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Urban homesteading vs. rural homesteading

Quail and chicken eggsI have to admit that I've been guilty of thinking of urban homesteading as homesteading lite in the past, but Rachel Kaplan's Urban Homesteading helped me realize that the city version is not just a subgenre, but is instead an endeavor with just as much potential as rural homesteading.  I was struck by the way Rachel's book introduced all of the topics you'd expect to find in an intro to homesteading, but took the specifics of city life into account.  Below, I've listed just a few of the ways that her advice differs from that found in rural homsteading tomes.

  • Gardening --- In addition to a section about how to find space to grow food in the city (which I thought was so important it's going to make up its own post), Urban Homesteading gives tips on making a seed ball to use in guerilla gardening and building self-watering planters out of used materials.  Espaliers are another good choice for fitting lots of fruit trees in a city backyard.
  • Livestock --- In the city, animals need to be small and, most of all, quietCompost worms, honey bees, chickens, and rabbits are Rachel's top picks, followed by quail, ducks, and goats.  I'd never seen quail on a top livestock list before, but Rachel explains that Japanese quail (aka coturnix) can live in a very small space, produce eggs when less than two months old, lay daily for at least a year, and require only 67% as much feed to produce a pound of eggs as chickens do.
  • Utilizing waste --- One of the few things I envy about city life is the amount of biomass free for the taking.  Rachel gives a recipe for making "Berkeley compost" out of used coffee grounds, and I know from my own experience that fallen leaves, grass clippings, and even bales of straw (leftover from Halloween decorations) are often easy to find during trash pickup day in the city.  If you're building a structure or renovating your existing house, discarded building supplies are also easy to come by.
  • Stocking up on food --- In addition to all the usual advice about canning and fermenting, Urban Homesteading challenges you to find ways to glean forgotten produce from the city.  Many people ignore the fruit that drops from their trees and will be glad for you to come clean the apples or pears out of their yard.
  • Legalities --- The downside of city living (from my point of view, at least) is the fact that you have to toe the line about number of livestock, permits, and so forth.

Sheet mulchWith the American population so concentrated in our cities, it's essential that we find ways to let urbanites join in the homesteading fun.  Rachel Kaplan's book gives lots of great tips to help city dwellers head in that direction.

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This post is part of our Urban Homesteading lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:





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