When you hear the word homesteading you probably picture rolling hills, big open meadows, free-range chickens, and a windmill. You probably think of country life, milking cows, and tractors traveling down long rows of cornfields.
But this image of country living can feel a million miles away when you think of your home in the suburbs. But just because your neighbors are a few feet away, rather than miles away, that doesn’t mean you can’t experience a little bit of the homestead lifestyle too!
10 Ways to Start Urban Homesteading
Urban homesteading is becoming increasingly popular as city folk becomes interested in living more self-reliant lives, reducing their carbon footprint, and getting back to their country roots. And while you probably won’t be able to have a windmill or a grain silo in your backyard, there are still many homesteading projects you can try in the suburbs!
Read on to learn more about some homesteading ideas to try in the city.
1. Get A Compost Bin Up And Running
One of the cornerstones of homesteading is sustainability and reducing waste. And the kitchen is one of the biggest places that we tend to create waste. Food waste is a huge problem in the United States, and the average household throws away a pound of food per person every day.
So instead of throwing away that celery than went bad or the leftover scraps from your dinner plate, turn them into a nutrient-dense garden additive instead. Composting is super easy to get started with, and you don’t necessarily need a huge compost bin in your backyard to make a difference. There are a variety of smaller-scale kitchen compost bins that can fit right under the kitchen sink.
2. Grow Your Own Vegetables
Another important part of homesteading is practicing self-sufficiency, and what says that better than growing your own food? The great part about gardening is that you can start simple and slowly develop your garden and plant catalog as you learn more about your specific soil’s requirements and qualities.
If you’re a total newbie to gardening and are a little bit overwhelmed by all there is to know (like I was), start with a small windowsill herb garden. Buy a few seed packs, and follow the directions best you can. Though the first few tries might end up with a dead plant or two, that’s okay!
Through trial and error, you’ll discover where you’ve made mistakes and what you can do to improve your garden conditions. Before you know it you’ll find yourself with a bounty of fruits and vegetables that are practically exploding out of your garden beds! And if you don’t have much of a yard in your slice of suburbia, no problem. There are plenty of vegetables and fruits that you can grow in containers on your porch, patio, or apartment balcony.
Editor's Note: Here's how we grow our food without weeding or watering!
3. Start Collecting Rain Water
Depending on your local city’s laws and regulations, you may or may not be able to try this homesteading idea. But if there isn’t any local legislature or HOA that says you aren’t allowed to have a rain barrel on your property, you should definitely try harvesting rainwater at home.
Rain is an excellent source of clean, free water that can be used for all sorts of different household chores. Use it to water the plants, wash your car, water the lawn, and fill your backyard pond, amongst other things. Not only will you be taking advantage of water that would otherwise go straight into the storm drain, but you’ll save money on your water bill in the long run.
4. Build A Backyard Chicken Coop
Again, this is another homesteading project that you’ll have to make sure is allowed in your neighborhood before doing. But that being said, if your city allows you to have a backyard chicken coop, and you’re ready to have your very own homegrown fresh eggs, adding a couple of chickens to your family is another way to be a bit more self-sufficient.
Just like gardening, there is so much to know about raising chickens. Everything from what breed is best for your yard to what you need to know when it comes to building your own chicken coop from scratch. Not to mention, how to take care of chickens and their needs!
Though this isn’t necessarily the easiest homestead project to try, if you’re up for the challenge and want to teach your kids about raising animals, adding your own flock of chickens to your backyard is definitely an endeavor worth considering.
5. Cut Back On Household Waste
If you’re interested in the principals of homesteading but aren’t quite ready to jump in with gardening and raising animals, then first consider trying to build a more sustainable household by cutting back on household waste.
Homesteading is all about taking full advantage of your resources and working to live a more sustainable life for not only your family but for the environment as well. While food is definitely a big part of the household waste problem, consider for a moment all of the products you bring into your house.
Whether its clothes, toys, cleaning supplies, toiletries, or just everyday items, it’s easy to run to the store and pick up items that will end up in the waste stream sooner than we know it. So instead, consider buying in bulk, skipping the items that are wrapped in plastic, or shopping second hand. In the end, cutting down on your waste will not only reduce your overall carbon footprint, but you’ll save lots of money in the long run by skipping buying stuff you don’t need or buying secondhand.
6. Learn To Preserve Food For The Winter
Once you have your garden up and running and get a feel for how to take care of your crops, you’ll be harvesting a whole bunch of fruits, vegetables, and herbs in no time! And if it goes really well, you’ll find yourself with so much food that you can’t possibly eat fast enough before it all goes bad. So instead of letting all of your hard work go bad, learn how to preserve some of it for the winters ahead!
There are a variety of ways to preserve your fruits and vegetables, whether it be canning, dehydrating, or fermenting. Canning will allow you to have a shelf-stable product as well as jellies and jams while dehydrating your harvest will make them more portable and ready to be eaten on the trail or while you’re camping.
Editor's Note: See our favorite ways to preserve food here!
7. Work Towards Eliminating Debt
One of the cornerstones of homesteading is learning to live more self-sufficiently without the weight of debt on your shoulders. Though eliminating debt certainly isn’t something that will happen overnight, it is definitely an endeavor worth pursuing, and one that you can definitely start in the suburbs.
Take small steps and eventually, they will add up. Skip that morning coffee at the cafe, and skip buying that new purse that you really don’t need. Make dinner at home rather than ordering something to go. Take advantage of coupons and sales, but don’t buy something just because it’s a good deal. Keep a list of all the money you’ve prevented yourself from spending and you’ll be surprised at just how many unnecessary purchases you’re making.
RELATED: How we paid off $6500 in one day!
8. Install A Clothesline
Save money on your electricity bill and take advantage of the sun by installing a clothesline. Again, this is something you’ll have to check with the HOA about, but if you’re able to have a clothesline in your yard, give it a shot! Installing a clothesline is super easy and will result in clothes that last longer--line drying is more gentle than tossing clothes in a traditional dryer.
9. Encourage Pollinators To Visit
Homesteaders know that bees and other bugs aren’t pests, but rather are important pollinators that are key to maintaining an effective ecosystem and a healthy garden. While you may not be ready to become a beekeeper, or even have the facilities needed to become one, there are simple steps you can take to encourage bees and other pollinators to visit.
10. Utilize Green Electricity
While installing solar panels or windmills may not be within your means, there are many public utility districts that offer green electricity options. Though the upfront cost may be a little bit more on your utility bill (though I didn’t notice), you can feel good knowing that you’re supporting the growth of green energy. And maybe someday you’ll be able to install those solar panels and be the role model of the cul de sac!
Homesteading is a great way to get back to your roots, connect with nature and learn more about the world around us. How will you get started with homesteading in your own home? Let us know in the comments below!
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About the Author:
Leigha is the Managing Editor of Insteading.com, a homesteading and sustainability site focused on everything from gardening and raising chickens to off-grid living and tiny homes.