Carolyn is a homesteader and avid prepper. She loves to learn new ways to be more self-sufficient and share her ideas with others.
Urban and Suburban Homesteading
When I was in my twenties, the thought of living outside of the city was frightening. But now that I've turned forty, I can't get away from it fast enough!
Unfortunately, we don't have enough money to buy a house outside of the city yet. So we're stuck not just living in suburbs, but also renting our townhouse.
In light of many events in my life—having children, getting sick, getting tired of the fake materialistic lifestyle that's constantly pushed on us in the media—I started to long for a simpler life. So I turned my attention to homesteading, and I have been hooked ever since. I think many people out there are waking up and realizing how miserable they are and are looking to find ways to do something about it. The trend towards homesteading and farming has gained a lot of popularity over the years.
Many people also find themselves stuck renting in the city or stuck living in the city as they save up to buy their dream home on an acreage somewhere with tall trees, green grass and . . . peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the city—especially families with young kids like myself.
People think that just because they live in the city they can't homestead. That's not true at all! Maybe you can't have a cow or goats, but the homesteading lifestyle can very much be lived while in the midst of a city. This article will show you how!
"Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency... Homesteading is not defined by where someone lives, such as the city or the country, but by the lifestyle choices they make."
What Is Homesteading?
When I first heard about homesteading, my first thought was, "Oh, that's people who live on farms and raise cows and chickens." I think many people think of that the first time they hear the word homesteading.
As the quote above states, homesteading is more of a lifestyle and therefore anyone can do it wherever they might live.
Homesteading is typically a self-sufficient lifestyle. It's a way of living your life so you're less reliant on the grid, grocery stores, etc., for your needs. It's about getting back to the basics, learning the skills that our grandfathers and great-grandmothers had. It encompasses so many things.
Homesteading Can Include
- Growing your own fruits, vegetables, herbs and grains
- Raising your own animals for meat, dairy, eggs, fur, etc.
- Being less reliant on the grid for power
- Being prepared for emergencies
- Finding alternative sources of water and storing them
- Making foods like bread, butter, etc., from scratch
- Making household items like soaps, candles, etc., from scratch
- Doing more handicrafts like sewing, woodwork, etc
- Preserving what you grow or have access to
- Learning more about various plants and herbs for food and medicine
- Spending more time outside or using our two hands rather than staring at a screen all day
Nothing says homesteading like a one-bedroom apartment smack in the middle of downtown, right?
Well, if we remember that homesteading is about how you live and not where you live then living in a tiny apartment downtown shouldn't be too much of a problem.
When you live in an apartment, being organized and creative are really important. You might need to think outside of the box with regard to finding the space to do things like storing food and water or growing plants. You don't need anything expensive or fancy. Reusing items found in flea markets or garage sales are good, inexpensive ways to create new things like storage or shelving to maximize the space in your apartment.
Growing Your Own Food
How can you grow some of your own food in an apartment?
- Start a container garden on your balcony
- Set up some shelving in front of a sunny window to grow microgreens, herbs and other indoor-friendly plants
- Grow sprouts in Mason jars
Some areas of the city have community gardens where people can grow their own food who don't have their own yard. The chances of someone helping themselves to your crops is something that often happens but it's a good chance to try your skills at gardening.
Living in the city you may have quicker access to local farmer's markets where you can go and buy locally produced foods and support your community and local farmers.
You can also forage in areas you know to be safe from chemical spraying for plants like dandelion for salads, plantain (a weed that is medicinal and edible!), mushrooms, flowers, etc.
Cut Your Food Bills in Half
One of the best ways to save money and improve your health and that of your family is to grow your own food whenever possible.
In as little as an hour a day depending on the size of your garden or grow space, you can cut your yearly grocery bills in half! For the cost of some seeds and some sweat you can start providing foods cheaper and most importantly nutritionally superior to anything found in the grocery store, including organic produce!
Foods like lettuce, spinach and arugula are expensive for the amount you get and I always find they end up going mushy and bad as quickly as the day after I buy them to put in my salads. When you grow your own lettuce, spinach and arugula you can harvest them year round in some cases and have access to fresh, nutritious produce whenever you want.
Animals in Apartments
Every apartment building has different rules and many do not allow any pets.
If you want to include some sort of animals in your homesteading in the city you might want to consider the following:
- Rabbits (for hair, such as Angora)
- Fish (not necessarily to eat, but you can use the water to feed your plants)
- Worms under your sink for vermicomposting (worm castings)
- Chinchillas (fur)
Homesteading as a Renter
If you're like me and rent your home, you have more yard space available to you and more house space to store things as well. Maybe you even have a basement.
Some rental agreements do not let you modify the yard or make any kind of changes, so you need to look at growing things in such a way that it makes minimal impact and you can take it with you when you move. Again, creativity is key.
Every city is different. In most large cities in Canada, we cannot have things like chickens in our yards and certainly not goats (even small ones) or any kind of farm animal, save for rabbits. Here where I live, the limit is three rabbits. Make sure you make due diligence to find out what is permitted and what is not.
Even collecting rainwater is not permitted in certain states. Check before you do anything to make sure you are complying.
Everything you do inside your home must follow the same principle when you are renting. Nothing can be permanent. Creativity and organization are key.
For homeowners in the city:
- Try edible landscaping to make use of all the space in your yard without your neighbors complaining about how your front yard looks.
