Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Posts Tagged City

Urban Homesteading: Growing in the City

Urban homesteading holds a special place in my heart because that is where my homestead journey began, in the city. So many people look at the homestead movement from the outside, thinking there is not a place for them because they don’t have a vast spread of land or plans to move to the country. Homesteading is a mindset before anything else. A mindset that says I can produce that!

Creativity and ingenuity are usually realized when there is a challenge to overcome. I love seeing people that are harvesting rainwater and growing their own food in the heart of major cities. They are not hampered by their circumstances but use them to come up with new ways of doing things. Here are some fun ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Learn how to preserve food

My homestead journey began in the kitchen when I learned how to can. A change in our diet many years ago opened my eyes to buying foods while they are in season and then preserving them to eat later. I would buy cases of whatever I could find on sale and then take a few days to learn how to can or dehydrate it.

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As my food storage began to build, my dependence on weekly trips to the grocery store began to diminish. It was so empowering not to be tethered to the grocery store. The next step was looking for alternative ways to procure the food I wanted to can.

Buy from local producers

I started buying grass-fed meat at the local farmer’s market. I often found a case of tomatoes or apples I could bring home and can as well – another way to disconnect from the grocery store and gain independence. Then I found out that many of the vendors at the farmer’s market will sell direct from their farms. The joy of driving out and seeing where your food comes from is hard to describe.

beef in butcher paper

In buying directly from the farmers, I developed relationships with people in my community. We were making a difference in the world. My dollars were meaningful to them, and the food they produced was more than just something to fill our plates. It is ok to be homesteader without producing everything you need to sustain your family.

Learn how to grow plants

Very few people have a truly green thumb. Tenacity and not being afraid to try are much more important if you want to become good at growing food. Don’t limit your thinking to rows in the ground. Grow in raised beds, grow in pots, grow vertically in rain gutters or create an edible landscape. There are so many ways to be a successful gardener.

Compost

Composting is a miraculous process of turning waste into nutrient-rich soil to feed your plants. Here again, there are so many ways to make it happen. My favorite method is keeping deep bedding in the chicken run and just throwing our scraps out for them to pick and scratch through. Anything they don’t eat breaks down with the manure and the bedding. There is no turning or watering involved; the chickens do the work for me.

deep bedding for chickens

 

Even if you live in an apartment, you can create compost. Worm bins are perfect for an urban homesteader. With only a few week’s time, a little water, kitchen scraps and some high carbon material (like newspaper) your worms will create nutritious plant food. You will be growing 7’ tomatoes on your balcony before you know it,

You can homestead no matter where you live! Don’t let someone else’s version of homesteading hold you back from carving out your own. Be creative with your space and start with something you love.

Your Turn!

  • What have you begun producing?
  • How have you been creative with your space?

Tiny Houses In Cities

One questions that comes up a fair bit about tiny houses is what about tiny houses in cities?  Its a good question because currently over half of the world’s population lives in a city and we only expect that number to grow.  For the most part, tiny houses have existed in smaller towns, on the edge of a city or in rural locations.  But the truth is there are a lot of city dwellers that want to live tiny.

My go to response to the question about tiny houses in citiesimgpreview-2 is that we can still have tiny houses in the city, but most likely what we will do is take the design principals of tiny houses and then apply the to the design of apartments.  Essentially taking tiny houses and stacking them.  It is important to make sure that we don’t loose sight of our focus on design, make sure there is a strong connection with the outside, and to develop green spaces and public places for us to enjoy.

I think the biggest challenge of adapting tiny houses to a city is ensuring there is enough  natural light.  And I don’t mean window that only opens to a light shaft in the center of a building, at worst it would open to a open space within a building that is build around a large courtyard.  Having visited NYC several times, I couldn’t imagine living in a place where your only window was a mere few feet from a solid brick wall.  Honestly, I feel like humans should live like that; I feel like there should be at least one large window that allows your sight to extend a few thousand feet.

lifeedited-apartmentWhile I do technically live in a city – Charlotte, NC – its a very different kind of city.  You can easily pickup an acre lot here, go 20 minutes outside the city and you can get 10 acre lots.  There is a lot of woods still here and nature isn’t too far.  For me personally I just need to see lots of greens and browns, to have that connection with nature.  Something just clicks with me when I’m outside in the woods.

