Urban Adaptation

Sustainable urban living, rural dreams, and daily change for a homemade life.

Posts Tagged ‘sustainability

Another urban homesteader

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I’m not sure I’ve ever used the term urban homesteader to describe myself.  Off the top of my head, there are two reasons for this.  First, although I find myself somewhat attracted to the term, I’m also not completely comfortable with some of the historical implications of homesteading (there’s a good post on some of those issues here), especially after a fair amount of study of things like colonialism.  While they are historical, meanings shift over time and don’t necessarily reflect on what’s going on in the movement today by any stretch of the imagination, I’m still aware of them, and still trying to figure out where I am without relying too much on labels, since labels can be uncomfortable in some circumstances, and can also have an unfortunate tendency to divide people.

Second, what I do here sometimes feels like it’s on such a small and limited scale that there’s no real way that I can justify why it could or should be called homesteading.  In the summer I grow some basil, dill, and the odd cherry tomato on my too-shaded patio.  I make my own pickles, jam, granola, and cleaning products.  I cook from scratch, and hang laundry to dry in my apartment.  I buy used, frequent the farmers’ markets, and keep the heat down in the winter.  I generally try to live as lightly as possible in this apartment.

That said, even in moments when I think I’m not doing enough, I want to live the life suggested by the idea of being an urban homesteader, whether I call it that or not.  Heck, maybe I’m just being hard on myself – as I so often am – and I’m already on the path; after all, this weekend I made pickles, granola, and bread, and started radish, spinach, dill, basil, pea, and cucumber seeds.  This week I hope to try my hand at yogurt.  And this lifestyle, and my hopes for what it can and will become, is why I find myself incredibly irritated at the kerfuffle over the recent moves by a family that will remain unnamed to trademark and take on this terminology for themselves.

I wanted, for a long while, to give them the benefit of the doubt.  While to my mind their site doesn’t offer a lot of practical information, it had, at one point, been a bit of an inspiration, albeit well after I had heard of homesteading.  Even after the initial furor I hoped that they had misspoke, and then that they had misstepped and would apologize for the confusion, explain their case, and back down.  That doesn’t seem to be the case, though, and nothing has come out other than a poorly-constructed press release and some brief blog posts claiming lies, hoaxes, and other insinuations that seem to be untrue based on their own communications.

And so, I’m calling myself an urban homesteader.  My way looks different from theirs, and looks different from those of the countless other people who are moving today to take back that term for themselves.  But that’s a good thing.  We adapt where we can, how we can, and we set up systems that not only work for us, but that also work for where we are.  But with all of these people, and all of these methods and ideas and ways of doing and knowing, there’s no reason why anyone should be claiming – or even trying to claim – sole right to being an urban homesteader.  Not only is there room for everyone in this movement, we need more people calling themselves urban homesteaders, or city gardeners, or whatever term works best to describe how they get involved and make these important changes to our selves, homes, communities, food, environment, and ways of living.  Shutting people out based on terminology and alienating them from the things they want to do – and in many cases already do – doesn’t help the community this is so necessary to figuring out how we can best live our lives in the ways that we want.

Now, I’m happy to see, people are starting to consider other ways in which we can use this momentum.  The taking of words and laying claim to a movement are offenses, certainly, but they’re small offenses (relatively speaking) with respect to a system that is fundamentally flawed and in need of our attention (there’s another great post from Grow and Resist on this as well).  Now, we get to figure out where to go from here, and how we can use this collective power to make more of a difference, more change, more movement.  Now that we’re galvanized, who’s in for the ride?


Written by Jenn

February 21, 2011 at 10:16 pm


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Walking home sometimes, I stop to look at the outside of my apartment.  I live on the bottom floor, close to the ground, and the apartment opens out onto a patio and a bit of grass.  To some, I imagine the patio looks cluttered, with its mismatched pots, bags of soil, crates, bike, chairs, and a table.  All I see, though, is the potential.

