Tell me, I’ll forget.  Show me, I may remember.  But involve me and I’ll understand. — Chinese Proverb

As folks around the nation celebrate with friends and family,  how about we all take this opportunity to share with one another what baby steps (or giant ones) that we have taken to become more independent from mass consuming culture and the corporate controls of our food, energy, fuel, water and our lives.

As Americansm we value our freedoms; however, these days we find ourselves entrapped, tied to system that is set on keeping us dependent.

A helpful guidepost for a more sustainable lifestyle is found at 10 Elements of Urban Homesteading

We’ll kick things off.   So far, the small changes made this year (I am sure, um, I know there’s more but it’s a start:

1. Reclaimed time, stepping back and gaining more hands on experiences

2. Reduced water with installation of graywater to garden

3. Creative re-purposing.  Bed sheets to aprons.

5. Buying wisely – goods for life.    Make conscious purchases.   Do we really need that, how long will it last or can I make that myself.

6. Homegrown economy,  less dependent on restaurant sales, which could turn out in the long run to be a fickle source of income.  Instead, focus on more the front porch farm stand.

Small steps have a large impact.

Care to share what steps you have taken or would like to take in 2010.

How are you bringing the revolution home?


  1. Nancy says:

    We moved to a small farm where we have dairy animals, a large garden, steers for beef, laying chickens, and pastured turkeys and chickens for meat. We try to live simply and live life on purpose, making time count. Living in a way where we need less cash by purchasing less and buying used or making it ourselves. Working with our hands.

    • Anais says:

      @Nancy: Thanks for kicking off the “small steps” post and offering us insights to your journey towards simpler and more purposeful life. All the best on your journey

  2. Rosanne Mays says:

    I like this. Small steps make us feel like we have accomplished things along the way towards the big steps. This year my goal was to spend no money on my garden except for seeds and water. So far so good. If I need something I find it or make it. Feels good!

    • Anais says:

      @Rosanne Mays: Exactly. It may not look like you’ve traveled far but it’s good to once and awhile to STOP, take a breath and LOOK behind you at the tracks you’ve made. It’s not always about the summit but how far you’ve traveled in getting there.

  3. Cynthia says:

    We are also trying to become more self-sufficient and less dependent on the lures of easy consumerism. We’ve moved to a farm (complete with well/sceptic – makes us mindful of water consumption!), installed a greenhouse and are growing some of our own veggies (with more to come in future years!), primarily buying in-season fruits and veggies from our local farmers, preserving/making foods, making due with less “stuff” and finding creative solutions with goods on-hand (when possible) and find new ways to reduce our energy consumption each month.

    We have a lot to be thankful for! From examples such as your own family, Anais, you have inspired so many people to recognize alternatives and to live with the earth – not just live on it. Thank you so much!

    • Anais says:

      @Cynthia: Ooooh lucky you a FARM. You’re right, there is A LOT to be thankful for. So often folks forget about counting their blessings and doing what they can, where they are with what they have. Keep us posted on your progress and wishing you all the best on your journey.

  4. Annette - CoMo Homestead says:

    This year on our urban homestead in Columbia, MO we built two additional 4×16′ raised bed gardens. Now we have a total of three. This has really increased our growing capacity, so I am able to grow much more this year than we did last year, and a wider variety of fruits and vegetables.

    We have one of the gardens hooked up to our rain barrel, so we can water it directly with reclaimed rain water. We use soaker hoses in all three beds to minimize wasting water in the irrigation process.

    We are also continuing to walk to work as we always have, so we are minimizing the use of our truck to 2-3x/week.

  5. Nancy says:

    My biggest step taken (don’t laugh) is I’ve stopped buying clothes. Twice a year I used to go the the mall at sale time, and get a bunch of new clothes for work and play. I can’t tell you how freeing it feels to be “mall free”. I had already fenced in my side yard, don’t have a back yard, with the plan of getting rid of all grass and planting food. I’ve been working on this for about 2 years. Since I live in suburban Florida, I’m finding the weather quite challenging. Nevertheless, I did can 8 jars of homegrown tomato sauce. I usually freeze them but canning keeps them safe in case of a blackout. I also picked 12 pounds of blueberries. Some I did freeze, but I also made and canned jam.

