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How many are doing small-scale homesteading?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 19
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We are on a 1/4 acre urban lot, slowly taking steps to move towards greater self-sufficiency. I know with our limited space we will never fully achieve our goals, but every step closer is a step in the right direction. Just wondering how many others are in the same boat, or are most of you on large acreages? So far...

We just got ducks for eggs and pest management. We also breed rabbits for meat (and they are an excellent source of manure for the gardens!)
We are attempting forest garden principles on much of the property which should hopefully provide an abundance of food and medicine as they mature
We have a 1400sqft annual vegetable garden
We hunt, butcher our own meat, make our own sausages, bacon, ham etc.
We can, dehydrate, and ferment food to preserve it
We attempt various projects, such as making waterproofing for our boots from rendered bear fat and beeswax, tanning hides, etc.

I would love to raise honeybees, but my husband is very allergic so that is a no go. As are even dwarf goats due to city bylaws. There are also many fruit and nut trees I would love to experiment growing, but have had to make some tough choices with our limited space to what we really want and what will do well here. Although that didn't stop me from putting in some hardy orange and strawberry arbutus... but mostly its the standard stuff, walnuts, hazelnuts, apples, pears, cherries, plums, etc.

For those of you also in small spaces, what sort of steps have you taken to move closer to self-sufficiency? What challenges have you faced? What projects would you like to attempt but have found that you just can not due to the limitations your space puts on you?
 
Posts: 388
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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Wow Kalin, it sounds like you manage to do a lot! I would love to read more about your urban homesteading.

I think a lot of people here are on smaller properties. I live in a very small suburban space (more urban size and density, but without the urban amenities), smaller than yours. It's still big enough to keep our flock of chickens (average flock size is around 10-12), a small vegetable plot which keeps us from buying veg during the summer and autumn, with some to store for winter. I also make a few medicinals from wild harvested plants and herbs. I've got a lot of dwarf fruit trees and even an almond tree, mostly planted up against my fences and walls; I keep them pruned within my reach for ease of harvest.

I find that I can produce a lot of food even in my tiny vegetable plot. Last year I tracked my veg harvest and totaled it at 66 lbs of food. I didn't track egg totals or fruit harvest, and there were some things (like peas) that never made it into the kitchen to be weighed I'm hoping to double that harvest this year, though it may be too lofty a goal! Still, I'm sure I'll improve on it, and I'm tracking egg production this year.

I'd like to raise bees too, and rabbits and goats...and I'd really love to set up an aquaponics system. We have a small goldfish/frog pond, and it filters into a little gravel grow bed, planted with a few bog plants and vegetables; I'd love to expand it with another, bigger grow bed and more fish, maybe even edible fish.

I've realized that I can't do everything, though. I have to decide which things are the most important, like whether I should have a big bed of strawberries or vegetables. Vegetables win every time, I'm afraid--though luckily we can go to a local farm and pick strawberries there. And though I'd like to, we also can't breed our chickens at the moment, as our neighbors don't want a cockerel in the vicinity. I'm looking into breeding meat another way, maybe with another animal like rabbits. Or maybe our situation will change in the future and the neighbors won't be as adverse as they are now.
 
pollinator
Posts: 10117
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Even though we have acreage, I've been making the "homestead" part smaller and smaller, moving things closer to the house because this makes them easier for me to care for. I'm also looking toward getting older and less able or willing to trudge out to do chores in remote locations. So I'm very interested in small-scale homesteading examples.
 
Kalin Brown
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Galadriel Freden wrote:Wow Kalin, it sounds like you manage to do a lot! I would love to read more about your urban homesteading.

I think a lot of people here are on smaller properties. I live in a very small suburban space (more urban size and density, but without the urban amenities), smaller than yours. It's still big enough to keep our flock of chickens (average flock size is around 10-12), a small vegetable plot which keeps us from buying veg during the summer and autumn, with some to store for winter. I also make a few medicinals from wild harvested plants and herbs. I've got a lot of dwarf fruit trees and even an almond tree, mostly planted up against my fences and walls; I keep them pruned within my reach for ease of harvest.

I find that I can produce a lot of food even in my tiny vegetable plot. Last year I tracked my veg harvest and totaled it at 66 lbs of food. I didn't track egg totals or fruit harvest, and there were some things (like peas) that never made it into the kitchen to be weighed I'm hoping to double that harvest this year, though it may be too lofty a goal! Still, I'm sure I'll improve on it, and I'm tracking egg production this year.

I'd like to raise bees too, and rabbits and goats...and I'd really love to set up an aquaponics system. We have a small goldfish/frog pond, and it filters into a little gravel grow bed, planted with a few bog plants and vegetables; I'd love to expand it with another, bigger grow bed and more fish, maybe even edible fish.

