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Simple ways to become an urban homesteader

You don't need a farm to become a homesteader. The next generation of homesteaders are urban, with an emphasis on self-reliance and sustainability. Here are a few ways to get started, including making your own cheese.

Lately I have been feeling an increasingly strong pull to dive into the world of homesteading. Perhaps it has been the massive increase in world population in the last decade (as we have now surpassed the 7 billion mark) but a more probable explanation is due to my recent obsession with the ridiculously popular young-adult series The Hunger Games. What can I say; I’m from the Harry Potter generation?

The characters in the fictional novel, written by Suzanne Collins, live in a dystopian society. While the majority of the book focuses on a twisted game where young people are forced to fight to the death for entertainment—a warped play off Roman gladiators—I was struck with the beginning portion of the book that outlined hunting and foraging for food.

Facing starvation, the main character adopts a daily ritual of finding sustenance from the woods outside her "district." Along with victories of shooting squirrels with a bow and arrow, homemade goat cheese, bread, and rabbit stew are oft-mentioned in the first few chapters.

Homesteading stages a comeback

After a particularly long stretch of reading this fantasy tale last night, this morning my eyes darted to Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living—a book that has been sitting on my desk for several weeks. Written by Rachel Kaplan and K. Ruby Blume, this DIY bible not only contains step-by-step “how to” chapters such as Gardening and Growing, Living Cultures, and Powering Down, but it also offers an enlightening case to live sustainably.

“Urban homesteaders are relearning heirloom skills that have been abandoned in the relentless march toward convenience; valuing thrift and community self-reliance; and tending to our home places in an intentional repudiation of the cultural forces of speed, need, and greed,” the book states. Urban homesteading does not require a farm filled with animals, nor a huge amount of space. Rather, creativity, innovation, and a passion for both self-reliance and sustainability are the only driving forces needed.

Become an urban homesteader

So in that light, I urge you to take small steps: Start an herb garden in small pots on your windowsill; compost food scraps to create nutrient-rich soil, and then use it to fertilize your garden in the summer. Have a big yard? Consider building a chicken coop and buying chickens for fresh eggs every morning. Or as I recently attempted, make your own basic cheese with the following easy instructions—as adapted from Urban Homesteading.

Homemade Lemon Cheese

1 gallon of whole milk
¼-½ cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and fresh chopped herbs, to taste

  1. Heat milk to 175 degrees in a pot.
  2. Add lemon juice and stir, waiting for the cheese to curdle. The curds will rise to the top of the liquid.
  3. Drain in cheesecloth, and break the solids up with your fingers.
  4. Season with salt and herbs as you wish and eat with crackers.
  5. Bask in the glory of your own resourcefulness.

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