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On the Road to Urban Homesteading

A friend came over in mid July, the same friend who told me “Inspiration Time” to start a business. After visiting for a couple of hours while our girls had a social distance play date, she asked, “Did you know you are an urban homesteader?” I had no idea what that term meant.

As the girls played with the 6 baby chicks under the lemon tree, then went into the vegetable garden to pick tomatoes, Scott was building a ten foot pergola in our backyard dining area, and Hannah was washing basil to make a fresh pesto to accompany our dinner. Our friend smiled and said, you belong in the MidWest. I decided to research what homesteading really consists of.

Nutmeg on the runway at Iler Woods garden

I came across a quote of what a Modern Homesteader stands for:

We are the people who raise chickens in our backyards, we make our own bread, we use a sewing machine, grow our own food, we build fences and fix what’s broken. Modern day pioneers have removed ourselves from the Rat Race. We wear boots and jeans. We love beautifully handmade things, We enjoy good music, good food, good books, and good friends.

I think I am an aspiring Urban homesteader. I love that we raise chickens, that I attempt to use the sewing machine, that we grow our own vegetables, and that Scott is an incredible woodworker and a DIY home renovator in the 21st century. However, just like any adventure or project, the choice to begin the urban homesteading journey has had some bumps in the road.

As you know, we are all beautifully flawed. Our bumps in the road are to help others learn from our mistakes and also know it's okay if things are not perfect.

The painted picture I wrote about in the opening of this post was a beautiful day when the stars were aligned in homesteading land. Mind you, not all of our days go like this.

Chick time with the Iler girls.

Take for instance when we found out Mango, Rebecca’s baby chicken was a rooster instead of a hen. We noticed this chicken kept growing and growing, but we thought she was an exceptionally large lady. However, the tail feathers began to get longer and change colors, the sounds she was making was a bit more odd than the others, and she definitely dominated in the pecking order.

We fell in love with little mango when we incubated her egg and read to her for a month on our kitchen counter in May. The morning Mango crowed for the first time, I was teaching in my shed on zoom. All of a sudden, it sounded like a morning alarm had gone off on a farm. Mango was no longer a hen! She was a rooster and was crowing every five minutes. I had to mute myself because the students couldn’t hear with the noise in the background.

Living in Southern California in a populated area, there are city ordinances against roosters. When we had to give Mango back, it was a hard Urban Homesteading Lesson. We do not live on a farm, we do not have acres of land, we still live in the city. The sounds of sirens, the trash truck going up and down our street on Friday mornings, and the parking tickets are a sobering reminder that city life is all around us.

As the girls said their goodbyes to Mango, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was going to be treated kindly at his relocation.

Another challenge in urban homesteading is growing a sustainable garden in a small space. Hence, we have tried to use every possible space to grow different edible plants and vegetables. For example, on our front porch we have wicker baskets planted with edible herbs to use for cooking and make our own spices. The side yard became our “Iler Orchard.” We had to narrow down which fruit trees would provide the most fruit that we could use the most in our diet. We were fortunate enough to already have a lemon and orange tree.

After a year of living in our home, we realized we wanted an abundance of summer fruit to eat and use for canning. Hence, we planted a nectarine tree, a peach tree, boysenberry vine, blueberry bush, and a gooseberry plant. We also had the back garden to rototill and plant our vegetable garden. I started with a complete blank slate. I planted a salad garden and a salsa garden. Life was great in year one of my gardening expedition.

Iler Woods Garden in full bloom a summer ago

And then. . . . the squirrels moved in! It has been a buffet, a feast, for the entire squirrel family and their friends in my orchard and garden. I have tried netting the fruit trees, sprinkling cayenne pepper on the soil and plant leaves, completely enclosing the rows of vegetables with chicken wire, and the list goes on.

For the life of me, I cannot get the squirrels to stop eating my veggie garden! If I actually lived on a farm, I think I would have more space to not have to worry about these ground squirrels. They live in the Oak tree behind our house and the other squirrel family lives across the street in the big Magnolia tree. I watch them each morning run across our fence posts, the buffet highway, to feed on all of our scrumptious plants, while I am locked in my shed teaching. If anyone has any ideas on how I can get rid of this pesky squirrel, I am open to ideas!

Finally, another trial of urban homesteading is the lack of space to have more farm animals. If we truly were homesteading, we would have enough animals for dairy and eggs. Well, there is no possible way to have cows or goats living in our neighborhood, no matter how creative we are with our backyard space. When the girls were little, we lived in a much larger space where we had the privilege of owning pygmy goats, Molly and Daphne. Hannah would run with the goats and look for eggs in the chicken coop every morning. However, when we moved, we sadly could not take the goats with us. We had to donate them to a farm due to the smaller space we were moving to.

First Day for the Iler Chicks to explore in the orchard!

As one urban homesteader to another, it is impossible to add more land. However, it is possible to think creatively how to utilize the space you have.

The top 3 priorities if you decide to embark on this exciting journey. . . begin to grow your own garden, start your chicken coop (it not only will provide eggs for your family but will fertilize your garden), begin a DIY project at home. One of the main staples in our home is a glue gun, material, and scissors.

What project can you make on your own? There are so many crafts, woodworking DIY videos, and garden ideas that you can make out of scrap wood and some inspiration.

Recycle, reuse, repurpose. . . homesteading is not just farm life it is believing that you can slow down your pace of life, create something of your own, and say goodbye to commercialism. Find your inner homesteading spirit. . . we all have a little piece deep down inside of us.

Iler Woods gets creative with space, time, and the natural environment.

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Kelry Kirschenmann
Kelry Kirschenmann
Jan 19, 2021

You really ARE made to live in the MidWest! Thankyou for inspiring my family to also become a bit less "house" and a lot more "homestead" (LOL squirrels and all!)


Kelry Kirschenmann
Kelry Kirschenmann
Jan 19, 2021

You really ARE made to live in the MidWest! Thankyou for inspiring my family to also become a bit less "house" and a lot more "homestead" (LOL squirrels and all!)

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