What can you do if you want to lead a self-sufficient life but don’t have a farm? Meet Sam, a 35-year old American mom of two wonderful children, who is married to her high school sweetheart. Sam isn’t able to follow her farm dreams right now but her family are doing an amazing job of following a self-sufficient lifestyle in an urban setting. She’s kindly agreed to share her secrets with us and hopefully some inspiration for those of you who are thinking of ways to homestead without land.

My dream is to have a farm where my kids can grow and play, but for right now, I’m in a townhouse in Maryland suburbia.  Where I live there is a Home Owners Association (HOA) with tons of rules.  They limit what you can and can’t do with your property “for the good of the community.”  Rubbish!

I am not allowed to turn my front yard into a working garden.  The kids in my neighbourhood aren’t exactly very respectful of other people’s property either.  But more than that HOA’s dictate what you can and can’t plant on your property.  Needless to say, “farming” or let alone “gardening” in my little townhome community is useless.  We’ve turned our old flower bed into a rock garden, just to reduce regulation issues and destruction.

So how do we homestead in a townhouse?

WE community garden.

In our little town of Havre de Grace, Maryland we have the Green Team. This group got its start in community gardens over five years ago. You can purchase a 10-foot x 10-foot parcel of land in any of the four gardens around our town.

Our first year we started small.  We had one plot with some lettuce, herbs, peas, beans, tomatoes, and sweet peppers.  These were easy to grow and my kids saw success right away. That made this whole adventure so much easier.  We had buy-in from our little people.

Each year we got more and more adventurous.  We even tried blueberry bushes one year.  That was an epic failure because the pH of our soil is not conducive to blueberry growth.  But we have been able to grow strawberries with ease.

Now my kids look forward each year to the end of winter.  We start planting seeds in mini-hot houses in our front yard.  And they get to pick mostly all of the plants we grow each year.  My daughter loves cilantro and eats it raw right out of the garden.  While my son loves lavender tea, and will just grab a handful to carry around in his pockets.  But the best part is seeing them get dirty and loving it.

Let’s be real.  My kids aren’t doing all of the work in the garden.  That falls to my husband and I, but we get along the best in life when we get good and tired from a day of hard work in the garden.  It makes all of us have a better disposition in life.  Even though we have to pile in the car and drive the mile and a half to our garden.  We get to do everything from releasing lady bugs to this year hatching praying mantis egg sacks that were found locally by a farmer.

It is as close as we can get to farming right now with our kids, but it is a beautiful experience. Not only do we see the fruits of our labour from the garden but the amazing growth of our kids. We are imparting a great skill for the next generation.  Teaching my kids about organic gardening is doing more than teaching them about the harmful side effects of pesticides.  It teaches them sustainability.   This provides me with a peace of mind, that if as my kids get older if they ever fall on hard times – they will not go hungry.

In four years we have gone from one 10-foot by 10-foot plot to two plots.  We bring in double the bounty and now preserve most of our harvest.  Each year we share plenty and trade for things we opted not to grow.  In our community garden that makes things so much easier.  We help each other out.  My kids help water other people’s gardens when they are on vacation.  With that, we get to pick all the yummy goodies from those gardens. It is truly the community piece of the puzzle.

The community gardens have taught my kids about edible flowers and how to help save the bees. We’ve learned how to deal with good and bad bugs alike.  But most of all we have learned to be part of a community.  The farming life can be very lonely, but it can also be very rewarding.  We’ve chosen the best of both worlds to make our dreams a reality in the present.  Someday we will have a farm, but for now, we have a 20-foot by 20-foot piece of heaven.