"Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living" ($16.95 in paperback from Skyhorse Publishing; digital editions for Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, and from Google ebookstore) is a spirited manifesto by Rachel Kaplan with K. Ruby Blume. In 2008 Blume founded the Institute for Urban Homesteading in Oakland; Kaplan "works as a somatic psychotherapist and teaches homesteading skills."
Together, they write, "our work reflects a commitment toward a regenerative, living culture, rather than the consumptive consumerism our country has refined to a sick art. We opt out by digging in."
Kaplan will be speaking at Lyon Books in Chico this Thursday, Oct. 13 at 7:00 p.m.
Chapters in the profusely-illustrated book cover such practical matters as creating community gardens, making cheese, butchering chickens, using a composting toilet, growing herbal medicines and building structures with cob ("just soil dug from the backyard and mixed with water, sand, clay and straw"). This is radical stuff: "The front lawn must go the way of the dodo. No longer will we spend our time in submission to the manicured lawn, wasting water and energy. Our rallying cry is: Turn Your Lawn into Your Lunch! Sheet mulching reclaims the lawn with an organic 'lasagna' of cardboard, compost, and mulch."
The goal is "permaculture," not a back-to-the-land movement or a self-sufficiency movement. It's about permanent culture, which means creating community sufficiency and resilience through collaboration." It involves neighborhoods, not just households.
This is not a call to sacrifice. "We love our lives as homesteaders," the authors write. "Don't confuse this lifestyle with a fear-driven mentality of scarcity and lack. This kind of living is about the richness of the present moment and the joy in living a simpler, uncluttered life."
"And so we find ourselves in our backyards fighting gophers, pulling carrots, harvesting rabbits and eggs, tending bees, and gathering raspberries, grapes, broccoli, and kale. We save our seeds. We pee in a bucket and dump it on the compost bin. We harvest our rainwater and drain our bathtubs into the garden. On hot summer afternoons you'll find us preserving jars of peaches, plums, and nectarines that have fallen from the trees. We bring people together to learn how to can, make yogurt, hold a meeting, or turn a lawn into a garden."