Book Reivew:  Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living

by: Rachel Kaplan with K. Ruby Blume

Urban Homesteading

Summary:

Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living is a cross between a political manifesto and a gardening book. The authors’ goal seems to be to bring about political and social change through introducing people to growing food in urban areas.

Sources:

The  main sources for the information in this book are the author’s personal knowledge and interviews with urban homesteaders in their area.

Depth:

Urban Homesteading is as an alternating mix of examples and the presentation of concepts. There are a lot of good tips given, such as table grouping common garden plants by family, so that once you master growning broccoli, you’ll know that cauliflower should be an easy garden addition, requiring similar care. There is also a good variety of do-it-yourself information, such as how to make a bee hive, solar drying rack and an introductory guide to home canning, as well as an overview of cob building construction.

Overall:

Positives  There are lots of good and sometimes extreme examples given of people who are managing to grow nice gardens or mini-farms in urban areas. You often get to hear their gardening adventure stories and see before and after pictures of their land.The authors discuss some of the ecological principles that should be applied to growing food to increase success, such as container gardening, biodiversity, microclimates, as well as proper plant and seed selection. Composting is covered in depth and there is good information on seed and plant selection.
 
Negatives   Although there is a lot of good information in the text about growing your own food in urban areas, the authors’ political views permeate the text. For example, they detail how to make a plant seed ball, which is basically a grenade for  “guerrilla gardening”. This seems to mean putting wildflower seeds into places like your neighbors’ yards, without their consent. Be prepared to hear about the evils of global capitalism, climate change, addiction to oil and the advantages of an anti-consumerist lifestyle or you might want to keep shopping for a different book.

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