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310 of 315 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading because it is different
I've read various books on self-sufficiency in the past ten years, but this one is different. First, it doesn't tell you how to recreate a 19th-century homestead, which is beginning to seem to me like another version of faux chateaux, but which also is not going to work very well if it is not surrounded by other 19th-century homesteads. And it doesn't describe what you...
Published on July 31, 2008 by Harold A. Roth

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344 of 380 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother if you have any agriculture experience at all....
I was so excited to receive this book-- as someone who has had some experience farming and who hopes to continue in the future BUT who will be living in a city for the foreseeable future, I couldn't wait to get my hands on my guide to sustainable homesteading in the city.

While this book is full of great concepts, it fails to deliver on the instruction side of...
Published on June 3, 2008 by J. Sullivan


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310 of 315 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading because it is different, July 31, 2008
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This review is from: The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (Process Self-reliance Series) (Paperback)
I've read various books on self-sufficiency in the past ten years, but this one is different. First, it doesn't tell you how to recreate a 19th-century homestead, which is beginning to seem to me like another version of faux chateaux, but which also is not going to work very well if it is not surrounded by other 19th-century homesteads. And it doesn't describe what you can do "some day" when you get your five acres and independence. Instead, it focuses on what you can do right now in your own city to become more self-sufficient and sustainable. That makes it unique.

The reviewer who said that this is not a compendium of how-tos is right. It is more of an idea book, although there are many references to sources of detailed info about, for instance, raising ducks. But the problem with other self-sufficiency books I have run across is precisely that they are NOT idea books--that they become absorbed with one particular way of growing food, for instance, or one particular way of heating your (19th-century farm) house. There is nothing about woodstoves or woodlots in here.

This is the first book on self-sufficiency I have seen that directly addresses the fear that underlies the desire many people have to become more independent of the economy--the fear of some apocalypse, social collapse, disaster, etc., which they here dub "when the zombies come." I loved that they use humor to address that fear. There is a LOT of humor in this book; it's almost worth reading just for that.

Other books on self-sufficiency focus on being isolated and seeing other people as the enemy. I read one that recommended you get a house in a dip that no one can see from the road. They'll tell you how much ammunition to squirrel away with your self-heating lasagne rations. This one tells you to get to know your neighbors, because there is strength not in isolation but in community, where we can trade not only stuff like food, but our skills. In that way, it is similar to Food Not Lawns, but much as I admire the ideas in that book, this one offers ideas that are much more doable, I think, for most people.

It is a bit strange that Amazon is bundling this book with Gardening When It Counts, since that book recommends using extra-wide spacing to grow vegetables in situations where you do not have irrigation, and space is a real problem when you are growing on a city lot. Gardening that is a bit more intensive works better in that situation. But Gardening When It Counts is good in the way it ranks veggies by growing difficulty.
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344 of 380 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother if you have any agriculture experience at all...., June 3, 2008
This review is from: The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (Process Self-reliance Series) (Paperback)
I was so excited to receive this book-- as someone who has had some experience farming and who hopes to continue in the future BUT who will be living in a city for the foreseeable future, I couldn't wait to get my hands on my guide to sustainable homesteading in the city.

While this book is full of great concepts, it fails to deliver on the instruction side of things. This is not a Guide Book as the cover proclaims-- it is an Ideas book. The authors suggest planting fruit trees in your yard, and to save space, prune them into "an espalier". How do you do that? The authors kindly refer you to another book.

I understand that covering all the skills involved in Urban Homesteading in-depth would require a tome many times the length of this paperback. But an Urban Wild Edibles section with no pictures? Seriously?

This is a great tool for people who haven't gardened before and who have the motivation to seek out the actual technique elsewhere. But this is nowhere close to a guidebook, and most of the sections were wildly uninspiring, under-explained, and uninformative. If you had the foresight to seek out this book, you can probably figure out on your own that you can bake bread even in the city (!), red lettuce and green lettuce look pretty together in your garden, and composting may help reduce some of your soil woes.

To be fair, the cooking section and home cleaning supplies section, while not very enlightening in terms of ideas, has a slightly more complete informative style. But really, this is a basic, basic book, and while some of the book caters to those of us in tiny apartments with no yard space, the majority deals with ideas best tackled with large kitchens, some sort of yard/roof, and owners (or at least tenants of some very permissive landlords) of their own place. There was nothing particularly urban about most of these instructions, and this book doesn't even go near anything I would call homesteading.

