Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Living on a farm in the city

Many of the people who read this blog are interested in self-sufficiency, growing their own food, making food from scratch and raising animals for meat or fiber, if space (and laws) allow. However, many of those same readers also, like myself, live in the city. We enjoy the benefits of both worlds, adding in the convenience of urban transportation, diversity, great restaurants and access to world class arts.

But, there are drawbacks. Legal restrictions. Neighbors that are too close that may not appreciate your activities. Lack of space to plant an orchard or raise a milk cow. The list goes on. Many of us dream of living further out to do the things we really want to do when, really, most of the things we want to do can be accomplished right in our own backyards.

Growing a substantial amount of food just means the willingness to convert a lot of your yard into food growing spaces. If you are fortunate to live in a city like Seattle that has forward thinking laws, you can raise rabbits, a half dozen chickens, a couple of dwarf dairy goats and some bees. What else do you really need? A teacup mini pig? Ok, you can have that too.

All the other activities we think of when it comes to being self-sufficient can be done no matter where you live - cooking and heating with a wood stove, cheese making, home brewing, soap making, bread baking, canning, sewing, knitting, etc. Again, the list goes on and few things prevent you from doing them besides, perhaps, funds and the gumption to do them.

If you call yourself an urban farmer or homesteader and dream of the country, what do you wish you had or could do differently? Is your wanderlust for more space really just holding you back from creating what you really want in the space you already have?

24 comments:

wolfandfinch said...

I think it's like most things in life - you want what you don't have. I don't have the space for a cow, or goats and I'm not allowed to have more than 4 chickens or a couple of rabbits. I am sure that if I had 4 acres with a cow I'd want room for more pigs. Or sheep.
REally I have more than enough space to do what I can actually get done considering I have a full time job, a small business and 2 children PLUS the homesteading thing. I have the garden. I will get chickens. I bake my own bread, brew my own beer, make my own beeswax candles, and am about to try soap. I make jam and pickle eggs. Really, things are just fine. :)

April Alexander said...

We live on 1/6 of an acre in the city and have a large raised bed garden, 6 chickens, a rabbit and 2 cats. I would love to have a small goat, (or 2), but with our love to travel if we had any more live stock it would make travel prohibitive. Our county allows for any combination of 30 chickens and or goats, so we could go hog wild if we wished. Nothing is holding us back from our dreams of farming in the city. We bake bread and will be canning this summer. Our next goal is bees, and we'll keep adding homesteading activities to our hearts' content until the cows come home.

P~ said...

As my wife and I began down this road of self sufficiency some years back, I continually found myself feeling depressed by my constant pining for the perfect piece of land that I never thought I would be able to obtain. Always looking until that mystical day some time in the future when I could do all those wonderful farm-esque activities was keeping me from embracing the greater truth that, because I had not grown up on a farm, I really had no intimated knowledge of the skills that I would need in order to make that dream a successful one even if I had had the land to do it on.
I made the decision to embrace my reality and to make the very most of the 1/4 acre that I am currently on and understand that the dream will one day become reality and that this time is merely my time to build skills on a more manageable level.
Each year we are more prepared, each year our garden grows (once just over 100 sq ft to now over 1000.) and each year I understand and see more clearly what I really want, ac/dc not just the pictures from the magazine... all things in time right?
Paul Gardener~

Rachel said...

While I have he ability to do most of the things I want to do, there are a few things that living in the city doesn't allow. I can't have any pigs, even pet pigs. I of course can't sell any raw agricultural goods to help fund my hobby. But I'm torn. I love living in the City and don't want to be isolated. But at the same time I want farming to be my career. The biggest issue though is that I can afford living in the city. I can't afford the land to farm. Eh, I just haven't figured it out yet.

Green Bean said...

We moved last year to a half acre plot in "the city" - really the burbs but in the SF Bay Area everything here is so densely populated, I consider it urban. Here, I have room for chickens, raised beds, an orchard and also room for the kids to play. I think we are allowed to get bees as well but haven't investigated it - especially as I discovered a beehive in one of our trees today! It is about as good as gets. Country-style living with all the conveniences of the city

BUT

I still yearn for the country. So does my 8 year old. He begged just today to move up to where my parents live (wine country) so he could have a pig and a cow - things which aren't as acceptable in urban or suburban farms. Plus, there is something about space - room to breath, run, roam. I'll satisfy myself with what I've got but that doesn't mean I don't still dream.

