Andy Fleming writing on urban homesteading…
Urban Homesteading is all about adapting traditional homesteading techniques to city living. so you can live a more self-sufficient and environmentally friendly lifestyle…without making a significant lifestyle change.
You don’t have to move to the country and buy a plot of land to start improving your life. Urban homesteading will allow you to make full use of the resources available to you, likely saving you money in the process.
It’s a way of asserting your independence without disturbing your life…at least for now.
However, if you dream of one day going back to the land, urban homesteading is the perfect way to ease yourself into a healthier way of life by practicing food and energy production before you move off-grid.
There’s nothing wrong with starting small. You’ll develop the same problem-solving skills you would undertaking larger projects. You’ll also run less of a risk of becoming overwhelmed and giving up. By the time you’re ready to make the push to a fully independent lifestyle, you’ll have the skill base you need to make it work.
Urban homesteaders have a few options when it comes to food and energy production. Depending on the type of dwelling you’re currently living in some may not be available to you. Don’t get discouraged, finding ways to work around problems and tackle obstacles is one of the most important homesteading skills.
1. Assess Your Resources
The first step is to take account of all the natural resources at your disposal. How much land do you have access to? How much sunlight are you getting? What sources of water do you have easy access to?
Beyond natural resources, you should also consider the human resources available in your location. Do you have neighbors that might want to collaborate on a project or lend you land space in return for a share of the rewards? Are there farmers markets nearby where you can sell and trade goods or get advice?
Assessing the resources at your disposal and using them to build systems for sustainable production is a bread-and-butter homesteading skill. One of the best ways to start thinking about these systems is through the lens of permaculture.
Permaculture originally refers to “permanent agriculture”. It’s a way of adapting the systems that exist in nature to our own lives. If you gather rainwater and use it to naturally irrigate your crops, you’re practicing permaculture. Growing grain to feed chickens and, in turn, using their manure to fertilize more grain is another example.
Understanding permaculture will allow you to mimic natural processes. When it comes to self-sustaining, you can’t find a better teacher than nature itself. For an overview of ermaculture principals and techniques, check out PermaculturePrinciples.com.
2. Produce Your Own Food
If you have access to a small plot of land, you’ll want to put some time into learning vertical farming techniques. By growing up instead of out, you can maximize the production potential of your land in a big way.
A dedicated agriculturalist could even expect to produce thousands of pounds of produce annually. Check out this slideshow of 19 vertical gardening techniques that use mostly recycled materials to get some ideas.
It’s still possible to grow tons of food annually without access to any land. You can cultivate mushrooms in any indoor space for dirt cheap. Mushrooms can be grown from used coffee grounds and once you fruit your first crop you can cultivate spores for future crops on your own. Mushroom growth is quite explosive and gourmet varieties can be sold for a premium, making them an ideal crop.
3. Generate Energy
Producing your own power in an urban setting can be tricky, but it’s certainly possible. Wind power isn’t really feasible in the city as you need lots of space and big wind turbines usually violate building codes. Solar power, on the other hand, is almost as viable in the city as it is in a rural setting.
If you have access to your roof you can easily buy and install solar kits from a site like Wholesale Solar to reduce your dependence on the grid. You should also spend some time perusing the DIY solar projects and plans on Build It Solar for some truly innovative solutions.
Whether or not you choose to go the solar route, you should definitely learn to efficiently heat and cool your home. A/C and heat systems are some of the biggest power consumers, and learning to control your climate without power will go a long way in reducing your need for grid electricity.
Check out this list of energy efficient heating and cooling methods. There are a lot of simple fixes for conserving energy you may never have thought of, such as insulating your water heater or covering a south facing wall in corrugated plastic to absorb and release heat.
The less energy you use, the easier it is to produce your own. By following strategies like these you can cut your energy use by tens of thousands of kilowatt-hours per year. Remember, less power usage means you’ll need a smaller, cheaper solar system to self-sustain; and if you choose to remain on grid, power-saving techniques can save you thousands of dollars annually.
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