This article, The simple life: 14 Steps to An Urban Homestead by Momtastic Web Ecoist, just showed up on my facebook feed recently. I thought I’d use it as a checklist for my homestead aspirations. They don’t have the points numbered, but I’m adding numbers just to make sure I got them all.:)
#1 Get Gardening – check!
I’ve started my garden. Checking it daily. Getting very excited watching all the seedlings coming up. I hope to build more beds this year (but not until after midsummer). Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t want a back yard of just garden beds so I can’t build that many. And since I live on a busy street I wouldn’t trust any food grown in my front yard.
#2 Plant fruit trees – check!
I have two brand new apple trees. A yellow delicious and a honeycrisp. I’m hoping it won’t be too many years before they start producing.
I have a meyer lemon tree. It has produced for me 9 out of the 10 years I’ve had it. It didn’t produce last year, I think because my cat tried to dig it up while it was overwintering.
And I have a kiwi tree (actually it is a vine). It’ll be a few years before it starts producing, too.
#3 Start Composting – check!
I have a compost bin. I throw all kitchen scraps and leaves into it. I’ve gotten some compost from it over the years, but squirrels regularly raid it. I think about half what I put it gets taken out and eaten by squirrels.:( I am researching a way to have squirrel-safe compost.
#4 Cut waste – working on it!
Recently started working on this. I used to use way too many water bottles and paper towels.
I just recently purchased some small kitchen cloths (7- one for each day of the week) to use to clean up spills. I’m going to have to purchase more for all the spills that happen each day (my cats and kids knock over way too many drinks).
We use cloth napkins while eating. Been using them for years. I have some fancy ones for special occasions and cheap ones for everyday use.
I almost always have had a case of water bottles in the car. It has been handy for grabbing one while out and about and someone gets thirsty. But after watching the documentary “Plastic Paradise” I’m going to stop buying water bottles. I’ll start being more prepared and bring filled canteens with us when we know we’re going to be out and about.
I use cloth shopping bags. And I’m going to start crocheting produce bags so I don’t have the plastic bags from the produce department. And hopefully I won’t have to buy as much produce soon!
I have family wipes (bought them for using as baby wipes when we were going to cloth diaper our first child). I currently use them for wash cloths. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to convince my husband to try it (He banned/vetoed cloth diapering after only week of doing it with our oldest and won’t change his mind).
#5 Eliminate toxic cleaners and chemicals – working on it!
I don’t use chemical cleaners to clean around the house. I have a spray bottle filled with half water and half vinegar that I use for all my cleaning. I haven’t felt the need for anything stronger.
For hand washing dishes I use Seventh Generation dish soap. I would really like to use something similar for the dishwasher, but none of the ones I’ve tried have performed well.
I would like to start making my own laundry soap or an environmentally friendly detergent. I use All Free and Clear and have been faithful to this detergent for at least 8-9 years. But I’m going to keep an open mind and -big breath- switch. My sister-in-law (who has a working,self-sufficient,off-grid homestead in the middle of nowhere) makes her own. I’ll ask for her recipe.
#6 Re-purpose creatively – check!
I’ve been doing this for years. I can’t seem to make myself throw things out that seem like they could be used for something else.
I cut up old holey-toed socks and the kids play with them (the leg parts) as armbands. They have a blast with them, pretending to be superheroes, robots, spies, etc. Though it would be better to learn how to darn socks.:)
I dismantled my kids toddler beds when they outgrew them and rebuilt them into shelves.
I reuse cereal boxes as masks for the kids. Open them up and turn them inside out. Cut them into the shape you want with eye, nose, and mouth holes…if needed. Let the kids color or decorate them. Tie a rubberband (usually a broken one I have lying around) onto holes punched in the sides and voila! I’ve even done this to make Halloween masks when I haven’t been able to find one pre-made that the kids want.
#7 Bake your own bread – check!
I make my own bread, but I admit to using a bread machine. A homesteading friend of mine, who I don’t think calls herself a homesteader but I think of her as one, just recently told me she does the same. But she takes the dough out right before the bake cycle, shapes the loaf herself, and bakes it in the oven. I’m going to do that next time I make bread.
I’ve been baking bread since I was in college and lived off campus. I’d make it for myself and for payment/bribes to friends for rides to places that were too far to walk or bike (I didn’t have a car back then). I never had a friend turn down a loaf of bread.
Homemade bread is so much tastier than store bought. Maybe it is the simple, good ingredients and lack of chemicals.
#8 Harvest rainwater – no check 😦
I would love, love, love to start harvesting rainwater. I have so many friends who do. But the cost of the barrels is just so daunting. I need to just suck it up, see it as the investment it is, and start doing it.
