Welcome to our first official Fellow Homesteadian post! Getting to read so much information and getting to see such wonderful pictures of some of the readers out there has been SO MUCH FUN!!!! At night, I just sit here, sip my London Fog and browse through all the emails – feeling motivated, happy, and excited for what the future of homesteading holds for all of us!
I hope that this time together will be an encouragement to fellow homesteadians out there – big or small. Homesteads come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They focus on different things. They adapt. They move. They change. And they grow. There isn't a “proper” or “perfect” way to do it – which makes it all the more beautiful.
From here on out, I'll put putting up a Fellow Homesteadian post once per week. Be encouraged! Be motivated! Be excited for all the wonderful ways people are turning to a life of living with the land!
You can also be featured by reading further information on it HERE (send me lots of pictures! and lots of words! and lots of stories!).
Let's get to it, shall we? By the way, I *may* add a few comments here and there throughout the post. I'll put my (super, incredibly, important) comments in italics so that you know they're mine. The rest will be quoted directly from the featured homesteader.
Presenting Kelli: A city-dwelling homesteader in Eastern Iowa
Who are you? Where do you live? Where is your homestead located?
I am Kelli, and with my husband (John) and our two dogs (Manny and Bruce), we've managed to turn our double-corner lot into a city homestead. Ok. Well, we're actually a homestead-in-progress, but we still want to share some of our adventures with you.
We've lived in the second-largest city in Iowa for many, many years (we're both Iowa born and raised!), and purchased our historic home about five years ago. We love, love, LOVE our home and community, and can't imagine living anywhere else. In fact, when people learn about our homesteading and sustainable living interests and ask if we have plans to move into the beautiful Iowa countryside, we always say “no”.
Additionally, I love to garden, can and preserve food, cook, upcycle, and dream of becoming a self-sufficient micro-farmer, complete with backyard chickens. (John's not completely sold on backyard chickens. We're workin' on that…)
How did it all begin for you?
It all began with a book, people. Seriously. During a brutal Iowa winter a few years ago, I was curled up on the couch while John was watching a Packers game. I had picked up Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle on the clearance rack at a local used bookstore, and decided to crack the cover. Little did I know, this book would change things for us. Big things. The book was about a family’s efforts to eat locally produced items and grow their own food for one year, and it was just the tip of the iceberg for me. I remember thinking to myself, “Self, you can totally do this.”
And we are totally trying.
We enjoy making our one-third acre city lot a more sustainable place. We believe in living a self-sufficient lifestyle (mentally and physically) and are slowly transforming our practices to encompass those beliefs, and the concepts presented in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Our first step was planting a garden, then we made some rain barrels, and then we tried composting. By that time, we were hooked.
After reading that book, and getting our feet wet in homesteading, we started a blog. (Please visit us at thesustainablecouple.blogspot.com, or find us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheSustainableCouple) Much of what we write about on our blog relates to eco-friendly living, renovating our 1840s home, cooking, crafting, being cheap asses, our dogs, and our travels. Sometimes we'll throw in a good story about our knucklehead friends and family. Through our blog, we try to make it clear that what we’ve done isn’t remarkable. It’s normal. What we’ve done so far is simple, and can be accomplished by any person, with any level of skill, in any setting. I don’t have a green thumb, and I can barely use power tools. When we started, we both had full-time jobs, and barely any free time.
What sort of homesteading are you currently involved in?
We slowly immersed ourselves into a sustainable, eco-friendly homestead. And quite frankly, sometimes I feel like we're only ankle-deep. There are so many things that we want to do, that it kind of shames the things we've already accomplished. However, when reflecting with friends, they are quick to remind us of our successes at our city homestead. For example, things we do on our city homestead include:
Building and maintaining a fleet of 11 (yes, 11!) rain barrels, which we use primarily for watering the garden, as well as washing cars and other outside projects.
Building six raised garden beds.
Composting and vermicomposting.
Making as much food as possible from scratch.
Working with our city council to allow urban chickens (all cities nearby have already made that leap – we're getting closer!)
Preserving our garden harvest.
Gleaning produce from family, friends, and neighbors.
Creating a garden irrigation system with used materials and rainwater.
Upcycling everything. All. The. Time.
Completing home renovation projects ourselves, and in a sustainable manner.
Reducing our utility use.
Getting creative to reduce our carbon footprint.
