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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Urban Homestead: Your Guide To Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City

'Nuther library copy

Today I finished reading The Urban Homestead: Your Guide To Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City, by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen.  In a nutshell, if you live in the country, then a lot of this book isn't for you, because, let's face it; you can do whatever the hell you want. However, if  you don't live in the country, then this book is much more useful.  I live kind of in between, in what you'd call a 'bedroom community', so this book definitely applies to me.  I'm not sure that it covers everything you could be doing, but then, I don't think any book really does.  For instance, they don't mention anything about aquaculture, which is covered in Toolbox for Sustainable City Living, by Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew (South End Press, (ISBN 978-0-89608-780-4). They do, however, cover urban foraging, which the Toolbox doesn't. Urban Homestead covers transportation, while Toolbox covers bio-remediation.  I think for good coverage of all the subjects you might need in the city, having both books (and expecting some overlap) would be a good start.

It's interesting that Urban Homestead covers a lot of subjects, but some things are in more detail than others. There is good information on keeping chickens, but not as much as if you got yourself a copy of the bible, which is Storey's Guide to Keeping Chickens, by Gail Damerow.  I call it the bible, because it's the book to which all the other chicken book writers refer. The Urban Homesteader has enough to get you started though, and certainly interested. There's not so much information on rabbits.  They make a good argument for raising pigeons for food, which would probably be one of the easiest food sources to hide in plain sight in the city; lots of people keep pigeons.  There are a lot of do-it-yourself projects covered; there's a really good chance that we'll use their five gallon Self-Watered Containers for our hops when we move them, and the book has detailed instructions for making them, including pictures. There is a mere mention of beer making, but in depth information, including recipes, on making and using sourdough.

One great area that I think is useful for everyone are the chapters on home cleaning in the Revolutionary Home Economics section.  I found out there that you should never use vinegar-based cleaner on stone.  Guess with what I've been cleaning my granite countertops all this time?  And I've noticed that they're not as shiny as before. Nuts. But now I know, and I've quit doing it.  There are also good ways for cleaning just about everything you need to with just a few things from the grocery store.  Their big three are: vinegar, baking soda, and liquid castile soap.  I ran out and bought myself a big bottle of Dr. Bronner's liquid castile soap, and now I'm just figuring out how to juggle what I have left of the sprays I use so that I can mix up a couple of spray cleaners (one with vinegar, one without!) so that I don't have to buy another spray bottle.

So long story short, this book has a lot of good information, but doesn't cover absolutely everything in depth.  There's also a dearth of pictures and diagrams, which I always find useful.  I just like pictures; they help me see the subject matter.  But they do bring up a lot of ideas, and have references for getting more information if you want to follow up on something.  I found some useful information I can use immediately, and ran across other ideas that I want to pursue as well.   I still think it a useful read for people who are interested in this kind of thing.

It's making me think about a lot of different things, which is what I think their intention was.  In that regard, their book really works.


Rae said...

Yes. Yes I can do whatever the hell I want out here. Lol!

Bronner's is awesome. I love the peppermint liquid soap. Heck of a zinger for waking up in the morning. Clears your sinuses too! :) Good stuff.

Farmgirl_dk: said...

I got this book from the library a few days ago, but I haven't started it yet. I have read a number of recommendations on it and wanted to "preview" it before adding it to my library.

I was also interested in reading it because of the current controversy over the trademark of the term "urban homestead" by the Dervaes family. Lots of strange stuff going on right now as many people try to return to growing their own food.

Paula said...

I got the eucalyptus version this time because I want it mostly for cleaning and I thought it would smell nice. It might make me homesick for California- we had Silver Dollar eucalyptus in the backyard (actually, they're still there). I might try it in the shower but the last time I had the peppermint Bronner's in the shower I met with an unfortunate and unforgettable accident that I don't want to repeat. Talk about your zinger.

Paula said...

I think previewing anything before adding it permanently to your library is a great idea. I have a few in mine that I wish I'd done just that before buying (The Prairie Girl's Guide To Life, comes to mind- what a disappointment that was).

The trademarking issue is certainly an interesting one, and the lawyers at the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) have taken up the cause, about which I'm really glad. So glad, in fact, that I'm going to make a donation. I think that if they win, and I sincerely hope they do, it will set a precedent that safeguards our language and changes how trademarking gets allowed going forward.

Toni aka irishlas said...

I'm loving your book reviews!

Even though I'm not urban, I think books like this are useful even if your suburban or rural. Good ideas are good ideas no matter where you live!

Christian said...

Thanks for the reading suggestion. I'm interested in the part about pigeons. On a somewhat related note, there's a series starting Sunday on Animal Planet about Mike Tyson. I didn't know that he was an avid keeper of pigeons. In an interview he said the first fight he was ever in was because an older boy killed one of his birds when he was very young.

Hmmm...I seem to have rambled.

Take care,

Paula said...

Toni- you are right of course; good ideas are god ideas. It's just that city dwellers are more constrained than country dwellers, and the book i geared toward those constraints. I think it (the book) does have a very broad appeal, however.

I didn't know that about Mike Tyson, either, Christian! And rambling is quite alright, in my book.