Urban homesteading in Washington, D.C.
Today’s slow yet steady movement towards sustainable foods has a decidedly urban feel to it.
This morning, sitting at my backyard patio table and drinking my morning coffee, I looked appreciatively out into my backyard and took a satisfying breath. The highway behind my house roared with the morning rush hour traffic, the high rise apartments across the street were bustling with people hurrying off to school and work, and I was sitting in my own piece of urban heaven. In the past three months, my small yet robust rhombus-shaped backyard has turned into a garden oasis rarely found in even the fertile soils of rural areas. Three raised beds and several fence-side beds later, I was staring at the most satisfying seeds I had ever sowed — and all of this in the middle of Washington, D.C.
Increasingly, I realize that I am not alone in my urban homesteading. My next door neighbor traded us some of his sweet cherries off his trees in early June for the promise of ripe tomatoes later on in the summer. I’m attending locavore dinners that include not only produce from the weekend market but homegrown and homemade goodies. And suddenly it’s not so strange to ask for canning jars at the hardware store, which I did at 7:00 a.m. to process my strawberry preserves before work.
So why now? Today’s slow yet steady movement towards the more sustainable has a decidedly urban feel to it. I am an outdoor person, and like so many other people I know who are “doing the city thing” we need our outdoor fix. It seems like more and more urbanites are reconnecting with their land — in small plots and empty yards all over America’s urban hotspots. It is a gesture that promises to be better for the environment by reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and at the same time better for the health of urban populations which have gone too long without access to fresh produce.
Summer is a great time for local foods — so why not make it as local as I can? It’s part an environmental gesture, part a desire for greater self-sufficiency, and maybe even a bit selfish. After all, the fresh homemade pesto and homegrown peas and pasta I shared last night with my friend Carolyn not only had a low carbon foodprint, but were purely and simply delicious.