#9 Raise backyard chickens – no check
I don’t have chickens. I have a lot of friends who do. It is quite common in my area. But this is quite low on my list towards homesteading. We’re vegetarian and no one likes eggs in my family. So I haven’t seen a point. If I raised them, it would be to sell the eggs and for manure.
Also, my neighbors chickens are very free range. They spend a great deal of time in my yard. I don’t think they get a single egg from them. I went into the vacant lot behind us one day last summer (chasing my indoor cat who’d gotten loose and decided to explore) and found several nests full of broken eggs from my neighbor’s chickens.
#10 Cut electricity use – check!
We’ve been working on this one for years. We hardly have to turn on a light inside the house during the day due to every room (except the bathrooms and the dining room) having windows on multiple walls (even our non-walkout basement has multiple windows) letting in plenty of light. The rooms with only windows on one wall still get plenty of natural light that we don’t have to turn on the light during the day. We have switched out to CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs) for every light in the house for use when it’s dark. We are thinking of switching out to LEDs. They last longer, use less energy. and don’t contain mercury. Next time we have to replace a CFL we’ll try a LED.
I’m going to try drying clothes outside for the first time this year. Never done it, but I think it’s worth a try. I have clothesline in my amazon cart, waiting for me to purchase it.:)
I always wash laundry in cold water. The only exceptions are when we tried cloth diapering and when I have very heavily soiled/filthy/thrown up on laundry.
I unplug appliances when they’re not in use. Especially those that have a lit up clock display (like the coffee machine and microwave). I don’t unplug the oven, even though it has a clock, because it is just too darned hard to pull it out to unplug.:) And because I use the cooktop part of it throughout the day.
#11 Reduce meat consumption – check!
My family is vegetarian. My kids have never eaten meat. They love telling servers in restaurants that we’re vegetarian.
We tried going vegan one year, since we already didn’t eat eggs, but my family quickly realized we like cheese too much. I found quite a bit of really good vegan recipes when we were vegan and I still use those instead of traditional versions. I find it easier to use the vegan versions of recipes that call for eggs since we don’t have eggs and I hate having to buy them just to make something. I always have flax seed (1 tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 3 tbsp water replaces 1 egg) and applesauce (1/4 cup replaces 1 egg) in my pantry to replace eggs in a recipe if I don’t already have a vegan version.
#12 Get fermenting with yogurt, pickles, and more – no check 😦
This one intimidates me. I don’t know why. From everything I’ve read fermenting is easy. And so healthy for you. My sister-in-law makes her own kombucha.
Once my garden starts producing this summer I’ll try pickling.
I’d love trying to make my own sauerkraut (love that stuff!). I’ve read it is super easy to do, I just have to get my rear in gear and do it.
I am going to try making my own apple cider vinegar. I’ve been reading up on how to do this. And for some reason this one doesn’t intimidate me. Go fig!
I never thought to try to make my own yogurt since we never have dairy milk in the house. I always buy coconut milk or soy milk yogurt due to dairy intolerances. (Even though we have dairy intolerance in several members in my family we still eat cheese. The process of turning to cheese changes the proteins in the dairy enough that those family members can eat it on occasion.)
#13 Learn how to can your fruits and veggies – trying to check!
I started learning how to can last fall from a friend of mine. I went over to her house and watched her can apple butter and helped can pepper jelly. It was quite a learning experience. She highly recommended the book Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine. After that I put canning supplies and the book on my Amazon wish list.
This past Christmas I received a water bath canner, all the supplies to water bath can, and the book. Hurray! Thank you Santa! I’m ready to start canning, just haven’t had a chance to use them, yet, but I plan to this summer.
I’m going to put a pressure canner on my list wish for next Christmas.:)
#14 Add alternative energy sources – no check 😦
My brother and sister-in-law are completely off grid. They have solar and wind. I’d like to use a combo of solar and wind energy, too. I’ve seen some very nice wind turbine designs that won’t stand out on my house here in the city. Unfortunately those designs are all pretty expensive, and not for sale yet in the US. And for solar, well that is pretty pricey. Hopefully, with the way technology keeps changing, the costs of solar will go down.
I’m going to build a solar oven with my boys. I’ve been reading a lot of how-to’s on making solar ovens. I’m excited about it and hope they learn a lot…and hope it works.
Well, 7 out of 14 checked shortly after actively/consciously starting homesteading doesn’t seem too bad to me. How’d you do?
#15 Beekeeping – One thing not on this list that I think should be. – no check 😦
I’ve been reading a lot about it. They are so good for your garden, trees, and environment. They help make your garden more productive by pollinating more of your plants flowers. And they make yummy honey! Several people in my area area backyard beekeepers and my friend, the one who showed me canning, is going to start beekeeping. I’m very excited for her. I will work hard on convincing my husband we should start keeping bees. And hopefully start a hive next spring.