Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Yearning for Sustainability

"I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same thing as 'making a life'."- Maya Angelou

As my family prepares to move across the country, I am getting super excited about the possibility of an urban homestead. Before I moved into my current apartment, I was renting a house and had the blessings of the landlord to create a permaculture homestead. Sadly, the soil was dead, so I set about for the next year ameliorating the soil by planting nitrogen-rich crops and tilling them under. I had just cut out a rather large bird of paradise (and if you ever tried this project, you would know what a monumental pain that was!) out of the furthest corner of my yard- the only place to legally place a chicken coop according to Oakland, CA statutes. We were about to build the coop, get the chickens, and start selecting crops when we were told that the house was being sold and we would have to move. In addition to losing a potential homestead, this was two weeks after giving birth to Rowan- so I was pretty upset at the loss as well as the timing.

When we finally found an affordable place to live, it was a second story apartment with no deck, so not even a container garden was possible (unless I wanted to pay crazy electric bills for grow lights). So this last year and a half has been an exercise in patience. My heart cries out for a slower, more sustainable way to live- one that is in touch with the earth and her cycles, one that allows me to slow down and work with plants again, one that allows me to teach Rowan about the earth, with him at my side. I am so excited that we will be able to finally do this in Columbus, Ohio (our new home).

We ultimately are going to be living with our friends R and D, who also have a child (E) who is a week younger than Rowan. E is Rowan's best friend and they absolutely adore one another. We met R and D in our childbirth class and have become more than fast friends, we have become chosen family. We celebrate sabbats and holidays with them (they celebrate Jewish holidays, we do Witchcraft ones- and we learn from one another). We have weekly playdates with them and share free babysitting.We are looking forward to homesteading and co-parenting when the time comes.

They are following us to Columbus- but not for another year. They also are moving to Columbus to be closer to family. (Rowan's paternal grandparents are two hours away from Columbus, and E's grandparents on both sides are a few hours away as well.) I am super excited for Rowan to be near his "Nanny and Pap Pap"- as he adores them and they are nuts about him, too. I am a big fan of having him surrounded with as many people that love him as possible.

R, D, and E will be following us to Columbus in a year- after they finish their internship commitments (R is a child psychologist and D is a student midwife). It will be hard to be apart for that year- Rowan asks to see "Mee Mee (his name for E) every day, many times a day. It is a tad heartbreaking to separate them for a year. I am doing a modified homestead in the year we will be apart, saving the grand plans for a reunion.

Once they arrive, we will then build an amazing homestead with a large garden, chickens (for eggs, pest control, and meat), and bees (for honey, wax, propolis, and mead). R and I especially have been plotting and scheming about our future homestead. I have already started a list of plants I ultimately want to grow- a combination of vegetables, greens, fruits, and herbs (culinary and medicinal). My plan is to not only grow and raise as much food as possible for ourselves, but also start making remedies and spell components again- like oils, vinegars, tinctures, and baths. Some of my remedies would help D in her midwifery practice, so that is a win-win.

I want to create seasonal meads for ritual- a flower scented one for spring, a pomegranate one for fall. Making my own toothpaste will be a lot easier having my own store of propolis! To keep my head in the game, I have been reading books (The Backyard Homestead, Farm City), blogs on homesteading and permaculture, and dreaming of luscious plants, plump hens, and canning day!

My dream home is one that reclaims unused furniture and waste and converts them into gorgeous, colorful chicken coops, rehabbed furniture, and raised beds. I am thrilled that our new home in Columbus has a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I can only hope that Columbus is nicer to homesteaders than Oak Park, Michigan.

To me, an urban homestead is creating a life, not just a living (hence the Maya Angelou quote that started this article). Yes, the project will sustain us. But more than that, it creates a new model of living that welcomes in a more human pace, a connection to the planet and its inhabitants, and does not support this overculture that so many are beginning to see as poisonous- to the land, its creatures and our souls.

I leave you with a great sustainability idea from Barcelona- an open-air barter market:


  1. Sounds great. I will have to look into these books, thank you for the tips.
    I've got a very small garden, but I combine fruit, herbs and veggies too ; )
    Have a great day.

  2. All I can say is wow you will be living my dream, I am sure you will keep us up to date on this adventure through your post and pics.... I can't wait.

    Blessings Chaos

  3. Thanks everyone! It's a very exciting plan- and I am getting antsy to start. Living in your head in the future instead of in your body in the present is always hard in these situations!


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