There are a lot of people living in urban environments who would love to bring a little more homegrown goodness into their lives, but honestly don't buy that it's possible. Let's be honest, when you wake up to car alarms and reside several stories above the soil--how realistic is it to grow vegetables or raise chickens?
Well, pretty realistic folks. More and more people are bringing the simple life to places with more area codes than barns everyday, and while yes, their efforts start small, they are still able to grow some of their own food, tend some small livestock, and bake bread in their own ovens. Simple actions like these help keep food closer to home (a sigh of relief for 'Ol Ma Nature) and it's also giving back the basic responsibility of feeding oneself in a world where no one seems to really know how to do that anymore. Which quite honestly, doesn't feel like a good thing, at least not to this farmer-in-training.
So if 2009 seems like the right time to start adding some sustainability and local food to your apartment - here are some simple first steps to get all you eager new homesteaders started, regardless of where you call home.
This Spring Plant One Thing In Your Apartment You Can Eat
This sounds daunting, but it doesn't have to be. You can place a hanging basket of strawberries over the kitchen sink in a window. Or you can buy Patio Tomatoes, a variety meant for container gardening, that can grow under a grow bulb in your office lamp. If you love fresh tea, plant a window box of herbs like mint and chamomile, which you can dry right there in Chicago and blend into your own teabags. Regardless of what you decide to grow--just actually practicing some indoor or rooftop gardening in itself is an amazing first step to bringing a little homesteading into your life. It feels good to get your fingernails dirty, even on the 34th floor, and you can finally start walking the walk so many of us have been talking.
Sew Your Own Spring Line
For a little flair to this whole urban homesteading thing, why not make a News Year's resolution to make some of your own clothes this year? Trust me, if you can use a pair of scissors and drive a car you're already way ahead of the game and more than qualified to sew a skirt or messenger bag for your bike ride to work. A visit to a vintage or local fabric shop can be an inspiration for guys and girls alike. Ask the sales folks to help you pick out a good beginner pattern, something safe like pj pants that you can learn to sew on and not have to wear in public if they don't turn out so great. But hey, even if the seams are messy, it still feels damn good sleeping in those tartan pants you made from scratch without any sweatshop-laden guilt.
Change How You Shop for Food You Aren't Growing At Home
No matter where you live, I bet you still buy food. By changing how you shop you can up the level of your own personal food independence by just changing what you buy, and how you bring it home. Small steps like bringing in your own grocery, produce, and grain bags means you aren't adding to the horrific surplus on garbage. And by opting to buy from stores or co-ops that provide bulk food bins of organic or natural foods you're also cutting down on excess packaging and supporting sustainable farmers. And as an aspiring sustainable farmer, I really hope you consider that.
I Wasn't Raised In A Barn, But I Live In One Now
Even in small spaces, some livestock could be a reality for the new year. If your landlord allows cats and dogs, they may allow rabbits. And rabbits such as French or English Angoras are more than pets - they are mini sheep. That's right, they grow wool, and if you're already a knitter you could be making next winter's hats and scarves from your own livestock. Many cities allow small flocks of laying hens for your own free-range eggs, which may sound silly but the fad is catching on like gangbusters. All across America urban flocks are clucking under streetlamps. And if rabbits and chickens aren't your idea of a good time, I'll nudge you in the ribs to the idea of bees. Yes, bees. You can start a hive this May right on your rooftop or in the backyard. Beginner beekeeping kits cost les than a Zune, and who doesn't love scaring the hell out of the UPS man when he has to deliver your 10,000 new tenants? His face is priceless, and after all, it's the simple things in life that make all this urban homesteading worth while.
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