Not everyone who wants to homestead can start out on a homestead. Some may start out in a friend or family members driveway living in an RV, others may start out in an apartment or small house.
Regardless of where you start out, you can still find ways to homestead in the burbs while you’re saving your hard earned money for that prize piece of property.
If you, like many of us, are longing for a simple lifestyle and stuck living in the burbs for now, you can still find many great ways to suburban homestead right where you’re at. Not all of these suggestions and ideas will work for everyone.
A lot of the things that you can do will be dependent on zoning laws and regulations for the particular burb that you’re living in. Even if you’re renting for now, you can still find ways to homestead in the burbs.
Homesteading is a lifestyle, so instead of focusing on what you don’t have (an actual homestead) why not focus on ways that you can learn the homesteading lifestyle right where you’re at?
You’ll be amazed at how many great ways there are to homestead and enjoy the homesteading lifestyle right where you’re at.
As an added bonus, when you do finally get your own homestead, you’re going to have some serious experience under your belt and be able to soar higher than your expectations. Set your theme for the burb homesteading as “Dream Big” and embark on this adventure. Here is how you too can homestead even if you live in the burbs.
Table of Contents:
Be Bold. Set Goals
Set your goals appropriately. Do you want to be self-sufficient? Do you want fifty-percent self-sufficiency or do you want to go all in? How long do you plan to live in the burbs before you purchase your homestead? A year, two years? Whatever your goal, write it down on paper. Frame it, mark off the days on a calender.
When you can see your goal and work toward it you’ll be far more likely to reach it. Not everyone will go on to move to a homestead. Some people may opt to remain in the burbs for health reasons (closer to medical facilities) or educational purposes (closer to a great school district).
For us, the goal is to buy our own homestead in next 1 to 2 years. So we’ve designed a plan to do just that.
Meanwhile, we’re homesteading right where we’re at. It’s possible and doable as long as you set out with the right mindset. Remain positive and do what you can. Start slowly and work your way up.
You need to remember that you can only do so much and most likely you have a part or full time job so you’ll have to keep that in mind and not overdo it.
You may be stuck in the burbs, but don’t let that stop you from visualizing your dream. Picture your ideal homestead in your mind and make your current situation work for you. Design your day around a homestead lifestyle. Get up early and tend the animals. Water the garden and pick the fruit and veggies that are ready all before you leave for work.
When you arrive home, check on everything and work it just as you would your homestead. Remember, a homestead is all about living a simple lifestyle so make your day as simple as you can.
Use your crockpot and have dinner simmering at the ready while you whip up some homemade biscuits to go with it. The more you design your day around homestead life, the better you’re going to feel as you homestead in the burbs.
You may wish to hang pictures of homesteads that you’ve seen and like. You may wish to forgo a lot of modern conveniences in preparation of your homestead. Whatever you choose to do, make it fun and happy and set your sights on your goal.
There are many elements that make a homestead a homestead. This list should give you some ideas and you can focus on what would mean the most to you in your particular situation. This list will vary from one family to another so pick and choose what you feel is important in your particular situation and go from there.
- Clothesline (make sure it gets enough sun to dry laundry)
- Clothes pins (plastic, wood, old fashioned)
- Wind chimes
- Compost bin
- Raised garden beds (make sure it gets enough sun to help plants grow)
- Garlic plot
- Fruit trees
- Berry patch
- Water fountain or pond area (you can do a lot with a child’s swimming pool and some plants)
You may wish to start small and work your way up with such elements but they will certainly help you to feel as if you’re already on a homestead once you get them set up.
If you’re in the burbs, you have neighbors. Keep this in mind and remember to be respectful at all times.
If you have animals on your modified homestead, be sure that they are properly contained and quiet so that your neighbors aren’t complaining. If you have a rental agreement, make sure that the particular animals that you have are allowed.
For rentals that allow animals you may be stuck with rabbits, fish (ideal to use their water to water the plants), and maybe a chinchilla. Unless your landlord is quite lenient, you likely won’t be allowed to have chickens even if they are allowed in your particular burb location.
Many burb locations will allow up to five hens but never a rooster. Be sure to read and find out what the burb ordinances are for your location before you embark on any things like chickens.