Sustainable Eats said...

Good post, Diana. We all could be doing more than we currently are (even me!) The only thing really that I can't do here on my 1/5 acre Seattle lot is get dairy goats. I'm allowed to but having milked one up the street for the last year, I know firsthand the neighbors are concerned with the noise level. I already hear my chickens and sometimes ducks squawking up the street. The bees haven't bothered anyone because they don't know about them yet. And anyone can keep rabbits because they are so quiet they would never be discovered. Goats, however, would be. And it's no small feat to get their area ready only to find out you can't keep them. Goats will be the thing that I leave the city for.

Laura Kaeding said...

Living in the city makes it both easier and harder to be self sufficient. On the one hand you have easier access to a network to purchase or trade your seeds or goods etc. On the other hand, cities make it challenging by having rules and restrictions. It's always interesting to see how far those limits can be stretched. I wish I could grow anything on my shady balcony but I have yet to succeed. I will keep trying thanks to all the support an advice I get online. Thanks again Deanna

Kate said...

I agree with those that say it's human nature to want just a little bit more than what we have. I have a luxurious amount of space compared to a lot of truly urban homesteaders. But our township won't let us have more than 4 "outdoor pets" and no free-ranging. I know it makes sense; my hens could destroy a neighbors garden when the seedlings are small, so I don't know that I'd free range them if I could.

There's a difference to me between self-sufficiency in skills, and self-sufficiency in materials. I bake all our bread and cure our own bacon. But we don't have the space to produce the wheat or the pork here. If we heated with wood, we couldn't keep ourselves supplied with the firewood on such a small property. As I see it, material self-sufficiency becomes more feasible as the size of one's property goes up.

harlywomn said...

I have an acre and 1/2 just outside the city limits of Houston. I left homesteading for corporate life and hated it. So glad to be home again. This spring has the vegetable garden going, chickens laying, mini orchard started. As soon as I can there will be a rabbit or two and maybe ducks again. The pond will be re-dug next spring. It just feels so right!

JanesDaddy said...
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JanesDaddy said...
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panamamama said...

Great post. I so agree we always yearn for what we don't have. I'm trying to come to terms with this by minimizing, not reading magazines and watching shows that make me want "more." I have chickens and we have a little garden. It's all about finding that contentment...

JanesDaddy said...

"The perfect is the enemy of the good". Sometimes the conditions aren't 100% as we would like them, but that shouldn't stop us from trying. Kate is correct about the difference between material and skills self-sufficiency, so that even those of us with few materials can learn and practice a ton of new skills.

Veronica said...

I'm a college student in a college town of about 100,000. My boyfriend and I have started with the most important stuff, brewing our own beer and making fruit wines. Then we branched out to cheese-making, canning, and cooking from scratch. I could be doing more, but I just don't have the time to keep up with a bigger garden (we currently do potted herbs). The other thing keeping me from expanding is knowing that I'm in a rental and will move when I graduate. Once I can settle down in one place (hopefully a city) for more than 2-3 years I would really like to grow veggies and get chickens, urban farm style!

Anisa said...

We love our urban space but we are constantly making changes, find a little more dirt here or there to grow things. Moving the compost bin or building the chooks and addition. ;) I would love the space for a dairy cow, an orchard, a gigantic strawberry patch and an asparagus bed. But these are beyond our space right now. For a while I never stopped pining over more land - I wanted a horse and fresh air and no traffic. But one night I had a dream about moving out to a beautiful part of our state (ideal) and everything I wanted was there - except the only place to shop was Walmart. :( In my dream I was so heart broken about being so isolated and only having my only option be sprawlmart, instead of all the amazing local places I keep finding here in the city. When I woke up I realized that, yes, while I'd love more space for certain things, I'm really quite happy where we are.

Dr. Monkey Hussein Monkerstein said...

