Family History of Urban Homesteaders – Here at Rural Living Today, our main focus is encouraging people in their transition from urban or suburban life to the rural lifestyle.
That transition begins when a person makes a decision to live that lifestyle, and they may be living in a downtown skyscraper, an inner city neighborhood, or a suburban community at the time.
We always encourage people to start wherever they are to learn what they’d like to know and practice what they’d like to be doing in the future.
Suburban and urban homesteading are a part of that!
No matter where you want to end up, you can practice homesteading to some degree, either in your backyard, on a balcony, or just in your kitchen.
Family History of Urban Homesteaders
Is urban homesteading a new concept that anyone alive today could claim as their own? Not if you look at our family. My maternal grandparents were urban homesteaders. And I am a grandparent myself, so I’m talking about the middle of the last century.
Grandpa and Grannie lived in a neighborhood on the outer edges of a large city. Homes were close enough to talk to a neighbor in the next yard.
Most of the yards on the street were just that. Yards with lawns and ornamental landscaping. But not Grandpa and Grannie’s. Their backyard was no larger than the others in the neighborhood. It had a small patio and a patch of lawn for grandkids to play on. A brick planter edged the patio…and a big ceramic frog lived there.
But most of the backyard space was taken up by tomatoes, rhubarb, and a myriad of other veggies and fruits carefully fitted into terraced beds.
I probably got some of my first lessons in composting from my grandparents.
Living through the Great Depression taught them the value of using resources to the fullest and making everything count.
Many a family meal was prepared with ingredients we kids went out and harvested from the garden for Grannie.
I can still smell ripe peaches from the trees Grandpa nurtured, and the peach pies Grannie made.
Similarly, my parents were urban homesteaders.
We’ve been urban homesteaders.
And would you believe it, some of our kids are now… urban homesteaders.
Our family heritage includes rural, suburban, and urban homesteaders.
Is it any surprise that we enjoy growing food, raising animals, preserving our harvest, and being more self-sufficient and less reliant on commercial products?
Why Do I Want to Live in the Country?
For most of my life I lived in the city.
I worked in the city.
I was fortunate to have employment that I enjoyed, but the pace of life was catching up to me.
While I can play the corporate game well and go through the motions seamlessly, it was stressful.
It was becoming difficult to keep up with the intensity and passion that is needed to keep succeeding.
The pace of life, it seemed to me, was getting faster and faster.
I was thinking that I should just move to a desert island, or maybe be more practical…and move to the country.
Now Living in the country, that would be a change!
These thoughts continued for some time and I finally had to admit that some change was in order.
You only have one life to live…and my big question was this:
IS THIS ALL THERE IS?
Keep doing this till…till when?
So I took some time to think about issues that I found myself concerned with.
Here are a few of them…
Unsustainable Pace of Life
I was tired of the unsustainable pace of life.
It didn’t start that way, but in the last 20 years the pace of my life has accelerated and accelerated to where I was really winded.
It takes honesty to admit this, as my macho “I can get it done” style has always ruled my life.
But that pace really has no reward, and it was time to get off of the treadmill.
I didn’t have time for…literally anything.
Even my family.
Some people discover this much later in life, and it always brings the “should have…could have” questions.
But for me, there was no need to wait.
The pace was killing me.
I no longer wanted to be a 24/7 slave to my Blackberry.
I like to create and build.
But I lived on a postage stamp lot in a cookie cutter neighborhood where everything was the same.
I detested the yard work, though I love projects.
Everything was too cramped for me.
I needed space, and there was no way to get any more of it in our neighborhood.
The World Around Us
Without going into detail, I am finding myself more and more concerned about our economy and what is happening with our government.
Being a planning kind of guy, I can’t just sit back anymore with my head in the sand and say everything is OK.
This isn’t politics…stuff is happening that I absolutely can’t believe…but it is true.
I have started looking at what I should do with my family, and living in the country is a great option.
I am not one to operate in fear, but with my family’s welfare at stake, I will do what I need to do.
One source of help and encouragement I’ve found along the way is a guy named Rudy who writes some real practical stuff on “preparing your family.”
You can check it out here – Preparing Your Family.
Have a wonderful day…
Homesteading for Beginners Making a Living Homesteading
Homesteaders Life Insurance and Benefits of Living Off the Grid
Moving to the Country – Is this really the right property?
Moving to the Country – The start of the journey
Living in the country ~ Best rural places to live
Remote Doesn’t Have to Mean Isolated
This picture of our red chicken coop and garden shed in the snow is one of my favorites.
I love the contrast of the deep red with the white surroundings.
The falling snowflakes give a peaceful ambiance.
