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The Urban Homesteading Phenomenon: Self-Sufficiency on a City Lot.

written by: J.C. Wilkinson•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 3/31/2015

You don't have to live on a farm to be more self-sufficient. Urban homesteading can turn your city lot into a place where you can grow your own organic food, produce your own energy, and reduce your carbon imprint dramatically.

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    What It Is, How It Started

    There is a movement afoot that is sweeping the United States. It's called "Urban Homesteading". People are turning their city lots into tiny little farms. They are growing organic food, and sometimes even animals. Not since the "Victory Gardens" of WWII have so many people been so intent on feeding themselves. What they can grow all depends on what their particular city allows.

    Whether an urban homestead is started to grow healthier food with organic gardening, save money and be more self-sufficient, or to reduce the carbon footprint of your family, there is not much of a downside to this way of life.

    In bad economic times, people look for ways to be more self-sufficient. There is also the issue of the dangers inherent in eating commercially grown food. Chemicals, contaminants, pollution, genetic engineering -- all these things make taking a bite of food something to dread. Organic gardening is growing in popularity every day.

    The Internet is a smorgasbord of sites and videos by urban homesteaders all across the country. They are proving that you don't have to own acreage to be self-sufficient. The amount of your self-sufficiency is entirely up to you. Even apartment dwellers are getting into the act, growing container gardens on their patios or vegetable gardens in their courtyards.

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    The Basics - Food and Water

    Urban homesteaders often start out by simply growing organic vegetables and fruits, and as time goes by, add more self-sufficiency resources. Water catchment systems are usually the first thing that is added after the gardens. Water catchment is especially helpful in places where there is a lot of annual rainfall. In places with wet and dry seasons, they can be tricky, because they require a way to refill the rainbarrels in the dry months.

    Rainbarrels can be purchased on local sites like Craigslist for as little as $25 apiece, already fitted with all the plumbing necessary. You can also purchase the barrels and easily add the fittings yourself very easily. Plans and instructions are available at several sites online. Using a water catchment system can save hundreds of dollars a year over city water. Since the sewerage charge is usually based on your water consumption, you will be saving there as well.

    As far as drinking water is concerned, there are some urban homesteaders who utilize distillation of rainwater to provide their drinking water. Plans can be found online for building your own water distillation system, although a small used commercial distiller can be bought for under $100.

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    Moving Off the Grid

    Most of the more advanced urban homesteads have some sort of alternative energy system. Whether it's solar or wind power, they have found a way to generate their own electricity and at least supplement what they buy off the grid. Some use manually powered electrical generating systems, such as a bicycle that charges a battery, which can then be used to run the computer. There are a myriad of alternative energy possibilities available, and whatever amount you generate yourself saves you that much money on your grid power usage.

    Some urban homesteaders just grow their own food, but some actually make a living off of their homesteading. They sell organic produce to local restaurants, grow and sell ornamental or edible plants, or sell the very systems they build, such as homemade windmills and solar panels. Some make a living off of writing about their homesteading efforts, and selling affiliated products.

    Whichever path you choose, you too can become more self-sufficient and reduce your carbon footprint with urban homesteading.

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    Resources:

    Rainbarrel Instructions

    Leda's Urban Homestead (apartment gardening)

Urban Homesteading in Florida and Beyond

Want to be more self-sufficient? Urban homesteading is the act of taking any city space you have, be it an apartment balcony or a small city lot, and turning it green. Whether you grow a few vegetables or move completely off the grid, it's an adventure you won't regret!
  1. The Urban Homesteading Phenomenon: Self-Sufficiency on a City Lot.
  2. Urban Gardening: Planning Your Vegetable and Herb Garden
  3. Urban Homesteading: Alternative Energy - Affordable Solar Power
  4. Urban Homesteading: Water Catchment Systems - Using Rainbarrels to Recycle Rainwater
  5. Urban Homesteading: Making Money From Your Urban Homestead