You're in luck because an everyday revolution is being revived in part by people like Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen. They are the creators of the blog homegrownrevolution.org, and they just came out with the second edition of their popular book, The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City. It covers everything you could possibly want to do in your own apartment, from DIY solar power to brewing beer.
Yes, going "back to the land" inside the city is entirely possible -- and you may gain a new perspective along the way.
Rented Spaces: What got you guys started raising "vegetables, chickens, hooch, bicycles and cultural alchemy" as your blog, homegrownevolution.com states?
Erik Knutzen: The love of a good tomato. You can't buy a decent tasting tomato, or for that matter, anything else at the store, so we started growing them ourselves. At the time we lived in an apartment so everything was in pots. Once we got a small piece of land we went overboard, but there's still a lot you can do with just a sunny balcony in terms of growing food.
What's been your favorite project in this adventure so far? Most difficult?
Beekeeping has probably been the most life-changing. The bees have entered our dreams. And unlike other creatures we humans have a relationship with, the bees choose the beekeeper. If they want to leave they do. If they want to stay you might get some honey. Our bee mentor is the remarkable Kirk Anderson who appears in some interesting videos you can watch at beehuman.blogspot.com. It's even something that can be done on a rooftop, so it's open to renters with an understanding landlord.
The most difficult? Growing mushrooms. Still haven't been successful, but we're going to keep trying. As far as DIY things go -- you actually learn more from the mistakes than when you do things right.
What are some ways apartment dwellers can live more sustainably?
The single biggest step folks can take is to replace car trips with bike trips. We're big proponents of cargo bikes such as the Xtracycle and the Kona Ute. We still have a car but trips to the grocery store are on the cargo bike. This has allowed the two of us to share just one car and has saved us thousands of dollars. Plus you don't have to go to the gym when you commute by bike.
And ditch the household poisons, i.e. cleaning products. All you need is baking soda, castille soap and vinegar.
Tell us a little about your book - what can someone living in an apartment learn from it?
There's a lot of projects for apartment dwellers, such as foraging, pickling, making beer, baking bread, canning, homemade cleaning products, solar ovens and container gardening with self-irrigating pots.
Some of the skills you talk may seem "old fashioned." Do you think the mainstream is ready to make some radical changes in the way they live?
Most of the skills we discuss are actually things that most of the world does to this day, just not the "mainstream" in the developed world. We don't think of them as being "old fashioned" but rather as plain common sense. Do we think that people in prosperous countries will adopt these concepts? We simply don't know. Our argument is that these practices are fun and lead to a richer, more "considered" life.
What's the one tip you wish every person living in an apartment would adopt?
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