What do you think of when you hear the word “homesteading”? If you’re like most people, you likely consider things like gardening and raising animals (whether for food or pets) or taking part in the local 4H or county and state fairs.
But what if you don’t have the luxury of living in a stand-alone house surrounded by acres and acres of land that you own (or rent)? What if you live in a small house in town with a postage stamp yard, or worse yet, an apartment? Can you still be a homesteader? The gut answer to that question is probably “no,” but I’m here to tell you that it’s actually “yes” (I know from experience). Because homesteading shouldn’t be reserved only for those who own land!
I’ve spent over half of my adult life living in apartments. But about ten years ago, I got really interested in the idea of homesteading. Back then, I considered it “simplicity” – getting back to the basics. It all started when my husband took a trip to “Junk Mountain,” aka the local landfill. In the place where I was living at the time, there wasn’t a transfer station – anything you didn’t put out for weekly pickup (furniture, old appliances, etc…) had to be taken straight to the landfill by you. He was horrified by what he saw when he went there, and upon further research, we both became more and more appalled with the knowledge we gained. Not only did he literally have to drive up hundreds of feet to get to the top, and then toss the trash on top, but we learned later that that landfill changes the climate of the area. Let me repeat that: the landfill pile is so big that it literally changes the climate of the area. We immediately wanted to change our ways to avoid contributing as much to the landfill.
We started by considering things like canning our own food and keeping a compost pile. Problem was, we lived in a second-floor apartment at the time. Canning is easy enough and can make sense no matter where you live (so long as you can your produce cheaply enough, but that’s another article for another day). But composting doesn’t really make sense if you don’t have a garden. And because we were on the second floor, we didn’t have a garden. It just wasn’t possible. So we held off on creating a compost pile for the time being.
But we got into homesteading in other ways, too. Besides learning to can (my very first canning project was blackberry jam), I also explored cloth diapers (http://www.ladybugdaydreams.com/our-cloth-diaper-solution/) for my new baby (he’s 9 now). We used some of those same cloth diapers, plus a few new ones, for his younger brother a few years later. Let me say, I know cloth diapering is one of those things that you either love or hate. I loved it. The only reason my last baby (now 3) didn’t do cloth diapers is because we went his entire babyhood without access to our own washer and dryer.
I made my own laundry detergent* for a while, and I really started focusing more on doing more cooking from scratch. I started making things that I’d never even considered had to be “made” before that, like bread and tortillas. I don’t how I thought tortillas came to exist, but they were never the kind of thing that I considered could be homemade, much less should be. You buy them in the store, and that’s that.
But guess what? That’s not that. I was able to turn my desire to homestead—to get back to the simple things in life—into a reality. Even though we didn’t have our own land, I utilized things from the grocery store—like flour and canned tomatoes—to create delicious, homemade things for my family to eat. Homesteading doesn’t mean you never go to the store. It just means that you are self-sufficient in as many ways as possible for your current situation.
So . . . what do I want you to take away from this? It’s really quite simple. Don’t let your current circumstances or living situation keep you from becoming a homesteader. You really can do it, even without a lot of property—or any property. You just have to adjust your expectations of what you think of when you consider homesteading and take advantage of the things you can do.
Take advantage of other people’s farms or gardens by buying your produce from a small local place. Take your kids berry picking. Find out if your town has a community garden and rent a plot there to grow your own food. But even if none of those things are available to you, think about “homesteading” as “making from scratch.” Look up recipes online for things you want to try to make; nothing is off limits! Buy some mustard seeds and other spices from the grocery store and make your own mustard. (Just be careful with this one. I did it once and it was too hot for me to eat. My mom loved it though.) You can even make your own ketchup from scratch—using store-bought canned tomato sauce, of course. Your only limitation is your imagination!
So go on, apartment dweller . . . head out to the grocery store and make a list of things you normally “just buy” that you want to try to make instead. You can do it, and you’ll be glad you did!
*While making laundry detergent can be a great way to homestead and save money, you want to look over your machine’s instructions and warranty if you still have one. I’ve since read that using homemade detergent can void the warranty of washers because it has a tendency to gum up the mechanics. Do this at your own risk.
Thank you to Wendy Robertson of Ladybug Day Dreams for writing this article.
Wendy has been married to her high school sweetheart, Will, for over 20 years. Together they have five sons ages 3-17. Her sons have been homeschooled from the beginning, giving her 13 years of home education experience. She is an avid knitter and crocheter, and blogs at Ladybug Daydreams, posting twice a week – once about homeschooling and once about another random topic (books, yarn, recipes, and more).