Saturday, March 5, 2011

The water, the water, the water...

There are many reasons why I would like to create an urban homestead and I will talk about those in a minute, but for those of you who don't know exactly what the term "urban homestead" means, it refers to the conversion of a normal home into just the opposite.  It is a movement started by the Dervais family in Pasadena California.  During a time when America seems to have lost its roots (living off the land) in the name of technology advancements, this family has become almost entirely self sufficient and they even bring in an income from selling produce grown on only 1/10 of an acre of land!!  Their lot is only 1/5 of an acre.   You should really check out their site if you have in interest in this kind of thing...  What they have accomplished is truly amazing.  So many people have been inspired by them, that a wave of urban farming has been set afoot.
 Urban Homestead
So, if this family can do what they have done with the little that they have, how much more can I do with what my family has?  We live on a 1/2 acre lot and my wife and I both have pretty good jobs.  Granted, our mortgage payments are more than what the Dervais family spends in an entire year, maybe we can save enough money (and even make money) piggy backing on their model.  The downside of starting something like this is that I have little time and our cash flow is limited.  I have a job that requires busy 5-day weeks and I am currently working with 3 other guys to launch a (brilliant) website, (as of this posting date, the link is not live, but please try back and check it out).  Christy, my wife, works 3 days a week, but then works on most weekends.  Also, Christy and I, along with my kids, 13,10 and 7, eat like healthy horses.   What's more, we have 3 dogs, 2 cats, a guinea pig and 2 Beta fish.  None of these animals lay eggs and we would prefer not to breed them for food.  I did notice that the Dervais family uses their rabbits to eat leftovers and to create good soil for their plants.

There are a few other reasons why Homesteading is important to me and I think it is worth mentioning on this blog.  I work in the stock market and what I see transpiring appears to be an eminent collapse in the dollar.  For most people, the significance of this doesn't make sense, but what does make sense are $25 hamburgers at McDonalds an $20 loaves of bread.  My friends tell me this will never happen, but what I know that they don't is that Brazil and Russia have both eliminated the dollar from their trade with China in the last year and a half.  That sent $100 billion in unwanted dollars back here (which partially explains a strong stock market).  That's BAD.  If other countries follow suit, as I think they will, then the dollar will continually lose its buying power and the stage will be set for a severe devaluation.  Okay, that's my economic rant.  Suffice it to say that I don't want to spend all my hard earned savings on FOOD!!  If we (and you) are prepared with homesteads, a downturn might actually work in our favor. I am going to give you a visual of my starting point; my home/property.  Here are a few pics:

Our home, in my opinion is quaint and friendly.  The yard isn't bad, but I think we can improve on the front shrubs and maybe landscape with edible plants on islands that we create.  My challenge will be learning what I can plant in the shade and elsewhere.

 The backyard (excuse the off-season green color of the pool..ughhh) needs a little work.  A warn out deck, cracked concrete along the pool, some drainage problems and a broken jacuzzi are just a few of the many projects I could claim.  So, for now, I just have to prioritize a new punch list for my "new urban homestead project". 

One of the biggest reasons we bought out house was because of the backyard.  It is one of the only flat lots in our entire neighborhood!  Plus, we have a lot of room, including a pool (which takes out a fairly substantial portion of the 1/2 acre).  Most of the 6 hour sun comes in on the right hand side of the yard, but we can always take out limbs and trees to get more.  Another challenge is going to be how do we keep the dogs from running through the garden areas.  I might have to make almost every garden growing area a raised bed, which should also help keep out the grass clippings from the lawn mower.   

There are a few planting areas in the backyard, but up until now in previous years, we have only planted cucumbers, some beets, some beans (both of which we neglected) and some corn.  Otherwise, we have planted a number of flowering plants.  There are traces of wild muscadine and blackberries, but we have capitalized very effectively on these.  I will probably start my project from the right rear of the property and move towards the house.  It will require some planning, but I will press on. 

Even though, I was clearing out an area in the back, this Saturday morning we woke up to a rainy day, so I began looking for another piece of this puzzle to explore and what I found was that the biggest priority for food growth as we near Spring and Summer is WATER.  Urban homesteaders make no bones about it.  You have to come up with some sort of plan to give plants a constant watering.  It's almost like having house pets.  Every morning and every night (usually).  So, even though this is an introductory post, my first order of business was checking out Rain Barrels at Home Depot.  I found a link on one website before I left which said the best way to figure out what an inch of rainfall on your roof would yield is by calculating the following formula:

Length of house (about 60 feet in my case) times the width (33 feet) times 0.6 = Water Yield (roughtly 1,200 gallons for me). 

Trying to collect and save that rainwater, for me would mean having 24 rain barrels.  Ummmm.....NO.   Okay, so maybe I just start off with one and see how well I keep up with it....A nice on at Home Depot cannot be had for less than $120, so I came back home to see if there were any other alternatives;  maybe make my own or use something I already have... Then there's Craigslist.  We'll see.  Check back later...

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