Homesteading In The City: Skills I’m Learning Now

“The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.” – Abraham Lincoln

 Until I have land somewhere, I’m homesteading in the city.  It’s completely possible.  You may think you need a large property but aside from raising animals or being self sufficient by growing your food, there are many skills that we can learn; skills we’ve lost in our modern lives.  With the convenience of walking into a shop and finding whatever I’m looking for I feel like my purpose (for us introverts who feel we were born in the wrong era) has been stolen in a way; this is why I’m taking back the Olde ways and am teaching myself these Homesteading skills that I can use in my city home…until I find my land. 

 Bread Making

Understanding how to make a good loaf of bread is an important skill whether you live in a rural area where a bakery may be far away or if you’re in the city wanting to save money.  My goal here will be to create a Sourdough Starter that I can use for years to come.  Sourdough is especially good because it is fermented yeast which is easier for the body to digest.  Most breads from the grocery store have added sugar; Sourdough is simple: flour and water.  Sourdough starter can be used for other recipes like bagels, noodles, pierogi dough, even waffles.  I’ve heard of people having a starter their grandmothers made almost 100 years ago so it really is a great staple for homesteading. Wish me luck.

Different Types of Canning: Pressure Cooker, Water Bath and Dry Canning

Last year I got into water bath canning and was able to make and preserve cherry pie filling, cherry and black berry jam (with wild black berries we picked 1 block away from home). I also canned Homemade Pickles and fermented Garlic honey.  This year I want to understand the process of pressure canning which is used for meats and vegetables. I recently learned about dry canning as well. Dry canning is used to preserve foods like nuts that contain oils that go rancid as well as rice, dried beans, even herbs and spices that you want to preserve for many years. I’m currently working on a 3 month emergency supply of food for my pantry and canning will be a large part of that project. I’m looking forward to it. 

 Gardening: Understanding How to Grow and Harvest Food

This year I registered for a community garden plot but wasn’t able to get one.  Apparently they’re quite hard to come by in the city so aside from the culinary herbs I grow every year on my balcony, I’m not letting space be the reason I don’t grow food.  I’m thinking of choosing 2-3 foods I can grow in limited space and learn to grow and harvest them well.  With the mild weather here on the coast I can have a balcony garden all year rotating with summer and winter vegetables. 

 Learn To Make Compost and How To Use It

Compost is such an important part of creating a healthy soil for growing food.  Herbs are quite happy in sandy, dry soil, some even thrive on neglect but the nutrients needed to grow healthy tomatoes or strawberries can make or break your harvest.  A good compost made with food scraps nourishes the soil and makes weeds less likely to grow.  It also helps cut down on the amount of waterering needed.  Some things to add to compost are: Apples, Banana peels, grapes, pears, eggshells, coffee grains.   Compost can be made in as little as 6-8 weeks but really good compost can take up to a year.  Whether I actually make compost for my little patio garden remains to be seen. Regardless I will learn as much as I can on how to make and use it. 

 Candle Making and Creating Lighting For Off-Grid

I lived on a farm years ago and every time a storm would come in, I’d be left without power for most of the evening.  Having natural sources of light aside from sunlight is important.  Believe me, sitting in a dark house for hours is not fun.  I love making hand-rolled beeswax candles; they’re natural, they cleanse the air and the sweet smell is organic and comforting.  I want to try making other sources of light; There are a variety of natural oil lamps I’ve seen online and I’d like to try them to see how efficient they are.

Learn To Cook Without Electricity

In the Summer months we like to wilderness camp. We always take our propane stove and although I have made a few meals over an open fire I’d like to widen the range of recipes I can cook.  Open fire isn’t like a stove as you can’t regulate the heat, it’s just always hot!  I’ve managed to do chicken and steaks (otherwise known as BBQ lol!) but I’ve seen recipes for pizza, cinnamon rolls and bread cooked over the fire or hot coals.  I’ll have to plan some camping trips for this one.  It’s a good skill to have in a case where there was no electricity for an extended period of time. 

 Learn to Cook With And Care For Cast Iron Skillet

Cast iron skillets will literally last you forever which is why I’d like to learn to cook with one and care for it (cleaning and preserving).  We use a cast iron pot when camping, mostly for boiling water or heating soups as it’s best suited for open fire cooking.  They are not cheap but worth every penny given how long they last.  How many non-stick pans have you bought?  I’d say in my adult life at least 3.  Cast iron is great for keeping food warm as it holds warmth for long periods of time and the more you use them the better they perform.  

Start A Seed Bank

Storing seeds is something I just started this year.  I recently read that in under 60 years, North America will no longer have top soil.  The world needs top soil in order to grow 95% of our food.  Without trying to sound like a Dooms Day Prepper, I do believe that we should be moving our attention as individuals to growing as much of our food as we can.  Having a seed library has many benefits. One is saving seeds from foods we’ve had experience growing; foods we know were hardy and healthy.  Seeds are a great bartering tool as well and can benefit an entire community if you have strains that grow well in your climate and can be shared with neighbours.  You can buy heirloom and organic seeds online, which I have in my library but I am going to also try to see if I can harvest seeds from any food I grow this year. 

Learn to Catch, Clean and Cook Fish

My husband was quite happy when I asked him for help with this one. He’s been fishing the rivers from the Kettle River to the Pacific Ocean here in BC since childhood.  We’ve gone fishing together on a few occasion and I have caught a couple of fish. I’m pretty confident that in a pinch, I could catch a fish and most definitely cook it.  What I want to learn is how to tie and bait a hook and how to clean a fish as I usually leave the dirty work to him. 

 Learn First Aid

St. John’s Ambulance teaches a couple of levels of First Aid and CPR.  This is a very important skill no matter where you live, especially because we like to spend days in the wild camping or hiking in the forest.  My sister did her first aid course and was able to assist a man who fainted on a flight years ago.   Accidents happen and knowing how to properly address a situation is something on my list of skills to learn this year. 

Learn to Purify Water

We’re lucky to just turn on a tap and be able to drink city water without much thought. I do have water purification tablets and water filter straws in our “bug out” bag but in a situation where we don’t have these things on hand. knowing how to purify water can be a matter of life or death considering we can only survive up to 3 days without water.

How to Make Cheese, Kefir and Butter

These are things that will always be healthier (and tastier) when made at home. Goats cheese and fresh mozzarella. Kefir (I drink it everyday) and butter. I like the idea of knowing how to make them at home as most don’t need more than 2 ingredients yet if you read grocery store labels you’ll find a long list of unnecessary fillers that are bad to consume in the long run. I want to start with goats cheese and maybe even take a mozzarella course at the Italian Cultural Centre. Butter is very easy I’ve just never made it and Kefir…well, I’ll figure it out.

Cooking From Scratch

Technically cooking from scratch mean you don’t use any pre-made ingredients and cook only with fresh vegetables, meats, all chopped by hand. Although I cook predominantly from scratch, there are things I make with the help of recipes especially because I’m not that adept at baking. I want to learn to make some basics by heart: Different types of doughs for pie shells, puff pastry, bread, cake and cookies. I’m comfortable with making pasta from scratch and pie fillings, jams, bone broths and veggie stock. I plan to widen my cooking from scratch horizon.

I think this list will keep by occupied for a while. Are there any skills I’ve missed? (I mean aside from car mechanics, making my own clothes and hunting which I will never do). What skills do you think people should know that have been lost?

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