I've realized that I can't do everything, though. I have to decide which things are the most important, like whether I should have a big bed of strawberries or vegetables. Vegetables win every time, I'm afraid--though luckily we can go to a local farm and pick strawberries there. And though I'd like to, we also can't breed our chickens at the moment, as our neighbors don't want a cockerel in the vicinity. I'm looking into breeding meat another way, maybe with another animal like rabbits. Or maybe our situation will change in the future and the neighbors won't be as adverse as they are now.



I'm impressed that you've managed to squeeze a pond onto such a small lot! That's something I've considered, but just not sure where we could put it. It would be great now for the ducks, although having them I'm sure means I wouldn't be able to grow the aquatic plants I was hoping for as they would just eat them...

I grow strawberries under my fruit trees and around my shrubs and berry bushes. It helps to keep the ground shaded and doesn't "take up" any more room in the way that a dedicated strawberry bed would. I'm sure I don't get as many strawberries, but along with everything else...we end up having plenty.

If you're looking for meat production on a small lot with neighbors to consider, I would HIGHLY recommend rabbits. They are so easy, cheap to feed, docile, quiet, reproduce quickly, are ready to butcher in 90 days (I've read 2 months lots of places, but we always wait 90 days.) The meat is fantastic, and in my opinion can be substituted in any chicken dish without having to modify the recipe at all. We don't package and freeze the backs, but throw them right in the stew pot and then can rabbit broth for soups and other dishes that require broth. They also produce a LOT of manure, and because it isn't a "hot" manure it doesn't need to be composted and can be put directly on the vegetable garden. The plum tree that is next to the rabbit houses, and such gets vastly more "waste" dirty bedding and such tossed on it is easily twice the diameter and has put on a ton more growth than the other fruit trees that were planted at the same time. It's win-win if you ask me. Heck, I would keep rabbits for the manure alone, even if we weren't breeding them for meat.

It is actually amazing how much food you can produce on a small space. I really should get into tracking it. That would be interesting, thanks for the idea!
 
Galadriel Freden
Posts: 388
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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Oh yes, your ducks would be thrilled with a pond I'm sure! Our pond is very small: only about 2.5 feet deep and maybe 4 feet by 3 feet across. We initially dug it to entice frogs and toads, but we get a lot of pleasure sitting in the sun watching our little goldfish darting about. We even spotted a tadpole last week. You could do duckponics with a little duck pond, even.

I have said to my husband that I'd like to raise rabbits, but he remains unconvinced. He told me I'd have to kill them, and I think I could do it. Rabbits are a lot cuter than chickens; we've got three juvenile cockerels now, destined for the pot later in the summer when they are big enough. Already they're getting a big aggressive--not sweet little chicks anymore.

In our property a big proportion of it is shaded by two mature trees out back. We can't grow vegetables there. We currently grow chickens/eggs there. We've done mushrooms in the past, which was rather hit and miss. I think it would be a good place for rabbits--if I can get the husband on board.
 
Posts: 24
Location: Alabama
cat hugelkultur trees
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I must say it sounds impressive what you have done!
I wonder.. Have you attempted vertical gardening and \or using your roof to grow vegetables? A rooftop garden large enough would allow room for fruit and nut trees to grow in your yard
 
gardener
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We have a food forest on a 1/4 acre suburban lot. Mostly fruit trees. We eat vegies from our land every day, and fruit from our garden every month. Also mushrooms and herbs.
John S
PDX OR
 
Posts: 30
Location: Switzerland, zone 6b
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We live on 800m2 (1/5 of an acre) in the suburbs. We don't have any animals, as we don't eat meat and hardly any eggs. But we have a young food forest and vegetable garden that gift us with something almost every day of the year.
 
Posts: 144
Location: Sacramento, CA
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We converted a concrete patio to something almost like a keyhole garden. It is very productive, surprised me how much we get out of it. The beds are cheap, made of ceder fence boards and 2x4s for less than $50 each for a 3x6 bed. Over some of them we built a wood frame that then had wire mesh screwed to it and the beans turned them into green walls, this picture is before the beans filled the walls and I hadn't put up the second wall yet. The bed gets shade at certain times so we are still learning the microclimates of what thrives where but in Sacramento we still have lettuce growing in the shadiest bed in the summer so we are quite pleased.

 
kay Smith
Posts: 24
Location: Alabama
cat hugelkultur trees
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Monica Eger wrote:We live on 800m2 (1/5 of an acre) in the suburbs. We don't have any animals, as we don't eat meat and hardly any eggs. But we have a young food forest and vegetable garden that gift us with something almost every day of the year.



