It’s hard to yearn for a lifestyle you’re not in a position to enjoy.
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I totally get that. I lived in a place where people looked at me funny for something as simple as making my own jam, when I really wanted to live the life of bygone days and do so much more for myself and for my family. Now I live in a place where living the homesteading life is not only easy, but expected, and I am very blessed in that regard. Before I got here, though, I had to learn to do what I could, where I could, when I could. There are ways to feed the pioneer desire in your heart without moving to the country and having a backyard cow (although that would certainly be nice!). Let’s look at some ways you can do this, wherever you are, right now.
1. You live in an apartment with no yard access
A small apartment is the trickiest place to nurture your homesteading mindset, but it’s certainly not impossible. Remind yourself that even baby steps are forward steps, and start with what you can do – and there’s actually quite a lot!
Windowsill gardens and tabletop greenhouses to grow herbs and leafy greens are easy, year-round projects that add nutrition and deliciousness to your meals.
Countertop composters reduce your trash footprint in an easy and unobtrusive way, and vermicomposting (keeping a worm composting bin) takes composting to the next level by providing nutrient-rich soil for your indoor garden.
If worms are absolutely not your thing and keeping track of watering and feeding plants is not your strong point, Aerogardens are perfect. I started out with two Aerogardens and grew lettuces all winter in them. Heads up, though, I had a terrible time growing tomatoes in mine, so I’d suggest spinach or other greens to start with.
Take advantage of sales at the grocery store, or trips to the farmers market, to stock up on lots of fruit for making jellies, jams, and juice. Water-bath canning is easy and doesn’t require any expensive equipment, with only a few food safety rules to follow to ensure success.
Learn to bake bread, and enjoy your homemade jam on a nice warm slice. How about some homemade butter on that fresh bread? Nothing better!
If you have a sewing machine, you can learn to sew all sorts of things, from your own clothing to home decor items to useful projects and everything in between, as well as make repairs on things you already own so that you don’t have to throw them out when they have a little damage.
2. You live in an apartment with a balcony or small yard
In an apartment with a small outdoor space, you can do everything listed previously, but what a blessing to have the extra ability to grow things! Topsy-turvy gardens are good for growing tomatoes and strawberries in a small space. I really like rail boxes for strawberries and flowers, and they can be used to grow greens and radishes as well. Did you know you can grow potatoes in 5-gallon buckets? You can! Climbing peas and beans, even cucumbers, can grow on trellises, making use of vertical space.
3. You live in a neighborhood with an HOA
Home Owner’s Associations (HOAs) will each have their own rules for you to follow, and you’ll want to go through your HOA handbook to see what you are allowed to do. When we lived in an HOA neighborhood, the rules were very strict. If you had a fence that could be seen through (we did – it was an iron rail fence) you couldn’t have a garden. Any garden that could be seen from the street was against the rules. Our neighbors also had an iron-rail fence, but noticed that they had an area of their yard that was tucked away so that it wasn’t really visible from the street yet still had enough sunlight for a garden. They grew many vegetables in that well-thought-out spot and had enough to share. If your HOA rules are strict on what you can do in the yard, be sure to check out the options that apartment dwellers have, because they will apply to you too.
4. You live in a neighborhood with no HOA and understanding neighbors
In addition to everything listed in the previous categories, you might have some exciting options available to you. Check your city’s zoning laws (visit city hall or search online information if your city has them posted there) to see if you can keep chickens! Many cities do allow chickens if you keep fewer than three or four, and only hens. Before you run down to the feed store and buy some cute fuzzy peepers, it’s a good idea to ask your neighbors, on both sides and behind your house, to see if they’re okay with it. The last thing you want is to build yourself a cute chicken coop and get attached to your chicks, only to have a neighbor decide you’re an issue and call in a complaint.
Permission to keep two miniature goats within city limits is rare (two goats, because they don’t thrive when kept alone) but if you have a large enough yard and adequate housing for them, it might be possible. Again, check with your city zoning laws to see if goats are allowed. Raising rabbits for meat is another thing you can check into. How about keeping a beehive? Bees do require some specialized equipment and know-how; read up on their care before you order your bees. We kept a hive in our back yard in the city because our neighbors were okay with it, so check with them. They just might be interested in having some fresh honey from your hive.
Don’t forget that your entire yard is potential garden space! Grow food, not lawns.
5. You live outside the city limits with plenty of space
You have the easiest situation! Your homesteading dreams can come true without worrying about neighbors or zoning (although it’s still a good idea to check zoning laws and get to know your nearest neighbors!). That big garden with enough produce to eat fresh, to preserve and to share is only a little elbow grease away. Keeping livestock is easier for you, too.
This is only the beginning!
This is by no means a comprehensive list of what you can do to nurture your homesteading mindset. I’ll help you learn how to do lots of things. We’ll do it together – wherever you are, you can do this!
(Images in this article are found via Unsplash.com)