8 Ways to Homestead While Moving

by Lisa Binegar 

I was bitten by the homesteading, hobby farming, land-owning, want-my-hands-in-the-soil bug way back in 2009. Since then, due to my husband’s military obligations, we have moved three times with a fourth move on the horizon. This move will include a dog, two cats, 11 chickens, and an unknown number of seedlings I anticipate plopping into the ground once we arrive at our new home the first week of June.

How do you continue to pursue your dreams of a more sustainable, connected-to-the-earth lifestyle without access to permanent land or space? Perhaps you are a renter, maybe there is a move in the future, or possibly you are frustrated by your complete lack of land. Here is how I have held onto and nourished my farming dreams while living in constrained and impermanent spaces for the past eight years:

Community gardening

My first real garden was a community garden plot through the New Pioneer Food Co-op in Iowa City. I had access to a huge plot, water, and free compost on site, and benefited from free sessions with a Master Gardener. I met other gardeners, learned from them, and delighted in the progress of their plots in addition to my own. We also joined a community garden when we moved to Birmingham, Alabama, and made great friends that we would never have met otherwise. If you have a real interest in learning how to grow food, and limited access to your own land, connect with a community garden in your area.

Leave a space better than how you found it

Herb circle constructed by Lisa and her mother.

This is has been a bit of a guiding principle for me as I’ve had to leave behind established herb gardens, springtime bulbs, halt a chick order and end projects early over the years. Even though it is bittersweet to leave behind something that you quite literally built with your own hands, I like to imagine the people who are enjoying the spaces that I left. Those pink tulips I planted five years ago in our first house are hopefully still emerging every April, and the bees that I kept in Birmingham have shared their Italian ancestry genetics with local feral bees, increasing and strengthening their numbers. I’ve learned (well, am still learning) how to be at peace with being a “short term steward” of each physical space I’ve grown within, and then to release to its next steward. We are not permanent owners of any space or land, despite what the bank tells us; we are merely all renting, for as long as we have.

Be thrifty and minimalistic

I am still working on this, but I am always pruning (pun intended) my gardening and farming supplies. Because we move so much, I would rather buy a few hardworking, long-lasting tools rather than many flimsy accessories. And, when you have less space, you may find you can borrow or barter for items. I am also constantly scouring the Farm & Garden section of Craigslist for deals.

Take advantage of learning opportunities in your community.

When we lived in Birmingham and belonged to a community garden, I wanted to continue to prepare for our future life of living on our own land in our “forever home.” I attended a beginning beekeeping course in the late winter and we got our first package of bees. We also attended a rain barrel building workshop and got to bring a water barrel to our garden plot. Last year, I took a fiber spinning course through the local community college. Seeking out courses and workshops will scratch that itch to expand your knowledge on whatever skill set you perhaps wish you were able to engage in full time. Oftentimes, these opportunities are low-cost or free.

Podcasts, YouTube, magazines, library

Lisa's chickens in the coop constructed by her husband. She is currently in the process of moving with 11 chickens.

Speaking of low-cost or free – I love to binge on podcasts (I’ve recently discovered The Ruminant) and read voraciously to learn more about all my varied homesteading and farming interests. I also watch YouTube videos on smart beekeeping techniques (my husband, who did not attend the beekeeping class I did, learned entirely about beekeeping from YouTube) as well as listen to Joel Salatin pontificate on salad bar grass fed beef. There are ever more recent publications on sustainability and small-scale farming available at your library. You can even borrow magazines from the library (Taproot, Mother Earth News, Organic Gardening are my favorites) rather than pay for them.

Container gardening

I confess I have never had as much success as I know is possible with container gardening. I tend to underwater or not stake as well as I ought to. However, there are better gardeners than myself who grow incredible amounts of food in containers. Two of my favorite resources for this topic is “The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible” by Edward C. Smith, and “The Bountiful Container,” by McGee & Stuckey.

Support farmers markets and CSAs

You can support your local farmers market and CSAs with your dollar by becoming a member, or you can reach out and find out how to support them with your sweat by volunteering. Many small farms and CSAs have formalized programs for volunteers, but even if that is not available, if you are serious about working and learning, most farmers will be happy to have an extra pair of hands or two on deck, particularly in the busy growing and harvesting season.

Network

You can do some serious investigation into what is available in your area as far as growing and farming possibilities via Google. This is a nice activity to do when you are first getting established in an area, or when it is winter and you are dreaming about growing things. Look up local gardening clubs, farms, CSAs, farmers markets, gardening and farm supply shops; then, reach out to these organizations and businesses to see who you can meet and what you can do.

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