Monday, February 21, 2011

I Am An Urban Homesteader

It is funny how life turns out, if you would have told me that one day I would even consider referring to myself as an urban homesteader, I would have told you that you were crazy.

I mean I am an LA girl, born and bred. The fact that I am LA Farm Girl is a big enough stretch from who I always thought I would be, but, urban homesteader? Hardly.

First Crop on My Urban Homestead, July '09

But, over the past several years my career as a farm writer (how I got there is a story in and of itself that I will blog about one day) has led me to “walk the walk” instead of just “talking the talk.” It started with me applying to become a University of California Master Gardener, and paying for the privilege of volunteering in the community teaching them to grow their own food. This led me to ask myself; why am I not growing my own food?

Since I am a University of California Certified Master Gardener (yeah, throwing around my “big credentials” at every opportunity) I always like to defer to our parent campus, UC Davis for definitions of things related to gardening and farming, and, it turns out that they actually have one for urban homesteading.

According to UC Davis’ Small Farm Program “an urban homestead is a household that produces a significant part of the food, including produce and livestock, consumed by its residents. This is typically associated with residents’ desire to live in a more environmentally conscious manner.”

While I am a long way off from producing a “significant” amount of our food, especially the livestock part, I do plant more each year and I do it in an environmentally conscious way.

How? Well, two summers ago after getting tired of hearing me express my desire to grow my own food, my dear hubby ripped out half of our back lawn and built me the most beautiful raised bed garden, complete with a beautiful basket weave fence and gate around it.

At the time we needed the gate to keep our sweet lab out. Sadly, a few months after it was built we lost her, so now the gate just looks pretty and somehow makes me feel as if she’s out there with me when I am working in the garden just like she used to be.

Ms. Maggie in newly built and planted raised bed garden, June '09
Not only do I now have a dedicated space to grow my own veggies, but we got rid of much of our wasteful lawn, and replaced it with the raised beds that have a drip irrigation system, and that use only organic soil amendment and compost.

Another way I garden with the environment in mind is by using only non GMO, non-treated, open pollinated seeds, preferably heirloom varieties, and transplants of the same.

This year I am going to plant some more burpless cucumbers, lollipop heirloom tomatoes, and other heirloom tomatoes. french baby carrots, pole beans, and for the first time, sugar baby watermelons from Baker Creed Seeds.

August 12, 2010 Harvest
I am not as self-sufficient as many of my other urban homesteading friends are and I probably will never be. But, each year I make more progress in weaning myself from the grid and slowing down my pace, and my dependence on a food system that frankly scares the hell out of me.

My next goal on the road to more self-sufficiency is preserving more of my own food, I just barely scratched the surface last year, and have invested in some canning tools to help make this happen this year.

So, on this, the Urban Homesteaders Day of Action, I want to suggest that you join me by becoming an urban homesteader and discover the joys of growing your own food at your own urban homestead.