Little House in the Suburbs by Deanna Caswell and Daisy Siskin

 

I picked this book up a couple of weeks ago and read through it.   There are a lot of different books out there in the urban homesteading realm, each one sharing what one person or family has done with their homes.  There are a lot of similar themes and overlapping info in these books, but ultimately each story is a little different.

First, I didn’t feel that Little House in the Suburbs is quite geared towards my demographic group (although they did give a brief shout-out to the ‘survivalists’ at one point in the book), but that’s just a matter of style and kind of trivial.  As the name suggests, it does have a suburban mother aura to it, but still worthwhile for anyone interested in these subjects to read.

I think one of the strengths of this book was that most of it wasn’t very technical, but sounded more like the kinds of things you would hear from talking with people with experience face-to-face in these matters.   I particularly liked the chapters about goats, bees and chickens, which were some of the best material on these subjects I’ve come across.   In fact, after reading it I think I’m knocked off the fence on getting bees and egg laying hens here and will talk with a local beekeeper sometime this week about bees.

Another notable theme throughout the book is dealing with neighbors and homeowners associations.    Your neighbors are probably going to think you’re eccentric for bringing in livestock to your backyard, but the authors give tips on how to win your neighbors over on these things.   In many places the laws for keeping chickens and bees are up to the city’s discretion and a content neighbor isn’t going to be making calls to the city every day complaining about this or that.   I forgot if this was brought up in the book or not, but it’s also a good way to build community by including your neighbors on these activities if you can – plus it could influence them to take similar actions as well.   Maybe your neighbors would like to do something like keep chickens but thought that you would think they had lost their marbles?  I don’t know…  At any rate, this is an important subject that I think gets overlooked in most books from the genre.

There’s also chapters about preserving food, homemade foods, natural cleaning products, natural health and beauty products and homemade crafts as gifts.  I’ll admit that I skimmed through some of the less-masculine material in these departments.

I also have to say that it’s a good looking book with a lot of good pictures.   Very well done.

I think that the authors unimposing and personal approach to the world of urban homesteading would go over well with people who are new to urban homesteading or maybe just interested in making their life a little more “green”.

The authors have a blog that can be found here:  http://littlehouseinthesuburbs.com/

 

4 comments

  • Rottenclam

    I think it is really great that lots of books and blogs are starting to appear around (sub)urban homesteading. If you think about it, even farmers had their own small gardens, back in the day, where they grew foods that were specifically meant for their dinner table. Lots of people (pre-WWII) did whatever they could to grow their own produce or to keep a goat or a few chickens. The return of this movement is very welcome.

    But, as an aside, I feel like the dirty word is “survivalist”. Sure, they love the word “homesteader”, and on a particularly open-minded day, they might even go for the title of “prepper”, but when you say “survivalist”, a lot of these people freak.

    Not unlike the title, “skinhead”, immediately people go a bit nuts (not realizing that there is an anti-racist / non-racist contingent within that particular subculture) when they hear the word. Well, with “survivalist” they think of the unabomber, Ruby Ridge, and lots of other very sad (and sometimes twisted) tales that are associated with the title “survivalist”.

    If you feel up to it, I’d like to read an article by you about the “prepper” vs. the “survivalist”. Do you even see a difference? If you do, what do you consider the differences? Where does the homesteader fit in with these terms? I mean, after all, isnt a homesteader living a life that naturally prepares them for times when their home is not generating the kind of energy / food that it normally does during idea conditions?

  • Ryan

    I see a difference in the terms, but honestly, I’m guilty of putting the same kind of loaded associations with the term “survivalist” as most people. I want to say that a “prepper” lives something resembling a normal life, but actively takes measures to be prepared for some sort of disaster while a “survivalist” lives a life based around surviving some catastrophic event and normalcy is secondary. I guess I see “survivalists” as focusing on matters of life and death whereas preppers might worry more about the speed bumps in life (job loss, power outages, storms, etc.)

    Although I always found the survivalist thing interesting, I tending to think that most of the survivalists that I encountered were very narrow in their outlook and that they based their persona on things that they THOUGHT they would do in situations that haven’t happened and scorned normal folks for not living their lives in anticipation of some catastrophe. I won’t name names, but there was someone on POS who gave me this vibe.

    I don’t know, I think opting for “prepper” instead of “survivalist” might just be a way to kind of reset things now that bomb shelters stocked with MRE’s and ammo in anticipation of Red Dawn and/or the UN coming to take our guns seems a little more outlandish than it did in 1985.

    I think the homesteader can fall into the survivalist category or the prepper category. Some live fairly normal lives and maintain some ties with mainstream society, some live completely off the grid and have very few ties with the mainstream. I suppose that’s another perception one, just like prepper/survivalist.

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