Urban Homesteading: Doing What You Can

lettuce seeds 2

For the past ten years my summers have been punctuated by preserving projects.  Every summer I make jam, pickles, dry tomatoes, dry herbs, make relishes, and put up dilled beans.  This is the first summer in a decade when I have not had the time or the energy to do my usual preserving projects.  It was my plan to do at least a few of my usual projects and photograph them for tutorials to share with all of you here.  I want you to be able to come here and find all of the basic canning projects you might want to do and feel confident that you can do them with really clear instructions.  I was putting off posting much because I didn’t want to post unless I had a tutorial of use or an informative article.

But then I realized something; I realized that many of you out there are in the same boat as I am in myself: you’re working many hours a week to pay your bills and are scrambling to find the time to do the homesteading projects that you love doing.  I have been lucky to have been able to have stayed home and not worked outside the home for most of the past decade.  I am equally lucky that when the time came that I had to get paid work in order to keep our house and our son clothed, I landed an excellent job.  So I’m not complaining about having to work, but trying to figure out how I can work 30 hours a week and still find time to make my own lip balm, can tomatoes, and sew curtains for my old house.

What I have been telling other people for years is that urban homesteading is about doing things for yourself within a modern and urban context.  It isn’t a contest in self sufficiency.  It’s an exercise in learning to make things that are higher in quality than you can buy.  It’s about empowering yourself with the know how most of our grandparents had because there is something deeply satisfying in being capable of taking flour, water, salt, and yeast and producing a loaf of bread that is as good or (often) better than you can purchase in the store.  When the bread shelves in the grocery store are empty you won’t be afraid, you can make your own.  It’s the spirit of doing things for yourself even though it will take longer than it would to pay someone else to do it.  I have begged people not to feel left out if they live in small apartments in a big city because the spirit of urban homesteading can exist and be satisfying  on all scales.  In a small apartment you may not have room to store a year’s worth of tomato sauce and jam but you can do small batches that will still give you a profound enjoyment and satisfaction.  You can still make your own dinner napkins and you can do all kinds of repurposing projects.

What I realized this week is that no one is reminding me of these things.  No one is telling me to stop worrying about the fact that I am quite possibly not going to have the time or energy to can at all this year and instead just make spectacular use of the seasonal produce we have right now.  I might not be able to make tomato sauce to last me all winter (I usually can about 500 pounds of tomatoes) but I sure as hell can make some tomato sauce from scratch right now while the tomatoes are flavorful, local, fresh, and properly ripe.  It’s so easy to forget that the most natural thing any of us can do is to eat seasonally.  Soon enough I won’t be buying any tomatoes at all because their season will end.  So why waste time fretting over what I can’t do and simply enjoy what’s fresh now?   So this post is to remind myself, and anyone else in my position, to not get overwhelmed by what we don’t have time to do and instead make the very best out of what we do have time for.

I believe that if I prepare better this fall and winter around my house and garden I might be able to make more time next summer for the kinds of projects that I look forward to each year.  If I find good ways to fit more homesteading into my schedule I’m sure you’d all like to hear about it so I promise to share details.

In the meantime I will start posting more often.  It won’t be the preserving tutorials but there are smaller projects I have going on around here like saving carrot seeds from the garden, cooking (more recipes for making the best of seasonal produce) and I realized that it isn’t particularly time consuming for me to write plant profiles.  I want to have a ton of those for people to reference so that you can come here and access a comprehensive volume of information on all the vegetables, fruits, and herbs that an urban homesteader might find useful to grow.

So this post is to remind you and me to go easy on ourselves.  If you are working full time and don’t have a ton of time for homesteading activities, don’t let yourself become mired in frustration.  Rejoice in the things you can do with the time you do have.  It’s the spirit of urban homesteading that feeds our spirits and builds our confidence- it isn’t about doing everything.

On this happy note I’m going to go clean my kitchen and then do an experiment with substituting lemon juice for citric acid for curdling milk.  The question has been asked how this substitution might be achieved and I’d like to discover and share the answer to it which I can do today since I have the milk for making ricotta and plan to make a casserole of grilled vegetables in ricotta. 

Happy homesteading!

Headmistress Mrs. Williamson (Stitchy)

 Homemade Ricotta (A tutorial on making your own ricotta)

10 thoughts on “Urban Homesteading: Doing What You Can

  1. Sarah

    You go Headmistress Mrs. Williamson!
    I LOVE reading the blogs, getting inspired and feeling rather over excited about projects, but at the end of the day, we all are caught up in the money economy one way or the other… Urbanism is a reality! So thank you so much for making the experience far more pleasant than *dare I say it* stressful… It’s so good to see that not everyone in this crazy blogsphere is Mary Poppins!

  2. stitchy1

    No Mary Poppins here- every time I try to fly with my umbrella I land flat on my face covered in mud. So, I’m trying to balance everything as best as I can. I need reminding sometimes though, that it’s ok not to do everything. I want to keep enjoying the things I can make time for but when I’m all stressed out about trying to cram projects into my week that don’t fit then I don’t enjoy anything. What’s the use of that? I visited your blog and it’s sweet!

  3. Clare

    Thanks for the reminder to take it easy! I absolutely love your blog and have cherry liquour in a cabinet and this weekend I plan to make your vanilla spiced pears! mmm. This is my second year of “urban homesteading” and it is very difficult sometimes because I have 2 small children. I feel so overwhelmed! I had apples rotting on my tree a couple weeks ago because I didn’t have time to pick and freeze them! But you are very inspiring! Thank you!

  4. chickadeeworkshop

    So very well said. I remind myself of this, too. I really want to do more, and I enjoy it, but a full-time job is a necessity for about 4 more years, and then, hopefully, I can retire and spend more time working at what gives me satisfaction and less time….spending :-)
    I am happy with myself that I made peach jam last night and plan to make another batch tonight. I have other things I need to do around my house, but I took great pleasure in photographing my jewel-colored jam. Hope to get the photo ups on my blog later on.
    I really love reading your blog; it is not just information, it is inspiration. Thanks for keeping on with it at whatever pace you can do. It is much appreciated.

  5. Deb G

    Came to visit via One Green Generation. Just wanted to say I can so identify with this. I constantly have to remind myself that at least as things stand now, I don’t have to do any of these things and just to focus on what I love doing and get done what I can in the time I have.
    And-I’ve had great luck curdling milk with lemon juice or vinegar instead of citric acid. Hope yours turned out well.

  6. Jade

    That was a nice post. I work 40 to 50 hours a week, and exercise 5+ hours a week, so it’s not always feasible to do all of the fun projects that I want to do. Most work days it’s difficult just to come home and make dinner and maybe get out to the garden for a moment, no energy for anything else.

  7. stitchy1

    Thank you Jade! I just realized that I really need to remind me of these things more often. Do what we can. That’s what counts! This whole working full time gig really leaves little time for homesteading projects, but we can’t let ourselves get discouraged to the point that we stop enjoying the little things we can do. And I didn’t know you ever came by this blog! I love seeing your comments over at the other one- but seeing your comment here was like such a happy surprise!

  8. Diana

    I’m so glad I’ve run into your blog! We are very like minded :) I am also glad to have read this. Looking forward to following you!
    A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa

  9. Chelle

    I was doing a search for homesteading and working full time because I’m feeling very burned out trying to keep up with all the “projects” I have (the latest, just coming from apple picking and feeling the need to get apple butter, apple sauce and apple pie filling all canned ASAP, making butter, and making homemade granola bars, TONIGHT!) plus meeting up with friends, exercising and of course, a full-time professional job. Thank you for this post, I needed it!

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