6 Ways to Homestead in the City

How to homestead in the city

Note from Katie: Please welcome the lovely Jill Winger of The Prairie Homestead as she explains how to be more self sufficient and save money by homesteading, even if you live on a small property. Enter Jill…

Have you felt it yet?

The pull to start cooking more foods from scratch, and less from a box…

The sudden urge to get dirt under your fingernails

The longing to watch your kids run around barefoot and collect eggs…

If you’ve been feeling any of those desires lately, you’re definitely not alone.

There’s an awakening happening right now, and it’s sweeping the country. People want to be more aware of what they are eating and what they are putting on their bodies; they are fed-up with how disconnected our society has become.

And that’s a good thing folks… A very good thing.

With this new found awareness of what they are eating, drinking, and slathering on their body, people are also feeling the pull to get back to a simpler way of life.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re throwing away their iPhones and washing all of their clothes by hand, but many folks are finding massive amounts of satisfaction by weaving time-honored skills into their modern-day existence.

And I’m one of them.

I was raised in a typical suburban home, but as a young adult, I found myself fascinated by the idea pursuing a slower way of life. And here I am, 10 years later, living on a 100 year-old homestead in the middle of the Wyoming prairie milking a cow, planting vegetables, and chasing chickens.

Now, I realize that most people probably don’t want to go to that sort of extreme, but if you’ve been feeling the pull to get back to basics, there are many different things you can do, regardless of where you might currently live.

How to Get Back to Your Roots

Believe it or not, it’s easier than you might think!

1. Grow Something

As a modern-day homesteader, food production is truly the foundation of everything I do–just as it was for my great-great-grandparents. Thankfully, you don’t have to have hundreds of acres to enjoy the satisfaction that comes from growing your own food. Practically anyone can grow something–even if it’s just an herb garden in your apartment windowsill.

backyard herbs

Interest is growing in backyard gardening, and more and more families are digging up a patch of lawn in favor of growing their own carrots, squash, and beans instead. There are a myriad of options if you are limited on space–planting in containers and the Square Foot Gardening method are two of my favorite options for small-space gardening.

2. Become a Backyard Farmer

You might not be able to have a milk cow right now, but that doesn’t mean keeping smaller animals might not be an option– especially as more and more cities begin to allow backyard farming.

Some of my favorite backyard animal options are:

  • Chickens (for eggs, meat, manure (for fertilizer), and entertainment)
  • Rabbits (for meat and manure (for fertilizer), and entertainment)
  • Bees (for honey and pollination)

Some city ordinances even allow for a couple goats, but be sure to check your local laws first.

3. Learn How to Cook

Not only does made-from-scratch food taste better, it’s almost always better for you as well. Plus, there’s just something deeply satisfying about creating a meal with your own two hands, rather than simply opening boxes and bags.

Learning how to cook from-scratch goes hand-in-hand with growing your own food. And I can tell you from experience–there is nothing quite as empowering as preparing a meal from ingredients you grew yourself.

4. Learn How to Preserve Food

Confession: For the longest time, I thought canning was for little old ladies… Boy, was I wrong! If you are eating homegrown food, or even just food that is in-season, it’s likely that you’ll have more than you can consume at one particular time. Canning is one of my favorite preservation options, although freezing and dehydrating are also excellent choices, depending on what you are trying to preserve.

How to preserve food

If you’ve never canned before, don’t be intimidated–it’s easier than you think!

5. Hang ‘Em Up to Dry

I don’t know why, but there is something so charming about hanging clothes on a clothesline–it’s almost therapeutic. If you can’t have a clothesline, consider a drying rack instead. You’ll save money and keep your house cooler in the summertime.

6. Get to Know Your Farmer

Regardless of whether you live in the suburbs, a high-rise apartment, or on the outskirts of town, I encourage you to support the local farmers in your area. Plus, an added bonus of purchasing eggs, milk, meat, or produce from local growers is that you can often visit the farms and see where your food is being grown. It’s a wonderful way to show your kiddos the importance of understanding where our food comes from–plus being on a farm is just good for the soul.

So you might not have a milk cow… And you might not live on even an acre… But there are still plenty of ways to channel your inner Laura Ingalls Wilder and get back to your roots.

About the author: Jill Winger lives on 67-acres of Wyoming prairie with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of farm animals that includes a milk cow, beef cattle, goats, pigs, chickens, and geese. She is the author of two books, Your Custom Homestead and Natural Homestead, and can be founding typing away on her blog, The Prairie Homestead, when she’s not outside milking, braving the Wyoming wind, or mucking corrals.

Your turn. What simple homesteading activities are you doing where you live? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. I love this post. My family and I have been starting a project just like this and we’re in the process of buying 1/2 acre. We will be gardening, having a few little cochin bantam hens, and moving our already existing rabbitry there. I love teaching my children how to care for themselves, and other critters, along with having them put in some good, hard work 🙂

  2. What is it about hanging laundry on the line to dry?? Is there anything better than line-dried sheets? I use my dryer to dry my sheets in the winter (because I don’t have the means to air-dry them inside) and use a drying rack for my clothes inside when I can’t use my clothesline. But oh! how happy it makes me when I can spend time outside in the sunshine clipping each piece of clothing to blow in the breeze 🙂

    • The HOA where I live doesn’t allow clotheslines–even though they claim to be in favor of “energy-saving” devices!
      We’ll be moving at the end of the summer so next year I hope to have a REAL garden (I grow in containers now and actually get quite a lot of our vegetables that way!) and we want a few chickens, too.

