Celebrating Five Years of Homesteading



In the beginning ...

In 2013 we were chosen as one of Mother Earth News’ Homesteads of the year.  Our half-acre urban homestead and learning space along with our outward work fit that year’s theme of “Community & Self Reliance”.  We were honored to be chosen but also very early into our project and the development of our site. With this article I want to share some of how we got started as well as how our homestead has blossomed and transformed in the five years since.


We found our run-down house with its bare, weedy, unloved land in a socio-economically diverse neighborhood in May of 2011.  The price was right, there was room to garden and build, the neighborhood was funky enough to provide some creative freedom, and we were just two miles from the river, events, and culture of downtown Reno. Flat broke and full of dreams after two years of travel and learning, we fundraised for two months by sharing our vision of what the Be the Change Project would be: a hub for alternative living, climate & social justice work, and service which resonated with enough of our friends and family that we were able to buy the property outright.  Since then, freed from a mortgage or rent, we’ve worked hard to pay their goodwill forward into the world.

The house was truly a disaster - significant water damage, sagging floors, septic tank issues, broken windows, even dead cats in the crawl space.  Because of this our family lived in a backyard shed from August 1 to Halloween while fixing the house up room by room. As part of our vision we were committed to having an electricity, car, and fossil-fuel free homestead so almost all of the remodeling was done with “powerless” hand tools and a lot of materials collected by bike and trailer.  It was an adventure my older (and maybe wiser) self would likely not undertake again!

Almost from day one Katy got to work planting and soil building.  We knew that growing a lot of food would be challenging and slow-going; our high desert area averages just seven inches of rain a year and our frost-free growing season is a whopping four months.  We bought what soil and compost we could afford and started making our own. On week two we welcomed chickens from a friend who was moving and rushed to get a coop built and a run fenced in. We built cold frames for growing fall greens, set up an outdoor kitchen with a mini rocket stove, bought a Sun Oven, and welcomed the support of many people.  Whether they gave lumber and tools, leaves for compost, a woodstove, or even their time and sweat like our friend Tim who camped out in our front yard and worked hard for 6 weeks, we were so grateful for so much help in those first three months.

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