One thing I love about homesteading is that it is a completely flexible lifestyle…
Sometimes I think people get caught up in the old-fashioned idea that you have to have acres of property to be considered a homesteader. Today that is simply not the case, you can begin your homesteading journey no matter where you are.
To help those that wish to live the homesteading lifestyle but are confined to smaller spaces I have created this mini-series. It is here to give ideas and inspiration to those that want to learn How to be an Apartment Homesteader, How to Be a (Semi-Rural) Homesteader and How to be a Suburban (or Urban) Homesteader.
I have loved reading the comments and hearing from those of you who have already started implementing so many of the ideas from the posts in this mini-series. This post in the “You can homestead where ever you are mini-series is about defining our fill-in-the-blank homestead as a Suburban (or Urban) Homesteader.
What is a Suburban (or Urban) Homesteader?
So what does the urban or suburban farmer look like? You may find yourself in the heart of the city (or suburbia) for any number of reasons. Most likely you don’t see yourself pulling up and moving to the country any time soon. However, even though you may enjoy the benefits of city living, that homesteading spirit still burns deep inside of you.
The good news? There are things you can do to live this homesteading lifestyle. You can start by implementing the ideas for an apartment homestead. But being in a Suburban (or Urban) area means you have a little yard space to use, giving you a few extra options, too.
Ideas for the Suburban (or Urban) Homesteader:
1. Grow a Garden
Regardless of whether your yard space is big or small, it is almost always possible to find at least a little spot where you can plant some veggies. If you aren’t sure what area would be most beneficial for a garden, here are some additional resources to help with your layout:
- Reasons to Plant a Victory Garden
- If I Lived in Town, This is How I Would Homestead (Youtube Video)
- Turning a 1/4 Acre City Lot into a THRIVING Homestead (Youtube Video)
Once you have determined the perfect spot it is time to determine what you will plant. When choosing I would start with heirloom varieties that aren’t available in your local stores (this year we grew Yukon Gold potatoes since we usually only have access to Russets.). Heirlooms provide so many additional benefits, learn Why & How I Use Heirloom Seeds in my Garden.
Another consideration is the amount of sun your area will have, you will want to find out what varieties of vegetables thrive in shade and sun. With a little creativity, you should be able to maximize the harvest from any sized garden plot. And of course, like the apartment homesteader, you can always use containers and pots to grow a variety of edibles
2. Start a Compost Pile to be a Suburban Homesteader
If you’ve read the story of my journey into homesteading and natural living, then you know that it all began with a compost pile! Turn your coffee grounds, egg shells, and kitchen scraps into valuable (and frugal) food for your urban garden.
The sky is the limit when it comes to composting set-ups. Build your own bins, use re-purposed materials (trash cans, plastic storage totes, etc) or purchase ready-made composting buckets or tumblers. Start Making and Using Compost for Your Garden plots, raised beds, or containers.
3. Be a Bee Keeper and Suburban (or Urban) Homesteader
While this may seem like a stretch for some folks, more and more people are becoming backyard beekeepers. My cousin Karla keeps a thriving hive in her very suburban backyard, which provides her family with delicious local, raw honey. And if you have children or grandchildren, just think of all the science experiments and hands-on learning that a backyard hive could provide.
4. Landscape with Edibles
Water is a precious commodity in the part of Wyoming where we live. Even though we have our own well and no water restrictions, I just can’t bring myself to pour water on a lawn (or even flowers…) that only lives a few months and give us nothing to eat in return. So, when I have an empty flower bed, I resist the urge to buy expensive annuals and instead try to plant edibles in their place.
This year, my “flower” beds around the house held sunflowers, tomatoes, basil, lettuce, and spinach. It’s still green, it’s still beautiful (to me anyway), and I feel better when I water it, knowing that it will help contribute to my family’s food needs.
I’m not necessarily recommending that you rip out your entire yard overnight, but next time you head to the garden store, consider choosing fruit trees/bushes, herbs, or vegetables instead of annual flowers that will be dead in a short time.
5. Raise Chickens to be a Suburban Homesteader
More and more cities and towns across the U.S. are allowing their residents to take part in urban agriculture by keeping backyard chickens. If it is allowed by your homeowner’s association, I highly recommend considering a small flock of your own. There are many reasons to become a chicken farmer in your own backyard, eggs, meat, extra fertilizer, and sheer entertainment to name a few.