What’s the best part of homesteading?
Hands down, the best part about city homesteading is saving money. Without a doubt. Hands down. In the few years we've been at it, we've been able to pay off my car, a large chunk of my student loan, John's truck, and make extra mortgage payments. We had to tighten our budget, but the returns it gave us was amazing.
Shaye: Is this inspiring anyone else to utilize rain barrels?!?! If only we didn't live in a desert…
Additionally, the feeling of being independent from consumerism is another perk of city homesteading, in particular. When living in an urban area, people are more dependent on a consumeristic lifestyle. It's challenging to grow your own food, and make your own goods, in a limited space, with limited time, and limited resources. Couple that with the rat-race lifestyle of urbanites, and the convenience of a big box store where you can buy your shampoo for $3.97 and potatoes for $4.97, and you have the ultimate recipe for excessive American consumerism. To take become an city homesteader and take a step back from all that is liberating, people.
We ain't goin' back.
What’s the worst part of homesteading?
The hardest part about homesteading in the city, isn't actually homesteading endeavors. The one thing that makes it particularly difficult for us is ignoring the notion that we should be consumers, and not be self-sufficient. We often get weird looks from our neighbors, and comments from people who don't quite understand the purpose – or our commitment to – sustainable living. And really, isn't the whole idea of homesteading super sustainable? I know, right. We've had to learn how to field uncomfortable questions without being on the defensive. We've had to learn how to coexist with our neighbors who aren't into the same things as us. Letting go of the mainstream is difficult, but we're doin' our best!
What would you like your homestead to look like in 5 years?
In the last few months, more than ever, our homesteading goals have drastically changed. In a good way. Let me explain: I am a former high school English and journalism teacher (turned substitute teacher), and John is an electrician who spends much of his time on the road. We've lived a pretty traditional life for the last six years, but things changed when I quit my full-time teaching gig to do a little traveling with John. I still substitute teach when I'm not traveling with my man, which allows me to earn a little spending money and stay connected with the world of education. This career change for me, allows us to become a more ‘sustainable couple'. It has been the most rewarding decision I've made thus far.
In five years, we hope to have chickens and a bee hive, and a backyard that is nearly 100% usable for gardening and sustainable ventures. Adding a few fruit trees to the front yard would be awesome, as well as some fruit bushes to our side yard. If all of that works out, it would be pretty cool to sell our excess produce at our small farmer's market. You know – to get our feet wet in that arena, too. We also hope to have alternative energy sources for our home, but that might be closer to 10 years, than 5. And speaking of our home, we hope to work on our attic to make it a usable space. Of course, all of our home improvement projects are eco-friendly in nature.
How has homesteading changed your view of the world?
After reading Kingsolver's book, we began learning more about the locavore movement, I realized that so many of the products (and not just food products) that we consume or use today are delivered to us at a great cost to our wallets and, more importantly, our environment. Yeah, yeah – you're probably muttering to yourself that you know about this all along. But think about it for a minute: Do you remember what it was like when all of this clicked for you? Was your mind totally blown, like mine? Exactly.
Naturally, being a true locavore also meant being conscious of our impact on the environment. That, to us, translates into doing as much on our own – being as independent as possible – in the space we have available to us: Our double, corner city lot in the middle of a fairly large Eastern Iowa city.
And what good homesteader doesn't share what he or she has learned with others? We started our blog not only to connect with others, but to share our journey so it might inspire a future homesteader-to-be. The more people that learn about local eating, DIY home improvements, and sustainable living, the better.
What’s something you wish you’d have known before you began homesteading?
Homesteading has been such a learning experience for us, and not only have we learned from our own successes and failures, but we've learned from watching others. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn't change anything about what we've done. However, I would have been more conscious about resources that could save us time, stress, and energy. There are so many people out there in the blogosphere that we admire, but not all are doing what we are doing: Homesteading in the city. I wish we would have paid closer attention to the bloggers who were homesteading in the city – they are the ones who could have prevented us from recreating the wheel a time or two.
Shaye: This has been a tough lesson for us to! Plenty of people out there already know what they're doing and how to do it best. Gleaning advice is so valuable it's ridiculous.
Thanks for sending this in Kelli! I hope it inspires others like you, who live in the city, to still get in there and get their hands dirty! It's totally possible! Get it girl.