anyone 'urban' homesteading?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by 59classic, Mar 15, 2004.

  1. 59classic

    59classic Member

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    After reading the thread on 'what your place is like,' I got wondering. Is anyone else doing the 'urban' homesteading thing? Not just planning but actually doing? I am afraid that is as good as it is going to get for me (married a wonderful man who loves the city).

    We are planning on moving to a smaller city/town to reduce mortgage payments and to have a house paid off in the next 10-15 years. I told him I didn't care what the house was like as long as it has a BIG backyard as I want to try and start growing much of our own food. He has slowly warmed to that idea. If all goes well I would like to think about having a couple chickens or 2 small goats. And I would like to seriously reduce our utility consumption. My husband is into saving water in rain barrels, we have done that for quite a while to water the garden.

    So at very best my place will probably be two city lots. But I want to give it a shot. Hopefully the neighbors wont turn me in~!

    Kandi
     
  2. SueD

    SueD Well-Known Member

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    Yuppers... I posted over there. Doing the best I can on 1/4 acre I know I'll be leaving (within 2 years......)

    One thing I learned - check with the local homeowners association, OR Make sure nobody can see your back yard and pray a lot.

    I was told that I could have up to three pot-bellied pigs here, but that three hens and a pygmy goat were out of the question because they are livestock.

    OH did I raise a ruckus (made a LOT of enemies) and I still lost.

    Right now we have (a) rabbit, but will probably breed her later in the spring to start again. Not going to sell any here, as there are four levels of licenses and permits to get. (Homeowners again!!!) (Don't mind state and county regs, but GOSH!!)

    We have a small garden, about maybe 20x20 tops - I've never really measured it, but it keeps growing as we remove the previous owners' shrubs etc and fencing. I grow three (last year five because of donated plants from neighbors) varieties of tomatoes, 2 peppers, 2 hot peppers, eggplant, zukes, cukes, corn, brocolli and other stuff (a bit of everything). I took over the front yard for herbs and medicinals. I've got three tanks up, but have not yet started breeding betas again (haven't done that since high school, lol).

    Learning to be as frugal as I can (comfort levels, ya know)... Would rather spend less than stay here longer. Do some really nuts things in that vein, too, lol - but they work!

    Right now we're doing everything we can to add value to the property so we can sell out at a profit. Though I suffer every time I see a farm go into a housing development - I keep telling myself that they are raising our property values, and it helps.... somewhat. Considering they figure our town's population double at least twice between now and next summer - that's a LOT of farms being sold...

    Sue
     

  3. chickflick

    chickflick Well-Known Member

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    You don't say how you are living now..... Are you in an apartment? If so and you have a patio.. check out Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholamew..there is a website as well. It IS possible to grow veggies on your patio... the sq. ft. way.

    If you do have a little bit of yard, you COULD (if properly sneaky) have a couple of hens! Just remember, it always pays to make friends of your neighbors (who've probably never tasted a FRESH egg!:):) If space is really at a minimum.. get Silkies.. or some other bantam breed. I just suggest them because they are so 'broodie' and don't mind sitting a lot! :):)
     
  4. Debbie in IL

    Debbie in IL Active Member

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    IL
    We are on just over 1-1/4 acres. We have 5 goats (Pygmy & mini) and 1 chicken. I milk the does, and the chicken supplies enough eggs for us unless we are doing some heavy baking or it's easter, etc. We have a large garden - probably close to 1/4 acre, and grow most of our own veggies. I do end up buying salad stuff, onions and potatoes over the winter. We don't grow potatoes, and usually run out of onions by February. I usually have fresh tomatoes until January, but an early frost got the last of them last fall before I did. I make our soap and laundry detergent. We have a freezer full of chickens, geese (which we raised), and 2 deer. We are working towards getting more land - hopefully this spring, but do what we can now. We would like to have had fruit trees, but don't want to plant them now as we hope to be gone soon.
     
  5. My farm is in the middle of town. We're zoned "limited residential" which is one of the strictest zones there is. The code enforcement officer and her husband, the cheif of police, live on my road. The town has a sordid poultry factory farm history and consequently, they are extremely anti-animal.

    Last year I raised hundreds of broilers, turkeys, and layers hidden on the back of my field. My neighbors are all supportive, due to the eggs, poultry and vegetables they get. We have a solid customer base as well. The only close call we had was one night when the cheif pulled over in front of the garage; he must have seen the brooder lights in there and thought we might be cultivating a certain plant that they frown upon in these parts...