    I have a Meyer lemon tree, an orange tree, and today I bought a cherry tree for the front yard. My lot is probably close to the size of yours, or maybe even smaller. I follow your laws of purchase, i.e. local, in season, organic, and/or fair trade. Also, I found a neighbor with a rabbit, and I’ve been periodically cleaning out his hutch in order to bring home the straw and manure for my composter.

    I love your site and read it every day. I’ve been reading all the old ones in order, and it’s like reading a good book! I’ve been reading one month each day. I’m up to February 2005. Thank you for all you do.

    • Anais says:

      @Nancy: Well, I for one am NOT laughing. That’s wonderful. I think that is a huge step. I for one haven’t been to a mall or clothing store in, yikes, I can’t remember! Of course now, I MAY have to stay away from second hand clothing stores all the same. 😉

      Oh, yeah, we know all about the Florida weather. Really know how challenging it is to live there – and without AC. ACK.

      You’ve certainly been busy! Sounds like you have already done a wonderful job transforming your home and life. Thanks for taking time to share your journey with us and we wish you continued success!

      You are welcome, thank for the positive comments as you continue to read thru the tremendous archives of posts and pics. What’s your favorite or is it to early to ask? Heck, I don’t even know what’s there any more. LOL

      • Nancy says:

        My favorites are the animal stories as I am an animal lover like Jordanne. I also love looking at the pictures of your garden. I guess really, I love it all. I’m really hoping for a receipe book some day. Your food always looks so good! I forgot to mention that I’m also a vegetarian, so am always looking for new ways to cook the things I grow and produce I purchase. Right now I’m overloaded with okra.

        • Anais says:

          @Nancy: Me too. Hopefully Jordanne will have time to contribute more here at LHITC. There’s definitely more critter stories to share. Us too! A recipe book is certainly in order, not just for ya’ll but for us too! Hey readers, what do you do with a bumper crop of okra – any new recipes? 😉

  6. Heath Cole says:

    hi Anais!…really enjoyed your idea on the homegrown economy…it’s hard to tell what twists and turns our economy will take, and disposable income for eating at restaurants could be one of the first things to go…i think it’s great that you’re focusing more on the front porch farm stand, and i like the idea that it keeps it super local!…:)

    • Anais says:

      @Heath Cole: Glad you enjoyed the post. Sure could have been longer but these days there’s not much time to sit and formulate meaty posts. We’ve been selling our produce for over 15 years now (DerVaes Gardens) and these last two years we’ve been really making an effort to bring local folks here to our city farm. It’s working! Our front porch farm stand is a success and it’s great to see the same faces week after week. Talk with them about how they are going to use the produce or the state of the garden. Definitely putting “know your food, know your farmer” into practice.

  7. Chris says:

    Because of finding this website, the advice from Farmer D, I’m all about the “baby steps” as I journey into Urban Homesteading. First, we knew we wanted to retire on Cape Cod in a small 1950’s cottage on a small lot. I knew NOTHING about organic gardening, let alone soil biodiversity, thought I had a black thumb and was/am a former “disco queen” albeit I wish I was born sooner and went to Woodstock. I shopped at WF and TJ’s for my OG produce. I had no idea what a zucchini plant looked like 2 years ago and I bonsai’d my first broccoli plants within an inch of their lives last year. When I realized it this year, I couldn’t stop laughing! That said … “Life Lessons” taught me it’s all about Family First and if we aren’t here to be a blessing, then why are we here? If we aren’t working to enrich our home life, nourish each other physically, emotionally, spiritually .. then why are we working? …for what??? Everyone wants to be respected, accepted and loved (nourished if you will) … Just like Plants !!!! The Journey of the Dervaes Family and all of your accomplishments is like breathing in fresh clean air! AND … it is ALL ABOUT BABY STEPS !!! Kudos to you and all that you do!

