Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Whether you live in an apartment or on a hundred-acre farm, you can take steps towards self-reliance and lifestyle independence. Living with limited space doesn't have to be a setback towards homesteading, and there are many creative ways you can take advantage of your space to get the most out of it.
Urban farming has gained great popularity in recent years as people work to make the most of their living situations. The ability to grow your own food is no longer limited to the country, so if you occupy an apartment there are many ways you can maintain elements of a country lifestyle.
Even with skyscrapers in the background, gardens are flourishing. From Las Vegas to New York and the windy city of Chicago urban farms have become part of the landscape. One of the easiest ways to become part of the movement is by contributing to a community garden, which will allow you the space to plant your vegetables and participate in your local neighborhood. Community gardens usually share the responsibilities of caring for the plants and land, and in turn share the benefits of the harvest.
The idea came from the victory gardens of World War II and often include community outreach as part of their mission. Working in a community garden will not only allow you to get your hands dirty, but most have programs to help introduce gardening to young people and divide their crops with low income families in their area.
Community gardens are a wonderful way to try your hand at gardening in a supportive environment. With the help of local government, most community gardens are set up in city green space, which will allow you more acreage to grow than is often affordable in an urban setting. If you don't have a community garden in your area you can always consider starting your own, or working within your current space.
It may seem impossible to garden in an apartment, but doing so is very possible. Many plants thrive when kept in pots, as long as they are watered regularly. Check each plant's needs in terms of sunlight and fertilizer, and set them either on a porch, windowsill, or provide artificial light for them.
The easiest plants to grow in a container garden are often herbs, which are the perfect plants to cultivate for supplementing your cooking. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, kale, and many more plants can be kept in containers. Even root vegetables such as onions, potatoes, and carrots will thrive given a proper container and care.
Working with your own personal space allows you to experiment with other elements of homesteading. You'll be surprised just how much you can do on your own. Fiber arts, woodworking, and cooking are all subjects you can study and learn how to “make your own” and “do it yourself.” You can knit your own hats, create your own healing salves or aromatic soaps, and carve yourself a bowl and spoon. And at your own home, you can keep your own animals.
Chickens require little space and are often called a “gateway animal” to a larger farmyard collection. They require about four square feet per bird in a shelter, and also need a small run. Three hens will provide you with two or three eggs on most days. Rabbits are also an animal that can be kept in limited space, usually living a small hutch. They can be kept for meat or fur, and are an often overlooked opportunity for small-scale farming.
If you live in the suburbs or have a few acres that you can dedicate to your farm, you can consider more farmyard animals such as goats. Goats need very little space and can be kept for meat, milk, and/or fiber. Their curious personalities make them favorites for a lot of farmers. Other beasts that can be kept with limited space include pigs, alpacas, and sheep, who need an acre or less per animal.
A beehive can be part of your farm as long as you have a yard, although neighbor's opinions of the buzzing insects should be considered. A beehive will not only provide you with honey, but it will help to keep your garden pollinated and you can use the leftover wax from the honey harvest as well.
If you find yourself in love with rolling acres and herds of animals, a move to the country might be in order for you. Cows, horses, and crops of vegetables inherently need acres to roam and grow. If you are fortunate enough to have space, consider indigenous crops for your location as an option to support your local environment with your farm.
With the added flexibility of acres to work with comes time responsibilities: Crops and herds need commitments that rival or exceed those of a full time job. The freedoms of living on a rural farm include not having to worry about your neighbor's opinions of your animals or the noise of your rooster. While a ready to work farm costs a pretty penny, many aspiring homesteaders are able to move to a rural lifestyle by investing in a run down home or a property without a building, and making their own structures.
You can get a good start on homesteading and feed yourself on less than an acre. After you've experimented with farm life, you will not want to go back to store bought vegetables or eggs laid by hens you don't know.
Kirsten Lie-Nielsen farms about 2 acres of a suburban homestead using geese for weeding and guarding purposes, raising chickens for eggs, bees for honey, and maintaining vegetable gardens for personal use. Recently she has begun work restoring an old farm in hopes of farming full time in the future. Find her online at Days Ferry Organics Blog, and read all of Kirsten's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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