Homesteading in the suburbs? Yes, it can be done! I lived and homesteaded in a suburban neighborhood for 15+ years and I have a lot to share with you today about “How to be a Suburban Homesteader”!
Homesteading in a neighborhood isn’t as unusual as it once was years ago.
There are many people, for a variety of reasons, who are choosing to take control of their own food supply!
Great Reasons to Homestead in the Suburbs
- Excellent quality food: When you grow a garden, you have access to the very best quality food available! Serving fruits and veggies that are straight from the garden gives you the advantage of retaining more vitamins and minerals than food purchased at the store.
- Fresh eggs daily: By bringing backyard chickens to your suburban homestead, you will be the beneficiary of amazingly nutritious eggs! Once you taste fresh eggs from your own chickens, you’ll never eat another “store egg” again.
- Business Opportunity: Most homesteaders have surplus from their gardens and chickens, which gives you a unique opportunity to sell your high-quality food to others for some extra income!
- Bring pollinators to your yard: By growing fruits and vegetables in your backyard, you’ll find that pollinators like honeybees and butterflies will automatically find their way to your place!
- Improve Your Soil: Composting your food scraps and manure will help you to create the very best fertilizer for you garden, as well as your other landscaping.
- Exercise: Functional strength is of far more use to our well-being than big muscles gained from going to the gym. Homesteading will help you to strengthen your entire body.
Potential Issues of Suburban Homesteading
While being a suburban homesteader is very doable, there are certain considerations to think about before diving in.
Always be a good neighbor: The last thing you want to do is to upset or annoy your neighbors.
If you choose to bring in backyard chickens, make sure you choose a quiet breed.
Unless you have a large yard with plenty of space between houses, beekeeping probably wouldn’t be a good idea.
Always think about what it’s like to live next door to you.
Even though I live on 10 acres, I always text my neighbors and let them know when I’m going to be inspecting my bees. My neighbors are very uncomfortable with honeybees, so I want to be a good neighbor. (Taking a jar of honey over once in a while helps as well!)
Local Ordinances: Local ordinances exist in both suburban and rural neighborhoods. Learn what your limitations are before buying any animals.
You may be able to petition for changes in local ordinances, it’s not an unusual thing to do.
My old suburban neighborhood finally eased it’s ordinances to allow for 4 hens, but no roosters (understandable!). Most breeds of chickens make less noise than a Blue Jay or Mockingbird would!!!
Always be willing to educate others to make a case for your homesteading aspirations.
HOA’s: Homeowner Associations can make homesteading difficult, but certainly not impossible.
There are plenty of ways to incorporate “edible landscaping” around your home!
However, given the current state of the economy, I think it makes sense to pursue change within your HOA’s regulations. My guess would be that many of your neighbors would like to become more sustainable as well!
How to Get Started Homesteading in the Suburbs
1. Install Rainwater Barrels
Being in control of your water is an important part of homesteading in the suburbs!
Capturing your own rainwater is so easy to do! Rather than pay high water bills, you can capture your own water from the sky!
(You’ll want to check your local ordinances to make sure capturing rainwater is legal in your area)
2. Start Using a Clothesline in the Suburbs
Did you know that clothes dryers have only been around for about 70 years?
Prior to that, everyone on the planet used clotheslines, in one fashion or another. Today, much of the world still uses them!
There are so many benefits to using a “solar clothes dryer“!
For one thing, air-drying your clothes makes them last so much longer! You know the lint in the dryer trap? That’s your clothes!
Appliances with heating elements are the most expensive ones to use. Using a clothesline will greatly lower your electric bill!
There are many different types of clotheslines, find one that works for your circumstances!
3. Start Composting
The miracle of composting scraps of food into an amazing fertilizer for your garden cannot be denied! Suburban homesteading will require you to have your own source of compost and fertilizer!
Depending upon where you live, creating a compost pile the old-fashioned way may not be feasible. Raccoons and other varmints can wreak havoc in your backyard and threaten small pets, not to mention possible odor without the right conditions.
