This month, I’d like to introduce you all to Aimee, AKA The EcoFeminist: urban homesteader extraordinaire, feminist, environmental steward, and all-around beautiful woman.
The way I remember it, she popped by and commented on one of my posts a long time ago; so I popped over to her blog, liked what I saw, and immediately followed her. She inspires me, she educates me, and she touches my heart with her honesty and openness; and I’m honored that she agreed to be interviewed for a guest post here on my little blog. Her blog gets into the “how” and does it really well, so here we talk about some of the “why”.
When did you start urban homesteading, and what got you interested?
Well, in some ways I’ve always been homesteading. I get up in the suburbs but my mom always had a huge garden, canned, baked homemade bread, etc. I remember back then yardwork would be *punishment* when I got in trouble, hahaha. My stepdad was always DIY-ing something as well, from fixing up an antique woodstove to building our picnic table, so that never seemed unusual either. My dad was big into growing roses and that influenced me a lot. I helped out a lot in the kitchen, and I think I was 10 or 11 when I made a quiche for the first time – seems crazy now to think about that!
In college I mostly ate Hot Pockets and Kraft macaroni and cheese, but I would still bake whenever I could and experiment on my coworkers in my retail job. 🙂 Later when I was in my 20s, I married my first husband we were renting a little house in Seattle and my dad gave us 3 beautiful Mr Lincoln roses he’d grown in his greenhouse and that, along with tulips, was my first foray into gardening solo (my ex was never all that interested). Later we moved to Santa Barbara and I started growing herbs and roses in pots, but it really was after my divorce and I moved back to my hometown of Portland that I got the real bug for gardening! I bought my home 12 years ago and started out with one of those silly “Topsy-turvy” tomato planters, which was a massive failure ! Then I went to a free neighborhood sustainability fair and attended a workshop on raised bed gardening and I was hooked! The guy leading the workshop helped me realize how easy it was, and that sent me down the rabbit hole 🙂
And once you are growing your own food, canning comes next! All self taught from the instructions online – pretty easy 🙂 As far as everything else goes eco-wise, I’ve been recycling and reusing since I was very young – even did a presentation for speech class in high school on recycling! But with the advent of Pinterest, great blogs (!!!), and opportunities to learn more in the community over the past 10+ years, it’s definitely amped up challenging myself to do even more.
I’ve seen your lists of things you want to learn or accomplish. They’re great lists, and give me so much inspiration. How do you decide what to put on the list?
Completely stolen from Pinterest when I was messing around there once. Type in “homesteading skills” and you’ll see so many versions! I always had a disorganized mental list from various homesteading books in my house (like that one I gave you), and this helped me streamline it and see how others made it happen. I live in the city so I started out realistically and included a few “stretch” goals- you know, the ones you aren’t sure if you’ll ever do but gee, it sure seems cool. Every once in a while if we put one’s self in “prepper” mode (or as I call it, Grizzly Adams mode) and think of what you’d want to know how to do, and it helps as well 🙂
Are there things you wanted to add to the list but didn’t make the cut this time?
Not really…100 is pretty overwhelming! I’ve taken off a lot of more ‘beginner stuff’ that I’ve accomplished to make room for more, but as we’re not looking to move off-grid or raise a herd of cattle, this is pretty sufficient. We have a MASSIVE bucket list that has nothing to do with homesteading – travel!!! That’s why we don’t live in the boonies (well, along with the fact that my day job requires internet!), as we have that split personality of “be a country bumpkin” and “wander the globe eternally” which one can see when they check out my Pinterest page!
What one skill did you learn that you had previously said “never ever will I do __________________”? What made you change your mind?
