Book Review: Urban Homesteading, by Rachel Kaplan with K. Ruby Blume

I am both amazed and delighted by the growing number of similar books on the public library shelves dealing with the topic of doing traditional things (such as homesteading, farming, and the like) in the urban setting. As much as I sometimes yearn for a simpler, country life, with the way the world is, cities aren’t going to disappear anytime soon. And, its soothing to the soul to interact with the dirt and the living things wherever you find yourself.

So, that, really, is at the heart of this anthology, Urban Homesteading, by Rachel Kaplan, with K. Ruby Blume (founder of the Institute for Urban Homesteading).

Using what you have, treading lightly, living simply and traditionally — and yet in a modern way that doesn’t villify the city, but explores the vast range of things you can do to connect with your little square of earth. When you homestead, you build a home, in a frontier wilderness, doing things that have not been done before, clearing land, creating interdependence among fellow homesteaders, and employing a DIY-attitude.

In my opinion, the book is a good reference, and piqued my interest to research some topics further, such as growing my own mushrooms — that was probably my favorite article within the book. Of the concepts presented that were new to me, one thing I really resonated with and want to explore further is the concept of an urban homesteading ‘guild’, called a Homegrown Guild. This is a concept that author Rachel Kaplan has come up with through her non-profit homesteading education program, Daily Acts. This really made sense to me. Whether in the city, or in the country, we’re not meant to be independent islands, but interdependent social beings. We’ve each been blessed with differing skills and gifts. A new-fangled guild like this would pair a diverse set of people with a diverse set of skills together to help and support one another — the commonality being the shared vision of urban homesteading. Very cool.

Other topics covered (in the very wide range) included: choosing, caring for, and harvesting your animal friends, engineering greywater systems, and, of course, a lot about growing you own food in your yard.

As I’ve blogged about before, I sometimes feel torn about where I belong – out in the country, or in the heart of the city. However, I do know that cultivating my little patch of urban wilderness has brought joy into my life, and I’m heartened that this growing movement reaches more and more each year. People are curious – people want to connect, not only with dirt, but with each other – people want to recover lost knowledge – people want to slow down. This book encourages all of those good things. Definitely worth a read, to be inspired, and to be emboldened to take the next step, wherever you find yourself on the journey.



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