Tour our urban homestead

One of my promises last June was to share more of my experiences as an urban homesteader and today I’d like to extend an invitation to take a virtual walk around our city lot.

Yes, we are indeed urban; we don’t own a ranch or sprawling acreage. We have neighbours on two sides, and a street in front of the house. We happen to border on a small maple forest that in itself, borders wetlands that will never be developed. We’re fortunate that it is so private, given that downtown Montreal is only 20 minutes away. It suits us just fine.

I was raised a country girl and Danny was a city boy. When we started a family it was important for us to blend our two backgrounds in a way that made sense for our family. In my upcoming book, I give the full story of how we began our homestead – it was an emotional journey right from the start and worth every grey hair.

You’ve already toured the kitchen, so let’s head outdoors today and meet the cats and hens. (Pst: For privacy reasons, I haven’t posted photos of the house facade from the street.)

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We step into the back yard through a gate off the side of the house and onto our newly laid patio and brand new deck area. It’s usually a happening place and that was always the vision: build a gathering place for family and friends.

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This long-saved-for project was under construction nearly ALL of the summer: weekends, evenings, and some early mornings, too. Perhaps we’ll write about the renovation in a separate post. Come to think of it, that sounds like a good topic for Danny.

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Here we are looking out onto the back yard with my back against the house. Our main outdoor eating area is under the pergola, on a sturdy-as-heck cedar table that a friend built for us (along with the deck, etc). My requisite? It needed to be strong enough to hold this food blogger with an affinity for tablescapes. He did an amazing job, and made us a few benches, too.

The plan is to grow grapes or climbing roses on the pergola and the deck definitely needs a collection of planters with flowers and herbs. All in good time; we’ve literally just swept up the sawdust from the renovation.

The paper decorations in the photo were temporary party decorations from Noah’s recent birthday. One of my winter DIY projects is to make something similar to this chandelier to hang over the table. I already have the canning rack and plenty of vintage jars kicking around.

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To the left is my handy outdoor sink, a semi-DIY project that will have to be completed next summer. I snagged the vintage enamelware sink at a local flea market and a carpenter friend built the stand out of salvaged barn wood.

It needs plumbing, and a few other accessories, but already it is a mainstay for washing eggs and garden vegetables. During a recent backyard barbecue, I set a massive pot of boiled sweet corn in the sink, set out a pot of melted butter and it transformed into a party corn station. Take that, Pinterest! It’s a pretty great work area for flower arranging, too.

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This is the view from center ice, so to speak. I’m in the middle of the lawn looking towards the back of the house. To my left is the shed and swing set; to my right are four raised garden beds and the compost. Directly behind me is the campfire, and beyond that, the forest.

I affectionately call our house ‘the Breadbox’ as it is rather stark and boring from an architectural perspective, but fortunately it is edged with plenty of tall maples and that helps distract from the flat white facade.

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These two felines think they own the place. Coco (short for Coconut) has earned the title of ‘White Death” because she is a mighty hunter, fearing neither foxes or racoons. Cassis (French for ‘black currant’) is starting to get his first grey hairs, but he prowls the place so intensely, he’s earned the nickname “The Panther”.

They don’t give the chickens a minute of their time and they all roam wild and share the property together. Both are SPCA rescue cats and incredibly great pets.

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When you house has no basement or garage, a shed –or cabanon as it is called in Quebec– is a necessity. Ours is new as of this summer (yep, another project) which is why it has yet to be adorned with flower beds or herb window boxes. I’m scouring garage sales and collecting old farm tools to hang on the side (similar to this) – unless any of you have a better suggestion.

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My plant potting has wrapped up for the year, but this bench gets plenty of use in the spring. It keeps our campfire wood dry and works as a rustic bar for large summer parties on the patio. I should probably paint it to complement the cedar siding of our shed….one more project!

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Yep, we use a gravity-fed rain barrel to help out with watering the garden. Danny covered this DIY project in a post a few summers ago. It’s basically a giant olive container that has been repurposed. I like to imagine all those olives coming over from Italy…

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This poor swing set needs to be retired. The way it moves and groans under the weight of our three children is somewhat terrifying. And one more project goes on the list for next spring.

On a positive note, those happy brown hens have been free range nearly every day over the summer and loving it.

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All that scratching for worms and bugs, as well as unlimited clover and greens, has kept their egg production up. We sometimes see a dip during the hottest weeks, but these layers haven’t missed a beat. Little Clara has learned to be gentle with the eggs and is wholeheartedly dedicated to her morning egg collecting.

Urban chickens on Simple Bites

We’re still about a month out before our fall chicken harvest. I’m looking forward to re-filling my freezer with beautiful chicken stock for the winter.

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The garden has peaked and is now on it’s way out. We’re still getting carrots, kale, and plenty of herbs, but the tomatoes have all but given up on ripening with the cooler weather.

However, I’ve got micro beets, baby radishes, and a whole new crop of lettuce coming up. I managed to make a little time to plant a fall garden and hope that it carries us a little further into the fall.

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We started nearly all of our seeds from scratch this year and they all did so well, it’s inspired me to expand the project next March. Really, I can hand the job over to the boys; they are quite capable and love the whole ‘science project’.

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You wanted to see everything, as per my Facebook query, so Ladies and Gentlemen, here we have the compost heap. Ta da! This was actually the very fist thing we built on our urban homestead – just 5 wooden pallets stacked together. The space between the slats allows the air to get to the waste and I can honestly say there is no odour whatsoever.

On the left, is the growing heap, nearly ready to be pitch-forked to the other side. On the right is a nearly empty bin, compost that enriched my garden over the summer.

camping

Below the garden, compost and coop, we have a simple campfire pit, encircled with logs from the willow that fell last year. We make a lot of good memories around this fire, the least of which include marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers.