If you own the piece of property and plan a construction project keep in mind that sound carries. Your neighbors may not fully appreciate that a construction crew is on the job at 6:00 am on a Saturday.
Try to aim for 8:00 am as a start time and make sure that construction will stop by 7:00 or 8:00 pm. So that your neighbors have some peace as well.
Go Ahead and Garden
So gardening in the burbs may present many challenges. It will all be dependent on whether you’re in an apartment or a house. If you’re in an apartment, you may have to go with some planter boxes on a deck or porch area.
If you don’t have either of those, you’ll need a sunny window and some planters for your garden goods. You can also plant some dwarf fruit trees in large planters in your apartment.
In a house situation, you can grow any of the following quite successfully. If you’re renting the property you may have to ask your landlord if you can have a garden area and if so you may be stuck with where they want it to be located.
Don’t fret even if they won’t allow a garden area, you can still use large containers or find a sunny window or porch in which you can garden. Think outside the box and you’ll find that you have many great options.
- Plant some garlic in the fall. It will be ready next fall so you just plant it and forget it for now.
- Choose three to five other vegetables that you feel you can easily grow. Remember, start small.
- Plant some dwarf fruit trees if your landlord will allow it.
Go Ahead and Forage
Even if you’re residing in the burbs, you can still learn to forage. Take some trips out into the woods and do some foraging. You’ll be amazed at the foods that you can forage and add to your pantry.
I know one man that used to take a quiet stroll through an old cemetery. One day, he noticed asparagus growing on the perimeter of the cemetery.
He picked asparagus for weeks and no one else ever showed up and picked it. He took it home, cleaned it, blanched it, and he froze it. He also made some pickled asparagus. He had asparagus for an entire year. It pays to do some foraging.
You can also forage for berries. There are some locations not far from many burbs where elderberries grow, wild strawberries or raspberries and even thimble berries or blackberries.
Get out and take a walk through the burbs that you live in and see what might be near the parks, woods, or other areas of the burbs. It’s amazing how much food is out there that no one bothers to pick.
Many parks have old apple trees in them and few bother to pick any of them. Check with your local city offices and find out if it’s okay to pick them.
Adding foraged food to your food supply is a great way to improve on your self-sufficiency and focus on being prepared for emergencies and living the homesteading lifestyle.
It only takes one or two good finds of foraged food to make a difference in your pantry. It will also get you out of your house or apartment and be some great exercise for you.
Share With Others
One of the best ways to get along with the neighbors is to share a bit. Consider taking over a few extra tomatoes or a squash or even some of the cucumbers.
It’s amazing what a few fresh eggs will do for the next door neighbor. It may also help them to be more agreeable if you have an animal get loose or if your vine plants accidentally wander over to their side of the fence.
If you do own the property and plan a construction project such as a small shed or garage, go over a few days before the project starts, take them some goodies and give them fair warning.
Who knows, they may show up with hammer in hand to help or they may offer to make dinner that night for you.
Learn to Make Things Yourself
While you’re on your adventure of homesteading in the burbs, learn to make as much of your foods, soap, candles, and clothing yourself. If you’re not into this, that’s okay, but remember, you’re training for a homestead. Consider your time in the burbs as your training station.
The more you can learn to make yourself, the more self-sufficient you’re going to be on your homestead. Again, start small. Start by baking things from scratch once a week and work your way up.
Learn to make a few skirts or shirts and don’t rush. Just a few things will give you some experience and boost your morale. Consider taking up a hobby like woodworking, crocheting, or knitting. Learn about different herbs and foods that also double as medicinal.
Many areas don’t allow you to collect rainwater. There are various regulations. Check with your local burb for the ordinances in your area. If you can collect rainwater, get a container or two out in a good area of where you’re at and wait for the rains.
Even in an apartment, if it’s legal, you can at least stand a bucket out on a deck or porch area and collect some rainwater. Use this water for your plants (don’t drink it, you don’t know what chemicals may be on the roof it drained off of or in the atmosphere that it went through).
Some burbs have rainwater collection barrels that they give to homeowners and renters. It all depends on where you live.
