Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"Serious" Homesteading

Local Food Report
Not much on the local scene this week in the way of fresh produce. Our weekly visit to Three Rivers Market turned up only shiitake, oyster and lion's mane mushrooms from Brewer's Mushrooms in Sevier County.

"Serious" Homesteading
One reviewer (posted at www.facebook.com/NewAmericanHomestead ) says The New American Homestead is "too broad" for anyone "SERIOUSLY" undertaking homesteading. I could not agree more.

Recycling: basic urban homesteading skill
Our intent from the book's inception was to provide a solid overview of the basic skill sets for self-sufficiency, with a stong bias toward horticulture. The book is an introduction to a topic that literally can encompass any "technical" aspect of daily life. We had no choice but to omit some detail. Anyone with the determination to go completely off the grid is probably also intelligent enough to dig up the in-depth, site-specific data they would need to pull it off. This book nevertheless offers all the basic information anyone might need to get started with home food production, togehter with an overview of projects that require a larger investment of time and money, such as keeping bees or chickens. For each topic covered, the existing literature is vast and accessible.

Who's the serious homesteader? I point out in the book that giving up life in or near a city to strike out into the wilderness and live off the land is a romantinc fantasy for all but a few of us. My aim in writing this book is to encourage more people to do more for themselves with the resources available in a urban or suburban setting. I assume, for example, that every household will have utilities and acess to a decent transportation system. Being connected to the municipal water supply does not necessarily imply, however, that I need not trap and conserve rainwater for irrigation purposes.

Living in a high-rise does not, similarly, imply that one should ignore the possibilities for sustainable living. Wheat may be out of the question, but not wheat grass for the cat.

Look for small, slow solutions; one of the principles of permaculture.

The heavy emphasis on horticulture in The New American Homestead stems first from my greater level of knowledge and expertise in this area, compared, say, to apiculture. Secondly, the single most important step anyone can take toward greater sustainability and self-sufficiency is to grow vegetables, herbs and fruits to the extent that climate and resources permit. Commercial production and transportation of food is enormously costly to the environment. By encouraging America's 100 million households to produce whatever they can themselves, we can reduce energy consumption while simultaneously re-awakening our society to the enormous value of wholesome homegrown food. In so doing, we "value the margins," another basic permaculture principle. Suburban and urban landscapes that now consist either of exotic ornamentals or grass are actually in many cases the remnants of land that once grew crops. It is time we reclaimed these spaces for something more useful.

Who, then, is SERIOUS about homesteading? Hats off to the brave souls who head out to the wilderness; their courage is admirable. The rest of us, hoping to achieve a more sustainable existence without giving up our home and community, we're pretty serious about that, too.

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