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Homesteading Anywhere

Blue Jean MamaOnce a country girl, always a country girl. I bet there are many city folks who have their hearts tied to country roots. You CAN live the country life anywhere you choose. The saying, you can take the country girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl is evidently true. You may wonder, how is it possible with little land and so many regulations to live a country life? It really is a matter of mindset.

My Childhood Home
My childhood home in Vermont.

I am a country girl married to an awesome city guy, and we’ve been married 41 years. I have converted this “city slicker” into a country boy, and we now live in the most populated county in the state of Florida. I guess we just keep going against all odds and you can, too.

My first night of living in the city from my rural life was a bit funny. I heard a fire truck and told my new husband we needed to follow it. After all, that is what we always did in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Everyone knew everybody and wanted to help their neighbors. He informed me that wasn’t what people did in the Bronx.

I always missed my rural life and did things to help me stay connected to it while maintaining a somewhat typical “city/suburban” life. There comes a time when you just want to chill out from it all. We did our changing over time as family and money allowed. It took a while for us to get to a point where we could relax a bit and do more of the self-reliant things we had always wanted to do. In retrospect, I think we could have achieved our goal more quickly. We just didn’t realize the possibilities were readily attainable. Here’s hoping you will be able to begin your homesteading faster than we did. It’s truly worth the effort.

There are many ways you can make a difference in your life and start homesteading.

  1. The first thing is to commit to making the decision to live a more self-sufficient life. The news is constantly bombarding us with information about GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), climate change, chemical laden food and health products.

  2. The best way to begin is to make a commitment to yourself. There’s a saying, “You’re never ready for what you have to do. You just do it. That makes you ready.” It’s like anything else in life, sometimes you want something, like starting a family. You know you can do it but you’ve never done it before. Start reading books covering the areas you want to tackle first. Figure out the first thing you want to do. It can be as simple as planting some herbs on your windowsill. You can progress from a tiny step to having a boatload of produce in gardens faster than you think. Take a few “safe” steps and then take the plunge. It starts to get into your blood and you want more.

How We Did It

For us, it began with a garden. I had grown many gardens in the northern climate successfully. In Florida, my first few were NOT great. The seasons are so different. It was almost the opposite of everything I had grown up with. We planted at the wrong time, we couldn’t give the plants enough water, the sun was too brutal and the bugs … they ate everything. Summer gardens don’t work very well in the hot summer months in Zone 9. We failed and we failed miserably but we didn’t give up. We tried various gardening methods until we found those that worked the best for us. Failing is OK as long as you get back on the horse and make it work. I have to say it was so discouraging but persistence paid off. Don’t be afraid to fail because success will be yours. It is like anything in life, you have to give it your best shot. One day you will be able to look back and laugh at your mistakes.

My Urban Garden
My urban garden.

Watering Woes

Watering plants in the Florida heat can be an issue. We have found that overhead watering with a hose spray encourages mold and insects. We lost MANY vegetables doing this. We discovered a drip irrigation system or a drip hose was the answer. The drippers work the best and slowly give the plant’s roots water where they need it most. We used a drip irrigation system and put sprayers on certain plants, do not use them everywhere. We found out about this system at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival a few years ago.

No Land, No Problem

If you live where you don’t have land you can still homestead in other ways.

  1. You can do a vertical garden. These have become very popular. They take very little space and the yield is greater than you would expect.

  2. You can grow herbs and potted plants inside your home.

  3. If none of these ideas seem right for your situation, check out community gardens. Not only will you have space to grow, you’ll have the comradery of other people of like mind. You can learn a great deal by sharing with others and you can even trade vegetables among the growing group.

Food Preservation

Food Dehydrator and Vacuum-Sealer
My food dehydrator and vacuum-sealer.

You can preserve your own food. I had water bath canned fruits and some tomatoes, but I had never pressure canned. I was afraid I would blow up the canner along with my house. My sister gave me a lesson, and I was off and running, canning everything imaginable. You can, too. You can control what you are eating and know you are not getting chemicals or additives in your food. If you do not have bounty from your own garden, visit farmers' markets or join a local co-op.

You can buy vegetables and meat in bulk and share with others. You can also process the extra food using a pressure canner, dehydrator or simply freezing. Learn how to use these methods by enrolling in classes offered by your local Cooperative Extension service or asking someone with experience to teach you. Once you have the steps down, you can safely put up all kinds of food. The storage of your own canned goods will allow you to purchase foods at today’s prices. The current prices will be lower than future prices. You will give yourself a little insurance should you fall on hard times or lose your job.

You can homestead wherever you live. You may have to make some concessions, but isn’t that what life is all about? As a society, we’re very adaptable to change. Why not make the changes that can improve the health and quality of your life?