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Self-Reliance in the City
An overview of self-sufficiency by Thomas J. Elpel
Author of Living Homes and Direct Pointing to Real Wealth
When you hear about homesteading and self-sufficiency, you probably imagine a farm in the country with big gardens and lots of farm animals. But self-sufficiency is something you can work towards anywhere, and urban homesteading can be an effective means of achieving energy independence, supplying your own wholesome foods, supplementing and stretching your hard-earned dollars, and finding greater contentment in life. It is truly astonishing how much independence you can achieve on a postage-stamp sized property in the city, and the improvements you make locally, such as working towards energy independence, also contribute globally towards halting global warming and making the world a better place. Urban homesteading is also essential for greater self-reliance in case of disasters, so that you can take care of yourself, instead of being dependent on bungling government agencies.
You don't have to be a jack-of-all-trades to be able to become more self-reliant. Do what you can, and hire help for other projects. You will build your competence and confidence as you go along, enabling you to tackle more projects on your own. This page features books that are useful to help you become more self-reliant in the city. Topics covered include:
Energy: Learn to make your home comfortably warm in the winter and cool in the summer with little or no dependence on fossil fuels, through techniques such as smart landscaping, appropriate roof colors, increasing the amount of insulation or improving the windows. Learn about using more efficient lightbulbs and appliances and solar water heaters to reduce your need for electricity, and learn how to comfortably reduce your need for electricity enough to make it practical to install photovoltaic panels to generate your own electricity.
Food: Learn to plant edible landscaping that looks beautiful, while providing delicious home-grown fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Discover the benefits of composting to turn food scraps and lawn clippings into fertilizer for your gardens, instead of having them hauled to the landfill. Learn to plant permaculture-style landscapes that provide food year after year, without a lot of ongoing-maintenance.
Water: Learn to harvest and store rainwater to water your garden or to be filtered for home use in an emergency. Learn to modify your plumbing so that you can use "greywater" (such as sink and shower water) to water your yard, to conserve scarce water resources and to lower your monthly water bill.
Transportation: Learn to trim your gas bill, reduce global warming, and keep dollars out of the hands of terrorists through the use of more efficient vehicles and alternative fuels, including biodiesel, straight vegetable oil, ethanol, and hybrid electric vehicles.
Trash and Recycling: Learn to shop smart, to stretch your dollar to get more product with less packaging to throw away, and learn to recycle or reuse just about anything.
Community: Learn to work together with your neighbors to achieve common goals, to make the neighborhood more beautiful and sustainable, to share tools and rides, to make safe habitat for children, and to reduce crime.
Self-Employment: Learn to start mini-businesses using minimal start-up resources to supplement your income and develop your business skills. When you start out small, with hobby businesses that generate a few hundred dollars a year, you may be surprised at the doorways that open up, allowing you to become increasingly self-employed, making a living while making the world a better place.
Don't feel like you need to turn your suburban home into an urban homestead overnight. Every step you take will increase your self-sufficiency and build your confidence to do more, all while conserving resources and making the world a better place.
Homesteading in the City
by Christopher and Dolores Lynn Nyerges
Christopher and Dolores Lynn Nyerges both grew up in the Los Angeles area, and after exploring the world and learning about sustainable living as young adults, they brought their skills back to their roots in the city, where they eventually met each other, married, and started their own urban homestead. Over the years they have taken simple steps to make their duplex home more energy efficient so that they do not need air conditioning in the summer, or anything more than an occasional fire in the fireplace in the winter. They have turned their city lot into a virtual farm, growing fruit trees and vegetables all over it--even going so far as to raise chickens, rabbits, and a pig in Los Angeles!
Whether or not you desire to raise livestock in the city, you will learn a lot from their easy-to-read journal-like account of their urban homesteading experience. The text covers everything from home energy efficiency and independence to gardening, cultivating fruit trees, composting, harvesting wild plants, marketing at farmer's markets, raising livestock in the city, harvesting rainwater and using water efficiently, learning to reduce waste and recycle nearly everything, being prepared for emergencies, and finding greater happiness through acts of self-sufficiency. The book is filled with creative and commonsense solutions for living more simply and ecologically in the city.