    The plan here is to do this for another couple of years to prove to ourselves, our neighbors, and everyone else that pretty intense farming can be done without detriment to others' suburban ideal. Eventually, we'll approach the zoning board for a variance, but not until a bunch of people have our backs when hearing time comes.

    SueD learned a lesson the hard way: It's easier to get forgiveness that it is to get permission. She asked and got the boot. CEOs investigate complaints, and if you take pains to ensure that there are none, you won't have to do much praying.

    You might not be thinking on the same scale as us, so the best rumination I can offer about urban homesteading is this: you can do a whole lot on a little piece of land. It will be years before I use all of my 10+ acres, and I'm sure you could do a lot on an acre or two.
     
  6. Calico Katie

    Calico Katie Well-Known Member Supporter

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  7. Josephine66

    Josephine66 Active Member

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    I am Urban Homesteading. I live in a major city. DH an I are trying to save the money to buy a real homestead. In the meantime I am learning all I can about cooking from scratch, crafts, gardening etc. I learn a lot from reading this board!
     
  8. Qvrfullmidwife

    Qvrfullmidwife Well-Known Member

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    "One thing I learned - check with the local homeowners association, OR Make sure nobody can see your back yard and pray a lot."

    Or get involved with the HOA...that is what we did. My dh is now the president and whoooeeee are we finding out alot of stuff that the past boards did and restrictions that they enforced that we not even IN the deed restrictions. Unfortunately, when apathy sets in people dont take notice. Well, we noticed, and while we are hoping and praying to skedaddle to a few acres further out soon, hopefully we will make this a more tolerant neighbohood before we go.
     
  9. moldy

    moldy Well-Known Member

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    KS
    We have about 1 1/2 acres - we raise rabbits and I have a 16 x 24 foot garden. I've planted a few fruit trees and plan on getting a dozen chickens or so later this spring. We, again, have fairly tight covenants; but I too feel it's easier to ask forgiveness than for permission. Land here is not that expensive, but finding land that is reasonable without livestock restrictions is indeed a tall order. Until we do, I'll just keep doing a little more each year - until someone stops me!!
     
  10. Grandmotherbear

    Grandmotherbear Well-Known Member Supporter

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    City ordinances forbid the keeping of animals other than dogs, cats, fish, rabbits, and snakes. I suppose I could try breeding rabbits....yeah, right, DH snorts, knowing how much I loved my house rabbit pets...not to complain but certain ethnic groups keep a few chickens around...enforcemnt is really spotty.
    We have a small garden and 2 small groups of pots - and the swale between the sidewalk and the road is where we put the sweet potatoes. We have 1 each-coffee, carambola, grapefruit, tangelo, orange, atemoya, doyvalis, muntingia, trees. I montera deliciousa vine. I scuppernong vine. 2 jaboticaba trees, and a row of pineapples along the front house wall. This is a small city lot. We put up our fruits, sometimes if we get meat on special I can it, we buy our food through Share, recycle, and I have been known to make soap and candles.Hopefully, noving on within a couple years!
     
  11. cwgrl23

    cwgrl23 Chief Vegtable Grower :) Supporter

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    I too am trying to "urban homestead". I garden every year and it gets bigger every year. I don't know how big it will be this year as I will be adding several raised beds. We are currently putting money in savings and paying down debt so that we can move to the country. I have been doing alot of studying of "alternative" or "green" type of houses. I am also studying what kind of fruits grow well here so that when we have our acreage, I know what will grow well. I do compost most things., recycle. I also shop the sales with coupons. I get laundry soap, shampoos, toothpaste, etc for free or close to it. We do lots of things to that dime stretch till it squeaks :)
     
  12. 59classic

    59classic Member

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    Thanks to everyone. I was just wondering who else was urban homesteading. I am just getting started although I have gardened before and we try to live simply. We have a city lot of 50 x 120 feet on which sets our house, garage and shed. My whole big back yard is privacy fenced, in case I ever decide to get a couple 'pet' goats. They would have to be small breed.

    Kandi
     
  13. my wife and i live in downtown san francisco. tiny apartment. i grew up in the country (sierra nevada's) and we're dying to get back out there.

    so i guess right now, i'd have to say no we are not homesteading. not in the slightest. my wife is finishing up school, and i will be attending u.c. berkeley for a few years starting in the fall. we're saving up money, and learning useful skills.

    we can't even grow an herb garden in this little apartment. besides, from what i hear, the lead content in the buildings transfers easily into living plants, so we wouldn't be able to eat anything we grow in here anyway.

    we've got five acres waiting for us up in the mountains, so we're just learning, saving, and living simply until we're completely ready to get out.