6. Raise Quail in Your Backyard
As mentioned before HOAs, Cities and towns are allowing backyard chickens, but this isn’t the case everywhere. If you are not able to keep chickens because of rules or space, then raising quail might be a great alternative. Quail are smaller and require much less space than chickens. They eat less feed while providing you with eggs and a meat option. Raising Meat on a Small Homestead has more information about quail and other small animal options.
7. Transform your Kitchen into a Homesteader’s Kitchen.
No matter what type of homesteading you do, food production and preservation are a HUGE part of it. Get busy learning how to cook from scratch, preserve your fresh produce, and How to Store and Use Bulk Pantry Goods. These are all things that can be learned to transform your kitchen into a working homestead kitchen.
All of these things can seem a bit overwhelming and intimidating at first, but there are many different resources available at The Prarie Homestead that can help you get started.
Learning to Cook From Scratch:
- My Heritage Cooking Crash Course (Learn from Scratch Cooking with Step-by-Step Videos)
- Ideas for Making Bread Without Yeast
- Rustic Sausage & Potato Soup
- How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter
- French Bread Recipe
Learn How to Preserve Your Food:
There are a few different methods that can be used to preserve and store your meat and fresh produce. Also, mentioned in the How to be an Apartment Homesteader post in this series, they include freezing, canning, and dehydrating.
- Freezing – Unlike an apartment, you may have the space for an upright or chest freezer to hold frozen fruits/veggies, and make-aheads like pie fillings, homemade broth, or beans. This is also a great option for feezing eggs, poultry, beef, pork, or wild game. Freezer space is a valuable thing around here so I try to save the freezer space for meat.
- Canning – This is one of the oldest and most widely used ways to preserve things like pickles, jams, applesauce, and tomato sauce. Canning can be intimidating, but if you don’t cut corners, follow the canning rules and implement canning safety you should have nothing to worry about. Except maybe where to store it all.
- Dehydrating – If you have limited storage space, dehydrating might be the preservation method for you. You can dehydrate a variety of different vegetables and fruits. When you dehydrate your produce it reduces the moisture content and size so more can be stored in one container. Another option when you dehydrate is to turn your veggies into a powder to add to different from-scratch recipes. For more information you can also listen to Dehydrating Powders: A Simple, Space-Saving Way to Preserve Fruits & Vegetables with Darci Baldwin on the Old Fashioned on Purpose Podcast.
Buying Pantry Staples in Bulk:
Buying in bulk isn’t always an option for everyone because of space restrictions. But you can always try to buy the things you use most in bulk to save money and time spent at the grocery store. Beans, White Rice, and honey are great options to start with when buying in bulk. If you are interested in learning more about bulk pantry buying then listen to these Tricks for Storing & Using Bulk Pantry Goods with Jessica or read How to Store and Use Bulk Pantry Goods.
8. Keep Worms
Compost worms are a wonderful way to put your kitchen scraps to good use. You also will have gained some new creepy-crawly friends. Here’s a helpful post that highlights everything you need to know about feeding your new wormy buddies.
Are You a Suburban (or Urban) Homesteader?
To me, there is one defining characteristic of all successful homesteaders, whether they be apartment dwellers, urban, suburban, semi-rural, or rural: Successful homesteaders know how to make do with what they have and think outside of the box.
All homesteads big and small have their own unique challenges. Some may think I “have it made” on our homestead. Sixty-Seven acres, no covenants, no restrictions… it must be perfect, right?
Not really. There are plenty of things that I would like to change on our homestead. There are many things that are less than ideal. But, I work hard at being creative and thinking of ways to make the best out of what we have. That is the mindset of the old-time homesteaders that made them legendary even today.
How many of you are urban or suburban homesteaders/farmers? How have you found creative solutions to your obstacles?
More Homesteading Ideas:
- How to Store a Year’s Worth of Food for Your Family (Without Waste and Overwhelm)
- Raising Meat on a Small Homestead
- The Homestead Barn Hop
- Dear Homesteader Who Longs to Leave the City