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A forum for growing rare fruits, edibles and Permaculture with a focus on tropicals.

Roll Call for Urban Homesteaders

Postby Axel » Sat Mar 26, 2011 9:21 am

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Location: Hanalei Bay, HI & Fallbrook, CA
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We are all avid gardeners and grow our own food. Quite a few of us keep chickens and other animals. Many of us really fit under a broader category of urban homesteaders.

The way I define an urban homesteader is someone who is interested in taking ownership of their own food supply, and trying to make a lot of their own food instead of getting it pre-packaged from the store.

So I will start and list my own interests.

Starting with the obvious, we grow pretty much 100% of the fruit we consume, with the exception of some tropical fruit like mangoes and bananas. My wife is in charge of the veggies, which we are trying to grow more of, but it's a lot more work than the fruit trees, so we still end up buying a lot of vegetables.

I also am an avid bread baker, and I grind my own grain and make my own sourdough to bake. The bread is fresher and more nutritious that way.

I have gone as far as making my own soy milk and yoghurt, and even tried making kefir. These home made foods are yummy and delicious!

For the last two years, we've been drinking our own apple juice year round. We have one big pressing in August during the Gravenstein harvest, and then it's stored, and we have fresh apple juice literally on tap year-round. I'll do a separate post to describe how I do it.

I also have a fruit cold storage system to make the harvests last over longer periods of time, so for example I can keep pluots for a few extra weeks, and of course apples and pears for most of the Winter.

Then there is all the preserving, drying and canning too.

Of course, we keep chickens and ducks, and we have so many eggs that we end up giving a lot of them away. But we have an awesome supply for ourselves.

Sounds like a lot of work? Well, only if you consider these things work. I find them not only to be a lot of fun, but also incredibly rewarding.

So, your turn. What are your favorite "Urban homesteading" activities?

I will make this sticky to get people's attention, but just for a few days, then we'll let it drop down the ranks.
Tropical gardening in both Kaua'i windward Sunset H2/USDA 12b and Fallbrook Sunset 23/USDA 10b.

Re: Roll Call for Urban Homesteaders

Postby sk290 » Sat Mar 26, 2011 11:06 am

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Joined: Fri Nov 26, 2010 9:43 am
Location: Dana Point, CA
Climate Zone: Sunset zone 9a
Hi Axel,

You are such an inspiration to me! We just started on our journey to take more control over what and how we eat our foods. Just last year we took down 6 10yr old palm trees and all the tropical plants in the slope and replaced them with 30 fruit trees. Learning about the different varieties and planning for an extended season has been great fun thanks to everyone's inputs from this and other gardening sites.

This year I'm starting with the vegetables, way different from fruit trees! :D I sprout grains to bake with, mostly cookies. Still trying to figure out how to mill the grain fine enough to bake breads. I also make a gallon of fresh yogurt every couple of weeks. Unfortunately, we are not zoned for livestock. I would love to have chickens and ducks for the fresh eggs and goats for the milk.

Oh, and I also learned about vermicomposting last year (OT) and now we have 5 very healthy bins going, ready for the veggies this year. This is too much fun!

Thanks for all the work you do with the site and educating people on this live style. It's so great to see that it can be achieved!


Re: Roll Call for Urban Homesteaders

Postby RodneyS » Sat Mar 26, 2011 11:57 am

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Location: Cerritos, CA
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Sandra, I also started vermicomposting. I started about a month ago with 100 Eisenia fetida (Red Wigglers). Now, I'm interested in Eisenia hortensis (European nightcrawlers) as they're bigger which makes them better for fishing.



I'm using the plastic bottle cap as a marker to remind me where I last put food scraps. I've read online that it's best to put food on one side so that if it get's too acidic, the worms can move away.

Re: Roll Call for Urban Homesteaders

Postby Twan » Sat Mar 26, 2011 7:09 pm

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Joined: Fri Nov 26, 2010 1:50 pm
Location: Chula Vista, San Diego CA
Climate Zone: 10
You guys are just amazing. Axel, is there anything that you can NOT do? You are a high tech guy, an expert in gardening, and now I learn that you are a cook, and a baker. Wow!, that's all I can say.

I have some vegetables in my garden such as lettuce, onion, garlic, tomato, yam, snap peas, green beans, snow peas, and some kind of Asian veggies that I don't know the names in English, one of them is bok choy (spell?). I just put down some asparagus two months ago. I thought it died, but today I saw some tips coming up. I know that it takes three years before I can harvest asparagus, so I have to learn to be patient. For the fruit trees, we have eaten persimmon, oranges, guava, fig, and Asian pears from our trees. We don't have enough to store and I don't like can fruit, so if we have extra, I usually give to friends. I am waiting for a few more years (hopefully) before I can get some mango and jujube. Gardening is more of a hobby for my than for food, but it does much good to have fresh veggies, and fruit from your trees. It certainly tastes much better, that's for sure. Well, that's long enough post, I guess :)

Re: Roll Call for Urban Homesteaders

Postby Axel » Sat Mar 26, 2011 9:23 pm

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Location: Hanalei Bay, HI & Fallbrook, CA
Climate Zone: 12b/H2 & 10b/S23
Twan, I think the urban homesteading is more of a state of mind and a hobby. I am certainly not self sufficient, I just like to be more in touch with my food sources.

