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Most prepper-types are also homesteaders but do not know it. I say that because we “Homestead in Place” which is a term I defined back in January 2014. Perhaps others are now using that term; I have not checked. None the less, it still applies.
By my own definition, to “homestead in place” means that you take what you have – be it a downtown condo, an urban apartment, a suburban tract home or a cottage home in a seaside community – and choose an assortment of traditional homesteading activities to apply to your unique environment.
Taking that up a notch, homesteading seems to imply ownership. But wait. Renters can homestead as well!
For this series of articles, I have asked LeAnn Edmondson aka the Homestead Dreamer, to coach us on the tactics needed to homestead if you are a renter. If you have already read parts one and part two, you will begin to recognize a common theme. Homesteading, whether you rent or own, is 90% mindset!
Here, in part three, learn to pick a task then assess the resources you need to accomplish that task. Surely you can do that, right?
How to Homestead When You Rent – Assess Your Resources
It is 100% possible to homestead when you rent and it amazes me how few people realize this simple fact. The days of pioneering people moving West may be over, but the ideals and lessons they left behind are there for those who feel the tug that pulls us to follow in their footsteps. To be more self-reliant and produce more of your own food and comforts is usually at the heart of it. Look up modern homesteading and you may be very surprised at what you find.
It is reassuring to know that there are others just like you with similar (or even less) living space than you have and the amazing things they are doing with it. You define what homesteading is for yourself. There is no right or wrong answer.
Let’s say you have chosen to focus on growing herbs because you want access to fresh more often and don’t want to pay the high prices for dehydrated spices. You have your focus! Now it’s time to gather your resources. This is where we really get into the meat of your mentality shifting from ‘consumer’ to ‘producer’ and homesteader!
No one can do it all alone but I would rather do some of it instead of none.
Let’s assume you live in a large apartment building and have a very small balcony, say 12-15 total square feet. (We also assume the rules allow for plants on the balcony). You have a limited budget along with limited space. These are usually the excuses given for not even starting something anything considered homesteading.
Break through the reasons you can’t do what you want and problem solve the ways you can.
Assess Your Resources
You know you will need containers to plant in, soil, seeds, and some good fertilizer or plant food. For the preservation of your harvest, you will need to learn which method suits you, best given what you have available and how to do it.
Because of your budget restrictions, you might be able to buy a couple bags of soil, but cannot afford to buy everything new. Honestly, you shouldn’t have to! You already have 50% of what you need just lying around your house. The soil and seeds can also be gotten for (almost) free if you are willing to do the legwork.
Containers. Save your milk jugs, soda bottles (if you drink it), and go through your cupboards for any plastic containers that have seen better days. These are wonderful for getting your starts going! Function first, looks second!
Fertilizer. Do you drink coffee? Eat eggs? If not, chances are you know someone who does. Coffee grounds are a wonderful source of nitrogen for your plants. You can sprinkle them over the top of the soil, work it into the top few inches, or simply steep some in the water you use for your plants. The eggshells can be crushed down and mixed in with the soil as well to add back calcium and other trace minerals into the soil. Neither method should be done all the time, only as needed for a nice boost. The egg shells will take several months to absorb (depending how finely they are crushed).
Soil. Due to the space given in this scenario, you won’t need very much. If your budget is zero or you can’t get some from a local store, there are other ways! Social media is a great way to get the word out there. You could barter (another very homestead thing to do) some of your time or skills for a bag of extra soil someone has. Hit Craigslist and check for people in your area who may have some they need to get rid of. Don’t forget farmers and farmer’s markets!
Seeds. Seeds are incredibly inexpensive for the amount you get. Again, because you may be dealing with an extremely small space, a whole pouch of lettuce seeds may be too much. There are ways to get a variety of seeds without spending a lot of money.
You can buy a few different packs (for around $4-6 total) of seeds, take out what you want to use and take the rest to a seed exchange! Check your local agricultural extension office for information about seed exchanges in your area. Also check farmer’s markets and Craigslist.
There are people who have so many extra, they give them away. Asking for packets from last year on social media is another way to get free seeds. Their germination rate may be lower but it was free and you still reap the rewards of the harvest!
Preserving the Harvest. There are many methods that you can choose from to suit your needs and capabilities. Since what you have grown in this scenario are things like sage, oregano, chives, and rosemary, all you really need to do for preservation is to dry them out and store them!
