Mark Frauenfelder of MAKE Magazine gave a talk on urban homesteading and how you can go about being a bit of a farmer in the city. He presented quite a few cool ideas, as well as 7 guiding principles for successful urban farming. Frauenfelder said that there are two reasons he's interested in urban homesteading. First, he wants to improve his family's homelife by taking a bigger, more interactive role in the things that feed, clothe, and keep them healthy. He also wants to get a deeper connection with the systems that keep he and everyone alive and happy.
While flipping through a few examples of people successfully bringing homesteading practices into the urban environment, he noted several very interesting lessons learned from hanging out with urban homesteaders. One is 7 guiding principles of urban homesteading. They are:
1 - Grow only useful things
2 - Region matters. A lot.
(You can't grow certain things in certain areas, and you're going to have a harder time growing things at all depending upon where you're located)
3 - Build your soil
(You have to know how to create and maintain healthy soil, or else what's the point?)
4 - Water deeply and less frequently
5 - Work makes work
(You want to work with nature, not against it, if you hope to have a relatively easy time homesteading)
6 - Failure is part of the game
7 - Pay attention and keep notes
He also noted a few reasons why keeping chickens is pretty awesome:
1 - Great Fertilizer
2 - Great pest control
3 - They're wonderful garbage disposals
4 - Eggs are yummy
5 - They make for great entertainment
Frauenfelder made a really interesting observation as well about human-powered tools. They're a lot of hard work! 1,000 hours of human labor equates to about a gallon of gas. That means we should view liquid fuel not as the enemy, but as a precious resource we should conserve and use appropriately when needed during urban homesteading.
But it doesn't mean we need it all the time. There are lots of ways to get things done without the use of electricity or fossil fuels. For instance, check out this neat solar dehydrator that soaks up sun to make hot air, which rises up into the tower to dry out the food.
Frauenfelder notes that urban homesteading brings back a lot of great opportunities to take part in your community, such as with groups like FallenFruit.org that maps out fruit in public areas so people can go collect it, and they hold events where the food is shared.
He made urban homesteading look like an extremely appealing option in an urban environment.
More on ETech 2009:
ETech 2009: New Materials for Sustainable Products
ETech 2009: Eco Cities Are Already Here, We Just Need to Cut & Paste
ETech 2009: AMEE, Your Energy Identity, and Scary Futures to Avoid
ETech 2009: Ending Obsolescence with a Post-Consumerist Economy (Video)
ETech 2009: Population Boom, Wealth, and 6 Ways to Stave Off Environmental Collapse (Video)
ETech 2009: Tim O'Reilly and Our Reality Bubble Burst (Video)
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