I say all this to point out that however we meet the needs of urban density and however we implement tiny houses in a city, we need to make sure there is  good connection with green spaces.  It is very important in tiny living because you really do need to extend your living space to the outdoor world, which means we need quality places to go to.

What got me thinking about all of this is an interesting project out of the school of Savannah College of Art and Design.  They posed an interesting question: as we transition to more public transportation, walkable cities and biking, what do we do with the vestiges of parking decks?scadpad-rendering

There response was to create modular units that could create housing out of parking decks.  At first it seems odd, but I realized the potential and some of the drawings are pretty neat!

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Reporting Tiny Houses To The City…. There’s App For That

Today I was researching codes and zoning when I discovered Charlotte now has an app for reporting public nuisances.  You can snap a photo, mark the location on a map, then send it the complaint anonymously.  You can see it at    http://charmeck.org/Pages/MobileApp.aspx

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For those of you who don’t know, I blog to you from Charlotte, NC; A decent sized city in the south with around 2 million people.  It’s a great place, it has a lot to do, not a lot of traffic, good jobs, and while ranked 17th largest city in the US, I can still find a multi-acre lots here.

Well Charlotte is also a very difficult place to be a tiny house person, with the city growing by 40,000 people every year, our code enforcement and zoning are very busy, leaving little time to entertain the idea of a variance for tiny houses.  Between strict codes that are difficult to get variances on and a most of Charlotte’s housing under HOA’s, its a tough place for tiny houses.

So I thought I’d share this new innovation that cities are taking up.

If you want to know more about how codes affect you, check out our ebook: cracking the code!  here

 

Your Turn!

  • What do you think of this app?
  • Have you talked with your local code enforcement about tiny houses?

Urban Density

So just a few days ago I did a post on Japan’s new coffin apartments that are so small, you can’t even stand up in them, but rent for $600 a month!  Today I ran across another post about Hong Kong’s urban density.  The United States has a density of 88 people per square mile, while Hong Kong has 16,568 people per square mile!

It shows what an urban dense future could look like and allows us to understand what that would mean, more importantly hopefully perused us to keep an eye on our population growth.

These photos almost have an artistic quality to them, but then your realize people live in these.

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Via

What Tiny Houses Mean For Urban Density

Yesterday I was talking about tiny houses with another tiny house aficionado when the topic of how do tiny houses intersect with the need in the future for more urban density.  There have been several studies suggesting that in order to meet the needs of the future, more and more people are going to have to live in cities.  The land around cities will also have to be shifted to agricultural spaces to support these cities with food that can be produced within a few hours travel time.

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So what do tiny houses mean for this potential future?  Tiny houses provide a living laboratory for people to try out different design ideas, utility systems, storage solutions, and learn lessons that can be taken and applied to small sustainable housing of the next evolution of the city.  I have been asked many of times: “how do you think you’ll get the same density with tiny houses as you do apartment buildings?”  The simple answer is I’m not.

In a city setting essentially you could have same interiors, but the outside form would be one that is stack-able.   Since you can’t have side wall windows or a sky light, we are going to have to make the end walls floor to ceiling windows to get enough light in.  We will need to design as part of the master plan, outdoor living spaces that people actually want to hang out in, with roof top gardens, building courtyards, local community gardens, and great parks.

In the suburbs and rural areas I’d expect to see more mini villages pop up in the form of co-housing projects.  These villages would most likely allow people who want to live in the country do so, but also be the hubs for agricultural activities for themselves and the cities.

I struggle personally with the notion that we may be faced with living more and more in dense cities because I am one that likes room to roam, a quite place to sit and think and green space to be in.   Here in Charlotte, while it is a very sizable city, I live on several acres. I have been fortunate enough to travel a good bit and even cities that have done a really good job with their parks and green spaces, I still find myself feeling smothered by tall buildings and concrete.  Cities certainly offer a lot to do, but there is something deep inside of me that resonates with being outdoors in the woods.  Something that I fear no high density city will be able to provide me with.

Your Turn!

  • How do you see the future of housing?
  • What will the cities and country look like for a sustainable future?
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