What does urban homesteading mean to us?
Our Urban Homestead Vegetable Garden, Dec 2008
Over the years I have learnt that homesteading means different things to different people depending on how much of a purest you are.
For those who live on large plots or farms, it means anything from keeping a few farm animals and growing vegetables to running a full scale farming operation as well as growing their own food (plant and animal) as well as becoming self sufficient.
Others, like me, who live in the city engage in what we like to call “Urban Homesteading”where we swap flower gardens and lawns for veggie patches and domestic pets for chickens!
Would you like to set off on a homesteading journey? Here’s my story!
The day was somewhere in early winter 2008 when I had a light bulb moment that has changed the course of our lives. But to tell my story I need to take you back a little further – 12 years ago.
That year, long ago, we made an offer on a farm where we hoped we would find the space, freedom and the agrarian lifestyle we longed for. But the deal fell through as there was a problem with the water supplies. We were going to grow grapes and without waterâ€¦well, that would be hard.
From that time I would look wistfully out my car window every time we were driving through the beautiful farmlands in South Africa – dreaming of “if” and “when” we got all our ducks in a row to purchase our farm.
The following 12 years saw us having sporadic bursts of looking at small holdings and farms. We also changed tack and decided to look into olives and lavender growing and did lots of research into these crops.
We had offers in on two more small holdings, but both of them never came to fruition. Our main issue as that we were also limited in how far from the CBD we could go as my husband would have to continue to work while I farmed, at least until the farm was breaking even.
Fast forward to 2008 – while surfing the net one day I came across the term “Urban Homestead”. A quick Google search and I ended up at Pathway to Freedom whose testimony has set us on a new course.
For the first time I looked at my 900sq meters of earth with new possibilities. I began to see that I didn’t need flower beds and even our paved areas could produce food for us in tubs. So began the great conversion of our little erf into a food producing garden.
In a matter of weeks our few rose bushes, a Bay tree and a small patch of lawn were uprooted and replaced with raised beds for veggies.
My back yard received half wine barrels for fruit trees with strawberries in the bases, tyres were collected to grow potatoes and seeds were sown for late winter plantings.
By December we were eating all our salads out of the garden, had dined on fresh broccoli and had some great spuds!Corn followed in January as well as carrots, tomatoes and globe artichokes. Beans were grown outside on a trellis, chillies wherever we could, melons and squash flowers replaced roses!
Our goal is to be able to eat 50% of all our vegetables from our garden in the second year of growing our own veggies. So with this goal in mind we cleared a second patch of hedges and planted corn, sweet potatoes and potatoes to see us through autumn and early winter. We also planted berries and a grape vine to grow along the fences.
Fences were a necessary evil for us as we have 3 dogs who would trample everything as well as the darling chickens who tend to eat the shoots of anything. The chickens we added to our family in July. The “girls” have kindly been supplying us with 4 eggs a day, which having seen and tasted, we will never buy shop eggs again.
I no longer look wistfully out my windows at farms, I have created a little farm, just for us, right outside my kitchen door.
“Living simply is not about giving things up, forsaking them, frugality, denial, stinginess, deprivation or lack. It’s about taking things up: self-determination, freedom, autonomy and abundant living.” Linda Cockburn, Living the Good Life