Urban Homesteading

What does homesteading mean to you? Do you picture acres of land, with a few animals and huge garden? Maybe close to a small town or in the middle of the country? This is exactly what I picture. Though I moved to a big city a decade ago out of necessity (read jobs), there’s a part of me that yearns to try homesteading like Frugalwoods.

Except one major roadblock: IT project management and graphic design jobs aren’t exactly common outside cities. Not to mention we’re used to a carless existence and Mr Whymances really enjoys having the city at his fingertips.

Over the summer, I’ve come to realize homesteading can be many different things and it’s first and foremost an attitude. Not only does it have a lot in common with financial independence, homesteading can be done in an urban environment.

What Exactly Is Homesteading?

Like financial independence, it can have many different flavours. The strictest definition boils down to subsistence living. Re-using what you have to fill another purpose, growing/securing/preserving your own food, building skills to do DYI projects around the house, etc

“No man is an island entire of itself” – John Donne

Humans have always lived in communities. We are stronger together than individually. Out the myriads of skills you need to be self sufficient, you mastered some basic skills and offered a specialized skill set in trade for what you needed from someone else. You have to pick and choose where to start and what skills to build; you can’t do it all.

Location Based Homesteading

While it’s true homesteading is an attitude first, there’s no denying the what and how you want to tackle for homesteading may dictate the location you can do it in.

Can you picture a cow in your neighbours 10′ x 15′ back yard and all the lovely cow pies.. with flies..

It’s a funny image but would likely not make for the best neighbours in reality.

Country Homesteading is a pretty broad concept and also what I usually picture. Anything from off grid living, having land in a remote location or closer to a small town. Having a big garden and maybe some animals, ranging from poultry to more ambitious sized animals (pigs, cows, sheep, etc). There’s no denying some homesteading goals require more acreage and space between neighbours.

Urban Homesteading is the same concept: having the skills to make and
provide a range of items to satisfy your basic needs. If necessary, how you do it is adapted to living in an urban environment. Living in a condo, I don’t have a backyard or rolling acreage for a huge garden. Instead, I’ve done container gardens and more recently leased a garden plot in a designated city allotment.  We cook at home and froze an abundance of vegetables this year to use through part of the winter.

This isn’t an isolated resurgence in our area. Over the past decade, I’ve seen more front yards (and back yards) converted to vegetable gardens, container gardens, roof top beekeeping, rise in backyard hens, increase in learning to sew and knit, rain water collection system, foraging and the list goes on. This trend, much like financial independence, comes in a style of ‘pick your own adventure’. Very few homesteading activities are limited by urban living.

I’m still working on what exactly homesteading will  look like for me. I’m sure I’ll always be building new skills, discovering new possibilities and the concept will grow and change with time. Here’s what it looks like so far:

  • Growing vegetables in container or city allotment garden
  • We may be limited to our small top of the fridge freezer but I’ve crammed it with as many veggies as I could fit for the winter.
  • We live in a bachelor apartment less than 600 sq feet. Eventually we’d like more space but for now, it’s cabin like cozy.
  • Buy second hand clothing
  • If we can’t meet our needs with something re-purposed or buying second hand, we try to buy local.
  • I knit and make simple leather items we use.
  • DIY basic home repairs when it’s within our skills set or something we can learn

Driving Force Behind Urban Homesteading

There’s a growing recognition that the way we live isn’t working anymore. Our society’s model of consumerist consumption to secure happiness, buying manufactured items to meet all our needs and relying on companies for secure, stable employment and guaranteed pension is falling short. It no longer works. Period.

There’s a yearning for a closer connection to nature and the circle of life. Building the skills to grow and preserve your own fruits and vegetables and if you choose, animal products and meat deepen your connection to nature. Embedded in this connection to nature, is a confidence in knowing the growing and living conditions of what you’re consuming. It lessens the entrenched disassociation of what’s required to be done in order for you to eat and live.

Caring for the environment is a big reason. In this time of climate change, people and countries are finding ways to reduce their environmental impact and creating a local food economy is one way. Anything from using open community spaces, roof tops, balconies, back yards and markets for locally grown produce creates food security and reduces emissions of transportation. Other common ways is the sharing economy (car share, co-working spaces, tool rental), recycling and re-purposing.

The past hundred years we’ve been working on growing a macro-economy. Distributing manufacturing to cheaper countries, importing for year round access to all product. Part of homesteading is creating a community and micro local economy to support the rest of your basic needs. No man is an island remember? You can’t do it all. Cities offer a unique opportunity for access to a plethora of skills and local creators to supplement what you don’t do for yourself. If I don’t get a piece of clothing at a second hand store (re-purpose), I try to buy from a local shop/designer/tailor (reducing transportation impact).

How Does This All Fit In With Personal Finance?

The answer is straightforward, personal finance is spending money based on your goals and values, reducing how much you spend on what doesn’t align so  you can save the rest.

Learning to become more self sufficient in meeting your basic needs, where you choose and in alignment with your values and interests, will help you save money, help make a positive impact on the environment and reduce consumerism.

You may even find a sense of emotional and financial security from being able to provide and do things for yourself, and happiness created from a simplified life, skills built and satisfaction of common everyday accomplishments.

For me, this is a culmination and amalgamation of many different threads of my values. The individual parts are common place but the sum has created an anchor and beacon of direction giving personal clarity on my path.

Any experiences or thoughts on homesteading – urban or otherwise?




3 Replies to “Urban Homesteading”

    1. Yes, I was pretty sure a few bloggers I read, including you, would be!

      For an ‘epiphany’, it really seems rather obvious. I found a term that encompasses many different things (self sufficiency|gardening|urban farming|reducing environment footprint|clean energy|etc), that are also often part of FI/personal finance skills.

      Question is, what other possibilities can I think of now that I have this term?!

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