    • Anais says:

      @Chris: Couldn’t have said it better myself, especially loved the part about nourishing. You are so right. Not to mention, LOVE that you have sense of humor too. You gotta know how to laugh – seriously! It’s all about having FUN on the journey too. Sometimes when I talk to people not sure if they get my twisted/warped sense of humor but believe me you develop one whether you like it or not.
      Sure, there will be deep dark valleys but you always have to follow the light. Here’s to BABY STEPS towards a better future!

  8. Amber Storck says:

    I just inherited a home. The first thing I did was immediately plant a small garden with tomatoes, zucchini, squash, artichoke and onion. A couple months later, I planted a banana tree, dragonfruit tree, avocado tree, apple tree, pear tree, tea leaves for herbal remedies, corn, beans, blackberries, strawberries and eggplant. I stopped shopping altogether for new clothes and now ONLY buy secondhand. I even found a second hand bookstore to buy my books! This all happened within the last 3 months.
    I hope to soon start my own youtube series of Keeping up with the Dervaes Family (You should start seeing it in a couple months-no joke) I plan on getting solar panels, rainwater collection barrels, over the toilet sink, solar shower and of course the infamous solar oven, laying hens, and transforming my front yard into an edible garden with lots of mixed greens and potatoes, vermicomposting, regular composting, and will also not buy meat, but only go fishing-the eco way. Watch out guys – here I come! (By the way, it’s all in the name of fun, I think what you guys are doing is awesome and I’m just trying to emulate it-you’ll be seeing me, watch for me on youtube!)

  9. Alexander Supertramp says:

    Small steps for 2010:
    1. killer garden
    2. Fireplace insert (50k+ BTUs of renewable hotness)
    3. convert to CFL, unplug anything I don’t use daily, less AC, etc. I’m trending about 200kw less per month than same time in 2009.
    4. Bike to/from work (fair weather only)
    5. garbage picking. Not glamorous but I got my garden gate, 2 adirondack chairs, a glider, a park bench, a mountain bike, clay pots, deer fencing, a potting table, railroad ties for planters, a canoe stand, a sweet stainless grill, and tons of lumber. Most stuff needed minor repairs and some stain but the price was still right.

    Next year, I’d like to expand the garden, start reclaiming rain water, get a bee hive, and raise chickens (subject to my ability to get a variance. would you believe my town requires 5 acres of land in order to have a chicken coop?”

    • Anais says:

      @Alexander Supertramp: Great list of BABY STEPS Love the “killer garden” being numero uno on the list. 😉 All the best tackling your list!

  10. Shelly says:

    Well, my progress is indeed baby steps and much less admirable than most here but I am proud nonetheless!

    I live in a small 500 square foot apartment and rent two 200 square foot garden plots at a nearby community garden. Last year, I had one 200 square foot plot that was d failure but this year, due to a LOT of reading and information gathering and even more hands-on coddling and loving the plants, I have a garden that is bursting out its bounds! This year I will be able to can/put up tomatoes, pickles and beans for the first time! I am very excited to be working my way to a more self sufficient and environmentally friendly lifestyle!

    • Anais says:

      @Shelly: Love to hear from our apartment dweller readers! You folks are showing that change can be made whatever the circumstances. Happy harvesting and preserving!

  11. Brooke says:

    We have a garden for the second year and this weekend alone picked 17 lbs of produce. We are also wanting to get dairy goats but are waiting for the right breeders and right price. We are slowly converting to self sustainability. Can’t wait until total freedom!

    • Anais says:

      @Brooke: “total FREEDOM” great saying! Thanks for sharing your harvest tally and good luck with the goats.