The table is there to work on, and the pots to grow things this summer – herbs, small tomatoes, and maybe a few other plants as well, if I get really lucky.  The bike’s to get around without relying on public transit or a car (not that I have one).  The chairs are to sit out and enjoy some time outside.

There are currently some problems with the space.  Unfortunately, the most notable are the neighbours to one side, who noisily use the space as their own, leaving tents and beer bottles and cigarette butts out wherever they want, and the neighbours above, who generously let their dogs use the balcony as a bathroom, and then sweet it all down to us.

That said, I haven’t lost hope.  I still see the beauty in this place – in any place, really – where I know that change is possible, and that things can be done in a way that is productive and sustainable.  I’m working to make these changes.  Sometimes the work is slower than I’d like, but it’s happening, but by bit, as I try to find a better way of doing things where I am here and now.

Written by Jenn

February 5, 2011 at 10:31 am

The Anyway Project – November goals

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Since it seems I can’t redesign my entire life in the span of a weekend (or even a month, I imagine, or longer), I’m plotting out some goals for this month for The Anyway Project.  The categories have changed a bit, but the ideas are still the same.  Given that things are still busy and that I still have a lot of writing, grading, and other sundry things to take care of, I think one or two things at most in each category will be a darn good start.

Domestic Infrastructure:

Get the kitchen cleared out, both in terms of food and other things that are kicking around in there that aren’t really needed (I have an awful lot of pots and cookbooks that aren’t really used).  I am, of course, still working to declutter the apartment as well.  This is also the time to winterproof as much as possible, so we’ll be fixing up the shrink plastic as much as possible and looking for ways to better insulate what’s left around here.

Household Economy:

I’m aiming to not only stay on track with my existing budget, but to cut down expenses and spending by another 10 percent in order to increase my savings this month.  I’ve also added a new category into my budget for putting towards purchases that help with sustainability and that hopefully will cut costs as well, so I’m planning on doing some research about the best investments to make.

Resource Consumption:

I’m going to start tracking my resource consumption here as well as I can (some resources are arranged through the landlords, though, and I can’t get a completely accurate read on them).  That said, I can do a better job of tracking my electricity usage and using less of it, as well as setting a timer for shorter showers, and taking them less frequently.  With respect to getting around, my mileage is all on public transit, which isn’t horrible, but I’m also setting a goal of walking or biking at least once a week when I normally would have taken the bus.  I’m considering starting in on the Riot for Austerity again, but it’s still under consideration.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence:

This one, I’ll admit, has me a bit stumped.  Although I see the value, I’m not sure I’m in a position right now to take on extra work in a cottage industry sense.  Nor do I know what to do at this point, so this one needs some thought.  I think I might instead focus on finishing the dissertation so that it’s done and over with and I can focus my energies in other directions (and stop paying tuition).  For subsistence, though, I’m looking into my options for some indoor growing.  This may be a bust, but then again it may not, and I’d like to get set up for that a bit more this month (this might be a good use for that new budget category).

Family and Community:

There are a number of organizations focused on sustainability and related concerns in town that I haven’t yet had much to do with.  So, this month I’m going to make an effort to get out to at least a few of their events and maybe even meet some people.  I’d also like to continue focusing on spending money – when I do spend money, that is – on local people and businesses.

Outside Work:

With October over, some of my outside work commitments have dissipated.  I’d like to keep it this way, and for now only focus on the dissertation and anything that’s important to either my future academic life or my future farm life (this has been working well thus far).   This is especially true, I think, in terms of sticking to those commitments that  mesh with my values.  To that end, I’ve got my eye on some projects that go somewhat beyond my usual work and start to engage with topics like food security and urban planning.  Now that the crazy period is over, I’d like to transition my research into some new work that matches my values and ideals a bit more.

Time and Happiness:

More exercise, better eating habits, more time on the couch knitting and reading.  That’s really about it.

That seems like a long list in some ways, but it also feels rather manageable, and some of these goals are things I’m already working my way through.  Some, of course, will take longer than a month, but it’s nice to know that there are specific goals to be met both right now and a ways down the road as well.

Written by Jenn

November 9, 2010 at 1:09 pm