Natural Living Des Moines

Urban Homesteading by sarahtar
May 26, 2008, 10:05 am
Filed under: Lifestyle

You know, I would love to homestead and live off the grid. Might be smarter in the long run, anyway. But, at the same time, I recognize that our family is never going to do this unless forced. really.

But I think we can achieve a good degree of preparedness living in town, as well. Perhaps not to the same degree, but some is better than none, right? Plus, city living enables urban homesteaders to build networks and relationships with other like-minded families that will benefit everyone in the long run.

So what can we do here? I’m trying to figure that out. We’re reading into solar panels, but understand that our home will probably never be able to be completely solar-powered. I can sew, which is a nice perk, and I’m well-versed in reusing fabric (not to mention, my collection of WWII era housewife books has a lot of good tips). We are pretty good at reusing other things, as well. We have tools and skills needed to turn wood into useful items. Said useful items might not be the best-looking things (our finish work is not the best) but they are useable. Drawback = many of our tools are power tools.

Gardening and preserving food is an area we should improve in. We have some garden challenges (acidic soil which has always resulted in incredibly stunted produce – we’re talking green peppers the size of acorns on plants that barely reach 1 foot tall), and we also lost our garden a year or so ago, so we have no garden to speak of at the present time (other than my herb garden). None of us has any idea how to work a gun, which is clearly something we should learn how to do (both for hunting and for self-defense in the event of some sort of unique situation). I’d like to learn how to make soap, though the challenges of doing so with young children running around are what’s kept me from doing so so far.

I’m pretty sure Des Moines won’t allow residents to raise chickens (despite that most of the blogs below discuss raising chickens on the authors’ urban homesteads), and though I’m not sure of the rules about beekeeping, I know I don’t want to do it myself. (PS, the city code can be found here.)

I’ve found a few resources for those looking for more information on self-sufficient city living.

The Path Project

The Urban Homestead (a book)

The Self-Sufficient Urbanite Blog (also now featured in the blogroll)

Article on Reality Sandwich that also has a good definition of Urban Homesteading

The Urban Homesteaders blog

Mother Earth News, always a good read (though a recent article on solar panels for “everyone” was quite disappointing)

Little Homestead in the City

The Urban Homesteader blog

The Urban Homesteader based in Minneapolis

Homegrown Evolution


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Actually, look at section H. You can keep chickens, as long as they are caged and you follow the regulations stated in the section. Ed Fallon used to keep chickens!

Comment by Karen

You’re right, I stopped after the first section. I’m not sure how one would keep chickens quiet, though. Thoughts? I was talking about this with DH, sort of in a joking way, assuming there was no way he’d want chickens, and he actually thought it’d be pretty fun. Do they have to stay caged all the time? I’m not sure I’d want to do that to chickens.

Comment by sarahtar

Chickens don’t really make that much noise, especially as you’d probably only have 3 or 4. You just can’t have a rooster! They would need to at least be fenced in for protection, but there are lots of plans and ideas accessible on-line for small coops. There are also portable “chicken tractors” – basically, moveable, fenced in chicken play-yards. It keeps them contained, but also allows access to grass, bugs, sun, etc. Also, unless you were there watching, letting them run loose would be too dangerous – dogs, cats, raccoons, hawks, etc. – and potentially cause complaints from the neighbors!
I’m seriously thinking about it, too. In the winter, you’d need to be able to keep them warm-enough in the coop and they would need about 12 hours (?) of light to keep laying, but I’ve read that a lightbulb on a timer is adequate.

Comment by Karen

Chicken tractors are easy to make. My husband has made four of them so far, including a small one for my mother to keep in her yard – room enough for four hens. They’re wonderful! Picture happy, contented chickens with plenty of fresh bugs and grass each day. I found they should be moved at least twice a day if you want to keep the smell down, and three times a day is even better if you stay at home during the day, which I do. Otherwise, you can move them in the mornings and evenings. The more fresh grass they have access to, the more grass they will eat and the less feed they consume – more economical for you and healthier for the chickens and the eggs they lay.

If you want to see an example of a chicken tractor, you can check it out here:

As far as winter goes, if you live in the south, a heavy blanket over the tractor will usually do. It insulates the tractor and the chickens inside keep it warm with their own body heat.

Happy chicken raising!

Comment by Sue

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