Do you feel like you can only start homesteading if you have a big piece of land in the country? We can all adopt some homesteading practices, no matter where we live. Urban homesteading is becoming more and more popular. We are seeking out ways to become more self sufficient and to reduce our carbon footprint. And we are looking to improve our health and wellbeing by knowing where our food comes from. While many of us wont be having our own milk cow in the backyard, there are still plenty of simple things we can do to create this type of homesteading lifestyle in the suburbs.
1. Start A Compost Bin
This is an easy way to reduce waste and help create amazing fertile soil for your plants as well. Food waste is a huge problem, and in Australia 7.6 million tonnes of food is wasted every year!
Reducing waste is not only a positive step, but it’s also a simple way to begin homesteading. It’s not only good for the environment, but its good for your back pocket too. Check out this great guide to composting for beginners by Milkwood Permaculture.
2. Grow Your Own Food
I never considered that I might not be able to go to the supermarket and buy food – until COVID hit. It made me realise how reliant I was on others for my basic survival needs. So growing food was one of the first things I started learning about.
Having your own garden means you have control over your food, including what chemicals and fertilisers are used to grow it. Myself personally, I am a big supporter of organic gardening, as the use of toxic chemicals is something I have been avoiding for many years.
You can grow food on a windowsill, a balcony, a verandah. And if you are lucky to have some space – in your backyard. There are plenty of books for beginners that you could buy or borrow from the library. I personally believe this is something we should all be taught in school. You can buy some seed packets at the garden centre, or online, or buy some seedling to get yourself started.
Learning to grow your own food is a bit of trial and error. We are currently in our second year of growing our food, and I am still learning and making mistakes. My biggest tip is to grow something that you know you love to eat. And don’t expect to have the perfect backyard vegetable crop the first time around. Give yourself a pat on the back for everything that grows and everything that you learn along the way.
3. Collect Rainwater
The amount of chemicals in our suburban water supply is just simply terrible. Some, like chlorine, are added to make sure the water is safe for us to drink. Other chemicals like fertilisers and pesticides end up in our water from run off from farm land. And other chemicals such as fluoride are added to mass medicate us. All these chemicals can do terrible things to the human body. We are better off drinking filtered rain water. Plus, we not only are we paying for water, we have no control over if we get it or not. And it is something we must have for survival.
Rainwater is free. Install a rainwater tank and a filtration system and take advantage of free water. If you can’t install a tank, then at the very least, collect rainwater in a bucket to water you plants. There are so many different ways to collect rainwater that you may not have thought about. Not only are you taking advantage of water than would run off into the storm drains, you are also saving money. Every little bit counts.
4. Learn Food Preservation Techniques
One thing I found out after our first year of growing food was that there will be an abundance of it. We had so many nectarines, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchinis I couldn’t give then away. There was no way we could eat all of this before it went off.
Rather than wasting the bounty, we need to learn how to preserve these foods for the cooler months. This is a skill that the convenience of the supermarket has allowed us to lose. You can ferment, pickle, preserve, can, salt, dehydrate…..the list goes on.
5. Cook From Scratch
Cooking and baking from scratch is something that I actually find quite calming and meditative. Not everyone would feel the same but I’m pretty sure everyone would agree that there is nothing better than a delicious meal made with love.
Since I’ve started on our journey to a more self sufficient lifestyle, I have been baking more. I have been baking our own bread, and lots of cakes, muffins and other sweet treats for Marcus to snack on. My goal is to never buy another loaf of bread from the supermarket again. This saves us so much money, and it is also healthier as we know exactly what we are eating . No nasty chemicals or colours or preservatives. And we can cook to use up the produce we have grown in the garden.
6. Learn to Sew
How often do we lose a button on a top and rather than replace it, go and buy a new top? Or if a seam splits, we throw the item away and get a new one. These days many of the clothes we purchase are not made to last. This is a very wasteful process, not only on landfill, but also for our back pocket.
Learning to sew means that you can repair those items of clothing easily. Plus, you can also make clothes – to fit you!! Let me tell you, I struggle to buy off the shelf pants and skirts on the best of days, even when I was much slimmer, due to my body shape. Making clothes that you want means you will never have that problem of staring into your wardrobe thinking you have nothing to wear.
Plus sewing also opens you up to a myriad of crafts!! You can make so many different gifts such as cushion covers, makeup bags, aprons…..whatever you want!! This saves so much money in the long term and it is so much better for the environment as well.
7. Go Green
I’ve been going green for quite a few years now, and this is a great way to start on your journey to homesteading. You can make your own non toxic cleaning supplies, and generally create a healthier home for you and your family. You don’t need chemical laden sprays and products to make your home clean. And you don’t need to do much more than purchase some vinegar, baking soda and microfibre cloths to clean your home without the toxic chemicals.
You can also buy some great low tox cleaning products these days, but I highly recommend that you do your research into these first. They may sound all great and green and non toxic, but coming from my first hand experience, they may not even work!! Or they may simply be greenwashing you. Any company that does not disclose the ingredients of their products should ring warning bells.
8. Prepare Herbal Home Remedies
I have been super interested in creating herbal medicines at home. This is something that seems to have lost popularity over the years. Or maybe it was pushed into the underground by big pharma.
These days there are plenty of courses and books to buy showing you how to make simple herbal remedies. This is a to explore homesteading no matter how much space they have. Knowing these are completely natural is such a benefit, plus no more taking a drug to deal with the side effects of another drug. I am currently growing my herb and flower garden so I can start creating herbal remedies at home. And planning in my mind of all the delicious herbal teas I will drink.
9. Become a DIY-Genius.
No matter where you live, anyone can make their own candles, soaps and cosmetics. Or you can build your own garden beds, or make an outdoor couch out of pallets. You can make whatever you dream up (if you have the skills and the tools).
DIY has become so much easier over the years with the invention of YouTube. It’s a great place to find resources by experienced individuals on how to do things correctly. And how to fix things when you mess up!
Not only is it super rewarding to create something yourself, it also saves a lot of money. Plus you don’t have to rely on someone else to do things for you. Which if you are an independent single mum like me, that is huge!
10. Keep Worms.
Another fun way to begin homesteading is to keep some worms. And the kids (if you have them) will love it! Compost worms will eat up your kitchen scraps and in return they provide you with wonderful garden fertiliser. If you are new to worms – check out this course by Hey Its a Good Life.
These are my 10 simple ways to start homesteading if you live in the suburbs. There are so many ways to become more self sufficient and this is just the start. Small steps I always say, and before you know it, you will have embraced the homesteading lifestyle!
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