We've converted most of our back yard into a garden and we're using part of the front yard to grow food as well. I'd raise some animals but since our neighbors are so close, it's a respect issue. Maybe if we move out of the city or the house next to us goes empty for long, we'll do it, otherwise I'm pretty satisfied with what we've got going on in our urban homestead.

Sandy said...

I live in the city, and have virtually no land...BUT...I grow on almost inch I do have, including container gardens. Unfortunately, livestock is illegal in my city, though I do bend those rules just a little from time to time;) I also volunteer on a local farm, so I'm getting my time with the animals, and I keep a good-sized garden there. I have all the skills I need from earlier life experiences, just no land, and no near hope of acquiring land of my own. At this point in my life (I'm 53 and my husband is 10 years older), an abrupt transition to a rural life would be physically challenging. I'm up for it though. I'd be REALLY HAPPY with just enough land to keep my goats and chickens, and a garden to sustain us; if I could throw in some woods to forage in, and some privacy, it would be perfect! I'm trying to keep that dream in sight, despite financial setbacks. In the mean time, my compromises are viable and useful, and I'm doing just fine.

CallieK said...

We rent in downtown Toronto and the biggest thing stopping me from doing more is that we might have to move. It's hard to put all that effort in and then have to leave it behind.

LisaZ said...

We can do most of what we want to do on our little city lot--garden, grow fruit trees and bushes, etc. Hens are illegal but that didn't stop me from having them. I don't at this point even desire goats or pigs or anything else. I could keep rabbits and that is a future possibility--they are legal as long as you don't keep them for meat, but who would know?

I love being in the city and fear I'd feel so bored and isolated in the country, though I too long for space to roam. What I most dislike about the city, actually, is the lights. I want to see the stars! If only they'd turn out all the blasted lights and a few of the noises, I think I'd be content forever. It just might happen...

Leta said...

The single largest problem we have is zoning. On our 1/5 acre city lot, we garden intensively and bake and sew and recycle water. We could have chickens and bees, but we aren't zoned for it.

Space is secondary. If we were to grow hay for dairy animals, we'd need 5-10 acres. If we bought hay, we could get along with 1-2. My children are horse obsessed, though, so when we buy we'll go for at least five.

I actually emailed my city manager this week to find out about some vacant acreage that supposedly is zoned properly. I'd love to have space, and the benefits of living within the city limits. My fingers are crossed.

Wendy said...

I used to dream of having an acreage out in the country, and one day, I woke up and realized that my quarter acre in the suburbs was what I had, and I could either do what I wanted to do here, in the 'burbs, or I could keep wasting time waiting for that "perfect" piece of land.

I decided to get busy and make this place my homestead. And here I am, several years later with chickens and ducks, a cabinet full of home-canned goodness (some of which was home-grown, even :), and the beginnings of a pretty awesome perennial food garden and a lot of raised beds for annuals.

I'm livin' the Good Life in the suburbs ;). And the best part was that I didn't even have to pack one box ;).

Kristi said...

I have an acre just outside of the 'burbs, and I can't do much of anything with it. The front yard gets too much shade from trees and fencing. The septic drainfield takes up over a quarter acre. A good portion of the lot is a native growth area. Huge trees shade the western quarter acre. For all my acre I have eight fruit trees and 720 square feet of planting beds. That's it.

I could probably have some chickens, but I doubt I could free-range them since coyotes live in the woods out back, and the neighbors let their dogs run wild. Anything smaller than a llama would have similar issues, if I had the desire to raise them.

So, like everyone else, I do what I can with what I have....

Anna M said...

We currently have .86 of an acre and it's too much. We are downsizing to probably .20 of an acre or so and that should be just right. We'll be able to grow all the veg, fruit and herbs for the two of us plus 6 chickens and that even gives us enough to share. I'd rather have less land to have to deal with and give it all over to food production than all the mowing/edging we have to do with the part we are gardening now.

Barb @ A Life in Balance said...

We have about 1/4 acre in suburbia, and we're a family of seven. At this point, I wish I had more time. We do have a nice size vegetable garden, and we've been slowing building a good size collection of fruiting plants and trees. However, even though I'd love to add in some chickens, I just don't have the time to always take care of what we have. Last year, we lost some of our Concord grape crop to the birds, etc. because I had no time to pick the grapes, let alone juice and can them.

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