Absolutely it was making a quilt!!! My great-grandmother had left us quilt tops that she’d made a zillion years ago (she died in 1984 at the age of 94, and I got to meet her that summer of ’84 when we road tripped out there to stay at her farmhouse my great-great grandfather built in Southern Illinois. My mother said she made the best chicken ‘n’ dumplings in her younger years. I just remember she had long white hair that she kept in one long braid down her back, and that there were guinea hens and cows and a clawfoot tub and my mom and I slept out on the screened in porch. Anyhow, the meeting was life-changing for me, as that entire summer was, and when I was 20 my mom gave me my quilt-top. However, at that time there was no way I knew what to do, but coincidentally had a coworker at my retail job who was in a quilting group, and they all worked on it for me to attach the backing for the cost of materials! Years later, my mother gave me the other two quilt-tops because my older half-siblings never showed interest in keeping them, so I googled a billion different ways and found a super easy way to do it – literally sandwiching a piece of warm fabric (for me, a repurposed polar fleece bedsheet) between the quilt top and a piece of backing, then tying little knots every couple of squares to attach them, then the big part was where I got some help. There used to be a shop called SewPo near my house where I not only bought the fabric, but also ended up paying the owner to stitch up the sides to create a border, something I knew I wasn’t capable of. You can see the finished product here and here – sure I didn’t sew the squares together or stitch the outside, but every few days I’d work on the hand-tying (and eating in the kitchen as it lay on my dining table) and it was definitely a labor of love. I kept one (it’s on my lap right now, as I don’t believe in “display” quilts, I like cuddling in ’em!) and I gave the other to my big brother when he had brain surgery. The best kind of homesteading in my opinion is getting to know people in your community with varying talents, because we all have things we’re really good at and, well, “less good” at, and pooling those talents are brilliant 🙂
Homesteading can be hard work, and it never ends. It can make it very hard to practice self care. How do you recharge?
I think because we don’t have land (we are urban homesteaders, so we’re doing it on a standard 50×100 piece of land) it’s not the level of exhaustion that many experience, but I will say I’m blessed to work from home which gives me so much more freedom to make and build and experience it all – so between client calls I can get a loaf of bread kneaded and under the covers for rising, or chop up the cukes and soak them in salt before they become pickles, or since my husband has his “weekend” during the week, I can get client work done on the weekends and go out to the island to pick blueberries in the summer (we have bushes, but they’re not big enough to freeze a year’s worth, not even close!). But to really answer it, my favorite forms of self care are putting my iPod in my ears on something chill and going for a walk around the neighborhood, seeing what other folks are doing in their yards with their limited space (one lady cut down a dying tree, but kept the bottom quarter’s worth and had the guy hollow it out to make a natural beehive…how rad is that…), or if I’ve just gotten a good payday, head across the street to my esthetician (yeah, we thought we were lucky to have a coffee shop at the end of the block in the former crackhouse duplex, now the world’s greatest facialist/reiki/massage-badass/goddess is next door to it…a rare form of positive gentrification I gotta say). But of course, the best place on earth is the Oregon Coast. I have lived on several sections of coastline but Oregon is by far where I can breathe. Hell, it’s where my sweetheart and I got hitched!
What one piece of advice would you give someone just starting her (or his) own journey into homesteading?
Anyone who tells you that you need to take a class to learn the basics is full of shit. Yes, classes can be fun and a great place to meet people, but you can learn how to make jam from the instructions in the pectin packet, and just about everything else through a good google search (Pinterest, blogs, homesteader sites, etc.). Too many books out there act like there’s only one way to do something – hell, composting is a great example, with people making it sound like a complex science experiment (my way of composting? throw everything except meat & bones in there, stir it around once in a while, and if you don’t want rats, have a really good cover on it…you don’t need to take the temperature or have a certain percentage for god’s sake! anyhoo….). My favorite though has been in getting to know my neighbors – too many folks these days don’t know their neighbors and I just don’t understand it! Not only does it make life more fun, it keeps you safer in case something happens! One neighbor let us take cuttings of some flowers, another taught us about making homemade limoncello, another was the first duck owner we met which is how we decided to do it years later! And we try to pay it forward as well – we give homemade jam out as housewarming gifts to new neighbors and on the holidays, we open our doors to the neighbor kiddos who want to meet our ducks or (RIP) our bees or see how the tomatoes are coming along. But my favorite this year was giving a neighbor a can of strawberry-balsamic jam in exchange for his turning our bees’ wax into a couple of candles. Rad!
Lastly, jist for giggles: What’s your “guilty pleasure” that you’re secretly not guilty about?
Making croissants homemade that took almost a day to make…then eating all but 4 before my husband gets home from work. So, um, yeah…I rarely make them because of this, hah…other than that? Walking around Cost Plus World Market. The furniture may be crap but I get so many great ideas going into stores like this…and in exchange I can find Buderin ginger candies and Vegemite for the husband 🙂
Thank you, Aimee, for opening up about the woman behind the blog, and letting us get to know you better.