Last week I had an all week workshop, I didn't see nature all day long because we were in a windowless meeting room, they served pizza, artificially flavored soft drinks, and lots of sweet candy. I can tell you I missed my chickens, fresh eggs and fruit and my garden.

It doesn't really matter how much you grow. Even a little bit of your own food counts every bit. :)
Tropical gardening in both Kaua'i windward Sunset H2/USDA 12b and Fallbrook Sunset 23/USDA 10b.

Re: Roll Call for Urban Homesteaders

Postby John S » Sat Mar 26, 2011 10:43 pm

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Well Axel,
I started growing things like tomatoes and pumpkins, and then I tried fruit trees. I killed some, but then I learned about things like compost tea, compost, mulch, soil drainage, and soil microbiology. Then I learned about grafting and since it has become a sickness that I can't stop.

Like you I'm trying to provide fruit for year round, but it's a goal, not a present reality. It's a little harder up here, because you can hardly harvest fruit in between December and May. I've been grafting storage fruit (mostly apples) and freezing fruit, which is amazingly yummy to thaw out and eat this time of year. I grow mostly leaf vegetables because I'm so focused on the fruit. They seed themselves and keep us healthy. We don't grow grains because they're so cheap and store so well.

I love this site because all the super smart fruit growers can share their experiences. I keep discovering new kinds of fruit, so I graft new kinds and my orchard will never be mature, but then again, at age 47, neither will I :). We're hoping some of the fruit trees mature because in 6 years both of my boys will be teenagers and then will really need the harvest!
John S

Re: Roll Call for Urban Homesteaders

Postby garciap » Sat Mar 26, 2011 11:14 pm

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Joined: Sat Dec 11, 2010 2:16 pm
Location: Inner Sunset, San Francisco
Climate Zone: Sunset zone 17, USDA zone 10
Beekeeping can be another kind of "urban homesteading". It may be coincidence, but I've had bumper crops of apples and plums since putting a hive in the yard. Also, it adds a "country" feel to our tiny SF yard.
hiving bees.jpg
top bar hive
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new combs
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Queen and her daughters
queen[1].jpg (278.86 KiB) Viewed 3310 times

Inner Sunset, San Francisco

Re: Roll Call for Urban Homesteaders

Postby gregnj » Sun Mar 27, 2011 10:34 am

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Joined: Fri Dec 03, 2010 11:08 am
Location: NJ 6b
Climate Zone: 6b
Axel I actually have a lot of interests in common with you. I am a software developer by trade and do a lot of work with website front and backends in my daily job. That being said I can really appreciate the great job you've done with this site. I'm not sure how much of this forum is open source versus organically developed but in either case I know its a great deal of work and I'm very impressed.

As for the ON-topic part...in a perfect world I would love to be able to provide my own food entirely. I love making food from the most basic building blocks. If I can use home grown crops that is ideal, but if not possible I work with organically purchased ingredients. I've dabbled in making my own cheese, yougurt, jams, beer...you name it. Unfortunately I live on a small lot (1/3 acre) and I don't have the advantage of California weather, but in the summertime I still provide a surprisingly good amount of fruits. I've even gone as far as growing my own coffee and pepper indoors in the winter. I find it very rewarding. Also I have come not to trust many of the ingredients commonly put in our foods today. I don't think we know enough about them and their long term effects to be sure they are harmless. Maybe someday I'll be able to move to Hawaii and take my hobby to the extreme. The 'champagne' mangos available here are out of this world so I can only imagine how good they can be in the tropics.

