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Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living Paperback – April 27, 2011
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
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“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)
From the Back Cover
The urban homesteading movement is spreading rapidly across the nation. Urban Homesteading is the perfect back-to-the- land guide for urbanites who want to reduce their impact on the environment. Full of practical information, as well as inspiring stories from people already living the urban homesteading life, this colorful guide gives a clear understanding of the lifestyle to any reader. It embraces the core concepts of localization (providing our basic needs close to where we live), self-reliance (re-learning that food comes from the ground, not the grocery store), and sustainability (giving back at least as much as we take). Readers will find concise how-to information that they can immediately set into practice, from making solar cookers to growing tomatoes in a pot to raising chickens on a tiny plot to maintaining the mental serenity of country life in the fast-paced city environment. Full of beautiful full-color photographs and illustrations and plenty of step-by-step instructions, this is a must-have handbook for city folk with a passion for the simple life.
Top customer reviews
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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. If gardening doesn't nurture your soul, than no amount of art projects and personal alters are going to make homesteading the right choice for you, and have nothing whatsoever to do with homesteading. They were, however, very evocative of a certain "hippy dippy" No Cal crowd, to borrow a phrase from another reviewer.
In summary: if you are interested in a broad review of the topic, are a beginner, and live in VERY urban area with forgiving oceanic climate like Northern California, this book will be a great choice for you. For the rest of us... not so much.
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. Tomorrow I make mozzarella cheese (not in the book, but it's easy to find directions online, and it uses much of the same things you use to make the dairy recipes in the book).
I have been rereading the section on bee-keeping, raising rabbits, preserving and storing food, and many others which I won't bore you with. Bottom line - get this book. You'll be happy you did.