You may also wish to collect “gray water”. This is the water that runs out of the washer and dishwasher, down the shower or tub drain etc. Some people also save this for watering purposes.
By the time it’s “gray water” the soaps and such are so diluted that they won’t negatively affect plants. Be creative and remember, you’re in training for a homestead lifestyle.
Remember, This Is Not Permanent
Take heart, you’re only in the burbs temporarily, it’s not permanent. Keep this in mind as you focus on ways to become more self-sufficient. Again, consider this your training ground for homesteading. You’ll be amazed at how you can “train” and learn how to homestead.
Think outside the box and focus on such things as edible landscaping so that you’re not having a huge garden if it’s not allowed. Consider planters and temporary structures so that you’re not having to leave your hard work behind when you do finally buy your homestead.
Focus on ways to be less dependent on the lifestyle of the burbs. Live your own dreams, not someone else’s. Even if the grocery store is within walking distance, consider how you can avoid going there so often.
Set a goal to only go twice a month or once a month. The more you focus on homesteading the more prepared you’re going to be when you finally have your homestead.
Consider a day without electricity. Not only will you save money, you will also find other things to do that don’t require television, electronics, and the like. Plan to barbecue that night, and focus on other tasks that need to be done. These are ideal ways to prepare for the life that you’re dreaming of.
Learn to Preserve Food
Plan to freeze, can, and dehydrate your extra food for later. The more of this that you learn how to do now, the better prepared you’re going to be.
It’s okay to pick tomatoes all week and save them and then can them on a weekend. It’s okay to pick berries and set them in the refrigerator for a few days and then make jam or fruit leather.
The more you learn to do now the easier it’s going to be. Get in the habit of saving your excess food for later. This will be a great way to stock your pantry, prepare for the unexpected emergency, and learn new skills. Don’t forget to teach these new skills to the kids.
I’m very grateful to my grandmother who taught me to make jam, pluck chickens, gather eggs, can, and dehydrate. I’ve used these skills often. Other methods are to smoke meats (if you have a smoker), pickle foods and simply prepare produce and keep it refrigerated until use later that week.
There are many great ways to compost in the burbs. If you can’t have an outdoor compost bin, there are still many great ways to have indoor compost bins.
You can go with cylindrical compost bins that you place the materials in and spin, you can build your own worm bins. You can go with wire mesh and throw in composting materials.
I once left the house and returned a few hours later and my then 14 year old son proudly showed me how he had designed a compost bin out of an old leaky wash tub. He had placed soil, leaves, grass trimmings, and vegetable scraps in his “new” compost bin.
I had the best ever potatoes that year, he had put potato peelings into the compost pile and we had so many potatoes that I had to can 10 quarts of them!
Be creative! You can make anything into a compost bin and make it work regardless of whether you’re in a rental or own your home. Even apartment dwellers can compost so don’t forget this step. Composted materials will decompose and be a great additive to your plants (both houseplants and garden plants).
Composting is also an ideal way to reduce the amount of trash that you’re sending out of the house. You can compost vegetable scraps, leaves, grass trimmings, newspaper, cardboard, and more.
Set Up a Clothesline
Even if you’re in an apartment, you can use a clothesline. Simply place it in a shower or bathtub area. If you’re in a rental house and can have an outside clothesline all the better. You could also go with a standing clothes rack for drying laundry or, if all else fails, use plastic hangers and hang the clothes on a shower rod.
It will take some planning ahead to dry your laundry like this, but you’ll be saving money, saving the life of your clothes and of course, planning ahead.
If you really want to get back to the basics, you can also hand wash your laundry in a sink or bathtub and then hang it to dry (I have had to do this a few times when my washer broke down). Again, it takes some planning ahead, but once you’re in the groove you’ll have it down to a system.
Don’t Forget Fencing
If you have fencing you can often use it to plant such things as climbing plants (cucumbers, berries, grapevines, and the like) and take advantage of it as a great way to utilize your space. It’s also good to remember that good fences make good neighbors.
If you own the house you can often put up a fence, if you’re renting and there happens to be a fence, check with your landlord to see if it’s okay if you plant a few plants near the fence (especially wooden fences as most landlords will be more protective of a wooden fence than a wire mesh type fence).