Looking at the photo, I can almost “hear” the quiet and feel a nip in the air.
My friend Char likes this picture so much she would like to paint it.
But she also describes the scene as “a symbol of the enduring, sometimes lonely, always beautiful allure of ‘the life’ and ‘the land.’ ”
Char has a point.
The rural life, while rife with beautiful scenic views and picturesque landscapes, can indeed be lonely.
If one likes solitude, it can be found on a remote piece of land far from neighbors and traffic.
If one likes lots of company, that requires lots of visiting.
Personally I could not live alone on our property very long.
Though I’m very much a homebody, I am not a good loner.
Jim is a great companion though, and the two of us do just fine.
In fact we can go for days without seeing anyone else and have to make a point of not becoming hermits.
We do have a good internet connection and phones.
We communicate daily with family and friends via phone, email, and texting.
But there’s nothing like “people with skin on,” as a child once described it.
So we make a point of seeing people–both by having people come by and by leaving our place to go out where the people are.
If you’re starting out in a new area, there are several ways you can go about meeting people, making new friends, and getting integrated into the community.
Meet your neighbors
We’ve met most of the families on our road and found every one of them to be friendly and warm.
We’ve shared ideas, swapped tips, and helped each other out.
One neighbor, also new, invited everyone over to get acquainted one evening.
Get to know local merchants
Our tiny town has just a few businesses.
Farther up the highway are others, and even more in the nearest sizable town.
Wherever we go people welcome us to the community and are glad to give us suggestions or pointers about the area.
Find sources for local information
Visit the local library for community history materials and photos. Pick up visitor guides, pamphlets, maps, and event schedules at the chamber of commerce.
Seek out special interest groups to meet like-minded individuals.
Look for garden clubs, service organizations, churches, and other groups and places where people gather with a common purpose.
Volunteer in the community
At a nursing home, food bank, animal shelter, meet people and provide a valuable service at the same time.
Get acquainted with your local county extension agents and agricultural organizations
They have a wealth of information on gardening, livestock, forestry, food preservation, and a multitude of other topics.
Get on their email lists to be notified of classes, workshops and other educational events.
Some of the people you meet will become your friends, and soon you’ll have a new social network and support system of people to enjoy life with.
Do You Know Your Neighbors?
I love living in the country.
Being a relational kind of person, I have always been interested in people.
I have noticed that while I am still new to our rural area, I seem to know many more people that I am involved with on a day to day basis now than when I lived in my suburban neighborhood previously.
In my old suburban neighborhood, when I saw a neighbor outside I would introduce myself and we would have a short chat and then go back to each of our worlds.
We wouldn’t see or talk to each other for literally months.
It seemed that everyone was so busy with life that to take any amount of real time to get to know a neighbor was out of the question.
At our last house, we did know one neighbor couple fairly well, and Marie and I both wish we had gotten to know them better.
But I think we all are part of a system that has us so busy that we don’t and won’t have any real opportunity to be true neighbors…having real relationship.
I remember the day I brought our U Haul truck to our new homestead, excited but anxious about unloading.
You who have moved before know what I mean!
I called a friend I haven’t known too long and he immediately volunteered to get over here and help unload…even before I could say no.
Fifteen minutes later, he was here with his teenage son.
We progressed nicely until we got to my baby grand piano.
We needed help!
My friend picked up his phone, called a friend of his, and voila!
There was another guy with his two teenage sons.
Soon a third man arrived to help.
It is safe to say that everything was unloaded within the next sixty minutes.
Then we all sat down and got to know each other.
I had made a few new friends.
One of them was apologetic that he hadn’t brought any kind of housewarming gift!
We ended up talking for a couple hours about all sorts of things.
He shared information, advice, and even some historical details about the area.
Our conversation went into some real depth on some issues. I was amazed how fast this relationship took hold.
In the following days, one after another of my new neighbors came up and welcomed us to the area.
One day I stopped to talk with a neighbor at his place, as I was intrigued by his Texas longhorn cattle.
Same thing…he stopped what he was doing and took time to get to know me.
A couple of days later I found myself at our local tractor store buying some maintenance filters for my tractor.
After I made my purchase, the two guys in the store just wanted to welcome me to the area and we ended up talking for an hour.
They had time for me as a person and not just a customer.
I have since been in there many times, and they remember my name and who I am.
This also happened at the local contractors’ desk where I purchased material for our new home.
And again at the bank.
This is amazing.
It seems to me that people certainly need to do business together, but that they do it differently in a small town and rural environment.
It seems to be that people living in rural areas have more time margin to spend with others.
And they genuinely like to do it.
So in my former neighborhood, where houses were literally 20 feet apart, I rarely saw my neighbors.
