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URBAN HOMESTEADING

Posted on: Wednesday




















For a few wonderful years when I was a tiny little child, around pre-school time, my sisters and I lived with my Mom's sister & her family in Portland, Oregon.  We all lived in a whimsical old three-story house, painted light blue, with a big porch out front with a wooden swing.  There was a costume box in the attic of my Mother's old clothes that we used to play dress up with, a huge 1970-esque mural (painted years prior by my artist Mother) in our shared bedroom, a piano in the family room (which I looked forward to learning how to play one day when I grew up, but we ended up moving on to another home before that ever happened), a "servant's staircase" (did I mention it was a lovely old house) behind the main stairs that was perfect for sneaking into the kitchen late at night for a forbidden spoonful of peanut butter dipped in chocolate chips, and a breathtaking garden in the backyard.  Oh that garden.  My Aunt Pam knew a thing or two about growing things, let me tell you.

We had it all: carrots & zucchinis & tomatoes, herbs of all sorts, root vegetables and stalky vegetables and leafy vegetables, the works!  Each night before dinner, my sisters and I would venture into the garden to pick ingredients for the family.   I used to love putting freshly rinsed lettuce into the salad spinner and going to town.  Lisa and I would laugh and laugh as it spun faster and faster.  Nobody could spin it as fast as Emmy though (granted, she did have four years on me of salad-spinning experience).  After dinner we would run into the backyard with our full bellies and swing in the rope hammock that swayed from the trunks of two cherry trees.  Those were truly magical years.

And then we moved on, and moved on again, and Portland became a place in my memories.  And as I grew I discovered my love of the city; I learned that urban life made me feel truly alive.  And so I made NYC my home, with its grit and its bricks and its history.  And my daughter was born right in the heart of downtown.

But lately I find myself reminiscing about those homemade, garden-grown, earthy Portland years.

I realize that they aren't so far behind.  Here I am, picking up our share of vegetables straight from the farm at our CSA, chatting with the Pennsylvanian organic farmer, who lovingly grows our food, about tomato varieties.  I spend quite a lot of time washing and steaming and pureeing Biet's food, everything fresh, everything home-made. It just feels right that way.  Our friends thought we were crazy when we told them that we planned to cloth diaper.  They said that we'd never make it. But here we are, 12 months and counting.. and rinsing and washing and folding away.  And now I've begun a new endeavor: to eliminate all pre-made food from our home.  I will be rinsing and soaking and boiling a variety of beans and grains each week so that we'll always have whole foods in our home, ready to go and made with love.

Gaby calls me a hippy Mama.  He tells me all the time "I love that you're a hippy Mama."  And I always brush it off as Gaby being sweetly dramatic.  Because I am a city girl.  A city girl who just happens to enjoy sustainable ways of life.  Then our neighbors invited us to help create a garden in the lot out front of our limestone, and I jumped with joy.  Finally, I will grow my very own carrots! Eureka!

A. City. Girl... who just happens to view carrot-growing as the highlight of her summer.. who encourages her daughter to crawl around naked and eat grass in the backyard (I mean, how many years do you really have to enjoy doing that before it becomes slightly inappropriate).. who foresees the day when home-prepared beans and grains will be joined by home-jarred pickles and jams and hand-ground flours (ok.. getting a little carried away).

A girl who loves the city and loves her family and loves to homestead.  A girl who can't forget the simple magic and wonder of picking your own vegetables for dinner.  A girl who is a Mama and who wants to pass on that magic and wonder to her daughter.

I guess I'll call myself an urban homesteader in training.. who's looking forward to learning a lot this summer.  

xx








14 COMMENTS:

  1. I love the thought of urban homesteading! Up until one year ago, my husband, baby, and I lived in a city of 6 million in southern China where I soaked my own beans, ground my own flour, made my own yoghurt etc...no prepared foods there so if we wanted to eat it, we had to make it ourselves! I had big plans to start a rooftop garden the summer that we had to leave because of visa problems. Now we find ourselves in a tiny town with area to grow our own food but access to shops to buy it...I'm much less motivated! Ironic. But I miss my big city/tiny apartment living. I am totally in love with the idea of urban farming and one day, when we're back in China, I will get my rooftop farm and chickens! I always wondered if there was a way to keep a goat on the roof? ;-)

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    1. That sounds absolutely amazing Rachel! Wow. Yes there is something about living in a big city that just motivates you to get things done (at least for me), and to fulfill your dreams.