Plan for Emergencies
Just because you’re residing in the burbs doesn’t mean that there won’t be emergencies. Plan ahead. It’s not unusual for old transformers to blow and the entire neighborhood to be out of power for hours on end. Just as living on a homestead can mean power issues, so can living in the burbs.
Stock up on easy to prepare foods. Focus on foods that you can simply open and eat. Be sure that you have some candles or oil lamps. I was once out of power in a neighborhood for six hours and happened to have several oil lamps.
I had grown up in a mountain town in Colorado that was at the 9000 foot level and often had power outages and remembered that my parents always had oil lamps so I invested in some.
About an hour into the power outage I began to get phone calls from neighbors. “Why do you have power and the rest of the neighborhood is out”? Was the question. I laughed and told them I had oil lamps on and the kids were playing board games.
I also went out on the snow covered deck and fired up the barbeque for dinner. We had a great time and enjoyed ourselves. We had plenty of blankets and sectioned off a room as a “warm room” and had no complaints.
It pays to plan ahead and it will give you great experience for when you are out on your homestead and have to deal with such issues. Learn ways to keep your house or apartment warm.
Learn alternate ways to use lighting in your favor. Plan some easy meals that don’t require cooking. Even a peanut butter sandwich and a bag of chips will do in such a situation.
Store a few jugs of drinking water and at least one container that you can store water in to flush toilets as well. You may be in the burbs, but things can happen in a flash and you may find that you’re without water or power for a short period of time. Consider this practice for when you are homesteading and keep a positive attitude and you’ll do fine.
Sharpen Your Skills
Here are some more skills that you can build on if you’re living in the burbs and preparing for a homestead while you’re residing there. With a bit of ingenuity and some creativity you’ll be able to come up with even more ideas. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Make your own yogurt
- Make your own cheese
- Cook at least weekly from scratch
- Learn how to solar cook
- Make your own cosmetics
- Make your own soap
- Make your own wine or beer
- Fine tune your skills for self-sufficiency
- Learn how to purify water
- Learn to basket weave or quilt
- Make your own sausages
- Make your own butter from cream
The more you learn now, while you’re homesteading in the burbs, the better prepared you’re going to be when you finally do get your own homestead.
Focus on what really matters to you and make your dreams come true. Set up a savings plan while you’re living in the burbs and plan for your own dream homestead.
Even if you never get to your homestead, remember, homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency, and you can “bloom where you’re planted” without any judgment.
Reevaluate your goals at least once per month and adjust them as necessary. By staring small you can easily fine tune your goals and work towards them with more momentum.
If you start too big things will quickly become overwhelming so always start small and work your way up. How do you homestead in the burbs?
Hi, I’m Linda. I’m a mom, grandmother, homesteader. I love simple living and enjoy my life on a homestead where I garden, raise a variety of animals and strive for a life more like my grandparents lived.
My goal is to enrich life by living it as simply as possible and focusing on the way my grandparents did things. Life is so much more fun when it’s lived simply.
4 thoughts on “Suburban Homesteading – Yes, It Can Be Done!”
This is exactly what we’re trying to do right now! I actually just started writing about our experiences on my blog very recently 🙂 I don’t know if we’ll ever get our “dream homestead,” but there really is quite a lot we can do with just our 0.28 acres, I’ve decided. And so many of the skills we’re learning now will help us later.
I’m smitten with homesteading and will try to do it when I retire.
This is a great article for so many of us that live in the “City” and yet want to live out. Many great ideas!
I live on half acre. About month ago went on work comp from exhaust fumes driving an 18 wheeler. I bought canned vegs last yr just in case. Bought 100lbs of hamburger, 20lbs of chicken & roasts. Raised some hens for eggs. Raising meat birds now w some more egglayers to sell. Have few fruit trees. Just trying to get my honey to do list done before I go back out driving again. My plans were to quit driving next year but, I believe it’s changed. As least I getting infrastructure built or attained. Maybe going to homesteading events near me. Try to get debt free of credit cards before moving would help new homesteaders that way they don’t have a burden over their heads.