    by the way, i love this site for some of the useful tips and "daydream fodder"

    oh, and next january i'll be hopping on that barter board. it looks like i'm going to have a chance to go crab fishing, and should be able to freeze and trade with people out in the central valley. (i don't think we'll be able to eat the fishing limit of 40 pounds per person per day)

    phil
     
  14. Canehdian

    Canehdian Member

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    Saskatchewan, Canada
    Hi all:

    Well I'm new to the board and just simply love it, The wife and myself find ourselves in much the same situation as the rest of you, living in the city with tight restrictions on animals etc. We are just waking up and smelling the java after ten years of spending and waste. We are now on a tight budget that if all goes well will see us debt free in two years and that includes the house which by the way sits on a double city lot 100' x 150'. I have dabbled in growing giant vegetables the last 9 years which I grow in our 40' x 70' garden. I have also created two giant tomato variety's and am just now thinking on giving up this hobby to use the space to help feed the family. With growing for size (727lb pumpkin personal best) the garden has been well taken care of and the wife and I are quite apt in the art of composting and such. What got us thinking of homesteading was many factors, some of them was the desire to get out of the rat race, and the fact that last year I decided to grow and pickle some cukes, well with the 15 plants and the condition of the garden we ended up with hundreds of pounds and pickled just about every type of cuke you could think of not to mention homemade relish (yum). Well when I ran out of cukes we loaded the kids into the car and went to the provincial park were they just happen to have thousands of chokecherry bushes and we picked till are hearts delight on the way home we stopped and picked up blueberry's and strawberry's and now have enough jam to do us till this fall and don't forget about the chokecherry syrup for homemade pancakes.

    Two other reasons is the new backyard fireplace (meets city code) I built the wife, where last year we spent countless hours away from the tube and infront of the flames, we live on the prairies and firewood is costly so I take a trip around to other home owners after a storm and offer to take away there downed tree for free. The last but most deciding factor was our Country friends, we farm sat for last year. Ten whole days of getting up at 5:00am and getting to bed at 12:00am taking care of all the animals 150 so birds, a couple pigs, 3 horses and some cattle oh life was good. This year we will be out there again for 14 days. We can't wait.

    There are many other things we have started to do only buying farm fresh eggs from our friends (cheaper then at a store) and we get all our poultry (frozen) from the local hutterrite colony just out side of the city.

    There are other things we want to start and we are sure glad we found this forum, we don't know yet if we will ever live off the grid but I can tell you we are really having fun with our new Urban Homestead on the Canadian Prairies.

    TTYL
    Ernie
    Canehdian :)
     
  15. bluereef

    bluereef Active Member

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    Location:
    FL, TN
    We live in a condo with a tiny brick-floor balcony (8' x 4'). After years of never going out there because it was hot and barren (from the Miami heat), I finally got wise and started a garden there.

    I now have pots on the floor by the railing, pots hanging from the railing (outside the balcony to give me more room inside the balcony), and pots hanging from the ceiling edge.

    After a year of experimenting with different plants, seasons, etc., I have successfully grown sweet 100 tomatoes (a small cherry-like tomato) in a hanging formation, sweet basil (tons!), rosemary (nice and bushy), catnip (gotta have something for the kitty), green onions, lettuce, arugula, thyme, and chilies. I have a strawberry pot, but it isn't very productive. I can't figure out how to get the APHIDS from attacking my cilantro. I have some ornatmentals too to balance the color.

    With such a small plot, most of my gardening is for pleasure rather than real sustenance. The greenery now provides a "wall" of lushness that keeps the balcony cool and inviting. My DH and I eat out there all through fall, winter, and early spring. We get visited by lizards, birds, and squirrels (who else would keep sticking their peanuts in my pots?!). Plus, kitty now loves all the excitement and her personal "salad bar".

    One day we hope to move to the country....
     
  16. dakota1055

    dakota1055 Member

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    It sounds like I am the only person on this board urban homesteading who is planning to stay, and not move to the country. I have a nice small suburban house (paid for finally) on a very small lot. In spite of that, I have 4 fruit trees a couple of years old that are producing nicely. I put up plenty of Meyer Lemon Marmalade this year, and preserved some in salt that I understand can be used in place of olives in recipes. Haven't tried it yet. I added 2 fig and 2 key lime that are already bearing fruit. I also added 4 more citrus, one apricot, two kiwi, one banana, and two dwarf apple that will probably take a couple of years. I am still looking for two avocado.

