Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Squeeze My Melons and Plow My Furrow, Part 8: Urban Homesteading

When most people hear the word "homesteader", an image of Laura Ingalls Wilder or some similar personage pops into their head.

 Some people may be a little more hip, and conjure up an image of a Mother Eather living in a sod house run by solar energy. While the first image was valid in the 1870's, and the second in the 1970's, neither image is a very valid representation of the urban and suburban homesteaders of today.
Urban/suburban homesteading is the keeping of animals and gardening for self-sufficiency in an urban or suburban environment. What most urban homesteaders do today, three to four generations ago would have been considered matter-of-fact. It was not unusual then for even the most urban of dwellers to have two or three chickens caged up waiting to go into the pot. Everybody grew something, even if it was only tomatoes in pots on the fire escape.
Urban homesteading is often called "micro-farming" because it uses minuscule plots of land to their fullest. Homesteaders do this by utilizing miniature, pygmy, and bantam breeds, raising livestock that require little space, gardening in raised beds, using the square foot method of organization, and employing companion planting. Chickens, rabbits, and bees are popular species that are kept on urban homesteads due to their minimal space requirements and the farm products that are produced from them.

Make sure when you start planning your back yard or rooftop homestead to research your area's laws and ordinances regarding livestock in the city limits. While more and more cities and towns are recognizing the importance of backyard livestock, there are still many areas that don't allow chickens, much less larger animals like goats, and some of these municipalities even have bee bans.  If you slaughter your own livestock, which in keeping with Pagan ideals, I highly suggest you do, you should also research your area's ordinances about disposal of dead animal parts.  Some areas want you to bury the remains, while other areas want you to incinerate them or take them to a special landfill.  Most cities will not allow you to set up a bone project in your back yard.  They frown on charnel houses.
Bees are incredibly easy to keep in an urban environment, and they add an interesting element to many Pagans' spirituality.  The insects have traditionally been viewed as messengers, but I stated above, some places do not allow bees.  For more information on starting your own urban hive, click here.   Urban bees tend to have an easier time surviving since so many gardens are planted with early and late blooming exotics and there are numerous water sources from fountains to sprinklers.

So, this all sounds vaguely interesting?  Call upon your favorite pastoral deities, and head to the feed store and live stock auctions!
Check out the eggs laid by these chickens:
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