November 11, 2013
By: Jan Hoadley
There are many things you can do even on a small piece of land. Here’s a few ideas to get you started!
1 – Plant a pair of trees. Are you looking for something for that shady area? Would you like to have a couple trees to break up the yard. Instead of planting purely decorative ones choose those with multiple purposes. Fruit or nut trees offer shade as well as food and some varieties take just a few years to begin producing. Depending on the space you have available there’s both dwarf and standard trees that can work for you.
2 – Use edible landscaping. Is there a bare spot on the corner of the deck? Are you looking to dress up the patio with more green? Use containers to grow a wide variety of herbs and vegetables – you can be eating fresh tomatoes, peppers, mint and many other things which grow fine with just a little TLC. None of these take a great deal of room. For moderate climates you might even consider large containers with lemon, lime or banana trees in them. Plants offer greenery as well as food. If you check into planting tactics like companion planting, square foot gardening and others you will be surprised on how much you can grow in a small area.
3 – Buy direct from a farmer. You might not have room for a beef steer out back or a pair of pigs – but you can do the next best thing. Find someone who does have and buy or barter a half or whole beef, pig, lamb or other meat animal. Find creative ways to prepare cuts you may not ordinarily get in the grocery store. You’ll need to invest in a good freezer – but in the long run can not only save money but also adjust to what “real food” tastes like as some say.
4 – Put up a rabbit hutch in back. This takes minimal room but can produce meat for the table. Two does with good management can produce 6-10 bunnies every other month. Figuring the minimum – raising six – means 60 fryer sized bunnies per year – roughly 300 pounds of meat from an area smaller than most garden sheds. This does take some effort and an investment – a few good hutches, feed, and a willingness to spend a few minutes per day watering and feeding them.
5 – If you have room and regulations don’t forbid it, get a half dozen hens in a portable pen. You can move this on a daily basis to keep them on fresh ground (and fertilize the areas they’ve been). These can – at maturity and with good care – produce a half dozen eggs per day for eating or baking. A few minutes per day to feed and water and move the portable pen is needed. They’ll eat bugs and other things in the area they’re in. You do not need a rooster in order to have eggs for the kitchen.
6 – Learn new ways to reduce reliance on prepackaged expensive meals. For example – the slow cooker crockpot meals you have to put in the crockpot and cook. If you’re willing to peel the vegetables and cut them yourself you can do the same thing at a fraction of the cost – and it still needs to be thoroughly cooked in the crockpot. Homesteading is a state of mind in many ways. Find creative ways to use leftovers too. That left over spaghetti sauce might be just a cup but could add flavor to an egg dish in the morning or as a snack after work or school. Shop at farmers markets and buy direct from the farmer wherever possible.
7 – Learn one new skill per month. This sounds intimidating but it isn’t – it’s taking small steps towards your goal. Look realistically at what you’d like to do long term. If you’ve always wanted to learn to crochet, or sew or do some other skill, do it! Learn to spin wool and make it into useful things for the home. Mohair on the buyer’s side is very expensive – but is easy to raise it with a few angora goats that take up little room. Learn to design, learn home maintenance skills, learn to do things yourself. Change the oil on your car, learn simple things that can be done with a few tools and a little time.
8 – Start a compost bin – this need not be expensive or difficult and makes excellent use of “waste” that otherwise goes to landfills. People spend to haul off “yard waste”, vegetable peelings, grass from the lawn, fall leaves, coffee grounds, egg shells and other kitchen waste. Then they turn around and buy compost and potting soil when it comes time to start another container. Stop! Make a compost pile. Add some leaves, some green, some kitchen waste…turn occasionally. If you don’t have pallets or wire to make a pile – or neighbors might complain – be inventive! Get some old metal garbage cans. It doesn’t matter if they leak. Give them a fresh pretty coat of paint after punching a few holes in them. These aren’t unsightly and with securing them properly they can set in back of the garage or outside the back door.
9 – Trap rainwater. Go over and repair (or install!) drain pipes to filter rain water from the roof into a gutter, to the end of the house and down into a barrel of some sort. Depending on a typical rain area a bucket might do or you might want to opt for a steel water tank, available at farm stores. If you use an open tank, secure a cover on it and place a few of your containers of herbs on it to hold it down. This captured rainwater is great for watering plants, watering pets and – in an emergency crisis if kept clean – for drinking. Try to capture as much as you can use. It’s less treated water you have to buy and watch plants on natural water!
10 – Create a wildlife habitat in your back yard. This can be surprisingly inexpensive. Research and provide shelter, food and an appropriate water source for a particular kind of animal…if they’re in the area they will find it! You might attract songbirds, or butterflies, or any number of other wild animals to your back yard. There isn’t a great deal of expense to this, and it’s not something that takes a great deal of time to maintain. A fountain or other asset can be a source of enjoyment and a peaceful place to sit and watch the small birds and animals around you, even in an urban environment.
It doesn’t take 20 acres to do these things. Most can be done with minimal effort and offer long term benefits. Start today!