Homesteading: Urban Backyard Farming November 2013

Everyday the papers are full of stories about the ailing economy, the nation being at the verge of bankruptcy, political party stand-offs, unemployment rising, those who still have a job working longer hours, the cost of living going up, people losing their homes, and the unequal distribution of wealth. It’s confusing and unnerving. The worst of all is this feeling of having no control over what’s happening to us. It is well known that feeling out of control is a tremendous source of stress.

As does probably everyone else, I follow these stories and try hard to figure out what I can do to gain more control over my life. In fact, I researched this topic and noticed something interesting happening: More and more people, even urbanites, answer these negative political and economic developments with a desire to take charge, to simplify, keep their wallets closed and learn to live with less, and to make or grow themselves what they need. It’s like a grassroots movement.

The bookstores are full of books on homesteading (the hyperlink is just a demonstration; I am not trying to advertise for Amazon). They are telling us how to grow food in the small spaces of our urban backyards; even how to start a beehive and raise livestock, such as chickens and mini goats for eggs and milk. Not only do these books teach us how to process our harvest into jellies, jams, dried herbs and spices, and great recipes, but they also show us how to make just about anything else ourselves, including soap, candles, homemade gifts for the holidays, just to name a few.

In addition to the books, there are also lots of websites full of know-how, advice, and other resources for the homesteader. Just google ‘homesteading’ and you will see. Of course, I should mention here that we don’t have to look far, because there are plenty bloggers among us right here on WordPress who already have some experience in the area of homesteading and who are regularly sharing what they have learned and what they are doing right now. We can orient ourselves by their examples.

I admit, I got so inspired that I bought a few homesteading books myself:

Little House in the Suburbs. Backyard farming and home skills for self-sufficient living. Deanna Caswell and Daisy Siskin.

The Backyard Homestead. Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre! Edited by Carleen Madigan.

Country Wisdom and Know-How. Everything you need to know to live off the land. From the editors of Storey Books.

The idea of acquiring the skills to make just about anything that I need for myself and to grow my own food feels liberating. If I can sew, knit, crochet, carve, print, woodwork, make soaps, dip candles, make my own ceramics, and grow my own food, then I can be self-sufficient. I get better quality for less. I also get the unique, custom and hand-made things that I really want. It definitely makes me more independent and puts me in better control of my life.

Our excitement, combined with the still fairly mild weather in coastal South Carolina, pushed me and the hubs to get started with this experiment right away. We already have some herbs in our backyard, but we also planted redleaf lettuce, green lettuce, and spinach two weeks ago. I will provide a little photo gallery below showing those young seedlings already coming out of the ground and warming my heart with contentment. If everything goes well, we should have a late harvest in the middle of December.

Photographic Journal: A Trip to the Village Knitting Store


I have always felt drawn to knitting stores. Maybe it is because my Chinese zodiac sign is the sheep/goat. Or maybe it is because there is something basic, earthy, and comforting about sheep wool yarn. No matter if it was washed and dyed, sheep wool still has that smell and feel of its protective lanolin.  Good thing, because otherwise the yarn would not slide so smoothly through a knitter’s hands.

Some years ago, I took a trip to the sheep wool processing plant in Jamestown, SC with the Charleston Spinners’ Guild. Here large, heavy, dirty bales of wool arrive from far away places, such as Australia and New Zealand. Then the wool is washed at high temperatures, carded, and wound onto spools in pencil rovings to prepare it for dyeing and spinning.  At this point it is still in its natural beige color.

Visitors to the Jamestown wool processing plant can buy wool spools on site and take them home for their personal use.  These spools of clean wool are an enthusiastic spinner’s delight. Now the fun begins! Spinners can hand-dye natural wool with various plant and insect materials as well as metal additives to obtain the colors that they love.

But whether we spin and dye wool ourselves or buy yarn at a knitting store, there is nothing more comforting than a hand knitted, crocheted, or woven natural woolen item for every day wear or use.

Recently, I combined my love for photography and sheep wool yarn and visited The Village Knittery in Summerville, SC.  It is a beautiful knitting store. I asked the owners if I may take some photos in the store, and they graciously gave me permission to photograph anything I wanted. So here, in response to wildsherkin‘s blog entry, A Trip to Dublin two days ago, I’d like to take you for a stroll through our local knitting store to let you experience yourself visually the cozy feel, brilliant colors, and gorgeous, hand-knitted items that I found there.