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?

Our Upcycled Pallet Picnic Table

On a hot day in late July, Angie and I were sitting in the pharmacy drive-thru when we spotted the tiniest wooden pallet we’d ever seen. It was leaned next to the building and, for a moment, we were tempted just to grab it. Instead, we talked about all the cool things we could do with such a find – a platform for the outdoor shower we really need to build, new shelves in the garden shed, and on and on we went. Our restraint was rewarded. The very next morning, we found not one, but two, small wooden pallets by our dumpster.

The pallets we found fit perfectly in our tiny car! It’s amazing just how much a Chevy Spark can hold.

With pallets in hand, the idea of making a picnic table was born. Over the past four Saturdays, we’ve worked on our project. The hardest part was breaking the pallets into usable wood; but even this was made easier with a pry bar we purchased at Dollar Tree. Yes, Dollar Tree. For a dollar.

Much harder than it looks on HGTV!

As you’ve probably guessed by now, we had to get a few more pallets to make our picnic table. Until this point, I never knew how easy free pallets were to come by. We scored 2 through an ad on Facebook Marketplace and 3 more by simply asking for them when we went to place an order for flooring (for my mom’s bathroom).

Aside from a compost bin, Angie and I had never built anything together and aside from a hammer we found on the side of the road and a hand saw, we had no woodworking tools either. So we went to Harbor Freight (they have coupons!) and bought a small sander ($13), a reciprocating saw ($19), saw blades ($5), and 2 paint brushes (49 cents each) to assist in our project. We picked up the paint from the clearance rack at Lowe’s (thus the color choices) for $5/quart. Both quarts were exterior paints with WeatherShield, which usually cost $20 or more.

We designed the table as we went along, meaning we made a few mistakes in the process. The 2nd piece of wood at the top edge was one of them. It was pretty but not practical. You can’t put your legs under the table with it there.

So far, we’ve completed just one bench.

As we were working, I couldn’t help but think how pleased my grandpa would have been to see our project. During his lifetime, he rescued more than 1,000 pallets and turned them into porch swings (and a few picnic tables too). In 2008, I wrote a story for the Denver Post about how my grandpa’s love of woodworking has inspired me throughout my life to do only those things that bring me joy. I don’t think there was a day in that man’s life that he was not happy.

Making a picnic table has been more than just a fun project for us. It has been a lesson in resourcefulness and skill building as well. Do I think we could build a tiny house now? Maybe not (yet), but I do think we can do more than we often think we can.

We all can.