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Urban and Rural Homestead Skills

Living Closer to the Land
What do San Francisco, Seattle and the 5 boroughs of New York City have in common?
You can keep bees in all those locations - subject to reasonable regulations. We are going to look at some information resources that, at first blush, might seem appropriate only for line families in rural settings. However, many of these skills are pertinent to urban or suburban properties. Who knows, you might find a business idea or two in here. At the very least you will find information that will make your line family a little less dependent on the commercial culture that pervades our lives.

Let’s start by taking a look at some books full of practical information and wisdom:

Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living
by Rachel Kaplan with K. Ruby Blume.
You can find it at Urban Homesteading.

One reviewer on noted that the garden section was written for a Northern Californian, ocean climate. However, the book also covers topics such as recycling greywater, building your own composting toilet (check your local building codes), natural paints for indoors and out, greenhouses, chicken coops and other permaculture skills for the urban, or rural, line family homestead.

The authors also provide an excellent list of information sources for do it yourself skills that can drastically lower your family's operating costs by reducing food and fuel expenses.
Take a look at their resource list.
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We are also interested in Thomas J. Elpel's work on simple living and simple and elegant home building. He uses low cost methods and materials to build passive solar homes. Passive solar heat does not use motors, pumps and little or no ductwork. This eliminates a lot of extra costs found in more technological solar heating systems.

Elpel points out that building your own structures will save interest payments on a mortgage. That is worth 10s or 100s of thousands of dollars. As Diana Christian says in her book Creating A Life Together, your family member's work is the same as money. What Tom Elpel adds is that it's tax free money.
His work is at

He has published a number of books. We are planning on getting one or two of them to read and do a proper review.
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Magazines have been tracking the progress in energy efficiency, local food production and renewable energy for decades.

If your line family is "Gonna Move to the Country, with a half a dozen lovers" then you can't do much better than a subscription to the Mother Earth News. All the back issues are available on disc and new issue subscriptions have the option of digital only delivery. One of our staff members owns the first 75 issues including the first issue published in January of 1970.
Find out about this remarkable resource at
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Since July of 1985 “Permaculture Activist” magazine has been documenting the permaculture movement. It keeps you up to date on techniques and tools.
See what it’s about at Permaculture Activist.

Free information abounds on Internet websites:
Some of it is accurate and well presented; some of it is incomplete, misleading and confusing. We try to stay with the good stuff.

A facinating website is If you have not checked this site out, it has 100s of subjects that are easy to browse. Following are a few subjects that were specifically chosen to help people become more independent of the consumer culture and take responsibility for their ecological impact.
  • Soap Making
  • Candle Making
  • Note: Candles can be made from various materials. Two common types of candle wax are paraffin and beeswax. Paraffin is a petroleum based product, a fossil fuel. In a reasonably tight home this can cause indoor air quality problems. We prefer beeswax, a natural and renewable form of energy. Still any open flame inside a house can put unburned hydrocarbons and particulates into the air that might cause problems for people with respiratory issues. Also there is the danger of fire.
  • Sewing
  • Food Preservation
  • Fishing
  • Gardening
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If you have read Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan, you know about the destructive changes in civilization and the environment brought on by the advent of agriculture 8,000 to 12,000 years ago. There are agricultural technologies however, that work with nature to produce crops that are organic and plentiful.

Masanobu Fukuoka's Natural Farming and Permaculture will give you some ideas about what is possible when people work with nature rather than trying to conquer and dominate the world. Fukuoka's results are amazing.
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“Permaculture Principles” is a good resource for learning about the full range of permaculture topics. Permaculture is often old knowledge being used for a new culture. This new culture recognizes old truths. For example, mankind is not apart from the world, but a part of the world. Instead of conquering and taking, we must learn to share and give back to nature.
Find lots of information at Permaculture Principles.

Help grow. If you have read any of the books we have mentioned here, send us your thoughts as to the accuracy and usefulness of the information. Also tell us of other valuable resources that you have found. We cannot pay you for your contributions, but we will credit your input however you wish with your full name, initials or a pseudonym if you want your identity protected.
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Our email address is:
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