    This is the first year for the strawberry and blueberry plants, just a couple to see how they do. Here in west central Florida I can grow vegetables year round. Since I work full-time I don't fully supply our needs, but will be able to supply the majority once I am retired or semi-retired. I have a small sunroom that has a couple of pots of scallions (green and red) year round so when cooking we just need to step outside and pick them for the recipe. The herb garden is large, both culinary and tea, and the herbs get moved into the sunroom for the winter. This past year we had basil year round. DH and I have always "cooked from scratch" as it is said in the forum, and we use lots of fresh herbs.

    Most of these trees and plants are in some sort of pot or container, since I don't know what chemicals are being used around me, and I can re-arrange depending on the time of year. The sun gets very strong mid-summer. The yields are just as good, sometimes better because I can move the plant around. The back yard looks like a little green paradise, with all of the pots and plants and pathways. I am very concious of keeping it attractive. Even with all of this, it does not look overcrowded. People are quite surprised when they step into the pool area and look out beyond the screen. We have a creek directly behind us, so sharing the bounty with all of God's creatures whether we plan to or not is always a challenge. This year I am starting a new section for cutting flowers and butterfly flowers.

    I have rain barrels to supply the water, and I will probably add a couple more in a few years. Right now I still order seeds since I love to try new things, but I grow most of the vegetables directly from seed to get the variety. Last year I grew baby corn. The stalks are full size, and they grew well in a container. This year I will try regular corn too. DH is not at all interested in animals, and the only ones that would interest me are a chicken or two. All in all, a nice relaxing homestead supplying a good part of our needs. It doesn't require a lot of back-breaking work, so I look forward to living here and continuing this type of lifestyle right into the golden years.
     
  17. While beginning to write an article on urban homesteading, I came across the urban homesteading thread discussed in March 2004 on this site. I am employed by a local organization Milwaukee that assists persons interested in purchasing homes in the central city. Over 10 years ago the City sponsored an urban homesteading program to convert the vacant homes into self-help, grant-supported rehabs. The program ended and we have continued the tradition to the present. A majority of our past work was with the Hmong community which has resulted in the proliferation of community gardens and many back yard chicken coops.

    We own a large old house with a 105x120 lot and grow a portion of our food there and behind a building we are converting from tavern to bakery. We are by no means homesteading purists - we leave that lofty goal to my sister, who is off the grid in northern VT - most of our food budget supports our coop.

    My question relates to the article I am writing; how do homesteaders define urban homesteading; from house to lifestyle?
     
  18. katydidagain

    katydidagain Adventuress--Definition 2 Supporter

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    Location:
    NE FL until the winds blow
    My definition? My city lot is 1/3 acre but is mostly driveway--zoned commercial--so I have around 700 sq feet of growing space but I plant intensely. (Years of soil amendments make it possible to not spray or fertilize.)

    I have a tiny lawn, flowerbeds in the front and other spaces I've let be ornamental not included in growing area. In my postage stamp I have 1 apricot tree, 5 grape vines, 2 sand cherry bushes, 1 huge blackberry, 60+ fig trees (all but 3 are potted in a bed 3 x 26 --they're my "plan to take with me to the farm" babies but, as squished together as they are, they're producing!) 3 raspberry plants (DH killed many off but I'm propagating again to refill their alloted space), hops and something I've forgotten I'm sure. Within my "homestead" is 168 sq feet of raised beds (5 4x6) with one dedicated to herbs. After taking a break from gardening for a couple of years, I recently planted beans, tomatoes, cukes, etc.; they've always produced enough to both eat and can or dry. Any extra veggie plants or those I want seed from get tucked into "hidden from the street" flower beds included in the original square footage.

    I could probably sneak a chicken in--there was a rooster around the corner for years but I won't. My major varmint here is the neighbor's cat who digs incessantly in my garden but I've encountered rats, raccoons and possums besides the usual thieving birds. (DH goes a huntin' in the city every so often to cull pests with his BB gun--hey, crows gotta eat, too!)

    I live on a main road but step into "my area" and you'd think you were in the country which is where I want to be...

    katy
     
  19. VonWolfen

    VonWolfen Well-Known Member

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    May 23, 2004
    Location:
    Tennessee
    Nice to see so many are interested. I'm another who plans on staying. I have 1/2 acre in city limits, zoned residential/commercial. I did the country deal for several years, and it was rewarding and educational. I just couldn't handle that much land and equipment the way I wanted too...always paying catch-up. I'm about half ways to where I need to be. I think this is a wonderful alternative to a small country holding. I'm zoned out of all animals...which is kinda OK with me..since I found out ALL animals are my pets. There seem to be endless opportunities for this choice. I live in northwest Florida. Great growing season.
    Websites: pathtofreedom.com , newagrarian.com .