      • I’m glad to hear that you will be moving to a more sustainable community. I have long wondered why people would move into a place where you give up so many of your rights to live a healthy, eco-friendly lifestyle. I am encouraged by more and more people moving into sustainable neighborhoods that allow clotheslines, chickens and front-yard gardens, whether in the city or country.

    • What about dust from traffic? I live on a very busy “country” road. It IS paved, but there is a long driveway just opposite me that is not, and the dust from traffic there and with the traffic on our dusty paved road, makes me wonder about having dust attach to wet/moist clothes while driving.
      I just bought a huge drying rack made by the Amish, but wonder about using it in the summer due to dust.
      Any ideas or suggestions?

      • Maybe just give them a good shake out before you take them inside? I lived on a busy street and hung my clothes out to dry and they were never visibly dirty, but i always gave them a good shake out to make sure no funny stuff was on there. 🙂

  3. I love this blog!!! My husband and I moved out of the city 4 years ago and we wouldn’t have it any other way! Being out in the fresh air, getting dirty, watching my son run free with the chickens… It’s the life I’ve always dreamed of. We grow our own veggies and this year (thanks to this amazing blog!) started making my own tinctures, salves, and beauty products. Thank you so much for sharing and getting the word out about how easy it really is to live sustainably.

  4. Hi Katie, why can’t I get meal plans?

  5. I live in the city, but we have 50 acres in the country we are prepping for our retirement, but in the meantime we have a garden in our backyard. We enjoy canning our peppers and tomatoes. We have also been known to trespass and pick berries which we make jelly out of. We love to make soap and thanks to this website I make my own skincare products and can’t imagine not doing an oil cleanse daily.. I’m excited today because I got a order in yesterday to make some tincture and baby products for a baby shower I’m hosting this next week. Thank you so much for your website, I’m a big fan.

  6. Don’t forget rabbits can be good for their fur too! An angora variety can be sheered (lol!) and the fiber is warmer than wool (something like 5x warmer) so it is coveted by mountain climbers.
    And I’m 100% with you on the bees, they can magnify your garden yeild and they’re so low maintenance. I can’t wait till my family can get out of this apartment. Even a house with a small yard will afford us so much more freedom! But for now I grow a small container garden on the porch, community garden at church, and cook, ferment, and make body products and household cleaners from my kitchen. You can always start doing something where you are!

  7. So I grew up in the country, my father a logger. We had our own garden, goats, chickens, and horses. And yes we washed our clothes by hand and hung them up to dry. We preserved our own food and lived off our land.

    Somehow I ended up in the city, well actually, I married a man from the city. What love will do right? We live on the 3rd floor of an apartment. We hang dry our clothes, I try to buy produce in bulk and preserve what I can with our limited space, and I grow a few things in our laundry room, that gets the most sun, I clothe diaper, but I still feel guilty and so very much long for my life in the country.

  8. I live in a small town off the coast of South Africa and have a 5000 acre farm nearby. I have chickens at home and eat game off the farm and grow my own vegetables. I SO enjoy your blog, especially the recipes and as a reflexologist the health advice. My 3 young children’s immune systems are all the better for it! We are all part of a wonderful new consciousness and I am so happy to be tagging along xx

  9. what did I miss re homesteading??

  10. I have been fermenting things lately. Just love it.

  11. In my first few years of marriage, I briefly did a stint of hanging my clothes to dry, but I had to discontinue this chore, because of city pollution and my allergies. All my clothes and the bed linens would smell like car exhaust fumes, and at times be laced with the various pollen from trees and flowers that grown in Memphis, TN. This pollution on my clothes and bed linen would aggravate my allergies m However, when I go home to visit my parents on their cattle ranch in Eastern Montana, I have noticed that my clothes have a clean fresh smell after being hung to dry outside. Also, there is not as much pollen on them because I go home in the summer.

    There is nothing like having fresh produce to eat. I grew up eating fresh produce from my mother’s garden. I have been successful at times with growing my own foods, providing that I had good soil to work with.

    My dad was a cattle rancher, so we had our own meat. We also raised hogs, and chickens, too.
    Thank you for posting this blog. I think it is good for one to take interest in what they eat, how it produced and how it affects one’s health.

  12. We live a city in the UK and are lucky enough to have an ‘allotment’ which is a patch of land locally that we rent from the local authority to grow veggies on. Taking on an allotment has been one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made, both for my physical health and my mental health, although I started growing food 9 years ago by pulling up the concrete in our tiny back yard which was only about 12ft x 9ft! We grew courgettes (zucchini), potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries and raspberries in pots, tyres and raised beds!

