I grew up in suburbia. Tree lined streets of very nice houses that were all too similar in construction. I’ve spent the majority of my adulthood in suburbia as well. The last five plus years, my husband and I spent living in the concrete jungle of Irvine. I loved my childhood and wouldn’t trade anything for it. And the concrete suburbia that is Orange County also had it’s lovely places, and many a good memory was made there. But when Jeff and I started changing our eating habits to more local, more organic, more simple food, we started wanting a more organic, closer to nature, maybe even farmesque lifestyle for ourselves. I started reading books by Barbra Kingsolver, Mark Bittman and Shannon Hayes. We devoured documentaries like this one, this and this. We started growing more vegetables on our tiny balconies, we tried and failed at our worm bin on the balcony, we tried making a point to ride our bikes more instead of driving. Jeff embarked on his journey into homebrew and I tried sewing more instead of buying more. It has been an incredibly fun journey, this journey of eating healthier, living more sustainably and tiptoeing ever closer to homesteading.
Actual homesteading seems a far away dream but looking back to how we used to buy, eat and spend our days, I say we have come a long way from the people we were when Jeff and I met. Now we have a daughter and we have moved into a small house and out of Orange County. We are still in suburbia, but a crunchier town to say the least and a lot more space for us to grow things, make things and try our hand at urban homesteading. I’m feeling closer to being an urban homesteader these days. A line to air dry clothes, an actual space and sun to garden in, homemade granola and bread. A whole room I can dedicate to sewing and making things in (although with a six month old- sewing anything is difficult). A compost bin that actually seems to be working, home brewing back in action and a plethora of other things we want to try in the coming months.
I think of the word homestead and it brings up all sorts of images and thoughts. I came across this definition of urban homestead and it spoke to me clearly. “the creation of an urban homestead with the goal of reducing one’s environmental impact and returning to a home-based, family-centered, self-sufficient way of life.” I think we are striving for this definition. This self-sufficiency that I think we both crave. We are enjoying learning how to make the staples like our own granola and canning apple butter. We would love to grow all our own vegetables and not have to visit the farmers market (although we do enjoy this weekly outing and supporting the local farmers). I dream of egg laying chickens and being able to knit my baby girl a sweater. It makes me feel like a stronger woman to be able to make and do. I want to get closer to this simpler way of life. My husband and I enjoy making our breakfasts, lunches and dinners from scratch and sitting down to enjoy a meal around the table with family and friends. I love spending time creating a home, thrifting what I can’t make and making what I can.
I also want to do my part to help the earth. Even as a kid growing up in suburbia, I found myself drawn to wanting to do more for the planet. I created my own Save The Earth Club. I got my parents to recycle and tried my best to reuse things in different ways. Now, I really find myself making things stretch; patching up that good pair of worn pants, making baby dresses from old pillowcases, reusing glass jars to store bulk goods instead of tossing them. I want to watch my carbon footprint and teach my daughter to tread lightly too.
My husband and I are still beginning our homesteading journey. My hopes are that we both learn to do more through reading and workshops and the people we meet in this new town we are living in. I want to show my daughter that a little bit of creativity can go a long way. I want to show her where the food that she eats comes from and that you can help things grow with good compost you helped create by not throwing out scraps but by reusing them. I want to be able to teach her how to cook and bake. I want her to grow up knowing that smell of rising bread well. I know my husband would like to instill in her a love for creating with your hands. She has seen him build a raised bed for our vegetables and she has helped on brew day already.
We want her to have a connection to the things that grow around her and we want her to enjoy the simple things as we are doing now. We want to sow these seeds of sustainability for our daughter and for ourselves. We have a long way to go to become true urban homesteaders but oh, we are having so much fun learning this way of life.