So what is urban homesteading?
For me, it’s a mindset that places high importance on producing as much of your own food as you reasonably can. Many years ago, I had a sheep farm in upstate New York. That was extreme. These days, I’m no extremist. My husband and I have an ordinary small suburban lot and we’re both busy professionals. I don’t brew our auto fuel, and I don’t refuse to eat anything that came from over 50 miles away.
I consider myself a local-food activist, and I have a website, LocalFoodAlbuquerque, devoted to the subject of growing and eating local. But mainly, I spend my free time making things and seeing if it’s worthwhile to continue making them. This blog is the journal of my experiments, and so it’s richer and more interesting than the website, in my view; it’s full of works-in-progress and includes honest assessments of projects that just didn’t pan out for one reason or another. I put a heavy emphasis on growing food, but mostly I grow things that are better when fresh. Most vegetables are better when very fresh, but I don’t use my precious space on storage onions, because organic onions from the nearest food co-op are just as good. I grow extra to preserve in some cases, but not when the preserved product isn’t truly wonderful. Homemade salsas and roasted tomatoes are wonderful canned, and roasted peppers in the freezer are a delicious meal waiting to happen, while frozen green beans have nothing special to recommend them. So I spend my time and energy on the tomatoes and the peppers. I buy local food from local growers whenever I reasonably can, but I don’t give up if a really good product isn’t available locally; I just get it from somewhere else. I use edible weeds intentionally as part of my food gardening, forage both on and off my property, and practice what I call semi-permaculture.
Fanaticism doesn’t last. Healthy habits do. So this blog is not for local-food fanatics or nutrition fanatics or make-everything-yourself fanatics. It’s for people who would like to eat more vegetables, more salads, healthier fish and meat, and maybe try growing a little food for themselves. It’s for people who have lots of demands on their time and don’t like to be told that they should change their whole lifestyle right now. Big changes come slowly, and they build on small changes. And if you force yourself to do something, you won’t enjoy it, and if you don’t enjoy it you won’t continue it. Start with a small change that you enjoy, and see what else follows. When I moved into Albuquerque, I didn’t intend to be an urban homesteader. But just a few years later, I grow all our vegetables for three seasons and a certain amount through the winter, produce some meat at home, and all our other animal-based foods are grass-fed or sustainably fished. It happened gradually, and I had a lot of fun along the way. I hope that you do, too.
As a physician, I wholeheartedly agree with Sir Albert Howard who said that the health of soil, plants, animals, and humans were all one great question. As a psychiatrist I believe that our mental health as well as our physical health are dependent on this one Great Question. I firmly believe that we can’t be healthy in the setting of an unhealthy relationship with the earth that feeds us.
Many thanks to all my readers, Heather Wood