Things may not look like this for much longer around here. Temperatures have dropped, leaving us scrambling to remember where we stashed our sweaters and scarves. The wind is whipping the red-tinged leaves off of the trees and the tomatoes have forgotten all about turning red. In February I’m going to look back over this post and dream of spring.

Thanks for stopping by!

Questions? Comments? Leave them below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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Comments

  1. I always love these little peeks into your homestead and life, Aimee! Your outdoor space is so beautiful and yet so comfortable and real – it gives me something to dream of from my tiny urban plot with a currently failing backyard garden! 😉

  2. The new outdoor space is so beautiful! So happy that that dream became a reality!

  3. Beautiful, Aimee! I live on a tiny city lot with a decent front yard but virtually no backyard, and while I don’t see us owning chickens here, I would love to find a doable way to grow more of our own produce, etc. If you (or any readers) can point me toward some tips/inspiration I’d love it!

    • Thanks for dropping by, Meaghan. I do have quite a bit of info in the archives.
      Heres’ a few posts:
      Planning what to Grow in Your Backyard Vegetable Garden: http://www.simplebites.net/planning-what-to-grow-in-your-backyard-vegetable-garden/

      Starting Seeds Indoors: http://www.simplebites.net/starting-seeds-indoors/

      5 things I won’t do in my garden again: http://www.simplebites.net/5-things-i-wont-do-in-my-garden-again/

      I think that is awesome you want to begin growing some produce! Where do you live and what is the climate like?

      • Michigan. And, COLD. LOL

        Though I guess I’d really say unpredictable? Because I’m in southern MI, so some winters are fairly mild (though there are always at least a couple of months of below-freezing temps) and then you have last winter where it started snowing in November and didn’t stop until almost April.

        I’m pretty sure I’m in zone 6A.

        Thanks for the links! I don’t have much grass available for planting in the backyard, so it will either have to be mostly containers or VERY small space gardening.

        • Okay. Well vertical gardening is a thing, though I don’t have experience. Tomatoes in pots do very well and can grow 7+ feet tall.
          Start small, that’s my best advice. 😉

      • I would suggest that: “I believe that Iran is a theocracy that executes people for offences that would not get you arrested in this country. These executions are on the increase. They amount to about 200 a year which is 200 too many”…is denunciation enough.And yes, I do play the moral equivalence game. I compare the morality of a nation that holds over 3,000 prisoners under sentence of death (half of them non-white)and kills and maims millions in wars waged on false pretexts……. with Iran.What is it that you do?

    • I have 5 pots of tomatoes that grow all year here in San Diego. 2 of them are 7+ years old and still producing. And, yes, they are 7 feet tall!

  4. The deck and pergola look great, and I am head over heals for that table! Awesome little homestead Aimee!

  5. Just lovely! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Love the article, and ideas! We are curious about the chandelier, the pinterest link isn’t working.

  7. Oh my goodness. It is beautiful. What a lot of work you guys have invested into the place, you have me dreaming of an urban homestead.

  8. Thanks for sharing your homestead with us Aimee! It’s beautiful…you are lucky to have that, but it seems like you know that already. 🙂

  9. Your homestead is very inspiring! We’re looking to do somewhat the same at our place!

  10. I love these homestead posts so much! And I really love your dreamy backyard – it’s really perfect Aimee. I want to be your next door neighbor (or maybe just pitch a tent in the forest behind your yard and live there?) . . . then you could help me can all these boxes of pears. ha! But really, I think I need an outdoor sink now too!

  11. Beautiful, Aimee! Your homestead is so warm and inviting. Consider growing hops on your pergola, if they grow in your area. We have just harvested ours and are passing them out to our beer-making friends. Even without brewing, the plants are gorgeous, easy to care for, and love to climb. Oh! Hardy kiwi might also be a good choice. Enjoy!

  12. Such a beautiful homestead! Thanks for showing us around!

  13. It could just be the angles but it looks as if your garden grows quite well even with the shade from the trees? If so do you have any tips? We have lots of tall, mature trees around our house and have never quite been able to grow much.

    • Leslie, it gets really good sun and that has made all the difference. Growing in shade is a challenge, you have to stick to greens, and things like zucchini. I don’t have a lot of tips, sorry!

  14. Your backyard is lovely! I can’t wait to show it to my husband. It is almost exactly what we talk about when we talk about buying a house and creating a homestead in our backyard!!

  15. Such a lovely spot! I love the blend of beauty and everyday life. The pergola and outdoor sink are quite enviable but I love to see the familiarity of dump trucks and fire pits too. It’s a mix of wanting to come hang out a while in your fabulous yard and also getting inspired for what ours could be in time too.

    Reading more about how you and Danny got started homesteading sounds wonderful. I’m really looking forward to your book!

    P.S. Clara looks way too big.

    • Hi Lisa, Thanks!!
      We’ve had the deck, pergola, etc, in the plans for years, so it is quite amazing to have them a reality now. Thanks for reading!

  16. SO in love with this! Thank you so much for sharing. My favorite part is your sink! So cute and crazy handy. I can’t wait to see it all done!

  17. What a charming space you have Aimee! Thanks for the peek!!

  18. I love your home Aimee… urban homesteading has taken off here in Edmonton too. We usually have a huge vegetable garden, but it takes up a lot of time, and I love how you’ve incorporated all of those elements of your life together!

  19. Love this little peak into your home, Aimee!! Pretty nice life you have there :-).

  20. So beautiful! So warm and inviting. What a spectacular space to raise your family in. I think you outdoor sink is brilliant!

  21. Your patio and pergola are absolutely charming. I haven’t really considered that I could homestead like this in the urban area I live. This is very inspiring to me! I wish my back yard was large enough to have some chickens roam around.

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