Monday, March 19, 2012

:: Why Are We Urban Homesteading? ::

I participated in an interview last year on The Praire Homestead, that I thought would be interesting to some of you, who might be considering starting an 'urban homestead'. As I was out picking homegrown raspberries today, I had a flashback to several years ago, when I would read about people picking homegrown berries on their blogs & see their handfuls of fresh berries, and think, 'Oh my, I would love to be able to go pick berries from my backyard like that'... and there I was doing it! I wondered to myself, what did get us started in wanting to do this homesteading in our backyard, and remembered this interview... so here it is!

1. When did your interest in modern homesteading begin?  

Our interest in environmentally-friendly living began over 6 years ago, and with our increased knowledge about the state of our world, we began to think about how we would feed, protect and provide for our family in an uncertain future. We moved to Canberra (the capital city of Australia) in 2008, when our desires to increase our independence, our resilience and perhaps some level of self-sufficiency really took off. Buying a house with a decent sized block in Canberra was the most suitable option at the time, so ‘urban homesteading’ became our way to ‘adapt in place’.

2. What were your main reasons for deciding to "take the plunge" and set off on the homesteading journey?

As we learnt more about peak oil/ peak everything, climate change, food security issues, economic crises, and other issues that could be TEOTWAWKI, we wanted to at least be able to feed our family, and provide basic necessities for ourselves. Of course, urban homesteading has so many positive benefits, it wasn’t hard to make the decision to create an urban homestead! It’s more than just preparedness, it is about education, entertainment, satisfaction, contentment, increasing our skills and knowledge, family time, being good role models, community building, improved health, and of course, we feel it is a good way to lower the impact our lifestyle has on the planet too. My husband and I both are passionate about living this way, and the kids enjoy it too.
3. What resources have you found most helpful along this journey?
Other bloggers who were already doing it, such as Rhonda at Down to Earth, Molly at Crossroads, The Greening of Gavin, Tricia at Little Eco Footprints, and Julie at Towards Sustainability. There was also those with helpful advice, and inspiration, even if not ‘urban’ themselves, like Christine at Slow Living Essentials, Linda at The Witches Kitchen, and the Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op. Seeing how this young Aussie couple, who blog at Adventures in Urban Sustainability, transformed their block inspired us. I also found forums such as Aussies Living Simply so helpful! I didn’t know what we wanted to do was even called ‘Urban Homesteading’ until I read the term on The Crunchy Chicken in 2010. Now there are many ‘urban homestead’ blogs I like to read from all around the world! I also like websites or blogs with Permaculture information, as I designed the urban homestead that we are working towards on my basic permaculture knowledge.
Plus we have quite a number of ‘reference’ books now, including The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, and Independence Days by Sharon Astyk, and many borrowed from the library too. I have also done a few short courses over the last few years, on Organic Backyard Growing, Introduction to Permaculture, Beginners Crochet, and intend to do a Natural Beekeeping Course next year. Involvement with various community groups, such as doing the Admin for PermaBlitz ACT, has been useful at times too. Now I run The Urban Homesteaders Club, a social group really, but we intend to do workshops, skill sharing and farm visits, in amongst our produce/ advice swapping and tale telling!

4. What has been the most difficult part of being an urban homesteader?
Balancing ‘real life’ with a ‘hobby’ that can be all consuming! In real life, we have young kids (now 6 and almost 4), we need to work to pay the mortgage (my husband works full time from home, I work part time as a Registered Nurse), and all the regular school, household and community commitments. Finding enough time and energy to invest in our urban homestead is worth it though, but it is an ongoing challenge to not take on too much (sometimes I want to do it all, and do it now)!

5. Can you describe your current homestead for us?
Our house is on a 994sqm suburban block, with a 4 bedroom single story home taking up a decent part of that. We have four large raised wicking worm garden beds (2.9m long), several other ‘no-dig’  and ‘hugelkultur’ garden beds for growing annuals, fruit trees (established and new), berries and some other perennial plants, plus culinary and medicinal herbs and flowers for bees. We compost, have a worm farm, rainwater tanks, solar panels, have recently added chickens, and hope to get bees next year too. We preserve our harvests by canning, dehydrating, freezing, and also enjoy giving a lot of it away. We’d like to get a wood fired oven, or a smoker unit, set up drip irrigation and perhaps a grey water system. A composting toilet would be cool! Some of the skills we are currently gaining are bow hunting, lacto-fermenting, crochet and more about gardening.

6. In your opinion, what is the future of modern homesteading?
Everyone will be doing it! In some form or another, people will be growing their own, raising their own, bartering, sharing, reskilling and getting dirt under their fingernails! In Australia, ‘the good life’ to a lot of people is having a lush mowed lawn, a big pool, a shiny BBQ, and a good outdoor entertaining area. These days, more and more people are making changes by growing their own, keeping chickens, and integrating ‘simple life’ concepts into their everyday lives. Urban homesteading is a great way for the large number of people in cities and suburbia to develop resilience, to adapt in place, and to prepare for hard times ahead. If no hard times come, we’ll all still get to reap the benefits!