Here I am living on our rural 100 acre homestead, and even though I can’t see my neighbors’ homes, I already know most of them.
I count them as friends.
Farm Kids: Ballerina Girl and Little Rambo
Looking at the nicknames of these young farm girls, you might think one is too busy dancing to keep up with her busy little sister.
But these two girls race around our farm together, keeping up with the dogs and cats, chickens and pigs, and even the plants in the garden patch.
Meet 7-year-old Ballerina Girl and 5-year-old Little Rambo.
First off, I have to say that Little Rambo, who was a tomboy toddler, has become quite the fan of pretty clothes and the color pink.
She and Ballerina Girl share a flair for fashion, even here on the farm.
These lovely young ladies are the older two of Bethany’s three daughters.
They had gardens and chickens in the backyard before moving to our family homestead last spring, but now they feel like “official” farm kids.
Here they share some of the highs and lows of farm life.
What would you say if someone asked what it’s like to live on a farm?
BG: I’d say thank you for living on a farm like this. It’s fun.
LR: Holding my chick.
What is your favorite thing about living on a farm?
BG: Going to the chickens. That’s where I used to work but I’ve been naughty but now I can go with a grownup and they watch me.
LR: The toast that my mom makes. (Mom was making distracting toast at the time of this interview.)
Is there anything you don’t like about living on the farm?
BG: No, everything is fine.
Except the wasps that are outside and I got stung right here (shoulder) and it was like a yellow jacket.
LR: The wasps. Can you guess that it has been a bad summer for wasps around here?
Where does food come from?
BG: Vegetables come from our garden. Chicken food is seeds and we grind it.
Eggs come from chickens.
Meat comes from chickens and pigs.
We’re gonna eat the pigs.
And the cows.
And we’re gonna have our milking cows.
LR: Make food and get it at the store and from plants.
Eggs come from the chickens.
Would you like to say anything else about living on a farm or being a farm kid?
BG: Everything is good.
I love the farm.
LR: Baby chicks are so cute.
I like to hold them and feed them and give them a drink.
So now you know a little about the life of these two charming farm girls! Ballerina Girl and Little Rambo have a few (well, more than a few) cousins who enjoy visiting the farm on weekends.
Next time on Farm Kids we’ll hear from some of the boys; maybe they’ll tell us about the fences they helped build or the deep holes they dig in their pursuit to reach the center of the earth.
Alternative Landscaping Fit Homeowner’s Eccentric Needs
People like to exhibit individuality in many ways, for some it’s personal fashion and for others it’s their homes.
In fact, homeowners have an affinity for individualizing their surroundings.
It usually starts within the home, but the most important aspect of a home is where you relax.
For many homeowners, they relax on the porch or in the backyard.
This is where alternative landscaping comes in to play.
Whether the goal is to enjoy an exceptional view from their porch or within their own backyard, it’s important to know certain stylistic preferences that will best suit their alternative landscaping needs.
Steps to Alternative Landscaping
As with any plan, there are several steps to employ in order to ensure the best possible result.
Landscapers should engage a homeowner, especially ones with unconventional needs, in a discussion of the following steps:
Colors: ask about the homeowner’s ideal plant types, colors, and seasonal expectations
Scale: discuss the size of plants and specific quantities to be used in different areas
Focal Point: question if there is a favored structure or setting as a focus for landscaping
Texture: assess characteristics of the homeowner’s preferred foliage for an optimal setting
Grouping: review possible plant groupings and colors for cluster-like settings
Sequence: consider recurring elements in the mix, but be mindful of over-repetition
Alternative Landscaping Focal Point Suggestions
On occasion, a homeowner has a notion about ideal plant types, colors, and textures but is at a loss when it comes to a focal point.
It’s quite possible there is a natural focal point that you can highlight.
If there isn’t a natural potential setting, you can suggest building a Japanese Garden or an outdoor dining area.
Then again, if the homeowner has children, a backyard playground or playhouse might be the perfect focal point for an alternative landscaping project.
In any case, a homeowner who is aware of landscaping options and makes informed decisions is more likely to be pleased with the finished product.
Once you have a good indication of the homeowner’s requirements, it’s easier to create a suitable landscaped environment.
Remember, it’s a lot of information for a homeowner to take in during one meeting.
You should consider leaving a checklist for the homeowner to review over time prior to starting a landscaping project.
Alternative landscaping is an art, and like any other art, you need the correct tools to begin work.
Once you have these tools you can integrate the various elements to optimize the most harmonious setting.
Many homeowners have an idea of what they would like but need a landscaper to visualize the idea.
The best way for a landscaper to assess what a homeowner wants is to discuss and guide the homeowner in how to accomplish this goal.