Years ago I pitched a book all about urban homesteading to my publisher. I wanted it to include all the things that I do around my suburban homestead such as garden, keep chickens, preserve food, make homemade syrup, make candles, lotion and all the other things. My editor loved the idea and wanted me to write up a formal proposal. I did write up the proposal, but I never sent it off. I let the book idea sit and simmer in my mind for months and months. It seemed like too much of an undertaking to put all of that information in one place by myself. Fast forward to the spring of 2021… I was on the phone with my friend Michelle (@forksinthedirt) to speak to her about a feature she was including me in on her website. We got to chit-chatting and on a whim I asked her if she’d like to join me in writing the book. By May of 2021, we had a deal under contract for what became Small-Scale Homesteading.
Michelle and I live thirty minutes across town from each other. We’d only met once or twice when I asked her to write with me. We had been friends on Instagram for years and we’d spoken over the phone about various projects from time to time but really, were we crazy to collaborate on this project? I knew she lived in the suburbs and did pretty much all the same things I did at my suburban home. The only difference is that she has about three-quarters of an acre and I have an .18 acre lot (which includes my house, garage and driveway – not much space).
We learned through writing the book that though we did many of the same things, we had very different methods of getting to our endpoints. For example, we both tap our silver maple trees and make homemade maple syrup, but she uses a different method for collecting the sap. We even have different methods for boiling the sap down into syrup and our methods vary for preserving the syrup as well. Another example, we both have backyard hens for eggs. Our coop set ups and runs are completely different, she supplements light in the winter and I don’t and we have different winter care routines – yet we both raise happy, healthy hens that provide enough eggs for the bulk of the year for our families.
Where Michelle and I differ is how we garden. She’s more of a methodical gardener that extends the season as early as she can in the spring to as late as she can in the fall. She cleans her trays before she starts seeds and mixes up her own fertilizer and seed starting soil. She has an understanding of why things are done the way they are. I, on the other hand, start seeds indoors in my living room and plant the starts where I see room in my garden beds (no real rhyme or reason). I do things more on a whim, see how they work out and learn by trial and error. That all being said, at the end of the season, we both grow hundreds of pounds of produce and have preserved of it much to enjoy throughout the winter. Same endpoint, different methods.
In our book, Small-Scale Homesteading, we include chapters on gardening, backyard chicken keeping, food preservation, maple sugaring and healthy home projects. Michelle and I have combined our knowledge and methods of how we run our suburban homesteads and put it into one place in hopes that others can learn from us. There are some great garden projects as well as some of our favorite recipes included and the “healthy home” chapter is packed with how we make homemade candles, lotion, salves, infused vinegar, safe homemade cleaning solutions, soap making, and more.
This project proves that working together is sometimes easier than doing things independently when trying to attain a goal. We promote that same idea throughout the book. You don’t have to do everything by yourself to become sufficient; do what you actually enjoy and work together with others to get to where you want to be.
Books are available everywhere books are sold or you can order a signed copy by e-mailing me.
Praise for Small-Scale Homesteading
“From integrated pest management and companion planting, to setting up a chicken coop that will keep a flock safe and happy, to homemade natural lotions and salves, Small-Scale Homesteading provides anyone eager to be a bit more self-sufficient and take control of what’s going into (and onto!) their bodies a road map for success. Broken down into easily digestible sections conveyed in a friendly, conversational manner, this book is a must for aspiring homesteaders.”
—Lisa Steele, author of Fresh Eggs Daily and 101 Chicken Keeping Hacks
“Cultivating a relationship with your food is more important than ever, and doing so in a small space or urban setting never felt so approachable!”
—Crystal Schmidt, creator of Whole-Fed Homestead and author of Freeze Fresh
“This knowledgeable guide is chock-full of practical advice for homesteaders, small farmers, or anyone interested in doing more for themselves.”
―Rodney Wilson, senior editor at Hobby Farms
“This book is the inspiration you need for embracing the homestead lifestyle without acreage. The authors’ love of gardening shines through as they share techniques for making the most of limited space, proving that small-scale food production is possible, even when you have space restraints. They also delve into other methods of finding good quality, locally grown food, helping you bring your meals closer to home.
―Kris Bordessa, author of Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living
“Experienced homesteaders Stephanie Thurow and Michelle Bruhn have created a guide packed with authoritative advice and practical projects that anyone can tackle at home, whether their property is rural or urban.”
—Rebecca Martin, technical editor at Mother Earth News
“Small-Scale Homesteading is an absolutely indispensable guide for anyone wanting to maximize their success in the garden and beyond. In a clear, concise style, it offers comprehensive solutions, smart strategies, beautiful photos, and the warm voices of the authors sharing their ambitious homesteading adventures in compact urban settings. Sustainable home growing has never been explained better.”
—Cynthya Porter, editor at Northern Gardener magazine