Thursday, June 21, 2012

"homesteading" and our family lifestyle

there are a ton of whole blogs and websites dedicated to homesteading, with a growing number dealing with urban or suburban "homesteading" and sustainable living. that being said, not every suggestion works for every family. does everyone have a porch or a window box where they can grow food? nope. i know plenty of people my age living in sad little basement apartments with no windows, and believe me, the only thing that grows down there is mold. can everyone keep cows or chickens? definitely not. my family lives in a semi-rural, semi-suburban area and we still can't have any kind of animal that would be found on a farm. not that our neighbors would complain, but our town is all up in everyone's face about stupid zoning regulations and whatnot. they regularly complain about the size of sheds, outdoor clothes drying racks, and things like that. so a greenhouse? def a no-no without expensive permits and inspections. we also tried to grow our own fruit trees down by the lake in order to make use of all of our space and produce more of what we needed...but the beavers got to them and now they're gone! so what's a girl to do?
this post from natural living mama has a lot of good suggestions for living sustainably in a small space, but not all of them are feasible for everyone. some suggestions are brilliant, others are common sense, and others are just not doable for our family at this point. i wish i could dry clothes outside (even if my neighbors don't complain, and i suspect they won't, we live in cave cricket territory and i just can't deal with jumpy spiders all up in my tank tops) or cloth diaper, but i can't. but growing our own food and preserving it for later? yeah, we can do that, to some extent at least. we also try to buy produce in season in bulk at the farmer's market when we can. we also grow a lot of our own produce. that way we can have local, mostly organic produce year-round. we usually bulk freeze, since i don't really know how to can (learning is one my to-do list, but it's been there for the past 5 years or so...), so we can have things like veggies and garden-fresh tomato sauce year-round. when the sauce thaws in a saucepan, it makes the whole house smell like summer.
another thing we started last year is a second garden at my folks' house. we had run out of space in our tiny garden and needed someplace else to plant things. they live only about a mile down the road and had a nice spot in their side yard where they used to have a horseshoe pit (it hadn't been used in years). the space they had there was easily double what we had at home. so we fenced it off and grew all of the things that we had always wanted to try. the first year was trial and error, and some things didn't grow well. we had to learn about how much sun the spot got and how the soil was. one of the most important things that i learned from joel salatin's awesome book you can farm is that lots of other people have extra space that they don't need or want to use, and would like to see it used for something but don't want tot do it themselves. all you need to do is ask but usually nobody does. sometimes, like in my case, you don't even have to pay a cent. my folks get some extra corn and tomatoes and also their neighbors all suddenly become more social because they like to see what's going on in the garden!
some other sustainable practices, like composting can be implemented anywhere. there are small, cute composting buckets that can be purchased or made and can sit on your kitchen counter. they run the gamut from cheapie to top of the line fancified but are mostly pretty affordable. at our house, we have a big plastic bin outside the front door and we just open up the door and toss everything in, which works for us because it's super easy. once it's broken down we transfer it into a compost tumbler we ended up with via the barter system, but this is by no means necessary! do what works for you and your family.
some of my favorite resources for "green" and sustainable living are grit and mother earth news magazines. however, many of their suggestions are specific to rural areas (like the articles on animal husbandry and large farm tractors). that's nice, but not for everyone. but a ton of their tips and recipes are super useful and can be used anywhere. they occasionally include articles on things like passive solar design and using scavenged/re-claimed materials to build new homes, which is especially useful if you yourself are designing a new home. they also have a ton of articles on garden planning and specific fruits and vegetables, and their online archives are excellent.
i'm also a big fan of the Your Green Resource link-up over at Sorta Crunchy blog.  it's usually chock full of things that are actually doable (i know, because real regular people do them!) like making your own homemade instant oatmeal and recipes for using all the stuff your CSA sends you. the regular, non-linky posts are pretty informative too.
here's to helping you green up your life in ways that work for you! cheers!

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