How to Live Off the Land Even If You Don’t Own Land

iStock_000014514671XSmallMy latest obsession is Alaska: The Last Frontier.  I love watching how the Kilchers live off the land and seek to be self-sufficient.  As someone who spent her childhood wishing she, too, could live in Little House on the Prairie, it makes sense that in adulthood I’d be obsessed with modern day pioneers like the Kilchers.

The problem is, I rent an apartment with a tiny lawn in the near suburbs of a large urban city.  There’s not much opportunity for me to personally live off the land.

If you find yourself in this same situation, there are still things you can do to live off the land as much as possible considering your circumstances.  Here are some ideas that may work for you:

Grow a Garden

If you have a little plot of land, consider growing a garden.  Of course, it likely won’t meet all of your vegetable needs even during the summer months, but you’re meeting some of your needs.  If even a small garden isn’t an option, consider planting a container garden.  I plan to do that this summer and plant some herbs as well as some lettuce and a tomato plant.  My dreams of a large garden will need to wait until I own a home further in the suburbs.

Buy Direct from the Farmer

As much as possible, we try to buy our food direct from the farmer.  My cousin’s husband is an Angus cow farmer, so we buy all of our beef from him.  We buy the rest of our meat from a farmer who has a farm three hours away from us.

We have subscribed to a CSA (community supported agriculture) for the last two summers for our fresh vegetables.  Now we’ve found one that offers a year round CSA basket which we will be subscribing to.  Not only are we eating local and organic, but we’re also eating in season, which is an important aspect of living off the land.

In the summer, we make an annual trip to an organic blueberry farm and a strawberry farm each two hours away.  Last summer we bought 70 pounds of blueberries and turned some into jam.  The rest we froze to eat all winter long.  We did the same with strawberries, though we only bought 40 pounds of those.

Last year we also “rented” two organic apple trees about two hours away from us.   We paid $55 to rent each tree, and then when the apples were ripe, the farm called us.  We picked all the apples from our tree.  The first tree yielded about 90 pounds of apples, but the second tree later in the season gave us a whopping 200 pounds of apples!  We turned many into applesauce, but we also saved them to eat fresh.  We picked the last tree in early October, and we’re just now finishing off those apples.

With all of the extra veggies and fruits that we get in the summer, we take the time to can them or freeze them so we can still eat local produce even in the chilly winter months when our area of the country is producing very little.

Next summer I intend to become even less reliant on the conventional grocery stores by buying even more local produce that I can freeze and can.  I’d love it if our family could mostly live off our store of food in the winter that we put up in the summer.

Even though I’m not yet able to live off the land myself, I am able to support farmers in our area who are environmentally conscious and concerned with keeping food local.  I feel good about that, and I wait for the day, hopefully a few years from now, when we can move into a bigger place and become more self-sustaining.

Do you live off the land to some extent?  If you’re in a situation like I am, what steps do you take?


How to Live Off the Land Even If You Don’t Own Land — 5 Comments

  1. I like the idea of a garden, but I think I’d start with a small raised box garden. My mother, many years ago, got to live her dream of gardening on a fairly substantial piece of property. What she realized after the first two years is that it’s A LOT of work. She now only grows swiss chard and a few other things that are pretty low maintenance. She gave up on corn and a variety of other veggies.

  2. My city offers plots in community gardens for $50 a year. My application has been submitted, and I’m hoping I’m selected! I’m not that excited about the cost and will likely not break even, but it will give me good vegetables for the season and will be a chance to meet neighbors. I just hope that the plot I get wasn’t farmed by someone who used lots of chemicals.

  3. I’m lucky in that my landlord doesn’t mind if people have a garden here. Both my neighbor and I have had gardens that take up the entire side of the lot along the building.

    And tonight I tried farm grown pig for the first time. Other people I know purchase a whole butchered pig once a month from a local farm.

  4. I love that show. I am obsessed with it. They are awesome people. I would love to spend one week with them, but I bet I would cave!

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