There are dehydrators you can buy that will speed up the process and ensure everything is truly dry but you can also simply use your oven on the lowest setting possible with the door opened a crack. Not the most energy efficient but it will do in a pinch. See if your friends have a dehydrator you can use or research different ways to dry them in the house. Most homes have some sort of humidity in them which runs the risk of molding due to the leaves not being fully dried. To combat that, you can have a small fan blowing air around.
You can also preserve your fresh herbs and spices by making an olive oil infusion. Place the herbs into a bottle with olive oil, cork it tightly and let it sit for a few days until the flavor has worked through it. This method requires you use it sooner rather than later.
Another longer term storage idea is placing herbs into ice cube trays and pouring olive oil over them. Freeze the tray until everything is solid and then simply pop them out. If using a plastic bag, make sure it is freezer grade. This is recommended for the hardier, thicker herbs such as rosemary. Other people will also place herbs into the ice tray and simply fill them with water. When they are making a soup or stew, they just grab a few cubes to add ‘fresh’ herbs to the meal!
As you can see above, all you have to do is shift your mentality.
Look at what you have around you that serves the same purposes as a “flower pot” would, for example. Just because it isn’t a certain shape or color doesn’t mean it can’t be turned into one! These are the first steps to seeing items that others would view as trash and repurposing them to fit your needs.
Function First, Looks Second!
One of the most common questions I get asked by new gardeners is “What should I grow?”
My answer is, “Grow what you eat.” I usually get a surprised look in response because it really is just that easy. Do you like a lot of green salads? Grow a jungle of different greens! My only caution here is to focus on a few different things you most commonly enjoy eating. If you try to plant two or three of each vegetable you enjoy eating, you will get overwhelmed and your results will likely suffer for it. Start small.
Remembering that there are people around you who are into the same thing and building your network of like minded people will bring you knowledge, new resources to tap into, and increase your chances for success. You will likely make some great new friends in the process. No matter what ‘homesteading’ project you decide to tackle first, the basic steps are the same. Decide what you want to do, figure out what you need, assess your resources, and then implement the plan!
We will cover that in Part 4 of How to Homestead When You Rent.
The Final Word
I keep going back to the concept of “Homestead in Place”. The tactical steps in doing so are so in-your-face simple that none of us has an excuse for not making a concerted attempt to achieve a homesteaders level of self-sufficiency.
Renter or not, having a positive attitude and a forward-thinking mindset will reap you many rewards as you move forward in both your preparedness and your homesteading journeys.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Here are some homesteading resources everyone can enjoy, regardless of whether you rent or own!
Nesco 600-Watt Food Dehydrator: This modestly priced dehydrator has over 2,300 reviews and comes up as the most highly rated dehydrator.
Living on the Edge: A Family’s Journey to Self-Sufficiency: When it comes to survival, one size definitely does not fit all. That’s exactly what author F. J. Bohan discovered when he and his family set out on a quest for self-sufficiency, a journey that has lasted more than 17 years. Be sure to read 9 Tips for Buying Property With Little or No Money.
How to Sew a Button and Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew: You are going to love this book. It is charming and and timely and filled with good-natured humor and the loving spirits of grandmothers everywhere.
How to Build a Fire: And Other Handy Things Your Grandfather Knew: From the same author and another good one. The book offers a glimpse into the hearts and minds of grandfathers near and far by sharing their practical skills and sweet stories on how to be stronger, smarter, richer, and happier.
Miracle-Gro AeroGarden 7-Pod Indoor Garden: With an Aero Garden, you can grow herbs, vegetables and flowers indoors year round. Here is a picture of mine.
US Forge 400 Welding Gloves Lined Leather: These well-priced gloves provide complete heat and burn protection. They are perfect for keeping your hands and arms safe while working outdoors or cooking outdoors over an open fire.
Quikclot Sport Brand Advanced Clotting Sponge: Accidents around the homestead do happen. As much as we practice safety, it is a fact of life that stuff happens. Quickclot is a must for any first aid or emergency kit; it stops moderate to severe bleeding until further medical help is available.
Israeli Battle Dressing, 6-inch Compression Bandage: This is another inexpensive, yet critical item for your first aid kit. Combat medics, trauma doctors, and emergency responders all recommend this Israeli Battle Dressing (IBD) for the treatment of gunshot wounds, puncture wounds, deep cuts, and other traumatic hemorrhagic injuries.
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