  12. Paula says:

    Baby steps for 2010 that have been accomplished: Freezing/canning tomatoes and tomato sauce, built a chicken coop, found local source for eggs till hens come into their own, buy local produce, eat in season from farmer’s market & own garden. Use rain barrels for watering herbs and flowers. Install timer on veggie garden sprinkler.

    Baby steps for fall 2010/2011: build new beds for pumpkins, corn, and more melons. Employ chickens to do the digging for me. Add new rabbit to others for more manure. Improve compost beds. Add new herbs for culinary & medicinal.

    • Anais says:

      @Paula: Another great list of BABY STEPS. Love to hear how folks are growing and putting up more. Not to mention getting critters to boot! Thanks for sharing.

  13. Bethany says:

    Since I live in an apartment complex, for a long time I thought my urban homesteading ideas would have to remain daydreams. However, I am blessed to have several wonderful friends living in the same complex, and one of them, much less shy than I, asked our apartment manager if we could begin a garden in some of the unused land around our complex. She gave us enthusiastic permission, and we broke ground this spring. We’re still eagerly awaiting our first harvest (of something other than okra, that is, which seems to be the prodigy of our garden!). We (about 7 of us are involved all together) still have a lot to learn, but the experience of starting this garden has reminded that even baby steps can take you far when you have others walking alongside you.

    • Anais says:

      @Bethany: Once again, LOVE hearing from apartment urban homesteaders who are making a difference where they are! What a great story and accomplishment. Many hands make light the work and all together change can grow where it’s planted. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Candice says:

    My baby steps have been a bit of a struggle lately, as my work schedule has become crazy hectic after taking over a business with my husband on top of my full time job. I’m afraid my garden has suffered a bit from it 🙁

    This year we planted more of a variety of tomatoes – 6 beefsteaks, 4 romas, 2 volunteers dug up in the spring that look to be early girls from last year, and one yellow pear volunteer that I just let grow where it was (last year we just had early girls and yellow pears). I did a cucumber this year, too, so I could make sweet pickles. Also planted rhubarb, but since this is the first year for it I’m not picking it so it has plenty of time this summer to really establish. I also planted two blueberry bushes this year, though they’re teeny-tiny things at the moment and not really doing all that well.

    I’ve been trying to be more conscious about what I buy at the grocery lately. We’ve always tended to waste a lot of food, not really on purpose. But we’d buy food for groceries and then our schedule changes last minute and there’s no longer time to cook dinner. So this summer I’ve been making more of an effort to cut back on how much food we buy so it doesn’t go to waste. Same goes for things we purchase/buy… if we don’t need it/aren’t really going to use it/can make do with something else then we skip the purchase. We still trip up every now and then, but we’re getting a lot better.

    I think next year we may end up scaling the garden back to just a few tomato and pepper plants. But who knows – maybe by next year we’ll be to the point where I can drop my full time job down to part time and then I’ll have 20 extra hours to my life every week?

    • Anais says:

      @Candice: Great point about CONSCIOUS CONSUMERISM. I think that’s really important step. We all have to buy stuff so it’s about making an effort to buy the better stuff. Thanks for sharing your struggles, it’s good to hear from folks like yourself who are juggling work and gardening. Sometimes other priorities come first! Good luck with everything.

  15. Laura Jeanne @ Getting There says:

    Well, baby steps would be the right phrase to describe my efforts this year to move towards a better life. But I’m doing what I can. So far, I have planted a garden (including a box of potatoes and two pumpkin vines) in our tiny urban backyard; learned to can jam; gotten up the courage to forage for food in our neighbourhood, including dandelion greens and berries; tried to learn to knit; started making sprouts; and started using a clothesline outside to dry my laundry, even though it is against the rules of our condo. So far no one has said anything to me, so I’m keeping up the civil disobedience! 🙂

    • Anais says:

      @Laura Jeanne @ Getting There: That’s a great list of steps. Keep it up! Love the part about hanging out your laundry. 😉

  16. Susan says:

    I live in a condo so my baby steps this year was to grow lettuce in a container on my patio. So exciting to watch it grow, and fun to eat something I had grown myself! I still have a pot of thyme out there and will get some more herbs, and will try growing some broccoli in the fall. Also, this past weekend I made freezer jam for the first time! Strawberry nectarine and it was yummy, but a little too “gelled”, so I think I’ll use a little less pectin next time. Now that I’ve tried it there’s no going back, and as well as continuing to make freezer jam I plan on getting some canning equipment soon.