In the end? If you won't do any growing of your own food if you don't buy this book then BUY IT. But, if you're like me and you are hoping for something to really make your apartment more sustainable, you may be better off reading Gaia's Garden and making the necessary adjustments yourself.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Positive, encouraging guidebook w/ much useful information presented clearly., June 5, 2008
By 
E. Schoenholz (Picfair Village, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (Process Self-reliance Series) (Paperback)
I've been reading the authors' blog, HomegrownEvolution.com for more than a year, so I had a pretty good idea what to expect from this book, and I was not in the least disappointed. I think perhaps even more than all of the practical advice and specific directions in The Urban Homestead, Coyne and Knutzen's perspective and approach are what I value most. There's an overriding attitude--almost philosophy, really--that the authors convey so well. It's positive yet somehow never sappy. They recommend doing what you can and doing what you like.

They also warn: "Work makes work" in the gardening section, and to me that perspective is more valuable than knowing how frequently to water my sweet peppers once they've flowered. (Which brings up another thing I've enjoyed so much about reading this book and the H.E. blog: The blog pointed me to Pat Welsh's Southern California Gardening for more specific and advanced gardening advice.)

The Urban Homestead is laid out in a way that makes it easy to pick up and read a little bit here and there. And I've been picking up my copy every chance I get, rereading sections, too, both for knowledge and enjoyment. It's really oriented toward people with a new or recent interest in living more like their great-grandparents did, more engaged in the world around them, even if that world is a major metropolis. It's less about preparing for disaster than thwarting it.

If you want to ditch your TV, buy less crap at the supermarket, learn how to use a bicycle to transport your self and your stuff, conserve, reuse, bake, make and otherwise reject so many things that until recently our society believed were progress, this book will get you going on the right path.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some fairly serious problems, October 7, 2010
By 
I own the original version of this volume, so I don't know if these problems have been addressed in the new expanded edition or not. While this book does contain a wealth of information, much of it useful, I found several things that ranged from minor oversight to serious problem.

1) My father has sold tires since before I was born. He lives and breathes the tire business. So I have always been aware that tires are extremely toxic to human health under the right conditions. Exposed to sunlight, heat, and water, they WILL leach toxic substances into the soil. You should never use tires for planting food, and I am amazed the authors would even consider it.

2) As quoted from the book, the authors mention that raising your own livestock is a way to avoid eating meat that has been "monkeyed with more than anything else (antibiotics, growth hormones...)". Then the authors advise you to give your chickens antibiotics, if needed, and they give the go ahead to eat your chickens. If I'm avoiding antibiotic-fed meat from the store, why would I produce it myself?

3) Kudzu root starch is produced from the plant Pueraria lobata, a native of Japan. I love to use the root starch in my cooking, it is the best thickener I've found. Arrowroot powder is from the plant Maranta arundinacea, native to rain-forest habitats. These two products are NOT the same substance, as the authors erroneously assume.

4) According to the USDA recommendations for canning at home, "Jars do not need to be sterilized before canning if they will be filled with food and processed in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes or more or if they will be processed in a pressure canner. Jars that will be processed in a boiling water bath canner for less than 10 minutes, once filled, need to be sterilized first by boiling them in hot water for 10 minutes before they're filled." The authors state that all quart-sized jars do not need to be sterilized, but smaller jars do. They would have been better off mentioning the processing times involved rather than making generalizations about jar size.

5) It is quite dangerous for anyone in a position such as the authors to suggest that a citizen knowingly break the law. If beekeeping is against the law in your city, you shouldn't keep bees. That's that.
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53 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When the power goes out in the grocery store..., June 6, 2008
By 
Evan Dump "xpgltr" (Los Angeles, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (Process Self-reliance Series) (Paperback)
For those of us city-dwellers contemplating the fundamental lifestyle adjustments demanded by the looming global socio-economic reorganization, this book provides a detailed, lucid, step-by-step, blueprint that takes what seems to be an overwhelming task of historical reversal and transforms it into an open-ended series of tangible, human-scaled projects. The writing and design make it easy to browse, read straight through, or use for reference, and it brims with an infectious curiosity and enthusiasm for the exploration and reclamation of our culture and species' relationship to the land. The longest journey begins with a single compost heap.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best self-reliance books out there, February 4, 2010
By 
AZCoyote (Tucson, AZ USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (Process Self-reliance Series) (Paperback)
I got into preparedness back in the mid-60s when we were living in Arlington, VA and the air raid siren went off in the middle of the night. I expected to be vaporized at any moment. Of course, it wasn't a nuclear attack, but it instilled in me a mind set of preparedness and self reliance.