Steps Towards Self-Sufficiency
One of the biggest drawbacks of living in the city is the reliance on the grid for power (along with relying on the grocery store for all our food, clothes, etc). Not only is hydro (electric) power more expensive these days, it's harder and harder to find the manual version of items in case the power does go out.
One of the biggest steps we can take as city homesteaders is to become less and less dependent on the grid (electricity).
How can we do that? There are many ways. One way is to challenge your household to unplug for a few days. I mean really unplug, as in no electricity. You're going to see quite quickly how hard it is to function without power.
The next time you go to use an electric appliance of any kind stop and ask yourself, "Is there a way that I can do this manually?" It's a good idea to start swapping electrical devices for manual or at least having the manual version of your food processor, for example, stored somewhere in your kitchen in case your power is out. Not only will you use new skills (and build some muscle), you can save money too!
The other big step is by trying to grow as much of our own food as possible. Many people who "prep" buy seed banks and say they will start a garden when SHTF. Bad idea. The time to start a garden of any kind or growing anything is now. Growing your own food is not easy. Different plants have different requirements, and sometimes just getting your hands dirty and learning by doing (trial and error) is the best way to go.
24 Homesteading Skills You Can Do in the City
Here is my list of forgotten skills important to homesteading no matter where you live in no particular order:
- Sewing by hand or machine
- Canning/pickling/fermenting (jams, sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar, etc.)
- Cooking/baking from scratch
- Gardening organically/composting/vermicomposting
- Solar cooking
- Rendering fat
- Making your own beauty supplies
- Plant identification
- Starting a fire/survival or bush skills
- CPR/first aid
- Purifying water
- Weather forecasting
- Washing laundry by hand
Getting Back to Nature: My Story
My own personal health experience showed me how much I needed to get back to nature and how far I had gone.
Somehow, from consuming too many refined and overly processed foods, GMO contaminated food, too many antibiotics, and too little exposure to nature, I developed a systemic candida overgrowth that debilitated me. I got sick, really sick. So sick I couldn't function anymore, as in I couldn't even walk up the stairs. I have four young children to look after. and I just couldn't function. The worst part was I had no idea what was wrong with me.
To make a long story short, I discovered on my own (my doctor was completely clueless) that I had a candida overgrowth, and making the switch to a homesteading lifestyle and diet has helped me gain my health back. God showed me the way and provided the answers and so I am trying to show others the way too. This "lifestyle" that we are advertised in the media and told is the best way to live by eating processed garbage and watching garbage on a screen is not living a healthy life at all. And we wonder why so many people are sick.
We all need to get back to nature. Go outside and breathe some fresh air every day. Get dirty, get sweaty, eat a healthy diet rich in fermented foods, organic fruits, veggies and whole grains. By adopting a homesteading lifestyle, you start to make the connection between what you put in your mouth and where it came from. You begin re-connecting to the earth and realizing what is truly important.
Homesteading in My Rental Home in the City
How to Get Started Today
- Educate yourself on growing your own food.
- Learn where to find everything you need to survive in an emergency. Start compiling a list of the things you will need.
- Get to know your community to find other gardeners or local farmers to buy from instead of big chain stores.
- Purchase from companies (local if possible) who have sustainable practices and business models.
- Find ways to conserve water and electricity, and implement more sustainable energy practices (like hanging your laundry outside to dry, for example).
- Use, reuse, mend, create, and remake all of your clothing, gear, cleaning supplies, and personal care products. This lifestyle choice helps conserve resources and promotes sustainability.
- Begin limiting your personal reliance on mass production goods and technology.
- Learn everything you can about how you can survive on your own means, where you are now.
Leave a Comment Below and Share Your Thoughts!
Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on February 10, 2021:
Jacqueline, as Joel Salatin says; you don't need land to be a farmer. Sounds funny but it's true. Start where you are and you'll be surprised at what you can do, even in the middle of the city.
Jacqueline Molina on September 09, 2019:
Thank you for this article, i too woke up one day and yearned to be more connected to our earth and everything she provides, but unfortunately being stuck in the city renting an apt that wont be done until may of 2020 i realized that i can start doing things there to get my children used to it as well. thank you for putting all the points and things we can start doing to help us transition too.
Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on March 12, 2019:
I'm glad you enjoyed it! Lack of space is definitely an issue in the city, and if you rent your options are even more limited. I find it really important to think outside the box if you have your heart set on homesteading and as I've learned homesteading is about skills not necessarily about having large pieces of land.
Michael from Indiana, PA on February 12, 2019:
I love the urban and suburban homesteading ideas. I grew up homesteading in rural Pennsylvania and was lead down here to Jacksonville, NC by family. There has been some culture shock, to say the least. The hardest thing to get used to though is the lack of space to grow and craft things and I had quite a few ideas of my own, but this article really got some wheels turning. Thank You.
Carolyn Dahl (author) from Ottawa, Ontario on June 27, 2018:
I agree, knitting and crocheting are great hands on skills! I plan on learning how to knit shortly myself :-)
Lisa Jane from Washington on June 27, 2018:
This is an amazing article. I have learned so much from reading this. I want to do this. Thanks for giving us the means to either read or watch about homesteading. I have already started making my own beauty products.
FlourishAnyway from USA on June 26, 2018:
What an excellent article that provides encouragement and ideas to people who are are living with practical restrictions but who want to make a difference in their lives. (I’d prefer that those little chinchillas be pets though. Omg.). I’d add knitting and crocheting. It’s a great way to make blankets and other items plus it’s fun.