Re: Roll Call for Urban Homesteaders

Postby ellen in berkeley » Sun Mar 27, 2011 11:02 am

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Location: berkeley near downtown
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Count me in. Over time I have done many of these things, though they seem to come and go. I'm definitely urban, living walking distance from downtown Berkeley, one of the more densely populated places in the state. The open part of my lot is about 3500 square feet, pretty big for here.
I've planted fruit and nut trees, bushes and vines at five homes over the years. I'm a haphazard gardener. My outlook is that those plants that belong here will fend for themselves and make it. The trees at the new place are far from bearing, but I'm hopeful if impatient.
I'm beginning to grow vegetables. I have foraged wild food and herbs for several decades, in the wild when I'm living more rurally, in my yard when that's all I have access to. The new yard has mostly poisonous plants, so I'm growing annuals for the first time, as well as some perennial vegetables. (If anyone out there is familiar with eating poke sallet, I'd like to talk to you.) Now in addition to chickweed and dock and such, I'm eating collards and cardoons and endive and pumpkins. Thirty years ago I had a housemate in Seattle who had a forage-based garden and harvested many vegetables that we think of as annuals as perennials, so I began learning some aspects of permaculture from him.
I wild harvest and grow a number of medicinal plants, focusing on the weeds and the natives.
I forage seaweed and mushrooms and have made several attempts to grow mushrooms in my yard. I have only succeeded so far with turkey tails, which are not exactly edible, but make a good addition to soup stock. I think I may have established sulfur shelf in a eucalyptus at my old house, but it hasn't fruited large enough yet to be sure.
I have lived with goats and chickens and hope to do so again. Bees, too, more recently, but they died this winter. Probably just as well, as I didn't want to have to move them to the new house. I used a Langstroth hive. I could never get them to settle in my top bar hive. Now I have a new Warre hive and hope to catch a swarm this spring. If you see a swarm within reach I hope you'll contact me.
Fermentations: I have brewed beer, fruit and berry wine, and mead. These days it's mostly mead, after I harvest my honey. I make sauerkraut and pickle olives and lemons. I have made yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and sourdough. I guess even yeast bread counts as a fermentation.
In addition to pickling, I preserve food and medicine by drying, canning, and tincturing.
I built a pond and used to keep fish until the roots of the oak cracked the pond. I decided I'd rather have the oak than the pond. The fish never got big enough to eat, and I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with harvesting them. Butchering chickens got progressively more distasteful for me, and I only was able to kill a rabbit once.
I think the restoration of my house counts as homesteading, even though most of the work was hired out. So does making clothing. Currently I knit, primarily socks and hats.

Re: Roll Call for Urban Homesteaders

Postby John S » Sun Mar 27, 2011 11:25 am

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Just ask Poke Sallet Annie, a mean vicious straight razor totin' woman. Lord have mercy. Everybody said it was a shame, that her mama was working on a chain gang. Sorry-song from the 60's.

I have heard like you have to cook it or something. There is some weird property about it.

I was right-check out Mother Earth News:
To solve the problem of germinating pokeweed, scientists learned to soak the seed for exactly five minutes in concentrated sulphuric acid (technical grade). 'The seeds are completely submerged in the solution, and at the end of the soaking period they are washed quickly and thoroughly in running water to stop the action and remove all traces of acid. Seed treated in this manner germinates at the rate of 80 to 90 percent in two weeks' time, while untreated seed in a test plot showed only 40 percent germination after six weeks or longer.

Spring crops of poke greens are produced by planting seed about the same time as spinach. Commercial plantings in the south are handled as an established perennial crop like asparagus. Only one cutting of greens is made during the first year in the field. In the second growing season three cuttings are made; in mid-May, early June and late June. Until the plants have heavy root systems and are well established, extensive cutting may easily destroy them. North of the Mason-Dixon Line poke is not reliably perennial and probably should be treated as an annual, making three or more cuttings and then plowing the stubble under for green manure.

Young new growth, up to six inches high, and growing through a light mulch of hay or leaves that blanches the polk foliage to a pale green, offers the most tender and delicate greens. Then the tender stalk up to half an inch in diameter—but still delicate enough to snap at finger touch—can be trimmed and served like asparagus.

Do not be tempted by its delicacy to use poke for salads in a raw form. Uncooked pokeweed can be violently cathartic and cause severe poisoning. Because poke is a tender vegetable it should be cooked quickly in boiling water, lightly salted, and served quickly with drawn butter and a dash of lemon juice. The tender stalks are handled just like asparagus and are especially good served on toast with hollandaise or a mild cheese sauce.
Where pokeweed is a hardy perennial, well-rooted and established plants are amazingly regenerative and persistent. Under such conditions, the plant will produce new growth even under extensive and severe cutting. For fresh winter greens, the heavy root clumps can be lifted and stored in a freeze-proof root cellar where they will send up tender shoots in early spring, very like endive or chicory.

Poke needs only light blanching before packaging and storing in the freezer locker. It may also be canned and preserved like spinach or mustard greens.

Do not use any part of the poke roots or seeds, as they are said to be poisonous. Roots of old plants are coarse and woody and would not be attractive in any case . . . but if you're growing poke as an annual garden green, there is a temptation to pull and use the whole plant, like beet thinnings. It's better to be on the safe side. Cut off and discard the root portions.

Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic- ... z1HpFshsiz

Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic- ... z1HpElTN7P

John S


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