  13. I appreciate these tips! I have to say that hanging out laundry is a favorite of mine. In fact, I call it “laundry therapy.” It is so relaxing to me. I also recall hanging out laundry with my grandma when I was a young girl, so every time I hang laundry out, I think of her fondly also. Just writing this makes me want to go and hang laundry out! 😉

  14. We have a house in suburbia, but I long for a simpler life. Even though we both have full time jobs, we have chickens in the backyard (for the eggs and fertilizer), and we ripped out the front lawn and replaced it with fruit trees and mulch. Just about everything planted at our house is food. We hope to add bees in a few years. I dehydrate and freeze extras, ferment veggies, and learned how to make my own lotion, salves, oil blend moisturizers, etc. I found a local source for pastured beef, and we have a fab farmer’s market where I get raw milk, sheep’s milk yogurt, and healthy pork. I hope to buy land someday to retire on. I’ll have to try the hang dry on the laundry!

  15. I grow our own green beans, and strawberries. We’ve been trying black raspberries for years, but it’s difficult to get to them before the birds, even with nets. I’ll try a smaller weave this year because our garden is full of the plants! I used to can but have to work now and can’t manage unless it’s frozen applesauce, etc. I found after years of being inside offices or schools with fluorescent lighting that I was so fatigued and lethargic but that being out in the open air and sunshine makes me so energetic and satisfied.

  16. Some things different that we do as a family, we have 2 huge homemade compost containers that we full with newspapers, egg shells & containers, scrab veggies and fruits. Our gardens love it. I also quilt which is a great way to use up old clothes and fabrics though I use my machine. But these can be used to preserve memmories and keep us warm too!

  17. I grow parsley, raspberries, black currants, rhubarb, mint, garlic, and thyme in our backyard. Not a lot, but we love it and it reminds me of my childhood growing up in Russian villages, eating tomatoes of the vine. I always wanted my kids to have a similar childhood, and it happened though of course my grandmas garden was a LOT bigger! 🙂

  18. Man just thinking of your lifesstyle on your Wyoming farm gives me peace! I truly see no way out of the Rat race for now, so ima gonna figure out me a way to do exactly what you said on my little piece of Metrosurburbia thanks Mama!

  19. We are trying to grow veggies each year (somewhat successfully.. it helps to plant each variety at the right time of year lol) and we’ve been buying mostly local organic fruits veggies eggs milk etc. This year we’ve planted some fruit trees that I hope will do well! I dream of being able to run my own farm someday. Forget 9-5’s and grow my own food. I want to be sustainable so that my family can live without having to be in a typical job, but rather working on our own farm, doing the things we like to do. And it would be nice to be able to provide enough produce and things to be able to share the wealth through CSA too, for those who can’t or don’t want to do the same as us ^.^ Oh it would be glorious!

  20. Thank you for this post! We are a family if four, my husband, myself, our 8yr old son and 2yr old daughter. We are homeschoolers so I have both kids home all day. I was getting really sick of after school hours being tv and video game time, the lack of family bonding, and the fact that my husband has to work 58 hours a week for us to live on one income (plus a side business of welding, fencing, and misc handy man work) and this is the least he’s worked in years!

    I’ve always felt my duty as a home maker is to use our money wisely, if that means clipping coupons, bargain shopping making food from scratch etc. With our dd I even cloth diapered which has saved us a fortune!

    We spent a year living with my parents (all four of us in one room!) Because my husband’s job cut back on over time that we depended on. I just started thinking, it shouldn’t be so hard to make it! My husband is a hard working man and I’m so sick of the struggle of money! I wish I lived in the good ol days where a man could build a house to suit his family, raise their own food, and work as a family to meet the families needs. Now it’s mortgages, and credit scores, and grocery bills. So a dream was born, a dream of a pig farm/chicken farm lol. My husband said it sounded nice but he didn’t know anything about farming. I don’t want a farm where my animals end up at the grocery store, just enough to breed our own piglets, slaughter and freeze and maybe even enough to trade a couple pigs for a meat cow, and enough poultry for eggs and to eat. My little homestead is still a dream, we don’t have enough credit to get a loan for property 🙁 but thankfully have a home that we are renting in the city. While I have put my pig farming dream on the back burner for now I’m trying to do what we can with what we have. We have a broken dryer and our rental house came with a clothes line, the broken dryer forced me to hang clothes on the line, best thing that ever happened 🙂 we are planting our first garden and hopefully next season’s will be bigger then this season’s. Canning will definitely be my next feat. I already cook mostly from scratch but I make an effort to either make dog food or compost out of scraps. I try to find ways to recycle or re-use everything. My husband like I said has a little welding business, it’s decorative welding and we are trying to expand on that with other craft items holy t shirts = rag rugs old jeans = new quilts. Someday maybe he can only work from home but for now I’d be happy with even a normal 40hrs a week!

    Thank you for your post, it definitely encouraged me on my homestead journey, someday we’ll have our home stead (and pig farm;) ). Maybe I can talk my land Lord into letting me have a few chickens 🙂

  21. Trying to save to get land. Live in a city now and not alowed to have chickens or bees. I am older and have had people say to me ” your to old to homestead” Life has handed me a lot of challenges and I know I am going to have land enough to life off for my whole family I keep praying and working towards my dream no my goal to live free