I have been spending some time daydreaming about getting out of the city, moving to the country and starting a farm. It’s a nice dream that makes me imagine my son running free on our property as we grow food and raise animals and live generally “free”.
While this is a lovely day dream, the practical implications and realities of our family’s current situation make it a “no where near now” dream. My husband and I both have good and rewarding jobs in the “city” that we spent many years and much money on school to obtain. Most of our family members live close to us (within a 40 minute drive) as do most of our friends. We also live in a townhouse that has only recently stabilized in the market and come back to the price we bought it for nearly 4 years ago. So we don’t have enough capital invested in the place to afford us the luxury of selling, moving and buying.
So, with all these realities firmly bringing me back to ground, I begin thinking about how we could recreate some of the things that attract us to the hobby farm/back to the country dream in our suburban townhouse location.
In my research I came across this family that has built the dream in an urban setting and they call it the Little Homestead in the City. It is in the middle of Pasadena, California adjacent to a major highway. They grown their own food, raise livestock, preserve, do things themselves and generally live off their tiny little plot. Luckily they are willing to share their experiences with others and they have a plethora of tips and resources on their website. And, while we don’t have a lot of physical land to work with on our “lot” and our municipality won’t allow livestock, I think we could do a lot with our place and have been inspired to see how far we can push the limits of a multi-family complex.
The Little Homestead in the City list 10 elements of an urban homestead:
1. Grow your own FOOD on your city lot
2. Use alternative ENERGY sources
3. Use alternative FUELS & TRANSPORTATION
4. Keep farm ANIMALS for manure and food
5. Practice WASTE REDUCTION
6. Reclaim GREYWATER and collect RAINWATER
7. Live SIMPLY
8. Do the work YOURSELF
9. Work at HOME
10. Be a good NEIGHBOR
We’ve already begun working on element #1 “grow your own food” with a full-scale vegetable and herb garden making use of our two teeny decks, our front walk up and our tiny backyard. My handy husband made planter boxes out of an old cedar fence that was replaced in his parent’s backyard. He promises to write a post on how he made them soon! I’ll post photos through the summer to show our progress. One of our goals this summer is to see if we can live mostly on the food we grow and the food we can get from the local Coquitlam farmers market. Yesterday we found we could buy enough food (supplemented slightly by a small fruit purchase from Thrifty Foods) for the week from the market and we signed up for a 1/4 cow from a sustainable local rancher Redyl Ranch so we are all in!
Below are some photos of the beginnings of our garden:
Fence-post planter adjacent to our strawberry patch in our “boutique back yard garden” with just recently planted kale and swiss chard. The backyard garden also has two blueberry bushes, rhubarb, chocolate and mint. Dylan is going to plant zucchini this week as well.
Arugula, Rosemary and Chives growing on our main floor deck
Our main floor deck to give an idea of the size we are working with
Top floor deck which is about half the size of the main floor deck. Nothing planted here yet as we wait for our tomato plants from Dylan’s Dad Paul who is a tomato starting genius. We’ll grow tomatoes and peppers up here as it is really hot and mostly dry and acts like a greenhouse in the summer.
Cucumber plant growing in the corner of our front walk up.
Front walk up garden with three fence post planters planted with carrots, lettuce, kale, beans and peas. On the left is the herb garden including curry plants, mint, marjoram, oregano, lemon balm, parsley, cilantro, lavender, garlic chives, thyme, sage and dill. Our neighbours recently “suggested” we paint the boxes to match the house so they would blend in more so we are considering this to keep everyone happy.
First beans popping up out of the ground
First beans popping up out of the ground.
Lemon Thyme flourishing in the walk up garden
Washing herbs from the garden for a vegetable soup