Fortunately, there are plenty of solutions on the market for those of you who live on a suburban homestead and want to make that “black gold” for your garden!
4. Start Gardening
Gardening in the suburbs can take many shapes and forms. When I lived in the suburbs on a very small and frustrating lot, I used a hybrid of methods to grow food.
Dig up the landscaping – This was one of the methods I used! We tore out all of the ugly bushes, modified the soil with compost and grew small fruit bushes and trees, plus beautiful vegetables!
Reconsider the usefulness of your front yard – More and more people are ditching the front lawn and creating gorgeous food gardens! Of course, check with the city and make sure it’s ok.
Raised Beds – My daughter lives in historical Providence, RI, where they have houses that are very close together. Her little back yard is completely shaded as well. She decided to build large raised beds in her front yard and they look great! She also grew food in a local community garden, and did a good amount of canning and preserving!
Not bad for a city girl!
Community Gardens – These were a life-saver for me! I grew everything I could at home, but having another plot with full sun really helped me to grow tomatoes, peppers and corn!
5. Get Chickens
Many communities are now allowing suburban backyard chickens! The norm seems to be 4 hens with no rooster, but since you don’t need a rooster for eggs, that’ll work! Check your local ordinances to see if backyard chickens are permitted.
Having your own fresh-eggs to eat is such an amazing gift! Hens come in all shapes, sizes and colors! Many breeds are very quiet, you’ll never hear a peep out of them!
Herb gardens are easy to begin on the suburban homestead! Whether you start them in pots on your patio or grow them within your garden, get started with a few herbs that you can use for tea or in your cooking!
7. Learn to Make a Simple Bread Recipe
The smell of homemade bread is so amazing! Did you know that you can make a loaf of Amish White Bread for about 25 cents? In less that an hour?
You’ll save a lot of money, avoid preservatives and need one less item at the grocery store.
8. Suburban Homesteads Keep Bees
I absolutely love being a beekeeper!
While not every suburban homestead will be conducive to honeybees, it’s still worth checking into.
A friend of mine, who lived in a very nice side of town on 1/3 acre was able to keep a few hives right up next to her house.
9. Learn to Can and Preserve Food
Preserving food is a “non-negotiable” for those homesteading in the suburbs!
If you have absolutely no experience at all, may I suggest that you begin by learning how to dehydrate food?
The next step that I would suggest is making jam.
Water-bath canning is what is used to can “high acid” foods, like fruit (which includes tomatoes).
Pressure-canning is probably the most intimidating of the canning methods! But don’t let that stop you from learning it!
10. Start a Pantry
Keeping a working pantry is paramount to homesteading in the suburbs!
Your pantry will be one of your greatest assets when you spend time to stock up on foods that your family loves to eat! Whether it be snow storms, layoffs or sickness, there are a plethora of reasons why we might not be able to make it to the store.
Too many folks rely on the grocery store for 100% of their food. But the truth is that the grocery store isn’t reliable as you might think!
Most grocery stores keep about 3 days worth of food on the shelves, that’s why it doesn’t take long for the shelves to be empty during a storm or other crisis.
11. Use Alternative Lighting When Homesteading in the Suburbs
Something that has been important to me over the years is to have alternative lighting in place in case of an emergency, and this is another key to homesteading in the suburbs.
I’m not talking about flashlights. I’m talking about incorporating alternative lighting into your every day, suburban life.
I want my family to use other forms of lighting as a normal, everyday occurrence. Using alternatives saves money, reduces your electric bill and prepares your family for emergencies naturally.
12. Go Zero-Waste
Another step to homesteading in the suburbs will include the elimination of “one use” products like paper plates, paper towels and paper napkins. Homesteading is about being “self-sufficient”! Making your own cloth napkins, cloth gift bags, using regular plates or even making cloth toilet paper will keep money in your pocket and make you even more sustainable in the suburbs!