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Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living Paperback – April 27, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“Fully illustrated, this is a user-friendly guide with visual appeal and lots of detailed information, making it a truly useful resource for those curious about or participating in today’s resurgent interest in “small is beautiful” ex/sub/urban homesteading.” (Booklist)

A how-to guide for city folk on everything from growing your own food to building your own composting toilet (“…think of all those quiet hours you could have…at your outdoor toilet, listening to the sirens go by…”).         

” (New York Post)

“A reality check for dreamers…            ” (Chicago Tribune)

“Urban Homesteading is perfect for the beginner seeking inspiration and information, or for the established homesteader wishing to deepen her craft.   ” (Common Ground Magazine)

“This book is ridiculously good, a stunner. The authors outdid themselves, and everyone else who touches upon this field. It is a manifesto, a guide, a book of prayers, a much-needed tutorial. It has goodness on every page and light throughout, yet it is erudite, exact, definitive, and practical. What a rare thing. You have my thanks and unconditional praise for what you have accomplished--a masterpiece where there has never been one before.” (Paul Hawken, Founder of Smith & Hawken)

“Provides a wealth of information about actual projects you can take on to green your footprint and increase your self-reliance. While none of the chapters will make you an expert, they give just enough information so you can figure out which projects will be most likely to be a good fit for you. And they remind us that you don’t need to be an expert to simply get started living more sustainably. Even apartment dwellers can do the majority of these projects, and many are fun to do with children. The entire book is packed full of diagrams and dense information that will help you live closer to the land.” (Christian Science Monitor)

“Kaplan and Blume’s manual for farming your yard is part master’s thesis, part philosophy text and part manual for living with creatures and plants in a confined space… Kaplan is long on making it work and leaving a light footprint on the earth. If you are pondering a more sustainable lifestyle, Urban Homesteading is a good way to survey the possibilities.” (Vancouver Sun)

“This comprehensive guide is full of beautiful full-color photos and practical information about self-reliance and green living, as well as inspiring stories from people already living the urban homesteading life. It embraces the core concepts of localization, self-reliance, and knowledge of where our food comes from, as well as basic sustainability. . . . A great addition to the genre.
” (Wendy Priesnitz - Natural Life)

About the Author

Rachel Kaplan is the lead author of Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living. She is an eco-somatic therapist, educator, and widely published author. Her work has appeared in local and national papers and magazines, and includes Moving Toward Life: Five Decades of Transformational Dance (with Anna Halprin), The Probable Site of the Garden of Eden, and Diaspora: Stories from the Cities. She and her family live on a small homestead called Tiny Town Farm, in Petaluma, California.  

K. Ruby Blume is the visual wizard of Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living. She is the founder of The Institute of Urban Homesteading in Oakland, California. With more than twenty years of experience with gardening, beekeeping, canning, and other homesteading skills, she is a respected authority in the self-sufficiency field. She has been featured on CNN, ABC, and the Hallmark Channel, and her articles have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Magazine, and other publications.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing (April 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161608054X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616080549
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 8.1 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I'm a landscaper, and so come to most gardening books from a design perspective - I look at the photos and read some of the text, but not all. This book is different. While the photos are attractive and appropriate, the text is so packed full of intense tutorials and ways of re-thinking our relationship with, well, everything, that I had to slow down and read carefully to get the most from this book.

While the philosophical sections are non-preachy and inspiring, the meat of the book is in the suggestions and simple how-tos that make all aspects of homesteading seem doable, fun and attractive. You can learn to:

garden vertically
make and plant a seed ball
create your own self-watering container
plant an herbal medicine chest in your garden
grow potatoes in a barrel or trash can
grow mushrooms
make your own cultured butter or cheese
attract pollinators to your garden
make your own natural, safe pesticides
keep rabbits
choose and keep goats
harvest edible weeds
build a solar drying rack
ferment your own sauerkraut and make your own naturally-bubbly sodas
figure out your soil type
build a composting toilet
harvest rainwater

This book is clearly destined to stay in my shelf for a long, long time. While none of the articles will make you an expert on the topic, after trying a few of these projects, you'll realize you don't need to become an expert in order to live lightly on the land, make your own healthy foods and simple medicines for basic ailments, and become more independent and self-reliant. Each of the how-tos is simple enough to get you started successfully on a new path and give you confidence to do things in a new way.
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87 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Nicole on August 18, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First, the good:

The layout of the book is very well done and aesthetically pleasing, the photographs are exceptional and the quality of the book is top notch for a large-format paperback. There are no cut corners here.

When it comes to content, I appreciated the authors' non-judgmental style, optimism and happy encouragement. Many other authors have talked about these issues without such restraint and acceptance of the beliefs and ultimate goals of their readers. I also especially liked that nowhere did the author advocate any illegal activity (unlike many other sources on the subject.) They attempted to address a broad width of topics and succeeded in hitting all the major components of urban homesteading.

So, why the 3 stars?

It is inevitable that the numerous topics would lack depth, but this puts the book squarely in the raw beginner market. After reading the other reviews, I expected more. The gardening chapters have advice that is very specific to Northern California's climate (I used to live there) but would be an disastrous failure in many other regions. They also missed some important components of biointensive gardening, particularly the need for a large amount of organic inputs. A better source for this kind of gardening is to go back to the original, Jeavons' "How to Grow More Vegetables."

At least one of their food preservation recipes can kill you -- not a good sign. And not all urban areas are the kinda of high density environments they envision.

Finally, I felt the last two chapters were particularly off-putting even though I was barely skimming the book by then.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Charles Frederick on May 2, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I only bought this book as a protest against the Dervais family's copyright of the phrase Urban Homesteading (I also bought another wonderful book here - The Urban Homestead. Anyway, as I began to read this book, I was really sucked in by the wonderful photos and ideas about things I can do here on my own homestead. I highly recommend this book. Lots of great info and ideas. I have never been so invigorated and excited.

The only negative I would give this book is not really a negative at all. With so much information, and so many ideas, it's hard to know "where do I start", but that's what I have ThoughtOffice for, right?

I was inspired by the section which teaches us how to transform our ornamental or boring yards into food production area - starting with bringing life to the soil.

Just this week I made the ricotta cheese with organic whole milk. Best. Ricotta. Ever. Absolutely MADE the lasagna (although it was an amazing recipe - (Google: "World's Best Lasagna"). I am looking forward to making the cultured butter (I now make regular, non-cultured butter from organic whole cream, which is delicious). The nice thing about cultured butter is that the buttermilk, which is a byproduct, can be used to culture cheese, make buttermilk pancakes, bread, dressing ect. Non-cultured buttermilk cannot.
I have the 2 specialty ingredients for feta cheese on order and cannot wait to stop paying for store bought, bland feta. Our household goes through a lot of feta - this is going to be a very good thing.
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