By Sharla Orren
How many of you dream of living in a 100 year old farmhouse on acres and acres of land, raising several types of animals and growing a huge garden? And how many of you dream of making everything homemade—from warm biscuits to cozy quilts to lavender soap? I will admit that I have dreamed of getting my boys up early for farm chores of milking cows and gathering eggs from the chickens to use for a big family breakfast, and then eating at our farm table complete with a fresh lined dried linen table-cloth; then following breakfast, letting the boys fish in our pound and climb in our huge oak trees.
I think it is a dream that a lot of us have; but, for various reasons we are not all able to accomplish it exactly how we imagined. But you can still live a homesteading type life by embracing homesteading in the city. I think if you really have a heart for homesteading, you can be creative and do a lot of the things you dream of no matter where you live.
My husband is a minister and our house is provided to us by our congregation. We live in a great neighborhood full of wonderful neighbors. And while the home does not have a huge back yard, it does have a space big enough for us to have a small garden and a composting area/ worm farm. There is also a little space for me to hang my clothes on the line. My children enjoy a nice climbing tree in the front yard and a cute little “river” (my husband says it’s a drainage ditch) on our side yard. All these things make for a cozy, creative “farm” or urban homestead for us.
The definition of homesteading has changed for me. Basically it’s just about getting back to a simpler, more self-sufficient life. I have come to realize my need to homestead is more about wanting to simplify my life and not having to rely so much on big box stores, or even rely so much on technology. Here are some creative things we can all do whether or not we live on that big farm.
Creative Ideas for Homesteading in the City
- Look at what you are blessed with already. When we first moved here, I was not exactly sure how I was going to be able to do all the homesteading things I wanted to do. But when I finally stopped and realized all the potential this house has, I got really excited. We have a small, fenced area at the back of our house. It has an excellent spot for our garden and composting area/ warm farm. We also have a room that gets a lot of sun. We found it to be a great place to grow various herbs. In our backyard there are two trees that are close together—a perfect spot to hang my clothes line. Look around at your home and focus on what you already have.
- Don’t be perfect. I am not a natural farm girl, but I don’t let that stop me from trying. Don’t think you have to do everything perfectly in order to call yourself a homesteader. Our family is learning and trying new things a little at a time. The original homesteaders did not have cool gadgets, so they had to make do with what they had. They also did not have Pinterest to see what a “perfect garden” might look like. Don’t be afraid to try new things; and if you mess up, figure out what you did wrong and try again. To me, constant learning is an essential part of the urban homesteading lifestyle, which leads to …
- Learn a new skill. I like being able to make my own cleaning products, beauty products, and salves. I am currently learning to embroider, and quilting is a skill I want to learn soon. Find a skill that interests you and read about it, or find a friend who might help teach you.
- Involve your children. My children are very eager to acquire various homesteading skills. They love to whittle and to garden. I try to be sure to include them in anything I am doing or learning. And as a bonus, gardening or whittling is keeping them from electronics and TV. I love my children being excited about learning and trying new things.
- Go outside more. Just being outside and enjoying the fresh air or watching nature is so relaxing. Do that instead of watching TV or being on social media. Our family really enjoys observing the changing weather, bird watching, and star gazing. Sit on the porch in the morning and enjoy your coffee. No matter what, being outside will help you slow down and clear your mind.
- Use stuff you find. We happened to find some old wood that was left from the family who previously lived here. We decided to use the wood and make a simple, raised-bed garden. My son was also able to find big rocks that he scooted together to make our compost pile. We put in left-over dirt from our garden, some ashes from wood and leaves we burned, fresh grass from the mowed lawn, and torn up newspaper. We add things such as coffee and torn scraps of black and white newspaper.
- Let friends help. If you want farm fresh eggs, milk, or various fruits and vegetables that you can’t grow, see if you can find someone in your area who has them. Maybe you can even find a Farmers’ Market in your area. You are no less a homesteader if you have friends who bring you fresh raw milk or fresh eggs. Enjoy the fact you have a way to get them and that you are relying less on the big box store.
- Decorate your house to look like a farmhouse. I love the old farmhouse style, so I buy or create things to decorate my house that way, giving it a homesteading feel. One of the things I do is use mason jars. Mason jars are a great simple item that you can use to store food or homemade cleaning products, or put in flowers or candles.
Even though my boys don’t go running out to milk the cow in the morning or to gather eggs, it has been great to see them caring for the garden and worm farm. I am excited that our house has a small climbing tree for them and a “river” where they can fish for crawdads. And it has also been nice to see my older son go out and pick something from our garden to use in cooking. It feels good to get back to nature and to live a simple homesteading life—even though we live in the city. The point is that you may not be living on that huge farm you dreamed of, but wherever you live there are creative things you can do to create a homesteading lifestyle.
Sharla Orren recently moved with her family to a small historic city in Arkansas, where her husband just became the minister of a congregation there. She loves homeschooling her two boys, ages 12 and 8. She also enjoys blogging at http://www.lookatwhatyouareseeing.comwhere she writes about homeschooling, natural living, homemaking, and time management.