      I'm not sure how a rooftop goat would fare in bad weather.. but I have heard of people raising them inside like dogs!

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  2. i could relate so much to this post. my family and i live downtown in a condo where our only area for a backyard or garden is on our patio. i grew up speeding so much time helping my grandparents garden that i miss that i want that for my little girl who is bite's age. we have found that you can make lemons out of lemonade by planting a big herb garden and lots of peppers outside.

    you have inspired me to go beyond that and try to grow other foods, like actual food instead of herbs, so i thank you!

    xo, amanda @ http://mamawatters.blogspot.com

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    1. Oh thank you Amanda! We are trying, waiting for our carrots to grow. I wish you luck with your green thumb too. Hopefully our little ones will know the feel and taste of dirt even though we are urbanites.

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  3. i loved this post, especially the peek into your early childhood! a houseful of laughing, beautiful little girls must have been a wonderful sight, all those years ago. your writing is so sweet and honest, i really enjoy hearing your perspective. i was just writing something similar (yet different), about how where i'm living now isn't my perfect homesteading dream, but it still has its lovely parts (namely, MY kiddo being able to crawl around naked in the backyard)! :) thanks for sharing your life with us!

    love,
    sarah
    www.sarahvaneckhughes.blogspot.com

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  4. I love the idea of living in the city but having my own oasis of homegrown food--I think it is the perfect mix :)

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  5. Beautiful post. We've begun to eat only fresh, whole foods here, too--real food. I've even begun to make my own raw milk yogurt and cream cheese. It's so exciting and SO rewarding. I'm looking forward to see how it goes for you. Good luch with the carrots!

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    1. Mmmmmm homemade yogurt is next on my list!

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  6. A girl after my own heart! I think we're meant to be best friends, in fact. I so love that you guys are gardening out front and I can't wait to see how it goes!! I'm also wondering about your cloth diapering. We cloth diapered Gus until he was one, at which point we moved back to the city and started using a laundromat again. I was intimidated by running to the laundromat every other day with a load. Do you guys have laundry in your home or do you go to the laundromat? If laundromat, does that feel manageable to you? I've got my stack of cloth diapers staring at me every day making me feel like a big old waster every time I use disposable.

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    1. I think we ARE meant to be best friends too! Well, we started out with a diaper service (only in NYC) that provided all the diapers and picked them up and washed them for $35 a week. Now we have an old washer and dryer in the basement of our building, and even though we drop off our regular laundry at the laudromat to be cleaned (super cheap- another NYC luxury), we wash our own diapers at home. I don't know if I could do *that* kind of laundry in public machines.. you know? As Biet gets bigger, though, we are using more and more disposables (we use 7th generation because they are unbleached and biodegradable) for nights and long outings, etc.

      We adjust as we go. Originally I had said only cloth, always. But heh, whatever works. Don't beat yourself up about the disposables. You are doing what's right for Gus and you guys right now. If he's still in diapers when you find your farm and move there, then maybe you'll switch back to cloth :)

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  7. Cooking beans is wonderfully easy and cheap thing to do. I highly reccomend you get a presure cooker. They are about 100 bucks for a good one, but worth every penny in time and efford you save. I got mine 2 years ago and I use it to cook beans, hummus, lentils and to braise meat. 20 min is all you need to cook beans, no soaking needed. It completely changed the way I cook.

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    1. I know! Pressure cookers are amazing! Unfortunately, counter space is a bit of a commodity in NYC..

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  8. I love this! Be careful... our friends started with urban gardening, turned urban farming and use moved the the country to be full time sustainable farmers. Once that bug bites, it's hard to suppress :)

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    1. I have a feeling that Gaby is a bit concerned about the possibility of going down that path.. :)

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xx

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