The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Urban Homesteading

Urban homesteadingUrban Homesteading, by Rachel Kaplan with K. Ruby Blume, is a breath of fresh air in the usually stuffy room of gardening and homesteading literature.  Don't get me wrong --- I adore books by Paul Stamets, Steve Solomon, and others, but these texts tend to be written by, for, and about middle class, white, straight people.  Urban Homesteading highlights ideas that are applicable to everyone, and the stunning photos in the book back that theme up.

The case studies sprinkled throughout Urban Homesteading are part of what gives this book such a rich flavor.  For example, the authors highlight Spiral Gardens, a non-profit that brings gardening and fresh food into a low-income community in Berkeley where lack of access to fruits and vegetables leads directly to shortened lifespans.  Reading Rachel Kaplan's book reminds me that there is a social justice element to growing your own food that we often forget in our middle class bubble.  Can you imagine living in a place where you can't get perishables without driving and can't afford to drive?  Of course growing your own is the answer!

Gardening kidsI don't want you to think the book is preachy or dense, though.  Instead, Urban Homesteading is an easy to read introduction to dozens of topics that every beginning homesteader is interested in, all told with an urban flare.  And the book is worth reading just for the artwork --- stunning photos of dozens of urban homesteads and homesteaders interspersed between original artwork by K. Ruby Blume.  This is the perfect book for a budding urban homesteader to pore over for ideas, or for the established homesteader to put on her coffee table (if she has one) to subtly influence more mainstream guests.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that Rachel Kaplan let me download a pre-release version of the ebook to review, but I have to admit that I didn't expect the book to be half as good as it is!)

Our $2 ebook shows how to escape the rat race with a home-based microbusiness.

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

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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OK, the picture of that baby bunny is really, really cute. I would buy the book just for that picture. And you should raise bunnies. Because they would make you happy.
Comment by Heather Mon Apr 4 13:36:34 2011
You might change your mind about telling us to raise bunnies if we actually did it, because if we did it would be for meat. :-) I've pondered whether this wouldn't be a good way to give Lucy real dog food, but I keep getting stuck on the huge amount of killing involved in keeping a large dog fed with rabbits. The would fit our homestead really well, though!
Comment by anna Mon Apr 4 14:14:31 2011

Have you guys ever tried keeping rabbits? I've been reading a few books (e.g. Farm City by Novella Carpenter) and watching videos (e.g. Backyard Food Production) where people keep rabbits for meat, and am getting ready to dip a toe in soon.

In Backyard Food Production, they reckon rabbits are better than chickens for meat. They mature faster, are much quicker to kill, clean and butcher, and can be fed from the garden for much of the year without the need for commercial feed. You can also harvest their manure for use on the garden.

Where I live we don't get snow or frosts, so I think I might be able to feed them from the garden year-round.

My only reservation is in keeping them in cages. My first reaction was that it was a bit cruel to keep the cooped up like that, but then people like Joel Salatin and Novella Carpenter are OK with it, and they're big on animal welfare. I read somewhere that rabbits are happy to stay cooped up in their burrows for long periods of time, and they don't see the cage as anything different, so it's not cruel to them.

Comment by Darren (Green Change) Mon Apr 4 18:59:27 2011
Nope, we haven't (see the comment above.) They do seem to be one of the types of animals that fit homesteads really well, though, so someday we may try them. If you do, I'll be excited to hear your observations on your blog!
Comment by anna Mon Apr 4 19:28:56 2011
I'm just saying if you ever worry that the cuteness-factor of the farm isn't high enough, baby bunnies would be an easy way to fix that. Aren't you glad you have me to make useful suggestions like this?
Comment by Heather Tue Apr 5 11:18:23 2011
We'll keep that in mind in case our cute factor starts declining. :-)
Comment by anna Tue Apr 5 15:21:21 2011

Ruby here ( from the book). I raise rabbits and I can say, they totally rock! It is true that the killing part I never look forward to, but it is easier and quicker than chickens ( we describe how in the book) and rabbit is tasty (cooking one up right now!) I have created two pens where they get out of the hutches (gender separated) and run around. There are cubbies and tubes and such that bunnies just love. Plus places to stretch up and grab some alfalfa or hay. I am not sure that they love being in the hutches, but provide themwith a view of the garden, companionship of other rabbits and interesting tidbits of food all day long and they will be pretty happy bunnies. . I like them as well, because the best place for them in the garden is a shadt spot where nothing much will grow anyway. Happy Spring!

Comment by Ruby Fri Apr 8 20:33:12 2011
Ruby --- thanks so much for stopping by! You make rabbits sound intriguing (with the easier than chickens part, especially. :-) ) I suspect we will try them eventually, probably before the other livestock ideas we sometimes toss around and then run in fear from (milk goats, hair sheep, pigs.)
Comment by anna Sat Apr 9 07:48:52 2011

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