Monday, February 21, 2011

Today I am an urban homesteader

The post -- heck, this entire blog! -- is in support of the URBAN HOMESTEADERS DAY OF ACTION.

There's not a lot of urban homesteading that can be done in the wee backyard of a South Philly rowhouse, but I do my bit. I grow herbs. I tried tomatoes once but they were a bust. I've grown mesclun mix and swiss chard. I had a minuscule peach tree in a pot for a bit -- two, actually -- but there wasn't really enough sun so I sent them off to better forever homes where they could live in the dirt. Oh, I grew potatoes once, enough to make two meals.

Still, urban homesteading is a state of mind, even though it is now a registered trademark owned by a litigation-minded family in Pasadena. That's okay, I guess: I can always call it urb@n h0m3st3@d1ng. Or postage-stamp homesteading, or city self-sufficiency. Hey, how about homesteading-in-place?

I suspect the term was used back in the 1970s by Rodale Press in Organic Gardening & Farming or possibly the publishers of Mother Earth News. Perhaps both. Perhaps Stewart Brand used it in the Whole Earth Catalog or Co-Evolution Quarterly. I can't imagine Maria Rodale sending a cease-and-desist letter to the publishers of Organic Gardening for Dummies. And Stewart Brand would surely just laugh.

But what am I doing with my homesteading-in-place? The aforementioned wee bits of growing, for one. Being truly mingy about buying plants by overwintering as much as possible (ask me about the basil in my basement and the rosemary on the shed windowsill). In fact, just about everything you see in the photo, above, is grown from seed or from a scrounged cutting. I make a lot of food from scratch, using more or less unprocessed ingredients. I used to bake my own breads but I don't eat much bread any more. I conserve utilities as much as possible. Fingerless gloves are my friends in winter, hand-held fans in summer.

Once upon a time, I was much more of a suburban/rural homesteader -- working for Rodale will do that to you. We rented a converted springhouse on an old Pennsylvania Dutch farm, heated with wood that we cut and then split (by hand) ourselves, put up our own produce, made our own wine. Etc., etc., etc. It's a lot of hard work, but I wouldn't mind doing it again if I were landed on a house with a bit of earth. On the other hand -- city life!!!

Not much more to say, except that this is a blog posting in solidarity with everyone that's had a takedown notice from the Dervaes family.

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