Since then, I've read everything I could get my hands on about those topics. Some are good, some are rehashes of the same old stuff. This has information that is sometimes obvious, but there are lots of real gems here. The plans on making a self watering planter was, to me, worth the price of the book. Many times I found myself saying, "Oh, yeah, I could make this worm composter! Oh wow, I never thought of that! Yeah, I could do this!"

I live in arid Southern Arizona in a house with a decent sized lot. I do a little bit to live more independently--I hang laundry, inefficiently collect rainwater, use the laundry rinse water on plants, try to grow a few veggies, have a compost pile--but this book has galvanized me to do so much more, and tells me how. There are so many "little" things that I can do, to not only save money but to make me more independent.

It doesn't matter if you are a lefty liberal who wants to save the planet or a right wing survivalist/conspiracy nut (I'm both), this book has a wealth of ideas along with a great appendix of websites for further information.

I love this book.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Source To Jump-Start Your Visions of Self-Reliance, June 5, 2008
This review is from: The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (Process Self-reliance Series) (Paperback)
Like the first reviewer, I too have been long looking forward to this title's release. Unlike the first reviewer I am not at all disappointed with "The Urban Homestead." It's a well-written and engaging resource and I don't find fault in it as a book of ideas and initiatives rather than as all-encompassing encyclopedic volume. In fact I like that I don't have to be entirely dependent on something trying to show me how to be independently sufficient.

The authors are obviously well-informed and hands-on involved and thanks to them I'm already planning my first project involving gray-water capture, storage and re-use.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gifts Of The Earth's Bounty, Even In The City, November 2, 2008
By 
Andrea Sharp (CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (Process Self-reliance Series) (Paperback)
This book is as much about people consciously creating the future as it is about how to make, grow, find, or trade for everything you need.

I always thought of myself as a big supporter of sustainable living. I realized, after reading this book, that I also have been thinking, wrongly, that I had no choice but to cheer it on from the sidelines. I thought there was very little I and people like me could do to reduce waste, pollution, destruction of resources, vulnerable dependence on others for survival, and all the social despair that this sense of helplessness spawns.

If you're like I was, an hour with this book will change you. Whether you are or not, you'll find this book is like having two experienced teachers welcome you to their community as they educate you (in the most friendly, readable language) about far more than the basics and benefits of urban homesteading.

As a resource. On page after page of this book are references to excellent resources, and I briefly feared I'd have trouble finding specific ones again - until I flipped to the end and found a long, generous resources list, organized by topic. For reducing dependence on purchased power, even in the city, there are categories of references for solar power, water conservation/graywater, and transportation. For growing some of your own food, even in the city, you find resources for edible landscaping, general gardening, "guerilla" gardening (for the most urban of urban gardening tactics), permaculture, worm composting, container gardening, drip irrigation, and non-poisonous pest control. For growing some of your own livestock, even in the city, you get leads on experts with poultry, rabbits, and bees. For building or renovating shelter to make it more self-subsistent is a list of books and web site addresses about canning, solar cookers, solar dehydrators, fermentation, cleaning. And this is not to mention the list of resources for foraging -- even in the city!

As your fundamental how-to guide. But before you get lost in web sites and what's going on in the entire urban homesteading world, you can start with page one of this sturdy book, which is cleverly designed, by professional book packagers it appears, for the kind of heavy-duty hands-on use its readers are going to subject it to in the garden and garage. The corners are rounded, so banging it around, even in moisture and dirt, won't bunch them up. The different sections begin with full-green pages that bleed off the edge and so are easy to flip to. With lots of reassuring commentary, advice, tips, and points of view, it walks you through projects of widely varying degrees of difficulty, with the ingredients (or parts and tools) succinctly listed before clear well-illustrated step-by-step instructions on exactly what to do with them. Examples (to name a few): make seed balls; mulch your yard; build a self-watering container; sprout and transplant seeds; grow chickens, ducks, rabbits, pigeons, quail, and bees; make flour from acorns; preserve food ("Nature gives in waves, and we've learned to surf these waves," say the authors) with the sun, vinegar, alcohol, fermentation, dehydration; clean without poisoning yourself and your home; harvest and conserve water; build a beehive; and make a bean teepee. There are strategies for literally every urbanite or sub-urbanite, whether you live deep in layers of concrete-non-jungle city or are blessed to be surrounded by acres of open fields.

As a money saver. How much would you save if you grew, say, even 25 percent of your own food and preserved it for year-round use? If you reduced the amount of water you buy from the city by even 25 percent? If you reduced the amount of power you buy from the utility company by ten percent, and maybe even generated some of your own to sell back to them? If wholesome food and more exercise made you even 25 percent healthier into the last decade of your life?

