A well meaning reader wrote me an email. And at first I was almost kinda upset… I mean, well… she asked…
How can you be homesteading if you can go to the store and you’re not totally living off the land?
Well… I’ve been thinking about that a long time. And here’s my answer.
I believe that I am indeed homesteading in an urban setting. I bought my own home and it was destined for either tearing down or just sitting empty and rotting away. It was a 30 year old mobile home in a little kinda loosing ground park.
I totally worked and rebuilt it to a comfortably liveable place with hand tools, sweat equity, wonderful friends and some money. And we made due with what we could find and stuff on sale and just creatively dealing with things. I only had to call out a professional ONCE… a plumber for a water heater issue. And to be honest, it was mostly due to a warrenty situation on the heater, a real plumber had to issue a bill to get a part mailed out. All the rest of the work we did. And trust me, this moby was only $800. My van cost more.
Heck, my banjo cost more.
So right there… that says urban homesteading to me. (g) Many of the homesteaders of the old west moved out and settled a piece of land and if they were lucky there might be an old trapper’s cabin or dugout there on a piece they found. Or they had to start from scratch.
Trust me, an $800 mobile home is like starting from scratch! We had to redo floors, remove walls, all new plumbing, paint over 30 gallons of paint and just so much rehab, it took us a WHOLE month, 10-12 hours days, every day to get it just LIVEABLE… (g)
And we still don’t have a real tub… honest to gosh, I MADE a tub out of a hard rubber livestock tank from the tractor supply store AND did the plumbing myself to rig up a shower head and all. It works… It’s not the most purdy thing in the world, but no one has taken me aside to tell me that I’m a little gamey! hahaha…
(A real tub is on the list, but well, this works… )
Now, historic homesteaders had to live off their livestock and gardens for the most part, maybe a good trade to fill in the cracks. (Doctoring, smithing, midwifery, and other sorts of trades were always good if you were homesteading… you could barter and trade your skills for someone elses handiwork…)
Unfortunately, I can not have chickens, and I do want them… so I’m going to have to settle for the next best thing and that is getting fresh eggs from a neighbor who DOES have some girls. And we’re starting our own gardens and raised beds to start producing some more of our own food. And I’ve taken to shopping locally.. from a local butcher, and a dairy and I can’t wait for the farmer’s market to open next weekend… and I choose to buy my fruits and veggies from a little local produce market. The only things I’m getting now from the “stores” are the basics, flour, sugar, cheese, rice, cooking supplies etc and of course a few fun things for the girls. But even that, we’re looking for ways to start making our own foods as well… we make our own lemonaide and we’re going to start making our own butter! How cool is that?
Another thing we’re doing is lots of re-purposing of materials and items. Taking old things and using them in a different and useful way. We use old mailing boxes for growing seedlings and we’re shopping at yard sales for old appliances and other kitchen gadgets that are hand powered and just fun to explore. We’re not buying new anymore, especially if we can find it for MUCH cheaper. It’s green, but it also saves a lot of money. We got a perfectly good breadmaker for $10 and though it just croaked, we got a year out of the beast!
We use Craig’s List, Freecycle and Ebay all the time… and we make stuff too… we’re not afraid of tools and hardwork. (though we’re not terriably fast, we do stick to it and get it done eventually!) Got an old 13 year old van and it can be a challenge, but hey, it’s paid for. Believe it or not, we live comfortably on only $1300 a month.
We are a homeschooling family, and I managed to get one graduated and into college with honors and all A’s her first semester! I work at home, as a graphic artist and web designer and that means the old van doesn’t have to do too much except haul us into town now and then. I also play accoustic music in a bluegrass band… and make a little money picking the banjo! It’s a great life.
So, yeah, I think we are urban homesteaders. More so than anyone else I know around here. Lots of friends love to see what we’re done… they remember the first days! Like when we pulled up and the front door was wide open and had been for days! Or the giganic pile of junk we pulled out of the little moby and all the really hard labor that went into making this a home.
And they listen with a smile to my plans for the future. To improve and upgrade the land, that was a homesteaders objective. It was not to be green and live carefully among the native prairie flowers. Heck, truth be told there are many who HATED homesteaders for the progress that they wrecked upon the land. They were there to reclaim the wild, to chew out a little paradise for themselves and their generations to come.
If you think they lived wild and free, totally independant on any other needs… you’re very wrong. They brought with them tools and seeds and provisions and they had to go to town at least a couple times a year to get more food, and provisions and all the things that they couldn’t make or get by without. And they were not that worried about making everything perfect and green and ecologically correct… far from it… they exploted what they could and did some pretty harsh things to get by. The stories of first pioneers and homesteaders were tough tough stories… it was hard work and challenging to hang in there.
We went about 3 months without hot water. And then we went 5 months without a shower and had to bath with a bucket! We did all the work by our own hands and our friends hands, just like in the old days when neighbors helped to build a barn. We put in our own flooring and have been planting and building around the place. We’re going to be learning how to sew and make some of our own stuff and clothing and all! Can’t wait…
And we’re living simply, and within our budget. When others are worrying about their jobs and the economy and all, we’re pretty stable and comfortable. We’ll make due just fine. We know how to make our own fun and enjoy what we have.
Does it have to be all or nothing? I know lots of musicians that are not full time, but they are still musicians. And writers and creators and artists…
So, yeah, I think we’re definately urban homesteading. What do you think?Pin It