Home(steading) Is Where The Heart Is

I’m not sure if apartment-steading is a word or not but I decided midway through putting a patch on a tiny pair of children’s undies (for the 2nd time in a week) that if it isn’t, it should be.

According to the great source of all knowledge (Wikipedia) homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency, characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of food, and the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale”.

I’d say that sounds a bit like us. We are always striving for greater self-sufficiency. Home haircut, anyone??

Giving Mom a trim at “Outdoor Clips”

We grow and forage some of our own food (or source it from our friends with farms). We picked 38 pounds of peaches just this weekend.

We can and freeze food for winter. See…we even canned the peaches.

And craftwork -well, we did an abundance of that when our little visitor was here.

We just happen to do all these things from an apartment. So apartment-steading, that’s my new word for today.

Seriously though, Angie and I watched a video on Youtube a few days ago about a couple that had just bought a 5-acre homestead. In the video they talked about how they had practiced their homesteading skills for years before making the leap. As we sliced up 11 pounds of cucumbers to make pickles on Sunday, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Are we practicing for the day when we move to an actual piece of land? Is that what our future looks like?”

I don’t know. The thought of walking out the door and seeing a chicken instead of our annoying (and sometimes naked) neighbor does have it’s appeal. But so does not owing anyone, and right now, buying land would require debt. So we’re okay with the apartment and our efforts toward self-sustainability here, for now. Besides, we’re only limited by our imagination.

Why can’t we experiment with solar power from our patio? Or grow an entire garden from the trellis? Or start burning wood for heat? We have an actual fireplace for Pete’s sake!

Don’t have land either? What’s stopping you from honing your homesteading skills? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Learn to cook from scratch. This is probably the best home or apartment-steading skill you can add to your repertoire.
  • Grow something, even if it’s just an herb on the windowsill.
  • Join a community garden or find a friend or family member willing to let you put a small garden in their yard.
  • Make friends with your local farmers. Not only will you have access to fresh produce, you are likely to get better deals (and sometimes even freebies).
  • Learn how to can. Up until a few years ago, we didn’t know much about canning but I promise you, if we can can, you can too!)
  • Learn to sew. Even if you’re just patching a sock, that’s one less sock you have to replace.
  • Make your own cleaning and laundry supplies.
  • Practice fixing things on your own. You can always call the repairman if it doesn’t work out.
  • Barter with your friends or neighbors.

Are you an apartment-steader? Or an urban homesteader with a small yard? What homesteading skills do you practice?

Why Work Optional Matters to Us

Two weeks ago, Angie and I were sitting on the patio contemplating the future. I had just started reading Work Optional by Tanja Hester (of the blog Our Next Life) and we were brainstorming a list of ideas for what we thought an early retirement might possibly look like for us.

We’ve never had a specific goal to retire early but we have always had a “work optional” attitude. Angie retired from formal employment in 2012, right before we moved to Florida, and I have worked only part-time for the past 3 years. We’re not high wage earners yet we still manage to live on only 63-65% of our current income. Ridiculously frugal. That’s how some folks describe us. (At this point, you might be thinking that those expensive ice cream bars we blew our budget on a few weeks back weren’t all that frugal. Well, guess what? We used a coupon! 😊)

Anyway, back to the point…

Though we’re not in a position to fully retire right now, we are in a position to start thinking about the next chapter of our own work optional story. This is exactly what we were trying to do that day on the patio, but life happened, and that is the real point of this post.

Our great-niece was supposed to stay with us for 3 days while her little brother had an exploratory procedure in preparation for open-heart surgery in July. He was born last December with a congenital defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome and will require a series of three surgeries to repair his heart. The exploratory procedure last week did not go as planned and the doctors had to move up the timeline. On Friday, the little guy had surgery to place a shunt between his pulmonary artery and his heart. He is doing better than expected but will still be in the hospital for several weeks, during which time we have a very energetic 3-year-old house guest to entertain.

While this leaves little time to breathe, much less write a blog post, it has really highlighted one thing – if we were tied to normal jobs on a traditional career path, we would not be able to do this, at least not without the fear of losing our security. As a grant writer, my work is driven by deadlines but the work itself is flexible. No one cares if I write proposals before dawn, midday, or after dark…as long as the quality is good, and the deadlines are met. (I’m an early morning person, in case you’re wondering.) No matter what the next steps are in our work life, the one thing I know for sure is that I don’t want to jeopardize that type of freedom in any way. Work optional only works when the work is truly optional. (Say that three times fast!)

Angie and I will resume our brainstorming and planning when the time is right. Absolutely nothing needs to be decided today…except what to pack for a picnic at the playground, because that’s what a certain little one said she’d like to do today.