Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills For Sustainable Living

Learn heirloom skills that lead to a more sustainable life of environmental kindness, thrift and community self-reliance in an urban setting.

| September 25, 2012

  • Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living
    Reclaiming heirloom agrarian practices for responsible living is the wave of the future.
    Cover Courtesy Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
  • Urban homesteading on a city patio
    Homesteading in the city gives people the possibility of remaking culture with the planet in mind.
    Photo by Fotolia/Lawcain

  • Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living
  • Urban homesteading on a city patio

Reclaim your role as an instrumental agent of positive social change and human evolution with advice from Urban Homesteading (Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2011) by Rachel Kaplan. Find concise how-to information that can immediately be set into practice, from making solar cookers to growing tomatoes in a bucket to raising chickens on a tiny plot. Urban Homesteading is the go-to source for sustainable solutions to the seemingly unsolvable problems of city dwellers who want to embrace a regenerative living culture across nations. Learn how urban homesteading can radically reduce consumption, maximize community self-reliance and boost overall happiness in this excerpt taken from the selection entitled "Knit it Up" and "The Empire Has No Clothes."  

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Urban Homesteading. 

Knit It Up 

The weed growing up through the cracks in a city sidewalk — that sharp green shard of life persisting against all odds — reflects nature’s resilience. It’s also a metaphor for the uprising earth consciousness growing in our cities — small, surprising, commonplace. Spreading. Across the country, citizens are looking for solutions to the seemingly intractable problems of our time, and evolving new ways to live. Picking up the shovel and the hoe, turning their closets and roofs and backyard decks into places to grow food and their yards into chicken coops, urban farmers are reclaiming heirloom agrarian practices as strategies for artful living. This book tells the story of this grassroots do-it-yourself cultural explosion rooted in the urban earth, a homegrown guild of people generating resilient, local culture in response to the urgency of the moment and a collective awareness of our need to be the change we want to see.

The more I know, the less I sleep. There is something decidedly brinkish about our era. We are bombarded by desperate stories — collapse of the Arctic ice, clear-cutting of the forests, massive oil spills, catastrophic droughts and floods, volatile nation states, dangerous levels of CO2  in the air, the depletion of oil, and the overwhelming power of corporations to devour the world at will — all conspiring to create fear and dread. We are told we are powerless until we begin to believe it. The convergence of the seemingly unstoppable forces of climate change, the savagery of global corporate capitalism, and the downward spiral of our predatory economy all lead to an inevitable conclusion: We are coming undone. We are unraveling.

Knitters know all about unraveling. You knit along for a while, until you drop a stitch or add a stitch or do something else peculiar that just doesn’t work. If you want it right, you have to unravel, and knit it up again. Or sometimes you unravel by choice because it’s just not coming out quite the way you planned. Re-knitting always takes less time than you think, and there you are again at the place you left off, with a piece of fabric that looks and feels right.

This homegrown metaphor takes us only so far; we can’t unravel back to the beginning of our disastrous misalignments with people and place that, in our country, permitted the genocide of the first peoples; the dispossession, oppression, and slavery of others; and the short-sighted desecration of natural resources leading up to our current environmental and economic predicaments. Unlike strands of wool on our needles, we are people who have to work from where we are. But there are lessons about process and outcome in the knitting metaphor and operating instructions for how to proceed — when we make mistakes, it’s best to go back, sort out what’s worth saving from what needs to be let go, and get back to the work of stitching together again. The urban earth has been shattered by hundreds of years of neglect and abuse; our relationships are fractured and deformed by long stories of hate and race and class. We’ve made something lopsided and misshapen, and it is time to weave another tapestry, tell another story about how we can live together with this planet.


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