    I want to learn to make soap, so maybe that’ll be my baby step for 2011.

    • Anais says:

      @Susan: Yummy, sounds like you’ve had some fun canning! It’s great to hear from condo/patio growers who are using their space wisely and creatively. That’s awesome. Happy growing!

  17. Carla says:

    This was my year to start a serious garden. So far 5 of 9 4 by 8 foot raised beds are built and planted. The remaining area of the 50 by 20 foot space is also planted in corn and melons. I’ve also planted quince, fig and raspberries with blueberries still in pots.

    I really enjoy your blog. You are quite the inspiration.

    • Anais says:

      @Carla: Thanks for the positive comments. Sounds like you have some serious gardening going on and that’s wonderful. Bet you are looking forward to when all the fruit tree/bushes kick it. Happy growing!

  18. JeannaMO says:

    This year I planted my entire garden with seeds. Cheap seeds – and not all heirloom (some are) but used what I have access to. For the first time, I actually have nice looking plants growing from those seeds. Just picked a head of cabbage. The tomatoes are 6 feet tall and have lots of blooms – waiting on those tomatoes! I usually do lots of canning and even though I work full-time away from home, I managed to get all of my green beans canned. Not a lot. I only have an area of about 8′ x 4′ area for green beans, but I harvested 10 pounds! I canned 5 quarts and cooked the rest. It felt SO GOOD!

    I have other things out there doing well except for the squash borer that have attacked my zucchini. I have a cantelope forming for the first time ever! I have onions, beets, pole beans, jalapeno and bell pepper, cabbage, broccoli, cucumbers, yellow squash, delicata (new to me), english peas (already harvested)- all planted from seed in a garden that is only about 30′ x 50′ ! Considering, we live in mid Missouri (near Columbia, MO – like the above poster), that is a great accomplishment. Our weather is all over the place.

    We also have 4 bee hives (added two this past spring), but have lost 3 – so that is disheartening. There is no mentor in our area so we are winging it. Believe we have small hive beetles attacking. But, we are not discouraged too much. You never learn much from smooth sailing!

    In the past my garden has been simply for extras or treats! But, this year I am making a conscious effort to eat what’s out there. To form meals with what I have in the garden.

    So, this site is teaching me so much! Thank you Dersaes Family! I know this takes time from your busy day – but we are learning!


    • Anais says:

      @JeannaMO: Sorry to hear about your hive troubles. As as kid in Florida, I remember my father having to burn all his hives – some disease swept thru and he had to burn everything. That was really sad. Hope you get a handle on those beetles. Sounds like you’ve been busily productive. That’s wonderful. I agree, lessons aren’t learned when there aren’t any problems to overcome/figure out. Sometimes, I just wish the “lessons” were spaced out a little. 😉 You are most certainly welcome, glad we are able to share! Happy homesteading!

  19. Grizzly Bear Mom says:

    Jules taught me a new way of thinking. My baby steps are not as dramatic as most bloggers but I’m moving in the right direction:
    1. Reduce use of and reuse all water. I rarely flush because I catch my dishwashing and hand washing water in a bucket. I also use it to water tomatoes & berries. I’m single so I don’t fear others’ germs.
    2. Buy for life-what’s the point of purchasing something you won’t use forever like this season’s fashions? When I shop I do so on line because that’s better for the earth and doesn’t tempt me to eat a Cinnabun.
    3. Have meatless Mondays, anyday or everyday! Better for the earth, the animal and this animal!
    4. Have fueless Fridays. I understand this is better for the earth than vegetarism. I need the exercise and serenity anyway.
    5. I planted a small garden, but the weeks of hot dry weather and the bunnies that seek out my long, chemical less grass to live in consider it their buffet.
    5. Pass it on. My 77 year old depression baby mom buys in to most of this. My 27 year old niece is still pretty mainstream.

