Homesteading, Permaculture, and American Houses

Tracy and I are intending to use our garden to start growing some crops sustainably. The long planning is to put some raised beds in there, a nice greenhouse, and a chicken coop. It’s a bit of a permaculture, homesteading, or sustainable living type of idea that we’re going for. Back when we lived in Groningen, we had an allotment garden for two or so years, though that was difficult to maintain given my travel times and the accessibility issues for Tracy. Now that we finally have some garden space to ourselves, we can do it in a convenient way, particularly now that we are more financially stable as well.

The interesting thing when researching this is that, like so much of contemporary culture, Americans are quite dominant voices in the space. This, as you can imagine, brings along some interesting cultural differences. For instance, a book that I saw recommended for small gardens was The Half-Acre Homestead. A half-acre—small! Over here, in one of the cheaper places to buy property in the Netherlands, a half-acre plot (about 2km2 about 2000m2 or a plot of about 44m by 44m) would cost at least half a million Euro up to a million Euro, depending on where you buy (about $580k–$1.16m). You’d be buying up an old farmhouse with farmland, and on the cheaper side of things it’d be a delapidated farmhouse at that. The authors of The Half-Acre Homestead apparently found an acre of unused land and settled on it, building their own house and starting to farm on it. The book claims that they have never paid rent or had a mortgage. In the Netherlands, it’d be almost impossible to find 10cm2 that isn’t owned by somebody somewhere. Let alone, of course, that the premise of the book is that they started this somewhere in the ’70s. Now, potentially, this might be deceptive (really, they never had any trouble over seizing land with a municipal government, a landowner, or the federal government?), but whether it’s true or false, I am convinced that the same could not be done today in the Netherlands.

The main points of it, though, are still usable. There are many updated and modernized variants of the book, and adapted versions for more specific living. However, the most relevant informational source we’ve found on home gardening for food production in our growing zone is Spicy Moustache on YouTube. His videos are really realistic as to what can be done in a small growing space in a European and urban environment, and his garden is something I’d aspire to have as well. For an example, check out his latest video:

I love the focus on practical, realistic, and affordable garden solutions.

Slowly and surely, through these kinds of sources, we are learning new ways of food production in more urban settings than we’ve had with our farmplot before. On a more general note, I can really recommend listening to podcasts like The Poor Prole’s Almanac, Live Like The World is Dying, and It Could Happen Here for good information on how to become more self-sustainable. The first focuses more directly on urban food growing, while the second is more about independent living and anarchist theory, and the third is about the potential realities of life moving forward from here.

Both from an economic, cultural, and environmental perspective, we’ve really been prompted to think more about sustainable ways of living. From something as simple as mending holes in clothing and wearing them longer even though it may look a little weird, Tracy wanting to custom make clothing, I wanting to learn how to repair and maintain electronics, to the two of us farming our own food in our front and back yards, the both of us have started to become more and more convinced we need to be more autonomous in our lifestyles. Aside from all the benefits, it’s also just nice to be able to take pride in the things that we are doing.

4 thoughts on “Homesteading, Permaculture, and American Houses”

  1. “The book claims that they have never paid rent or had a mortgage.”

    If it’s the one bought in ’71 in Bolinas, then they probably just bought it outright from someone who grabbed it for $70 in the 20s.

  2. “a half-acre plot (about 2km2)” – Wait, are you using a different acre than the American one? A NA half-acre should be a bout 200ft by 100ft (60m x 30m), wayyyy smaller than 2 sq km

    1. I was going by the Wikipedia definition, which gives its size as 4,840 square yards, making it around 4 sq km, or about .4 hectares. That’d put it at around 20m x 200m for a full acre.

      You’re absolutely right, of course, that I foolishly went to quickly there – reading that again I realize I’d just divided the 2000 square meters by 1000 as though they were meters and kilometers, which of course doesn’t work for the squared measurement! Thank you for the correction.

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