Author’s note: A number of scheduled attendees were unable to join us because of the fires. This article is dedicated to them, that they may learn about what they missed. May everyone be home safely and soon.
Our “Grow-Raise-Forage for Apartment or Condo Dwellers” event was attended by three members and one potential member. We shared tips, talked about our experiences, and learned from each other’s mistakes.
Trying to homestead in a condo or apartment is not the same as if you have a house and land or even a small yard. And while you certainly couldn’t live on apartment homesteading, you can supplement what you obtain from other sources and gain skills and wisdom for self-sufficient living.
All gardening/farming etc., is an experiment! There are many websites, Facebook groups, and YouTube videos from which to learn these skills. You need to add the time and energy. Just remember that sometimes you have success and other times you don’t. Each location (apartment/condo) has its own unique challenges and advantages. Experimentation is how you learn. Here are some suggestions for getting started:
- Grow outdoors in pots on your balcony or patio. Buy veggie and herb seeds marked as specific for container gardening. The plants are smaller and do well in pots. Growing wild edible plants aka native plants (aka weeds), is easiest. There are fewer pitfalls because they are accustomed to our soil and climate, so they grow like, well, weeds.
- Beware the $400 tomato. You can spend a lot buying equipment and fertilizers and still have a small yield. It’s great to buy whatever you can used.
- Grow indoors: sprouts and microgreens are easy and have a high yield. Herbs and vegetables usually require special lighting and a green thumb. You can buy mushroom kits for many kinds of mushrooms. You can also grow from the tops of veggies and or herbs purchased from a store. This works well with celery and spring onions. Beware of indoor bugs, mildew, etc. It’s not fun having bugs in your house.
- Sidelines include conventional composting and worm bin composting. There are some good YouTube videos about setting up and maintaining compost and worm bins indoors.
- Can you raise animals for protein? Maybe. Considerations include space, smell (poop happens!) neighbors, HOA rules, and local laws, as well as how long it takes to harvest. Guinea pigs, for example, have a long growing season and produce very little meat. The most likely candidate is quail, which provides both eggs and meat. Other possibilities are chickens, rabbits, and fish. None of these are easy to raise in an apartment but some people do it. Insects as protein is up-and-coming; stay tuned for books, info, and kits to become available as people explore this option. Insects are eaten and enjoyed in many countries, and they don’t take up much space!
- Forage: get books, watch YouTube videos, join Facebook groups to learn how to do this. You can forage for a number of different things:
- Plants: Don’t eat anything without positive identification. You will mostly find fruit in urban settings such as crabapples, apples, wild plums, lots of kinds of berries, etc. Look in apartment complexes. Many have fruit trees that no one is utilizing. (Be sure to ask for permission to go onto private land – you don’t want a ticket for trespassing.) It’s hard to forage enough vegetation for a meal, although in some locations it is possible. Some cattails, blue spruce tips, and other common plants are edible. You can post a photo on a Facebook foraging group for help with positive identification.
- Animals and fish: Rabbits, squirrels, and other common critters abound in urban settings. Be sure to investigate whether you need a hunting license and what the laws are concerning animals. For example, in some places you can shoot/eat squirrels if they are a nuisance to your house, etc. But not everywhere. And some things that seem obvious are not: if you live in the Front Range mountains deer are everywhere – and they are a bigger nuisance than squirrels and offer a lot more meat. However, you are not allowed to kill them, largely because of ordinances forbidding the discharge of firearms in a populated area.
- Here is a great resource for urban foraging that offers information on the location of fruit trees, berry bushes, and other edible plants in your neighborhood. https://insteading.com/blog/forage-the-urban-bounty-11-crowdsourced-maps-of-edible-plants/.
- I was unprepared for the fact that dumpster diving is now considered foraging, so the locations of dumpsters appear on some of foraging maps. Many businesses dump perfectly good merchandise ranging from bruised fruit and vegetables to items with broken or damaged packaging, to items near or at their sell-by date (not the same as the expiration date!) to just about anything you can think of. There are also places where people leave things out for others to take. These locations include the ends of driveways, and next to mailboxes, trash cans, or dumpsters. All of this is foraging and everything you find is free.
The next zoom meeting in this series is “Waste Not, Want Not”. It is dedicated to sharing what we know about re-using/recycling things in our homes, strategies for saving money, using things that would otherwise be thrown away, etc. It happens on November 18th at 6:00pm.