Just as urban and suburban dwellers can fit a lot of projects and production into their modest spaces, Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living packs many ideas and examples into a modest and accessible book.
As long time social activists, artists, urban homesteaders, and friends, authors Rachel Kaplan and K. Ruby Blume present in their book the example of a diverse group of people working to enhance their lives by meeting more of their own needs at home.
At the same time, they dispel the notion that such an approach is either hostile against society or isolationist in its flavor. Instead they reveal how such an approach strengthens ties within communities.
Through their examples, they show that with a little reskilling in key domestic areas, anyone can take the urban homesteading approach and find success.
In their work they found that
no one has a handle on every aspect of homegrown sustainability, (because) each place is marked by the limits of space and time and skill and affinity.
To this end, it is working together, sharing ideas, trading skills and sometimes even goods, that we can build and enjoy a more engaged and meaningful social and practical life.
Inspiring and practical
But Kaplan and Blume’s Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living offers more than just inspiration and possibilities. Theirs is a book with a well presented collection of practical ideas to choose from and work with.
Coming from a strong ecological background, the authors encourage readers to meet the challenges of climate change, resource depletion and economic uncertainty by taking positive steps towards building a “life-serving economy.” As they put it,
Restructuring local economies to protect the earth and evolve our culture is central to the homesteading path.
Now, their upfront, tell it like it is admonitions won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but, to me, it’s a welcome acknowledgment of our resource and economic reality. It’s the gentle kick in the pants that we all need.
A holistic view
The permaculture principles of earth care, people care and fair share provide the foundation for creating regenerative and sustainable designs in Urban Homesteading.
Beginning with evaluating where each of us are personally and within our communities and bioregions, the authors explore many ways in which we can enhance our living systems.
Gardening, animals, composting and water catchment are integrated into practical designs for using outdoor spaces. How to do that is explained in a lucid and straightforward manner that helps tamp down any hesitancy a reader might have about taking on the kinds of infrastructural projects that modern society is used to getting via cash and by paying monthly bills to outside vendors.
Tips for energy conservation and generation, do it yourself building techniques, food preservation, and waste management ideas that can save money and lower one’s ecological footprint are worked in. The authors show how working alone or together, when many neighbors tackle a variety of new skills and projects each household is enhanced and the whole community becomes more resilient.
Other community building ideas explored include potlucks, gleaning networks, and bartering.
None of us has to do it all. But we can learn the skills and tackle the projects that speak to us. Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living is a fun and substantive book that inspires readers to “start where you are.”
The authors suggest we get busy for many practical reasons, but also because “(o)ur daily actions can remake the world.”
–Holly Parker for Transition Voice