This leads into a valid point when making land decisions on a limited size plot and much of it has to do with familial preference. We have cats, so obviously not for meat ;p Animals require a certain amount of space - space my family isn't willing to give up. Our family happens to very much enjoy beans and legumes. Honestly we've just run with that.
Besides beans, greens and cornbread is always a meal worth running home for!
 
Kalin Brown
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kay Smith wrote:I must say it sounds impressive what you have done!
I wonder.. Have you attempted vertical gardening and \or using your roof to grow vegetables? A rooftop garden large enough would allow room for fruit and nut trees to grow in your yard



We do a lot of vertical gardening for tomatoes, squash, cucumber, pumpkin, beans, yam, etc to save on space. Unfortunately we have a steep metal roof that would not be conductive to rooftop gardening. We have still managed to plant a fair number of fruit and nut trees on the property, including:
-3 heartnut
-1 large hazelnut, and a row of hazelnuts as a hedge
-3 hardy orange
-2 strawberry arbutus
-3 apples
-3 pears
-3 plums
-1 peach
-3 pawpaw
-1 mulberry
-1 fig
-1 sweet cherry
-2 quince
-plus a variety of small fruit bushes/vines: kiwi, blueberry, haskap, goji, grapes, raspberry, strawberries, elderberry, gooseberry...

I do have spots set aside for a couple more, but we're pretty much saturated for fruit/nut trees at this point for the space we have (while still maintaining some open space for dogs/kids to play. Although we will be adding many more small fruits still. A lot of our gardening is done around the trees. We are transitioning much to perennial edibles, but also use the trees for shade for things like lettuce and such during the summer heat.
 
kay Smith
Posts: 24
Location: Alabama
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We are going to put mushrooms in our little forest area for the first time this year. Does your family like mushrooms? I could see them doing well in the shade of your trees.

I love the variety of trees you have! I'm really wanting to make some preserves this fall so it really just had me drooling!
 
Kalin Brown
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kay Smith wrote:We are going to put mushrooms in our little forest area for the first time this year. Does your family like mushrooms? I could see them doing well in the shade of your trees.

I love the variety of trees you have! I'm really wanting to make some preserves this fall so it really just had me drooling!



We love mushrooms and they are definitely on our list to introduce to our food forest areas. Unfortunately finding suppliers in Canada has been a little more difficult, most of the places I come across are south of the border. But it looks like I may have found one near me, so hopefully we can get some shiitake, oyster, and maybe wine cap mushrooms going. I'd love to try more varieties, but we seem really limited up here as far as suppliers go. I may have to just try and figure out how to start my own from wild foraged mushrooms and see if I can't get some puffballs, cauliflower, shaggymane or inkcap, etc going. A lot of the trees are still getting established and are not producing yet, or are not producing much. Although one of the pears is mature, and both the other pears are bearing some fruit. Both quince are also mature, as is one of the hazelnuts. The blueberries also are producing decently now. In the next year or two we should really start seeing more production.

A suggestion for making preserves if you don't have a lot of fruit trees on your property, or are still waiting for many to mature (as I am currently.) Watch for fruit trees when you're driving around. At least up here, there are tonnes that don't get picked. I just knock on peoples doors and ask them if its ok if I pick. If they want I will split with them, or bring them some canned goods when I'm done processing. I get HUNDREDS of pounds of fruit this way every year. In 3 years I have been told no only once. Most people are happy to let me so the bears stay away and they don't have to clean it up. I have no idea why someone with a fruit tree wouldn't pick the fruit and eat it, but around here it seems common.
 
gardener
Posts: 789
Location: Ohio, USA
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Hi Kalin!

I'm also on about 1/4 acre trying to make it work. Crab apple trees are around here, but I think most of the fruit we will get will be on our own land. We have a mature wind-break and an area being enhanced into a forest garden. It already had a lot of edibles, but not a lot of variety. we have trellises everywhere. Still keeping lawn enough to run and play and some in the front, for show. As in, "you can grow your own food and it can look good." I'm looking forward to quail some day (if you like bunnies, you might enjoy quail from what I read), and a lamb with a poodle cut taught to bark. I mean: meat, cheese, child toy, and clothes all in one blade-free lawn mower- what else could a person want? This will be our first year here really and able to garden. Last year was moving in and infrastructure (keep dog in own yard). Mushrooms is something on the to-do list, but not to-day. Total square footage is probably about 1,000 square feet, but I haven't tamed it all yet. I'd say I'm less than 1/3 of the production I can expect in another 3 years or so and boy is infrastructure a lot of work! But, this year we got all the basics in: some fruit trees (not to eat this year), greens, some storage veggies, berries, and also - a pond. I call it our fish-activated mosquito trap.
 
I'm not sure if I approve of this interruption. But this tiny ad checks out:
Food Forest Card Game - Game Forum
https://permies.com/t/61704/Food-Forest-Card-Game-Game
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