and yogurt.

5. Preserve Food

Freezing, drying and canning — both with water bath and pressure canners — are proven methods of preserving bulk food, seasonal hauls such as onions and garlic, or your own harvests. Before pasteurization and refrigeration, dehydration and fermentation were principal preservation methods.

Dehydrating and canning foods can be an activity done with the children. Dried fruit makes excellent healthy snacks.

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