    • Anais says:

      @Grizzly Bear Mom: Thank for sharing a great list of BABY STEPS. Sometimes it’s the small steps that have the biggest impact. All the best on your journey!

  20. andrea says:

    My very baby baby baby steps include planting thyme and basil and watering them with dishwater, lol. For someone who has never kept a plant alive before, this is a milestone :).

    • Anais says:

      @andrea: Good for you. Happy growing!

  21. Amber says:

    I’m following your examples guys:
    Got a solar oven
    Got a hand-use thingy. (You use it to make/stir mashed potatoes, don’t know what it’s called)
    Got a latte maker second hand and use that to make my daily starbucks addiction go away.
    Bought energy star refrigerator, very small.
    Got a rainbarrel-use to irrigate plants
    Creative repurposing. (Inherited a home and repurposed just about every single piece of furniture – NOTHING was wasted-looks very Martha Stewart now!)
    Water conservation-toilet sink and downgraded bathwater to 1/3 full instead of full bathtub-I don’t have a shower.
    Clothes line dryer
    Planted 4 fruit trees and lots of different vegetables
    Got Eco curtains for heating/cooling-they work great and block out the sun 99%.
    Energy conservation from 24kwh per day down to about 8kwh per day.
    Installled carpets made of recycled bottlecaps (From Lowe’s)
    Plans to come:
    4 Chickens – coop is ready, just need chickens and feed
    Solar – saved $2,000 so far, only $13,000 to go for a 3kw system
    Got CFL’s – nothing uses more than 9 watts.
    Expansion of garden & turning front yard lawn into edible landscape.

    • Anais says:

      @Amber: What a great list of steps, thanks for sharing

  22. Julie says:

    Baby Steps:

    Letting my neighbor graze his illegal goats in my backyard: we’re gonna learn to make goat cheese this winter.

    Volunteering at the local food co-op so I can have more organically/responsibly raised meat in the house. It’s the only place I can take 4 year old to where I can “work”

    Learning to make meals out of what’s there. No running to the store for one ingredient. Substitute or leave it out.

    Learning to step back when i want something and see if I really end up needing it. Usually not.

    Passing down stuff I don’t need and giving back to my community

    Building small beds in my front yard with plans to do the whole yard.


  23. Amber says:

    STEPS taken this year : started bartering for the things I want instead of buying them. I’ve always recycled flat sheets into clothing, cloth diapers, cloth napkins, etc. Cancelled cable. Downgraded cellphone package and cancelled landline. No longer own a dryer. Everything is line dried (its gets down to the 30s here durng the winter so I will use the dryers at the laundromant during that time). However, in the true desert thats only 6 weeks out of the year! No dishwasher (unless I count!) DIY dog/cat food, cold remedies, toothpaste. LEARNED TO COOK. Purchased goats ( nigerians and pygoras).

    Soon to come: More effecient rainwater catchment, ducks, (already have chickens), goat garden, expand existing garden, vermicomposting and solar over (dumb not to have one here)

  24. Lisa Nagurski says:

    Let’s see… I quit my corporate job, but my partner in crime still has his as we learn. We’ve expanded our garden quite a bit from about 800 square feet to just over 1000; bought chickens for eggs (which dug up & ate everything I planted hmmm, there is a learning curve…); bought ducks for eggs; and installed solar panels. (Our latest bill was 66¢, still not good enough.) I’ve since re-planted the garden, installed a simple gray water system and bought plastic drums for catching rainwater. I’ve stopped buying things I don’t need and have started cooking most all our meals from scratch. All of this has been done in the past 6 months. I have so much to do still that it seems overwhelming at times – but I love it.

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