As an anti-depressant. If you have a nagging feeling that, as a species, we've all left the gas on the stove burning full blast and gone out of town, that we're a herd of lemmings headed for a cliff, that to hell in a row boat is where we're all mechanically and mindlessly paddling, you might find (as I did) that in addition to all the practical information this book provides is a lifeline that can pull you out of that sea of modern-life despair. It does that not only with good humor, but also by going way beyond dump-lists of problems and shoulds that end up seeming to be beyond the average person's control, opening your eyes to the fact that there are thousands of simple, realistic, practical things people can do, and in many cases have done for centuries, to thrive from endless cheap and free resources that are everywhere.

As an inspiration for lifestyle change. Does this book say you can turn a tenth-floor studio apartment in a housing project into a self-sustaining urban farm? Nope. It reminds you that cities are built on earth, and that underneath, on top of, and in between all the structures and slabs of concrete are places to grow food, catch water, build chicken coops, and create lots of ways to live a lot more independently of distant corporations and utility companies than 99 percent of us do now. "Community building is the next step beyond this book," say the authors, with the vision of how much safer and better off everybody would be if we "build a community of urban homesteaders." It reminds you there was a time when people did things like trade the food they grew and the livestock they raised, and helped with each other's harvests. And I also recalled that, with the same numbers of minutes in a day as we have, they survived and thrived without electricity, grocery stores, pre-cut lumber, and ready-made tools, and even had time left over for things like dancing, music, courtship, and a full day of rest every week.

With its density of information, the clarity of instructions, and the breadth of references to additional resources, this book just might be the best trailblazer of them all for how much more complete, human-like, and secure city-dweller life can be.

addendum: I just read some of the other reviews, which prompted me (a former professional editor and proofreader) to look for spelling errors in this book. I didn't find any.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Book - Worth Reading!, May 21, 2009
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This review is from: The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (Process Self-reliance Series) (Paperback)
This is a really cool book.

I see several negative reviews that said this book was too "beginner" or was too "basic".

I really disagree with that. I have been gardening my whole life - almost 40 years now - and raising animals for a decent number of those years. And yet, I found this book very helpful.

This book is about a different way of looking at things - about a whole different kind of lifestyle and perspective. While many of the things were familiar to me [composting, raised bed gardening, etc] it was more the *mindset* that I found intriguing and helpful.

And, in addition, I did pick up many new ideas and helpful tips and advice as well. The book covers a broad range of subjects and has been very useful to me.

The book is easy and fun to read. I enjoyed the authors' "voices" and how they wrote. I thought they had a lot of very good advice and some real wisdom to share about living the self sufficient life where ever we are.

The only [very small] thing that I wish they had done differently is that there is a fair amount of swearing in the book. While I occasionally slip the random curse word now and again, generally I prefer my educational reading without "cussing" :) . It seems like an odd choice for the authors and the editor to include foul language in an otherwise exemplary book.

But, that one small complaint aside, I found this book outstanding and helpful in every way!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It can be done in the city, October 27, 2009
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This review is from: The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City (Process Self-reliance Series) (Paperback)
Like many Americans, this past year I have taken gardening more seriously as a means to providing my family with organic fruits and vegetables free of any chemicals. The book covers topics such as edible landscaping, and methods & benefits of creating your own mulch, managing garden pests, urban foraging, and keeping livestock (poultry, rabbits) within city limits, food preservation, bread and cheese making, making your own cleaning products, energy efficiency including use of solar panels and wind turbines and recycling greywater for use in landscaping around your home. There are many ideas in this book, some of which I have been able to implement without major costs or changes to my lifestyle. I do wish I had a bigger piece of property, but the beauty of this book is that you can squeeze every little part of your suburban plot to achieve what you want to do (including gardening on your roof - something I would not have thought of before reading this book). I would not say there is anything new and groundbreaking regarding the content of the book, but I am motivated to become more self-sufficient and do like the fact that a suburban couple has managed to successfully implement these ideas to their home/lifestyle, and I feel that is a key motivator to the reader. If they can do it while living in the city, so can you.

One thing that I wanted to mention here that is not mentioned in the book regarding water conservation. Each day, while I wait for the water in the shower to heat up, I catch it in a bucket. (I would estimate this is 1.5-2 gallons of water). I then use this water for 3 things: 1) to water my garden/potted plants, 2) when the garden is already watered, I pour the water into a water barrel for future garden watering, or 3) I pour it into the washing machine with a load of laundry. These methods have consistently saved me several units of water on my water bill each month. It's not hard to do, but must be diligent to see benefits.
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